The Spirit & The Water | Ethan Renoe

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Breath Life

Order Out Of Chaos

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The Spirit & The Water | Ethan Renoe2023-06-20T14:32:02-06:00

Guest Speaker Dr. Jeff Brodsky of JOY International


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we looked for the statue of liberty

I did the first one I’m looking no anyway alex is slowly becoming a very very good friend we meet on a regular basis and as I do with tom and I love it here love the people you have been such an incredible blessing to join international uh more than maybe some of you even know but it’s been incred it’s amazing all that we have been able to accomplish because of the support that we receive from this church not only on a regular monthly basis is a missionary organization for you but beyond that with a new curriculum that we’re developing and the amount that the church here has given we couldn’t have done it without you so and I’m going to I’ll share that with you in a bit so I want to get rolling with this because this is this is only the second time that I’ve ever done this message I spent a lot of hours literally more than 100 hours trying to put together a new message based on the 12 years that I’ve lived barefoot which I’m going to share with you in a bit but anyway these are two of my granddaughters it’s leah and emma and the reason I have this up there is because wait I need to take a I need to take a look and look okay he’s just so young he wouldn’t it wouldn’t

okay there’s no children in here

where okay that changes things all right um I’m very cautious when I’m speaking if there’s even one child in the room it’ll change the way I share uh so even with one I’m very very sensitive to the things that I speak and I will not compromise when it comes to that so as adults you will have to read between the lines of what I’m saying to have a clear understanding of what I’m talking about joy internationals devoted to the rescue restoration reintegration and prevention of children teens young women and even boys and men that are trafficked and sold into a certain trade I don’t think I have to paint a picture for what that means when they are sold into brothels and places like that so and when I say joy international I started it just a few years ago 1981 we are now in our 41st year I I know it I know I don’t look near even you probably think I started it from birth but so why do I do this work why would I devote my life to rescuing these children teens and by the way when I say children for many many years I have I went deep undercover this was before I was barefoot I went deep undercover in india thailand cambodia belize um

so many you’ll see the number of countries I’ve personally been to 77 countries I travel quite a bit and when I say that we rescue children from brothels I have personally been in brothels where there were children as young as four years old there is no worse crime perpetrated against a child since the dawn of creation nobody can convince me of it I could share stories with you that would you would not believe some of the things the depth of depravity that goes on in our world today knows no bounds you cannot imagine things that I can’t even share publicly even if there wasn’t a child in here because of how how heinous and how nefarious some of these things are and what they do to these children I am going to share one thing about something that I learned in uganda but I’ll cover it briefly

so I do this work because I was reading the red that’s what I call it this was many years ago I was reading the red I came across this verse the least of these Jesus speak I read in the red is when I read the words of Jesus you know that um but I when I saw that I’m I’m someone that is a nut for finding out the truth um and when I saw that I thought okay wait what do you mean the least of these who’s that why weren’t you more specific and I did a search for years on who the least of these were I went uh to africa children of biafra I was in india uh working uh to look to minister in leper colonies I thought man can’t get any lower than this what happened with their lives and one thing after another until I found human trafficking and what was happening to these children my search ended this is me this is to me God spoke to me that these were the least of these for me I even wrote a book about it titled the least of these which challenges you to search for the least of these in your life Jesus came to set the captives free the spirit of the lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners in recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed and the captives free I have one goal when I rescue these girls most of them stop believing in God years ago they would plead with God to set them free from their bondage and after pleading for maybe days weeks months years they give up all belief in God I believe that God has called me to be a fivefold ministry evangelist who’s going to tell a child in a brothel

having to service 10 to 15 men a day every day seven days a week until they’re no longer desirable and they’re tossed in the street like trash if they haven’t already killed themselves or died from exposure or disease or being beaten to death because they didn’t perform properly

when I see one of these girls rescued

and put into a safe house and come to an understanding that it wasn’t God that did this and you see them have their lives turned around then you see them during a praise and worship service worshiping God with such passion that’s it for me that’s the end result that I look for

boy that would have been good to have on this tom I have a video of dozens and dozens of girls worshiping God all that were rescued that’d be good to have on this this is in the philippines this should not be happening to any child

it’s always about the one there’s 27 million you think that slavery ended in 1865 with the emancipation proclamation

there are more slaves today by the millions than there were back then back then they were in the hundreds of thousands today there’s 27 million three to four hundred thousand in america

excuse me two to three hundred thousand here in our own country

slavery did not end in 1865 it was just made illegal

so my barefoot journey july 19 2010 today’s june 26 2022 that’s 4 360 days now if you calculate it in three weeks that’ll be 12 years when I say totally barefoot yep totally barefoot I haven’t had a shoe or a sock on my feet not not even cheating in my own house when I’m alone I have not had a shoe or sock on my feet in almost 12 years july 19 2010 I was at a garbage dump this garbage dump this was in phnom penh cambodia this circle here is there’s a child up there uh that’s why I circled that they look for fresh food they live in the dunk they live there they’ll actually burrow holes in the bottom and live inside the garbage when the dump trucks come they’ll converge on it maybe they’ll get a half piece eating a chicken or a banana or an apple or something but they live in the dump I was there with a group working with joyce

and we were feeding them a bowl of rice with pieces of chicken in it and I was standing there on the side watching uh probably about a dozen or so of them eating and I noticed they were all barefoot two of them had some old flip-flops on but all the rest were all barefoot well when I went back to my room that night I took off my shoes and socks and

