Summary: God’s plan for his people is to be in community with other beleivers. Small groups can provide that community.

Well, today we begin a new series called the games people play. Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look at some popular games and see how they relate to our lives. Today we look at the game Solitaire. Oh, the hours that have been wasted playing solitaire. In my seminary classes I take notes on my laptop and I admit that I’ve played a few games of Solitaire. You know you’ve played it at work sometimes. Whose played it at work on your computer, be honest raise your hand. I am so ashamed of you guys! I can’t believe that. Seminary classes are one thing but company time! Just kidding! We’ve all done it, those of you who didn’t raise your hand probably have a problem with lying.

I don’t know if its true, but I heard that the entire work force in the government offices in Virginia had Solitaire removed from their computers in order to increase productivity.

Solitaire is a good way to pass the time when things are a little slow. Think about the game for a moment with me. You play it by yourself - obviously. You can play it for hours. You can cheat and no one knows. And if you do win there is no one for you to give a high five to.

David Letterman is King of top ten lists. Number seven on his list of the Top Ten signs you have no friends is if you are an expert solitaire player! If you get right down to it. Solitaire is a great game to play, but it’s a terrible way to live. It’s not God’s plan for you either.

We belong together

English writer John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, separate unto itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

John Ortberg tells a story of a friend of his that was introduced to grits for the first time. He was traveling through the south and stopped for breakfast. He noticed that everything came with grits. Being born and bred a yankee he had no idea what grits were. So curiosity got the best of him and he asked the waitress, “What exactly is a grit made of?” The waitress responded, “Honey” (that’s a job requirement of servers in the south, they call everybody honey). “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.” She was on to something. That is just the way grits are, they come with friends. They come in little communities. Never by themselves.

What about you?

Who are you doing life with?

Life is always better when you don’t do it alone. I’m not talking about romantic relationships, though those are great. What I’m talking about is deep spiritual friend relationships?

Do you have friends that are committed to helping you along in life?

I hate lawn care. I can’t stand to mow the grass. Don’t get me started on landscaping! There’s nothing I like about it. I don’t have green thumb. I don’t have anything green. Including my lawn! April and I have lived in our house, going on 6 years now. I’ve struggled with our lawn that entire time. Pete and Tara Seidel are good friends of ours that go to our church. Pete works in the sound booth and duplicates tapes and CD’s. Tara is in the information center and also helps out in the nursery. And they have a beautiful lawn. The kind of yard that just makes you sick. Do you know what I’m talking about? But Pete, being the servant that he is. Helped me install an irrigation system. I guess I should say I helped Pete install an irrigation system. It’s probably the last time he will ever do anything like that again. Pete kind of became my lawn mentor.

Finally, this year, my yard was starting to look pretty good. I started to think maybe I do have a green thumb. Maybe I am a yard guy!

This was not to be the case. Earlier this year I got greedy and put some weed control and fertilizer down, and to make a long story short, I used way to much and I killed the entire lawn. Completely dead. By the way, don’t tell Pete he doesn’t know yet. Let’s just keep that our little secret! And, I take that back it’s not completely dead there are some green patches here and there. And those patches that are there - they look really good. Very green.

I’m the laughing stock of my neighborhood. I see people drive by my house they slow down and they make these faces. What was that guy thinking? Some people just shake their head. It’s embarrassing. I can’t even show my face, I’m so ashamed. When I go out to get the mail. I sneak out make sure no ones coming – then make a break for it!

There is one thing that could help me in my situation. If one of my neighbors would kill their grass it would help me a lot. Just to know I wasn’t alone. Just knowing that I’m not the only idiot on the block! That would help so much. Come to think of it one of my neighbors is out town this weekend? Maybe I could sneak over there! I’d leave him some green patches!

What I really need is for Jon McClarnon to live on my block. Have you seen his yard? Theres no grass in his yard. Its dirt. He’s got an eleven year old son. He’s never going to learn how to mow the grass. He’s just going to push dirt around. Sometimes I never learn. I guess I’ll see you guys in another year or so.

Everything is better when we have friends alongside of us.

You and I were created for community.

God made humans and said, “they don’t come by themselves”.

We were made to have intimate relationships.

To serve each other selflessly.

To share what we have.

To build into the lives of people around us.

We all need people we can share our lives with.

Share our burdens. Share our joys.

Entrust the secrets of our heart and our wildest dreams.

To cry and laugh and pray together.

This is God’s plan for you and me. Did you know that the words “one another” appear over 1000 times in the bible. Share with one another. Love one another. Share one another’s burden.

The question for you today is will you share your life with others?

Or will you choose to play it safe. To shut people out.

Here is the thing that is true of all of us. This is what I know about you. You long to be in community with others. We want to do life together. But at the same time we hide from it. We want it - but there is something about it that makes us uneasy.

