The Golden Hour
August 22-23, 2009
Well for the last couple of sessions I’ve been talking about this right here. A life ring. I got the whole idea for this series a couple months ago, because I had the opportunity to be involved in something rather interesting.
Illus: I was in a little boat, a 16-footer, in the Atlantic Ocean. I had a pretty intense day of fishing. I was with a friend named Bo. And as we were headed toward the marina, we could see the marina in sight. We were the last boat on the water. No one else was anywhere near us and we saw a little craft out there. And as we looked at this boat, we saw someone that looked like they were actually swimming about 150 feet off this boat.
And my friend said, “That’s weird. What’s someone doing swimming in shark infested waters? What’s someone doing in the water at this time of night? Let’s go over and see what the deal is.”
So we went over and we looked. And this guy was waving in the water. Then we realized he was in trouble. And between gasps he said, “I’ve been treading water for 20 minutes. I’m about to go down. Please help!”
So we looked at this guy, and he was a leviathan 6’4, 6’5. Maybe 323, 230 pounds. And we’re in this little boat and here’s this monster of a guy. We idled up to him. And I grabbed one of his paws, my friend grabbed the other and we pulled this guy into the boat. The boat was taking on water. It was a sight! We got the guy on board and he was thanking us and coughing up salt water and just going on and on and on.
And when we said, “Dude, what happened?” he said, “Well, I’m a fisherman, a commercial fisherman. I was by myself. I fell over and tripped and went overboard. And as I turned to grab the railing of the boat, the wind pushed the boat out of my reach and I’ve been trying to catch the boat. And now I’ve just been treading water.” He goes, “Thank you, you saved my life! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
After he regained his composure, we took him to his boat. Dropped him off and everything was cool. The guy went back to fishing. He’s a hardcore, hardcore angler. So, then we turned and made our way toward the marina.
What was weird about this whole situation was that we were only a couple of minutes from the marina. And as we got to the marina, we saw all the boats. Isn’t that fascinating about the marina? A marina is always occupied. Have you ever seen an empty marina? No, there are always boats there. Some big marinas have millions and millions and millions of dollars of boats. They’re stacked, they’re docked. They’re in all types of creative positions as they’re in that marina.
Well, as we motored up to this marina, we saw the nice boats. And we saw one boat that had to cost a quarter of a million dollars, and we saw a guy standing on the bow. He had this P90-X physique, just totally shredded, ripped. You know what I’m saying? And he had a lady with him and she had on the resemblance of a bikini. I’ve seen more cotton on a q-tip than what she had on.
Anyway, as we got closer, in tandem, the couple waved at us, smiled, and then the P90-X guy smacked her on the rear. And I was thinking to myself, “Man, that’s rather strange. It’s eerie. Here we were just a couple of minutes away rescuing a guy who was drowning, rescuing a guy who was fighting for his life, who was sucking down salt water, whose arms were heavy. And just out of reach, just out of sight, just out of hearing range, you’ve got the marina and you’ve got this couple waving, smiling and smacking each other on the bottom while this drowning man was sinking to the bottom.”
And I thought for a second, and God spoke to my spirit. “Ed. That’s the picture of so many people who call themselves believers. That’s the picture of so many churches. They have this marina mentality.”
“We’ll just tie our craft up to the dock and we’ll work on our spiritual tan and we’ll wave and smile and smack each other on the bottom while drowning people around us are sinking to the bottom, while drowning people around us are facing a Christ-less eternity.”
Then I thought about the Bible. I thought about the words of Jesus. I thought about the Old Testament and the New Testament, because the Bible is an anthology of a divine rescue. Think about it.
Rescue is throughout the pages of Scripture. Mankind – that’s you and me – we were drowning. Drowning in our mistakes. Drowning in our moral turnovers. Drowning. And we’ve tried to use different floatation devices to keep us, you know, up there, to keep our heads above water. Some use possessions. Some use pleasure. Some use fame and fortune. Some use that adrenaline rush, that high, that buzz. We use all these different things to keep our head above water. Maybe it’s a relationship or whatever. “If I can date that person, or marry that person or make that amount of income.”