as I was taking them off I felt I was talking to God about my experience that day I talked to him all the time and as I was talking with him I felt that he was impressing on me to live barefoot in solidarity with impoverished and trafficked children and I know when God is speaking to me as you’ll see in a minute and I’m thinking what what you want it was almost like an abraham moment where I thought I was gonna fall on the floor laughing um you want me to do what you want me to live barefoot and I felt that he was impressing on me to live barefoot for one year and I thought how can I do that I live at 9 000 feet elevation in bailey colorado what would I do in the winter I travel extensively I’ve been to 77 countries I was in uganda last week uh not last week about a month and a half ago I was in alaska just two weeks ago I traveled quite a bit I thought what would I do in the winter so I felt God’s showing me that he would take care of me as long as I wasn’t foolish like being in alaska in the winter last year when it was 19 below zero and yes I walked around in 19 below zero weather I’ve learned how to be cautious and when my feet have reached their limit it’s actually worse walking on hot pavement in a place like indio or wherever it may be and the the hot pavements really are painful but no com I do not compromise

well anyway um I come home come out of the airport my wife is waiting by the car and she sees me walking up she said I’m wearing your shoes so I told her what happened she said what do you mean you’re going to live barefoot what are you going to do in the winter I said I’ll get cold feet I said no seriously hon what are you going to do in the winter I said I will seriously get cold feet said what about the snow I said it’ll get even colder in the snow I’ll be yeah so well anyway God gave me the perfect wife she’s out there by my table and uh when it snows she insists on doing this I told her she doesn’t have to but she does she’ll sweep a path to the car she’ll turn on the engine turn on the heater put a towel on the floorboard thank you God for gail um he gave me the perfect wife for me she’s such an incredible blessing well one year of course all my friends family they thought I was out of my mind and

one year passed july 19 2011 this grandpa that looks like santa claus was the happiest man on earth I thought oh my gosh I actually went a full year barefoot I wake up somewhere between 1 30 to 2 30 in the morning every day seven days a week no alarm clock that’s just when this brain just all of a sudden starts acting up well I had I had put a pair of white socks on my ottoman in front of my couch I woke up went to the couch I thought I just wanted to feel those socks on my feet I put my this is what happened you can choose to believe this or not this is what happened I put my left foot on the ottoman I took the sock put it on my toes went to pull it on my foot and it was as if there was a tug of war I could not get the socks past my toes as much as I pulled it was like some force was pulling the other way and I’m thinking what the heck so

so I just cried out I said God what do you want from me I just went for a whole year

and that still small voice spoke to me in a way that only God could these are the words that I heard verbatim he only had to say it once

keep going

those children are still out there

that was enough for me I

waited for my wife my wife woke up that morning and comes out she looks over my shoulder and said oh I thought you would have had your socks on by now what happened so I said well

I told her what I told her what happened and she said what are you going to do she said I said I’m going to keep going she said for how long I said until one of three things happened God speaks to me and tells me it’s time the last child is rescued

or I’m dead I said as long as my going barefoot will motivate even one person a year to action in a way that could help me to rescue even one more child a year he said I’ll go barefoot for the rest of my life and now 12 years later

when people ask me why are you barefoot I tell them just one word I’m barefoot for one word obedience

because I believe on july 19th 2010 God asked me to I’ll say well why would God ask you to do that I don’t know you’d have to ask him I just know what I heard and I had two choices it’s either yes when God asks you to do something you have just two choices yes or no the word maybe should be taken out of the dictionary it’s a non-word maybe is another way of saying no think about it uh would you do this for me well maybe so you’re saying no because if you’re not saying yes and it’s no and even the scriptures tell us let your yes be yes and you know be no you notice there’s no and let your maybe be maybe so it’s either yes or no and I said yes

to obey because people tell me all the time the reason I put this verse up here over the last 12 years you can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard how sacrificial my life is the self-sacrifice and how noble and how altruistic and how wonderful it is what I’m doing tom you think I like being barefoot you think that because I’ve been barefoot for the last 12 years that I’ve embraced the barefoot lifestyle you think because there’s thousands of barefooters all over the world that see me as their guru that I’ve been enjoy and have embraced the barefoot lifestyle I can assure you I have not I

I hate being barefoot I do you can’t imagine that the snide remarks

the dirty looks people talking behind your back

you cannot imagine

try it I dare you I challenge you one day 24 hours you wake up one day no shoes no socks until you wake up the next day no matter what you have to do bank restaurant supermarket I don’t care what you have to do driving all of it I dare you and you’ll see what I’ve experienced for 4 360 days

I do it out of obedience obedience is better than sacrifice I don’t consider what I’m doing sacrificial at all I’m doing it strictly out of obedience to what I believe God has told me to do or ask me to do even when it doesn’t make sense even when it appears to be the act of a fool because the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men I have to believe that God had a reason that he had a purpose for me to live barefoot I didn’t know what it was I thought it was just simply to make people aware of the traffic of human trafficking it’s gone so far beyond that first corinthians 4 10 we are fools for christ’s sake

God asking me to live totally barefoot was pretty foolish of him to do by our standards perhaps it was foolish of me for believing it was God who asked me I believe it was God and that he obviously had a reason beyond my finite understanding so how did I know it was really God

how did I know because for me to say yes to this I had to know that it was God asking me it had to be him or I would be there would be something really I would be emotionally disturbed

which there are some people that would probably know

it begins by listening for his voice

I am so sensitive to the voice of God if you if any of you ever got my first book stepping into adulthood I have a whole story just on that of years ago um when God spoke to me the first time how do you pray you think about this people praying so many different ways they’ll pray standing like this hands raised hands clasped on their knees laying in their bed sitting on their couch walking there’s so many different ways that you can pray now isn’t it interesting that when you pray I see this all the time you pray you petition God you give him all of the desires of your heart like he tells us to do in the scriptures give me the desires of your heart your heart and I will surely give it delight yourself in the lord and I will surely give you the desires of your heart but have you ever noticed people pray they petition God they ask him for so many different things and then at the end of the prayer they say in Jesus name in Jesus name amen at least me I and every brother that way and then immediately they go get a sandwich turn on the television get in their car do whatever they do whatever go to sleep but I wonder how many times we pray and we say in Jesus name amen then we get up and walk away and can you imagine God sitting up there going

