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  • Shipwrecked Under His Sovereignty

     

    Claude Houde

    Do you face a storm that threatens to shipwreck your life? Reflecting on Acts 27, Claude Houde shares God's plan for your storm and encourages you that there is a miracle waiting on the other side.

    Claude Houde: It all began when in 1985, I was asked to in Canada to be pastor David Wilkinson's interpreter. I think they're going to show a picture of me and brother Dave when we were together in 1985 and all these years, 34 years together, ministering, yes.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: I was waiting for the picture to come up. I know I looked like a Latino narco-trafficking on that one.

    [laughter]

    Claude Houde: I was formerly a French narco-trafficking. It's very different. 34 amazing years coming every year to bring the word here we've been set good and close friends with pastor Carter and pastor Theresa, for all these years. Pastor Carter and I have preached together all over the world. This is pastor Carter and I in Ivory Coast. Say it to the person next to you, they look good. Say that to the person next to you.

    Audience: They look good.

    Claude Houde: Ivory Coast, Ireland, Haiti, Canada, Burundi and many, many French countries together. Actually pastor Carter and I were also preaching a few years ago to over 2,000 pastors and leaders for three days in the center of Paris at a theater called the Bataclan. You might remember that just after a few weeks after we were there, preaching salvation and forgiveness and love, and the full life of Christ, a terrible terrorist attack occurred at the very place where pastor Carter and I preached the word. Over 130 were killed. 90 in that very building at the Bataclan. 413 were seriously wounded.

    A massacre, one of the worst in France's history, and in the days that followed while I was watching the news and I saw was I was struck by the testimony of this young man who was in that theater where we preached and prayed in the same room, same stage. He witnessed many of his friends die right around him. He just threw himself to the floor and his friends fell over him and he actually would see the terrorists walk by and the boots and the machine gun and he actually said, I was watching it on TV, French TV and he said, "I was saved because I was covered with the blood of an innocent man."

    I thought we're all saved because we're covered by the blood of Christ. Would you say, yes, please? Pastor Carter, I come to you today, they have rebuilt, they have cleaned up and reopened the Bataclan. I come today with an invitation from over 100 French pastors. They want us to go back. They want you and I to go back to preach. How many of you think we should be there to preach God's love, salvation, forgiveness? Would you give a shout out to the love of God that overcomes all things?

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: I want you to turn with me to Acts 27:28. The title of my message today is shipwrecked under His sovereignty. Shipwrecked under His sovereignty. You may feel you are shipwreck, but you are always under His sovereignty. There's a kingdom sequence, there's a kingdom principle that I actually taught here last time I was here, that as we follow Jesus through the gospels, we see this chapter by chapter.

    You will see this in your life, you will see this in the life of a ministry, the life of the church. In a family where we go from a season of multiplication under the blessing of God right into storms and sometimes can be from multiplication to multiplication right into storm. The sequence is from multiplication into storm into greater measures of the miraculous in His purposes.

    If you're in a storm right now, on the other side of that tumultuous sea, there is a bank of God's blessing and deeper blessing and deeper miracle. In that, we see the secret in all four gospels, but we also see it in the book of Acts. I've been teaching for weeks on the book of Acts. When we go through the book of Acts, we see the exact same thing.

    We see the church that is born and multiplication, but then there are seasons of storms, but on the other side of the seasons of storm there is always a deeper work deeper purposes and we could actually, when we look in the book of Acts, it's actually closer in a certain way to our reality, the disciples and the gospels walked with Jesus. In the book of Acts in the 30 years span covered by the book of Acts, it's so much closer to us because we know they just like they, we know is immutable, he doesn't change, but he's invisible sometimes.

    We know His promises, but we don't have His physical presence. We believe in His deity, but there are delays in his answers. He's our Savior, we know he’s our Savior, but sometimes we are shipwrecked. We have his instructions, but sometimes we suffer injustices that are simply incomprehensible. That's where we find Paul. We find him in the book of Acts.

    Over the book of Acts Chapter 26:27, we find him. We look at his condition, his circumstances and they're so close to ours. He's going to be shipwrecked under his sovereignty, but he's done nothing wrong. In Acts 26:31, the Governor and Agrippa and Festus actually say, Acts 26:31, "This man has done nothing deserving of death or chains." This man could've been set free, but he asked to go to Rome and I'll get to that again.

    You will find yourself and I'll find myself in storms or I've done nothing wrong. Where I've wanted was to serve God and honor Him and yet I'm shipwrecked, yet I'm in a storm, yet insane opposition come conflict, nasty conflict and opposition. Acts 27:4, "We sailed but needed shelter for the winds were contrary." May I say today, the special weekend with all the events of the weekend right here in Times Square at the crossroads of the world.

    When we stand for truth and for the sanctity of life, for God, for the defenseless inside and outside of the womb, there will be fierce opposition, but we must stand with love for truth in Jesus’ name.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Here they are shipwrecked on their sovereignty, the context of injustice of opposition. There's the context of impatience. In Acts 27:7, He says, we write, we read, "We sailed slowly for so many days. The winds would not allow us to advance." For many of us, we have been in these moments where we think it’s just going too slow. The situation not changing fast enough. My husband, my wife, don't look to the side, look at me, my husband, my wife-

    [laughter]

    Claude Houde: -is not changing fast. My kids aren't changing fast enough. This breakthrough is not coming. This healing is not coming. Our ministry is not changing, is not growing, is not evolving fast enough. The fulfillment of the promise is not coming fast enough. In the seasons of it's not fast enough, it can become very dangerous spiritually. In Acts 27:9, "Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now becoming dangerous, and in these times of waiting, these times of storms there's dangers because these seasons of storms can develop us, they can define us, we can discover deeply our destinies, we can deepen ourselves in His desires, but they can also diminish us because they are dangerous.

    Our deployments and development depend on our decisions. During these storms, I would say this way Pastor Theresa, Dr. Conlon, said it beautifully yesterday, she said to the students. "You are born looking like your parents, but you die looking like your decisions."

    Audience: Wow.

    Claude Houde: Like the decisions you took your life through your storms. There's injustice and opposition and impatience and danger and there's also frustration. If you look at Chapter 27 and verse 10, Paul said to them, "Advise them, warn them, saying men, I perceive this trip will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo but threats to ships and also our lives."

    Nevertheless, the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. Sometimes we are in storms because people around us ignored our warnings. Parents are in storms because their kids did not listen to the ways of the Lord they taught them. We suffer sometimes because-- Paul found himself completely innocent in a storm because they actually ignored what he had said.

    A nation can be in a storm because it ignores the voice of God, the message of God, the law of God. They're in a storm, family members, spouse, children, friends, parents, people were trying to help, minister to and brings us in their storm because they're ignoring and there's that frustration that could very easily turn into hopelessness. If you read Verse 13 to 17 of Acts 27. "When the south wind blows softly, supposing that they had obtained the desire," actually said, "supposing the thinking they had their destiny in their hands." Would you say to somebody next to you, "You're not controlling anything". Say that to the somebody next to you.

    Audience: You're not controlling anything.

    Claude Houde: You are not in control of anything. We are only in control of ourselves before our God. He's in control of all things. Not long after a tempestuous head wind arose called the Euroclydon and they have myths, they have legends, they have history, historians of the day. Poem were written about that storm that brought death. That type of storm we would call it in modern days a perfect storm, a deadly storm.

    When the ship was caught, they could not head into the wind. We let adrift and running under the shelter of an island called Clada, we secured the skip with difficulty. There's hopelessness. They began to drift. Let me ask you a question, "Have you ever underestimated what began like a soft wind in your life?" A soft wind of rebellion, a soft wind of discontentment, a soft wind of criticism, a soft wind of murmuring, a soft wind of a hidden sin that nobody sees nobody knows.

    It began like a soft wind and they were saying we can handle this but it actually began to lose such control. It was so hopeless, they had lost every hope of coming alive and they began to let themselves just drift. That is the question of the Holy Spirit for each of us in certain seasons of our lives and maybe for you today. Have you been allowing yourself to drift? To drift away from God's principles in your life, from His commands, from His love, from His purposes, from your very identity.

    Have you allowed a storm that is incomprehensible to bring you into a place where you are drifting? Do you ever face a storm that threatens to shipwreck you? That shipwreck is that place in our life when it's too much, too late, too far gone. We had to unload too much, too painful, too desperate. Let me share with you from this passage some principles, some keys, some revelations from the word of God this morning for you that will strengthen you and root you as you walk out of the building today by the grace of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit with a sense of when I am in a shipwreck, I'm always under His sovereignty.

    The first thought, the first anchor is that the revelation is more important than the reasons. Your revelation of God is more important than the reasons you are in the storm.

    Again, look with me at Acts chapter 27 and verse 18, "Because we were exceedingly Tempest tossed, the next day they alighted the ship. On the third day, we threw the ship's tackle."

    Verse 20, "When neither sun or stars appeared for many days, all hope that we would be saved was given up." After long abstinence from food, Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me." He couldn't help himself, "You have listened to me." How many of you have been in moments where you've told people around you, 'You should have listened to me?" He adds a ‘but’ don't stay and you should have listened to me. He goes on. "You should have listened to me but--"

    He says, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have sailed from Crete and incurred a disaster. Now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only the ship." For there stood by me, that's the revelation, there stood by me, this night an angel of God of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, saying, "Do not be afraid, Paul, you must be brought before Caesar."

    And indeed, God has granted you all that sail with you, therefore, take heart for I believe God that it will be just as it was told to me. However, we must run aground on a certain island. Paul says that I don't know all the reasons but the God who I serve, Paul is saying you can't go down because I'm on this ship. I'm under orders from God. I am on my way to Rome. Say that a person next to you, "You're so lucky to be sitting next to me."

    Audience: You're so lucky to be sitting next to me.

    Claude Houde: You're so blessed, you're so protected to be sitting next to me.

    Audience: You're so blessed, you're so protected to be sitting next to me.

    Claude Houde: Years ago, I was flying to Europe and at the airport in Montreal, I was in line waiting to get on the plane the young man came, "Hi Pastor Claude unbelievable we're on the same flight. I'm going to France and God bless you. Safe travels to you." We get on the plane I'm sitting I see him walk by he taps me, praise God and I say yes praise God safe travel.

    He goes back to his seat and this young man, he's not from my church, this young man knew me and the people are filling up the plane, he gets up, "Attention everybody. I want you to know this plane is safe. This plane cannot go down."

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Air Canada flight to France, this flight is safe. There's a man of God on board, Pastor Claude is on board. Have a safe trip. I'm watching people around me, "Hello, hello, hello."

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: The God to whom I belong. The God that I would say this way the revelation is more important than the reasons. Whom I belong is more important than the beatings the ship was beaten. I want you to know and that's hard for us because we always want to know the reasons. I want to know why and why this and why so long, and why not, and why and why?

    I want you to remember today when you feel you’re shipwrecked, when you feel you've lost control of an area of your life, I want you to know that God to whom you belong, the one that you serve has a plan, has a direction, has his hand over your life, and you are on your way to where He's calling you to do, and to be, and whatever it will be done unto you as he has promised. That is your revelation, that erases all reasons. Would you applaud the revelation of God in your life?

    When you are shipwrecked under sovereignty the revelation is more important and the reasons and Malta prepares the miraculous. When they had escaped chapter 28:1, when they had escaped, they found out their shipwreck, they found out that the island was called Malta, and the natives showed us unusual kindness. For they kindled the fire and made us all welcome because of the rain that was falling, and because of the cold.

    This is a man of God and he finds himself, he's done nothing wrong. He is on his way to Rome. He's on his way to his destiny. What is he doing in Malta? Malta is that place. This is Malta there's barbarians, there's a ship wreck, they barely escaped their lives. We lose everything. It's cold, it's raining on them. The chains, the unknown language. I don't understand anything, and those seasons we often feel nobody understands me and trying to explain I can't make myself understood anyone. I'm suffering alone.

    Nobody understands me. It's also scary. It's threatening. It's so far from my destiny in Rome says, Paul. "I'm so far from why I thought I should be on my way to in my life."

    Here's the question. Have you ever found yourself in a place in your life you absolutely had not planned? Never thought I'd be here. How did my family end up here? How did my marriage end up here? How did my kids end up here? How did my ministry? How did our church? How did my service? How did my career end up here in Malta?

    Malta is the place you never expected to be. Malta is the place in our lives, it's that place in our life that we never thought would last this long, but I want you to hear the Spirit of God saying to you today, "Malta is the place that prepares the miraculous in your life." I see many students, I see many graduates, I see many people out on this graduation 25th graduation weekend.

    Can I say this? We're going to have our graduation in a few weeks in our Bible school in Montreal, with 300 students from all over French countries, and I will say to them, after 30 some years of ministry, the Malta's of questions and doubts in our lives, is exactly the place that prepares us for ministry that prepares the miraculous in Malta. Where everything seems dead, everything is incomprehensible, you are letting go of your assumptions, and of your timetables, and of your plans and your capacities and all of your well-set ideas, strategies, knowledge, and you stand in a place of nakedness before God.

    All I have is you. All I need is you. You are my all-sufficiency. I want to tell you that God says in Malta, God wants in Malta, God wants your trial to become your testimony, really. He wants that season of suffering to become a story of grace that you will minister to other, he wants to grieve and the fear to cause you to grow in faith under his favor.

    The ship that I've sunk will become your season of the supernatural in your life. That the worst valleys will become shouts of victories and of worship before him. Say yes please. That's Malta. Years ago I preached in California and after a week. They took me visiting some sites in the area and they took me to a place I'd never seen before. It's called Death Valley. It is the driest, deadest, most suffocating and lifeless desert in America. Nothing leaves nothing grows year after year.

    Here's what happened one time in a winter 2004 record rains results of El Nino inches and inches of water came over a few months. For a while nothing seemed to show nothing changed but-- And this is history, you can look it up. On Easter 2005 on resurrection weekend 2005 a phenomenon the Valley of death began to bloom. Miles and miles of flowers of every color. I want to say to somebody here today you think you're in Death Valley you think you're in Malta of misery? I'm here to tell you today let him feed you let him quench your thirst let him water your heart right now.

    You say yes, but nothing is changing. I see nothing changing. The water of his spirit is watering your soul and the miraculous is being prepared. Death Valley will find life again say yes please.

    Audience: Yes, please.

    Pastor Claude: I know we're a few weeks after Easter but Easter is not an event on the calendar. Easter is the call of God the Angels did not roll away the stone to allow Jesus to come out. He rolled away the stone so we would come into resurrection. That we would come in and experience the resurrection so that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead would dwell in us and Malta and prepare the miraculous in our lives.

    Romans chapter four our faith is a faith that calls to life what was dead, that calls to hope when there was no hope and that calls to existence what did not exist. I want to declare your valley of death will blossom again under the power of God say yes please.

    Audience: Yes, please.

    [applause]

    Pastor Claude: Shipwrecked under sovereignty. The revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. Here's the third thought. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Acts 28:3 and when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire. A viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand they said to one another no doubt this man is a murderer whom though he had escaped the sea he had justice and that'll help them to live.

    He off the creature unto the fire and suffered no harm. Please let's recap. Paul's in prison for the gospel and he's done nothing wrong on completely false accusations. He should have been free. His captor said he's under chain on a ship. He warned them they don't listen he is there accused condemned unjustly chains at his feet. He is there because of the stubbornness and stupidity of those who would not listen to him but preferring to listen to fools.

    He's a prisoner in Malta, there's rain it's cold he's judged by pagans, forgotten in the rain and in the cold but here's what he's thinking. He's saying even in all of this, just like you sometimes and me sometimes. Even in all of this I'm going to continue I'm going to help them with the fire. Have you ever been in a place where everything you're shipwreck on Malta but you say, "I'm going praise God anyway. I'm going to serve him anyway I'm going to help to this fire. I'm going to continue upbringing my part to the Times Square Church fire. I'm going through so much but I'm going to come and offer the sacrifice of praise before God I'm putting my piece in the fire."

    Say to the person next to you bring your piece to the fire. We need to you. Say that to somebody next to you.

    Audience: Bring your piece to the fire. We need you.

    Pastor Claude: This the place where he's saying, "I'm going to serve God anyway I'm going to go on. Okay, I'm the apostle Paul I'm called to preach in a Colosseum in Rome.

    I'm on this barbarian Island in the cold and the rain but I'll serve. I'm going to bring a piece of wood that the fire because the worst has to be behind me." A viper comes down and attaches itself to him. A viper can you imagine Paul a viper?

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: The heat always brings out the viper. We're in the heat, shipwrecked in the heat of temptation and the heat of pressure or of being forsaken or unjustly accused of being abandoned, being betrayed. Heat of sickness, the heat of losing. [sobbing] Oh beware of the viper, that is trying-- The viper who's trying to attach itself to your hand. The viper of unbelief, the viper of these secret thoughts of sin you would have never imagined you would have.

    The viper, the viper of doubting the whole thing. Is there even the viper of bitterness, the viper of letting your hands go down. Let me ask you a question, have you allowed the viper to attach? Psalm 91 says, "You will trample over the lion and a viper you will keep under your feet." What do you do? Here's the question, what do you do? Vipers will come out of the heat in every situation, at every one of us, but what do you do? What is the strategy for the vipers? Only one thing to do with the viper, shake it off.

    I want everybody to go like this. I want everybody to shake it off, shake it off. Do you understand that Paul preached the most powerful sermon in the New Testament without saying a word. He preached the most powerful message in the New Testament. He shook it off into the fire. Somebody is watching your life as you go through the fire and a viper tries to attach itself to you. My God, we are living epistles, shake off, shake it off, whatever it is, and lift your hands unto Him.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Would you give Him praise, shake it off with your hands.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Shipwrecked under his sovereignty. The revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Here's the other thought or one or two more. Being approved of God counts more than the acclaim and the attacks of men. When you are going through this, don't you keep-- Don't you, have your eyes on what people are saying because you see what happened to Paul. It is almost comical.

    When Paul gather, he shook off the snake, verse four of Chapter 28. When the natives saw that the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt, this man is a murderer." Though he escaped the sea, justice does not allow him to live, but he shook off the snake, the viper into the fire, suffered no harm. However, they were expecting him that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead, but after they had looked for a long time, and saw no harm coming to him, they changed their minds and said, "Well, he's a god."

    [laughter]

    Claude Houde: Nothing has changed from those barbarians on that island to social media today.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: To your Facebook “friends”, to people that are closest to you that should know you, that should know who you're, they should know your character they should know that when you are under attack, that when you are shipwrecked in an area of your life or what they think you're out of God's will or shipwreck or things are not going like they thought it should. Just move away from you and start to murmur to one another and then all of a sudden they come back. Please, whatever you go through don't pay attention to the acclaim and applause of men. Don't pay attention to the attacks of man.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Do you remember His revelation? Remember what Paul said, "Angel of the God to whom I belong, whom I serve." Said, "Do not be afraid." I believe God that will be just as it was told, may the only audience I care when I'm shipwreck and I'm stuck on the island of Malta and I'm shaking off the vipers, that the only audience I care is my God. Let my the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my God, my strength.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Not everyone's acceptance is a blessing and not everyone's rejection is a curse. He who is approved by God has nothing to prove. Your Maker is your mirror.

    [applause]

    Claude Houde: Your Maker is your mirror, the only one that you look at to see where should I be? I want you to know that wherever you go through as your heart stays to Him, just let Him put his approval. Let him put his favor. Don't defend yourself. Don't fight it. Don't argue back. Don't respond back, just trust him and let Him put His hand a favor on you and His favor would throw down every wall, every enemy, every snake, every viper, and every storm say, Yes, please.

    Audience: Yes please.

    [applause]

    Pastor Claude: Let me close with this. The revelation is more important than the reason. When you're shipwrecked under sovereignty you understand that the revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Being approved of God counts more than the acclaim or the attacks of men.

    Here's the last thought. The pain and the pressures you're going through, they're preparing you for Publius. Say, "Who's Publius?" I'll tell you in a second. On April 15 of this year in the week before, the Monday before Easter, the whole world stopped because of the fire destroying the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It was a historical tragedy and one of the headlines that was translated in languages around the world was the tower has fallen.

    I've been to Notre Dame many times and preached in churches all around. They actually had a tower that fell and over a billion dollar was raised over the first three days to rebuild it and president Macron said, "We shall rebuild it." I'm all in favor of rebuilding it. It's a historical site that has great historical significance, but let me say a few things. So much has been-- Let me say three things. The religious and religion can never rebuild lives, whether it is Catholic or Protestant or evangelical or Pentecostal or whatever it is.

    That cathedral never built life, rebuilt life before and it won't rebuild life again. Relationship with the living God will rebuild life, only that. The second thing I want to say is there are towers that have fallen in your life and you found yourself shipwrecked on Malta. There are towers that fall in our lives that don't make the headlines, that nobody talks about and nobody raises money to help us, but are very, very real to us that nobody sees.

    Of course, you understand that on that Island Paul, even with all the doctrinal knowledge he had, and the knowledge of deep revelation of God that he had, must have had every demon in hell saying, "You're forgotten. You're finishing there. You're dying there. There's nothing good that can come out of this." Whatever tower fell in your life, God sees it today.

    Whatever Malta you find yourself in, he sees it today and the pressures and the pain are preparing you for Publius. The third thing I want to say about Notre Dame, we were astounded to see a billion dollars come in three days. One French family gave a 100 million Euros another French family gave €200 million and they're sitting on the platform right here. Thank you Patrick, we appreciate it so much.

    You understand that no billionaires became poor because they gave. No billionaires ended up at the food bank the following week because they gave a 100 million, but Easter and today and every day of our lives is the reminder that when towers fall in our lives, the Son of God made himself poor. The son of God gave everything, stripped himself of heaven to come to your rescue, to come on your island of Malta and to turn it into his purposes. Say, "Yes please."

    Audience: Yes please.