You see you have to decide. It won’t just happen unless you make a choice. You have to decide whether you will live with an attitude that values and pursues doing life with other people or the natural choice will be for you to go down another road, where you shut people out, or you keep them at a safe distance and you look out for number one.

Is it safe? No. There is an element of risk. Because people will let you down. That’s a guarantee it. They will violate a trust. Deceive you or hurt you. Its not safe when we choose to do life together, it takes risk. Anything worth trying has an element of risk.

Three ministers went to a conference money was tight so they shared one hotel room. They started talking and decided they would be vulnerable with each other. The Bible says, “Confess your faults one to another and share your burdens”, so they decided to give it a try. The first minister started out and said, I have to be honest with you, I have a problem with lust. I fantasize. I can’t stop thinking about it. I lust all the time. The next minister went and said mine is lying. I’m a compulsive liar. I exaggerate the truth. I have a hard time being honest. I lie all the time. Then finally the third ministers spoke up said “my burden is gossip and I can’t wait to get out of here”. There is an element of risk involved when we choose to be in community with others. But its worth it.

Playwright Neil Simon said, “If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.”

Understand the very heart of God is to embrace people. God himself longs to embrace you. He does this on this side of heaven through other people.

God’s intention all along was for you and I to be together.

Ephesians 1:4 “Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family.”

We are God’s family and he wants us the church to be like a family. One of the things we say in our 101 class is that a “Christian without a church is an orphan”. God wants us to be in relationship with one another and he wants us to be part of a church body. He wants this for us because we are better together.

We are better together

God has taught this truth to me in a very real way. This year was a very special year for April and I. Earlier this year in January we became first time parents. Shameless – I know. I just had to work him in somehow. This is our son Brooks. He’s six months old. If you are in the nursery, he’s easy to pick out. He’s the cutest and most well behaved. That’s an impartial, unbiased observation.

He is a true blessing in our lives and though it’s been a challenge we love being parents. Parenthood gives me a glimpse of how much God loves me. I look down at my son, and I can’t put into words how much I love him. My wife and I both were taken off guard by how much we love this little guy. I don’t love him for what he does or how he behaves. I just love him for who he is. I delight in him. That is the kind of love that God loves us with. He loves us, everyone of us, because of who we are. Not for what we do. We’re all special to God made in his very image.

I have to be honest with you. The birth of our son has been a happy ending to a very difficult time in our lives. You see April and I worked in college ministry for almost 10 years prior to coming to Crosspointe. We started out at UNC. I was on a Regional director. April was associate director at NC State. We lived overseas in the former Czechoslovakia, and did ministry there for a year and a half. We were always moving around and keeping weird hours. When we joined Crosspointe and finally got some stability it seemed like it was time to begin our family. In June of 2002 we were delighted when we found out that April was pregnant. This would be the first grandchild on her side of the family and the ninth on mine. We traveled home to tell our parents in person, and they were excited for us. A few weeks later we lost the baby to miscarriage. It was heartbreaking. Very difficult for us. We trusted God and knew he was in this with us. It wasn’t to long before we got pregnant again. We were a little more cautious this time with our excitement. As we feared it happened again. This time it was the day after Christmas in 2002.

It was a death blow to our morale. The sorrow we felt and sadness that came with two miscarriages was so painful. The thing that made it bearable was the fact that April and I had many friends from our past gel groups lift our spirits and cry with us, and pray for us and let us know that we weren’t alone. They were just there for us. I shutter to think of what it would have been like to go through that without friends.

When Brooks was born those same people that cried with us in our loss rejoiced with us. The bible say in Romans 12:15, to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Here is a great truth to remember. Don’t forget this. When you have people who are close to you, who are dear friends. When they share a tragedy with you it cuts the burden in half. It makes it a little bit easier to deal with. It can make all the difference. And when friends rejoice with you over a blessing, that blessing is doubled.

Pete and Tara Seidel, who helped us with our irrigation system, were with us during both losses and they were the very first people to hold our son in the hospital. Scott and Candy Lane came to the hospital. And in fact, they were with us the night of our first loss. Scott plays the drums, Candy helps out in the toddler room. They were in our very first Gel Group, it was a group for couples without kids. They called us and pursued us. Scott left message on my voice mail. They just wanted us to know they cared about us and were praying for us. We had a history together. We were with them when they struggled with fertility problems, and when they were finally blessed with the birth of their daughter Samantha, we were living overseas at the time, but they called us overseas in Slovakia and we rejoiced together and we thanked God together. It was wonderful. And now they were rejoiceing with us.

In fact, many of you brought us meals to help us out after Brooks was born. This I is something else I learned when you have your first child - easy things become hard. Like taking a shower or going to the grocery shopping! One morning I realized we were out of dog food, so that morning the dog got to eat shredded wheat for breakfast. Here you go Solomon try this. Need some milk? But we had meals brought to us for two months after Brooks was born. It was wonderful. It helped so much. When they stopped that was hard on me. I still haven’t gotten over that. Life is better when you do it together.