didn’t you want an answer hello I was just about to answer you but you walked away it tells us in the scriptures to be still and know that I’m God it tells us to give ear to his voice when I finish praying when I’m alone and I’m praying and I’m petitioning God I then shut up and say okay I’m ready I’m ready I’m ready to hear you and then I’ll just be quiet sometimes five minutes ten minutes sometimes an hour and after a while when I feel that okay there’s nothing he has to say to me then I’ll go forward but you need to practice that learn to be sensitive to the possibility that God may want to talk to you his sheep follow him these are the words of Jesus she follow him because they know his voice God is the same yesterday today and forever does God really talk to people today yes he does it’s the same yesterday today and forever you know when he started talking to people when he created the first one from adam until today God has been speaking to people to his creation when God asks you to do something it’s important to know that it’s him speaking to you especially when he asks you to do something outrageous or in the eyes of man foolish

the foolishness of God remember is wiser than the wisdom of men there had to be no doubt there had to be absolutely no doubt that God was talking to me in order for me to go forward with this

so there was the process of elimination I had three choices just three it was either the enemy talking to me is it possible that satan was talking to me and trying to get me to do something so outrageous why would he do that there would be no reason for him to do that he’s not stupid he knows me he knows I’m going to do something like this I’m going to do it not to glorify and honor him I’m going to do it to glorify and honor God I’m going to do it to fight his evil ways why would he tell me to do something that I’m going to use as a tool to help destroy a stronghold that he has all over the world so it didn’t make sense that it was the enemy so next it would be was it myself well if it was myself saying to do this then I would be a lunatic it would I mean it really would be the act of a fool to say yeah hey I’m going to live barefoot with no purpose no vision why would I do something like that especially when I hate being barefoot so the only other option it had to be God has it been worth it has it been worth these last 12 years of me being barefoot it’s amazing how much has happened since july 19 2010 and the number of people we have been able to reach the number of hundreds of thousands of people who have heard about the plight of children being trafficked and human trafficking and how the resources that we have gained as a result and by the way I never never went barefoot with any thought whatsoever of it being used as a fundraiser it was a small group in a little town of coshocton ohio a group of youth who in my third year of being barefoot after I spoke there the youth pastor contacted me and said dr jeff you really motivated these young people they want to do a fundraiser for you they want to walk a mile barefoot called the barefoot mile I’m getting ahead of myself um is that okay I said well sure they said will you walk with us I said if you get just three thousand dollars in pledges I’ll fly back there well they went ten thousand dollars above that they raised thirteen thousand dollars at the first one the the best barefoot mile so far that’s raised the most was in alaska where they raised two hundred thousand dollars

and that started this

and joy international who have done six police trainings training anti-human trafficking and juvenile protections police throughout cambodia and tactical operations and firearms training as well as our swat team and they’ve also donated to individual cases that we’ve done the use of numbers this isn’t a statistic these are a thousand lives that have been transformed these were a thousand lives that were in some of the most brutal difficult situations and now they have an opportunity to live a life that’s completely different joy international came alongside with us and helped you train they’ve done multiple trainings with the cambodian national police and our swat team that has resulted in a real professionalism that leads to the success but not only that they’ve helped fund the raids themselves and that’s critical for us to be successful one of the biggest

factors conviction and imprisonment of the perpetrators so when I saw that this was what was happening with this

there’s currently been over 3 000 children teens and young women rescued in all of these different countries it’s been incredible when don brewster was talking about the training being critical critical to their success our director director of tactical operations in global police training has now trained all every police officer fighting human the anti-human trafficking juvenile protection police in the country of cambodia one training would cost joy international about fifteen thousand dollars well for several years we did about five a year so you can see the cost and the expense of doing those trainings we now do trainings all over the the world beyond cambodia

I’m going to go through these pretty quick because you can you can actually go to my website my website is very easy to remember we’re joined international just go to joy.org and you’ll see our website it’s pretty extensive with all the things that are on there and I’ll talk about these in detail about the barefoot mile walks the joy shop with things like this bracelet shirts bags and purses so many different items many other braces types of bracelets things like that all everything on the joy shop is made by the girls that have been rescued all of them are made by survivors they’d have to have a job when they come out and they have to have job training uh awareness campaigns where we train I I was just in alaska uh just several weeks ago where we did airport trainings uh and we trained in the airports there becau and all over wherever we’re invited because I don’t if you’re a set of eyes if you push a wheelchair carry luggage if you’re a gate agent if you work in a restaurant a car rental clerk whatever you do in an airport we train you with situational awareness to recognize the situation around you give you an example one man who was one of the managers for united airlines he saw something it immediately took action and as a result a nine or ten year old girl was rescued from the back of a van she was being trafficked right out of the van this is what he told the police I never would have noticed that if it wasn’t for the training I received from joy international all that makes every training that we do worth it for that one girl

