Ben McSpadden: There we were, me and my best friend, and we were faced off against two of our worst enemies. True story.
Now, I had faced off one-on-one with one of those enemies, and I had failed. I had been defeated. And my best friend, same thing with the other enemy, he'd been defeated. But this moment, this precarious, this danger zone, and we didn't have a prayer.
It was football off-season. It was football off-season, and we had a drill called “grab-the-bacon.” I call it like this miniature, epic tug-of-war. I don't know if something can be miniature and epic at the same time, but this was. It was this big fat rope, and you went to the center of this wrestling mat; and you had to pull the other guy to your side.
And just so you know, I was not good at this drill. I never won, because I was the runt of the team, and it required body weight and leaning in. And when I went into football, I only lost weight, because I was small. I didn't build muscle, and I was so small that even though I was the runt of the team as a sophomore, I was smaller than the runt of the freshman team behind us. That's how small I was.
So, I never won at this game. I hated this game, but there we were—the two losers because we had done one-on-ones. And now we were doing two-on-twos, and it was the two losers against the two winners. It did not look good. This was not going well, and you could see the tension in the room. The four guys... and they're fighting it out, and all the rest of the football team around the wrestling match just whooping and hollering and all that testosterone. And it's just like “whoa,” you know?
And, you know, we didn't have a prayer. And I don't know how to explain it, but in that moment, I guess it was heart, because we somehow won that match.
I know. I was like, "Whoa!" This was a surprise, and I never won one again. Okay?
But there is something different when you're fighting it out, and you're battling; and your best friend is right beside you. You don't want to let him down, and he doesn't want to let you down. And that was our advantage. That was probably our one advantage, because the other two guys, they weren't really best friends. They just happened to be paired together, because they were the same weight class.
But we were best friends, and we won. And you know you've heard that old saying that team, together, everyone accomplishes more. I have been on lots of teams that have accomplished very little. What I learned in that time was that really it's not just team, but it's the heart of the team that really matters.
It's the heart of the team, and growing up in church I remember we would sing these songs of unity, and that's the dangerous prayer we're going to talk about today is the prayer of unite us. So, if we haven't met, I'm Ben McSpadden. I'd love to meet you afterwards, but I grew up in church, and we had all kinds of songs that we would sing about unity.
We rarely experienced it, but we sang a lot about it. We had songs like "We Are One In The Bond Of Love" and "There's A Sweet, Sweet Spirit In This Place" and "Onward Christian Soldiers." And sometimes, in those really emotional moments, we would stand across the aisle and hold hands and do this. And we, some of us would just grit our teeth, because we really didn't like each other.
But we were singing unity because that was what you're supposed to do. You know? And it was experiences like that that I was like, "You know what? I think when I have my chance, I'm going to go far, far away to a land, galaxy, far, far away, and maybe we'll start over. You know?
I wanted to go overseas and tell people about Jesus who'd never heard about Jesus, introduce them to the Bible, and help them. They haven't met Jesus, and they don't know what church people are supposed to be like so maybe it could be a positive experience if I teach 'em what the Bible says.
And so even some of our noblest endeavors can be mixed motives. I was running from something, not just running to something. But I also found that sometimes God uses our journeys over land and sea to help us arrive at the right place in our hearts.
And it was through those experiences, when I went to China and when I went to India, that I thought, “Okay, I'm going to reach these people. I'm going to share Jesus with them. We're going to gather 'em in churches.” And what I kept running into is there were believers there that were challenged with things.
And I remember sitting across from, I think his name was Sanjay (I can't remember), but it was a pastor in India. I still have his face in my mind. And I'm asking him. I'm like okay, I've graduated college, I've trained for this, I'm trying to figure out, "How can I help you?"
You're already here. You know your culture, and there are all kinds of people out there that don't know Jesus right here in India. "How can I bless you? What the greatest challenge you have in seeing the gospel spread? Seeing the good news of Jesus enter into the hearts of people in your area?"
He said, "Well, a lot of it comes down to just like in church life. We don't get along. We fight, we bicker, we can't get unified." He started listing thing after thing that sounded like, "Wait a second. Did you grow up where I grew up in Oklahoma? Because this sounds just ..."
And in that moment, I realized, this idea of unity, it's a special thing, but it's a threatened thing. And it's not just something that I grew up in a small town and experienced, but it is part of the reality that we're fighting for across the globe.
And it was so frustrating because I would see these moments, and it's like you see that broken world out there. They need Jesus, and they're broken in their relationship with God. They're broken in their relationship with each other, and you're like, "There's a lot of dysfunction there. Come over here, and trade your dysfunction for my version of dysfunction."