    Pastor Claude: Last verse. The pain and pressures are preparing you for Publius. Acts Chapter 28 and verse 7:10."In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen, the King of the Island whose name was Publius who received us and entertained us courteously for three days." He was generous in the original. "And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went unto him and prayed and he laid his hands." This is so beautiful. "And he laid his hands on him and he healed him. And when that this was done, the rest of those they started coming from all over the Island."

    There's a multiplication, there's a storm, a shipwreck, but on the other side of the shipwreck is the miraculous. When this was done, the rest of those on the Island who had diseases came and they were healed. Then they also honored us in many ways and when we departed, they provided such things that were necessary. Understand Paul had not chosen. We don't choose to end up on Malta.

    Paul did not choose to be in Malta, but he had to choose what he was going to do and what he was going to be in Malta. Am I going to be miserable in Malta or I'm going to be fulfilling my mission in Malta. Just in passing that just stay with me was so beautiful that while he was in Malta, and Luke writes about this years later and he says all these people were there and they were kind to us and it took care of us. Are you grateful to God and to them? Do you remember the people that when you were in trouble were kind to you, were around you to provided for you and helped you?

    Let me ask you this, are you one of those people believer, Jesus follower that when somebody is shipwrecked around you or are in trouble around you, open your not your arm not your finger in judgment, not your-- I understand an entire circle of Christianity, the Christians move away from people that look in trouble. They are been-- They're fair weather friends and when trouble comes, they're like no, I say, God, thank you. I want to be like you, when I was in my worst trouble you came to me. I want to be that man or that woman. Say yes, please say.

    Audience: Yes please.

    Pastor Claude: Say that to the person next to you, when I'm shipwrecked I need you. Say that to the person next to you please.

    Audience: When I'm shipwrecked I need you.

    Pastor Claude: That's the church. This this so beautiful? Can you imagine shipwreck where the rains, the fire and they're surviving? They can't even understand each other and when the snake hits, he doesn't understand what they're saying but he could feel their anger and their judgment and he's going to die and the gods are against him and what's going to happen to me but then he shakes it off and they all look at him for the longest time scripture longest time and when he's not swelling up or dying, they turn and maybe they fall on their knees and say he's a god.

    I don't know how they make themselves understood. You can see him just sitting in Publius' house, the king of their village comes and says, "You come in and be-- " Nobody couldn't even tell them, there is no translators. How can we go about this? But somehow Paul sees and motions and this is my father and he's dying of dysentery. This is Paul. This is you and I please understand that the place of Malta is not the place to just turn on yourself and focus on your misery and pain. How come I'm not in Rome and where is Rome?

    No, where you are in Malta God wants to lead people your way that you will minister to. This is so beautiful. The Bible says that Paul, your pain and your pressure it had to happen. Your pain and your pressure are preparing you for Publius. The hand, the very hand, the very hand with the snake bite wound on it still fresh was laid by the power of God on the sick man and healing began to touch the entire island. Would you say yes, please?

    [applause]

    Audience: Yes please.

    Pastor Claude: I want to be that man. I'm going to ask the musicians to come. I was yesterday so honored to be at the commencement 25th year of and to and I'm saying this I'm so keenly aware of the scripture says, the Bible warns us against flattering lips but asks us to give honor to whom honor is due. She's not here today. She'll be here in the next few weeks but I just wanted to-- If you allow me pastor Carter, I just wanted to honor pastor Theresa and honor Doctor Conlon and I was watching her lead. Maybe she's watching the service.

    [applause]

    Pastor Claude: I was Just watching her lead and in humility and simplicity, but it's such a lead and you could feel that love of the students and everyone that were there and in her leadership and the anointing God gives her and behind that, there's a lot of sacrifice. A lot of just listening to God. There's a lot of Malta's. There's a lot of-- There's a lot of I'm listening to God. There's a lot of I don't know, the reasons but I have a revelation.

    There's a lot of I'm in Malta, but God is speaking preparing me for the next season of ministry. There's a lot of snakes that try to come but I'm shaking them off. There's a lot of all kinds of reactions of men around us but I'm looking for the approbation of my God and to be obedient to Him. There's a lot of pain and pressures that we preparing her for Publius.

    When I was watching her and thinking of my friend, my brother pastor Carter and thinking-- I didn't know all this presentation was going to be made today on the book. It's time to pray that I've read over and over and this book is going around the world and God is using it. Why? Because when they were in Malta when they were in Canada when in his 30s, the physical breakdown and moments when he walked in fields screaming out the God why are you doing this to me but he held on and the revelation was developing in them.

    The reasons are given back to God and the Revelation grows and Malta prepares the miraculous and whenever snakes try to hang on, they shake them back, throw them back in the fire and lift their hands onto God. The Bible said that Apostle Paul said, you follow me as you follow Christ and pastor Carter and Teresa are our friends but they're also models to me, models to so many of us and the reason why there's voice of prayer is resonating around the world now and this book is going through radio around the world and now and this message is going around the world is because when nobody watched nobody see, I've traveled with them all through nations, 6:00 in the morning with elders, wherever we are in the world seeking God.

    When nobody sees, nobody knows, nobody understands. But the ministry was being prepared, the supernatural was being prepared. Whatever Malta you're in now surrender to his purposes. The revelation of the God to whom you serve and whom you belong to is more important, do you understand? Than the reasons, leave the reasons to God. Malta will prepare your ministry, your future, your future page of ministry.

    The next season of your life, whatever snake tries to hold onto your hands, shake it and into fire because the pains and the pressures you're going through now are preparing you for Publius, are preparing you for the purposes of God in your life. In 1985, when they asked me, yesterday was a very emotional day for me, very honored, just be the commencement speaker at Bible school.

    1985 I was invited, I was asked to be an interpreter for pastor David Wilkerson and I was just 20, 21. The reason why I was chosen was very particular. This was a different era of time. Pastor David Wilkerson came to Canada for five weeks on a bus and they are looking for an interpreter to be on the bus with him for five weeks in hockey arenas all over Canada, all over our nation.

    When they gathered all the religious leaders and all the pastors and their superintendents to choose the interpreter and sometimes movements are like that men are men and they would say, "Who would be the interpreter?" Well, somebody would say, "Well, I would propose this brother. He's got so much experience as a great interpreter." People would say, "Well, no. If it's him, we're not participating."

    Then they would say, "What about this one?" "Well, if it's him, we're not participating." Finally, some men inspired of God. I wasn't even in the room. I was just starting out. I was preaching then. I preached over those years 1,000 services to 50 people or less. I was nobody and they, just coming out of Bible school, just a young guy, just coming out of Bible school off the streets and just Bible school and now I'm preaching to 10, 20, 30. We had revival. We had 42 people on Wednesday. It was amazing.

    Then somebody in the back room said, "Hey, why don't we ask the young guy, that Claude pastor. He can translate. Nobody knows him so he has no enemies.

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: My only claim, my only qualification was my insignificance.

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: Say to somebody next to you, "So is yours." Say that to somebody next to you.

    Audience: So is yours.

    Pastor Claude: I was the interpreter for David Wilkerson. I'm on stage with him, the first-- One of the first rally in a hockey arena in Montreal. Well, I'm just streets away from the neighborhoods, the project in which I grew up in Montreal. A few years before selling drugs, collecting and beating people up and collecting and then I'm standing on stage.

    He put a suit on me and a tie, I'm standing on stage interpreting for David Wilkerson and there was a guy in the back that started yelling. He was agitated. He was a young man about my age, from my neighborhood who had become a Christian and he could not even imagine that I had become a Christian.

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: He started yelling, "Stop this. Stop this. This is an imposter. This is Claude Houde. Don't you know?"

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: At the end of the service, they brought him to me and he kept the-- I did the whole service interpreting prayer. It never occurred to him, "Maybe he got saved." I grabbed his face and said, "Brother, I became a Christian too." He's like, "Well." Just a couple of weeks, during that same trip, nobody knew on earth, not even my best friend. I was single when I was preaching in very small places, living in a one-room, just a studio, one-room apartment. I had a piano player to travel with me in that same room.

    We would just small, very poor. The ministry was so hard in French, Quebec and because I could preach in English, I was invited to go preach many times in this large church. I'm not going to say where, this message goes everywhere, but they invited me to come and be an evangelist attached to that American church. Americans being Americans, they put, “This is going to be your salary. This is your apartment. This is a Christian with a car dealership. Which car do you want?” It was all that. I was 21 years old, and I just thought, “I'll go live in the states and I'll come back to Quebec once in a while.”

    On a service in a city in Quebec just before the big hockey arena filled with people, we were going over to message, brother Dave and I, and no introduction, nothing preparing. Nobody knows I got my briefcase with the letter saying, "I'm just about to say yes. I'll be there in January. I'll move to the States." It's too hard in the French. Brother Dave gets up and he goes, [sobbing] "This is a word from the Lord for you. You will be lured. You will be tempted to be lured away from your people. If you do, you'll remain serving me but you'll be out of my will, out of what I've prepared for you.”

    Then he went on. “If you stay, it will be hardship, and deserts, and accusations, and lonely.” I'm thinking, "When's the good part coming?"

    [laughter]

    Pastor Claude: "There will be time when you feel like you're dying. It will be time when you feel-- God will break you, and mold you, and shape you. God will--" I'm weeping and I’m just-- "But if you stay, there will be a wave to the French world, and you'll be at the center of it."

    When he was saying, “You will go from Malta to Malta, to Malta, but if you hold on to the revelation that is greater than whatever reasons you go to, every Malta will mold you into the ministry I've called you to be in. Many snakes, many vipers, will come and attach themselves to you, but if you shake them off by the grace of God, and you lift the wounded hand to Him, the wounded hand will become the hand of healing, and I will use you in ways you can never imagine.”

    [applause]

    Pastor Claude: Yesterday when I stood there so proud, so honored, so privileged, so undeserving to speak at that commencement and they told me, "You're wearing pastor David's robe." From the streets wearing his robe and that not because I'm in any way-- No, just one of many sons from around the world. You don't know the mantle, the robe that God has prepared for you. As you hold on to His promises, through your shipwrecks of your life, and you remain under His sovereignty, He will use you, prepare you, mold you, change you for His purposes. In Jesus name, and all of God's people say Amen and Amen, and Amen.

    [applause]

    Pastor Claude: From the very last row of the balcony to the very first here to every seat in the attics, to the thousands who will download this message by streaming, and Facebook Live, God is speaking to us today. If you’re here and you say, “God, I've been shipwreck but I'm releasing the reasons. I am leaving the reasons to you that I’m leaving the wise to you. I'm surrendering to your purpose."

    I want you to lift your hands to Him and say, "God here it is. Oh God, I've been in Malta. I’ve been in Malta but I believe that Malta is molding me for what you're preparing me to become. I surrender to your purposes." Come on, people of God. In Acts 4, "They lifted their voices together." Can we begin to lift our voice together? Speak to your God. I've had a snake try to attach itself to my hand. I've had a snake of unbelief, and doubt, and fear, and hurt, and bitterness maybe.

    I'm shaking it off by your power and your grace. The wound, I'm declaring by faith that the wounded hand, my woundedness you will use for your purposes in Jesus name. The wounded hand will become the healing hand in Jesus name. You have a Publius of your purposes waiting for me. In Jesus name, would you lift your hands? For a moment even before we sing, and Greg will lead us and pastor Carter will come, as our Shepherd, as our pastor, and our leader, our general, to come and lead us in this closing moment.

    Before we do as Times Square Church can do, would you lift your voices all over the place? This becomes a prayer meeting, a commitment moment, an altar-building moment, where we are surrendering. We are under His sovereignty no matter the shipwreck. I am under God's sovereignty. Come on all over the place, voices up. You from New York, you came from all over the US, you came to speak for God. You came to defend life. You came to stand, and it was such opposition.

    There was such ugliness. Today you need to be renewed in love, and in strength, and empowered, and encouraged to stand. Every man and woman, to the sound of my voice, let me hear the volume of prayer go up for a minute today in Times Square Church. In the name of Jesus, Hallelujah.

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  • How a Really Good Man Ends Really Bad

     

    Tim Dilena

    Exploring the life and ministry of Barnabas, Pastor Tim Dilena shows us how a good, godly person can end their race poorly. That unforgiveness and anger slowly lead us in an unhealthy direction and away from God's desired best for our lives. But there is hope—there are four steps we can take today to course-correct and finish well.

    I want to talk to you about a man who ended up in the wrong place. Who ended up in the wrong city. It wasn't where he was supposed to be. He wasn't as fortunate as many of us that are sitting in this place today because of a bad decision he made. That we see what the end was and where he ended up at. Let me build my case here for the next few moments. I want you to take something to write with. I want you to get ready to jot things down on your phone, on your iPad, piece of paper for us older folks.

    Then, let's just write this down for just a second. How many still use paper and pen, would you raise your hand. This is the old crowd. Okay. Here we go. Let's deal with this. You have to have, I believe, I think you have to have three people in your life that I think are really important. I think you have to identify them. I think everybody in their life needs someone in the genre of an Apostle Paul. What do you mean by that? Everybody needs a Paul which is really an older person, mentor.

    I think coach that can build into us. Not necessarily someone who's smarter or more gifted, but really someone who has more journey, is more weather beasten. Has been down the road and can guide us and literally it's somebody that's willing to share their strengths and weaknesses. Someone that literally could say, "I've learned this in the laboratory of life and let me walk you through that." Let me just say this, you are never too old to have an Apostle Paul to look up to. You're never too old.

    We always call it in our family, 'processing up.' If all you do is process this way, that's dangerous. Who do you process up with? That someone that can speak out of experience and out of relationship with God that can walk you through. I think everyone needs that. I think everybody needs a Timothy in their life. It's someone you're investing in. It's a young person, somebody that you are affirming, encouraging, correcting, directing, praying for.

    It's who we would say and let me just say this to staff and leaders at Time Square Church. We say it like this. Who's your bench? Who is it? We'll say it like this. This is really important. You get hit by a bus on Broadway, who then takes over? Do we have to go out and find somebody? Our job has to be investment. If Greg leaves here and get's hit by the bus or get's hit by the F-train, we need some-- I'm just saying. Then who takes over? It's really important.

    Pastor Teresa. Who's the bench that we have. It's always important that we're looking for that. Someone that we're bringing up and bringing to that place. Then the third person. Not only a Paul, Timothy, but jot this down. I think everybody needs a Barnabas in their life. Let me tell you what a Barnabas is. It's someone who loves you but is not impressed with you. That is willing to say, "Hey, I think you're messing up here. I think the way you spoke to your wife is not the right way.   I haven't seen you in church, I love you enough to tell you this."

    It's somebody in our life that we know we can trust, that we have to make sure that I think it's important that those three people are part of our life. That there is a Paul that we process up. That there is a Timothy which is a bench for us and that there is a Barnabas, someone who loves us but is not impressed with us. I went on a journey, I only did it once and it was interesting. Social media allows you to do this. I kind of went on a journey with people.

    I've been in ministry for 35 years and it's amazing that social media will allow you to see people that started in ministry with you and to see where they are today. Sometimes that's a scary thing. To see people that started in ministry, started with a fire, started with a real passion and a calling and to see where they've ended up today. From very questionable lifestyles to areas that I think would almost be scary for me that I kept thinking about.

    Thank God for the Paul’s in my life that kept me on track. Thank God for the Timothy’s that motivated me to continue on and thank God for the Barnabas’s that loved me enough to tell me the truth. A lot of what happened to those people that I went on a journey to see what has happened to them, I think I started to realize that one of these men that we talked about had an ending, which I think will surprise us. We find most of his life in the book of Acts and then we got to jump to another book of the new testament to see the final word, if it was like going to social media, the final word about this individual and his name is Barnabas.

    I'm going to tell you about this man Barnabas and I want you to follow with me on a journey. They say that since Greece started in a sense, the Olympics and those games that the world celebrates, it was interesting. I was reading something that they said that the first races that would take place was not simply a race that would happen with legs and speed when it was a running race, but they used to have to run it with a torch in their hand. That's where we get the torch being passed from country to country.

    They said it was the man that not only finished the race first but finished with the torch still burning. I thought to myself, "God, I want to finish this thing with my fire still lit. I want to finish with a fire alive inside of me." That's what I wanted to see. I want us to take a look at Barnabas' torch. I want us to see and I want you to make the judgment call if it was still burning at the end. Let me walk you through a journey. Just jot this down with me as we go through because it all starts in Acts chapter four.

    In fact, his real name is not Barnabas at all. His real name is Joseph. Barnabas was a nickname in Acts 4:36-37. It was literally for two things. This man is known as an encourager. That's what the name Barnabas means. He's also known as generous because in Acts 4:36-37, Joseph, who later becomes Barnabas as a nickname because he is such a positive, encouraging guy to be around. Can I pause here for a second and help you Times Square with something that happened with me yesterday here at Times Square that I want to encourage you.

    Can I help you? Somebody said this to me and I had to say, "Stop. Let's do this the right way" They said, "Pastor Tim, I want to just say to you, I want to encourage you, but don't get a big head. Don't get prideful." I said, "Stop right there." I said, "If you're going to encourage me, then do it right." I said, "You are not--" Listen to me. Stop saying that. We live in a culture that beats us down. You're not the pride police. Okay, let's just get that straight.

    If you're going to encourage them, then just say it. Just don't worry about pride. The Holy Spirit can worry about that. After service at six o'clock if pastor David is good, "Pastor David, I just want to say this, but don't get a big head, but you really did it." Just say you did a good job. Okay, enough of that. Here we go. Here's what I wanted to say. He was encouraging and generous, sold the plot of land and gave everything to the church. Then in acts chapter nine, we see him show up again. He is a visionary. It's an Acts chapter 9 that the Apostle Paul becomes a Christian.

    He's on the road to Damascus and this man who is killing Christians now comes into the church and in Acts 9:25-28 when he gets there, the Bible says that all the believers were afraid of him and that they were not only afraid of him, but they thought he was faking is what the Bible says. "Then Barnabas brought him the Apostle Paul to the Apostles and told them how he saw the Lord." I mean, think about this. What would you do if you just saw Jesus become born again? You show up into the church and everybody's skeptical about you.

    You'd almost go, "It's better to be out in the world. At least people are real. They don't even believe that I have a relationship with Jesus." I mean, think about this. If it wasn't for Barnabas, Paul could have just threw it all away and said, "Man, the people in the church act worse than the people out on the streets." In fact, let me say it to you this way because the Bible says Barnabas took hold of him. Listen to these words. Truth be told, if there was no Barnabas, there may not have been an Apostle Paul. Think about that for a second.

    If Barnabas didn't go, "No, this guy's for real. He saw Jesus." We don't know if there would have been an Apostle Paul because somebody believed in him. Think about this. He is an encourager. He is generous. He is a visionary. He saw something in Paul that not even Peter, James and John saw. Do you know what the other thing is? He was in disciple or talk about a bench. Acts chapter 11. Jot this down, verse 25.

    He goes and finds Saul again in Tarsus. What he does is when he found him, he brought him with him to Antioch, spent time there by pouring into Paul challenging him and even letting him do ministry with him. It was Barnabas and Paul at this time, so it wasn't like just, "Let me introduce you to the church," but, "Let me grow you in your relationship." Think about that. You are generous. You are an encourager, you are a visionary. You are a disciple. Here's another one, Acts chapter 13. He is a pioneer.

    The first missionary team to go out is Paul and Barnabas. It says that in verses two and three, that the church right in the middle of a worship service, separate Paul and Barnabas and sent them out on the first missionary journey. Think of that for just a moment. You have an encourager, you have a generous man. You have somebody who's a visionary, a discipler, a pioneer. Acts 14 says that God was using them both in a healing gift, read the story on the first missionary journey.

    They were calling them Zeus and Hermes, because people were getting healed and they had to stop them and say, "This is the power of Jesus." When you think about what was going on, generosity, you think of the encouragement, you think of the visionary to see something in Paul that no one else saw, a disciple or not just to lead him to cry or to help them into the church, but to grow him. To think of him being a pioneer, to have gift things from God of healing.

    Finally in Acts 15, he's literally seen as the church spokesman, he is an elder spokesman in the church. The church hit a pivotal moment in Acts 15, of wondering which direction we're going to go and literally facing a racist direction. Do we allow Gentiles even to come into the building, to even be part of the church? It was Paul and Barnabas and especially Barnabas in verse 12, that has to stand up and the Bible says all the people kept silent, they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they’re relating the signs that they saw among the Gentiles.

    Literally, God would take this man, an encourager, a generous man, a visionary, a pioneer, a discipler, a man who had a healing gift and an elder spokesman in the church, think about who this man was. Then something happened in Acts chapter 15 that I want to read to you. This is where I think something begins to go awry, and finds him in the wrong place. Listen to verse 36. "Some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaim from the first missionary journey and see how they are."

    Verse 37, "Barnabas wanted to take John called Mark along with him, but Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along because they deserted him in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work." Now, Times Square, look at verse 38, "and there occurred such a sharp disagreement, they separated from one another. Barnabas took Mark with him, sailed away to Cyprus and Paul chose Silas and left him being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. He was traveling through Syria and Cilicia and strengthening the churches."

    I want you to think for a second Barnabas one more time. Think about this, an encourager, he's generous, he's a visionary, he's a discipler, he's a pioneer first missionary team.

    He has a healing gift. He's the elder spokesman at the Jerusalem council. There's no more mention of this man except one more verse. This is if you would go on social media in the first century, you'd find out. We don't have anything after Acts 15:38 until six years later, we have one more mention of this man Barnabas.

    Who is the visionary, who's the encourager, who's the discipler, who is the elderly spokesman, who is the one that is the generous man? Let me read to you the final story of the man that I'm not sure ended up in the place that he was supposed to be. Listen to Galatians 2:11. "When Peter came to Antioch I had opposed him to his face," this is Paul speaking. "For what he did was very wrong." When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers who were not circumcised but afterward when some of his friends of James came, Peter wouldn't eat with the Gentiles anymore.

    He was afraid of criticism for these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. Look at verse 13. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter's hypocrisy even Barnabas was led away in the hypocrisy. I want you to think about this for just a moment. This is Barnabas, the man who is generous, the man who is an encourager, he's a visionary and a discipler, he's a pioneer. He has a healing gift, he's the elder spokesperson and the last thing we have of him is he's called a hypocrite?

