All right, you guys, can you hear me okay? Well, good morning. Thank you for having me here with you all. I've never preached in Phoenix, but we have some close ties here. We've got the Grimes here; they just came from San Diego. We've got the Valleys coming from San Diego, and the Taylors coming from San Diego. So, I've come to bring them all back, but they're amazing couples, and I'm glad they're out here with you guys. You know, I want to thank the Verseles for having us. We just had such an amazing time with them last night. We'll show a picture in a minute, but we have two daughters, and it was really amazing last night being able to sit with them and their four daughters and just talk about all the amazing things and experiences they've had in different places, moving all over the place. It was just awesome to hear their daughters, and I was asking them questions like, "Hey, what did you not like about this? What did you like about this?" And they're very honest. So, just appreciate the Vero family. You guys have some amazing leaders in your church. So, very grateful for the Phoenix Church. Are the slides working? All right, there we go.

The title of today's message is "Our Master's Return." Here's a picture of our two daughters, Kalia and Alina. Kalia is 3, and Alina is one year old. We recently returned from the Philippines; we were out there for the past three months. We were on the island of Mindanao, the southernmost island. That was a picture we took. The girls look a little more put together in the last picture, so I showed that one first, but this was near the end of the three months as we were on our way to preach at one of the churches, actually kind of around those mountains, up in the jungle. It was just an amazing trip, and I'll share a little bit more about that.

Something I love about our family of churches is that we are international, all across the world. I've never been outside of this part of the world; I've been to Mexico, I've been to Canada, I played a football game in Canada, but I've never really been outside this part of the world. So, being able to go to the Philippines was a life-changing experience. What I wanted to share here this morning is some of the lessons that we learned in the Philippines. I think one thing I learned most definitely was that the church has to be built on the entire body, not just the minister and the staff. As you heard before, we've had 16 baptisms this semester that happened while we were gone for three months, and our campus ministry was being run by our student leaders, and they did such an amazing job. What that goes to show is we all have to take part in Jesus's mission of seeking and saving the lost. What I saw in the churches in the Philippines was a very decentralized church where every member of the church viewed themselves as a priest, a disciple maker, a missionary, a church planter. We'll talk a little bit more about that as we go, but I just want to start with that. I think we have a lot of things to learn from the other side of the world here in America. I told the Filipino ministers, "There will come a time when we are no longer coming to the Philippines, no longer going to Africa, no longer going to the Middle East to help you guys. You guys will be coming to us." But I think we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters abroad.

This is kind of a day in the life of a missionary in Mindanao. As I said before, Mindanao is the southernmost island, and about 85% of the Philippines is Catholic. Mindanao is about 50/50 Muslim and Catholic, and some of the cities we went to were about 99% Muslim. So, basically, the southern Philippines, Mindanao, they've been at war for the past few hundred years between the government and the Muslims, and there's a lot of tension and chaos. Our church was planted in the city of Davao in Mindanao in the middle of a war. They had 120 people that they interviewed from Manila to go plant the church in Davao in 1994. Preston Shepherd, the brother who was leading the church in Manila at the time, interviewed 120 people, and the one question he asked them that dictated whether you were going to go on the mission team to Davao or you were going to stay in Manila was, "Are you ready to die?" If you said no, well, then you were definitely not going. If you said yes but were disqualified from the mission team, only those who answered yes were allowed to go plant the church in Davao. Out of the 120 people, 17 young disciples answered yes. They were ready to go and die. In the first month of planting the church, Muslims pulled up at the biggest Cathedral in all of Davao and threw grenades into it, killing 65 people and injuring many. They also threw grenades into the biggest mosque in Davao and blew it up. That was the environment that the church in Davao was planted in, and that is the legacy of faith that they're continuing, planting churches.