I talked about the international police training advocates advocate groups you can have right here they’re teams of groups of volunteers who come alongside our partner restoration homes to strengthen and encourage their work they meet on a monthly basis to pray write notes of encouragement prepare small gifts to bless the staff and survivors christmas sponsorship is pretty self-explanatory but that’s also for survivors workers there’s so much that’s involved with the christmas sponsorship there are churches that get involved with this because it’s an incredible blessing not only to survivors and workers here in america but also overseas in places like uganda and you can again see all of this on our website uh the retreats is something that’s brand new it’s incredible what these tr retreats are doing for uh workers that these are trafficking service providers who are so abused many times the girls will physically abuse them they’ll they’ll spit on them they’ll cuss them they’ll beat them they they’re really some of the girls are really tough so sometimes these gals need training which we do self-defense training for them and then we also now have these retreats to give them a time of rest and impartation from experts in the field this we just started doing last year when I read the response of some of the gals that were ministered to I told our gal on our staff that does this I said I want to see these increased the response from these women were incred was incredible and because they’re the ones that minister to the gals that need the ministering to the survivors I really wanted to see this continue uh emergency relief fund I’m going to show you more about that resources for parents you know these predators one of the places that they that they look for teenage girls church youth groups believe it or not they train teenage boys how to pray p-r-e-y on girls in youth groups so that’s one of the areas that if you go to our website and you see the resources for parents there is a myriad there’s so much available we don’t charge for anything with that all of that is free the children’s curriculum um I’m going to show you more about that in a second the book study is just literally you could put together a small group and do a group discussion uh that has been uh developed for my book the least of these which you can get out there if you’d like um the 6-8 freedom project if it wasn’t for this church and the amount that was given we had to raise somewhere around 80 000 more than half of it was given by south fellowship and you’ll be unquestionably in the credits but besides that I cannot even begin to thank you this is a curriculum a 12-week video and workbook curriculum we were asked to do it by sunlight homeschool curriculum and it starts in september we it’s incredible this 12-week video and workbook curriculum will be teaching young people about it it was really initially based on my children’s book um why are you barefoot and now it’s been turned into this curriculum not only for uh children in elementary but we have an elementary middle and high school division for for these 12 weeks and it’s teaching them how to recognize that modern day slavery is still happening in their world today and what they can do to help fight it by becoming a modern-day abolitionist um it’s so so powerful and we’ve come to realize it’s going to have the potential of reaching anywhere from five to seven million homeschoolers here in america alone so I’ll never be able to thank south enough for what you’ve done in helping us to develop this empowering education I love this part beyond rescues this gal here anna she is now a nurse uh she is one of the gals that we’ve supported the girl next to her she is in this in this photo here she’s uh 15 she’s 15 when she was 12 she was forced to be married she’s a rescued child bride this is a whole new area that joy international has now gotten into with uh rescuing child brides and preventing child rights when she was 13 she had her first child I think her child is now four she wants to be a midwife she’s now going to school for that her sister here who fortunately is younger one year younger than her fortunately was not forced into a child marriage but she wants to be a nurse and then of course all these there’s uh 32 children here these are all girls I know that some of them may look like boys because their hair is so short but these are all girls except for the guy in the middle that looks like santa claus this gal I love her

she made this I told her her name is anna too and I told her uh that the first time I speak after coming back from africa I would wear this shirt so this is the first time that I’m wearing it in the public but uh we’re going to have a whole mess of her things on the uh website not just things like shirts but she does shirts and dresses and handbags and purses and backpacks all like this all beautifully uh colored

that says kampala international university and you can’t see it here it’s 2022 from april and there’s a young girl her name is christine this says five and a half years it’s a five and a half year uh five and a half years with 11 semesters for a young woman who was accepted into this program it doesn’t I I can’t you can’t well here it says bachelor of medicine and uh or and then for surgery she’s going to be the first female surgeon in the entire district uh in uganda where she is her name is christine five and a half years all those semesters the total not per semester the total for all those semesters is eighteen thousand dollars for her to go to uh medical school um which by the way I am in the middle of raising that I’m actually looking for female surgeons that might want to take this on as a project but we do accept funds from men

and you don’t have to be a surgeon

I’m so excited I told her that I will come back for her graduation ceremony so now uganda now this was in uganda our recent team learned something that’s happening with children who are trafficked and severely abused by witch doctors which doctors are very real and they are probably one of the most evil people that I’ve ever met anywhere in the world who kidnapped children while they walked 11 miles every day the water system in kosese uganda went down from floods and as a result the children had to walk 11 miles five and a half miles there five and a half miles back there these were empty back they were full when one this size was full it would be 40 pounds well what we learned

when I say the depths of depravity have no bounds I’m not kidding I’m going to share something it’s very rough to hear I’ll be cautious with the way I share it because of the child that’s here but you’ll understand what I’m saying when I say it what we learned was on the path while these children were getting the water they would leave at 5 30 in the morning and not get back until after sometime afternoon they did this every day seven days a week because of the water system being down they needed the water for their homes their homes would just be a hut

they had to carry up to 40 pounds of water over 5 miles

you’ll notice they’re all they’re barefoot

the witch doctors would hire young men

they would wait for the children to go on the path they would kidnap both boys and girls

the boys they would cut off a certain body part and put that body part in a jar and sell it to businessmen who thought that if they had that body part in their homes it would give them prowess in a certain area of their life

or it would give them good fortune in their business the sick thoughts of of men today the girls they would do the same thing they would cut off a certain body part so that they would receive no pleasure and then they would sell them to men in the middle east who would have them as part of their harems or just as slaves for one thing only um when I heard this I said

what if the water project what if it was fixed they said well that would probably it would help a lot I said well how much would it cost they said seventy seven hundred dollars my director of outreach and missions was actually there it’s america right now she’s in cambodia and I contacted my director my executive director gina and I said gina I’m not waiting to do a fundraiser for this I’m not sending out a letter at least not right now I need you to send seventy seven hundred dollars to pastor allison the director of operations for drawing international there immediately immediately I want to see this water project uh fixed done as soon as possible so they did it was fixed we even received a letter from the uh ugandan parliament thanking us because it helped over a thousand families but it also did this by the way when I was there these these photos were taken when I was there uh about six weeks ago

