I want to start off today by telling you guys a story. It is my first time ever camping with my wife, being married. It’s going to illustrate what we’re going to be talking about. We’d been married for probably about 3 months, and my wife’s cousin was having their wedding up north, and we decided, instead of getting a hotel, let’s camp! It will be super romantic. Okay, problem one, right? Now, I’d grown up camping with my parents, but we were really a beach and surfer family, and so the only camping that I ever really experienced or knew was beach camping. And beach camping is nothing like normal camping. Beach camping you go to like, Carlsbad State Beach, you’ve got the little area where you go and set up your camp, and your tents, and anywhere within like 100 feet you walk through you’re completely surrounded by city. You can get a hamburger or a pizza, or whatever you want. It’s everywhere. The biggest animal is a squirrel, which we all know. So, there were bad habits that I started getting from camping and I brought into this next camping trip. One of my bad habits was, we wouldn’t always zip up our tent, because why zip up your tent? There’s nothing to get inside of your tent, no animals. So, most of the time at night, it’s hot, I wouldn’t zip up the tent. And if we did zip up the tent, it was only half-zipped, right? You don’t do the bottom zip. I don’t got time for that, right? Ain’t no one got time for the bottom zipper. I had that bad habit. I had another one. I love to snack when I camp. And I love Cheez-It’s. The only think I like more than Cheez-It’s is more Cheez-It’s, ok? And I’m not sure if you guys know this; through all my studies I’ve found out manna was actually Cheez-It’s (laughter). When Jesus had communion, he broke the Cheez-It instead of the bread. I love Cheez-It’s, so I brought Cheez-It’s with me on this camping trip. Both of those things together are a bad combination, right?
So, we’re now in the middle of northern California somewhere, and they’ve got all the animals, not just squirrels. And I do the half-zipper and I’ve got my Cheez-It’s in my tent, and we go to sleep. And my wife wakes me up. My beautiful brand-new bride wakes me up sometime during the night. She says, “Neil, there’s something in our tent.” And I didn’t even look, I was just like, “No there’s not, go to sleep.” That lasted for like 60 seconds. And then she says, “Neil, there’s something in our tent; I think there’s something in our tent.” And I looked over, and you could see maybe a shadow of something moving, it was dark, and I was still tired, and I was like, “No, it’s probably just a shadow on the outside of the tent.” It’s nighttime, I don’t know how many shadows are out at night. I said, “Go back to bed.” That lasted about 60 seconds and then my wife dropped 2 things; she dropped her voice so she sounded like Batman, and she dropped the words “I think”. She didn’t say “I think”, anymore, she said “Neil, there’s something in our tent.” And now I was awake by the intensity of my new bride. And I look over… there was something in our tent. It was not small like a squirrel, and it had its head inside of my Cheez-It’s. And I remember thinking, should I be mad or scared? And I then remembered all those stories about raccoons getting trapped and mauling people. All of a sudden, I’m deathly afraid and I’m praying. I reach for my flashlight and I’m praying. I’m like, “Lord, let it just be a duck or a bunny.” And I’m just thinking of all the bad things it could be. And so I grab my light and I point it at the animal and I turn it on. And to my horror it was not a duck. It was not a bunny. It was a skunk. Right. It is a miracle that I stand here today. I screamed. I hate saying it but I screamed like a little girl. I wrapped Heather and myself up in a blanket up into the corner of the tent. And luckily, I don’t know if it was like a house-trained skunk, it just left with my Cheez-It’s. It didn’t do anything else. I’m telling you, I don’t know that a 3 month marriage could withstand a skunk-spray.
