There I Am

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In this message, we learn that we’re created not only to be built up, but to build others up as we become a dwelling place for God.

Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek. Wherever you are today, we are so glad that you are here with us. And it was so good to just pray over our kids, students and young adults. I just got to pray over my kids as we were doing this. And let me encourage you, go on social media after service, go to our resource site, grab that prayer, download it, put it on your phone, put it on your screen, hang it up somewhere in your house and use that as a declaration to pray over the next generation, your students, this coming semester. You see, all of those are from different verses that I pray over my kids in their life. Those are prayers that I pray regularly over my family and so we just kind of put it together as a little tool for you because one of the greatest things you can do for your students this year is just pray for them, in Jesus’ name, and believe that he is going to do something profound in the midst of it. So I’m so glad that you are here with us today.

We are in a series called Build: Becoming a Dwelling Place for God. And we’re talking about this concept of building the relationships that matter most. Rebuilding the relationships that matter most because it’s in our relationships with each other that we literally create a dwelling place for God himself to come and be. I told you last week that I feel like God is saying to our church in this season that we are as strong as our relationships, that we will go as far as our relationships will carry us. And if that’s true, then if we’re serious about walking into our destiny and accomplishing the good works which He’s prepared in advance for us to do and discovering the great and mighty things which we do not yet know, if we’re serious about seeing the peace and the prosperity of the city being a movement of hope and living as hope carriers, then we must start building relationships with each other to create a dwelling place for God himself to come and be.

You see, our theme text in this series is simply this, it’s Ephesians 2. Let me walk you through a couple things here together. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The moment that you put your faith in Jesus, you are no longer a foreigner and alien with the kingdom of God. No, no, no, you’ve been included, you’ve been rescued, you’ve been brought into a new reality, you are now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, you are now a foreigner and an alien with this world which means the primary community in your life is not supposed to be the people of this world, supposed to be the people of the kingdom.

Just like as a citizen of the US, you have things in common with other United States citizens, you do not have as much in common with people from North Korea. Why? Because it’s a totally different reality in which you live. The same is true with us and the people of this world. You now belong to a community that speaks the language of faith, breathes the atmosphere of hope and walks in the way of love. And it says that you are now members of God’s household. The moment you put your faith in Jesus, you become adopted. You were an orphan, you got rescued, brought into the kingdom of God, brought into his family, you’re now a child of God and every child needs a family and every family needs a home. And if you’re a child of God then this is your family and this is your home. And just like it wouldn’t be good for children to move around from family to family nor would it be good for families to move from house to house all the time, it’s not good for us to move around all these different places.

We have to get into the family that God has placed us and come and be a part of the home that He has given us. And we’re supposed to be built on Jesus, our chief cornerstone. He’s our foundation. He’s the rock. He’s the source and he’s the standard on which we build our lives. It goes on to say, “In him, the chief cornerstone, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” In other words, we’re kind of like living stones stacked together and when we’re built in him, we become a holy temple rising, growing, living uplifted to the Lord where He himself comes and chooses to dwell among us. God tells us where to find Him. And it’s in relationship with each other.

And so to pursue the people of God is to pursue God himself. A desire to meet with God comes then with this understanding that I must now have a desire to build relationships with the people of God because that’s where He tells me that He comes to dwell. So the question is just how much of God do I really want? In fact, it says it another way in Peter, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” Your living stones stacked together to become a spiritual house, a temple to the Lord where God himself chooses and comes to dwell and it says that your stones, not bricks. Why? Because bricks are all uniform, they’re the same size, the same shape, the same color but stones are all different. Different shapes, different sizes, different colors and they’ve gone through different experiences to have the shape that they have.

But when they come and they’re submitted to Jesus, the master builder, he takes them and he starts stacking them together and all our faith, hope and love comes together and he builds us into this spiritual house, this temple to the Lord where he himself chooses to come and dwell. You are not a brick because bricks are man-made and stones are God-created. You are not made by man shaped and molded into the image and likeness of this world. No, you’ve been hand created by God himself exactly the shape, size, color and the experiences of life that you have had to shape you exactly as He’s wanted you to be to fit you into this family, into this holy temple, into this spiritual house to become a dwelling place for Him. Are you with me on this? That’s kind of the recap from last week a little bit but I want to show you that it’s not just those two places that say it. I want you to see that this is all over Scripture.