It was like, "That doesn't sound good." You know? That didn't work out well. And so I knew it was undercutting the message, and I'd read the Bible. Jesus would say, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another."
And so I knew it was a key ingredient. I knew it was what God wanted for us not just in the afterlife in heaven. We’re all going to be singing praises to God, but even right now, and he knew that. And Jesus prayed. He prayed for his disciples before he went to the cross and died for our sins, he actually prayed a prayer for them, and he knew they were going to have trouble.
He told them, hey, in this world, you're going to have trouble, but don't fear. I've overcome the world. He prays for them not to be delivered from this trouble, but he actually prays for their unity. And we find that prayer in John 17, and I skipped for those of you who like blanks, unity fuels the message of God's mission.
Sorry. Got a little ahead of myself. Unity fuels the message of God's mission. It's part of the heart of what we do. It's part of the fact that I'm still at Hope, because when I came back from India, I had this thing. Okay, how do I help with a church that's going to actually love each other and love people and bring people into that? And when I showed up at Hope, I saw people who really wanted to benefit other people.
I saw leaders who really wanted to benefit those they led. I saw people who even though we were not perfect, when we messed up we cleaned up, and we wanted to have clear relationships. We wanted to carry friendship into the future.
And I know we don't get it right all the time, but this was so different than what I had grown up with, and so different than what I've seen that I thought this is gold. I need to stick around and figure out what are they doing? And I'm still here trying to figure that out.
I love it. This is a great place to be. No, it's not perfect, but we're going after something here, and we really believe what the Bible says, and we really want to help each other move into the future with each other and with God.
And here's what Jesus prayed for his followers in John 17. He says, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word that they may all be one just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you've given me, I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and you in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
This idea of being one—it's this idea of sharing in purpose and in character and in mission to be unified...to be unified because he knew they were going to face trouble. And trouble gets us in all kinds of trouble, relationally. And it can drive just division.
And he knew that we would face that, and he was praying for their unity. And he knew that it would help the world understand that we've been sent by God. God wants to heal our relationships. We start out broken. We start out isolated from God. We start out isolated from each other, and yet God is inviting us.
The good news that Jesus has for us is that we can be made whole. That we can have a right relationship with him but we can also have a right relationship with each other. And as we work together as a church and as we're unified, we display this unity deep down that everyone is longing for that they can be accepted and welcomed by others.
Unity fuels the message of God's mission, but it's also dangerous. We're talking about dangerous prayers here.
Why is it dangerous? Why is unity dangerous? Well, it's dangerous to my personal preferences. It's dangerous to my personal preferences.
Sometimes we let our preferences drive our purpose, and that's just going to drive division. We don't want to let our preferences drive our purpose. In order to be a part of a team, I'm going to have to give up something. I'm going to have to give up some of my agenda to get on the same page with other people.
Whether it's a sports team, a family, a ministry, work, I have to give up something of my own personal agenda in order to be with other people.
And you see this tension early on when you enter a romantic relationship. Now, if you've been married for a while, you've been in a relationship for a while, you're going to have to remember way back. Remember that time when you could walk out the door and conquer the world and not consult anyone? Do you remember that? That's a long time ago for me.
And it was like, "Yeah. I could just that's what I want to do. Let's go do it." And now it's like, "Oh, wait, wait. Tuesday night? Wait. Well, if you're there and I'm here, who's got the kids?” I mean, we've got to figure these things out.
When you team with people, you're going to have to give up some things. You're going to have to figure out how to unify. And when you team with people, the other threat is that, "Is this really going to pay out?" I mean, I'm going to give up some of my personal agenda, some of my personal goals to a people who are imperfect and sometimes selfish. I mean, this seems like a disaster waiting to happen—a disappointment waiting to happen.
And yet God says, "We need to team together," and I've got to trust that I won't get ripped off in that moment of teaming with other people.
It's dangerous also because I may have to actually clear things up. I mean, unity is valuable. It's not just something that just happens like breathing. Right? It's a challenge. It's precious and yet it is...so much can be given up.
But to pray that God would unite us, might mean that I actually have to go and clear something up with somebody, and that's scary. I might have to actually go and admit I was wrong. I mean, nobody likes to do that. To admit that you're wrong? And that maybe I hurt somebody, and I've got to ask for their forgiveness?