And they work for a while, but let’s be honest. They’re poor flotation devices.
The Bible says that we sin. You know what the word sin means? Sin is an archery term. I’ve done a little bit of archery and when you sin in archery, you miss the mark. I do that often in archery. Also in life. And so do you.
We were in trouble. The Bible talks about this situation. We were sucking down salt water. We were drowning. We were sinking into the depths. We were facing a Christ-less eternity. God tossed us the ring. God tossed us Jesus. I like the ring. Don’t you? The life ring. The thing is the ring. It’s a great symbol. And if you’ve ever studied the Greek, this (theta) is a symbol for God. A circle with a line through the middle. Sort of looks like a life ring with a life line.
Think about what Jesus did. Jesus. And if you look at Philippians 2, you can read it later today, Jesus started at the top, right? Coexistent with the Father, coexistent with the Spirit. He voluntarily left and did what? He became a man. He went from the top to the bottom. He lived a perfect life. He preformed righteously. He died on the cross for our sins. He experienced the depths. He rose again. Now, he’s seated at the right hand of the Father. He came from the top to the bottom to bring us from the bottom to the top. The circle has no beginning, the circle has no end.
The life ring. God tossed it to you and me. He tossed it to mankind. And we either grab the ring or not. We have a choice. We have a decision to make. “The ball is in our court,” people say. It’s up to you.
I don’t force myself to love my wife. You don’t force yourself to love your spouse. You know, we don’t force ourselves to love golf or tennis, football or shopping. We just choose, right, to get into that. We choose to love that.
We choose the person of Christ. We choose to grasp a life ring or not.
And here’s what’s interesting about the life ring. When God tossed it to humanity, we have a choice. We either take the ring or not. There’s always a life line tethered to the life ring. And the life line goes all the way to the Father. So you got the life ring, you got the life line, the rope, and you’ve got some grace going on. You’ve got some forgiveness going on. You got some powerful stuff going on.
Illus: I’ve been doing some research about boating and rescuing back in the day, in New England. This just messed me up. In New England there were some societies called “rescue societies” that were beginning. And they became very popular. And adventuresome guys and girls who would join these rescue societies. And all they would do was they would hit the open water and then rescue boats that were in trouble. That’s what they did. And after their rescue, they would come back and get together, share meals, recover, and go out and rescue again. Then they’d share some meals, recover.
Inevitably, though, some of the people in the rescue societies got tired of rescuing. It just got them all messed up. They loved the meals. They loved the camaraderie. So they began, are you ready for this, yacht clubs. Certain yacht clubs in New England emerged from rescue societies. They emerged from rescue societies. They emerged from groups of people who were into rescue.
But others said, “You know what, we’re just going to chill, get into the meals and the martinis and we’re just going to relax. That’s what we’re going to do.”
And as you read about the history of these societies, people would leave the yacht club and start another rescue society, and another one and another one.
The church is not a yacht club. The church is not a place where we sit there in our lounge chairs and work on our spiritual tan. The church is not a place where we play ring toss on the deck. “Oh, that’s 25 points. Yeah!” It’s not a place for that.
The church is a rescue society, a rescue culture. That’s the whole essence of the Bible, the whole reason that Jesus came: to search and rescue. To seek those who are lost and dying. To seek those who are drowning.
If you’re a follower of Christ, guess what? God trusts you. He trusts you and loves you so much he’s placed you around drowning people. You fling the ring; it’s your opportunity. It’s your choice. It’s my opportunity; it’s my choice. We either do that or we don’t. That’s why God has placed those people around you.
Are you praying for them? Are you engaging them? Or do you have that marina mentality? Are you just sitting back on the deck, waving, smiling and whacking each other on the bottom while people are drowning and sinking to the bottom? That’s not why we’re here. We’re not here for this marina mentality. We’re not here to say, “us four and no more.” So many churches miss this and so many people who are believers miss this. That’s why so many believers never go deep.