    Think of this for just the moment. I remember one of my Paul’s in my life that I processed up who used to say these words to me. He says, "Tim, always remember this. That the best of man are still men at best. The best of men are still men at best." Barnabas the encourager is now ending with being called the hypocrite. Barnabas the encourager is now finding himself in a city where I was hoping to be in Jamaica, God said you need to be in Detroit because that is going to begin to change the trajectory of your life.

    Really for me to end up in Jamaica would be like Barnabas because it's like Barnabas ending up Galatia. Paul's ministry partner, Paul's first mentor, Paul's co-partner and missionary has now gone hypocrisy and what a harsh word to hear the man that was discipled now calling his discipler, he's involved hypocrisy. I think that this is so important. The first verse of Barnabas in 30 AD he's an encourager and a giver. Now you think about 54 AD, his last verse ever given in Galatians 2:13, 24 years later Barnabas is finishing his race it seems like as a hypocrite.

    Listen to me, hanging out with people that are really starting to bring him down a road that he never should've gone before. How does a good man end up bad? How does a good man who starts off right, how does the torch go out on something like this? Because what's deceiving about Barnabas is he is hanging out with religious people and we think everything's okay because he's hanging out with religious people, but doesn't realize that the very people he's hanging out with are part of the same thing that he's doing, which is the hypocrisy.

    I don't think I'm out of bounds here to think that six years later we get this Galatians verse that something happened to him in that disagreement in Acts 15. I don't think I'm out of bounds to look at a passage in Acts 15, the Bible uses this word, "Sharp disagreement. They go their separate ways." I have to believe when you look at the passage and the scriptures that something didn't get right in Barnabas. Something happened at that moment in that disagreement that six years later has him in hypocrisy.

    Think about this for a moment, Times Square Church. You take a boat and just one degree off doesn't seem like much, but go one degree off for six years you can end up in hypocrisy. Just to be here, to not have somebody in your life to correct the one degree. Someone in your life not kind of just go, "Let's get that back in line, " but to continue on with something that's in there and to go on for six years, you end up where Barnabas did, which all of a sudden you go from encourager and you end up six years later because you didn't deal with something there, and you end up in hypocrisy?

    You end up after all that happens, all that stuff in the book of Acts, just that one degree for six years. Think about this for a second, just for a moment. Acts 15, on that second missionary journey to Galatians 2 is six years. That means that that disagreement sat in his heart may be for six years. Now, listen to me close for a second and jot this down.

    If there is a lie that I want you to get today it's this, time doesn't heal all wounds. That's just a phrase that people say. That's not Bible. That's not true.

    Listen to me close. A wound overtime doesn't heal, it corrodes the hearts. It begins to start bringing something there that you end up one degree of-- Think about this for a second, let me just say it like this. Time is an awful doctor for a wound in the heart. It mistreats and deceives its patients, because the only thing that heals wounds is forgiveness. Not time. Time doesn't heal. Forgiveness.

    What happens is, when something gets broken, when a heart gets broken, when a spirit gets broken inside of us, if it's not dealt with, the longer it goes on, the more off course you become. That's the danger that goes on. That's why it's so important for us to understand this. I know we're right in the midst of-- here in New York, baseball season and everybody's excited about the Yankees that they're doing so well with like six people on the injured reserve.

    Let me give just a baseball thought here for a second. Just a thought. Everybody goes watch it, I'm a Met fan. Let me just say this to you just for a second. Let me go all the way back to the '30s, considered to be one of the greatest pitchers ever in the '30s. In fact, there was only two people in the last 80, 90 years that literally had 30-game season, 30-game wins in a season. One was Denny McClain for the Detroit Tigers, and another man is someone that we know his name by his nickname, kind of like Barnabas.

    His name was Dizzy Dean. They were on the path, his team was on the path to becoming, literally going to the World Series and what took place literally ended his career. He was playing in the all-star game and when he was pitching a ball during the all-star game, hit him and broke a bone in his left foot. What happened was, because he wanted to win the World Series so bad, he still pitched the entire season with a broken foot.

    In order to do that, when you're throwing a ball, you got to put a lot of weight, you got to end with a lot of weight on that foot. What he did was, he found a way to not put the weight there, but to really change his arm trajectory, and to throw it and they said, throwing the way you are and as fast as you are literally ended his season in two years. What he did was he adjusted because of something broken, he adjusted and ended his season.

    What I kept thinking about was this, when you don't get something fixed, and you still stay in ministry and still preach and still sing, something has to adjust in us, something that literally-- Look at me for a second. Listen choir, if there's something that got stuck here, you have to adjust. You can't sing certain words, you can't say certain things when you know that there is a wound inside of you.

    You can't lead and preach certain ways if there's something inside of you, because when you do, now you have to switch your pitching motion. What that does is shorten your longevity because now, you're broaching a place called hypocrisy that literally can destroy what's going on inside of your hearts.

    [applause]

    This is for all of us. This goes for everyone starting with me. Listen, if a relationship is broken and you don't address it and try to fix it then we adjust our Christian walk, we adjust our words. You can't finish well, the torch doesn't burn. You can't finish well with unforgiveness. I had a close friend, a friend of the family that I remember going to a funeral and while we're at the funeral, the child-- Let me say it like this, because David Wilkerson was involved with this.

    There was a family many, many decades ago that had a child that had a terminal disease and they asked brother Dave to pray for the child. While he was praying the Holy Spirit spoke to brother Dave and said, "I'm not going to heal this child, I'm going to take him home," for whatever reasons. Brother Dave wrote a letter to them and said, "I've been praying and I want you to know that God is going to take your child, but he's going to comfort you, he's going to be with you in this."

    That person took that note, folded it up and carried it for 40 years. I saw the note at a funeral when all of a sudden at a funeral, they opened it up, it was literally falling apart because it's been opened and closed to show so many people saying, "Look what he said." What he said was true. The Holy Spirit did speak to him and for whatever reason. Literally, for 40 years, they're carrying around a note to show people and all I'm watching is their whole life, 40 years of something getting in. Barnabas six years, he's in hypocrisy. Let that thing go on for 40 years, who knows where we end up at?

    This could be a day that God finally gets us back on course today and lights the torch again so we can finish well again. We've got to believe that God shows us these things in the Bible. That's why the Apostle Paul, and I wonder if he had this in mind, when the Apostle Paul writes a few years later in the book of Ephesians it says, "Listen, you will have sharp disagreements with brothers and sisters. You will have sharp disagreements on staff." You will begin to have sharp disagreements, but you got to fix them before you get on that cruise line around New York City.

    Listen to me close. Listen, the apostle Paul says you will have those. You're not unchristian because you're in an argument. The Apostle Paul says you have a time limit, though. It's not six years. It's not even next Sunday, it's sundown. You are allowed to be ticked till sundown. Then you got to get it right. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said. Listen to these words, jot this down. Ephesians 4:26, and 27, "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry. Get over it quickly. For when you are angry, you give a foothold for the devil." That’s what he says.

    [applause]

    Could it be what the Apostle Paul was saying was, he says, "I've seen it firsthand." I saw it in my mentor. I saw it in my person that discipled me, that I processed up with. I saw it with my ministry co-partner, that he let the sun go down in his wrath, and all of a sudden, the one degree is going now a day. It's gone a week. It's gone a month. It's gone six years, and now the marriage is hanging on by a thread. Now, the relationship with your parent, because of what a mom did or a dad did. What a pastor has done.

    We think if we come to Times Square, that we can just leave the church that we were at, and all of a sudden, but really Times Square is not God's direction. It's your deviation to get away from what you were supposed to deal with. Some of you are going, "I knew we should have went to that other church today."

    [laughter]

    [applause]

    I think it was Corrie ten Boom, the great woman of God that came out of the Holocaust that said this. She said, "I can forgive but I can't forget is only another way of saying I'm not forgiving." I think God may be showing us not to take those disagreements lightly. They have a possibility of setting a course and a bad finish. How do you fix it? I want to close with this. How do you fix that? Let me be practical, and then let me end with the big picture.

    I want you to get this today because I think we've got to get-- I don't want you going for six years. I don't want you to have a note for 40 years. I want to help you today for just a moment. Just very quickly, I want to speak to you. Not what the person did, I want to help you so you don't get off course today. You need to write this down. Number one is this. I want you to have high expectations of you and low expectations of people.

    Pastor Tim, that, if you just stay with me. High expectations on you, low expectations on them because what I want you to do is, I want you as you make the journey to make something right, have no expectation if they're going to apologize, have no expectation that they're going to own it. I'm saying put the expectation on you because some of you won't forgive because they won't own it. Some of you won't forgive because they won't apologize. I'm telling you, you can forgive without an apology from them.

    Some of you have gotten one degree off and because they haven't done their part, you haven't done your part. I'm telling you, the expectation needs to be on you, not on them. We start, does that makes sense? Stay with me because I'm going to be in your grill for just a second here, just say with me. High expectation on you, low expectation on them. This is you making it right, not them making it right. Number two, you apologize for holding a grudge and not making it right.

    You apologize, what?! You apologize and said I need to come to you. High expectation on you, low expectations. What if they don't own it? It doesn't matter. You're not going to Galatia. You're not going to end up in Galatians 2. You're going to end up in the right place. Number one is high expectation on you, low expectation on them. Number two, you're going to apologize for the grudge that you held. You didn't say, "I should have come to you and I didn't have a chance to come to you."

    Then you're going to say this, number three, get ready. You're not to choke this out, "Please, forgive me." Thank you. High expectation on you, low expectation on people. Number two, you are going to begin to apologize for holding it and you're going to say, "Please, forgive me." You're going to end number four by praying for them. This is the worst service I've ever been to in Times Square Church history.

    No, I just going to get your torch burning that when you finish this thing, you're going to be right on course and finish the right way today. Listen, because some of you have been off, you've corrected your playing. You've corrected your singing, you've corrected your leadership and today we make this right. We go like this. High expectation on me. "I want you to forgive me, please. I've held a grudge."

    They're going to look at you like, and they're going to pretend that you're the person. Like, you're the problem.

    That's okay. That's when you're going to go, "Please, forgive me." Not with an attitude. "Forgive me." You're going to say it the right way. There's none of this.

    [laughter]

    There is none of this. You're going to say, "Please, forgive me. I've held a grudge. Can I pray for you?" At that point, back on course. At that point, we don't end up in Galatia, we end up with a fire still burning inside of our hearts and lives.

    [applause]

    Let me close. I want Greg since he's still alive.

    [applause]

    I want you to come. This is really important. I want you to understand how important this is because this doesn't only deal with the relationship that we have with each other. Listen to me close. It also deals with the relationship we have with God. Nothing is worse than to go to a family reunion, a family gathering and know that there's an elephant in the room that nobody's dealing with. Anybody ever been there before?

    Nothing is worse than to think that I've come to church and I've dealt with God because I'm in His house and there's an elephant in the room called, "I haven't dealt with this sin in my life." Some people think that if I just come to church that God is happy. Let me define to you the difference between a religion and a relationship. Listen to me close. Let me tell you what a religion is. Religion is a lot of hard work to try to impress God so much that he's going to invite us to live in heaven with Him and in His house forever.

    That's what religion is. "I'm going to make you like me God so much that when I die, I did so much for you to like me that you're going to bring me to heaven." Look at me folks. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be in church and to think I'm in church, all is good but not deal with the relationship with God. That will go on for a long time and that will get you off course. What do I have to do Pastor Tim? You've got to deal with a broken relationship with God. Church doesn't fix it. Tonight we're going to celebrate water baptism. Can I just tell you, if you go into that tank and you're not born again, you're just going to come up a wet sinner.

    [laughter]

    That's all you come up. You don't even come up clean because there's nothing in that tank-- Let's just be clear. Here's the truth. We don't bring that water in that's not from the Jordan. That's not Israel water. Can I say where that water is from? It's good New York water. That's all that is. How many know New York water is not going to change your life? Let me just say that. The only one that changes you is God himself. This building, don't be deceived that just because you stood up and clapped with the choir.

    Just because you got excited about a message, and just because you sang some songs, that everything is right here, because, in order to be right this way, we have to fix that relationship. "Pastor Tim, how do we fix that relationship?" Let me ask you the most important question anybody can ever ask you, and it's this, "Have you been born again?" It's the most important question you can ask, not, "Did you go to church?" Not, "Did you get water baptized?" Not if you're a Catholic, you're a Jewish, a Protestant.

    You have to ask that question. Jesus said this. Jesus said these words, "Unless a man or woman is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven." That's Jesus. You cannot get away from those words. If you want to go and say, "Well, I came to church. I did this." Okay, let's just be really clear. Jesus said the way you see heaven is not being in church, not taking communion, not being confirmed, it's not being, "I was dedicated as a child." It's not even that your parents went to church. It's, "Have you been born again?"

    "Pastor Tim, what does that mean?" It's us dealing with that relationship because some of us have gotten so far off thinking, "I'm a good person. I've done all this." That you've gotten so far off that it's time to get us back on course here today. "Pastor Tim, then how does that happen?" Look at me for a second. Those in the annex, every home fellowship group, New Jersey, Summit, listen to me close. Jesus was saying this, as definite as you had a first birth, you need a second birth. That's what he was saying.

    What is that? Okay, listen. My birthday was December 22nd, but I had to have a born again or second birth date where God began to change me, like Greg sang, from the inside out. Here's the part that I think we have to understand. "To fix that relationship, Pastor Tim, how does that happen?" I'll tell you this every time. It's as simple as ABC. Each one of those letters correspond to a word. A, it's admitting that we're a sinner. It's admitting that there is a sin issue inside of all of us that we can't fix with a priest, a pastor, a promise or even a program.

    There's nothing. We can't fix it by going to church. You can drink all the communion cups you want to. There's not enough grape juice that can cleanse you free from that. You can't do it. You can try to act. You can make promises, "I'm not doing this again. I'm not doing this again. I'm not doing this again." We end up breaking promises. Today, we've got to come and realize that there was a broken part of us called sin, that we can't fix ourselves. We can try to fix the outside, but it's the inside that has the problem.

    "Pastor Tim, then, what do we do?" That's the B-word. That's believe, that Jesus was sent by God the Father to fix the relationship with Him. How does that happen? When He died on the cross, He died in my place. He lived a life that I couldn't live, died a death that I should have died and gave me a heaven that I didn't even deserve. That's exactly what God has come to do for everyone here. God loves us enough. He is trying to fix the relationship, the disagreement, the sin issue between you and God today.

    You can't fix it by just showing up today. It has to be a decision to go, just like you would go to a person. "God, forgive me. Come and change me from the inside out." Some of you have sat here, you've sung and you've listened, but today could be your second birth date. Because if you can fix you, then why would God have to send His own Son to die for you? Listen to this, because if you can fix you, then God sending Jesus through the abuse of the cross is the worst case of child abuse in human history, but we can't fix us, but God can.

    It's A, admitting I'm a sinner. B, believing that God died for me and C, confessing Him as Lord saying, "You're the boss now. You're in charge of my life." Religion wants you to come on Sunday, relationship wants to see you every single day. Religion asks for 10 AM on Sundays. That's what religion does. Religion says, "Come at 10 AM and sing the songs and be part of a club." Relationship says, "How God is in charge of my life. God is the one who's in charge."

    I want everybody here to bow your head with me, please. Annex, balcony, main floor, Summit, Jersey campus, every home fellowship group, I want you to listen to me close. The most important question is that disagreement between you and God because we are born with a disagreement between us and God that has to be fixed and today, it could be fixed by being born again. How do I get to heaven? You have to be born again. In fact, Jesus said these words, "You must be born again."

    Times Square can't get you to heaven. This church, we can't get you to heaven. Jesus can. Today can be a second birth for you today. I want to pray a second birth prayer, a born again pray with you today. With every head bowed and every eye closed, I just want to ask you that question. Have you been born again? Today could be that day. Today is the day that it all changes for you. You may have been off-course but today we get back on course. This is the moment that we know.

    It's not prayer that changes you. This is the day that we go, "God, this is me." Some of you are trying to figure out, I've done this and I'm presently doing this. I'm just telling you, you don't get good and come to Jesus, you come to Jesus, and He makes you good. Don't try to fix yourself up, come. Come with all that's inside of you and let Him start the process. If you're here today, you say, "Pastor Tim, when we pray that Born Again prayer, I want to be part of that, I want to start a journey." Okay, listen to me close. Perfect people don't go to heaven. Forgiving people go to heaven.

    If you're here today, come on and start that journey with God, "I want to be born again. I want that disagreement between me and God to be fixed." If that's you, and you're here today and say, "Pastor Tim, I want to begin that journey." Every head bowed, every eye closed and say, "Put me in that prayer. I want to be part of that." Would you just raise your hand right now, hold it up as high as you can. As high as you can, keep them up as high as you can. Balcony, main floor, keep them up.

    Here's what I'm going to ask you to do. Keep them up. I want to pray with you right now. Would you just, let me say, you won't even have to be embarrassed because these people are going to cheer crazy for you. If you have your hand up, would you stand up and walk down here and meet me right here quick, balcony and those people, just stand up, balcony stand right up. Come on, if your hand's up, stand up. These people are going to let you out and we're going to clap.

    I want you to come down here, quickly. Balcony, come on down. This is going to be a great moment for you. Come on. Hey, come on, Time Square. Let's begin to thank God for them coming down.

    [applause]

    As they come, let's all stand. Come on, as they come, put your hands together as they come. This is a new day for us today. I'm so excited. I'm so excited today. This is going to be a second birth date for you today. Balcony, our ushers are going to let you down. In fact, as you stand up, our people are going to excitedly let you through. In fact, some of them may tap you on the shoulder going, "Way to go." That's awesome. That means we're excited for you today. We're excited for you today.

    Come on, come on down, come on. Get closer because I want to pray with you. We're going to wait just a few minutes because some of the balcony people are making their way down. You being down here is exciting to us because you know what you're doing? You're fixing that relationship with God. How many know we've tried to make promises and they just don't, they just never work out, but we can. What happens is when God comes and lives inside of us, then He works from the inside out. That's what makes this exciting.

    I want us today, before-- I know we're going to end with some baby dedications. Before we dedicate these babies that were born physically. We've got to pray with these that are being born spiritually today, is what we're going to do.

    [applause]

    We just want to wait just for a sec. I'm so excited. We're all going to pray this together. This is a prayer we're going to pray. Literally, we're just saying, let it come from your heart. This is God who loves you so much. He sent His own Son to die for you. This today, we're waiting for you. We want you to come down. We don't want to miss you. We want to see you down here. I'm so excited.

    Times Square, this is why we exist. You got to take care of your sharp disagreement with people. They're taking care of it with God today. That's what makes this exciting. I want us to support them. I want all of us to pray this together. Come on, let's say these words out loud. Would you close your eyes and say this, "Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you're the Son of God. I believe that on the cross, you took my sin, my shame and my guilt and you died for it.

    You face hell for me so I wouldn't have to go. You rose from the dead to give me a place in heaven, a purpose on earth and a relationship with your Father. Today Lord Jesus, I turn from my sin to be born again." Come on now say this with me, "God is my Father, Jesus is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my helper and Heaven is my home. In Jesus name." Come on, put your hands together.

    [applause]

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  • Faith to Heal From Offenses

     

    Claude Houde

    Hurt from others, particularly those we care about, can have devastating effects in our life. Sometimes we hold on to the bitterness and unforgiveness to our own demise. However, God calls each of us to forgive. In this powerful sermon, Claude Houde reminds us that we are never more like God than when we forgive others in faith. 

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  • One on One | With Eternity

     

    Tim Dilena

    Impressing God has nothing to do with what you've done and everything to do with what Jesus has done for you. The truth is, you can't pay the price, so why are you trying? In this thought-provoking sermon, Tim Dilena talks about our place in eternity.

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  • Secure, Significant and Spectacular

     

    Gary Wilkerson

    Many of us have a core wound that discounts our identity as a child of God and creates room for temptation to lead to sin. In this authentic sermon from Gary Wilkerson, he shares how to seek healing for your wound and move into your God-ordained purpose with joy.

    Pastor Gary Wilkerson: Let me pray and ask God to bless the teaching of the word here this morning. Father, we ask you to come by your supernatural power, say things through me that would bless your people. You love these people, you have a heart for them. You want to see them thrive and grow and develop and be free and be filled with joy and life and victory. You care about the brokenness, you care about the struggles, you care about the marriages that are difficult, the children that are facing crisis maybe in learning styles, you care about the financial stress and difficulties, you care about the depression, the anxiety, the fear, all these things in our heart, God that you just want to set us free from so that we could walk in the greatest victory we've ever known before. 

    I asked you allow this world to accomplish that. In Jesus name, amen. In Luke chapter three, if you would turn there is during the baptism of Jesus Luke 3:21. It says one day when the crowds were being baptized Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying the heavens open and the Holy Spirit in bodily form descended on him like a dove and the voice from heaven said, "You are My dearly beloved Son, and you bring me great joy." Or another translation says, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." When did the Father say this about the Son? Was it after the cross? 

    The resurrection? Was it after the raising of the dead? Was it after the Great sermons that he had preached? Was it after the miracles that he performed? Was it after the rebuking of the dead religious systems of his day that the things that the Father God would look at His son and say, like, he's doing a great job, I am so happy, all this stuff that he's accomplishing all that he is able to do for me that really brings pleasure to my heart. It's not. Jesus heard these words spoken over him before he had done any of these things. It wasn't what he had done. It was who he was. He was a son. The father saw him as a son and said, that's what pleases me that we belong to one another that we are in company with each other that we have fellowship. It's not based on what we've done, what we've accomplished, our accolades, letters that are after our names through our diplomas. 