By the way, half of the island is called the BMM, which stands for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Muslim Region of Mindanao. So, basically, that half of the island is under Sharia law, and we have one Church there, a faithful little Church of 30 people. When they planted the church, in the first week, the police force came and shot up the house that they were meeting at as they were worshiping. I thought Filipino people were really nice, and make no mistake, they are some of the nicest people I've ever met. But when we went to the island of Mindanao, it was a different breed of people, people who had been through struggle, people who had seen war, people who had seen hardship. But to see the difference between the average Mindanaoan and the disciples was amazing. They were truly the light of the world, they were truly the salt of the earth, and honestly, they popped the bubble of America in my mind, to see the worldwide Kingdom and what most people in the world have to live like on a daily basis.

Here's a week in the life of our missionary travels. As you see, there was a lot of preaching, between three and five times a week. Often, we would go into different villages and get permission from the village elder to preach to the village. I had never done anything like that before. For the first time in a long time in the ministry, I felt legitimately afraid because I was like, "What are we walking into here?" We're walking up, and here's just a crowd of people coming, and I'm just a white guy standing there, feeling out of my element. I'm getting ready to preach, and just the hearts of people to the gospel was so convicting. Seeing men, women, and children listen to the gospel intently was powerful and convicting. As I was preaching, I couldn't help but be convicted by the way they stared at me and listened to the gospel being preached. It was an amazing experience.

Right here, you see us baptizing a guy named Kenneth. That's a picture of Lex and Kenneth. We were walking through the Muslim neighborhood evangelizing there, and I remember they told me, "Hey man, we're afraid to go into those neighborhoods. We grew up not going to those neighborhoods. But if you go, we've got your back; we'll go with you." So, we went and walked through the parks, sharing our faith with the Muslims, the Catholics, and the different people there. It was just very amazing. Here we're baptizing Kenneth; he actually started sharing his faith with us before he got baptized. We baptized him in the middle of a Muslim hotel, and it was awesome because they were all watching us. We dunked him, and he said, "Jesus is Lord" super loud, so all of them heard, and we baptized him. They were just staring at us, and we were like, "Yeah, right in the middle of your neighborhood, man, we baptized someone. Let's go."

It was truly an amazing time. Here's a kind of crazy picture of me. That's a picture of me. Did I ever go to the slide? Did I not switch to that slide? Sorry, I'm looking over here. My bad. There you go. Here's a week in the life of Mindanao. And then here you go, that was a picture of me street preaching. I was screaming my head off. We played a basketball game; we put up some prize money so that all the kids would come out and hear the sermon after the game. Filipino kids love basketball; they only have flip-flops, and they were killing us. I mean, they were so good at basketball; they were shooting it from half court just boom, you know, and they were in flip-flops, they were barefoot. But after the game, we played a game to 50; that was their idea, maybe it would make me not preach. But I preached anyways, but my face was super red, I was super tired. So, you see there's a brother there; if you can see him, he's looking at me in a black shirt. That's the Evangelist there in Davao. When I would start getting tired and laded, he would kind of take my place, and he would start preaching. We would go back and forth, and it was super cool. It was just a life-changing opportunity and a life-changing trip for my family and me.

I think what made it especially difficult, honestly, was having our two kids there. I remember when we were walking around, sharing our faith in the Muslim neighborhoods, and I remember them telling us it's very tribal, so it's an eye for an eye. I remember them telling us, "If you convert one of our daughters, we're going to kill your little white daughters." I remember I looked at the brother next to me; I was like, "Are they serious?" And he was like, "Absolutely." That was a very interesting thing to be in because it's not like we had to be there; we could have just gone back to America. So, there were a few times when I'm kind of thinking, "Why are we here?" And I think that's the lesson that I'm going to preach about is based on: why is it we should do things like that in our life? Why is it that we should flee the comfort and the Disneyland of America to do risky things for God? Now, what this sermon is not going to be is an anti-American Christian sermon, alright? Even when I came back, GD pulled me aside; he said, "Hey bro, I know you're fired up, no one was in the Philippines with you, so you can't come back and just set the whole thing on fire." And I was like, "Well, amen, right?" But I think some of the lessons that I learned over there, I think the church here in America, not just San Diego, not just Phoenix, but the church in America, we can benefit greatly from because there are people living in places where it's dangerous to be a Christian, and we will be held to the same standard that they are going to be held to. So, let's go ahead and pray for the sermon, and then we'll jump into it.