Ok. Let’s say I’m the enemy. If I’m the enemy, and you are a believer, I can’t get you to where you used to be. I can’t get you in that drowning state anymore because you’ve been rescued by the grace and mercy of God. If I’m the enemy, though, I’m going to whisper lies to you and it will thwart you. It will keep you from being a part of the rescue society. It will keep you in this marina mentality. It will keep you just talking about theology and doing Bible studies and examining each other’s navel as opposed to untying the boat, pushing the throttle to the fire wall and hitting the high seas.
So, if I’m the enemy, I’m going to give you a bunch of excuses why you shouldn’t involve yourself in the life ring. Because remember, when it comes to the church, when it comes to your life as a believer, the thing is the ring. Say it with me. “The thing is the ring.”
But I’ve got something else I want to tell you. The hope is in the rope. Say it with me. “The hope is in the rope.” Because I’m not just going to throw the ring without a rope. The hope is in the rope.
Think about that for a second. Process that for a second. Just because some of the people that God has placed around you – consider your role and your activity in rescuing. Consider the excuses that the enemy is giving you like, “Well, rescuing is really not that deep.” Rescues happen in the deep! Not in shallow water! That’s a lie. You want to go deep? You begin to rescue.
So again, if I’m the enemy I’m going to say that to a lot of people. And hey, if you’re not a believer, let me give you the 4-1-1. If you’re not a believer, we have many who are not believers here, I know. If you’re not, once you become a believer, you will hear that excuse. You’ll hear that rationale from the Christian culture right here. The Christian culture will be those people who have the faux faith, the fake faith, the phony faith. Because, if you’re a believer and you’re not into search and rescue, you’ve got to come up with some rationale for your disobedience. And one of the best ways is to do the deep thing.
Whenever you hear someone say the deep thing, just say, “Whoa. I’m talking to a little baby.” Babies have no concept of depth. “I’m talking to someone who’s splashing around in the shallows with their floaties on.” Because if you’ve been radically rescued, you will rescue radically.
Then the enemy will say something like this to you. He’ll say, “Well, you know, let’s just put God in a box and tape him up.” Too many people think, “We’ve got God in a box. Nice neat little box. There’s election in Scripture and the elect are the elect. You know, God is sovereign, he knows who will take the ring. So why do we have to worry about flinging the ring? You know, the people who are going to grab the ring, they have the white hats on. Those who are drowning who are not going to grab the ring, they have the black hats on. So let’s just get together and sing kumbaya on the decks of this ship. Let’s work on our spiritual tan and eat the all-you-can-eat buffet. If you had another Bible study, let’s discuss theology and talk about God is in a box. It’s just for the elect.”
Yes. The Bible talks about election. There’s no question about it. God is sovereign. He’s omniscient. He’s all knowing. I know all that. But as much as the Bible talks about election, it also talks about choice. You have an option. You have a decision to make. The ball is in your court. It’s your move, as I said earlier.
Who in here, using your little pea-brain, which is only about 7 or 9 percent of our brains capacity; who in here is smart enough to understand where election ends and choice begins? Or choice ends and election begins? No one!
Jesus did not say in Matthew 28, “Yo.” He said, “Go”. And the literal language is, “as you’re going.” To put it the way we can understand, get your ‘as’ in gear.
As you’re going. As you’re living your life. As you’re working. As you’re going to school. As you’re playing golf. As you’re antiquing. As your knitting. As you’re doing whatever.
Get your ‘as’ in gear. And understand: the thing is the ring, and the hope is the rope.
But again, the enemy is going to come up against believers, because he does not want us to bring people into eternity. He does not want us to fling the ring. And a lot of people who have this theology of God in a box, they think the ring will just get out there through osmosis.