I thought I knew how to camp. I had been camping before. I thought I understood it. I thought I could do it good. But I found out that I only knew about camping what I had experienced. I only knew what I had experienced before. I didn’t understand the whole of what it meant to camp. You know, a lot of us read the Bible the same way. We read the Bible and we interpret it out of what we’ve experienced, but we don’t get the whole of what the Lord gave. You know, a lot of times we read something and we read it to what we know and we miss the depth of what is being asked. And I want to take the first large section of this morning and talk about one passage. Do we lose anything in this one passage that was given to 1st century people, and we’re reading it as 21st century people? Do we lose anything in our interpretation over those 2,000 years? Is there deeper meaning and is there more that God wants to call out of us than what we live in right now? You guys ready to read this scripture? We’re going to read the passage Matthew 25:34-40. It’s a little bit long, six verses, but stay with me because I want to start looking at what did this mean in the 1st century.
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Now, I love this passage. We’ve heard it a lot. But was there something different between the time when we read it right now, and the time when Jesus said it? Let’s look at the history. What was going on in the 1st century? Because if we know what’s going on in the 1st century, we can read it in a more powerful way. 1st century was not a lot like the 21st century, right? Is it anything like what we have right now? No, we’ve got Pop-Tarts and microwaves and all kinds of cool stuff, right? I found out, you know how long it takes to microwave a Pop-Tart? Four seconds. And I still eat them raw. What? We are all about conveniences. We have things that they never did. Let’s look at the history. When we go back to ancient cities, we find out things about ancient cities. Let’s put that picture up right there. This is Calcutta (shows picture of a hillside dense with dwellings, appearing like one on top of the other). Calcutta has, currently, right now, looks like it has crammed living; high-density… 122 people per acre. Isn’t that crazy? I wonder how many of us live on an acre, and imagine 122 people living on that one acre. That’s Calcutta. Ancient cities, during the time when Jesus said this, were so heavily populated, that they didn’t have 122 people per acre; they had 302 people per acre. Isn’t that amazing? They all moved into these big cities and it was so dense that they built their structures really tall with multiple floors. And there was a law that you couldn’t build it over 65 feet. Do you guys think their codes were like we have today? No, probably easier to get permits though. Sixty-five feet on ancient city buildings. Now it was said that regularly buildings would fall down because so many people would cram into these buildings that they would become heavy, and people would die regularly. It was said of Rome that there was never a time where you couldn’t hear in Rome of buildings falling or pieces of buildings falling, it was so common. People were afraid about where they lived. They were afraid that they would walk down the street and a building would fall. They were afraid of being displaced. They were afraid of not having a home themselves. When human density is high, problems for sanitation arise, don’t they?
I’ve got five kids in my house, I’m not sure that that’s the problem with them, but the more people you have, the harder it is to keep things sanitary. And I’m just going to leave it at that, because we can imagine everything that that means. But I’ll tell you this; most people at that time only had one or two sets of clothes. One or two sets of clothes! That was what they had. They didn’t have soap back then. You couldn’t stay clean. What happens when you can’t stay clean and you can’t clean your house? What arises? Disease, filth, sickness. Let’s talk about sickness back then. Did they have medication? No. So, when people got sick, it was a serious thing. The mortality rate of ancient times, biblical times, was very high because they would die from simple sicknesses. There was such a turnover rate in cities because of the high mortality rate, that it was constantly strangers coming into these cities at this time. And when you have a community of strangers, crime and disorder arises, doesn’t it? There was so much crime in those times, one historian writes about the crimes and the times, “Night fell over the cities like a shadow of great danger, diffused, sinister, and menacing. Everyone fled to his home, shut himself in, and barricaded the entrance.” So, this was a time where we’re supposed to take care of families, but it was so much harder to take care of our families than it is in the 21st century world. And then Jesus comes in on top of that, and what does He say? Let’s read that again, Mathew 25:35-36. In such a volatile time, and in a time where it was so uncertain how I was going to take care of my family, this is what Jesus says. I want you to think, does this scripture come to me a little bit different? Was He asking more than I’ve ever thought He was asking?
