June 26 // Robbie Gaines

Robbie Gaines - 6/26/2022

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- Hey, good morning Highlands Fellowship. I am so glad to be with you today. It is exciting for me to be home, to be in a place that I have loved and you have loved me and my family for years now. For those of you who don't know me my name is Robbie, and I'm so thankful wherever you are listening from whether that's up in Bluefield, there in Marion, if you're in Bristol here in our Abington location or anywhere else, we are so thankful that you're joining us today and I'm honored to be here in a place that has invested into me and into my family. Again, for years on end into me personally as I've grown in ministry and walked this life as well as I've grown into a husband and a father, this is a place that yes, it is home. And for those of you who are joining us today, if you are looking for that sense of home, I pray that you wouldn't look on Zillow or realtor.com, but rather you would look for a people that you would belong to. You would look for a place that would love and care for you. And I'm here to tell you today that you are in a place where people love because Jesus loves them and out of that they love others. That is the essence of home. And I am glad to be a part of it. I'm glad to be back home. Today, I wanna share a little bit of the story that me and my family have been walking through and will continue walking through as well as talking about such a central point in the story of God, a central point in the Bible that leads us to the heart of God and God really staples a moment that he wants all of us to share in. And it's this moment of Passover. It's this moment of Passover where Jesus goes to his disciples and he has this feast that they are gathering around. This was a tradition that had been going on for years. Matter of fact, by the time that Jesus is doing this, we're talking about 1,000 years that Jesus... The Jews had been doing this practice of celebrating Passover. To give a quick synopsis of what Passover is, we're gonna go to Luke 22 today and we're gonna just briefly talk about Passover, where it is that through the lamb, through the sacrifice of the lamb, God rescues the Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh. That is the essence of the celebration that is happening. See, back when Moses... Before Moses had led an Exodus of the slaves who were the Israelite people out of Egypt, he called for all of the people that would hear the word of God, to listen to the word of God, to put blood on their doorpost as a signifier of we belong to the Lord. In this moment, an angel of death goes by and for those who were marked as those who belong to the Lord, their first born children would not be killed. Now, if you are completely lost, I understand you just had your first cup of coffee, I understand. I'm gonna reel you back in here just for a second because before we understand the power of what Jesus was about to do, we have to understand the years and years and years that had happened before to set up this moment in history in time in our lives as well to know the weight of the act that Jesus was about to do. What the Israelites were practicing and what they continued as a rhythm in their life was to celebrate that God had rescued them because of the sacrifice of an innocent being, an innocent animal from the slavery that they were in to Pharaoh and to Egypt. And so we have this moment where Jesus is with his 12 disciples and he says, "Hey, it's time to celebrate this. "It's time to celebrate this Passover." And we catch in verse 15 of Luke 22, he says, "And said to them, 'I have eagerly desired "'to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.'" Now, whenever I have dinner with anybody or whenever I invite somebody over to my house, I may say, "Hey, man, I am excited to have this meal with you." But what I don't say typically, I don't think I've ever said is, "Man, I am so excited to eat this meal with you "before I suffer." I think that would be a shot at the company that I'm inviting. I think they would feel very insecure at that moment. I feel like they would think that I am talking about them. I'm sure with all the questions that we see the disciples asking along the way, I'm sure there is a hint of that, but more than anything, they're probably just a little bit confused and a little bit intimidated about what's about to happen. He says, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover "with you before I suffer." A little bit into the story that me and my family have been walking through over this past year really started a little bit over a year ago in May of 2021 when we found out that we were going to have a baby boy, our second baby boy, and this baby would have some complications. We heard the word spina bifida for the first time. And we found out that our son through the pregnancy would have a lot of complications through spina bifida as well as irregular growth. He was growth restricted and a number of other issues that would lead to either him passing away in the womb or shortly thereafter being born, not having a great quality of life or he would just simply exist in a state that we were so unsure about what was going to happen. So this road that we have walked along has been one of you could say a roller coaster, for sure. There have been highs and lows, there have been ups and downs at every turn, and there have been all of these moments that we come back to and we say, "Man, God, where are you?" And at the same time, "God, never leave our side," because we know that you are here. Today, we have two boys and Silas is our oldest. He's two years old. And