“I just discuss theology, have another study, you know. I sing kumbaya while I flip off my community and somehow this ring will just get out there by itself. Because the elect are the elect.”
Hmmm. Well if that’s true, we all need to just be zapped to heaven. You know, that’s pretty crazy stuff.
And then sometimes the enemy will say this to you. He says it to me. “You just don’t know enough. You don’t know enough to get involved in the rescue business. You don’t know enough of the Bible. You don’t know enough. You don’t enough. You don’t know the answers to the questions that people will ask.” I feel like that all the time. There’s a lot of stuff that I just don’t know.
Illus: Over the last 72 hours I spent some time with several people who are totally far away from God, people that never really had any sort of connection with someone who is a follower of the Lord. And they asked me a number of questions. And it’s hilarious whenever I tell people I’m a pastor, because I was with these guys for about a day and they never asked me what I did for a living. But you know how guys are. We love to ask that question. Kind of a competitive thing. Trying to, you know, “Ok, hey Ed, man, what kind of work are you involved in?” they asked me.
And I love to pause when I get that question, because I love to see their reaction when I tell them what I do. I just wait, take a deep breath, and I say, “What do I do for a living?”
“Yeah.” They kind of lean in.
I say, “I’m a pastor.”
And the guy who asked me that question several days ago, when I told him that I’m a pastor, he kind of gave this look. He was like, waiting for the punch line. “You’re a pastor?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “I’m going to call my wife. She’ll love it that I’m on this trip with you. I’m going to call her and tell her that I’m behaving, I’m with a preacher!” Isn’t that funny?
But these guys asked me questions. And some of them I just, you know, didn’t know some of the answers. So I have got to tell what I know. And if I don’t know something, I say, “I don’t know.”
You say that, too. And you can always direct them to a book or whatever. If they really want to chase down the answer, great. But there are some questions we’ll never get answered. There are some questions I have about God and the Bible I will never know on this side of the grave. I will only know it when I get on the other side. You’re the same.
It’s like I talk about with computer or an iPhone or an airplane or a car. Do you understand everything there is to know about those things? No. Does it keep you from using those things? No, because you use those things. That stuff doesn’t keep you from using those things. Even though you have questions, you still use those things, right?
“Well, I’ve got some questions. Yeah. Well, I’ve got doubts.”
So do I! “What?” I’ve got doubts. Without doubt, you have no faith. And with no faith, you have certainty. [The Bible says] the just shall live by faith. We’re saved by grace through faith. Doubt your doubts.
But this I know. God sent the life ring. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and rose again. And I let go of those poor flotation devices and I grabbed on to the life ring. The thing is the ring. The hope is in the rope. The rope is tethered to what? The house, the church, the house boat, the fellow ship. We’re a bunch of fellows rowing this ship toward Jesus. And whenever we row the ship toward Jesus, he’s always going to take us by drowning hunks of humanity. And together, we can team up and get together on this whole journey. We can be a part of this rescue society. We can be a part of this Miami Dade Fire and Rescue.
We rescue people from the fires of hell. We save them by God’s grace to life on another level. I love what the theme is of the Miami Dade fire and rescue. You know what it is? “Always ready. Proud to serve.” They must have told me that a squillion times as I was up there in the helicopter and on the boat. “Always ready. Proud to serve.”
Is that you? We need urgency in this hour. Do you want to get mature? You want to go deep? Do you want to have all hell break loose and also all heaven break loose in your life? Do you want adventure and excitement? You’ve got to have that urgency. You’ve got to have that right mentality. I’ll do whatever it takes. You have to have that flexibility. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to keep the thing as the ring. The hope is in the rope.
But I’ll change, man. I will change how I rescue. But I’m never, ever, ever going to compromise on the thing. That is the church. And the reason that we are the church, the reason we have evolved over the last almost 20 years is because of you. Have we not changed? Have we not been flexible? Many of you wouldn’t be here. Many of you would not have even been rescued. Many of you would still be drowning and sinking into the depths. But we didn’t [stay the same]. We changed. And we’re going to continue to change. That’s one thing I can promise you.