Yes, its risky and yes it takes time, but it is so worth it.

When the hard times come in your life, just knowing that you have friends that care about you can get you through it.

What about you?

Who will care for you if tragedy comes in your life?

Do you have a group of people that will be there for you?

Psychologists agree that we need each other and that we are better together. Researchers found that people who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated! You know what that means? It means its better to eat Twinkies with friends then exercise alone! That’s good news for some us!

We’re better together. Its God’s plan for us to be together. Let me show you another very interesting verse in the bible.

Hebrews 10:23-24

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let’s look at it.

Let us hold “unswervingly” have you ever used that word. Those of you that have teenagers, this is how you want to teach your kids to drive – unswervingly.

That reminds me in our travels overseas. April and I had a chance to go to England and we rented a car while we were over there. Drivers side is on the other side, the wrong side. We are getting ready to pull of the parking lot I’m driving and I said to April, “Hey hon, you know you should do the driving while here in England. After all this is the seat you do most of your driving from anyway.” Yeah, its funny now. It didn’t quite work out that way then. Come to think of it we didn’t enjoy England that much.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”.

If we’ve made a legitimate heartfelt commitment to Jesus Christ, we want to maintain a consistent walk with Christ.

Isn’t that true?

If you’re a Christian here today don’t you want to do that?

We want to hold unswervingly to our faith.

How do we do that? The second part of the verse tells us how.

“Let us consider how we may “spur” one another. There’s another good word “spur”. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. This word appears only once in the entire new testament - it means - beg, urge, nag, encourage, appeal, invite - it means all those things. Let us - beg, urge, nag, encourage, appeal, invite one another - to hold on to our faith.

To help each other out.

To reprimand one another sometimes.

It says lets help each other out, Let’s help each other be followers of Christ and hold on to our faith.

The Christian life is often better caught then taught. That is we learn how to be Christians by watching others Christians.

We learn from each other.

The great theologian Yogi Bera said. “You can observe a lot by watching.” So that one wasn’t he best. But when we watch other Christians live life – it just works.

We can’t do it on our own and in fact, it was never meant to be that way. Let me tell you something else. Many people have come to Crosspointe after a long absence from any kind of church involvement. People come up to me all the time and tell me its been 10 years or 15 or more. And now they are back.

Do you know why the majority stopped?

They were doing it alone.

They had no one to spur them on – so they started swerving from their faith.

We need to “do life together”.

How do you do that at Crosspointe?

Let me tell you how it doesn’t happen.

It’s not just by showing up on Sundays.

If that is all you do, you will never make deep connections here at Crosspointe.

It will never feel like its your church if all you do is come on Sunday, sing some songs, throw a couple bucks in the plate, or the bag or whatever it is.

Crosspointe won’t feel like it’s your church until you get involved and make connections.

A great way to do that is by serving. Yes, we have a need, lots of needs for people to serve in all sorts of different areas. But serving is a great way to make connections. When you serve with others you get to know them. The point is start serving somewhere. We need people to serve, and you’ll be glad you did.

The second thing you can do is get in a group that is especially designed for this very thing. We call them Gel groups. A Gel group is a group of people just like you that spur one another one in their faith in Christ. Groups meet at all different times. Usally a week night. They meet in different areas around town. There are all different kinds of groups. You need to get in group.

It is summer time. A lot of groups take the summer off. In the fall after labor day – we will start all sorts of new groups. There’s on for you. Start planning on that now.

Let me share something else with you. Where we are at in the life of our church at this point in time, is that we really don’t have enough group leaders. Maybe it’s your time to step out of your comfort zone.

Gel groups are central to our vision of what God has called us to do. We can’t fulfill our vision without Gel groups? We will never be the church God wants us to be without gel groups

And we need people that are willing to lead groups so that people can have a place where they can connect.

We need some of you to step up and shepherd a little group like this.

God may be saying to you right now. “Would you be willing to share some of your time and energy and lead a group? A place where people can connect and grow and learn and “do life together”? Your heart may be beating faster right now because you are thinking, "I could do that. Maybe this is for me."

If God is speaking to you that way this morning. I want you to go straight to the information center today and fill out a registration form to come to our Gel Group leader boot camp, coming up later in August. We’ll give you all the tools and training you need to be able to lead a group. If you want we can match you up with a co-leader so you don’t have to do it alone. I’m not asking you to lead a group yet. Just come to the boot camp and find out what it will take. We need you. We need you bad. Sign up today. Don’t wait. People in the information center will help you out.

People need people. Pastor and author John Ortberg said it this way.

“The yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul. Our need for community with people and the God who made us is to the human spirit what food and air and water are to the human body.”