I love this


you see I’m the president of joy international come on that has to give you joy when you see something like that especially when you

especially when you know what they were going through before that was fixed the joy I received from that is indescribable

by the way when I started joy international it was a day that I was reading the red it was 1980 just before I started joy I was reading read john 15 11 Jesus speaking where he said I speak these things to you that my joy would be in you so that your joy would be complete and I found in my life if I put Jesus first other second yourself third that’s the way to experience real joy j-o-y Jesus others you here’s one simple way you can join us in the fight against child trafficking attend a barefoot mile july 23rd coming up next month now dozens of children are safe after they were rescued 82 children across the nation were rescued I remember saying to my wife that gail as long as my being barefoot will motivate even one person a year to action in a way that would help me to rescue even one more child I’ll go barefoot the rest of my life a man accused of trying to sell his four-year-old daughter on craigslist police arrested a total of six people tonight we no longer can sit by and ignore the truth about what’s happening new at five a long time soccer is now in custody tonight an anchorage man is charged with trafficking women around the state

the barefoot mile is growing in a way that I never expected it to on july 19 2010 when I uh

when I first decided to go barefoot in solidarity with uh and trafficked children I had no thought of it being used as a fundraiser it was that small church youth group in gushantin ohio that started it and from there it’s just grown and I remember just standing on the ledge there getting ready to speak and watching the crowd gather and I was fighting back the tears because to see that whole town square begin to fill up with people

taking off their shoes

I cannot tell you what it feels like to know that I’m not alone it’s when we join forces and work together and put our funds together to fight this that’s how we see success awareness is good but awareness without action is apathy if I make you aware of something and you don’t do anything about it what have I accomplished when I speak I speak to hopefully motivate people to action in a way that will help to set another child free by getting involved with the barefoot mile you can literally help set another child free with every step you take thank you

4 360 days equals about 104 650 hours that I’ve been barefoot I’m asking you for just one just one would you join me july 23rd and walk around in clement park around the lake just one uh less than an hour takes about 35-40 minutes I would love to have you as part of that and we still need help with volunteers you can get information at the table

that’s where it is saturday july 23rd clement park

awareness is good but this is my life mantra awareness without action is apathy if I make you aware of something and you choose to do nothing about it what have I accomplished nothing

this to me is the most beautiful sound on earth there’s no greater sound to me there’s no song there’s no music nothing more beautiful to me than this sound children shouldn’t have to cry themselves to sleep at night in pain from their abuse

and that was during one of our missions trips which by the way we’ve had people from here at south young people join us on our missions trips we have them to cambodia now to uganda to belize just to let you know these are my two books why are you barefoot for children the least of these for adults I cannot thank you enough for the privilege of sharing my heart here at south um this is a very special congregation to me very special friends here I consider you all family so thank you so much I’ll be at my table in the back if you have any questions thank you thank you from the depths of my heart for being a part a big part of the ministry of joy international you have helped to set thousands of children free from their bondage

Guest Speaker Dr. Jeff Brodsky of JOY International2023-06-20T14:29:42-06:00

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Just a Man with a Can | 1 Corinthians 3:5-9


A MAN WITH A CAN     1 Corinthians 3:5-9

The last two months, for me, have been a rollercoaster, to say the least.  We had the chance to go to Disneyland on our vacation two weeks ago, and I can tell you that Disneyland has nothing on two months of processing a move across the country.  That’s been a way better rollercoaster than anything we rode there.  It’s been an interesting journey, to be quite honest with you.  In many ways I didn’t see the emotional journey coming that I’ve been on, and that we’ve been on together as a family.  I’ve experienced sort of mini panic attacks, and immense sadness, and a little bit of anger, and immense doubt in the midst of it all.  I knew that this day was coming.  I woke up this morning and it was sort of that Brian Regan thing of like, “Oh, it’s due today!”  This day that I’ve been getting ready for for so many days just sort of snuck up on me.  It’s hard for me to believe this is my last Sunday standing in the pulpit here as Lead Pastor of South Fellowship Church.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried to take some time to remember and to reminisce a little bit, and to do so with thanksgiving, and that’s been such a natural thing because God has been so abundantly good.  Kelly and I were talking last night after a night with friends in our neighborhood.  We said to each other, “This is so hard because it’s been so good,” in every phase of our life here.  I thought about what do I preach on the last Sunday I have with you and what do I try to impart.  To be quite honest, I feel like my bucket’s a little bit empty today, but I’m going to do my best to impart something to you that I hope gives maybe a little bit of framework for where we’ve been over the last seven years and hopefully, a launching pad for this next season for life as a community of faith as South Fellowship Church.

What I’m reminded of is that transition in the church is as old as the church.  This is something that’s not new, it’s actually something that’s ancient, it’s something that’s old.  I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul as he’s saying good-bye to the elders of the church at Ephesus.  It’s a church that he helped start and pastored for three years.  These are people that he grew to love deeply.  Acts 20:36-37 —  He knelt down and prayed with them all.  And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him….  and sent him off to Jerusalem.  You can read in Acts 13:2-3 where the church is having this prayer meeting and worship time—the church in Antioch—and the Spirit of God says to them to send out Paul and Barnabas and it seems like it’s that next day that Paul and Barnabas are on a ship to Cyprus to start their very first missionary journey.  Can you imagine missing that prayer meeting?  You get there the next day and your pastor and teacher for the past year is gone!  Transition in the church is as old as the church.  That doesn’t make it easy, it just means that we have a little bit of perspective on what this looks like and how this goes.

If you have a Bible and want to follow along, I’m going to be camping out in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.  Context is that the Apostle Paul has planted the church at Corinth; he’s no longer the pastor there.  A man by the name of Apollos has come in after him to be the leader and teacher and one of the pastors in that church.  There’s some people saying that we like Paul better and others that are saying, “Well, we follow Apollos.”  What Paul tries to do in the first few chapters here is reframe that whole discussion.  Here’s what he says in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 — What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers.  You are God’s field, God’s building.