And you know, the scriptural record talks again about rescue so much. I think about the apostle Paul and Galatians 1:4. Paul speaks of Jesus giving himself for our sins to, I quote, “rescue us from the present evil age.”
Colossians 1:13, it’s God the Father who “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
Then in Isaiah 19:20 the prophet says over in the Old Testament. “When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.”
The ring is the thing. The hope is in the rope. And here’s the next thing. Pull. Pull. Pull so the house will be full. The ring is the thing, the hope is the rope. Say the last one. Pull so the house will be full.
Are you pulling? Rescue is a team thing. I mean, it really is. It’s not some solo deal. That’s why God has given us the church. What’s the church? It’s a colossal collection of moral foul ups, saved and rescued by the grace and mercy of God. Because, again, the radically rescued rescue radically. We’re rescued to rescue. Are you pulling on the rope?
Illus: I want you to meet somebody named Rick Mills. Rick, come on up, man. Let’s give it up for Rick. Yes sir, Rick. How you doing? I want you to meet him, because something happened in Rick’s life that was just crazy good. The guy was drowning. He was sinking. And someone loved him enough to fling the ring to him. And he grabbed the ring. Do you want to hear his story? Watch this.
What a rescue story! I want you to meet his wife, Renee. Renee, come up. Renee, I want you to stand right by him. Just stand there just one second. Rick also had some friends at Fellowship Church. [In the video] you heard, the term Home Team. That’s a small group of folks from Fellowship Church who meet together for fellowship; a bunch of fellows rowing the ship in the right direction. You see what happened? The ship will take you by drowning people. Come up, come up. Some of the friends from Rick’s Home Team. Let’s give it up for them. Give it up.
Hey, if you guys would just stand in line with Renee. Also, we might have a parker, maybe an usher, student pastor. You guys come on up, come up, come up. Yeah, just stand right here. Ok.
Here is what is so awesome about this rescue story. Ok, Renee. His wife, boom, is holding the rope. The hope is the rope. The thing is the ring. Look. Friends. Parkers. Pastors. I mean, look at this. You’ve got people who understand the hope is the rope. And they are pulling to what? To keep the house, to make the house full. What a story! What a rescue event.
So, whatever you do here at Fellowship Church, whether you’re tweaking dials; whether you’re arranging backpacks for Family Fun Fest as we give away to those who need them; whether you take mission trips; whether you’re behind the camera or in front of the camera, whether you’re teaching; whether you’re working with babies and helping change diapers; whether you’re teaching in children’s church; whether you’re involved in student worship; whether you’re working at our camp out in east Texas; whether you’re helping with one of our satellite ministries – you matter to God and you matter to this rescue society.
And for the life of me, I want all of you to get involved in this, because once you get involved in the rescue society, in this rescue culture, amazing things happen. Amazing things happen.
And here’s something else that’s cool. Here’s something else. I want to show you what God is continuing to do. Ok, Rick, has been volunteering at Allaso Ranch, our camp, for the last several years. And he doesn’t know I know this. But he has tossed the life ring out to a number of students. Come on up here, right here. You right there, come up, come up. (A student comes on stage). And a number of these students have been rescued because of Rick’s story and his faithfulness. So it continues to go.
Fling the ring. The ring is the thing. The hope is in the rope. And pull so the house will be full. Because if several people drop the rope, man, we’re in trouble. Are you involved in that?
Maybe you’re here today, and you’re thinking, “Ok, Ed, I can identify with Rick. I mean, I’m with him. I feel what he was saying and I pick up on that vibe. I’m drowning. And I’ve turned to my vices.” I don’t know what they are. But you’re saying to yourself, “I’m drowning.”