There is one last thing I must include this morning. All the things I’ve shared this morning are true. People need people. It’s the longing of our souls. But you will never fully experience the kind of relationships I’ve talked about this morning until you fully embrace another relationship.

That relationship I’m talking about is with Christ. My final question for you this morning, is do you know Jesus Christ? Not just do you know some things about him, not just who he is. Do you know HIM? Is he in your life today?

Relationships with people can be hard. People will let you down. There is a saying in church circles. Maybe you’ve heard it. “To live above with those we love, oh that will be glory, but to live below with those we know, Now that’s a different story.”

You see once we come to an understanding that we all need Christ, we understand that on this side of heaven we are all broken vessels, we are imperfect people and we all need Christ. There was a song the worship team sang earlier. “The ground is level at the foot of the cross”. Did you hear those words when we sang that song?

When you come to the cross and to the place where the fallenness of humanity finds its ultimate expression, you realize the truth about yourself.

We are all imperfect people.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

We are all on equal footing.

We are imperfect people who were made in the image of God.

When we have Christ in our lives we learn to appreciate people for who they are.

Broken people just like you - that need a savior.

It’s this foundation of love that Christ has for us, that enables us to love each other well.

If you want to do life together, with other believers and experience true community, acceptance and belonging at the deepest most intimate level? You must first come to terms with your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Is it a priority in your life? Christ does not want to force himself on you and he won’t. But he does want us to freely come, but when we do come he wants all that we have. He wants us to be committed.

A guy was at the Super Bowl and he was astonished to see an empty seat on the 3rd row on the fifty yard line. He asked the man seated beside it, if he knew why there was an open seat for such a huge game. The man kind of put his head down and said, “Well actually, the seat belongs to my late wife, she passed away recently. She was a big football fan.”

The other guy, said, “I’m sorry to hear that, but couldn’t you have found a friend or relative to use her ticket?” And the man said, “No, they’re all at the funeral.” That’s commitment! Maybe misplaced.

C.S. Lewis also said, “the one thing Christianity cannot be is ‘moderately important.”

He also said

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. Our faith in Christ sheds meaning on all other things.

Do you know Jesus this morning? If your answer is yes, then my next question is,

Does anybody know that about you? If I looked at your life and tried to find some kind of evidence that you were a Christ follower, would I find any?

This isn’t a question about your attendance at church. Though that would be a good piece of evidence. This isn’t a question about how much Bible knowledge you have.

Instead, I’m just asking, Which camp are you in?”

Are you a worshipper of His?

Are you following of his?

Is He your Savior, Companion, Most important person in your life, or…are you just kind of keeping at a distance, not taking Him too seriously? Which is it for you?

Isidor and Ida Strauss were the wealthy owners of Macy’s department store. The two were married 41 years and raised six children together and were inseparable. On the rare occasion they were apart they wrote each other daily. There love for each other was well known. Isidor and Ida Strauss found themselves aboard the Titanic on that fateful day of April 14th, 1912. There weren’t enough life boats, you know the story “women and children first”. The Titanic’s officers pleaded with the 63 year old Ida to board a lifeboat and escape the disaster, but she repeatedly refused to leave her husband. Instead, she placed her maid in a lifeboat, taking her fur coat off and handing it to the maid saying, "I won’t need this anymore". At one point, she was persuaded to enter one of the last two lifeboats, but jumped out at the last minute and into her husband arms. She was heard saying to him, “we’ve been together so long, how on earth could I ever live with out you?” When Isador and Ida Straus were last seen by witnesses, they were standing on deck of the sinking Titanic, holding each other in a tight embrace.

Their funeral drew some 6,000 mourners at Carnegie Hall. A monument to them still stands in a Bronx cemetery, it’s inscription reads:

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."

The story of Jesus is a love story. The relentless pursuit of the creator of the world. He came down from heaven and gave his life for you and me so we could have a relationship with Him. That’s love. This is the kind of love that lays the foundation for you and I to love each other.

1 John 3:16 in the Message version of the bible says it this way.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.

Jesus loves each of us and he wants us to love each other. Crosspointe is a place that wants to help you do that. Let’s pray.

This week we have an opportunity for you to put some of these things in practice before I tell you about that. Let’s watch a short movie clip.

Everybody wants to belong. They want to be a part of something bigger then themselves.

What you just saw was Nemo’s induction into a Gel Group. Nemo became part of a group, because people reached out to him. This week we have an opportunity for you to begin building some relationships. We’ll be showing this very movie right here in this room, on this big screen. You’re invited. We’d like you to come and bring your family invite a friend and come on out. Join us for a night of family fun on Friday, July 9th at 7pm. We will provide popcorn, drinks, and ice cream along with the fun. All you need to do is : Bring a blanket or a chair to sit on and invite your neighbors and friends. Invitations are available in the information center. Hope to see you this Friday. Have a great week!