Father God, we come before you just grateful to be called Sons and Daughters of God. I'm thankful for your disciples here in Phoenix, in Mindo, and San Diego. I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit that unites all of us, God, and I pray first and foremost that this morning you will be glorified in our worship. I pray, secondly, God, that you will unite the church here and abroad, that we will be of one Spirit, just as you desire for us to be. I pray that every single one of us would live in a way where we are watchful of your return, and I pray, God, that you will move me out of the side, and that you will speak through me to inspire your Saints to live a life worthy of the Gospel that we have been called to. We love you; we pray this all in Jesus's name. Amen. Amen. Awesome. Turn with me over to Luke chapter 12. We're going to be in Luke chapter 12, and we're going to be going through verses 35 to 48. We're going to paraphrase some of it, but I think one of the things as we were visiting, actually specifically appreciate the brother sharing about hope, we went and visited one of the—it was called The Hope Center, and this was in our first week of being there in the Philippines. What it was is it housed a lot of the abused girls in the village that we were at, and this village that we went to visit, it was called something in Tagalog, but in English, it was "the island with no God." So, this little village was a place where drug dealers and drug lords would go to hire assassins and hitmen to take people out, and there was a lot of women and young girls who fell victim to the environment that they were living in, a lot of abuse. So, we went and we stayed at this house for about four days, and we brought our daughters, and it was amazing. Our girls were playing with the kids there; it was a super amazing time. But as I looked around at all the people there, and I looked at the volunteers, and I looked at these people who are living in the slums with the people they're serving, I remember I thought to myself, "Why would God give me what he's given me and not give it to them?" I grew up in the church knowing right from wrong, and I still chose to do terrible things. I was never a victim of my circumstances; I was always the one who wanted to go out and do bad things. And here are these little babies, these little girls as old as my daughters who are victims and have no power to control what's going on in their life. And God put them in the slums. That was like the first four days being there. How do I even speak to these people? How in the world are we going to help you guys? And I think Luke verse 48 and what we're going to do, we're going to read this scripture, and we're going to kind of work backward, but it says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Why was I given what I was given? Why was I born where I was born? Why did I grow up in a household with two parents who love Jesus, who love me, who respect each other, who love each other? And why were these little girls put in a position where they're powerless? Because God expects me to do something about it. And I've heard a statistic that in America, if you make around $30,000, you're in the top 1% of the world. And I thought, "Yeah, there's no way." And then we went into the slums in the Philippines, and I thought, "Whoa, like I've been to Tijuana, I've been—I thought I've seen poverty." This was a different level of poverty. It was weird being the richest people we met and the richest people in our neighborhood and the richest people maybe in the city. I didn't meet anyone richer. It was a staggering truth to see that we are blessed beyond measure and that poverty in America is kind of like, "Well, we have one car," versus over there, I mean, we saw little babies laying in the gutter, no food, abandoned. It's just like, "Why were we given what we were given?" Because God has entrusted us to do something powerful and impactful with what he has given us.

If you back up a little more in verse 47, this kind of gives us a little context into what the being given much is. It says there in verse 47, "The servant who knows the master's will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving of punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much more will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." So, what is the much that has been given referring to in the context of the scripture? What it's referring to is not necessarily physical possessions but rather to the knowledge of Christ's return. So, much of the world does not know that Jesus is coming back. I preached a sermon; it was the last sermon I preached in the Philippines, and what it was entitled is Mindanao's greatest need. There's a lot of needs in the third world. The greatest need that those people need and that we need, we need to hear the Gospel of Jesus. Can I get an amen? That is the greatest need in the world. And to whom much has been given, much will be expected. To whom much is given, we know Jesus is coming back, we will be expected to live like it. So, what does it look like for us to live in a way where we know Jesus is coming back and that the world could look at us and say, "That person's living for a different life"?