Now, here's the good news about being at a place like Hope where we talk about clearing up relationships. The good news is that we've all been there. We all understand. If we're followers of Jesus, we know we have been forgiven much. And we know what it's like to mess up and all the feelings of guilt and all those things. And when we value the fact that God's forgiven us and he's called us to forgive others, and when someone comes to us and asks for forgiveness, we give it. And that's a good place to be. Sometimes we forget that God's formed in me a new heart, so I'm not always completely selfish. Like I've actually thought of people in my finer moments, 'cause of what God's done, but he's put me in a family with brothers and sisters; he's also forming a new heart in them.
And they might actually accept me when I go and I ask for forgiveness. In fact, that's been my experience here at Hope. It’s not comfortable; it's not easy, but when I've had to either go and ask for forgiveness or somebody's come to me, forgiveness is given, and friendships go into the future.
And so, we don't always get it right, but when we go after unity, when we uphold it and protect it, we honor God and his purposes.
And we have hope, and we offer hope. We offer hope to each other, but we also offer hope to a world that's watching and wondering, “Can you actually have long-term good relationships? Can you actually connect with God?”
There's a watching world. Can people actually live at peace with one another? When we're unified, and when we mess up and we clean up and we still love each other into the future, there is hope for a world that doesn't experience that.
We can accomplish goals bigger than ourselves together. There's good that we can be a part of, but there's also good that we can help provide. But it does, it threatens our personal preferences.
The Bible says this: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good to build him up.”
Now that's an interesting verse. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” — that means that we're not all at the same place on our journey with God. And some people fail right in front of us, maybe right towards us. But if we've been walking with God for a long time, we ought to bear with the failings of the weak, but not to please ourselves, to build them up; not to just please them and their preferences, but to build them up, to help them do what is really helpful for them.
We don't want to allow our preferences to drive our purpose. They just drive division. And so, we want to uphold God in his purposes. But drivers of division, we have to discuss this, because when you come at this idea of unity, we have to address the source of division because it's so apparent that division happens.
It's so apparent that sometimes you might just settle for, "Well, I guess this is as good as it's going to get. It's not going to get any better. Unity is really not attainable after all I guess, because of all the division I see in my relationships." And that's a subtle lie that if we give into, we'll just give up on pursuing unity. In fact, Montesquieu—he was a French political philosopher who actually had a significant influence on our founding fathers when they wrote the constitution. Here's what he said about this. He said, "I can assure you that no kingdom has ever had as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ." Well, that's an unfortunate quote. That's not fun. But in my own experience, this seems really true. There's a lot of division. But one of the ones that I have to most deal with right away that's right in my face that I don't want to deal with, but I have to deal with it, 'cause it's very personal, is the “Me Monster.”
That's one of the drivers of division, the “Me Monster.” Maybe you've run into him? Brian Reagan has a great description of what it looks like to run into the “Me Monster.” Check out this video of Brian Reagan...
So if you've only had one wisdom tooth, you can come talk to me...pulled; you come talk to me afterwards. So far I haven't had any. So your story will top mine. I won't try to top yours. But seriously, have you ever run into the “Me Monster?” And if your answer is no, maybe you are the “Me Monster.”
Actually we all suffer from that “Me Monster.” We all have some of those symptoms. Maybe it's not a dinner party conversation, but maybe it's just simple things like:
- I just don't have time to make for others.
- I can't consider other people's needs. I've got enough needs of my own.
- Or, I can't help somebody else with their own goals, because I've got goals a-plenty.
We all have different symptoms of the “Me Monster,” but it's one animal that needs to stay on the endangered species list. We don't want it to populate. But it's something that can really infect our hearts and infect the unity of our team.
And this is what the Bible says: "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." Wow! It goes on to say, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions."
The Bible tells us why we have division. It tells us why we have problems in our relationships. We don't get what we want, and we take it out on each other.
We don't get what we want. And this “Me Monster,” it really drives division.
Now there's something interesting to note though in this same passage; it goes on and it's kind of wrapping up that section in it, and it ties into another driver of division. It says this: "Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." So the devil, he is another driver of division. He wants to isolate us. He wants to devour us. He wants to disrupt our individual hearts so that he can also disrupt the team. And it begins with small thoughts or feelings like, "Oh, they don't really understand me." There's this us versus them. They can't relate, because we're different.
And that “different” leads to division, which leads to conflict, and the devil wants to cause a civil war. He wants to cause a civil war so he can defeat us from within. He doesn't even care if we acknowledge him. He doesn't care if you believe in him or not. If he can get you off track fighting with each other, he can defeat us from within. He wants to cause a civil war.