then we have Ivy and Ivy is now over 10 months old and at the time that I'm sharing this, he weighs over 16 pounds. That is incredible for a kid that started at 1 pound 10 ounces, which we actually rounded up to 10 ounces. And the fact that he has continued to grow after nine procedures, he continues to be the strongest human being I have ever met in my life and I am honored today to be his dad. To be both Silas and Ivy's dad and I have a absolute superhero of a wife. As we talk about the story that I'm sharing, there's a lot of things that I grieve. There's a lot of things that I am upset about. There are a lot of things that I lament. There's a lot of things that we lost. One of those things being home, we moved from our home in Bluefield, West Virginia, to Philadelphia, to a land unknown to us, and then for our son to be born. And then we moved down to Charlotte, North Carolina, where our son currently is at Levine's Children's Hospital. It's this moving around, it's this highs and lows all the time, constant change. I see it every single day, but I continue to come back and I continue to come back to this place of where Jesus is at that I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For me, I think it's more of a, I have eagerly desired to eat this meal with you as I suffer. See, for me, there was this one moment where I was traveling from Charlotte to Philadelphia because Ivy and my wife and Silas were still up in Philadelphia and I was making this trip from Charlotte to go see them for the weekend because I had started work at Gardner Web University and I was making this trip and I get on the plane and a little snow starts coming down and it's not a big deal, it's not bad at all, but it's Charlotte, North Carolina. And if there is any, any remnant of snow, all of a sudden sirens start going, everybody starts freaking out, and everybody forgets how to drive, right? So I'm in an airplane and I'm thinking, I wonder what's gonna happen here, right? So I am on the airplane and the captain comes on and he says, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am so sorry to let you know, "we're gonna have to de-ice the plane here. "It will be a 45 minute wait before we take off." No problem, no problem. I'm taking it easy. There was a flight that a couple of people canceled and matter of fact, they canceled right next to me. So I had a whole road to myself, I am good. I am living good, I am going to see my family, I'm excited. 45 minutes turns into an hour and that hour turns into two hours and the captain comes back on and he says, "Ladies and gentlemen, we're about to take off." We start our take off and then all of a sudden we stop. We stop right as the engines start going and he says, "Ladies and gentlemen, they have closed down the runway. "We're gonna have to turn around "because we don't have enough gas "to get us to where we need to go." So we turn back around, two hours turns into four hours, four hours turns into eight hours of sitting on an airplane, longing to be home, longing to be with my family, longing to be somewhere else but this little seat, this little row in a place where the person in front of me just opened up an egg sandwich and it is just the worst experience ever, right? I watched three movies. I watched the whole trilogy of "Lord of the Rings" and for anybody that knows, that is a long time, right? To be watching a movie in the same place. And they told us that if you want to exit the plane, you cannot come back on. So I am on a situation where I don't wanna be there, but if I turn around now, I won't be where I eventually want to be. I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you. You better believe when I got... When I touch down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 3:00 A.M., I wasn't... I was exhausted. I was tired, I was done. But I was excited that I was in the place where I was with the one that my soul desired to be with, my family, to be home. I was there with them. And even though I hadn't slept and even though I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to sleep, I knew that I was with the people that I wanted to be with. Many of us during times of suffering and grief, we have these moments where we want to stay back and be by ourselves. And that is good for us to constantly find places where we can have space and find ourselves between just us and God. But for us to retreat and find silos for ourselves to live in and to isolate, just falls into the plan of the enemy that he wants to separate, distract, and bring people into isolation where they feel like they are all alone. Jesus, in this moment, the suffering that he is talking about is that he is about to go to the cross. He is about to die a criminal's death as an innocent man. And he says that the thing that I want to do before I go to this place that I do not want to go is I want to be with you. I want to be in community. I want to be with the people who have been there and suffered and walked alongside with me. My question to you today, the first question is, "Who is at the table?" Who is at the table for you? Who is at the table when times are tough, when times are maybe, okay, who is with you to celebrate the highs as well as walk with you and listen in the lows? Who are the people that you continue to be able to return to and you're able to share your struggle with? And who are the people when life is just shifting and changing all around you, you find stability in their friendship? Matter of fact, who are you that friend for? Who are the people that you go to them and serve them and help them in their times of struggle? And so what did Jesus do when he gets to this table? What