In fact, Jesus himself says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” So even Jesus himself says that when two or three come together, when we build relationships with each other, there I am. In other words, when you get together in relationships with each other, Jesus says, I will come and dwell among you. Now, what does it mean when it says where two or three are gathered in his name? Does that mean on a day like today, that it’s just like we walk into one of these buildings or we turn on the online thing and we sit in rows with each other and we don’t know each other’s names and we don’t acknowledge each other and we don’t talk to each other but we’re here, does that mean we’ve gathered in the name of Jesus? No. What he’s saying is where two or three are gathered in my name, he’s saying where two or three have come together that are submitted to the lordship of Jesus, that are seeking after him with everything that they’ve got, that are treating each other the way Jesus himself treats us, that’s where we’ve come together in his name and he himself chooses to come to dwell.

Are you with me on that? You see, I would bet that some of the greatest experiences and encounters you have ever had with God have happened in community. I want you to think about this with me for a second. I would bet that some of the greatest experiences you’ve had with God have happened in community with other people. See, you have a personal relationship with Jesus. You know him, you walk with him, you have access to him but there is something that happens when we get together in relationship with other people. It’s like when you’re in that need and you come to have other people lay hands on you and pray for you, when God is — when people are praying for you God is moving and doing amazing things, and you feel His presence.

Or how about when you’re in that circle and you’re seeking God together and you can literally feel Jesus show up into that space to meet with you? Or how about when you’re in worship like this and you’re worshiping God and all of a sudden His presence comes and you find yourself emotional and you don’t even know why? Or you’re praying together and you feel like heaven is coming down? Or you’ve been with that friend and you’re talking about Jesus and his kingdom and it feels like there’s an open heaven over you and you’re discovering the mysteries and the wonders of God? I would bet it’s been in community where you’ve had some of the greatest experiences and encounters with God. Why? Because when we come together in His name, there he shows up, a dwelling place for God gets created. Come on, are you with me on this? And what I love is that He tells us exactly where to go if we want to find Him.

It’s kind of like having a friend who tells you that they’ll be at the airport, but you go to the coffee shop and you get mad at that friend that they didn’t show up. They’re like, I didn’t tell you I was going to be at the coffee shop. I told you if you wanted to find me I was going to be at the airport. I think Jesus tells us where to find him in relationships with each other but a lot of us want to seek God on our own and then we get mad that we don’t find Him. But we got to go get Him where He tells us that He is. And He tells us He’s in relationship with each other. Are you with me on this? Let me show you one more out of the Old Testament just so you know this is all over the Bible. In fact, there’s this great story of when King David, the anointed upcoming next generation king of Israel is running from his life from Saul, the current king who is full of jealousy and rage and madness and wants to kill him. And Saul hears about where David is so he sends some of his men to go and kill him.

And look at what happens. So Saul sent some of his men, some of his soldiers, to capture David. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men and they also prophesied. So catch it, they’re trying to find David and as they go to try to find David there’s this group of prophets prophesying and the presence of God upon them as a people is so strong that when they get into the atmosphere everything about them changes and transforms and they start prophesying as well. So they go back and they tell Saul what happens, he’s furious, he sends a second group of guys to go. When they get into the atmosphere of the prophets, they are changed by the presence of God, they start prophesying and they go back and tell Saul. He’s furious, he sends a third group of soldiers to go get David.

They get into the atmosphere of the prophets, they’re transformed, they begin to prophesy. They go back and tell Saul. Finally, Saul says, fine, I’ll go do it myself. He gets all of his weapons, he heads out to go get David and he gets into the atmosphere of the prophets and he himself is transformed and begins prophesying as completely different because of the presence of God. You say, what does that have to do with anything? Catch it, it’s a group of prophets prophesying. In other words, a group of people came together in unity and relationship with one another in such a way that they created a dwelling place for God. God came and dwelt among them in such a powerful way that when other people entered into their atmosphere they were transformed. That’s the dwelling place of God. This is what we’re talking about.

It’s about building the kind of relationships with each other that becomes so powerful that when other people come to our campuses, they literally enter into the atmosphere of the presence of God himself and lost, lonely and broken people come in and they are forever transformed because of the dwelling place we created for God himself. And not only that, but that’s how we protect the next generation. See, Saul couldn’t get to David, the next generation hope carrier. And if we’re serious about protecting our kids and our students and our young adults and the next generation, then we got to create an atmosphere that the dwelling place of God is so darkness has no access into their life.

Because God dwells so powerfully among you. Not just in our weekend gatherings, among you because you have built relationships with other followers of Jesus to create a dwelling place for God 24/7 in your life.