And more than that, he wants to devour us. He wants to utterly destroy us. The Bible says this: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Now when you are in a group of people who really want to benefit others, we're in a good place. We're looking out for each other. We're alert. We want to benefit each other. That's a good place, especially if we're remaining alert and especially if we acknowledge there's a real enemy out there who wants to take us out. We acknowledge that, and we're on the lookout. We're not in constant fear, but we're just aware. And we see these things, and we warn each other.
But the devil can begin to gnaw at your trust in the group and gnaw at your trust in God. And there's a challenge in this statement. It says “be self-controlled and alert,” and that's one thing I can't do for you, and you can't do for me, is to be self-controlled. It's right there in the Word. You have to control yourself.
And often when we have to control ourselves, we have to choose to do something that we know is right even if we don't want to. I remember one of the first times I was at Hope. I had probably been here like three months, and there was somebody that was further along than I was in their walk with God. Some of you know Dan Morgan; he's up in Canada now, but he was my group leader, and he had said something to me I just didn't want to hear.
I mean, maybe he was right, but I didn't want to hear it. Right? And God was saying, “You know, this is your opportunity, Ben, to be teachable. Here's a guy who's further along than you, who's telling about commitments; and you don't want to hear about it, 'cause you don't think they’re that important. But you know what he's saying is good and right and lines up with what I've said in the Bible. And this is your opportunity to really be teachable—to do the thing you don't want to do, but you know it's the right thing.”
Dan couldn't make that choice for me. I had to make that choice. Thankfully I made the choice, but I am so thankful that I had a friend who was alert. But I had to be self-controlled, and you have to be self-controlled.
And it can be real subtle. The devil can get you started with a simple preference.
- Well, I wouldn't have said it that way.
- Why did they do it that way?
- Why did we pick that project?
- Why are we doing that event?
- I wouldn't have done it that way.
But when you're in a group, you have to consider what’s going to build up everybody in the group, and what's going to really honor God. I remember leading a team in Guatemala several years back, and we had some free time near the end of trip. And this team, they had done a great job. I really wanted as a leader to give them some time that would just really rejuvenate them and bless them.
We'd had a hard road. I mean we had slept on concrete floors part of the time. We had to actually drive in Guatemalan traffic. It's one thing to ride in it; it's another thing to have to drive it and a lot more stressful. And there were other last minute things that we were called upon to do, and they did it with a great attitude. I was really grateful.
And so I wanted to bless them. We had a limited amount of time in what we could do, and we were in this one part of the city that if you look at tourist websites and stuff like this, this is a cool place to go. You can buy some really cool souvenirs, really neat part of town.
And there's this other thing. There's sort of like a little bit of an adventure. It was zip-lining through the jungle canopy, and it was right there. We couldn't do both. It was either go shopping, or you can do this zip-line. And being the group that it was, they chose the zip-line. Okay, cool.
So, we get up to the first platform and what you need to know is just the other day I was reminded. I went to the Fort Worth Convention Center and like the second level escalator, you could look down. I hate that. Like, I'm scared of heights.
So, here I am on this platform in the jungle to go zip-lining, and I'm a little shaky and like, "Okay guys. I just want to warn you. I'm going to move a little slow, 'cause I'm scared of heights."
And they're like, "Why did you choose this?"
I said, "I wanted you guys to do something you enjoy." And I mean, but it was scary. I had to give up a preference. Now, we got to one platform that was super high, and I got up there first. And as they were coming up, their eyes were really big, and I could tell that they were scared. So I said, "Welcome to my world." I mean, it was just ...
And my fear of heights was only surpassed by my lack of enthusiasm for shopping, so that's another reason we went.
It wasn't my preference, but I wanted to bless them. And I knew that this would be good. But if we go after the things that we want and we're very self-focused, we're going to leave our relationships in the dust. We're going to leave our friendships in the dust, our family in the dust. So, we really need to look out for each other, and we need to be unified.
We need each other. That's part of the importance of unity that speaks to us. We need each other.
God didn't design us to do life by ourselves. He intended for us to walk together. And we've been given a mission to do together. The Bible says this: "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."
Detached fingers, arms, toes, legs? They don't do real well. And if you've ever lost one of those or you've injured one...I injured my fingers in my writing hand once. I didn't realize how important those two fingers were just in the simple writing process. It hurt like crazy.
Our body is designed with many parts to work together. And we, as a church, we're designed, and we're gifted by God. We have different gifts; we have different functions, roles. We have the same mission and purpose: To honor God and bless those around us.