I was struck by the fact that I didn’t plant this church.  Dale Schlafer did back in 1979.  Brad Strait pastored after that.  Then in 2012, God graciously called Kelly and I to come and water.  Yeah.  As I’ve tried to think about what these last seven years have been, this is the image that came to mind.  This is how I want to say it today:  I’m just a man with a can, partnering with a God who had a plan.  I’m reminded of John 9, where there’s this little boy who comes to Jesus.  All these people are hanging onto every word that Jesus has and every word that he’s saying.  They’ve gathered on this hillside and there’s no food.  The disciples ask well, how are we going to feed all these people?  This little boy goes well, I’ve got five loaves of bread and two fish.  Jesus said, “Bring it to me.”  He brought it to him.  Jesus took what seemed like a totally insignificant, completely insufficient amount of food, looked at 5,000 people and somehow took what was insignificant and insufficient and multiplied it.  Over the last seven years, I’ve just imperfectly—oh man, horribly imperfectly…..but I think the picture I have is that I’m taking my two fish and my five loaves and I’m taking my can and God’s filling it up as he’s gracious…..I’ve just had the chance over seven years to see God multiply my life.  Our lives.  To say that I’m grateful is an understatement.

One of the tensions that this text points out—I think it’s this tension we all wrestle with, whether we’re in “vocational ministry” or whether we work in business, whatever our life looks like.  Whether we’re a mom who stays home and raises kids or whether we’re retired, we have this tension, especially as people who want to follow the way of Jesus.  Here’s the tension:  We wrestle with thinking man, my work doesn’t matter.  God’s just going to do what God’s going to do.  I just want to gently, pastorally say to you that is an absolute lie.  Your life and your work matters greatly.  Somebody needed to bring the food to Jesus for him to multiply it.  Jesus is gracious enough to invite you into his story, to bring your gifts, and to bring your talents, and to bring who you are to him, and to give them to Him and to see what He might do with them.  I think that’s one polarity we wrestle with.  We wrestle with thinking, “My life and my work and what I contribute to this church, or to this community, doesn’t matter.”

Then there’s the other polarity of thinking that it all depends on us.  Larry, who’s one of my best friends in the entire world, usually on Sunday mornings at some point, will pull me aside and he’ll say, “Remember, this all depends on you!”  He did it again today.  He’s speaking my love language of sarcasm.  It’s his way of reminding me, “Ryan, you’re just a man with a can, partnering with a God who has a plan.”  That’s all you are.  I’ve needed that reminder.  Maybe you do too.  To reject the polarity of thinking, “It all depends on me,” and the polarity of thinking, “My life doesn’t matter at all.”  We all live in this beautiful, mysterious in-between of somehow what we bring to the table matters deeply and somehow it’s God who infuses all of it with meaning.

The Apostle Paul is going to unpack this tension.  This is more just from my heart today, but I want to give you just a few things that would be an encouragement to you and sort of some takeaways as we look back together and as we start to look forward.  In verse 5, he says:  What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.   This translation is making it seem as though the Lord is assigning belief to each.  In the Greek, it’s really, really clear.  What he’s assigning to each is a task.  Paul and Apollos had this role to serve the church.  They did it in a way that’s just simply following the instruction of Jesus.  Here’s what Jesus said to his disciples  — And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {That’s still the way of the world.  If you have the power, if you have the influence, if you have the money, if you have the fame, use it for yourself.}  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45) 

This isn’t just unique for those who are in leadership in the church, but…..I want you to know that every believer is a servant and every servant has a task.   Sometimes we get the opportunity to choose what our task is, and sometimes our task is given to us.  But what I’m reminded of, number one, is that I’m not the master.  If I’m a servant, I’m not the master.  I just get to come under the wings of the master.  I get to live in his wind, in his spirit, in his love, in his goodness, I don’t need to control it.  My role, as a follower of Jesus, is to be a servant, and that means I don’t need to call the shots, I just get to live under the good Master.

I’ve shared with you a little bit about how God started to—what Kelly and I felt like—maybe start to reassign our task.  I shared some of that with you in the message that I gave when I started to say listen, we might be moving, and God seems like he might be leading in this way.  But I want to give you a little fuller picture of what that looked like for us.  I know there’s some of you may be wrestling with the idea of 1) Ryan, how do you know? and 2) Are you just seizing an opportunity?  As you know, back in January and February, I did a series called “Life is A-Mazing.”  It was about discerning and discovering God’s will.  It really started to mess with me.  About three-quarters of the way through it, I was approached by the church in California, Emmanuel Faith, to ask if I’d be interested in interviewing for their lead pastor job.  I had turned them down a year-and-a-half before for a role there and they called me and I said, “No! I’m happy at South. I love South.”  Then I started preaching on Jonah and I gave a message entitled “Life on the Run.”  I was driving home from church and thinking, “Man, Lord, I wonder if I’m running from you, number one, but number two, I’m so glad I already said no.”  Then the search firm Emmanuel Faith was working with emailed me and said, “Ryan, we heard your name floating around, are you interested in having a conversation?”  I gave him a list of reasons why I was a terrible choice for them.  They said, “Well, if some of those are put off to the side, are you interested in having a conversation?”  I said, “Well, maybe.”  On March 10th, I had a meeting with Janice and Craig Hammersmith.  Over lunch, they were sharing about God’s prompting in their life about missions and potentially moving their family of six to Luxembourg in the next season.  I drove home from that meeting thinking, “They’re willing to move to Luxembourg and I’m not willing to move to San Diego.”  On April 4th, Jodi Nevins, who’s on staff with us, met with me—we have a standing meeting once a month just to catch up.  She came into my office and said, “Ryan, I’m really nervous to meet with you today.”  She said she told her husband Eric that she was feeling that way and he suggested praying about a question to ask me.  She thought that was a good idea but nothing came to her.  She went to bed and woke up at one in the morning and said, “The question was really, really clear what I was suppose to ask you.”  I said, “Great.”  She said, “What would it look like for us as a church to accomplish the mission and the vision without you as being involved?”  At this point, nobody knew any of these conversations were happening, except Larry.  I went, “Are you kidding me?”  She said, “I went back downstairs; I couldn’t get back to sleep.  I was listening to my Bible meditation app, just praying and praising, and the word that came to me was real crystal clear.  I was suppose to give you the word ‘release.'”  It was this process, you guys, of God just slowly prying our fingers off of something we loved.

