Jesus said to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Be the Light is our initiative to create a gathering place where we learn, worship, pray, love one another, and serve “the least of these.” By doing so we will bring light to the world like a city on a hill that glorifies our Father in Heaven!
Light is all around us.
You can’t smell it, touch it, or taste it.
You see it.
Reflections in rear-view mirrors keep us safe when driving.
Refraction through lenses of eyeglasses or contact lens’ helps me see better.
Light is what gives us the ability to see the beauty in the colors of the rainbow.
Light reveals the properties of the objects it collides with.
It brings awareness, illuminating what’s ahead, what’s behind, what’s around.
Matthew, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, recorded for us what’s referred to as the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel that bears his name.
In it, Jesus lays out an ethic, or the conduct of the “kingdom of heaven.”
Think of it as the way of life for a follower of Jesus, or as we say around here, Christ-centered living.
Listen to what he says. (Matthew 5:14-16)
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Now, pause here for a second.
If you wouldn’t call yourself a follower of Christ, if you haven’t placed your faith in the person and work of Jesus, then you’re off the hook on this one.
He has no expectation of you and isn’t requiring anything from you.
*He has a deep desire for you, and that’s to be in relationship with you.
*BUT, if you are a follower of Christ, desiring to live a Christ-centered life, this you IS YOU.
It’s me. It’s us.
Jesus says, “you ARE the light,” which indicates a state of being as opposed to an activity or something you strive to achieve.
Your life in Christ is a LIGHT. It’s personal, individual.
And that town up on the hill, is the church. That’s our light.
Jesus is giving a metaphor of what a life lived IN him and FOR him looks like.
Lights shinning on a stand, not hidden, but on public display for all to see.
If you didn’t already know this, November is really just Christmas pre-season.
Jamie and I are putting our tree up this week, and I’ve got the carols already playing.
I’m ready for holiday movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, Elf.
One on the list to watch every year is A Christmas Story.
You’ve seen it, right?
There’s the scene where Ralphie’s father, the Old Man, wins a “major award” and its arrival is this moment of excitement and anticipation!
The Leg Lamp
and he knew immediately where to put it.
Right in the front window of the house, proudly on display in all its illuminated glory for the whole neighborhood to see.
Jesus is making an obvious point that’s not lost on any of us.
No one turns on a light only to cover it up.
What’s the point of the light then?
It defeats the purpose.
Last Sunday, Jamie and I had tickets to go to the fair.
The plan was to get out of the house before Trick-or-Treaters came to avoid the guilt of not having candy to hand out to the adorable little kids.
But they came early!
We weren’t ready to leave, so I’m running around the house closing shutters and pulling drapes so no light can be seen outside exposing the fact that we’re home!
It was a total blackout!
Jesus said you’re to let your light shine.
He doesn’t give it as an option to select from a list of religious accessories or spiritual add-ons.
“I’ll take prosperity and the gift of healing but pass on loving my enemies and being light in my workplace.”
It doesn’t work that way.
Your light and my light, our light is to be on display, on a stand giving light to everyone in the house.
You are to be a light so that your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, teammates, your mechanic, barista, the person who cuts you off on the freeway, or who disagrees with your political or social opinions … will see what a Christ-centered life looks like and will glorify your Father in heaven.
The word “glorify” indicates that others would acknowledge the reality and existence of, and as a result, respond to the source of the life that is the light of all mankind.
Listen to how theologian and pastor Eugene Peterson interprets these same words in The Message, (Matthew 5:14-16 – The Message)
…You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.
If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!
Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 MSG
According to Barna Research, the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the least churched areas in the country.
There’s a sense of pride in the “enlightened” attitude, perspectives, and lifestyles so common in the surrounding communities.
The education, affluence, social prominence, or spirituality attained through individual effort.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus, describes a very similar attitude of those living,
… in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God…
Now, you can interpret that to mean we’re in a wasteland and it’s your time to move to the Bible belt.
OR we’re in the land of great spiritual opportunity.
Think for a minute, who was that light in your life that led to you becoming a follower of Christ?
Who was the person that you heard Jesus in their words, saw Jesus in their actions, who radiated the love of Jesus in an undeniable way?
This is the opportunity you are invited into with Be The Light.
What I want to do in the next couple of minutes is lay out the vision which can be summarized in two phrases; we’re going to BUILD A HOME and INVEST IN HOPE.
Build a Home
There’s often a perception that churches are everywhere.
But believe it or not, a key challenge facing the Tri-Valley is a shortage of churches.
More specifically, it’s a shortage of seating capacity of churches in the surrounding communities that accommodate less than 10% of those who live here.
A key challenge we’ve faced is the lack of a permanent home.