    It is He's well pleased. He's well pleased with you. I don't know if you know that church or not, but some of you are sitting in here and you're thinking one day God will be pleased with me. When I, then I, when I do this, then he'll be pleased with me when I finished that, then he'll be pleased with me. When I get to this level of sanctification then he'll be pleased with me. When I stop that particular sin, then he'll be pleased with me. When I start giving more because right now I'm having a hard time giving then he'll be pleased with me. When I pray a little bit more then he'll be pleased with me. It's always when I do something, then he'll be pleased with me. 

    The truth is, can I say this emphatically? He's already pleased with you. He already loves you. He can't love you any more than he already loves you right now. It's not based on what you do. It's based on whose you are your his. You belong to him if you've met Jesus, if not, let's take care of that before the day is over. He is pleased with you, he loves you. The father said to the son, I love you. Chapter Four, let's go ahead, very little time after this. Matter of fact, just immediately then Jesus 4:1, then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit turned from the Jordan River, and he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he's tempted by the devil for 40 days, Jesus ate nothing at the time and he became very hungry. 

    Then the devil said to him, if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become a loaf of bread. Do you see? The temptation here is not take the hungry stomach that you have and turned these stones into bread, the temptation is not throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple. The temptation is not just all these kingdoms if you'll bow before me will be yours. There's a temptation that comes before every other temptation. There's something that leads to heart that might be open to temptation. When you are tempted to sin, when you're tempted to turn from the things you know are obedience to the Lord, there's always a pre-temptation to the temptation, and that is this one. 

    What the devil said to Jesus, “If you are the son of God. Now what did the Father just say to him? This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. The temptation always starts not with something but with an identity question. If you really are beloved, if you really are accepted, if you really are chosen, if you really are like some of these songs we sang here this morning, if you really are my anointed one, if you really are and that's what the devil comes to us. 

    If he can get us to question that in the first place, then that opens up the door for all these other temptations: the temptations to sexual immorality, the temptations to addictions, the temptations to pride, to anger, to fear, to depression, to suicidal thoughts. All those are secondary temptations that are born out of believing the first lie of that you're not a son, that you're not a daughter, that you're not chosen, that you're not loved, that you're not looked upon with favor just as you are, not as you think you should be for Him to love you. He says to his servants, well done, good and faithful servant but He doesn't say that to people who have completely perfectly done it all so well. 

    Isn't that amazing? You see, I think he's not going to say, well done to me until I've done it all well. Matter of fact, even almost like perfectionism that I have to do it perfectly for him before He could say that to me, but it's not true. He's saying that to you right now. Well done, well done. You've got up this morning. You came to church this morning. Well done. You're, you're listening to the word of God well done. You're, singing songs of praise well done. He's already saying that to you. Not waiting for you to say, well, I can't say well done, until you improve this, fix that, change that, repent of that, turn from that and get better at this. 

    Do more of that. More and more and more and more. He's not waiting for that. He's saying to you, you are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter, well done. I am pleased with you. 

    [applause] 

    When you have that mentality, then when the temptations come, the lustful temptations, pornography, the alcohol the cheating on the income tax or these, the temptation to, fill out your timecard at work a little differently than he should to all those temptations lose their power. You see, so many of us are wondering why is there so much power in sin? The power is in sin as the secondary power of the actual committing this in itself. The first power of temptation is to get you to doubt that you're loved by God, accepted part of the beloved, that he speaks over you well done. Jesus had this amazing connection with his father. He knew who he was. He knew he was loved. When Satan came and he tempted him in three different, the first one, is turn stone into bread. 

    It was a temptation for security. It's born out of fear. I don't have enough. I better work towards making something happen. I better turn this into that because I fear because I don't believe I'm a son or daughter. If you are the son of God, that's the first temptation. Now if I'm not sure that, then I'm not going to be sure of my security and I'm going to have to start trying to earn it through works, and I have to turn stone into bread. I'm going to have to make things happen. It's based out of a scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality says I don't have enough. 

    I may not have enough. I'm afraid my children might not have enough. I'm afraid my job might not last. I'm afraid my bills may not be paid at the end of the month and there's this temptation to try to get security in your own strength. Jesus was faced with this and he was able to overcome it. Why? Not because he had everything he needed in the sense of I've got all the money I want, I've got a house, I've got a horse. He didn't have any of that, but he's still able to stay secure. Why? because you heard that voice that says I'm a son and I'm already loved just as I am. I am loved. He was able to overcome that first temptation. The second temptation, he took him on a high mountain, verse five and he said, all the kingdom is will be yours if you'll give-- 

    "I'll give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them," Devil said, "because they are mine and I can give them to anyone I please and I will give it to you if you will worship me. The second one is the idea of significance. The first, is security and then the second one is significance, You can be somebody, you can lead something, you can have a name. You can have a reputation, you can have glory, you can have authority, you can have power, people can applaud you. You can have significance and Jesus didn't have to look to the world to sin to the temptation to be significant because he already knew he was significant. 

    Why did he know he's significant? Because he heard these words. He didn't have to hear this word of the devil. If you really are a son, he heard the word of his father. I am a son, therefore I have significance, so he doesn't have to bow to that. The third one is to be spectacular. Throw yourself off the top of the temple. Throw yourself down and you're going to fall hit the ground and you're not going to die and people are going to come. Wow, you are amazing. You are special, you are not like everybody else and there's a temptation within each of us. If we don't feel and know that we are accepted and loved, we're going to start looking for love in being special. 

    I'm above somebody else. I do more than anybody else and then that puts within us a desire to be recognized for everything we do. Well, I was in the worship team this morning and I sang and nobody patted me on the back. They patted so-and-so on the back. I preached the sermon this morning when nobody told me that was the greatest sermon they've ever heard in their life, and therefore I don't feel special, unique, above. One of the great joys in life will be when you realize youre normal. 

    [laughter] 

    When you just accept this and go like, I'm just happy to be normal. I don't have to be special. I don't have to be unique. I don't have to be above anybody else. I don't have to be better than anybody else. I don't have to compare myself to anybody else. I don't have to preach better than anybody else. I don't have to lead better than anybody else. I don't have to sing better than anybody else. I don't have to give more than anybody else. I just have to do what Jesus told me to do. 

    Congregation: Amen. 

    Pastor Gary: Just to be myself and that's freeing. That is 

    [applause] 

    There's so much freedom in dropping all of these things of security and significance and being spectacular. There's such freedom in saying, I lay all those things down,” and I can wake up in the morning and just say, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” and I'm alive and I'm free and I'm victorious and I'm loved and I'm accepted and I don't have to strive for things. I don't have to try to make life work in my own efforts for security, significance and being spectacular. I can already know that I'm loved. Once you say all those other temptations are really temptations to try to get love. The love by making a secure environment for those around you. The love of being spectacular or significant, all those things are really desires to be loved. 

    Now I want to go back a little bit and just move away from Luke three and four and just talk to you from my heart as a pastor. Maybe can we take the last few minutes we have together and just maybe you see yourself coming into the pastor's office and you just want to talk for a little bit. You just want to share some things that are on your heart because one thing I've noticed in churches all around the world is that our people are hurting. People are looking to be loved, the people are feeling insignificant, people are feeling insecure, people are feeling like they're not special. There's this hunger in our heart. God, I believe in you and I trust you and I love you and I worship you, but in my heart, there's something wrong. Or in my life, there's something that's missing. 

    Or in my family, there's this struggle or in my body, there's this thing or my mind is oppressed by these things. We come to church sometimes we don't really face the honesty of these things. We don't face the fact that we're being tempted in these ways that we're speaking of this morning. We put on a good mask and we come to church and we're all, how are you this morning? Praise God. I'm just wonderful, lovely kids you are going great, but inside you're thinking, my life is miserable. I hate my husband. My kids bother me to know end. I just, on my finances are a wreck. I am depressed, I am discouraged and some of us feel that way. A few of us here in this room feel that way, but you don't want to tell anybody. You don't want to talk about that. 

    If you were coming into my office, we had the privilege of sitting down for an hour or two together, you might begin to talk about these things. The trauma, the difficulties, the pain, the sorrow, the suffering. Everybody in this room has suffered greatly. Not one person in the room has not suffered. Even the children in children's church have suffered. They've been hurt in some kind of way. You have been hurt. Things have happened to you in elementary school and junior high and high school and your married life or your children going in certain directions or your lack of having children, whatever it might lack of having a marriage that you wanted to have these things hurt, they cause difficulty, and yet we're longing to be loved like, the father said to the son so that we have that sense of security and significance and worth and value and that you were born that way. 

    Did you know that? The scientists tell us that in our mother's wombs, we feel what she feels. Did you know that? They actually have now been able to put sensors on the child in the womb before the child is born and begin to ask the mother put the sensors on the mother and find out if the mother's anxious. Do you know what they find out they trace? There's an anxiety that happens in the baby in the womb or if there's mothers feeling stressed, the baby feels stressed. If there's fear, the baby feels fear. You see the blood pressure, things begin to change even in a little pre-born child. If the mother is joyful, there's different chemicals released in the child. 

    What is happening in the womb, the sense of connection to the mother is already happening to the baby, go all that way to the end of life. Have you ever noticed? This happened to me. My uncle died yesterday. He passed away in his late 80s. His wife, my aunt, had died just several months before he died. They're both healthy, both good, and then she ended up getting cancer and passing away. Then, a few months later, he passes away as well, just gives up. No cancer, nothing or certain things happen in his life. Basically, he just gave up. 

    Have you ever noticed that happens when people had been married for a really long time? When one spouse dies, the other, sometimes follows suit very quickly after that. That doesn't always happen, but sometimes or quite often, that happens. There's a sense. What I'm trying to say to you is from the cradle to the grave, there's this sense of connection, the desire to be attached, this desire to be near, the desire to hear the words that we're talking about. "You're my beloved son. I love you. I'm pleased with you." It's this desire for connection, for love, for belonging. 

    What happens in our life is we face certain types of traumas. I think there's two types of trauma. One is something that should not have happened to you that did happen to you. Some form of abuse, words spoken over you, situations that have happened in your life that has caused trauma, traumatic events that have taken place in your life. Then, there's a trauma that some in this room have faced and are still dealing with some of the residue of that trauma that took place maybe even at a young point in your life. 

    There's a second form of trauma that most of us don't recognize that is affecting our life in a very powerful way, but it goes oftentimes very unrealized because it's a softer form of trauma. Nonetheless, it's a trauma. This is something that should have happened to you that did not happen to you. Are you following me? The first form of trauma we all know about is if a kid gets struck or abused sexually or abandoned. You have the sense of that something that should have never happened to that child. Everybody knows that's trauma. The thing about that type of trauma is highly recognized and often dealt with at a rather early age because it's very difficult to escape from the pain of something so traumatic in your life. 

    The second form is not something that should not have happened to you that did. It's something that should have happened to you, but it didn't. You should have been loved, you should have had a sense of belonging. You should have been paid attention to, you should have been valued in your upbringing. You should have had joyful moments in connecting to your father, to your mother, but those things, for many people, didn't happen. For most people in that second category, this type of trauma is not highly recognized because you see like, "I had a good home. My father was a Christian. My mother was a Sunday school teacher. We went to church every Sunday. They never beat me. They never yelled at me. I never had any significant event where I looked back and say, "When I was 12 or 10 or eight, this happened to me." 

    You don't see this as trauma. Doctors and psychiatrists and Christian counselors now see this as a form of trauma that is oftentimes more difficult because we don't really think we need to deal with it because we say, "It wasn't that bad. My father never said I loved you or so my mother was gone a lot or so my dad traveled, or he was emotionally distant from me." These things in our life that should have happened to us. There's this withholding of affection or withholding of that-- That causes trauma. 

    From your birth, even pre-birth to your death, you were created for connection. You were created to be loved. God said about Adam, "It's not good that he's alone." You were meant to be with other people. You were meant to be in community, you were meant to be loved deeply the way the Father loves you. You were meant to have people around you that love you as well. When that doesn't take place, it births a trauma. This withholding of affection, this withholding of belonging, or it might be a love or acceptance that is based on performance. 

    Do you remember? The Father said to Jesus before He had done anything, "You're my son. I'm well pleased with you." For others of us, it's been, "When you do this, then I'm pleased with you. When you're a star football player, then I'll be pleased with you. When you make it through college with a 4.0, then I'll be pleased with you. When you become a doctor, I'll be pleased with you. When you marry the right person, then I'll be pleased with you. When you go to church enough, I'll be pleased with you." Whatever it is, we get the sense of, "I'll only be loved, I'll only belong, I'll only be accepted if I performed a certain way." 

    Attachment and belonging is based on performance not on the acceptance of you just for who you are. That causes a core wound in our heart. You see, as children, we don't know how to discern. We don't know how to distinguish these type of traumas. A child will almost never blame a parent saying like, "My father is abandoning me. My mother is abusive towards me." Children will almost exclusively, and I've seen this through 40 years of pastoral counseling. Children will hardly at all blame their parents. They blame themselves. "There's something wrong with me. My father doesn't give me affection because I must be unworthy of love in some way. My mother has neglected and abandoned me because I must be not living up to her expectations." 

    Therefore, we begin to hide ourselves. We begin to say, "I'm not good." We get what's called a core wound. We begin to say to ourselves, "If only I were more like this, if only I were spectacular, if only I were more significant, if only I had more security financially, then I would be loved, then I would I'd be accepted." We begin to say, "I'm not enough. I have this thing." We begin to say to ourselves, "I'm defective. There's something wrong with me because I'm unworthy of love or belonging because I am--" 

    Then, you fill in the blank, "Because I am stupid, because I am fat, because I am slow, because I am lazy, because I am unworthy, because I am unlovable, because I am not enough, because I'm not smart enough, because I'm not strong enough, because I'm not wise enough, because I'm not rich enough, because I'm not handsome enough, because I'm not athletic enough, because I'm not skinny enough, because I'm not beautiful enough." 

    We begin to get this sense of, "I'm--" Basically, at the end of the day, most of us in this room, one way or another, are saying, "I'm not enough. That's why I'm rejected. That's why I'm hurt, that's why I'm alone, that's why I'm fearful, that's why I'm anxious, that's why I'm under stress." There's this wound in us that's come from the trauma of our histories. Even if the trauma doesn't seem that bad, there's this wound in our heart. I have not met a person yet who doesn't have a core wound in them, someway or another. Many, it's been healed, many are delivered, many are set free, and they're walking in victory, but at some point or another, there comes a time, and I'm being honest with you-- 

    This is not the most exciting like, "Hoo-hoo, hallelujah, praise the Lord," sermon. This is some tough stuff we're talking about here. It's important because I don't want you to leave this church here today without having, number one, a knowledge that there's something in our hearts that the Holy Spirit wants to heal. Number two, having faith and confidence and belief that he wants to bring that to the surface so that he can heal it,- 

    Congregation: Amen. 

    Pastor Gary: -and that he will heal it, and that there is freedom for you. There is victory for you. There is life for you. There is overcoming for you. Many of us don't ever get to the victory, to the life because we're suppressing. We're pushing it down, we're putting in denial saying, "No, I'm not hurt." It's not enough if at the core wound of your heart says, "I'm not enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not worthy enough. I'm not lovable enough." If that's the core wound of your heart, how many of you know that just by confessing something-- How many of you know that's not going to be enough? Your core wound says, "I'm not enough." 

    You go like, "Well, let me confess. I am enough. I am good enough. I am lovely enough. I am kind--" You look in the mirror and say like, "I am beautiful. I'm handsome. I'm good." You're not going to believe yourself. It's not strong enough to talk yourself out of it. There has to be a deliverance, a setting free that is stronger from the sense of defect, the sense of the core wound. Now, before we get into the healing, and we'll talk about them in the last few minutes we have. What happens when you have a core wound is this refusal to surrender to it. You'll try to make a life that will improve upon it. I don't know if that makes sense to you or not. A core wound, maybe it says, "You're not enough." 

    For me, my father was a very successful pastor and leader. When I got into the ministry, the first sermon I ever preached, I came down off the side of it and an elderly woman was standing and she goes, "You sure don't preach like your father." 

    [laughter] 

    I liked it. I said, "Well, thank you. I didn't want to. I wanted to be myself." 

    [laughter] 

    Gary: But inside, I was hurting a little bit. Like, "Okay, I'm not good enough." That trend started even at a younger age, but it went through even in my early 20s and 30s. There was this core wound in me. My core wound, I can say it easily as possible. I know it clearly is, "I'm never enough no matter what I do. When I preach the sermon, it's not a good enough sermon. When I lead a church, it's not being led well enough. When the church grows to over 1,000, that's not enough. It should be 2,000. Just never enough." 

    For others of you, it's financial. "I make this much money, it's never enough." For others of you, it's something inside of you, that's it. What we do is we build what I call a false construct. Out of the sense of, "I'm not enough, I’m going to build a life that is enough." Jesus, he didn’t have to say "Okay, I’ll throw myself down. I’ll turn the stones into bread." He didn’t have to construct a false life because he knew where life was found. 

    If you don’t know where life is found from this core wound that you have, from the trauma that you’ve had a core wound is formed, and out of that we begin to build a life. Are you following me? Trauma, wound, and then you begin to build a life. 

    How am I going to build a life that will prove to me and prove to others that I am valuable, that I am worthy, that I am lovable, that I do belong, that I am accepted? I’ll build a life. 

    For me, I use religion. I’m going to build this whole scaffolding. You could picture a building being built and the scaffolding all around it. I’m building this tower and it’s better sermons and more leadership and more mission trips and more podcast and more World Challenge development and more mission outreaches and more programs and more strategies. That’s not enough. I better read more books so I could preach better sermons. That sermon wasn’t good enough. I’m going to go to a conference about how to preach sermons better and then just building this thing. 

    One day many years ago, I had this vision. I was up on top of the scaffolding that I was building. It began to sway. Have you ever been up on a tall building and the top of it begins to-- or in a tree, if you're in a top of a tree and begins to sway a little bit. The scaffolding surrounding it begin to very-- this life I had constructed seems to be very insecure. 

    I’m praying. Who helps me when I’m insecure? The Holy Spirit, Jesus. Jesus, please help me. This building is shaking. I’ve spent my whole life trying to build this life of significance, and security, and being spectacular, being overcoming the sense of not being enough. 

    Finally, this looks it’s enough but it’s shaky. It’s not secured. It’s not on a good foundation. I’m asking Jesus to come help me in this vision. He’s standing at the bottom and he grabs hold the scaffolding. I’d go, "That’s good. He’s going to secure this thing up. He’s going to hold this building. This life that I’m building, he’s going to hold it up." 

    All of a sudden he starts pulling it back and forth. I’m, "Jesus, what are you doing? You're making it worse." He rocks it back and forth until it begins to crumble and it begins to fall. I say," what are you doing Jesus? You're supposed to be helping me build life. You're supposed to be helping me become successful. You're supposed to help me overcome the sense of never being enough. Instead, you're tearing it down. You're letting my life fall apart." 

    Jesus says, "That’s a good thing." Let that false life that you're building on the sand. Let it fall apart. Let it crumble. Let that life you're building on personal value and success and notoriety and fame and fortune and pats on the back and financial rewards. Let that life just crumble because it’s built on sand. The good news is that Jesus loves us so much that he will allow our life to fall apart. When it’s built out of trying to compensate for core wound in our heart. 

    You see, he doesn’t want for you to spend your whole life trying to compensate saying, "I’m going to prove that I’m enough. I’m going to prove that I do belong. I’m going to prove that I’m loved." Instead, he’s going to tear that sense of life trying to be built on, trying to prove it. Saying, let’s just get rid of that. Tear this temple down, in three days I’ll build up another one. I’ll move it to a place called a rock, a solid foundation. 

    Upon that rock, he will build his people. He build his church. Upon this rock, a solid foundation when the winds and the waves of temptation, when Satan comes and says, "You're not enough." These wounds in your life were going to destroy you and these things cause you fear and anxiety and stress and depression and angst of soul and dread of life. When you wake in the morning and not feeling good about being alive, and Jesus comes and said, "No, you can’t build your life up. You got to switch it over to here to where there is a core change." That’s what I want to close to. Then there becomes a core change in who you are, a true inner wisdom of who you really are in Christ. 

    It’s not just an external confession. External measures, validation are never enough. If you have that core wound inside you birth out of a trauma and you're looking for some kind of validation. I am good enough. People tell me I’m good preacher. That makes me feel good. It’s not enough, right? I made this much money. That was that building I was building. You get there and he goes, "It’s not enough." External validation never will heal the internal wound. The validation of being significant or having enough or feeling you're enough or belonging a certain way externally through money, through fame, through riches, through popularity, through religious pursuits, never enough. 

    That’s why the Holy Spirit allows that to be destroyed so that your life could be placed on a solid rock where’s there's-- that you're not looking for external validation. You're not looking for accolades. You're not looking for applause. You're not looking to be better than others. You're not looking to be spectacular. You're just saying, "I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy to be a son. I’m thrilled to be a daughter." you tear down that false construct and see what happens then is life can flow through you. Now, the first few days, weeks, and months, when you allow this thing to be torn down, you're doing something that we talked about in Teen Challenge, the drug rehab program. You are actually detoxing. 

    If you live your whole life for success, for fame, for money, for religious notoriety, for accolades in church life, if you’ve lived your whole life that way and the Holy Spirit tears that down, the first thing you're going to experience is detox. Oh, no. I don’t have anything. What do you I do? Where do I go? What type of work do I do? What type of thing do I do to get applause or to get approval or to get acceptance? What do I do? 

    It said, "You're detoxing and it hurts." You have to pass through that. You have to allow that pain. You have to allow that sense of-- I’ve spent my whole life over here in this construct. Now the Holy Spirit strung me to a new place and allowed that new place to have it. Otherwise, these wounds are healed insufficiently. The trauma is healed but only superficially until we lay that thing down until that core wound can be healed. You see, then we’re free. We’re free in a new way. No longer live our life based on something we’re trying to prove, something trying to earn, something we’re trying to gain. 

    We’re not trying to prove to ourselves and to the world, I’m finally enough. You know why? Because you already are. You're not trying to prove you belong, because you already do. You're not trying to be loved because you already are. The one is building a whole life of I'm not loved but I’m going to get loved by the way I behave or the way I live my faith. 