From there it got weird, if that isn’t weird enough.  We’re still going, “God, we’re not with you on this.”  On April 15th, I got a text message from somebody I have never met before.  They said, “Hi, Ryan, my name is Kelly.  I’d like to speak to you about purchasing 7584 S. Ogden Way.  Did I reach the right person?  Thank you.”  I wrote back, “No, absolutely not!  We’re not interested in selling.”  In the back of my mind I’m thinking, “What is going on?”  You can write that off as circumstance, that’s totally fine.  I’m actually okay with that, but some of the ways God speaks and moves is through circumstance.  I asked our neighbors and friends, “Hey, did you guys get this text?”  Nobody else.  April 20th, Kelly and I sit down on our couch after a long day.  We look what’s on our DVR.  We like this show “Restaurant Impossible.”  There was a new season and a new episode; we haven’t watched this show in a year.  We put on “Restaurant Impossible” and where was the episode filmed?  Escondido, California!  May 5th, I went to meet with someone from our congregation.  She’s been a missionary in Democratic Republic of Congo for forty years.  It was this really encouraging and sacred meeting we had for almost two hours.  At one point, she started to quote a hymn.  I said, “Norma, what hymn is that?  I’ve never heard that hymn.”  She said, “The hymn is entitled ‘I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.'”   May 24th, I was having it out with God.  I told Kelly, “I feel like I’m on a runaway train and I don’t know how I got here and I know where this is going and I’m not sure I like it.”  I was really wrestling with leaving my dad and Kelly’s folks.  In my regular Bible reading, I came to this passage:  Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30) 

May 29th, we flew out to California.  I preached there and said, “God, if they don’t vote at least 90% I’m not going.”  I’m like praying for an 80% to just say, “Okay!  I knew it!  I knew all this was messing with me.”  The vote was over 95%.  Got home on the night of June 2nd, and on June 3rd we had to make this decision.  I wrote an acceptance letter.  Through tears, I wrote an acceptance letter.  I told Kelly that I couldn’t send it.  I went out on a run.  On the run, I had this idea:  I’m going to write a decline letter also, and I’m going to see which one feels more in line with what God’s doing.  I wrote the decline letter and felt like I worded it really well.  I told Kelly to read both letters and to tell me what she thought God’s doing.  She read them and said, “Ryan, we just know.  We know.”  The assignment has been reassigned.  We’re servants, not the master, and we don’t call the shots.

Here’s a few implications for us, I think, as a community of faith.  The person who follows me as lead pastor of South Fellowship Church will have the same job description, but in a lot of ways will have a different task.  The task is contextual.  The task is unique.  My task for seven years was different than they’ll have, because the church is a different place than it was seven years ago.  We’ll both have the chance to be filled and to pour our little lives out for the sake of the kingdom.  But I think God’s going to grow something different in this new season.  {Will you lean in for a moment?  I just want to say this as clearly as I can.}  That’s a good thing.  That you’re not looking for somebody who’s just like Ryan.  You’re looking for the person that God will call for the next task, for the next season, to lead this church to a place I didn’t lead it to.  One of my pleas with you is that you would support the next lead pastor of South Fellowship Church—the next person who’s a servant with the task of watering this unique field, right here in Littleton—that you would support that person with the same love and support and care that you supported me with from day one.  They’re going to be different, and different isn’t bad, different is probably what this church needs to move into the next season.  So that’s one implication.

Second implication is this:  My task is changing, but that doesn’t mean that yours is.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, transitions are times for the church to rise up.  To say, “God’s planted something in me also.”  Maybe you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while wondering: A) Is this the church for me? or wondering B) What do I have to contribute?  I want you to reject the idea that you don’t have anything to give and I want this to be the season where you put your hand in the air and go, “What might it look like for me to pour my life out just a little bit more in this church for the glory of God?”  Because you’re a servant too and as the Apostle Paul would write to the church at Ephesus:  For are his workmanship, {In the Greek, that word is poiema and it means poem or song.  You’re God’s song!}  …created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)   Your work matters.  And when Paul says, “Listen, who’s Paul and who’s Apollos?  We’re nothing,” he’s not saying that their work doesn’t matter, he’s saying the story is not about us, it’s about Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, he says:  I planted, Apollos watered….  {That image is one that I’ll carry with me.  That as a pastor I’m just a man with a can following a God who’s got a plan.}  but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who water is anything, but only God who gives the growth.    It’s this mysterious inner working of our work and God’s, and God’s spirit and our sweat and it makes something beautiful.  I think the call is to recognize that our greatest blessings are the work of His hands, not the result of our labor.  Think about this, when you plant a garden, at the end of the summer (assuming it grows), very rarely do you look at it and go, “I’m amazing!  I’m awesome!”  No, there’s this mysterious combination of soil and water and rain and photosynthesis and all of these things that I had zero control over that happened.  I think our lives, in so many ways, are just the exact same thing.  It’s really good—whether you’re a follower of Jesus here or not—for us, every once in a while, to pause and remember that the best things in our life aren’t the result of our work.  Think about that.  The best things in life are not the result of your work.  Whether it’s a friendship…..certainly there’s work that goes into that, but did you arrange the meeting?  Did you create your exact personality that would mesh with this person?  No!  So much of that is gift.  If you’re married, the same is true of a marriage.  If you have kids, the same is true of your kids.  The greatest blessings in your life are not the work of your hands, they’re the result of His labor, His work, His goodness, His grace, and His mercy.