did Jesus do when he gets to this moment that he had longed for, that he had waited for, that he is anticipating, that he is excited for, even though it means the end for him in the way that we would know it. N. T. Wright says when Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples, what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn't give them a theory, he gave them a meal. See the new covenant that we see in Jesus as he comes to the table, he brings up two elements. And this isn't exact replica of what this would look like, but to help give the visual of it. He said, "I have the bread, which is my body." And this is something that would've been a part of the traditional Passover feast as they remember the provision that God had made while they were in the desert. And then he said, "Here's my blood, "which is poured out for you." And this again was a picture of what God had done in the desert through the Exodus but now it took on new meaning as Jesus brought it to his disciples and he said, "I am going to be broken for you. "I am going to give my blood for you." And if you're wondering what in the world does that mean, read your Bible and find out that the disciples felt the exact same way. See, we have this moment where the new covenant comes in between God and man, a new covenant of love that needed a sacrifice. See, remember Passover said that, "Through the sacrifice of the lamb, "God rescued just the Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh." But because of this new covenant that was going to happen because of the cross that Jesus was going to endure for me and for you, it was through the sacrifice of Jesus that the entire world would be rescued by God. And it would be rescued from slavery to the powers of sin and death. Jesus gives this powerful statement that I am going to be broken for you and I am going to now be the substance that gives you provision, that gives you life itself. And this blood that I give and that I shed for you is a symbol of the love of the covenant that is lasting that my blood has paid the price for you. This is an intense moment not just between friends, but for all history for all time, for me and for you. Now we enter the story and we see that we are seated at the table with not only a man and Jesus and a friend of sinners, but rather the savior of the world. When we gather together and we find refuge in gathering together, I pray that we would find moments to do justice and remember the sacrifice that Jesus has given to us. When I think of the hardship that I've gone through, when I think of the long suffering that we continue to endure as we navigate this road of having a child that is medically complex, when I navigate the hallways of the NICU and I see the faces of doom and gloom and heartache and hardship, I return back to, "God, are you here?" And I have assurance as I remember to what he gave that, yes, he is here with me and he is here with every single person that is around me. And how can I be now used as a vessel to bring that hope and to continue to see that hope in my own life. Again, through Jesus, God is going to rescue the world but in this moment at the table, it is still unsettled. There is still suffering, even though Jesus was going to pay the price and make it all right and even today, I know that there is still suffering that I will have to go through. But as Jesus gave the bread and told, this is the significance of it and gave the wine and said, this is the significance of it. He also led them into a moment where they could talk amongst themselves and this incredibly powerful moment doesn't go into a, "God, what do you actually mean about that?" But rather his disciples talking amongst one another, "Which one of us is the worst "and which one of us is the greatest?" Which one of us is the one that is going to betray Jesus and which one of us is the greatest among all men. That is the pride of man that we all have. I know for me, walking through the NICU, there are times where I'm thinking, "Man, your kid doesn't have it as bad as mine does." That is an incredibly insensitive and ignorant statement and thought that I have that runs through my mind. Whenever somebody shares their suffering with me or shares their problems with me, I'm like, "Oh wow, your life... "Your life is, is bad too. "You just talked about a terrible situation, "but come into my life for just a second "and see what that's like." That is a prideful thing. And it's in me, it's in each and every one of us where we constantly wanna compare ourselves the good and the bad with other people and whenever we do that we miss the biggest part of this whole life that we have. And Jesus addresses this moment and he says, "You know what? "You're asking the wrong questions, "but I'm going to step into this conversation "so you can see what I'm doing "rather than just hear a statement or a theory." Jesus said in verse 27, he says, "For who is greater? "The one who is at the table or the one who serves? "It is not the one... "Isn't not the one who is at the table, "but I am among you as the one who serves." And my question for you today is, who serves at the table? Who serves at the table? See, when I think about what's worse, what's better, am I good, am I better, are you worse. However, that goes, it all comes back to a statement of pride. And the story that we are living in, even in suffering, the story that I continue to walk through with my family, I have to be reminded that this is not about me. This is not all about me. This is not all about the struggles that I have to go through. This is not all about whether or not mine adds up to something above or below somebody