Like they really believe what they preach. It's important to remember that the knowledge of Christ's return is a gift. What are you doing with the gift that you have been entrusted with? What are you personally, tangibly, doing with the gift of the knowledge that Jesus is going to return?

In Luke chapter 12, we go through here verses 35-40, and basically, he tells this parable. I really believe Luke 12 might be the chapter from God to America. I mean, a lot of it's about money, a lot of it's about greed, a lot of it is about being expectant of the end times. That's hard to do here. Basically, what he's telling them to do, to paraphrase, is he's telling people to be dressed and ready, be the servant who when the master returns, he will find you doing your job. And he says here in verse hour that you do not expect him.

I want us to keep in mind that the crowd that he's speaking to here, this is an enormous crowd. If you look back to when he first started preaching in Luke chapter 12, it says it was such a big crowd that people were piling on top of each other. Now, if it were me and my ministry was going, and we're healing people, and I'm preaching, and I have this huge crowd that's so big that they're on top of each other, I don't know if I really want to preach this sermon. I kind of want to preach a sermon that's going to keep you coming back. I want to preach in a way that's going, "Okay, we're going to get this thing moving, and once we really get our numbers up, then we'll start preaching the hard stuff." But that's not the model that Jesus used to build his church. Even sometimes when we preach on Sunday or when we do a Bible talk or a Bible study, sometimes we can want to push the hard stuff to the end. I don't think we ever see Jesus do that. I mean, look at Matthew 11:28-30, where he talks about, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Amen. What did he preach right before that? Woe to you, Bethsaida, woe to you, Chorazin. He's warning these people, "If you don't follow me, this is what's going to happen." I think this is a very important teaching for us today.

We have to be ready for Jesus to come back because he's going to come back at a time that you don't expect him. And even as I was thinking and praying about, "Well, what do I want to preach about?" Part of me wanted to preach in a way where you guys are like, "Let's invite this dude back. We like this guy." I wanted to move hearts. I wanted to make people cry, you know, like, "Great sermon." But what would Jesus have preached to our churches? And brothers and sisters, living in America, it's hard to be watchful for the end. It's very hard to even actually believe that Jesus is going to come back. But the fact of the matter is he will come back. And so, this is the main focus of our text here in verse 41.

Now, I'm not just talking to your visitor; I'm talking to you. I preached this to myself this week. Amen. The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly, I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of; he will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

So again, the context of this chapter is not to be earthly-minded, as we said, verses 35-48, they deal specifically with being prepared for Jesus's return. And I think many of us, we've heard this sermon, and we know, "Yes, we need to be ready for Jesus's return." But maybe a better question to ask is, "How do I know if I am ready for Jesus's return?" For all of us sitting here, and me, what if Jesus comes back in 5 minutes, or what if tonight, you're having your family dinner and the trumpets sound, and here comes Jesus? Are you ready? Are you dressed and prepared? Are you ready to meet the King of the universe, the one who's given you this beautiful gift of the knowledge of the gospel and the knowledge of his return? Are you ready to meet him and look him in the eyes and say, "I was faithful with the gift you entrusted me with. Are you ready to meet the King?"

You know, I think he gives us a real practical here in verse 45, where he says, "But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk." Why did the servant act the way that he acted? Because he said, "My master is taking a long time." I think a lesson we can learn from this is that past time numbs the anticipation of the Master's return. Past time numbs the anticipation of the Master's return, and as a result, the servant assumed the authority of the master with his property and with his servants. We see this in the way he treated the other servants. We see this in the way he began to eat and drink and get drunk.