As I’ve had the chance to reflect on the things that I’m most grateful for here at South, I want to affirm this once again.  My greatest blessings here are not the work of my hands, they’re the result of His Spirit.  His hands, not my labor.  A few things I reflected on.  It’s been so fun to see, because ministry and church is all about people.  It’s been so fun to see God grow this church, to see more people come to know and to love Jesus.  That’s been an absolute blessing for me.  I’m shocked at what God has done.  To see him clarify our missions and our values when we had a discussion in our elder board about changing our mission statement to be “helping people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.”   It’s a huge, huge step for an organization to change their mission statement, and for us, it was one part of one meeting and we just went, “Yeah, this feels exactly like what God’s been doing and this is exactly who we are.”  For me, as a pastor, to carry that banner and go, “Oh man, there’s such alignment in my soul with this church,” has been an absolute joy.  I didn’t create that, God did that.  To look at our values on the wall and go, “Those are things I’d give my life to.”  Absolutely.  Pursuing the presence of God.  Practicing relationship with Him.  Helping people move towards wholeness.  Being and living together as a family of believers.  Being rooted in the Scriptures and grounded in the Scriptures.  Renewal.

When we got here, there was around $300,000 in debt.  We’ve seen God wipe that out miraculously, and move us to a place of financial wholeness.  We’ve seen God birth a Young Adult ministry here.  We’ve seen Him start, in the last seven years, a Celebrate Recovery ministry, where people are getting free from hurts, and habits, and hang-ups.  I can assure you, that is not the work of my hands.  It’s not the work of Nicole’s hands; she’s doing an amazing job leading that ministry and I’m so grateful for her partnership, but it’s nothing that we do, it’s the way that God works when we show up and use our gifts.  We’ve seen support groups started that address mental health issues, divorce, addiction, and grief.  Praise God!  We’ve seen the Food Bank remodeled; that was a lot of work of our hands!  Specifically Bill and Erin and Sharon and Larry and John and so many others.  But God’s the one that’s going to make it grow. He’s the one that’s going to make that meaningful, not us.  We’ve seen Family Promise started here, where we get the chance to open our facility for families experiencing homelessness to come and live for a week and try to get their feet back under them, in partnership with twelve other churches around this area, to create seamless transitions for people to hopefully find jobs and find a place to land.  Man, you guys, that’s good work.  But God infuses it with meaning.

I’m so grateful, in the last seven years, that we’ve seen God move in such a way that South Fellowship now has female pastors.  Personally, I’m so grateful for that, because I always said I wanted to raise my daughter in a church where she saw strong female leaders.  We’ve seen missionaries sent out.  We’ve seen spiritual formation and practices and taking discipleship seriously, in the forefront.  I’ve seen a staff that’s grown together, that loves each other, that is like family.  I could stand before you and tell you I’m just a man with a can trying my best to follow a God who’s got a plan, and it’s the work of His hands, not our labor.

Graeme Keith was the treasurer for the Bill Graham Association and one of Billy’s long-time friends.  He was in an elevator and somebody else was in there.  The man said to Billy Graham, “You’re Billy Graham, aren’t you?”  He said, “Yes.”  “Well,” the man said, “you are a truly great man.”  Billy responded, “No, I’m not a great man.  I just have a great message.”  I would say the same thing.

Verse 9.    For we are God’s fellow workers.   {I just want to set this straight.  Fellow. Workers.  Paul and Apollos: Fellow workers.  Dale Schlafer.  Brad Strait.  Ryan Paulson.  Fill-in-the-blank.  Not competitors; fellow workers.  Just people with a can and some water, doing our best.  Fellow workers, not competitors.}  You are God’s field, God’s building.  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.  Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.   I just want to remind you:  understand that your fruitfulness, in the past and in the future, is determined simply by our foundation. Our foundation has a name.  His name is Jesus.  He’s unshakable, immovable.  He’s the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, next Sunday.  Jesus is the foundation.  He’s the chief cornerstone.  He’s the head of this church.  He’s the senior pastor.  You’ll just get another under-shepherd.  Where we build matters.  Where you build matters, not just as a church, but as a person.  Jesus would say, listen, you’re either building your life on sand or you’re building your life on rocks, but the foundation that you lay will determine the fruitfulness that comes from your life.  So where is it?

As Aaron and the team come forward, I just want to end by reading one of my favorite verses to you.  Paul writes in Philippians 1:3-7 — I thank my God in all my remembrance of you    {I just want you to know, South Fellowship, that Kelly and I will remember this church.  Not only because you took a risk on a 31-year-old guy who had no senior pastor experience and were gracious with me while I learned (really gracious with me), but because we’ve grown to love you deeply.  We really have!  So when we remember you, not just you collectively as a church, but you, individually, we will do so with fondness and with gratitude and we’ll thank Jesus.}   …always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.    I’m so grateful the last seven years hasn’t been me building a ministry.  It’s been us linking arms and hearts together for the sake of the kingdom.  This really has been partnership.  I’m so grateful for that.

Paul says:  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Hear me, South.  God is not leaving you.  He has great things in store for you.  He’s committed to the plans He has for this church.  He’s committed to the plans He has to you personally.  This is our chance, both collectively….because Kelly and I are in this too.  We’re stepping out—Free Solo style—sort of going, “Alright, God, you’ve been so good to us this last seven years, and we’re just going to do our best to trust that if this is where you’ll lead, this is where you’ll provide, that you’ll be good to us too.”  But hear me, South, God is not done with you.  I firmly believe, with everything in me, that the best days of South Fellowship Church are in front of her.

Finally, I say this to you:  It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace.   We have both tasted and seen that God is good.  That our eternal home is Him.  That we have the opportunity to make our home in Him today.  Paul says those things knit us together and they drill relationships deep within us.  Kelly and I would say to you all, as a community of faith, but also as individuals, you are deeply, deeply, deeply in our hearts and we love you dearly.  So, South, continue to chase after Jesus.  Continue to serve the people around you in this community, and continue to love each other well.  You’ve done it for seven years, I have no doubt that you’ll continue doing it in the future.  Whatever can God gives you to water in the field that he plants you in, do so knowing that He’s the one that’s at work.  Amen.

Just a Man with a Can | 1 Corinthians 3:5-92023-06-22T11:38:00-06:00
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