We’ve been a portable church since we began in 2012.
Every Sunday there are people setting up rooms for the in-person service.
And then another team comes in after and tears it all down and packs it away.
Week after week, for over nine years.
Being a tenant of the Pleasanton school district has been mutually beneficial, but the needs of our church have always been secondary to the needs of the school, and we’ve had to pivot and adjust to ever-changing requirements over the years, especially during COVID.
The vision of Be the Light is to Build a Home that will be a place of belonging, no matter where you’re from or what your story is.
A home that is accessible and available seven days a week.
A home where we laugh together, cry together, live life together, and worship God together.
A home with dedicated space for your kids where they will experience God in environments designed just for them.
Students will have a space to create community and transformational moments that will form the foundations of their faith.
The lobby will have ample space to encourage conversations and relational connections with others.
The auditorium will an environment that engages both your heart and mind to encounter God and grow your faith, with plenty of room for your neighbors and newcomers to come sit with you.
You may have seen the video shown last week detailing the building and the spaces within.
But if you didn’t, simply go to
to view it.
But this home, our home, isn’t intended or designed just for us, but also as place where we can expand out into demonstrations of light and love for others.
Through Be the Light, we’re going to
Invest in Hope
We believe one of the best ways to attract unchurched people is to be a church that’s actually attractive!
A community of faith that loves each other, our neighbors, and those that are often forgotten or ignored.
We call it Compassion.
Jesus calls it serving “the least of these.”
In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the treatment of those who are in need by those who would say they’re his followers.
To one group he says, because you cared for my needs, you have inherited the kingdom God’s prepared for you.
Listen to how Jesus describes their response. (Matthew 25:37-40)
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
You see, in order to Be the Light to those around us, we must be involved with the “least of these” that surround us.
We believe an outward sign of becoming more Christ-centered is becoming more generous in providing love and resources, and we have invested in serving the needs of our local community since day one.
Currently, 18% of our operating budget is devoted to our Compassion ministry which partners with local, regional, and global nonprofits.
As part of Be the Light, we’ve identified four priorities as we continue to invest in hope.
Homelessness in Alameda County increased by 43% in two years, according to data gathered in 2019.
The health and economic impact of the pandemic has only made it worse.
We can serve them.
*Foster kids and foster families.
Every year, thousands of children need a loving home where they can experience stability and hope for their future.
We can serve them.
*Senior living chapel services
It’s estimated the growth of the population over age 60 in Alameda County will increase nearly 200 percent in the years to come.
The experience of the pandemic has left many seniors isolated from family, friends, and a community of faith.
We can serve them.
Lastly, *People with special needs.
People living with special needs, along with families and caregivers, face unique challenges that are often unknown or misunderstood.
We can serve them.
And by doing so, you will be a shining light, we will be a city on a hill glorifying God!
Watch this video on the Compassion priorities we’ve identified and then Pastor Matt will be out to share with you.
Back in the Fall of 2016 when we launched the Every|One initiative to raise 3 million dollars for a down payment for a building in Pleasanton, a guy came up to me and said, “I’m giving everything I have to this initiative.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yep, my house, my cars, my kids’ bikes, life savings — I’m giving everything.”
I said, “Is God telling you to do that?”
He said, “The Cubs won the World Series, which means Jesus is coming back. It won’t matter anyway!”
That was a good one. He had me excited for a minute.
Today, I really just want to open up and share my heart with you.
As I get older, God is using new disciplines to shape me spiritually.
Since we started Blue Oaks Church one of those disciplines is giving generously.
Now, as we study spiritual formation, how does God grow his children?
A lot of times, God grows his children through allowing them to experience pain or loss.
Some of the greatest growing I’ve done is when my heart has been broken by a disappointment, or a tragedy, or a trial of some kind.
Other types of spiritual growth only come when you use your spiritual gift and you feel God using you to make a difference.
But what I’m learning through starting and building a church from nothing has far exceeded anything God has used to grow my faith.
What I’m learning today is God shapes my heart when I say a little prayer that I’ve been saying for the last couple years, since we purchased our church building and realized we will need to completely renovate it.
I’ve been asking God, “God, what would you do through Kathy and through me for the future of our church?”
I’m learning there’s a certain kind of spiritual growth that only comes in the adventure of giving and when we part with money, because that’s real objective stuff.
I mean, he’s either going to resupply and fulfill his promise to reward those who give cheerfully, or he’s not. I’m either going to see his hand powerfully in my life, or I’m not. I’m going to see the fulfillment of those promises or I’m going to be disappointed. But I’m going to find out, one way or the other.
I remember the first time I went bungie jumping. I said, “Are you sure this thing is going to hold me?”