Well, I’ve got some wonderful words. I’ve got some great rescue stuff for you. Just like that guy who was drowning in the Atlantic Ocean did, just cry out for help. Just say, “God help me. That’s all you have to do. Just say, “God, I admit to you that I’ve messed up. I admit to you that that I’ve missed the mark, that I made mistakes, that I’ve tried to go my own way. I admit to you that I’ve tried these different flotation devices.
I’ve tried substance, I’ve tried moving from bed to bed, I’ve thought this relationship would do it. I thought this amount of money would do it. But something is missing.”
Grab the life ring. You can grab it right now by saying this with me. Everybody bow your heads with me just for a moment. Ok, I want to talk to people who have never taken the life ring. I want to talk to people like Rick. I’m talking to men, I’m talking to women who need to make this decision. Just simply say this, “God, I’m drowning, I’m drowning, I’ve missed the mark, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve committed moral turnovers and I know that you love me.”
There’s nothing that you could do right now that would cause God to love you any more or any less.
However, he wants you to respond to his love. The ring is there in the water. I’m flinging the ring out right now. You either take it or not. Won’t you take it? I can’t make you do it. It’s your choice.
Just say, “Jesus, I take the ring. I let go of that stuff, I turn from my sin and turn to you, Jesus. I ask you to come into my life. I just hold on to you.”
And once you grab the ring, guess what? The ring will never let you go! You’re in the family. You’re talking about a family reunion, you’re talking about a party. It’s amazing.
So if you prayed that prayer with me, as our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed. If you did what Rick talked about doing, would you lift your hand for a second? In the balcony. On the floor, lift your hand. Just between me and you and God. All right. Keep your hand up, keep your hand up. Keep your hand up.
Maybe you’re saying, “I don’t understand it all,” some of you are going, “Well, I want some more questions answered.” Here’s the deal about that. I mean that’s fine and dandy, but the same 4-1-1 I’m giving you now is going to be the same 4-1-1 twenty years from now. So why waste another couple of decades doing what you think is right, when God has designed you to live in concert with him? Ask him to take control of your life.
Just say, “Jesus, I give my life to you. Come into my life. Come into my life. Anybody else? In the back. Ok. The balcony. All right. Thank you. Hands are going up everywhere. All right. Everyone look at me for a second. I want us to give a huge applause for many people who are rescued. [applause]
Now, I want these folks to stay on stage with me just for a second. Listen to me. Stay with me now, stay with me.
The Miami Dade Fire and Rescue has something called “The Golden Hour.” The Golden Hour is that crucial time between when someone is rescued and then brought to the hospital. The church is a hospital. The church is a family.
That’s why over the next several weeks I’m going to talk about a family re-union. All of us are members of a family. If you’re single, guess what? You’re a member of a family too. And the family of God should be reflective of our families and our families should be reflective of the family of God.
We’re going to say that the church is a family. It is a hospital. It’s a family clinic. Have you ever thought about your family as a clinic? It is.
Some of you men and women are fitness buffs. Your family is also a fitness center. Yeah, we’re going to talk about that.
Your family is also a company. And when we get these things down and revolve our lives around the church, great things happen. So I want to challenge you to come back to Fellowship over the next several weeks.
Ok, going back to you guys who just raised your hand. If you raised your hand, I’m going to challenge you to do something in this Golden Hour – the first 60 minutes from the rescue as you get involved in the hospital, because this is the hospital for sinners. Jesus said, “I don’t need to mess around with those who are doing great health wise. I want to go out and get engaged and involved in people’s lives who are sick.” And we’re all sick with sin. But we have the message of healing. And that is Jesus Christ.
Illus: When you walked in you were handed a golden butterscotch life saver. I don’t like butterscotch. I pretty much like anything, but I don’t like butterscotch. We got this in a gold color because it represents the ring, it represents the golden hour. The first 60 minutes when someone is rescued. If you just got rescued, I’m going to get into your face for a second. And I’m going to challenge you to do something crazy. I’m going to challenge you to get baptized.
[Ed leads in spontaneous baptism and closing prayer.]