Come on, you with me on this today? See, I think a great mistake that a lot of us have made, and I think this is subconscious, is I think we believe that our encounter with God is based primarily on the worship team and the message. I think a subconscious mistake that we have made is that we believe somewhere inside of us that the level of experience with the presence of God that we’re going to have is going to be based on the platform, the worship team and the message. Like if the worship team, if they practiced and prepared and picked my favorite songs and they are living holy lives and they’ve spent all week seeking God, and then if the preacher, if he’s got a good message that’s funny and relevant and anointed, if he figured out exactly what’s going on in my life and he speaks, then I’m going to have a great encounter with God.

Yes? Subconsciously, right? I think this is what we think, we think God’s presence is totally based on worship and the word. And if the worship and the word are aligned, then I can have a great encounter with God. Now, there’s a truth to this. See, there’s a super truth to having an encounter with the presence of God through worship. In fact, Psalm 22:3, “God inhabits the praises of his people.” So when the worship team practices and spends time seeking God and knows what God wants to do and we come together and we worship, literally it’s like we’re building a throne for Jesus in the center of this room and he himself comes and sits among us and we meet with him. That’s true. And it’s also true that God’s presence comes through the word. In fact, John 6:63, Jesus says, “The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life.”

In other words, when whoever is communicating God’s word, if they use God’s word and they’ve spent all week seeking God, when God’s word is spoken out over your life, it’s like God’s spirit is spoken into your life. Like the breath of God is breathed over your life. But just like every stool can’t stand on two legs, it needs a third leg, the third leg of the stool of God’s presence is relationships. Why? Because where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also. Because in Him, He is building us into a dwelling place by which God’s spirit dwells. So if we’re serious about meeting with God’s presence, it’s not just the worship and the word, it’s also our relationships. In fact, if our experience with the presence of God was based on the relationship that you have with other people in this church, how much of the presence of God would we experience?

Where two or three are gathered there I am also. In him, he’s building us into a dwelling place. Like if God’s presence in our lives was totally based on the relationships you have with each other, how much of God’s presence would we experience? Like what if the future of church is not the platform, what if it’s the people? What if it’s the relationships that God asks us to build? And what if all of a sudden, all three of these things start to become important and the worship team practices and works really hard to have the right songs and music and heart to lead us? And what if the people that are preaching work really hard to have the word of God rightly prepared to be released into our lives? And what if you, the people of God, build these great relationships so that when we come in, we cultivate this place all together, the dwelling place for God himself to come and be?

I can feel a lot of you not right now like almost like, no bro, like I reject that responsibility. And that’s what it is. It’s actually a responsibility. Like we say one of our primary values as a church is we’re passionate about the presence of God. And for years, we’ve worked on the worship and the word. I think we have a big invitation to work on the relationship. How much of God do we want? For years, you’ve heard me talk about this and say that church is when we meet with God, when we teach the word and we minister to one another. I think the greatest invitation we have in this next season is to learn how to minister to one another outside inside of the relationships that He’s inviting us to build, to create a dwelling place for God himself to come and be. See, what I’m trying to tell you is that every time you come, every time you are around, you should come to build and to be built.

Every time you’re around, you should come to build and to be built. You should come to build. You should come to use your gifts, your passions, your talents, your life experiences, the spirit that God has put inside of you, the gifts that he’s given you to build up other people around you and you should come to be built. You should come with a level of humility and vulnerability acknowledging that you need other people in your life and you need their gifts and their talents and their abilities to build into your life. In fact, I am convinced that a lot of us never experience the breakthroughs we’re looking for because we’re never humble enough to acknowledge that we need other people to build us as well. We forget that we need other people. It’s the 20-something that doesn’t think they need the seventy-year-old praying grandmother. You need to be humble enough to acknowledge, I need to be built by her too.

And if you don’t come to build, eventually you’ll come to tear down. And if you don’t come to be built, eventually you’ll come to consume. If you don’t come to build, what are you going to do? You’re going to start tearing down. You’re going to complain, you’re going to gossip, you’re going to be divided, you’re going to criticize, you’re going to tear down. And if you don’t come to be built, you’re going to come to consume because you’re not interested in growing your own fruit, you want to eat off everybody else’s fruit. So can I just ask you just a really honest question in this season? Have you slid from building and being built to tearing down and consuming? Have you slid to a place that God never intended you to be?