And the guy running it said, “Well, you’re going to find out in a minute, aren’t you?”
In the early days of Blue Oaks, almost everyone that was a part of our core group jumped out, trusting God to provide. And we experienced a whole lot of spiritual growth through the adventure of giving.
In 2016 when we were outgrowing the space at Foothill High School and realized our only option for a larger space in our community was to purchase a building, a larger group of people (313 families to be exact) jumped out, trusting God to provide and we all went on the adventure of giving (raising 2.78 million dollars) and we didn’t even know what we were giving to at the time. We just knew we needed a 22,000 square foot building. And God provided just that.
I want to share with you something you don’t know about that initiative. Our goal was to raise 3 million dollars and we received 3.2 million in pledges. But one of those pledges was for 1 million dollars. And it was contingent on the sale of a company.
Well that company hasn’t sold yet so really we exceeded our pledges toward the building by over a half a million dollars.
I know many people in our church gave more than they ever have to any church or charity or initiative.
That was true for Kathy and me. We were already tithing (giving ten percent of our income to the church in addition to sponsoring children through Compassion International and giving to other charities we believe in), but we decided to give an additional ten percent of our income to Every|One.
If you were part of Blue Oaks for the Every|One initiative, you know we asked you to give sacrificially. We said, “If you don’t have to get a new car, please don’t. If you don’t have to take that two week vacation, go for one.”
Acts 2 talks about the early Christians selling property and possessions so that they could resource the work of the church and help the poor. They did it freely.
We asked everyone involved at that time to do the same.
It took surrender and sacrifice, because it wasn’t going to happen without it.
Now I have to show you something.
This is what’s needed to fund the renovation of the building.
The total including AVL, landscaping, the compassion components and everything will be 7.2 million dollars.
Now we have 1.2 million in the bank that we didn’t use from our Every|One initiative.
Also, under Joe’s leadership, we’ve been able to cut costs each year and save as much as possible. If we didn’t need to spend the money, we didn’t. And we were able to save 1.25 million that will go toward the building renovation.
So the total needed to fund this initiative is 4.8 million dollars.
Now, the Every|One initiative was a three year initiative, so we completed that in 2019. So for the last couple years, the challenge level at Blue Oaks has basically been bring the tithe. Every Christian should do that wherever they are.
But that is not going to cut it to resource the vision of “Be the Light.” We won’t get within a mile of what we need with that mentality.
In fact, I want to show you what it’s going to take for us to pull off an initiative to fund the renovation of our building.
And I want to pray about this in just a moment, because we’re going to need God to move in a powerful way.
I asked Joe how, humanly speaking, 4.8 million dollars is raised in terms of offerings for a church over a three-year period of time?
This is what we need us all to consider.
Now, look at the lower end. You see that at the lowest level of financial investment, we need two hundred individual gifts of $1,000 to reach that need at that level. You see the math there?
For your information, there were 200 pledges to the Every|One initiative. 313 families ended up contributing to the initiative, but there were 200 pledges.
So for us to even hit this initial level, we need twice the participation that we saw for the Every|One initiative.
You see, if anyone opts out, we’re in trouble.
Now, look at the top of the list.
In 9 years as a church, we have never had a gift like that top gift. We’ve had some very generous giving, but we’ve never had someone give at that level.
So when people are asking me, “How do you think we’re going to do it? Do you think we’ll reach the goal or not?”
I say, “We need a miracle from the hand of God. We need for the Holy Spirit to stir in our congregation two times what he did for Every|One.
“And we need some people who have a lot to give in ways that are unprecedented in our churches history.”
I’m not aware of a person who’s preparing to give at that top level. No one has indicated that God is stirring them, or that they have the capacity or the willingness. So I don’t know where that’s going to come from. It’ll be a total God-thing if it happens.
I’ve told you that Kathy and I have been praying the prayer, “Lord, what would you like to do through us?”
And we thought that we’d do just like we did when we planted Blue Oaks and when we did the Every|One initiative — we’d put everything on the table — all of our material possessions on the table and it would be easy.
Like the early days, we would say, “God, it’s all yours. It came from your hand. Take whatever your Spirit directs. We’ll joyfully give it.”
And I have to tell you a strange thing has happened with us this year. It’s not as easy to put everything that we have on the table of re-surrender now… for the simple reason that we have more now.
We own a house today that we didn’t own in 2012 when we started the church, or 2016 when we did the Every|one initiative. We have returns on our investments today that we didn’t have in 2012 or 16. My wife and I have increased salaries that we didn’t have in 2012 or 2016.
You would think the more you have, the easier it would be to say thanks to God, put it all on the table of surrender and let God move it around however he would. If you have more — why not?