And I think, brothers and sisters, I want to ask us, have we been numbed by past time to the reality of Jesus's return? Are we anticipating it? Because what's the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. So, the one that we love more than anyone else is coming back. But we kind of talk about his return like a bad thing. And we talk about his return like this is going to be a terrible time when the one that we love is coming back to get us. Do you view it as a terrible time because you're not ready to meet him yet? Are you anticipating Jesus to come back? Because honestly, when we were in the Philippines, I was like, if I lived here for the rest of my life, Jesus, I'm ready for you to come back. It's hard to live here. I mean, even the ministers that we would talk and we would hang out at our apartment, we'd talk with them, they're like, "Bro, we're ready for Jesus to come back. Get your stuff together in America, 'cause we're ready to go. We want him to come back. We've been poor our whole lives. We've been struggling our whole lives. I've been hungry every day in my life. I'm ready." But past time and luxury have numbed us to that. Therefore, we live in a way like you and I own our lives and we own our time. And I can do what I want when I want. I mean, I see that attitude in the church. I've had that attitude in the church. You know, 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 19, it says, "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." You are not your own; you were bought at a price. What does that mean? You have no rights over your own life. If God calls you to go to the farthest edges of the world for the sake of the Gospel, then you go. If God calls you to be pure in your dating relationship, then you be pure. If God calls you to move across Phoenix to plant a house church, then you do it, because I have no rights. When I said, "Jesus is Lord," what that meant was I'm surrendering all my rights to him. I'm surrendering all my allegiances to him. We're not pro-Israel; we're not pro-Palestine; we're pro-Jesus. We're not Republican; we're not Democrat; we're Jesus followers. And if you see yourself in those categories, then repent. You are not your own; you were bought by the blood of Christ. We have no rights, no allegiances except to Christ and his word.

So, what does it look like in our lives when we assume the authority of the master? You know, in verse 45, it says, "My master is taking a long time in coming," and then he begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, the first way that we see that we've taken authority over our lives because we've been numb to Jesus's return is we see it in the way that we treat one another. And I know that's very basic; it's not something profound, but we don't always treat others the way that Jesus wants us to treat each other. And honestly, as I was driving here, I was thinking some negative thoughts about a brother back home. I was like, I've got to come up here and preach this because I don't always treat people the way that Jesus wants me to treat them. And I think the pandemic exposed that."

I'm not trying to go back to the pandemic; I know it was brutal, but it exposed it. Let's just call it what it is—our true hearts were shown in the pandemic when you were allowed to hide behind the keyboard. We saw who you really are, and you saw who I really am. We all said and did things that weren't loving to one another. And what that says is, I've forgotten that Christ ransomed my life. He owns my life, and I can't treat people any way I want to treat them. Why? Because Jesus treated me as a brother and saved me even though I was His enemy.

I mean, could you imagine if I gave my daughter's life for one of you, and then you had an attitude with me and you came and looked me in the eyes and had an attitude with me? That's what we do with Jesus, though, right? Where God gave Jesus for our souls, and then we look at a fellow brother and sister and say, "Well, I don't really want to be united to them. I don't really want to love them because they did this to me. Was it worse than what they did to Jesus on the cross? Then what right or excuse do we have to not love our brothers and our sisters?

You know, growing up in the church, I'm a kingdom kid. We got any Kingdom Kids in here? Okay, amen. Nothing wrong with that. I'm a kingdom kid. But I think as I looked at during the pandemic and I looked during this time, most of the people who are complaining about the church are the kids who grew up in the church. Help me understand that. Like, I went to an inner-city high school. My friend's parents, my friend's dads, were in jail. My friend's moms were smoking crack. I remember my friends selling their other friends' moms crack. And then we'd go to my house, and my parents love each other. We got fresh fruit at the house. It's safe, you know? We're having family devotionals with the homies at the house. You know, it was just a different environment. I mean, the bad things that I did, it wasn't like I was a victim, you know what I mean? Like when I was robbing people and stealing stuff, it wasn't because Mom and Dad were just bad people or my dad taught me how to rob people. It was, I liked the rush. I'm with people around me. I like to rob people. I'll rob people. But when we went home, even my friends would ask me, "Why do you act like this? I mean, your dad is home. What's wrong with you, man? You're arguing with your dad in front of us. We should beat you up." Like, I remember them checking me, right? They'd be like, "What is it about white kids when they talk back to their parents, man?"