    I’m not worthy enough. I’ll be worthy by making a lot of money or becoming this type of-- getting recognize this kind of way. The other way, you're building your life on a foundation that rock says, it’s the stability is I’m already loved. I’m already accepted. I’m already approved. What happens then? 

    All these things that the Bible talks about that are blessings, fruits that are given to us out of a tree that grows up on the right foundation is joy and peace and patience, and kindness, and goodness is joy, long-suffering. It’s a life of contentment. It’s a life of delight. It’s a life of freedom. It’s a life of breathing. You know what I mean? Just breathe. You wake in the morning, "Man, this is good. I’m happy to be alive. I’m not striving. I’m not pressing. I’m not gritting my teeth trying to bootstrap it in Christian faith, to be more, to do more, to accomplish more. 

    I’m just saying, "Thank you, Jesus." Now, some of you are afraid of that. I was afraid of that. I was so afraid of that. I can’t go from this to that because that is weak and mamby-pamby and milk toast and that’s water-down gospel. That’s just, "Ooh, I have peace and all that." 

    To me, it’s really feminine. Excuse me women. It’s very feminine like, "Oh, peace and joy and love." I don’t want peace and joy, and love. I want power and victory and overcoming and kingdom, establishment. I don’t want joy, and kindness and tenderness. Now I see, out of that joy and kindness and contentment, gratitude, generosity. Out of that comes all the power stuff. Out of that comes all the kingdom stuff. 

    That’s where authority comes from. That’s where power comes from the simple things of life that we wake up in the morning we’re just, "I feel good to be alive. I’m not trying to be a good Christian. I already am. Not because I’m good, because what Jesus good things in myself and I’m free and I’m alive and I have victory and I-- I don’t know what time it is. I can’t see the clock. It’s time to stop. 

    I close with this and said that three times now already. You are loved by God. I started with and I close with that. You are already loved by God. I want to ask you to do one more thing besides being loved by God. Many of you in this room you have known for a very long time that you are loved by. I’d say 99% of this room would say, I believe I am loved by God. I would say only 50% to 60% would say I love myself. 

    God accepts me. Yes, but I don’t really accept myself. God approves of me. He likes my life, but I don’t like my life. I’d say more of us are struggling with the second issue of the way we look at ourselves. This is a very controversial topic in the church. I’ve preached this last point before. I’ve gotten emails from people saying, "Oh, you’ve compromised. Your father would--" 

    I had one email, it said, "Your father would turn over in his grave." I wanted to write back, "He's not in his grave." 

    [laughter] 

    I spoke on this point of not only receiving the fact that God loves you but receiving the fact that God wants you to love yourself, to accept yourself. To believe in yourself, to feel good about yourself. To not be always hating yourself, always feeling like a failure, always feeling like having no worth or value or belonging. That he wants you to have a sense of belonging, of worth, and of value. You were created in the image of God. That alone gives you value. Just the fact you were formed in your mother's womb, that alone gives you amazing value. 

    Jesus said this, "Love your neighbor as yourself," and as He was saying that, He didn't use the words phileo like a brotherly love or eros, like romantic love. He didn't use it as a community love, He used the word agape, right? If you know that word, it was the, agape, it's the unmerited favor of God. The love of God that's not based on performance. He's saying the way that you agape others, you're supposed to love others with the love of God. The way you agape others, agape yourself. In other words, don't love yourself just in a communal way, or in a brotherly way, or in a kind way, or in a gracious way, love yourself in a godly way. 

    Love, agape others as you agape yourself. It's important that we come to-- You will never feel peace, you will never feel joy, you'll never feel contentment, and you will never overcome anxiety, fear, stress, angst, depression, suicidal thoughts, even, you will never overcome any of those unless you first come to this place of saying, "I am accepted by God. I don't have to build my life over here, I can come to this point." Then, over in this point, not only am I loved by God, but I like myself a little bit." Now, it's not pride or arrogance, it's not self-centeredness, as a matter of fact, it's as far from self-centeredness as you get. 

    What empowers other-centeredness is when there's contentment, where you're not having to live to try to prove yourself, to try to make something of yourself, you're saying, "This is who God made me to be. I'm changing, and I'm growing, and I'm getting sanctified, and I'm going to keep that process going, but right now, today, I thank God for who he made me to be. I accept the skin that I'm in and I'm willing to walk in this with joy," Worship team, you guys should come back. Thank you, all, come back. Would you stand with me, please? I just want to pray for you and ask God to bring healing. 

    He wants to heal, He loves to heal. I believe He heals physical bodies and we can pray for that today, but today, I think, particularly, He wants to heal broken hearts. He wants to heal people's lives who are hurting in a struggle, who are, as we said today, building their life out of the sense of a wound or a core wound of a trauma that took place. Maybe, just as I've been talking today, you're starting to realize, it's like "Yes, pastor Gary, you kind of described me today a little bit. There's some things, some events have taken my life that maybe I've never really even dealt with, or I've dealt with a little bit but I've never really seen a transformation in my heart. 

    I realize, today, I've been building my life trying to prove that I'm something, that I'm somebody, that I'm loved. That I'm significant, that I'm secure. That I have something spectacular, I can prove that, and I've been living that way, but today, I want to live this way instead. Where I don't have to try to talk myself into being accepted, and belonging, and loved. I don't have to talk myself into it because I know it." I can honestly say to you today, I'm not trying to prove I'm enough. This may sound like boastful, but you'll just have to get over it if you don't like it, I am enough. I'm enough just the way I am. I'm enough. 

    [applause] 

    I don't have to-- The devil still comes after me. I will drive to the airport later this afternoon. I'll be driving so I shouldn't have said that and I went too long and they didn't like me. That'll happen, I promise you. I pray for me if you want, I don't care. Because the residue of the satanic temptation is still there like, "Are you enough, Gary?" Now, I have something because I'm not trying to live that life and now I have something to say, it's like, "No, you're not going to get me with that one again because I know who I am in Christ. I know I'm loved by God. I know I'm a son." I don't have to prove it by good sermon. 

    I don't have to prove it by great leadership. I don't have to prove it, I just have to be His son and enjoy being a son. That makes Christianity fun, it makes it breathable rather than stressful. It makes it like "I like being alive. I like being a Jesus follower. I like my Christian fellowship." 

    [applause] 

    See, the opposite of the trauma that we're talking about is joy. The trauma will cause you to build your life on the wrong foundation, joy will cause you to live a life that is peacefully moving in the direction that He has for you. That's where that power comes from. Why don’t you bow your heads and close your eyes, and I want to pray for some of you today. If you need that shift from the sand to the rock, from traumatic life that is striving and stressful and angstful, and maybe even depressed or discouraged, fearful. 

    You want to shift over to-- You've tried all the positive confessions and you've tried the scripture verses you've put on your refrigerator and saying like, "I am the righteousness of God in Christ," but deep in your heart, you're saying, "No, it's just not real." You want to move over today to say, "No, I'm not going to try to be good, try to be loved, try to be accepted, I'm going to accept it today that I already am." That is the major shift, that moves you over to the rock. If you need that prayer over here, would just raise your hand right now wherever you are and say, "Pastor Gary, would you pray for me?" 

    Healing, freedom. Yes, many hands. Jesus, I pray for my friends right now. I believe we want to do a really, really deep work in their heart right now. I believe you want to do miracles in this place today. I believe you want to set captives free in this place today. We get real honest right now and say, Lord, there are many hurt and broken hearts in this room here today. They have been traumatized by events that should've never happened to them, or things that should have happened to them have gone missing. They just weren't loved and accepted, and have a sense of belonging, and they're still wrestling with that today. 

    They've tried to build this life to get that, I pray that right now, Lord, you would rock the building, rock the structures that they've built, and just allow them to peacefully say, "Ah, I can tear that down. I can let that go. I can let go of that striving. I can let go of that angst of trying to create my own life to get what I need, and instead, I can find you, Jesus. I can find life, and peace, and joy. Move us now, Jesus." I wish I could take all these who raised their hands and spend the next two, three hours walking through the fields with them and just praying and talking. Lord, we don't have that opportunity, we just ask for something even greater than that, it's that you would walk with them today. 

    You would speak with them today. You would do miracles in their life today. You would draw them to some this, Lord. This is not a one-time event. There are certain things that are one time events. You can get saved in an instant, you can get healed in an instant, but this is a journey. Moving from a falsely constructed life of pain and sorrow, suffering and striving to peace and joy, it's a journey. It's a process. Lord, I pray that they would be patient with themselves. I pray they would not stuff these emotions down, but they would allow you to explore the things that are in their heart. That they'd become honest with their Christian fellowship. 

    That some of the men in this room would confess to their brothers, some of the struggles that they're going through, some of the things that they use to try to overcome the pain of their life. Some of the sisters in this room would begin to find a friend or two and really get open and say, "I never told anybody this, but this is how I feel or this is how I was hurt." I pray that this church will become an honest place. Not become, I believe it already is, but even more so, God, that it becomes an honest place. The masks would be torn down and there would be a safe place to speak to somebody. 

    I pray that you would watch over us as a gentle shepherd. That we would just make sure we speak to the right people and not the wrong people where doors of gossip might be open, or condemnation, or shame, or guilt, but, Lord, there'd be some good people that you would allow us to address the needs of our broken heart to. That this process of healing that's starting today would be a journey. I'm asking that word in faith right now that today starts a new journey of healing for some people who have been living for a long time with a broken heart, and full of anxiety, and fear, and stress, building this false life. Move it over now to Jesus. 

    Take a moment just to pray as we sing this song together, and then pastor Nick will come back. All right, thank you, guys. Appreciate it. 

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  • Enemies of Our Faith

     

    Claude Houde

    There are enemies to your faith; obstacles and forces clamoring to steal your trust in God and his provision. When hope seems far off, the answer invisible, or the beginning small, trust in a God who provides abundantly more than you need. In this sermon, Claude Houde reminds us of the faithfulness of God in even the most dire situations.

    ... that led to speak on the topic of enemies of our faith. We must discern, identify, confront, and learn to overcome and protect against the enemies of our faith. Now, faith is a substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By faith, the elders obtained a good testimony. There's no other way to obtain until the end a good testimony for Christ, but by the renewing and the defending of our faith and there are enemies to our faith. For without faith, it is impossible to please him. Think of it. Think about. Think about how the enemy wants to steal, corrupt and abort your faith. Because without faith, it is impossible to please him. There can be services, it can be a faithfulness to church and singing and structures, even prayer, even praise, even preaching. But without faith it is impossible to please him.

    Let me do a little survey here this morning at Times Square Church. The word of God as a call to ... This verse has been in my heart in the last weeks and even years. The responsibility of faith for us that have been walking with the Lord for a season, their responsibility to be models of faith. Let me make a little survey. How many of you have known Jesus? You're a believer. How many of you have been born again for more than 10 years? Let me see your hand. Look at that. How many of you more than 20 years? Look at that. How many of you more than 30 years? Wow. 40 years? No more ladies. No more ladies raising their hands.

    10, 20, 30, 40 years. To all of us that have been walking with the Lord and singing, worshiping him and seeing him so faithful, the author to the Hebrews gives this incredible word to all the young believers. There were thousands of young believers and he actually tells them to look to us, to look to us as models. He says in Hebrews Chapter 13, "Remember those who are leaders or elders or are teachers who have spoken to the word of God to you, whose faith follow, whose faith follow considering the outcome of their conduct. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." It's astonishing to me and it's very humbling the sense of responsibility that the idea here, the commandment here is for all young believers to look to us who have shared the word of God with them, to look to us. And to follow our conduct of faith and to actually see how we live our faith through the struggles and the pain. And then live our faith through the battles at the mourning and the defeats and the incomprehensions.

    And as you go through, you see, he says to the young believers, "Look to those who have brought the word of God to you and follow their conduct." Amazing things. If you've been a believer for many years, as many of you have, the young believers, your family, unbelievers, backsliders are called to look to you. And for our faith, for my faith, and for your faith, to be the living proof that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I want you to say this to the person next to you. You can look at me. Say that to the person next to you. Because that's what the author of the Hebrew says. He says, "Look to them."

    So I need more than salvation faith. I need more than saving faith. Saving faith ... I need more than saving faith for heaven. I need now faith for this earth. I need more than singing faith or scriptural faith even, or I need sustaining faith, surrendering faith. And I need supernatural faith every day so that my life becomes the incarnation, my life becomes the living proof that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That he heals today and holds us today. And can you say yes, please.

    Now the epistle, and Jude, actually even more than being aware of the battle for our faith, actually Jude called us to contend for our faith, to fight against the enemies of our faith. He actually, and we look at Jude and Jude is the brother of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had other children naturally after the supernatural birth of Christ. And we have their names in scripture, James and Joseph and Jude. And Jude only believed in Jesus as Messiah after he saw him resurrected, after the resurrection. We can imagine him in the book of Acts. We can imagine him at Pentecost. We can imagine him and he becomes an apostle and he becomes a voice for God. And he writes a letter to believers. He intends it to be ... I'll read it a second. He intends it to be a letter of comfort, a letter where we all talk about our common salvation, a letter very in line with a modern message where everything's okay, it's all good. We're all the same, all under grace, and let's rejoice in our, let's have a kumbaya, a general kumbaya around our salvation.

    And he says it, "Beloved," verse three to four, "I was very diligent to write to you. This is what I wanted to you concerning our common salvation. But I found it necessary,” in the Greek I found it urgent." He is gripped by the Holy Spirit to write to you, to exhort you, to awaken you, to contend, to fight, to battle earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints. Why? For certain men have crept in unnoticed who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turned the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I had intended just to bring us all together and just talk about our common faith, but I was seized. I was shaken by the Holy Spirit, and I became urgently, urgently aware that I needed to tell the body of Christ. And I thank God for still today, 2000 years later, for men and women of God and men of God that stand in this pulpit and still understand that there are enemies of the faith. And we need to contend for the faith and we need to stand for the faith because you see ... Why?

    Because it wasn't a "Oh, you're right because of the enemy outside." Oh, in this case he's not speaking of enemies outside. He's speaking of enemies from the inside. He's speaking of men that come in and they've transformed the grace of God into lewdness. Literally they wear the grace of God, they wear it as a label, but they don't walk in the light. They have a confession, but there's no change. There's no transformation. They sing the song. They sing songs of grace and they sin while they're in grace. There's a sense in Jude that we are to be awakened to contend for the faith. Now when you add the word faith in scripture, pistis, 228 times. In the original Greek, its simplest form is most profound. A sense is that faith as being persuaded, being convicted, being certain, being assured, who is wholly persuaded and convicted that without this persuasion, this conviction of this sense of being so persuaded of God and his word and his call in my life and under grace of my need to allow his Holy Spirit to do his work of transformation in me. Without this faith, it is impossible to please him.

    Now, did you know that that the scripture specifically speaks of the last days and says that in the last days, the faith, that sense of conviction, that sense of this is the word of God, that sense of I will face God one day, I will be before him. That sense of conviction and persuasion, that in the last days in the body, many will wax… the faith, the pistis of many will wax cold. They will have a form of godliness, but they will deny the very power thereof. So when the son of man comes, will he find faith? Will he find men and women that will be battling, that will be defending, that will be discerning, that will be crying out with the disciples, "Oh Lord, increase my faith"? Now when you look at scripture, there's only two times that Jesus marveled. He marveled only two times. Now the word thaumazó, marvel, is used 43 times, but only twice by Jesus. And in both in relationship to faith. In Matthew eight, verse 10 to 13, when the Centurion comes and my servant is dying, Jesus says, "I will go to him. You don't need to go. I'm not worthy of you coming, but just say a word and he will be healed." And Jesus heard it and he thaumazó. He marveled and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, such a great conviction and persuasion and confidence, not even in Israel." Then Jesus said to the Centurion, "Go your way. As you have believed so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed in the same hour. Jesus marveled at this man's faith. The word thaumazó means he was stunned. He was filled. Jesus was astonished to find marvelous, to be filled with awe, with admiration and wonder.

    But the word in scripture in the New Testament also is sometime used in the contrary, to be stunned, to be horrified, to be angered, to be saddened. And in both cases it has the implication in the Greek of out of breath. It took my breath away to see this man's faith. So Jesus marveled at the unlimited faith of this man, but he also marveled at what I call the unbelief of familiarity. Only twice did he marvel. He marveled at this man's faith. But then in Mark chapter six, verse four to six, when he comes to his own country, when he come among the people that knew him the most in his early years, Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and among his own relatives in his own house."

    Now he could do no mighty work there except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled. He thaumazó. He marveled because of their unbelief. He was astonished. He was angered. He was saddened. He was stunned and horrified at their unbelief. The terrible danger of familiarity.

    I pray. I have been praying, even for this message, praying in the last weeks in preparation for this morning. I prayed that God would give us a fresh sense. I pray by the grace of God that not one of us that belong to this church, would ever become familiar, would ever take for granted the presence of God that is here and the word of God that is preached and the prayer alive that is here and the fruit of this church and the miracles in this church. Look around you. This entire house is a house of miracles. Can you stop with me one second this morning and say, "Oh God, we're not familiar. We're just worshiping and so grateful. You are God and you are awesome in this place." Would you say yes, please?

    And when we look at ... As we learn together in these two messages to discern, identify, and confront, overcome the enemies of our faith, we will look today ... We could look at many men and women of faith in scripture, but we will look today at Elijah. So I want you to turn with me to First Kings 18. First Kings, chapter 18. Everybody, First Kings 18. If you don't have your Bible, you can share it with the person next to you or it will be on the screen. The verses will be on the screen as well.

    Now when we look at Elijah, we look at a man of faith. We look at a man that had to battle against enemies of his faith, but we've got a man of faith. And his faith as detailed in many chapters, but we look at chapter 18 that his faith was faith with a conviction to call kingdom choices. Now, if you are walking true faith, your faith calls you to choices every day. And a true faith, true preaching of faith calls people clearly to convictions and to choices. In verse 17 of chapter 18 of First Kings, then it happened when Ahab saw Elijah, he’s the king. And Ahab the King said to him, "Is that you, oh, troubler of Israel?" But he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed Baal."

    We, the church of the last days will have to stand in persuasion and will have our call to build the kingdom of God and to call and to stand with these convictions. A little bit later on in verse 21, Elijah said, "How long?" Speaking the word of God to the world, but speaking it to the people. And Elijah came to all the people and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if it's Baal follow him." But the people answered him not a word.

    We in these last days will be the people of God that will be anointed to build a kingdom of God by a faith in a society and in a world and an ethos that is increasingly and violently discriminatory. In a world that calls evil good and good evil. In a world that looks at the church with mockery. Will look at the church even as a nuisance to be silenced. We will be, and we are, on the great many pulpits in the world, and great temptation to just fold in. We are called to stand in faith and the faith of God would always call us to choices. Choose ye today who you're going to serve.

    It's also faith with Christ like compassion. He is calling, he's standing that persuasion, that conviction for God and his commandments, but there's not a fiber in Elijah that gives up on this world. There's not a fiber that keeps this world at arm's length or looks at the church as turned onto ourself and a bunker mentality. When they begin to call on Baal, they are completely demonically controlled. And in verse 28 and 29, "So they cried out and they cut themselves as was their customs with knives, until the blood gushed out of them." In verse 30, Elijah said to all the people "Come near me." So all the people came near to him and he repaired the altar. So beautiful. Repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken. And then he took 12 stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to, through the word of the Lord, I'd come. And he said, "Thou shall be your name."

    It's an incredible picture of Christ and us, his body on earth. They are disgusting. They are violently against God. They are demonically inspired. They are repugnant to everything and Elijah. But he opens his arms and he says, "Come near me. Come near me. Let me rebuild the altar of God in your life."

    When I was just a youth pastor years ago, I got a call at 3:00 in the morning and it was a police in Montreal. And they called and they said, " Are you Pastor Claude Houde?" I said, "Yes, I am." And they said they had a situation in a city where there was a girl who was terribly mentally disturbed and she had locked herself in an abandoned building but surrounded with tenement buildings in the projects. And she had soaked herself in gasoline and she had a fire with her and she had a knife. And she was cutting herself and threatening to burn herself and just to become a torch.

    And they took it so seriously that they blocked the entire neighborhood. They brought fire trucks all around and they said, "We're calling you because we've been three hours talking to her and nobody can reason with her and it's getting more and more dangerous. And she's just cutting herself and threatening to burn the building down." And then she reached in her jeans and all soaked in the blood. She got out a business card, and it's from your church and it's you. She's been to your church. And then I remembered from years back, that troubled girl coming, would try to help. My wife and I taking her to a teen challenge type center and she ran away. I never heard from her again.

    So I got in my car. Chantel is praying. And I drive to the city and I get to all the police all around and have blocked the streets. They say, "This is the man. It's okay. Allow him in. Allow him through." And when I got there, she's behind a wall under ... And they were so afraid for my security. They said, "Well, we can't allow you to go and talk to her. Try to talk to her through a wall." I'm trying to, and we're getting nowhere. So I said to them, "You have to let me see her and talk to her." So they discussed among themselves and they put this vest on me and this harness and they kind of put me in. And they said, "If she moves, we pull you out," and all that. I came in and it was a picture of just insanity. All the blood and she's cutting herself. And within about 10 minutes she gave me the knife and I remember just taking the knife and holding and just extending my hand and grabbing her hand and pulling her out. They took her and then ... But wait.

    They took her away. So I drive back at 6:00 in the morning and I take a shower. I go to the office. And around 7:30, 8:00, I get a call. It's her calling. So I said hi. I said, "I see you're okay, Natalie. Where are you?" She said, "Well, they just put me right back on the street." That day when I was walking into church, that morning, praying, it just hit me so hard. With all the resources that society can have, they are so limited in what they ... And we the church, and it just hit me so much, just like Elijah with his arms open, we have to contend for our faith. This church is Jesus's arms extended to men and women that only God can pull out. Only God can deliver. Only God can ... You should applaud more than that. This is our calling. This is who we are. This is who we are. So Elijah is this man of conviction, this man of Christ like compassion. He has faith with a calling to choices and Christ like compassion. He has faith with a cry for things to change. In verse 37, his cry is our cry. He says, "Hear me, oh Lord. Hear me so that the people may know that you are Lord." This cry must never ... This is a Tuesday night prayer meeting.