else. But rather this story is about remembering what Jesus has given to us. This story is about Jesus. And so if you have any pity for me and my family, I appreciate it as long as it comes through as compassion and grace and help and hospitality. I appreciate that. But let me tell you right now, we do not want the pity that says, "Oh man, I hate that for you," but then you never step alongside with us. You never take the step to come alongside with us. And I would say to you as well, there are other people in your life or you yourself who you need to stop, just having pity for and you need to have empathy and compassion and start walking alongside with them. This story is not about me. This is about Jesus. And for it to be about Jesus means that I take the place as a servant. I told you before, I have an absolute superhero for a wife and every single day she goes into that hospital, not as a trained nurse, but she is the best caregiver for our son. And she gives everything that she can to learn about our son, what he likes, what he doesn't like, how to care for him in a way that only a mother can. But she is not just there for Ivy. She is there for every other person in that hospital. She goes there with a sense of calling that this is not the place that I wanna be, but I'm in a place where nobody wants to be here either. So how can I bring the hope that I have in Jesus because at the end of the day, this is not about me. This is about the goodness of God in the land of the living, in the land of the NICU, and wherever that is for you. Maybe it is taking the place at the table as a servant to say, "You know what? "I don't understand all of this, I never will. "I don't even like all of this and I never will, "but God, is there a way that you can show me something more "about yourself in this? "As well as show me more about myself in this?" Jesus had the right to step up to the table and say, "Hey, I am king now you serve me." But rather he said, "Yep, I could be the one, "but I am going to take the place as a servant. "You go and do the same." So we asked the question, "Who is at the table?" We asked the question of, "Who serves at the table?" And the last thing is, "What is brought to the table?" What is brought to the table? We have this echo of pride in the room and it's no coincidence that Jesus in this moment turns to one person in particular, turns to his good friend, somebody that has gotten it right, somebody that Jesus himself has said, "You are the rock and I am going to build my church on this. "On you." And he turns to his friend, Peter, who is also known as Simon and he says, "Simon, Simon, "Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat, "but I have prayed for you, Simon." Hold up. If Satan himself has asked to separate people, to separate the people of God, I would want a response from Jesus to say he asked if he could, but I said, no. Not gonna happen, not on my watch. I stood up for you and I told him where he could go. I wish that's what Jesus said. But rather he said, "I prayed for you, Simon, "that your faith may not fail. "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus turns to the one person in the room who has a lot of confidence in his belief in Jesus. Jesus turns to a person who has a lot of belief in his belief, and he knows how this story is going to unfold because Peter simply responds and say, "Jesus, I will go to prison into death for you." A bold statement but I really believe that he believed that. And Jesus said, "Yeah. "Before the rooster crows three... "You will... "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." So before morning even comes, you're gonna deny that you even knew me. We have this moment where Jesus just shows Peter how vulnerable he is, especially in his pride. I've had a lot of moments where I've walked in with a lot of what I thought was faith. I knew the verses, I knew what the Bible said, I knew what Pastor Allen had preached, I knew what people had said and then all of a sudden, I walk into a room where the walls are closing in and my chest starts getting heavy and I don't know what to do because my greatest fear is that I am not enough to care for my family. I'm not good enough to hold up my family in a time where it's so uncertain. And I'm certainly not strong enough to know what would happen if I lost the one that I've cared so much about. I am afraid of that. See Jesus in all of his kindness turns to Peter, but I know he turns to me, turns to you and he says, "I know that you have a lot of belief in your belief in me. "But your belief in yourself to believe enough "will come to an end." I can assure you when a code bill is rung and nurses and doctors start running into your kids' room and all of a sudden heart rates start dropping, your belief goes way out the door and you're just trying to stand up. There's moments in each of our lives where we've had these intense moments of, I just don't know what to do. In those moments, let me help you. One, it's not about you and two, you're not strong enough. I don't mean that to belittle you. I don't mean that to harm you. I don't mean that in a way that God can't do something through you, but rather in those moments we find that Jesus is our strength, Jesus is our provision, Jesus is life itself and we find that in those times when we don't know what to do, when there is restless chaos happening all around us, when there is pride in our heart, that through the sacrifice of Jesus, I find my place in the story not as the central focus, but one of a vessel to tell who the focus is about. I get to tell about the goodness of God through the most incredible kids in the world. I get to tell about the