So we need to work together. And when we work together and we're unified, the world will see God's love. And this isn't just like a positive thought like if I have warm fuzzies and thoughts about you, and you have warm thoughts about me, then Fort Worth will have warm thoughts about Hope Church.
There's actually a guy who's studied the impact of God's people across the globe over 100 years, and he's shown very specifically the impact that believers make in the world. It's fascinating. Some people say the devil's in the details, but I like to think in a positive light like the facts are your friends. They really help you get a handle on reality, and this guy has tracked some facts.
He's one of my heroes in the academic realm. His name is Professor Robert Woodbury, and the reason that he's a hero is that he's entered into an environment that is not really keen on Christian ideas. The universities that he's been a part of are definitely not keen on the idea that Christians spread their ideas like missionaries. But he has painstakingly tracked down the impact of missionaries, and he's done a fabulous job in that, sometimes when you're looking at stuff you can sometimes draw correlations that aren't correct. And he was challenged and challenged, because nobody liked to hear what he was concluding.
And so, he did thorough, thorough research to the point that he has won so many awards, among his peers that don't believe in Jesus, because of how good and excellent his research is. And this was his conclusion in some of his major work. "Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment, especially for women, and more robust membership in non-governmental associations."
Wow! You mean the missionaries actually did something that helped people is what he's saying. And people didn't like to hear this at first, but they couldn't argue with how tight and good his research was. And he makes this argument that part of that was driven by the fact that missionaries didn't want to control people. They wanted to offer them God's truth that would set them free. They wanted people to be able to read the Bible in their own language, so that they could understand it, and they could make a choice. They weren't trying to lord it over people. They were trying to give them the facts, so that they could make informed decisions. And when they were given that freedom and they started making decisions, and this is the reality that God's truth really does set us free.
It doesn't just set us free from sin, but from the effects of sin. And when you restrict religious liberty, what he found was, it doesn't just restrict the religious ideas. It restricts the social, the medical, and the economic development of an area. And those who aren't just interested in religious ideas, they're very interested in his work, because they see some implications here of how societies develop; and all of these social sciences are ... they're looking at his work going okay, “What does that mean for the future development of some of these countries?”
And every time I look at his work, I think of this kind of rock-n-roll song from the Newsboys. Newsboys has a song called “Wherever We Go,” and it really kind of speaks the same message, but it's a lot catchier. Here's some of the lyrics from that song. It says, "Wherever we go, the dumb get wise, and the crime rates drop, and the markets rise." Well, that sounds like the rise of education and economy.
They go on to sing, "Wherever we're led all the living dead want to leave their zombie mob. It's a touching scene when they all come clean. God help us. We just love our job." It is a wonderful thing to see impact, real impact.
We've talked about how when we get real with a real God, we will see real change. And Dr. Woodbury has talked about this over the course of 100 years. He can show how that goes about. And it's amazing.
The Newsboys go on to say, "Let's throw this party in gear. We brought the welcome mat. Wherever we go, that's where the party's at." And it's not just the party of the year or the decade or the century. This is the party for all eternity. It's beginning now. And this is basically what Woodbury was talking about.
When Christians go out into the world, they offer good news of Jesus Christ. It really does make an impact. It isn't just a promise that after you die, you'll get eternal life and problem-free. It's this idea that abundant life can start now. Like, the life that God intends can start now. No, it's not perfect. It's not complete, but we begin to be reunited with God. We begin to have good relationships that are healed from brokenness.
I mean, if you've walked with God for any stretch of time, you know that life is not perfect. You know, I had plumbing problems last month, mechanical problems. I mean, it doesn't go away just because you said yes to Jesus, but it does change. You're entering the abundant life. This is good news. And there's evidence that we can see that the gospel makes real impact in our lives. Makes real impact when a people in a region respond to God's truth. It makes world-changing impact.
Another prayer of unity that we find in the Bible is in Romans, and it says this: "May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God."
May the God of endurance and encouragement...We need endurance. We need encouragement. We're going to go through trouble. Jesus didn't pray deliver him from this trouble. He said, "Help them be one. Help them be unified. So that as they're unified, the rest of the world can know that they've been sent by me.” The rest of the world can hear the good news.
When we invite people to discover and experience God's ways, we're inviting them not only to experience God, but God's people. It's part of the package deal. And as we're unified, he's saying, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another that it would bring glory to God.”
It's part of the purpose of the unity. It's part of the importance and that we would welcome one another as Christ welcomed us. Christ welcomed us when we were his enemies. I mean, he died for us while we were still his enemies. And we're to welcome each other as Christ welcomed us. Wow! I mean, that's hard to get my mind around.