35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
What Jesus was asking out of that 1st century Christian was this: “I know you may not have enough food to last the week, but I want you to feed the hungry. And I know that you may not have enough water right now, but I am calling you to give out of what you do have.” See, for 1st century Christians, they gave out of cost. For 21st century Christians, we give out of inconvenience. You guys see the difference? Naked, they clothed them; they had one to two sets of clothes each. To bring them in, to give them warmth inside their homes that were already little tiny cubicles. Over-populated living and I’m supposed to bring someone in? You know, some of you guys are like, “I have a 2,000 square foot house and no one is living there with me.” Right? This is the one that shocked me the most; He says to help make the sick well. Now, in that time, let’s just think about what God was asking of them at that time. To help the sick was to put yourself where sick people are and possibly get sick yourself. Now we don’t care about that, because we’ve got medication. “Oh, my kid has this thing.” “Oh, it’s ok, give them whatever medication they need”, and they get better. But at that time, people would die regularly from the littlest of sicknesses. You know the fever back then was a huge deal, wasn’t it? When Jesus came and he said, “I want you to act with an incredible amount of kindness, and I want you to act with an incredible amount of compassion, and I want you to go farther than any other people do”, in the world that they lived in, with kindness, compassion, and care for people. When He said that, it was out of cost for that 1st century Christian. So here’s the question for us: Do we live out of costs, or do we really live out of inconveniences? You know, when we give, do we give out of our cost, or are we like, oh that’s really inconvenient, I’m not sure that I want to do that. You know, the 1st century Christians, let me tell you, they jumped on that. They started giving with everything. When you read the New Testament, you see, they were givers of everything they had. And in fact, even the 2nd century Christian, they kept doing it. It says that those big plagues that hit Rome, when they think it was smallpox, came, that it would kill 25-30% of the population. And everybody would leave, of any importance, of any wealth. The pagan priests left. Everybody left the cities because they didn’t want to get it. You want to know who stayed? The Christians because they felt an obligation to the sick; to help them, not to run away from them. Because Jesus said things like this. Do we live like that? You know, as I was reading a book from Rodney Stark, he said that quite possibly the Christians at that time saved the people that got sick because they stayed. They did just elementary nursing, feeding, giving water, caring for, keeping warm, cleaning; they just did elementary things that likely they saved up to two-thirds of those that would’ve died. Because, they were willing to accept a mission to give food to the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to tend for the sick. How far do we take that scripture? Because the honest truth is, what if one of our friends called us up and said, “Hey man, I need a ride to the airport at 5:00 in the morning, can you take me”? No, right? A lot of us have a hard time even giving out of that level. How many of you guys at home group, you hear someone at home group, and they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to be moving”, and you’re praying, “Don’t ask me to help them move”, “Lord Jesus, don’t let it happen” (laughter). How many of you second- guess buying a truck because everybody calls you to move now that you have a truck? And you put a shell on it (laughter). You know, the truth is, we need to read this scripture a lot different, don’t we? So many of us in the 21st century, we live and we let our compassion stop when the inconvenience gets too high. You know, what about the people at work? Did God send us to just work at our jobs, or did He send us to go feed the hungry, tend to the sick, give water to the thirsty at our jobs? You know, what would happen if when we found out that one of those people at our work went to the hospital sick. No one goes to visit the sick, you guys. Everybody is afraid of that. What if you, the Christian dude at work, showed up at that guy’s bed just to say you love him, and can I pray for you, and here’s a box of doughnuts. Because the nurses love when you give sick people doughnuts, right? What would happen if you showed up? I’ll tell you this right now; that guy would look at you different. You would take some special part, and he would watch you different, and you would make an impact on him. What about that guy at work, if you just said, “Let me pray for you. Let me act out of compassion and pray for this situation.” When you pray for people, it changes them. Not a lot of people have prayed for them. What about that family that lives across the street from you, and you never see people over at their house, and it’s almost like they don’t have friends. What would happen if you walked over there and you invited them over for dinner? What if all Christians started acting with an incredible amount of kindness and compassion that this world doesn’t know? Do you want to know what would happen? All these empty seats would be filled in here. Not because people are coming to hear the message, or experience the worship, but because they are coming to find out, “Why are these people so different, and why do they care for me so much?”