See, in the Old Testament, they would have never tolerated anyone not participating in the reality of taking care of the temple. They would have never allowed anyone to desecrate it because they understood this is the holy temple of the Lord where He has chosen to dwell. Of all the places in the universe, this is it. And if they wouldn’t have chosen to — if they wouldn’t have tolerated it, why do we? If we’re the temple of the Lord, why do we tolerate gossip, and division, and slander, and negativity, and criticism? Why do we tolerate desecrating the temple of the Lord, man? Come on, are you with me today? Here’s the question, man. How hungry are you for God? Because here’s what I would say, if you’re leaning out on this, it’s because you’re not hungry for God. Because it is awkward and uncomfortable to build relationships with each other, straight up.

But you have a responsibility. I have a responsibility every single week to work really hard to do everything I can to bring the word of God to create God’s presence in your life. The worship team has a big responsibility to work really hard every week to do everything they can do to create an environment where we can meet with God. You have a really big responsibility to humble yourself and inconvenience yourself to build relationships with each other as the body of Christ to create a space for God to dwell among us. Like the reason Satan goes so hard after the church is because he knows more than we do that it’s the dwelling place of God on this earth, so he wants to destroy it and scatter it to make God homeless because he’s homeless.
And he knows it better than we do. So we got to wake up and realize, oh my goodness, I’m here to build and to be built in Jesus’ name. Now, if this is a little uncomfortable for you, go back and watch last week’s message, I apologized to you and told you, I was going to start making community a little bit more comfortably uncomfortable because this is the presence of God.

Okay? We’re not really excited about that today, but that’s okay. Because we’re going to be comfortably uncomfortable together in the process. We should get to a place where we should be able to walk through the atrium with somebody that we don’t even know and look them in the eyes and say, hey man, tell me who are you building and who are you being built by. That should become a normal conversation in our church. It shouldn’t be awkward and it shouldn’t be like, whoa bro, who are you to ask me that? Who am I to ask you that as a person in the church? I’m part of the body of Christ and it matters to me if you’re actively a part of the body of Christ, building and being built in Jesus’ name, because your activity and engagement with each other, building the relationships that God directly determines what kind of God’s presence I experience in my life.

So tell me who are you building and who are you being built by. I can tell we’re not really liking this. Here’s what it says in Ephesians, “It was he, Jesus, who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors and teachers so God gave church leadership to prepare God’s people, you, for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up so you have been equipped, prepared to do works of service to build what, the body of Christ,” the dwelling place of God on this earth. So you’ve been empowered and asked by God himself to build up what? Us. To create what? The body of Christ, the dwelling place of God. Until when? We all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

I would submit to you that no one is there yet. That means there’s more building that you’re supposed to do. And not only you’re supposed to build, it goes on to say, “From him, Jesus, the whole body, the dwelling place of God, joined and held together by every supporting ligament” — think relationships, that’s what holds the body together, ligaments, what holds us together is relationships — “grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” So not only are you supposed to build, you’re supposed to be built, what, by other parts of the body of Christ. If you ever are going to become who God created you to be, you have to be in relationships with other people because you can’t build yourself up, you need other parts of the body, other people to build you up. Let me try to illustrate it for you like this. Maybe this will help you.

A couple months ago, I really hurt my neck and my back. I don’t know how I did it, I don’t know what happened but it has been the worst chronic pain that I’ve had in my entire life over the past few months. In fact, even right now my entire left arm is numb. Like I can’t even feel it, it’s been a really big deal in my life. I’ve lost 20 pounds in like three months, I’ve lost a ton of strength and it has totally impacted how I live my daily life, what I can do, what I can’t do, how I engage with my kids, it’s directly impacted the quality of my life. And here’s the interesting part about it. The interesting part is all my parts are still there. Every vertebrae is there, every disc is there, the ligaments are there, the muscles are there, the bones are there, the nerves are there, the blood vessels are there. They’re all there, they’re just not working together. They’re not building and being built, they’re not aligned, they’re not submitted and surrendered to each other.

Life isn’t flowing out of one into the other and out of that one into the next, it’s kind of like they’ve all kind of separated and pushed out to do their own thing. And as I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve had lots of time to sit and think, because there’s not been much else that I can do, because I think that is a great picture of the body of Christ in this last season. I think the body of Christ got hurt in this last 18 months and we’re not even really necessarily at the place to acknowledge how much damage has happened. And all the parts are still there. Like some of you are like, I’m here today bro, what more do you want from me? It’s not about are you here or not, it’s about are you aligned, connected, submitted, building and being built, is life flowing out of you into others and out of others into you? Are we coming together as the body of Christ?