But my parents are amazing. And I think me and all my siblings, outside of my sister, she was an angel, but me and my brothers, man, we went through a lot. We did a lot of dumb things. We were kind of the kids that no one felt like were ever going to be converted. So if your kids are in that spot, amen. I made it. I'm up here. God can do anything. But I really want to call on those who grew up in the church and our younger generation. I spend all day with the younger generation. I'm all day with the Millennials and the Gen Z'ers and all of that. If you're not willing to help fix the problem, then stop pointing them out because we have a lot of people that point out problems, and then when it's time to fix it, "Oh, I don't like the church. I'm not going to church." Or, "Man, it's too much of a sacrifice for me to be at a Friday night devotional the church wants me to be at." Who is the church? Who are you talking about? Are you talking about yourself? You're part of the church. Amen. Are you talking about me? I'm part of the church. If we've got a problem, we can talk. But I think, guys, we have to treat each other with love.

There are too many young people who think they own their lives, and there are too many old people who think, because you've been through it, that you don't have to do it anymore. Amen. I'm leaving. I won't be here next Sunday, so if you're offended, my bad. I won't be here. We don't own our own lives. Faith expresses itself through love. If you have faith that Jesus is coming back, then you're going to love His people with an undying love.

You know, in John 17:20, it says, "My prayer is not for them alone; I pray for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." Jesus's vision for the church was that we would be unified to the same degree that He and His Father are unified. I mean, that's crazy to think about. And you know what the effect of our unity on the world will be? "So that they may also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." Why do you think people are running away from Christianity in the West right now? Because we're all fighting amongst ourselves. And what it says when we fight amongst ourselves is what we're telling the world is Jesus was a liar.

But when you have different people with different backgrounds, when you have different races, when you have different economic classes, when you have all different types of people loving each other and unified to the degree that Jesus and God the Father are unified, you know what the world says? "That's different. The things that divide the world don't divide us." This is a high calling for all of us. And honestly, I think Jesus knew we weren't going to be perfectly unified all the time. But if we really believe He's coming back, then we need to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Time numbs the anticipation of the Master's return. You know, the second way that we see this and the second way we see the servant assuming the authority of the master in our own lives is right here. It says the servant began to eat and drink and get drunk. Now, we've got to ask ourselves what does this mean? Does this mean that those who are not anticipating the Master's return...

That they're gluttons and they're drunkards? I mean, yeah, probably right. If you're getting drunk a lot, you're probably not thinking about Jesus. You're overeating; you're probably not thinking a lot about Jesus. But I don't think that's actually what He meant here. To explain what He meant, you can look just a little bit back in the chapter. In Luke 12:16, it says, "And He told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.'"

The unwatchful servant who assumed the authority of the master started living life this way - "Take it easy, eat, drink, be merry, just live a normal life, get a nice job, have a great family, kind of middle-class life, die, no hell, you're good." I think when we forget that Jesus is coming back and we assume authority over our own lives, the number one temptation of disciples in America is to just live a normal life, not too extreme. You know, "I'm not cold, I'm not an atheist, but also, like, I'm not radical either. I've already served a lot in the church, and you know, I've got class and I've got school and I've got all these things going on. I'm just going to take life easy for now."

And often times you even hear, here's another one you hear a lot, "Well, even if we believe in Jesus and we follow Him, even when we die and let's find out He's not real, well, at least we lived a good Christian life." Would the apostles have said that? You know, think about Paul. He says in 1 Corinthians 15, he says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day, yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

If we're living the Christian life and Jesus is not real and there's no heaven and He never rose from the dead, brothers and sisters, we have wasted our life. We need to live in a way where if Jesus is not real, if He never rose from the dead, then everything is a wasted life. You suffered your whole life for nothing. You're of all people most to be pitied.

The Christian life was never meant to be comfortable. The Christian life was never meant to be lived within the walls of an auditorium or of a church. The Christian life was never meant to be inward or compartmentalized, where I don't bring it up in my job, or I don't bring it up with these people. The Christian life was meant to consume us. When you have Paul, and he says, "I've wasted my life if Jesus never rose from the dead," is that your life? We should live lives that don't make sense to those who do not know God.