35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
All men will see it. We live in a “me first” world. What if we had people that lived differently in a “me first” world? What would be the testimony of Christians if we upped our game to 1st century thinking? Jesus says it again, He says it a little bit differently, but I think a little more profoundly, in Matthew 5:41, He says this.
41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Now, we can’t understand what that scripture really means unless we go back to the 1st century. So this is what is means: there was an imperial law that any Roman soldier, (and this is the title of the message, by the way, it’s being a Second Mile Christian), there was a law that said that any Roman soldier can come up to any Jewish man or boy, and give him his burden, whatever he was carrying, and force that Jewish man or boy to walk up to one mile. And in Rome, they had mile markers, these huge stones that would have numbers written on them, and the numbers were how many miles it was to get to Rome. That’s where we get that saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” And so, they knew how far their mile was, and the Jewish men and boys would walk that one mile, and when they got to that one mile, they would not take one step further, they would drop everything. How many of you think that the Jewish men and boys liked that law? They did not like that law at all, did they? They did not want to be forced to carry those things, whatever those things were, up to a mile. They may have been going to work. They may have been walking out of their house to grab their newspaper or whatever they had back then, right? And then they get hit with some Roman soldier and he says, “Take it”. They hated it worse when the Roman soldiers were going on vacation with the wives, because man, even those Roman soldiers’ wives carried a lot of bags, okay? (That wasn’t as funny as I thought, huh?) They did not want to do this. And then Jesus has the audacity to come out and say, “Don’t go one mile, you go two. Don’t live the bare minimum, you double it. Don’t stop at the smallest amount you have to give. You go two. Take it further.”
Let’s take a break on this real quick and I want to talk about our Christian walk. The truth is, being a Christian is convenient. We have to all be aware of this. My Christianity is convenient. What are some of the conveniences of being a Christian? One is we have a sense of belonging. We’re all a part of a church here, and we go to home groups, and we have family, and there’s a sense of belonging that the world doesn’t get. It’s one of the conveniences of being a Christian. What about life after death? Aren’t you guys happy that really our life starts after death? And we don’t have to worry about death like that scripture says, “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” I don’t have to worry about death. That’s a convenience about being a Christian. What about the friends that we have? For the most part, if you’re a Christian and you have Christian friends, you just have better friends. They care for you more, you’re probably not going to get taken advantage of by them, and you become closer. There are a lot of conveniences about being a Christian. Now, if you stop when your conveniences stop, when there’s no pain in my Christian walk, that’s a first-mile Christian. That’s doing the bare minimum. Because how many of you guys know, that the more you serve God, that you enter into being a little bit inconvenienced? Anybody who’s been inconvenienced by the Lord? The closer you go to God, the more you want to go that second mile, it’s full of inconveniences, but, second-mile people get second-mile blessings. Second-mile people see second-mile miracles. How many of you want to see a second-mile miracle?