But yet, this idea of welcoming is to invite somebody into your presence, into your home. Christ has invited us into his presence, into his home. And we're to invite others into that. And this is good news, and we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. There's a watching world, and there's hope. Because as messed up as I am, when you welcome me, people see that. And when I welcome you, as messed up as you know you are, people see that. And they think, maybe there's a chance that they'll welcome me, too.
And the source of our welcoming is the fact that Christ has welcomed us. There's hope that maybe God will welcome them, too. We offer hope when we do this. Our heart, the heart of our team, is on display for the world to see. We've brought the welcome mat, as the Newsboys have said.
Let's throw this party in gear. We're inviting people into God's ways. And we're not inviting people just so that ... it's not just like tolerating or we're inviting you and we're accepting you just like ... No. We're inviting you into a family that's going to help you understand that there's going to need to be change in your life.
All of us have had to experience change, but it's change that will help us get to our true purpose and true fulfillment. It's a good thing. And that's what we're being invited into and what we're inviting others into. In your listening guide, we’ve listed the dangerous prayers for this whole series and that they're somewhat connected to this prayer.
I mean, the Break Me prayer—I need to be broken of my own agenda if I'm going to team with other people and with God to do something bigger than I can do with myself. Strengthen me—I'm going to need strength to accomplish God's purpose and mission in the face of an enemy that wants to destroy and devour me and my team. And I need his strength so that I can help build others up, not just for my own preferences, not for my own pleasures, but to really build up my brothers and sisters.
I need to pray Search Me. I need God to search me out and see if there's anything I need to let go of, a preference or an offense that is offensive to Him or is a stumbling block to my brother and my sister. I need Him to search me, so that I can really know what's going on so I can really benefit the team. And Send Me—We looked at that last week, when he sends us to our neighbors and our co-workers, but we can look around and ask, "Well, God? Who are you sending me with?"
So many times he sends us with people. When Jesus came and he started sending out his disciples to proclaim the good news, he sent them out in twos. He didn't intend for us to be isolated. He didn't intend for us to be alone. He sends us out together.
So where do we go from here with all these types of prayers? These dangerous prayers? We want to invite people to discover and experience God's ways, and six weeks from now is Easter. And in our culture right now, it's still appropriate to invite people to something like that, like church on Easter. It's still accepted. We should take advantage of that. That doesn't happen in every culture, and it's fading away in some.
We still can do that though. It's not weird to invite people to church on Easter. So that's one thing we can do as we team together, but we're going to need to be unified if we're going to do anything to honor God in His kingdom purposes. We need to come together.
There's a real enemy. He's already wanting to make war on us, and he wants to stop the efforts of his children from obeying what God has called us to. If he can get us distracted with one another, then he can take us out, and that's not what God wants.
If we practice some self-control and if we're willing to step back and go, "How can I build other up?" we remain alert, and we welcome each other as we team together as Christ welcomed us. We can move forward in a way that pleases our Father and really benefits and blesses those around us.
There's a couple of next steps there. The first next step there on your listening guide—pray for the unity of Hope Church three times this week. You can pray for it every day, but I know that sometimes our days get busy, and it's like well...so I'm saying, hey, three times. Three times this week pray for the unity of Hope Church.
Maybe you have a relationship that you need to take a step towards unity with somebody in your sphere, whether it's at work or at church or in family life or just friendships. Maybe there's a relationship you know you need to step towards some unity and ask God to show you and help you, give you the strength.
Maybe you need to let go of, and there's a blank. You know what it is. There's a preference that maybe you need to let go of for the sake of mission and unity.
Whatever it is, my prayer and our prayer this week should be that we be unified with God and his purposes and with each other as we move forward. Let's pray.
Lord, we are so grateful. We're grateful that though we're broken and though we're imperfect and though we step on each other's toes at times, you have given us this reality of forgiveness that we can not only be forgiven by you, but we can forgive one another and receive forgiveness and that we can be unified. And we're grateful for that. Father, as we go out this week, I ask that you would help us see where can we benefit, bless, and build others up, where we can unify as a church body and really honor you, encourage one another that the world may see the heart of our team, because we're better together than we are apart...that we have an enemy that we're battling, and the heart of our team really makes a difference. This unity that you give us, that you prayed for us, we thank you for that. As we go out this week, help us. Help us see what our next steps are in line with connecting with you and those around us. And we pray these things in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.