    This is a Tuesday night prayer meeting. This is the heart of Times Square Church for all, for three, four decades. There's a cry coming out right in the heart of Times Square. There's a cry going out to God, "Oh God, come by a fire, by your presence. Oh Lord Jesus, fill us with that faith that we open our arms in love but also for your fire to come and consume in us what needs to be consumed and come and show your glory. So people will know in 2019 that you are God." That's just faith.

    And we will discern, identify, and we will confront and learn to defeat and to protect against four enemies of his faith. We'll start this morning and we continue in two weeks. But when we look at the first stage or the first enemy of our faith in first Kings chapter 18, we see that our first enemy, and we all face it, and the first stage of the battle in our faith to contend our faith is what I call simply the invisible, the invisible. And in first Kings chapter 19 in verse 41, "And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound." The Hebrew said, "I hear the sound of the abundance of rain." It had been a long season of many years of drought.

    So Ahab went up to eat and drink, and the Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. Then he bowed down on the ground, put his face between his knees, and he said to his servant, "Go up now. Go look towards the sea."

    So the servant went and looked and said, "There is nothing."

    And seven times he said, "Go again." Elijah is facing the first enemy of faith. And the first enemy in our battle to contend for our faith is simply the invisible. We have a contrast here in the realm of the battle of faith, many people go back to eating and drinking once a promise from God has been announced. Eat and drink in biblical, in the biblical language is often used as a biblical expression that symbolizes spiritual carelessness, blindness, a certain spiritual blindness or neglect with a focus on self fulfillment that eat and drink and be merry and die. Eat and drink, for we die tomorrow.

    Elijah comes out and he says, "I hear the sound of the abundance of rain." And while the King goes and eats and drinks, Elijah goes before his God. It's a good question for me and you in the battle of our faith. When there is, Hey, do I protect? Do I receive the promise of God but then protected battle for it, fight for it, contend for it with my face before God? Or do I sit on a promise, eat and drink and be merry because a promise has been spoken? True faith understands that the promise of God comes, but I am to contend for the faith. I am to pray through. I am to continue. I am to hold on to what God has promised.

    It is pretty amazing. Elijah said, "I heard the sound of the abundance of rain." In the battle of faith, in the realm of faith, in the battle against the enemy of our faith, we often hear what we cannot see yet. I heard a promise from God. I heard something for my son. I heard something from my life. I heard something for my marriage. I heard a promise from God. I heard. We can feel Elijah. He says, "I know it's been a drought." And it's a long drought. If you know the context, it's been a long drought. Elijah has been in a drought. In this case, it was a physical drought.

    We go in our battle of faith through different seasons of dry seasons and drought. We go through droughts. It could be a spiritual drought, the relational drought, spiritually, relationally, emotionally, spiritual, emotional, relational, a drought in love. Just a dryness in my heart, in responding to people in love or impatience with someone we're loving and trying to, or a drought in my confidence for the future. A drought in a marriage relationship, a drought in a relationship with one of our kids, or adult kids that are grown and in relation. Sometimes, sometimes the drought in my relationship with my church, a drought in my relationship with God. Because I had heard something, and in the battle of faith, oftentimes we hear so deeply and it's so real to us. We hear so deeply what we do not see yet.

    Question, what do you do? Where do you go when the promise comes and you're in a season of drought? Ahab ate and drank. Ahab went just went, and, and, and just went and, and, and let the promise drift. He just went and just spun. What do you do? Elijah went with his face before God. Yes, the promise has come, but I'm here in your presence, God, and I'm speaking to someone here today. The promise has been spoken, but you say, "I don't see anything yet. I'm in a season of drought." Now, sometimes the droughts that we go through are only known to God. Sometimes people around us don't see the droughts we're going through. Sometimes, I would say this way, sometimes my outward situation, my songs, and in some realms of my life, my apparent successes are doing better than my soul.

    Sometimes I'm going through a drought, and in a season of droughts, I've heard this. This is a promise of God for me, but I see nothing. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel and then he came back and he says, "I heard the sound of the abundance of rain. There's a promise from God." So he tells his servant, "Go, go to the mount, the top of the mount. Go and look. Go look towards the sea. You'll see. You'll see it. It's coming. God has spoken. I know this is true. I know this is true."

    Let me illustrate it this way. Zach, come on. Come on. Elijah says to his young servant, " I want you to run up to the top of Mount Carmel. Go and see and come back and tell me what you see. Go for it. Go. Go young, man. Go, go young, man. Go. Go to the top of Mount Carmel. I hear the sound." He's on 51st street. Come back, come back, come back. I hear the sound of the abundance of rain. I hear the sound. I know God has promised, and it's been a long time, but it's the promise of God. Hey, Hey, what do you see?"

    "Nothing."

    "You see nothing? Go again. Go again." Elijah said, "Go again." Elijah said, "Go again. I heard the sound of the abundance of rain. Go again. Go, come back. Come back. The promises of God are true." My friend Habakkuk said, "The promise, the promise is walking toward its fulfillment. If it's long in waiting, wait for it. Fight for it. Pray for it. For it is for an appointed time." In the realm of faith, we often hear what we do not see. You went, and what did you see? Nothing. Go again.

    Now, the Bible says that he did it seven times. Do you feel the compassion of this church for this young man? Give him a hand. I don't have time to go. I should have let him go seven times, because sometimes it just feels that long. I heard the sound. I know I did. I heard the sound. I know it's God. "Go again." Seven times around the walls of Jericho. Seven times let the King be dipped to be healed of his leprosy. And God is saying to someone today, "You heard the sound of the abundance of rain, but you are facing in battle of faith. You are facing the invisible. Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Love again. Forgive again. Hallelujah.

    Oh, people of God, this morning. Do you hear it? Do you hear the voice of God saying to a mother, to a father, to a young man, say, "Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Love again. Release again. Give again. Trust again. Surrender again. Worship again. Pray again." Give him praise again. I love the testimony of Elgin Staples. I read it and then it's verified on so many sources, even in some of the army websites. In the bestseller Finding Your Way, I read this amazing testimony, this Christian young man, August eight and nine, 1942 on the ship USS Astoria, it was the first ship that engaged the Japanese during the battle of Savo Island. And Elgin Staples, a young Christian, his mother, his home and his parents, but his mother is praying for him. He was fearful. He left. He wanted to do his duty for his country, but it was a very, he had known many people around him that came back having lost, giving their lives for freedom and his mother just before he left laid hands on him and prayed for him.

    And Staple is a single man, third class. And on that day, on August eight his ship is under attack and sunk and he is floating under raging ocean, holding on to dear life and praying, but just saved by his life vest. He has a vest that he's holding on to a tube and he's holding onto it. He's finally brought onto another ship. And would you believe it? The second ship is sunk again. And then as he's floating on the crazy ocean and then the terror and he's holding on to that life vest, he's just holding on and hours and hours and hours. And he looks, and it just hits him, because it says that that vest, there's just a little sign on it, and it says that the vest was built by the Firestone Company of Akron, Ohio. And there's a number there and he's thinking, "This is crazy. I'm from Akron, Ohio. I know the Firestone Company."

    And as he's there praying, and then when they read this story back together, his mother had just got the news and the communications were different back then. So she just got the news, he's lost at sea. And she's praying, and she's praying. And then they finally save him, finally bring him back. And there's pictures in the newspapers of him when he gets home with his ... and they gave him his life vest that saved his life. And he's sitting home with his mom and he tells a story, tells his testimony, he says, "Mom, I had floating on the sea and I'm holding onto my life vest and would you believe it? It was built right here at the Firestone Company in Akron and there's this number and I'm just ..." And the mother begins to weep and she says, "With the war, I had to take a job and I'm now working at the Firestone Company. I make these vests, and every employee has an employee number for quality control, and this is my number." Thousands and thousands of vests.

    I want to say to someone, I want to say to someone who needs to hear it, when you don't see anything, there's always going to be people around you to say, "I see nothing." There's going to be people around you that say that, "You're believing in vain. I see nothing. It's too late. It's too much. It's too deep. I see nothing. This is too big. This is impossible. I see nothing." You'll have the devil himself shout in your mind, "I see nothing. There is nothing. There is nothing." Go again. Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Come on.

    I want you to encourage somebody next to you and say to them, "Go again." Say that to somebody next to you. Enemies of our faith, our first enemy, the first phase, the first stage battle through our life, every season. It's not a first phase, first years of your Christian life. You will go through this in every season of your life. Complete anything that is built for God. Anything that is of eternal value will, at one point, look like nothing. Anything that is of God, at one point, will look like it's nothing. I see nothing. Go again, because a first battle, a first enemy, first stage of battle is the invisible. And the second enemy, the second stage of battle is the insignificant or the insufficient. He said, "Go." He said to him, "Go up again."

    So verse 44 of chapter 18, "It came to pass, the seventh time," seventh time, he went and he said, "There's a cloud, but so small, as small as the hand of a man rising out of the sea."

    And so Elijah said, "Go up and say to Ahab, prepare your chariot and you go down before the rains that stop you and it happen that in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and winds and there was heavy rain and they have rode away and went to Jezreel." But the hand of the Lord, the Lord came upon Elijah, and as he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Israel. It's not nothing, but it's not enough. First battle, it's nothing. Second battle, okay. It's not nothing, but it's insignificant. So small. It's like the hand of a man in vast skies. It's nothing. Well, it's not nothing, but it's not enough.

    One of the deadliest traps in our contending for our faith is the trap of the, it's not enough. Not enough change. There's not enough change in my husband. I don't have change in my ... don't look at anybody. Look at me right now on this thing, on this little section. Not enough change. There's not enough change. There's not enough effort, not enough fruit. There's not enough. Not enough, God. It's not enough. Not enough progress in this relationship. There's enough in my home, not enough. My kids was doing a little bit, but it's not enough.

    It's not enough in the promise to fulfilling of the promise of God. It's not enough in my career. It's not enough in my calling before God. Sometimes it turns towards us. Not enough recognition. Not enough. Nobody's seeing it. Not enough. Not enough. There's not enough doors opening. It's enough. It's not enough comparing to what I heard. It's not enough comparing to how much I put into this. It's not enough compared to how much I prayed. It's not enough comparing to what I was hoping for. It's not enough. It's that dangerous season in our faith where the progress does not match the promise. It's not enough. And not enough is a deadly, deadly poison. Please hear me. The enemy cannot stop God's rain, but he can stop you from running towards it in faith. I've seen in 35 and more years of pastoring people that gave up on the not enough, not enough change. I'm giving up on this marriage, giving up on my kids, giving up on my calling, giving up on my church, giving up on following God. Not enough. Not enough. The not enough.

    I want you to know that true fed, verse 44, see Elijah's reaction, "What do you see?"

    "I see nothing."

    "Go again. What do you see?"

    "I see nothing."

    "Go again." Seven times. He comes back.

    "What do you see?"

    "So small."

    He goes, "Let's go. Gird up. Let's run. The rain's going to be so awesome. Come on, let's run towards it. Let's run towards the rain." True faith. Contend for the faith, enemies of our faith, the not enough. True faith celebrates the small beginnings. True faith celebrates a small beginning riddled with imperfections. Now you can look at somebody next to you who's riddled with imperfections. True faith celebrates the rain drops before, way before the abundance of rain. True faith celebrates the smallest bud that will grow into great fruit. Faith does not despise the day of small beginnings. Faith does not fall into traps of the not enough. Faith does not fall in the trap of this is insignificant. This is just loaves and fishes in a kid's hands. This is just stones in a teenager sling against a giant. No. True faith says, "My God, what I have I bring to you and I celebrate what you have begun. He that has begun a good work in me will perform it."

    Mm-hmm (affirmative). There's traps. True faith is aware, is discerning of the traps of the insignificant. When you are beginning to combat, when you are falling into a trap that this is not enough, this is not enough. There's many traps. There's the traps. There's the traps of the enemy, the traps of comparison and human ambition. It's not enough compared to yesterday. It's not enough compared to what someone else, or somewhere else I'm comparing with. When I'm comparing it with what I had in my heart, what I had envisioned with my ambition, with my timetable, it's not enough. It's not enough. It's not enough.

    This is a society now with the social media where people spending hours every day comparing themselves with others, looking at everybody else's Facebook and Instagram and with all the filters and all the, everybody looks better than they really do, and everybody looks at ... and everybody ... and look at the restaurant they're eating, or look at their kids, they look perfect. Look at that car. Look at those vacations. Look at that job and look at ... Oh, let's have a moment of confession. How many of you I've ever posted something under social media that really did not fully reflect the full experience? Anybody? Let's make a call for all liars to come and ...

    You know what I mean. You're showing pictures of your vacation and you're telling the kids, "Come on. This is for the picture. Look happy." And you finally get everybody's head and there's seven filters after and then touch up a computer, touch-up and tans and all kinds of stuff added. And you're putting on the picture of us in the car on our way to the beach. And really, you fought all afternoon. It was hell in the car. You know what I mean. Say it or somebody next to you, "Other people do it, too." Say that to somebody.

    Comparison on social media, but also comparison in the spiritual. Or even another trap comparison human ambition or the trap of conformity that will not allow God to bless in a different way. This is how I prayed it. This is how I saw it happen. This is how God blessed me in the past. This is how it must be. Not enough. I want to say to somebody next to you, your temple of yesterday will not be the only way God will build your temple today and tomorrow. Now, in the book of Haggai, you had this moment where the people of God, after I've been gone to captivity, come back. God in his mercy brings them back and they begin to try to rebuild the temple, and they get discouraged. It's not enough.

    It's just not enough, because they had in mind the glory of the former temple, the temple of Solomon, one of the wonders of the world. And they come back and for 17 years, they leave the work interrupted. In Haggai chapter one, he says, "No, the spirit of God comes upon the leaders, and upon Zerubbabel, and upon the governors, and upon Zechariah the high priest, and then upon the people, and they all come together. But again, in chapter two, they're giving up again. It's not enough. It's not enough. And God goes to the very root of it. You can read it. It's not on the screen, but you can read it. In Haggai chapter two, God says, "How many of you saw this temple in its former glory?" There's very few of them. Haggai was seventy years old. He was the one that saw the most of them, and not even seen it, but they were comparing it with what other people had said, and it looked so-so.

    And God actually says, "Is this temple not in your eyes as nothing? How do you look at it now? Is it not in your eye as nothing? Now be strong. Go again. Be strong, and it will be according to my covenant. And my spirit is with you, and the glory of this temple will be greater than the former." I want to say to somebody next to you, don't put God in a box. This is the way it has to be done. This is the way God blessed me in the past. This was a temple. Nothing can compare to it. His mercies are new every morning. Don't you limit him. In history, they start, "When God said this glory of this temple will be greater than the former," that's just not possible. They're standing on stones and rubbles, and historians actually will say that that second temple in his physicality never approach the wealth of the human beauty of the former one.

    What is God saying that? What is God saying? God all through the Old Testament is announcing Jesus Christ. He is saying there's a new temple coming. And he went, God, "Jesus will offer his life. Sacrifices would go day and night. I would go through day now, but it will be one sacrifice, and the temple will not be a building made by mans of stone. It will be billions of temples of the Holy Spirit. I will come. The glory will come and dwell in human beings, for millenniums to come all the way to Times Square Church in 2019, therefore the second temple is much greater. The second temple is the church of Jesus Christ, and what started as not enough!

    Oh, come on! Shout with me. And what started as not enough became the glory of God beyond anything they could imagine. And when Elijah, "What do you see? Nothing. Go again. What do you see?" "It's not enough. It's insignificant. It's like the hand of a man." "Run towards it." Now, as Elijah ran, the Bible says that the hand of the Lord came in him, came upon him with might and power. He outran the horses. The hand of God came upon him in supernatural strength. Would you remember this, please? Never forget the cloud like the hand of a man. So small, not enough, prepares the conquests of the hand of God upon your life if you trust him. I would close with this, and I'm going to ask the musicians to come. True faith never curses what appears to be not enough. True faith blesses and offers to God what seems not enough. I close with this moment. You all, many of you know well, the gospel of Mark chapter six, as the musicians come.

    The multitude is starving. Jesus has taught them many things, and when the time came to feed them disciples to send them away, the disciples are bemoaning their lack. Lamenting they're not enough. But Jesus, when he had taken the five loaves and the fishes, looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them, and the two fish divided among them all. They all ate and were filled, and when they took up 12 baskets full of fragments and the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about 5,000 men. Jesus did not curse the not enough. He blessed the not enough, and he offered it to God. And as he offered to God his not enough, his eyes trusting in the one that is more than enough, God multiplied. God multiplied. The rain came. The hand of God came. I've seen this in every season of my life, and I'm bringing this as a simple reminder to elders, mothers, fathers, men, and women that have walked with God for a long time.

    You still need to contend for your faith. You still need to be aware, and you still need to come to God and to say, "Lord, with all the invisibles in my life where I've been tempted just to say I see nothing, there is nothing, I heard but I am. I don't see." The spirit of God says to you, "Go again. Trust me again. Bring it up to me." And for all of us who are in the traps, but we're sinking in the mire. We're sinking. We're in a sinking sand of the not enough, and it was bringing thoughts in your mind and in your heart of giving up on very, very serious commitments between you and God, and maybe between you and people you love. And ideas and thoughts that were from hell itself, it's so small. It's not enough.

    And not so directly, but in your flesh, there was a sense of almost cursing the not enough. This is not enough. The spirit of God comes to you today and says, "Oh, bring me your not enough. Blessed the not enough. Offer it to me." And when you are going through a drought, or when you are going through a storms, wrap your arms around the basket of his provision. He offered. God blessed and multiplies, and it was 12 basket, one for each of the disciples. And they entered the next storm where their arms around the basket of his faithfulness, the basket of his faithfulness and his provision, because the spirit of the not enough blinds us, robs us. It will rob you of your joy. It will rob you of your faith. It will rob you of your praise. It will rob you of your giving, of your generosity. I've not been blessed enough. It will rob your faith. It will rob you of your commitments. It will rob you of your impact to model Jesus Christ as the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am 57 years old, and every year of my life and this year again, I've had to come and say, God, there's some things that I heard in my spirit. Some of them years ago, some of them more recently. I heard it from you, but I don't see anything, but I'm standing on your promise. I'm standing on your faithfulness. Forgive me! Forgive me for saying it's not enough. Not enough. Forgive me. It's not enough compared to what I had dreamed. What I wanted for your destiny. Oh, God, it's not enough!

    It's not enough compared to how much I loved, how much I gave, how much I forgave! God, it's not enough! Forgive me. I want to bring it to you today and say oh my God, I bless your provision in my life. I see the hand. I see the cloud. Oh God. And I know that the cloud that in my human eyes seems so small, like the hand of the man, is actually preparing the hand of God's work and sovereign provision in my life. In Jesus name, and all of God's people shouted an amen! Can we stand? Can we stand and really give him an ovation? Can we stand and give Jesus a standing ovation today? Come on. People of God, would you shout out to God? Can we sing How Great is Our God? Can we sing How Great is Our God, but full blast with all the musicians. And this is the call today. Don't go right away unless you really have to. Bow your head for a moment. This is a life changing moment for many. If you're able to be here, if you're able to be here on August 11 in two weeks, come back. We will see how we go from enemy number one, the invisible, and the insufficient or insignificant, and how the enemy works. We'll see it through Elijah's life, but we will see it in our own lives. How he works through isolation and intimidation, and how we can break intimidation from the devil himself over our lives in the next message.

    But today you're here, and God brought you here. You might be coming to this church for a long time or you're just visiting, but you're not just here by coincidence. God called you here this morning to speak this word to you. And God, I come to you today by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I pray for that conviction of the Holy Spirit. You convict, oh God. This word, I believe, is from you. I shared it in my very, very imperfect way, but your word, oh God, your anointing breaks every yoke. So today I pray now for an open heaven, and I pray for your people to respond to your word. And as they respond, oh God, you will come and go deep in their spirit, and you will move, and you will change, and you will free them. And you will speak fresh words to their hearts, and remind promises that the enemy that almost silenced. And the voice of God will come clear again and say, "Hear the sound of the abundance of rain for you. Go again. Offer me your not enough."

    If you're here today and this is a call, Jesus marveled, he marveled in wonder and in joy at their faith. But he also marveled in sadness and brokenness over the unbelief of conformity. So if you're here today, this is the call as clear as I can make it. If you're here today and you say, "Pastor Claude, this message was for me. I have been facing an invisible. I had heard the voice, the sound of the abundance of rain, but time after time after time, I saw nothing. There was nothing. It was an impossible. There was an invisible. And even people around me, and even the enemy himself have been saying there is nothing. But today I want to bring my invisible to God. I want to bring it to him right now. I want to bring that person, that situation, that hurt, that pain. I want to bring it and offer it to God, and ask him to give me strength to go again, to believe again, to stand again, to pray again, to trust again, to forgive again, to love again."

    If you're here and you have an invisible to bring to God, I want you to come out of your seat right now, as if you're carrying it. Even to come and say, "Lord, I'm bringing my invisible to you. I know that I have said there is nothing, and others have said there is nothing, and the enemy said there is nothing, but I'm believing in you. I'm trusting in you, and I will go again." You come, and as you come, you begin to lift your voice to God. Come from all over. Come from the balcony. And if you hear him really clearly, you say, "I've never heard the message quite that personal with me, but I have been saying it's not enough. I have been in that valley, that drought of the not enough. It's not enough. There was something. There was a situation where there was a battle. There was an issue in my life. A person, an issue, a situation where I was filled with this spirit of not enough, and the enemy had me comparing. And the enemy had me comparing with the former temple, and the years back and elsewhere, someone else."