goodness of God through a lovely and amazing wife whom I will give my life to serve. I get to tell about the goodness of God to and through and with the body of Christ through the local church wherever I am at. And even though I am not home yet, even though I don't have a place to rest my head yet with my family, I am excited and eagerly away in and through the suffering as Jesus tells the greatest story ever told that he loves us, that he died for us so that we can have life in him. And I find the greatest joy, yes, in the NICU as I see death and despair all around me as when I walk up to a mother and a father who is in grief and I say, "You know what? "I know exactly where you've been. "I've been there too. "I am here with you." In a brief crack of a smile, a brief shot of light into the darkness and you see the goodness of God and you recognize that this is not all for not. That there is purpose behind the pain, there is purpose in all that I am doing, and there is joy in the suffering. I continue to ask, who is at the table with you? Who are the people that are joining you in your journey, in your walk, in your suffering. But who is at the table that you are inviting in to learn more about their struggles, learn more about their victories. Who are the people that you share life with and invite into your home, invite into your table, and share in the meal. And you may be asking why aren't we doing communion today? And the simple reason for me today is that I don't want us to just do it here together I want you to do it in your homes. I want you to practice this and let it become a rhythm in your groups as you share and you remember the goodness of God through this amazing description that he gave, not a theory, but a meal. Who serves at the table? Let it be the church. I know we just came off of love week a couple weeks ago and I echo the sentiments of all the pastors who have shared that this is an incredible week, but it cannot and it will not stay in a single period of time, but rather let it echo in our hearts as a rhythm that we continue to live out. Who serves at the table? Then lastly, what is brought to the table? It's gotta be the inner workings of our hearts and our lives that we might not want other people to see. The most vulnerable parts of us. Let us be the people that put it out there freely, not to put ourselves into shame or into guilt, but find safe places where we can say, "You know what? "I am not good enough but I know this story isn't about me." So I need Jesus to do a work in and through community so that I can continue to grow and be all that he's called me to be. Jesus ends this statement to Peter and he says, "And when you have turned back, "strengthen your brothers." There is a repentance, a turning back to, and I know for me I, again, am returning home in a sense. I'm coming back to you just for a brief time, but this isn't my home for the future and what I would want it to be, right? But I do come back to a place where my brothers and sisters are my spiritual fathers and mothers are and I hope that if you see anything in my life, it is that the goodness of God prevails in suffering through suffering. And there is purpose, not only despite and around suffering, but there is purpose through it. So I strengthen you in whatever it is that you are going through, that you would find a table to sit at, with a people to share your grief with so that you can find the goodness of God together and share in the covenant that we all share, where God saves us. He rescues us from sin and death itself. Can we pray together today? Heavenly father, we thank you so much for the body that was given, that was you. A sacrifice that you gave to us. And Lord, I thank you for the picture that we have. Let it not just be something that we do on occasion as we remember it during Easter season or whatever it is, but God let us do what you told us to do and do this in remembrance of you. The story is not about me, it's not about my wife, it's not even about Ivy. The story that we have is about Jesus. Until I have my last breath, I pray that every moment in grief and sorrow in celebration and in joy that I would echo the sentiment of Jesus is all that I need. Jesus is more than enough. His body that was broken, took my shame. It took my guilt and I have life. His blood that was shed makes him the savior of my life. And this covenant is lasting forever. So Lord, if there is anybody here today that needs that salvation to come true today, Lord, I pray that they wouldn't turn away, they would wait for another time, but rather they would make this a holy moment and allow for the holy spirit to encourage them. That Jesus died for them in all of their shame and all of their guilt. And said that he is enough. So Lord, I pray for this church that it would be strengthened and Lord that there would be people that would gather around those who are hurting. And if there is anybody here that wants to accept Jesus, I pray that they would find a brother and sister next to them, they would find a stranger next to them and ask them, what does this gospel, what does this good news mean to you? And Lord, I pray that as we join heaven in celebration for those who turned back to you, that we would strengthen one another, that we would walk alongside with one another, that we find hope together in whatever the sorrows may be. Lord, we love you so much and we thank you for the goodness that is found here. Jesus, thank you for this place. Lord, thank you for these people. And I pray that you would have your will and way in the days ahead. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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