But Jesus talks about the sneakiness of money — how when you have more, instead of that freeing you up for complete, joyful re-surrender, often the heart closes and you start saying, “That’s mine. It’s mine.”
So Kathy and I have real business to do with God before we can get it all on the table and say, “God, this all came from your hands.”
What I’m in the process of doing is getting everything we own on a spreadsheet so we can see it and physically hold it up before God and say, “God, look what you’ve done. Look at how richly you’ve blessed us. Now, speak to us. And whatever you ask, we’ll do.”
And I want to ask all of you to do that difficult spiritual work as well — fully re-surrender what God has blessed you with and ask God how he wants you to contribute to this “Be the Light” initiative.
The victory will be in putting it all on the table and making sure that it’s all God’s. And then quieting yourself to hear his voice… and for that to happen, we just need to keep asking, “God, what are you going to do through me for the future of our church?”
Someone asked me, “What does success look like? How will we know if we’re successful? What number are you looking for?”
We haven’t attached a number to this initiative.
Success is if 100 percent of us do exactly and only what God asks us to do, and we do it together believing that God will meet the need.
And we will go forward unified, trusting God, and filled with anticipation about the future of our church. That’s success to me.
I told you during the Every|One initiative that God was leading Kathy and me to give ten percent of our income to Every|One in addition to the ten percent we were already giving to the church as our tithe.
Well I want to tell you that I believe God is asking Kathy and me to do that again for the “Be the Light” campaign.
It’s going to be more today because we have more and we’re earning more, but we believe God is asking us to live on 80 percent of our income for the next three years — continue to give ten precent of our income to Blue Oaks as our tithe because that’s what God instructs us to do and we’re going to be obedient to him with our finances, but in addition to that we’ll give ten percent of our income to the “Be the Light” initiative for the next three years, starting with a one-time gift in December that will be equal to ten precent of our income in 2021.
And I want to tell you where my heart is and why I’m telling you how God is leading me — it’ because I want to lead the way with generosity when it comes to reaching lost people in this community that God has called us to reach.
The apostle Paul said, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.” Well I want to say, “Follow my example in the area of finances, as I follow Christ.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s going to take sacrifice — we’re not going to buy new cars, or go on nice vacations, or eat out at nice restaurants, or buy new clothes, or save as much for our kids college education (sorry Lily).
But God is going to stretch our faith and probably grow us more in the next three years than ever before… but we’re all in.
And the more we’ve thought about this, the more our hearts are filled with joy. It’s going to be a joyful thing to work and serve every day, for the next three years, and say, “We’re doing this for you God. We’re doing this for the people in our community who desperately need a place where they can come and experience you.”
But I want you to know, because we brought all of our resources and put them on the table and prayed for God to lead us — this was his idea, not ours. We just need to obey it.
God may ask you to give just a little to this initiative for reasons known only to him. If he asks you to do a little, only do a little.
He may ask you to do something breathtaking, something faith-stretching, something that puts you on that kind of growth that only comes when you’re involved in the adventure of giving.
And there are people walking around this church who know what I’m talking about, because it was upon our shoulders of sacrifice that this church was started.
But now we’re all here. Now, it’s our turn. Now, it’s about being the light to our community. We’re all here at the start of something new — of building out our home to be a light that shines in this community like a lighthouse in the darkness.
And how I pray God will do a miracle in your life, a miracle in our church. And I’d like to lead you in a prayer about this.
Now God, we ask you to pour out a spirit of generosity on our church like we’ve never seen before. Make it like the Acts 2 church. Give people the courage to re-surrender all that you’ve put in their hands. Remind them it all came from you. We can’t take it with us when we go.
And God, when we finally get to that spiritual victory point of having surrendered everything back to you, then quiet our hearts so we can hear your voice. And speak to us clearly, God, and help us listen carefully. And then, God, give us the courage to obey. And specifically, God, because you tell us to pray for what our requests are — I pray that we will have double the participation than we did in the Every|One initiative.
I pray that not a single person would miss this opportunity to be a part of “Be the Light.” Because there is going to be the greatest measure of generosity in the history of our church.
And God, I’m still praying for that individual that you’ve resourced abundantly, to step out of the shadows and to give that gift that will be remembered in our church’s history for a lifetime — maybe for generations.
But whether our gift is at the bottom or the top of that list, God, we do so only because your Spirit is prompting us. And we do so with joy knowing that the words of Jesus are true, “Give and it shall be given unto you; pressed down, multiplied, running over,” and we will see you provide and re-supply in miraculous ways, and we’ll tell each other stories until we’re old and gray. And those stories will give you praise and honor.
God, we love you and look forward to what you’re going to do. in Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Blue Oaks Church