    "And today I want to come even in repentance. I want to come in faith, and I'm bringing my not enough to God. I'm bringing them to him. I see the cloud like the hand of a man. I'm coming and bringing my loaves and fishes. And I know that that cloud that seems so small, that progress that seems so small, like the hand of a man, is preparing the hand of God, the hand of his sovereignty, the hand of his purposes, the hand of his promises being fulfilled in my life." If you were afflicted coming into this building with the spirit of the not enough, it's insignificant. It's not it's not enough. I want you to come and bring it to God today. Come on.

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  • From Multiplication to the Storm

     

    Claude Houde

    We often go through storms, wrestling with their pain and purpose. This week, Pastor Claude Houde takes a look at the lives of Jesus and the disciples to share hope for your storm and how to navigate them.

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  • Pray While You Still Can

     

    Carter Conlon

    We often find sins in our lives that we justify as okay, the "little, white lies" that are condoned by secular culture and excused or ignored by many Christians. What if these "small" sins have a much more serious impact than we could ever imagine? This week, Pastor Carter Conlon talks about rooting out the little weeds in our spiritual lives.

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  • The End of Yourself is the Beginning of God

     

    Carter Conlon

    Following the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary, Carter Conlon challenges us to let go of the old ways of thinking and doing, and embrace His Kingdom ways. To get to a place where it's not your voice trying to dictate God, but it's God's voice leading you. There's a powerful truth in this sermon: God doesn't conform to your life plan. Surrender your voice and will to Him, and watch what He will do with your life.

    Now I want to talk tonight and we're going to begin in John chapter 2. If you have your Bible with you or if you have a device with the scriptures on it, and it's the final stage in a sense that the Bible reveals about the journey of Mary and I've entitled this sharing tonight, "The end of yourself is the beginning of God."

    Father, I thank you God with all my heart. Lord, for the beauty of truth. Truth is beautiful. Truth is sustaining. Truth is guiding. Truth is enabling. Truth gives light. Truth gives comfort. Truth helps us navigate the roadways of life that can be so perplexing that we can be left sometimes in despair. I thank you, God, for just giving us a desire to look at your word and to see truth as it played out in the life of one girl who said, "Be it unto me according to your word."

    God. Thank you, Lord. Thank you that you've shown us patterns in scripture of what it looks like to have your life being lived out inside of ours, of how you carry us, Lord, through our trials, our misunderstandings, our troubles, our sorrows, even moments of joy. Father, I just pray God for an enlightenment tonight and that through these three messages that have been spoken this week, Lord, that you, God, would sow something very, very deep in the hearts of your people.

    That we'd not be led astray Lord by other voices, not be led down a path that's going to lead to weakness, but that we would stay in the boundaries of your word. Father, I thank you God with all my heart in Jesus name. I really suggest that you get these three messages on Mary and just every once in a while listen to them. Just let it soak in you because it's coming from the Holy Spirit, but it's also coming from a life that I've lived a long time with God now. This is not just a theory to me, I have walked this. I've experienced this. I've seen where we're going to go tonight and what the Lord has given me to speak to you.

    Chapter 2 of John, the next time we see Mary after she lost Jesus when he was 12 years old, it says, "It was on the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, they have no wine. Jesus said to her "woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, whatever he says to you, do it."

    This is an amazing moment. Jesus Christ, the son of God, is literally forced into public ministry by his mother. Now, if you don't believe as a mother, you got power in your prayers and you don't fully understand who you are in God. This is truly an amazing moment. Now, I love the humor of this because they've gone to a wedding, they've invited by their hosts and in that culture at that time, if you ran out of wine, it was a shameful thing and Mary is not willing that her hosts should be brought to shame. Now, she knows at this point what Jesus can do.

    This interaction proves that. She's a Jewish mother. She looks to Him and says, "They've run out of wine," and looks back and He knows what she's talking about. She knows what He can do at this point. She knows that He can do the miraculous. I'm convinced of it by this interaction. I can just picture when He's 18 years old, for example, she says, "now I'm going out to the store and I want you to clean up the house. I want you to do the dishes. I want you to clean the table, do up your room, do the laundry before I get back."

    Of course, He never disobeyed, right? He says, "Yes, mother, it'll be all done." She gets to the gate she says "Oh my, I forgot my keys." Goes back to the house and everything is done. I don't know, after Joseph, it's assumed that he died somewhere along the line between when Jesus was 12 and 30 that Joseph died and so He became the provider for the house. I can just imagine how many times at the table, maybe if they were a little short of food, that they bowed their heads, they thanked the father, and then suddenly there's this beautiful meal.

    You see, the issue is, it's obvious from this interaction that she knew what He could do. She looks and says, "They have no wine." He looks back and says, "Mom, you know it's not my time yet." Now, He fully understands that she's asking Him to do a miracle. He fully understands that. She turns back to the servants now, this is an amazing interaction. She says, "Whatever he tells you," in a Jewish accent, "whatever he tells you to do, do it." That's not a very good Jewish accent but in the Jewish--I don't do accents well, "Whatever he tells you to do, do it."

    She's saying, "Okay, if you want to run down to the store, by all means, go ahead but these hosts are not going to be embarrassed when you have the power to do something about it so I don't care how you do it, but you're going to do it." Now He's put in a real catch 22 situation right now because if He does nothing, He breaks one of His own commandments. Think it through. She checkmated the son of God at this point because this commandment is, honor your father and your mother.

    If He does nothing, He dishonors His mother and if you really want to-- for the theologians who want to debate this point, you wonder if He had done nothing could He have died for our sins? Think it through. I mean, it's an incredible-- There's so much more in scripture than just the casual reading of it. Then, of course, you know, this is his first miracle caused to happen by His mother. Now, what do you and I learned from this?

    Now, she got away with it because she's His mother. I don't suggest you and I try this, like a lot of churches do, a lot of believers do. They think that when we become familiar with the son of God, that we have the right to actually command Him to do things. I want to encourage you don't become so familiar with God that you start telling Him how things need to be done. That's an error and it ought not to-- Remember that when Mary prayed at the beginning of our discussion in the Gospel of Luke, "When the Holy Spirit came on her, she said holy is his name and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation."

    My encouragement to you is don't try to get Jesus to do things through you when the time is not right yet. Don't try to get to where you need to go too fast. Don't try to tell Jesus how you need to get there. A lot of people make that mistake. You remember when Jacob came to his father looking for the blessing of God that he brought the venison and his father said to him, "How did you get it so fast?" He says, "Well, the Lord brought it to me." In other words-- and there's a lot of young people who try to get--you to want to be prophets.

    You get saved at five o'clock, you want to be a prophet by eight o'clock in the evening. You want to stand and say, "thus sayeth the Lord." The Lord looks at you and said, "how'd you get here so fast, son" "Oh, the Lord gave me this great gift of the spirit." Don't try to get too quick to where you need to go. There's a little bit of a school involved between point A and point Z. There's some teaching. There's some understanding and don't think that because we've become familiar with the presence of God, that we have the right to dictate to Him how to do things.

    Sometimes we'll cry out for something in our life and He'll look at you as he did His mother and say, "It's not time yet. You're not ready for that ministry. It's not time for this to happen in your life." Be careful you don't fall into the trap, the theological trap of thinking you have the right to dictate to the son of God. You don't and neither do I. It's God's choice. He knows how to get us where we need to go. He knows how to take us there. He knows how to get us there. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives before we arrive at the place where we honestly will be used for His glory.

    The next time we see Mary is in Mark chapter 3. Now incredible things are happening in Mark chapter 3. Jesus himself now is gone into the temple on the Sabbath and He's healed a man with a withered hand. He's now directly challenging the religious system of the day and it's a dangerous thing to challenge that system because the people were so zealous like the Apostle Paul or Saul was in the beginning that they would be willing to the death to get rid of people so they could preserve it.

    There's a violence that comes along sometimes with religion that's not got the heart of God at the center core of it. They were looking to accuse him at this time. Then verse 6 after he healed this man on the Sabbath, it says, "The Pharisees went out immediately and plotted with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him." He's carrying on the ministry, he’s healing people and the Bible says in verse 11 in Mark 3, "that unclean spirits when they see them are falling down and crying out, "You are the son of God."

    He's healing people. He's confronting the religious system. Demons are calling out that He's the son of God. He appoints 12, in verse 14 he's calling people to himself. He's appointing them as leaders, He's giving them the power to cast out devils. In verse 21 of Mark 3, it says, "But when his own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold on them for they said he's out of his mind."

    I don't believe for a second they’re thinking He's crazy. They're saying, "He's going to get himself killed." If you ever had a situation when you see somebody up on a roof or doing something, you say, "You're out of your mind, man, with what you're doing." It doesn't mean he's crazy. It means what he's doing he's up against a system, he doesn't understand. He's going to get himself killed doing this. Now, it's possible that some of His family did think too that He had actually lost His mind.

    As He was teaching His brothers it says and his mother, this is Mary, came standing outside the building that He was in where there was such oppressive people you couldn't even get in, calling to Him. A multitude was sitting around. They said, "Look, your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you." He answered them saying, "Who is my mother and my brothers?" He looked around at the circle of those who sat about Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother."

    Now, Mary's outside with her children basically, the family members. They're calling from outside because they can't get in. They're worried. I think His brothers at this point do think He's lost his mind because the scripture bears witness they didn't believe in Him till probably after the cross, but I don't know about Mary, I honestly don't know. I'm only conjecturing on it but in my heart, as a mother, I'm feeling that she's trying to protect what she loves.

    It's hard, if not impossible, it's hard to let go of the things that we love the most and fear will be lost if we continue in the will of God. There's something about her that knows that this child has been born as Simeon once said, "For the rise and the fall.” There's something that knows that a sword is about to pierce your heart. She loves this boy with all her heart. Think about this, moms and dads. You have children that you love with all your heart, you'd die for them, you'd do anything in your power to protect them.

    You warn them when they're going in the direction that you feel is going to be harm. What would make her any different? The problem is she's trying to protect something that God has not designed to be protected. I remember years ago, my daughter went to India. She was working with a ministry that we have in India to the children of prostitutes in the red light district in Pune, India. I remember she came home the first time and she said, "I was in this home where children are used for prostitution, little girls.

    She was sitting there, trying to minister to them, and talking to a few dozen of these girls when suddenly a bunch of either American or European men came into the home to do what they do. The girls surrounded her and protected her because in that particular home, there are no laws and everybody is vulnerable in that situation. She came home and told me this. As a father, you picture your daughter, at that time she's about 18, 19 years old.

    You picture your daughter in a situation where she can be sexually abused, where men come who are sexually-crazed from all over the Western world so that they can molest children. It just doesn't get any worse. This is what goes on in India. My daughter's in the midst of this, she comes home and she was so sick. When she came home, it was three days before she could speak. She was traumatized. It was almost like post-traumatic stress disorder. Then about a year or so later, she said, "Dad, I feel like God's calling me to go back."

    Now, I had to make a choice. I went to prayer because I could have said, "No, you're not going back. You're not going to be in the situation like that." She said, "I feel God calling me to go back." When I prayed, the Lord said, "Would you rather have her there or in a bar? Which do you choose, which would be your preference?" I remember yielding to God. I remember how hard it was to yield to God, how hard it was to take her to the airport, how hard it was to see her get on that plane and go back to that place to minister to those girls.

    To this day, I thank God that even with my desire to protect what I love, I realized the will of God comes first and our will must come second. That's why Jesus was not trying to trash His mother but He looked around and He said, "No, it's those who do the will of God that are my mother, my brother, and my sister." What He was identifying is it outside are people that are trying to get me to do things another way, but I was born to be sacrificed for the sins of this world and I'm on the course of my Father, even the best of intentions are not acceptable in the sight of God.

    It's hard but it's not impossible to let go of the things that we love the most. We fear that they will be lost if they continue in the will of God. It's my opinion for what it's worth that that's what was in her heart because she loved this boy, this boy who never sinned, this boy who was the perfect child, this boy who was the son of God, this boy who was a gift from God, this boy that people prophesied about, this boy that angels appeared in heaven to rejoice over. Was putting himself in a position that she feared he was going to be killed. It was just so hard to let him go.

    There will be times in your life where it's hard to let things go. Sometimes it's dreams you had, plans, it's what you thought your life was going to be. It's how you lived for a certain objective and suddenly God is leading you to another place. It's just very, very difficult to let it go but may I encourage you, it's difficult but it's not impossible. You will never regret letting things go that God is asking you for. The next time we see Mary is now at the cross of Christ.

    In John 19:25-27, the scripture says, "There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son," then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother," from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. This might be perhaps the first time that Mary fully understands that the kingdom of God goes forward with power when we live for the benefit of others and not to preserve ourselves.

    I have to feel that she saw something there. You say, "Well, why do you feel that?" Because her son spoke a word that drew her out of the cultural context of the day. When Joseph died, Jesus Christ being the firstborn son would have been now the protector of His mother and the provider and of the home. Now that protection and provision should have gone to his brother, James, who was the next in line but at this point, James was not a believer.

    Now, Jesus Christ is speaking something to His mother. He's leading her to something that is so out of her cultural context. He's leading her into a new family, he's leading her into a new way of thinking, into a new place. For the first time, we see something different. You see in John 3, we see her trying to lead her son. Do you remember that? In John 3, she's trying to tell him how to do things, how things should be done, she's pushing him into that first public miracle.

    But now in John 20, she's following the leading of His voice into a new way of life. He's now leading her. A transition happened on that mountain. It's much deeper than she's just standing there and Jesus says, "By the way, here's your son." He is now taking her out of a whole other way of living, a whole other way of thinking, and he's bringing her into the family of God. The beauty of it all is she's now following His voice. I think up to this point in her life, she had been a major voice perhaps in His life, in His upbringing, in His early years, in His teen years.

    Now He's on the cross, He's 33 years old, He's dying, and is it possible? I'm just throwing it out to you as a thought. Is it possible? This is the first time all these voices start coming back now, the words of Simeon, the words of the angels, the words of the shepherd, everything's coming back. Suddenly, it comes into view. This is not defeat, this is victory. This is not the end, this is the beginning. This is not the devil winning, this is the actual plan of God. It's now coming into focus.

    Now she's seeing that this baby she carried within her womb, this child she once lost in the temple, this one that she pushed into ministry in His early years at a wedding is now dying for the sins of the world. She suddenly realizes it's His voice I must listen to. It's not my voice he needs now, I need his voice to speak to me. He says, "Woman, behold your son. Son, this is now your mother." The scripture says, "From that moment, John took her and she went into his house. She became part of the family of God."

    I love the perspective of it when you and I get to a place where there's a new order in our lives, where it's not our voice trying to dictate to God, it's God's voice leading us now. He's leading us out of an old way of thinking. "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation, the old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new." We leave an old way of thinking, an old way of living.

    The old people we used to hang around with, and if necessary, our old acquaintances, and even our family. We become part of the family of God. This is not just a fanciful idea, this is the plan of God for His Church on the earth. I don't know what it's like at home, but I know here you've got brothers and sisters. You got mothers and fathers here, you got people who love you, will support you, will stand with you for the rest of your life. Woman behold your son, son behold your mother. This is a new family order on the Earth. This is now the family of God.

    The next place we find Mary, and this is a beautiful place. The scripture says, "After Jesus rose from the dead," in the book of Acts chapter one, "they returned to Jerusalem to the Mount called Olivet which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. When they had entered, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, the son of James. They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers."

    Thank God, I didn't see this, somebody else brought this to my attention today they came to visit me. Mary did not give up on her other children, you understand? She brought them to the upper room. James became the head of the church in Jerusalem. James was once outside the window saying My brother is insane. We got to get ahold of him. James did not believe. James who did not inherit even his own mother, as a charge in his life is being brought into the upper room by his mother. She did not give up and you don't have to give up on your children.

    Neither one of you, none of you have to give up on your child. I don't care how old they are, I don't care about down they are, I don't care how agnostic they are, I don't care how scornful they are, don't give up on your sons and don't give up on your daughters. She brought her children into the upper room. Now, there's nothing that even says that they were believers at this time. They might have been, the most likely were, but there's nothing that really identifies that.

    Bible just tells me that she brought the brothers of Christ, her other children into that upper room by God's Almighty grace, and she began this journey. The Scripture tells us in chapter 2, where we started she began her journey saying, "Let it be to me according to your word." The yielding gave birth to the Son of God within her. That's the way it is for you and. "Let it be to me oh God, according to your word. Let your life be born inside of mine. Let your plan become my plan. Let your mind become mine. Let your strength become my strength."

    This is where she began, but she at the end of the scriptural witness of Mary, she continued again with the same words, "Let it be to me according to your word." Going into that upper room had to be similar to that, let it be to me according to your word. Going to John's house had to be, let it be to me according to your word. The beauty of her life, the beauty of this whole life is she began her journey with the Son of God being born within her and she finishes the scriptural witness of her journey filled again with the Spirit of God.

    Praise be to God. The same Christ in her, the same power of God in her. I can envision Mary coming out of the upper room with 120. Perhaps James and Joseph and Simon, and brothers and sisters of Christ, filled with the Spirit of God. Speaking in other languages in ways that people could understand. Speaking about the mighty works of God. Jesus Son of God, may it be. May it be in this last day, in this last hour of time in which we're now living. In this potentially last generation, God Himself only knows but it's certainly the signs seem to be on the horizon.

    May it be that one more time, you and I come out of the upper room, filled with the Spirit of God. Filled with the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit of God saying not my will but thine. God, let your word be alive in me. God let your spirit govern me. Let the mysteries of heaven be spoken by my lips. Let the power of God raise me out of weakness and bring me into this power of an endless life that's given to me through Jesus Christ.

    My God, what a finish. If this was the finish, I don't know where she went from there. The history doesn't record it. She may have died in the arena with everybody else, who knows of that generation. I do know she's one of 120 that came out of that upper room filled with the Spirit of God, and she started with the Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. That has to be the cry, be it done to me according to your word. Oh God, if you tell me to go into an upper room and tarry and pray until you come then that's what I'm going to do.

    Why do we want to make it any different than the way it began? Why do we want to get so fancy with so many schemes and gimmicks and programs and strategies? When the strategies of the church was, "Listen to my voice, go into the upper room and pray until you be empowered with the Holy Spirit. When you come out, you'll be a wonder to your generation." Religion will bend its knee, and folks even Rome bend its knee to those 120 that came out of that upper room by God's Almighty grace. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord.

    This is the journey of one person, one girl. She took the journey, what a beautiful journey it is and what a lesson we can learn from it, and what a pattern we can see in it. God help me to leave off the old ways of thinking. Help me Lord, to embrace your kingdom. Help me God to go into that upper room. To be so filled with your spirit that I can make a difference in my generation. Years ago, I was reading the scriptures and I saw some of these things.

    I was isolated, I was in a farm out in the middle of nowhere. One night in my kitchen, at home, a farmhouse kitchen. I was sitting in the chair and I was just putting some wood on the fire, and suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit just urging me to pray. I was struggling folks, I was struggling with a bad temper, and I was struggling with despair. I was wondering if I was ever going to change, and will I ever learn to be a father and a husband? Will my life ever amount to anything in the kingdom of God.

    I'm just sitting in this chair in my kitchen and I started to pray and I said, "Oh Jesus, Son of God." I said, "If you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. God if you will help me to break out of the confines of this, the limitations of this body and my experience and my upbringing, in my self-view. God, all of these things that are just have me in a prison. If you will--"

    See at this point I just had the Son of God, do you understand? I had the Holy Spirit. I have received Christ as Savior, but I saw in the Bible there was just so much more and I just went into that upper room in my kitchen. I didn't even know or fully understand these things, but I went in that upper room and I just started to pray, "Oh God, would you set me free, and if you would, I will serve you all the days of my life." My wife was standing off on my left hand just hearing me pray.

    I was just sitting in a chair, and then suddenly I looked to the right corner of the room, and a light as bright as that light right there was coming towards me. I wasn't imagining it, I saw it and it was a brightness like nothing of this world could produce. When I saw it, I thought, "Wow, I think I better stop this because I'm--" I just had a feeling like maybe I shouldn't be doing this. You know the fear of the Lord sometimes it's not always the beginning of wisdom.

    It's like-- and so I closed my eyes, and the light was just as bright when my eyes were closed as when they were open. It's my eyelids couldn't shut it out. I was a fitness fanatic back then. I was bench pressing hundreds of pounds and I had my hands in the air and I suddenly got scared. I tried to pull my hands down, and I couldn't pull my hands down. They were frozen. The light just kept coming towards me, towards me, towards me and then suddenly hit me right in the face. Went through my whole body, and I let out a scream.

    Like I'm not a screamer, but I let out a scream. My wife says to this day, "I've never heard you scream like that." I let out a scream, I was knocked off my chair and knocked on to the floor. I was in a sweat, and I was shaking. Then suddenly, I heard a voice saying, "Stand up, I want to speak to you." I stood up on my feet. You get my wife, maybe next year I'll get her to share the story because she witnessed it. She said, "You started quoting scripture you didn't know." She said, "It was a psalm you'd never read." She says, "I'm sure of it, you started quoting it verbatim. Line, after line, after line as it just started to flow out of me."

    See God, if we're willing to seek Him, He is willing to meet us. If we're saying, "I will serve you." He will respond with the power to serve Him. As God lives I've never been the same since that day. Never been the same. I started speaking to people, they would cry. I led 21 people to Christ in the next couple of weeks. It was just a short little season. Everyone I would talk to would start crying, and they'd give their lives to Christ. Not by power, not by might, but by the spirit of Almighty God. I understand what the upper room looks like, I understand there's a surrender.

    We don't go seeking the Holy Spirit just so we can have an experience. We seek the Holy Spirit so we can have the power to live according to the will of God. It's always about being given for other people always, always. It's not just about having an experience so we have a notch on our wall. That, "Oh yes, check that box, I did that. I got that." It's the power of God that leads us into the will of God.

    This is my brother, this is my sister, this is my mother. It's these who hear the will of God and they do it. He was not being rude to His family He was defining what the kingdom of God is going to look like. The end of ourselves is the beginning of God. If you feel strong in yourself you might be farther away from the beginning of God than you realize. If you feel weak, you might be closer than the person beside you. That's the irony and the beauty of the kingdom of God.