I want to show you a video of my son. But let me tell you this, before you call CPS on me; this was his idea. I guess that doesn’t make it ok, does it? That’s why he has parents. He’s at the stage of losing his teeth. So, he has no tooth here, one tooth here, and no tooth here, and you remember that look, right? And, this tooth was so wiggly, and my wife tells him, “Listen, Josiah, if you pull out that tooth; it’s ready to come out, it’s ready to go, if you pull out that tooth today, I will give you an ice-cream sundae”. Sounds like a good deal, right? So, Josiah wants this ice cream sundae. So, he’s jiggling on the tooth, he’s really trying to get it out, but it’s not coming out. She’s like, “You’ve got to do it today.” And it’s like ready to pop. And so, after awhile, Josiah says, “Gavin, come here!”, and they both run downstairs. And then they come up, like the video you’re going to see. But it was their idea, that’s what we all need to remember, okay? (Shows video of Josiah with a brick tied by a string to his tooth. Josiah throws brick off a balcony. Tooth comes out). And ever since then, I started looking up to Josiah, okay? He wanted that ice cream! We found out what he would do for an ice cream sundae. The question is, what will he do for a Klondike bar, right? (laughter) He wanted the ice cream sundae and he was willing to go through the pain to get it. The pain became small compared to what he was going to get. Honestly, when I was losing my teeth, I was so afraid of pain, I would let them fall out on their own. I never got the ice cream sundae. I never went to mile two. Dude lived in mile two! Second-mile Christians are not afraid of the pain that it causes to go that second mile. And that’s why they see second mile miracles. And that’s why they get second-mile blessings. To love those who love you is the first mile but to love those who hate you, that’s the second mile. To pray for those who pray for you is the first mile but to pray for those who curse you, that’s the second mile. Second-mile people see second-mile things happen. To do good to those who do good for you, that’s mile one. To do good for those who harm you, that is mile two. The first mile is to stand up for popular scriptures. Scriptures that it’s OK to stand on. But mile two comes when you stand on the scriptures that are even unpopular about sexuality, gender debate, or whether there is absolute right and wrong. What do we stand on? Second-mile Christians feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, tend for the sick, because they’re compelled to do that. Do you feed out of a 21st century mindset or out of a 1st century mindset? Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Who should we live for? Ourselves or for Him who died? What did that 1st century people know? They knew this; that every time I worked out of kindness and compassion, any time I helped someone, any time I caused myself a little pain and I was inconvenienced, every time I gave out of what I really didn’t have, the cost it gave me to give, I wasn’t giving to that person, I was giving to God. I was living with Him in mind and not me in mind. Second-mile people live just like that. What would happen at our jobs, with our families, at our workplaces, if we started living like that? How many people would be impacted if we lived like second-mile Christians. What happens if we acted like that to our bosses, to our teachers, to our family members, to our neighbors? What would we start seeing happen? We would start seeing people come to the Lord. We would start seeing seats filled, and we would start feeling the intense power of the Lord working through us. We would start seeing second-mile miracles and we would start experiencing second-mile blessings.
I want to switch passages right now. And I want to tell you about something that has impacted my wife and me so drastically. It was this passage that I read. We’re coming up on Palm Sunday in two weeks. And I was reading Palm Sunday a long time ago and something just always felt weird and I didn’t understand it, until about a year-and-a-half ago, I feel like the Lord spoke to me why this happened. Let’s go ahead and have it up there, it’s Matthew 21:1-3.
When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
And I always thought, “Father, God, why send the disciples?” When I read the Bible, if there’s a detail in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, that’s where you want to stop and say, “Why did You put this detail in it?” And I’d always stop and say, “Why send them to a village opposite them? They were right outside of Jerusalem. Are you telling me Jerusalem doesn’t have donkeys? Did that village have super donkeys? Was it like Shrek’s donkey? (laughter) Why go out and get that donkey? And the Lord, about a year-and-a-half ago told me this, “It was never about the donkey, it was all about the donkey owner.” You see, he had to send someone, he had to take someone, he needed someone to give the donkey and he didn’t have anybody right there, he had to send them to the opposite village where there was a man who lived in the second mile. You see, the scripture says that if anybody asks “Who is this for?” you say it’s for Me, and the guy will say, “Enough said.” Because at the sound of hearing “This is for Jesus”, that donkey owner said, “Take it. I accept the mission. Take it.” That’s affected me so deeply because I want to be that donkey owner. I want God to send people over here to me because I’m willing to accept the mission and I’m willing to give away donkeys. And that is second-mile living. I do not want anybody living around me having to go to another city because I am not living in the second mile and I’m not willing to give away a donkey. I’ll tell you this right now; that has affected Heather and I so much we have a saying now. We say this regularly, “I think we’re here to give away a donkey.” We both know exactly what we’re saying. I mean, I don’t own any donkeys, obviously, but… “I think we’re here to give away a donkey. The Lord has us here for a reason.”