We should live lives that don't make sense to those who don't know God. You know, there's a brother in the General Santos church in one of the cities in Mindanao. This was the most bombed city in all of that island like 10 years ago. When the bombs kind of stopped, they blew up the mall like 27 times. I was like, "Which mall? Like the one across the street?" And they're like, "Yeah." I was like, "Oh, okay." So we were staying right next to it. But there was a brother here during the pandemic, most average-looking Filipino guy you'd ever meet. During the pandemic, he got stuck in a city that he was visiting. Basically, what happened was he lost his phone, and the poverty's real there; he couldn't buy another phone. So the church lost all contact with him. They assumed that he had left the church; they assumed he walked away.

Three years later, after the pandemic, they found out that this guy had gone door-to-door in the neighborhood that he was stuck in. He had baptized 17 people, built a church building, and planted a church where he was at. That doesn't make sense if Jesus is not real. That's not kicking back and enjoying life. I mean, in his mind, he's like, "I'm going to be poor. If I'm not a disciple, poor as a disciple, I might as well be a disciple." Amen.

You know, another two couples I want to share about. There's Ariel and Amore Loris; they planted the church in Davao in 1994. And at the bottom of the screen, I have Ronald and Meni Mess. And these two couples have sacrificed everything in order to be in the ministry there in Mindanao. They are the only two full-time couples, actually. Amore, she's not on staff; Ariel is. And then Ronald and Meni, they're on staff. They're the only three full-time people in the entire island. And they moved to Mindanao during the '90s when the Muslims were really setting things off, and it was really dangerous. And they brought their kids, and they brought their families with them.

I remember asking them, "What was it that really motivated you guys to come here? You guys were sitting good in Manila, Manila is safe. Why did you leave Manila?" And keep in mind, they only get paid the equivalent of what some of us get paid in an hour, they get paid in a month. They're living like the people; they're not living better than the people. And in talking to them and them sharing, what they said was, "We really believe Jesus will come back at any moment, and when He comes back, we want Him to find us serving Him. We want Him to find us dressed and ready for service. If that means we lose our kids in this war and they die because of an explosion, or that means we lose our lives, we will wake up in the presence of our King." That's faith, brothers and sisters. That's courage. That's living a life that doesn't make sense if Jesus isn't real. That's how we're called to live.

As we close out here, I want to remind us, brothers and sisters, that a normal life is uncruel to Christ's return. It's one that removes anything that prevents you from being watchful. If your life looks more American than Christian, you're wasting your life. If you blend in at your school, if you blend in in your neighborhood, if you blend in with your friends, if you compartmentalize your Christianity, you are wasting your life. And Jesus created us to live lives of joy, lives of power, and lives of impact. Remember, as we suffer, our comfort simultaneously abounds. The more we live the life of Christ, the more we will have the peace of Christ. The more we have our life aimed at the cross and self-annihilation, where I'm just, it's not me, it's Christ that you see, the more of an impact we will make in this world.

And so I leave you with this: Wherever you are at in this room, if it was hard for you to hear me, if it's hard for you to listen, or you're at a great spot in your walk with God, be watchful. Jesus is coming back. Are you ready to meet Him? Let's go ahead and close with a prayer, and then Aaron will come up with some announcements.

Father God, we come before you humbled and honored by your Son's sacrifice. We thank you for purchasing us from the darkness and bringing us into the light. Lord, I pray that we would live lives of priests, lives of declaring your wondrous praises amongst the nations, whether it's here in Phoenix, whether it's in Mindanao, or San Diego, or wherever part of the world you call us to be in. Whether it's just sharing our faith with our family in our home, God, we call upon you to give us strength to live lives of meaning, to live the crucified life, to be watchful, to be ready for your return. God, help us to love one another the way that you have loved us and help us to put to death the normal Disneyland life that we feel called to live at times. We love you. We pray this in Jesus's name. Amen.