Because when we’re all divided and individual and doing our own thing and seeking God our own way, we lose our strength and we can’t do the normal things that we were created to do. And while this has happened to the global body of Christ and we can’t control that, we certainly can control what we do here. And we can decide to say as this part of the body of Christ, we’re going to build and be built, we’re going to align and connect, the spirit is going to flow out of me and into you and out of you into others. We are going to be a dwelling place for God, we are going to get strong, we are going to get healthy, we are going to bring everything back into alignment the way that God has declared it to be, to build each other up so that we can become mature attaining the fullness of the measure of Christ, a dwelling place of God on this earth.

You see, the truth is that we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. Like you don’t even belong to yourself anymore, you belong to Jesus and us. You can say you don’t like that or you don’t believe it, I’m just telling you what the Bible says. It’s really hard to argue with each member belongs to all the others, to say, no, it’s my life and my choices and my convenience and my comfort and I want to be connected more with the people of the world than the people of God. But that’s not what it says. So that’s okay, just be aware of that. And that’s the out of alignment which then in a sense cripples you and keeps you from being strong to do the things you are created to do. Why? Because we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. You have been given a gift, but your gift isn’t for you.

If you have the gift of encouragement, it’s not so you can give yourself pep talks. It’s so you can encourage us. If you have the gift of mercy, it’s not so you can give yourself grace and permission. It’s so you can give mercy to us when we’re hurting. If you have the gift of leadership, it’s not so you can make money in the world. It’s so that you can align us and form us and lead us into new places. You don’t belong to you anymore, you belong to us and we belong to Him. And we want to be the dwelling place of God on this earth, so it’s time to activate, it’s time to engage, it’s time to build and be built in Jesus’ name. I realized today this is like a choppy message and we never kind of found the groove and we didn’t get moving on it and all that, I hear you. So let’s just for a moment acknowledge the reality of there’s probably a lot of things in the atmosphere working against this.

Why? Because Satan doesn’t want the dwelling place of God on the earth, he wants this to be his realm. He says you stay over there and God says, no, I’m coming. I’m coming for my people. And when my people want me enough, they will come together and they will create a place, a body for me to dwell.

And what does it require of us? Faith. Here’s the last thing. Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It takes faith to seek God the way He wants to be sought.

It takes faith to seek God the way He wants to be sought. He wants to be sought in relationship, He wants us to pursue Him by pursuing each other and coming together as the body of Christ, the temple of the Lord, to create a dwelling place that invites Him to come. And that takes faith because it is uncomfortable and it is inconvenient, and it does mean I have to pick up some responsibility, but you’ve been given the spirit of the living God. It’s time to take that responsibility serious and move forward in Jesus’ name and everything that he has for us.

How hungry are we for God, Valley Creek? That’s the question. See, this is part of the reason this is an uncomfortable message is because what I’m in a sense doing is I’m throwing you the ball. I’m telling you, the worship team will show up prepared, wanting more of the presence of God. I’m telling you whoever preaches the word will show up prepared, wanting more of the presence of God. So two of the three stools, legs of stools we got. How hungry are you? Don’t sit at Starbucks and be disappointed that God doesn’t show up. He’s telling you He’s at the airport. Don’t go home and just do Jesus your way and be disappointed that you don’t experience the kingdom in your life. He’s telling you where to go find him, where two or three are gathered there I am.

How much of God do we want? So close your eyes with me. Come on, what — cut through all the clutter for a moment. What is God saying to you? What’s the challenge? What’s the invitation? It’s okay to be comfortably uncomfortable. It’s okay to be pushed out of your comfort zone. It’s okay to have to go to a place that you’ve not been before. That’s what following God is all about, embracing the unknown, moving forward, believing that He is good and that there are great things to discover as we move with Him.

What would it look like? Just slightly different for you to show up to build and to be built, with a humility and a hunger and a desire to say, God, I want to do everything I can do to create a dwelling place for you in my life? Don’t even worry about the rest of us for a moment, but just your own life. Listen, those of you that have been here for years, you know one of the things you love about our church is the presence of God in worship. And when we started, that wasn’t a reality. We had to build it together and go take that ground. Well, there’s a whole new measure of the presence of God to be experienced in next level relationship with each other. But we’ve got to go build it and we’ve got to go take that ground.

So Jesus, my heart says to you today, I want to be a dwelling place for you. I want to build and be built. I want us to be humble and hungry and honest. I want us to be the body of Christ that’s aligned and unified. I want to create the kind of three-legged stool that invites the fullness of your goodness and your grace and your glory to dwell among us, an atmosphere that’s so powerful that when people enter it, they are transformed, in the name of Jesus. So Lord, may we take the responsibility seriously. May we accept the invitation with gladness. And may you continue to build us into everything you want us to be, your dwelling place on this earth, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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