Just about three weeks ago, I’m working, it’s a Wednesday, and I get a call from my wife. Now, my wife is really tough. She is really tough, and it’s like, a limb has to be falling off of her for her to go to the doctor at all, okay? So, she calls me, and she says, “Neil, I think that I may be having appendicitis right now. I think we need to go to the ER right now.” And I’m already in my car driving home by that time, right? If my wife says we’re going to the ER, this is serious. So, I go home, and I grab her, and I drive to the ER. We’re in the ER, and I feel the Lord prick me. And He says to me, “You’re not here for appendicitis. You’re here to give away a donkey.” I looked at my wife, and I said, “Babe, I don’t think you have appendicitis, I think that we’re here for a donkey.” We still went through all the tests. Guess what she didn’t have? Appendicitis. Guess what she didn’t have? Any of that other stuff; we got tested for everything. Nothing was wrong. All of a sudden, she’s totally fine. I run into a lady there who I hadn’t seen in a long time. When I ran one of the Youth Ventures, I really mentored her son and brought her son to the Lord, and really the whole family came to the Lord through my relationship with the son. But then, we had moved away, they had moved away, and the son stopped following the Lord, got into drugs pretty heavy. And this lady was sitting there, and I knew that just being with her made a big difference, feeling our love. And she says this to me, she says, “I need to get back to church. I need to bring my husband, because we need to get prayer for some things.” Boom. Donkey given away. Did it cost us pain? Yeah. Any time you go to the ER, it’s painful, right? Both physically and mentally sitting in there. Same as the DMV. The ER is the only place I want to go to less than the DMV. Then, who comes to pick her up? It’s Cody, the kid that I had all of this time with. And I got to go out there and just love Cody. Tell him how much I miss him. You know, this kid that was following the Lord when he was with me, but, you know that when he walked away and he started doing all these drugs, there’s a lot of shame on him. And I broke down that shame just by giving him love and asking him to come back. I know that made a difference. And I know the Lord needed a donkey. When I come back into the waiting room, my wife is already talking to another lady. She said, when we left, this other lady just says, “Hey, do you guys go to church?” That’s a killer way to start a conversation, right? My wife’s like, “Let me tell you about it!” Listen, I don’t what happened in those three people’s lives, but I know that God needed someone at the ER. And my answer is always the same, “I’ll go. You tell me where we need to go.” You saw that video in the very beginning, of being in Ocotillo. You want to know why I was in Ocotillo? That didn’t happen because we had a Christmas party. That happened because I’d been praying for a long time, and my wife’s been praying for a long time, that He would send us, He would send people to us, to give away donkeys. Second-mile Christians give away their donkeys. The Lord made that happen because He knew, because I’ve told Him so many times, I don’t care the cost. It cost me a lot of money, because on the way down there, my gas disappeared. It really did, it doesn’t make any sense unless the Lord took it out, and I believe somehow the Lord did it, so He owes me, right? Come on! (Laughter)
I am willing to go through any pain, and I hope we are willing to go through any inconvenience, or any pain, to enter into second mile living. So, I want to ask this, where can you live in the second mile? Who around you, in your neighborhood, what niece or nephew is going through it? Most of my life growing up, my parents had someone living in our house. Not to pay rent but because they were living the second mile. They needed to give away a donkey and for them it was a bedroom in the house. And most of most of my growing up years, I had someone living in my house that really became my brother. That really became another son to my parents; multiple people. Because they looked out and they said, “Who needs me?” That question comes before us right now. I have a question that I want you to ask: Are you ready to live in the second mile? It’s to live beyond where the conveniences stop, and to move into the miracle territory that God has. Who can be affected by your absolute kindness and willing to give maybe out of your cost? Are you willing to do that?