    He takes us in our weakness, not in our strength. Not when we have a plan or telling him what to do, but when we've come to a place where we're actually listening to his voice now and saying, "God, I want you. Jesus, I want your will, I want your power. I want something of you in my life more than anything that this world has got to offer. I yearn for it, I long for it and if you will touch me, my God, I will live for you the rest of my life."

    That's what the people in the upper room had to be praying because they knew the society around them was hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God met them, including Mary. Praise be to God. I challenge you, I challenge you with all my heart. I hear that challenge from Pastor Mike McBride as well, and Pastor Nick. I challenge you. I challenge you. Don't be satisfied with less than what God has for you. Don't be satisfied with a secondary plan, don't dictate to the Son of God.

    Don't try to get him to conform to your life plan. It doesn't work that way. Yield your life plan. Let it go, even the things you love, let them go and let God take over and you watch what God will do. It is a miracle, a miraculous life. It's a supernatural life. It's a life like you never believed that you could ever have. It's born in God. That's my altar call tonight. It's really just that simple. I'm going to ask the worship team if you would come at this time.

    We're just going to say, "God, if you can do that for him, if you can do that for people in the Bible. If you did that for Mary, if you've done that for others throughout history, I'm not willing to sit on the sidelines and be an observer and watch you use other people when my life is available to you. I'm asking you--" It takes your humility. "I'm asking God, that you would give me the anointing the power of your Holy Spirit. That you would make me into the kind of a man or woman that I can't be in my own strength. That you would take me to places that I can't go. No matter what kind of a roadmap I've crafted for myself, I can't get there.

    Would you give me the power to listen to your voice and obey it, and when you call me out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar help me to say yes. Help me to go through every door you set before me. Help me, God." This has been the cry of my heart my whole Christian life now. "Don't let me say no to you. Wherever you lead me, let me follow you. Don't let me ever think it's too big or too out of my league. Just let me obey you, God. Wherever you call me, give me your word and I know that you'll do the work that you've destined to do. All you really ever looked is for human vessels that you can work through, so let it be my story. Let it be my story."

    Let that be your cry tonight. I can't put that cry in you, it's got to come from your heart. If you want religion, that's all you get. That's all you get. You'll spend the rest of your life just doctrinally debating and fighting in churches. That's it. Dry on Sunday, just going home criticizing the pastor. Dry on Monday, backslidden Tuesday. You can spend your whole life doing that. Then you try to create a sense of righteousness by criticizing everybody around you. It's such a mediocre way to live as a Christian. When the power of God is available for you. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

    Takes you out of this little box that religion can put you in and gives you a heart big enough to love even the worst of the lost. Gives you a heart to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Gives you a vision much bigger than anything that we could ever produce. Let it be. Let it be that SummerFire became that upper room in Ireland. Let it be, let it be. That's the cry of my heart.

    Let this be the place tonight where we say, "God, you've done it for all these other people with all their struggles and all their frailties and all their failings, so Lord, you can do it for me. Here I am Lord, let it be unto me according to your word. Let my life be led according to your will. Thank you, God, you give me the power. You're not asking me to go anywhere that you won't give me the power to go there. You give me the giftings that I need to get the work done that you've desired to do through my life." Let that be your cry.

    We're going to worship and what I'm asking of you tonight is simply a cry, just a cry from your heart. "God, I want your Holy Spirit. I want your presence. I want your power. I want your will. I want the way that you want to take my life. I want the power to lay down God, those things that are precious to me. I want the power to say yes when everything inside wants to say no. I want the power to yield and not try to dictate to you or anyone else. Lord, I want my life to count. I desperately want my life to count."

    If that's the cry of your heart, we're going to stand and I'm going to ask you to step out of your seat and just come. Just come here and we're going to worship together, we're going to pray together. Be prepared for God to meet you. Just be prepared tonight. Wherever you are just come and come expecting the Spirit of God to touch you. Hallelujah. God tonight Lord, I thank you, Lord. I thank you're going to fill people with the Holy Spirit tonight.

    I thank you Almighty God, this is your plan it always has been for your church Lord. You take us in our weakness, in our struggles or trials, when we don't understand God. When we feel like we've failed, when we feel like we've lost you, Lord. You take us in spite of it all God to an upper room and you fill us with your spirit. You give us the power to go out and confound and confront those things in our society that stand in opposition to this incredible truth. God, I ask tonight, Lord, for my brothers, my sisters, that nobody leave this altar disappointed.

    That you'd fill everyone every person God with the Holy Spirit. That people would have the power to speak in other tongues tonight. The power to speak to people of other cultures. The power Lord, to speak of the wonderous things of the Kingdom of God. The power to stand Lord, in their homes, their families, their communities, Lord, even before their enemies talking about the wonderful works of God.

    God, I pray that you make everyone at this altar a soul winner, everyone Lord, no exceptions, not one exception here tonight. Every man, every woman a soul winner. Every preacher with new power in their ministry God. Every pulpit up flame of fire God confronting every soul that stands before it, oh God. In Jesus name, Lord, in Jesus name. We are your church Lord, there's no other plan for this generation. There's no plan B or C, this is Plan A. This is Plan A for this nation, God. Here we are, Lord, as your people. Here we are God, the servants that you've called God, and so be done to us according to your word, Lord.

    We will not fight against your word, we will not fight against where you lead us, Lord. God give us your Holy Spirit tonight. Give us your Holy Spirit. Now you start crying up for the Holy Spirit. You ask God to fill your life. You ask him for what only He can do. Don't be satisfied with anything less than him. Let him be your strength. Call out to Him now. Call out from the depths of your heart.

    Pray like I prayed, "Lord if you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. I will serve you Lord, I will go where you call me. I will speak what you give me Lord, but it will have to be your power. It will have to be your spirit because I can't do it in my own strength." Call out to the Holy Spirit, and don't be ashamed. Don't be ashamed to declare your need for God, because He's not ashamed of you. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.

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  • When Favor Asks for Faith

     

    Carter Conlon

    Sometimes faith follows favor—God shows up and points to the will He has for you. And from that place of calling and surrender, you ask for the faith to step into something bigger than yourself. Carter Conlon shares in this powerful teaching that submission to God leads to a fruitful life that will change the world beyond your reach.

    Luke Chapter one. I’ll make no apologies for what I'm about to say. I believe for somebody here tonight, hopefully, several it will be a life-changing moment for you.

    This will be the moment that determines your future. There's something that God has for you that you've not considered yet. It's something deeper, it's something farther, it's something supernatural. It's actually something you can't even possibly achieve in your own strength. He does it so that his name will be glorified. He does it because his church was intended from the beginning to be a supernatural organization, not a natural one. It's not a kingdom that can be strategized by the minds of man.

    It cannot be put forward by human effort. There's parts of that are involved in that. I understand, but ultimately it has to be God himself being God through us that makes us into people that can affect our generation. Father, I thank you with all my heart for this evening. I thank you, Lord God, that you have shown me things over the years and are giving me in my later years the opportunity to share them with others. I pray tonight with all my heart, God, that you would take my body as a yielded vessel to you and that you would pour your thoughts through me. My thoughts are worthless, yours can create a universe.

    God, I thank you Lord for the privilege of hiding behind the cross tonight and disappearing. I thank you for the privilege of letting you lead me one more time. I thank you that you are a supernatural, God. You're willing and calling to do things that we've not considered yet in many cases. Lord, I thank you. I thank you for everything you have done, for what you will do, for lives that will be transformed. There would be somebody here tonight that can mark this night as the beginning of a future they never believed was possible.

    Lord, I thank you in Jesus name. Luke chapter one beginning at verse 26 now, "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary and having come in, the angel said to her rejoice highly favored one. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." When she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and considered what manner of greeting is this?

    Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man." The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the son of God. Now, indeed Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For, with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold, the maid, servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word." The angel departed from her. Now when we pray, we have a concept of prayer. You and I and the concept that we have of prayer it's not an erroneous one. The concept is that we go into the word of God.

    The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." In the word of God, we see the promises of God and which quite often are a lot farther down the road than are in our personal experience. We pray for exempts that God, I'm not a loving person but I want to be. By faith, we believe that God's going to answer. Our faith expects the favor of God. That's the way prayer generally works. We pray, we believe, and we expect God's favor to come to us, but there are moments in history, there are moments in every Christian life when favor comes first and asks us for faith.

    I want you to catch this because it's important to everything I'm going to talk about tonight. It's a moment when favor asks for faith when God himself has determined to do something in you and through you that you and I have not even considered. It's not even in our thinking. I want to think about Mary for a moment. She's a young girl, she's probably in her teens. She's betrothed to a man. She's going to get married, she's got a prayer life. I have no doubt she has a prayer life.

    Most likely, the Bible doesn't tell us, but most likely she's praying about the things that she's facing. She has a life plan just like you do. She's going to be marrying this young man called Joseph, she's probably praying that she could be a good wife and possibly that she could be a good mother, most likely praying that the wedding would go well, that the guests could all arrive from where they had to come, that the resources, the finances would be there for the expenses that had to be met. She's praying, she's talking to God. I have no doubt because she found favor with God.

    There's an innocence in her, there's a purity in her. There's a desire for spiritual things in her then suddenly one day, a messenger, an unexpected messenger comes to her. Just like tonight, I might be your unexpected messenger tonight. Somebody that's come to you to talk to you about something that God has planned for your life, that you've not considered. It's not been in your prayers. It's not been in your thinking, most of your prayer has been asking God for a favor in certain areas, favor in your finances, favor in your relationship, favor in your marriage, favor in your ministry, all kinds of things and it's totally acceptable with God. Now she's confronted by a messenger who's talking to her about she's been highly favored of the Lord, blessed among women, and she has found favor with God.

    In other words, God says, "I've come to do something in you and through you that you have not yet considered for your life." That is in my opinion, the supernatural part of the church of Jesus Christ. We're a supernatural people. We are empowered by the spirit of God to walk in the will of God, to allow God to do through us. We don't do things for God. We do some things I suppose like that, but essentially speaking the real miracle of our salvation is allowing God to do through us what he chooses to do.

    He has a plan for your life. Young people here, especially your plan is so small in the sight of God in comparison to what God has for you. You're probably thinking about college, maybe you're thinking about career, you're thinking about relationships, you're thinking about all kinds of things and realistically you have somewhat of a life plan and your prayer life is if you have one, is more or less asking God to bless your life plan. It's not wrong. There's nothing wrong with Mary getting married.

    There's nothing wrong with having a family and being betrothed through a husband and planning a wedding and thinking about what town they're going to live in and all of these things, but suddenly out of nowhere a messenger comes and says, "Hail, you are highly favored, rejoice," He says to her, "You are highly favored of God." Then these incredible words, “you're going to conceive something in your womb and you're going to bring forth a son and call his name Jesus.

    He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.” Now picture you digging that place like I can wait well, can we slow this down just a little bit? It's a lot of stuff you're saying here. God's essentially saying God himself is going to birth something in you. He's going to birth something through you. That thing He's going to do in your life is going to bring a glory to the name of God like nothing else that you've ever considered in your lifetime. Mary must have been like you and I are tonight. If we were going to do something great, and we were God, we wouldn't choose ourselves, would we? Do you not think that God would-- if he's going to send His son through a human vessel, is he not at least going to choose somebody with experience? It doesn't say in the Bible, that Mary ran a daycare.

    He's going to choose somebody that knows how to raise a kid, at least? How about somebody who's married? For her to receive this word from God, you understand in that generation, you could be stoned to death for what God was speaking to her. She had to completely put her life into the hands of God. "And He will reign over the house of Jacob and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be? I'm a virgin. I've not even known to man in an intimate or physical way."

    That's like you and I saying, "God, I don't have any certificates on my wall. Have you considered my lineage? My family, the horse traders, and thieves that are part of my lineage? Are you sure you've got the right address?" You remember Gideon, when the messenger came to Gideon and says, "Greetings man of great resources." He says, "You sure you got the right house? I'm of the least tribe. Of all the people of God, my father's the least house of the least tribe of the people of God. I'm the least in my father's house, which is the least of the least tribe.

    In case you haven't noticed, his got a grove to an idol in the backyard. Are you sure that you've got the right place?" God says, "No, I'm sending you. That's what makes you a mighty man of resources. That's what makes you what you're going to be. That's why I don't come to the strong, I don't come to the proud, I don't come to the noble, I don't come to the self-consumed, I don't come to those who walk in their own strength.

    I always choose the nothings, the nobodies, the outcasts, those things that society has no value for, to show so that no flesh can glory in my presence. I come to those whose hearts are open, who know that whatever is going to happen here is going to have to be God." I remember years ago, I was a brand new believer in Christ, and my wife and I were out for dinner one night.

    I had never preached a sermon, I was afraid of people, I was afraid of crowds, I had no speaking ability, no confidence, no nothing. She went off after we had eaten. She left me standing in the hall. She went off to the washroom. I'm standing there looking out the window and just in a moment of time, just a plane went overhead. I'm looking at it and the Lord spoke to me and says, "I'm going to send you all over the world. I'm going to do something in your life and I'm going to send you all over the world to tell people who I am and what I've done for you."

    It was my choice at that moment to say no to God, never going to happen. I was in a church and it was the first time I'd ever heard these words, "With God, or with God, nothing shall be impossible." Matter of fact, I heard it the other way around, "With God, all things are possible," and I believed it. I looked out the window and I remember saying it, "Lord, if it's going to happen, it's going to be all you and none of me. I'm afraid of flying, number one. I can't speak in case you haven't noticed, number two. I'm afraid of crowds, in case, that's escaped your attention, number three. This ain't going to happen, but if it's you, Lord, if it's you who was bidding me to come, I will go." The rest is history.

    It turned out to be the voice of God. It turned out to be the leading and the calling of the Lord to take me out of a place of living in the realm of what I could see, and what I could think, and what I could feel, and the prayers that I was praying that were probably mostly focused on those things. Listen, God's speaking so far into the future, I'm just trying to be normal. I'm just trying to get rid of a real bad temper. I'm trying to learn how to be a husband and not be selfish. I'm trying to learn how to be a father. I'm trying to learn.

    I'm just so far down, and God's speaking about something 30,000 feet in the air suddenly to me. Thank God, he's not like we are. Thank God, his plans are bigger than our plans. His ways are higher than our ways, his mercy is deeper than you and I could ever imagine. The choice of who he uses is his choice. It's not our choice. It's not by our might, it's not by our power, it's by the Spirit of God. That what God has determined to do in our lives becomes a living reality.

    The angel answered and said to her after she said, "How can this be I do not know a man." He said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." You see, you and I have something similar to this. We have the Spirit of the living Christ inside of our bodies. When we came to Christ, we were born again. The spirit...

    As much as the physical Christ was placed inside the life of Mary, we have the third person of the Trinity, God inside our physical bodies. Birthing something, doing something that only God can do, leading us to where only God can take us, making us into what only God can make us into, and giving us what only God can give us. That's what makes this an incredible kingdom.

    Don't ever let it just become an argument in your life. Don't ever let it just become accumulated scripture that never brings you to this simple understanding that God has a plan for you, for you. Not for the person beside you. There is a plan for them, but he has something very unique assigned to you. When we get to heaven, there's going to be so many people at the throne of God, they're going to still make heaven, but they're going to slap their foreheads when they see, for the first time what their life could have been, where they could have gone, what a surrender to God could have been.

    I love the story of D. L. Moody, great, great evangelist of all. The young boy working in a shoe shop and he's such a clown that he doesn't get along with people. He glued the seat of his boss's pants to his chair one day and his boss ran after him down the road with the chair hanging off his behind. This is D. L. Moody. Who would choose him? He can hardly read, he can't write, he's virtually illiterate, if you've ever read any of his letters, he's 15 years old, he's a troublemaker everywhere he goes, a jokester.

    Suddenly, this Sunday school teacher comes to visit him in his workplace and sits down beside him on a bench. A man who became his messenger and he shared Christ with him and then left him with a thought. He said, "Dwight, the world has yet to see what God could do through a fully surrendered vessel to the Holy Spirit." That's what he said and he got up and walked away. That was the messenger. That was the Gabriel that came to Mary. That was the messenger that came to Dwight Moody, a 15-year old that nobody would choose to do anything in this world.

    D. L. Moody sat on that bench and he said these words, "By the Spirit of God within me, I shall be that man." Thank you, Lord. Thank you, God for the D. L. Moody, to get up that bench, started to walk with God, and led countless thousands to Christ on different continents throughout the world. Mesmerized even the academics at Princeton that came to mock him. There's such a touch of God on this man's life.

    I remember there was a story of he came into Princeton, and the students only came out just to mock him, because he was known as this preacher-- He said Jerusalem as a one-syllable word. He couldn't pronounce things properly. They came to laugh at him. In the middle of the room, there was a spiral staircase where you went upstairs to do business with God when you came under conviction. That's the way they did things back then.

    As he began to preach one by one the academics, one by one the people who had it all together, one by one the smartest types in the church world at that time, got out of their seats and began to go up publicly in front of everybody. That just a stream started going up that spiral staircase to say, "Whatever that man has, oh my God, I want that in my life. I want that in my life, whatever he has."

    He had that one thing. He had that presence of God in Him. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his weakness. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his physical limitations, and something was born in him that can only be born of God. That's what happened on the day of Pentecost when 120 people came out of the upper room. They went in weak, they went in failures, they went in with a poor self-image, may I put it that way. They went in with all their boastings had failed, all their promises were in the dust, all their declarations of love and loyalty had amounted to nothing. They went into that upper room in absolute failure until the Holy Spirit came.

    Until God birthed in them with only God can do. They went in like lambs and they walked out like lions. They walked out into a marketplace that was hostile to the things of God, a crowd that still had the blood-lust of crucifying their savior in its teeth. They stood out without fear and they began to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. God's Spirit and presence within them brought 3,000 people to their knees, that day and into the kingdom of heaven. Of his kingdom, there will be no end.

    I remember as a young police officer walking down the street one day, and I'd never preached a sermon ever anywhere. I had no ability. As a matter of fact, I took a course in college. I tried to take a course. I wanted to be a dorm fellow, do you know what that is in college? A dorm fellow is just a greeter, that's all you are. You just you greet people. How hard can that be? If they have a problem, you tell them where to go to solve the problem, or where's the cafeteria and this is here and that's over there. I applied to that because I get a cut on my tuition and room and board for. I went to the training course and they told me at the end I wasn't leadership material. How much of a leader do you have to be to greet people? Thank God that Jesus didn't see it that way. Thank God. Thank God that He didn't look down and say, "Well, sorry, son, you're not leadership material. You got no certificate on your wall." No, it's not that way. I began to pray this secret prayer and I believe it came as a whisper to me first and I began to whisper it back to God. I said, "Lord, I want to lead 100,000 people to you before I die."

    This is the prayer I've begun to pray just walking the beat, never preached a sermon. I have no diplomas. I have no theological training. I have nothing to give to God. I don't even have a bag lunch, the little boy at least had some loaves and fishes. I got nothing at all to give to God but I've got this prayer in my heart. He's whispering it to me and I'm whispering it back to Him. Amazing. Just amazing. Then I began to be specific as I would walk the beat and I said not just 100,000 that will raise their hands in a meeting somewhere or meetings that I go to, but I want 100,000 will live for you. 100,000 will serve you, 100,000 that will appear at your throne one day. The prayer was impossible.

    Fast forward years later, I'm in a civil war in Africa in the Middle of a place called Jos, Nigeria. 500,000 people came out the first night. They were fighting, was the first allowable public meeting after six weeks or so. They had been quarantined in a sense by the government because when they were together the last time 6,000 people were killed. It was a really volatile situation. By the anointing in the Spirit of God, that first night over 100,000 people raised their hands to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, both nominal Christian and Muslim came to God was truly, truly amazing. The Lord brought peace into that area.

    I remember I went back to my hotel room I was astounded. I went back to my hotel room, I got on my knees beside my bed just to say thank you to the Lord and suddenly I was transported back to when I walked the beat and God said to me, "I've answered your prayer in one night. In one night." In one night of prayer that was impossible years ago that I was with you and you whispered back to me was something I wanted to do through your life. In one night, He said now these words to me, "Now Carter, don't limit me. Don't limit what I can do. Don't limit. Don't put boundaries on me. Don't put boundaries on what I can do through you. I can do anything I decide to do. For with God, all things are possible."

    My challenge to you tonight is don't put boundaries around your life. Don't let this world dictate to you what you are. Don't let people that have told you you're a loser dictate to you what you are, you're not. In Christ, you've already won. You're already more than a conqueror. You're already in Christ at the right hand of God. You've already won the victory in him. Don't let this world define you any longer. Let God define your life.

    [applause]

    Let him speak to you about your future, about what you're going to be and don't say no, because it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your ability. He doesn't need your diplomas, doesn't need your ideas, doesn't need your gender. He simply needs your obedience.

    In Mary's case, may I say He just needed her body and one more thing, He says now indeed, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age. This is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible. Gabriel, as a messenger of God, to encourage Mary is asking her in one sense to consider those that have gone before you. Consider those. Consider tonight the testimony that you're hearing from this pulpit. Consider it. Consider what God has done for other people because He's no respecter of persons, and what He's done for somebody else He will do for you. It may not be in a pulpit, it may be different. It doesn't really matter. It will be glorious if it's God, and what will be born in you and through you will be called the Son of God.

    How will that be? Because you'll be able to say to people it's all Jesus and Jesus alone. That's what I'm telling you tonight. It's all Christ. Christ in me has been the hope of glory, the freedom of my life, the thoughts of my mind, the abilities to do what I'm called to do, it's all been Christ, that which will be born in you will be called the Son of God. That's the testimony of the church. It's not me, it's Christ in me. It's not my ability, it's His ability through me. It's not my will, it's His will being performed. It's not my leading, it's His leading. They're not my miracles, they're His miracles that are being done.

    Now, here's Mary's part. Then Mary said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word" The messenger, the angel departed from her. You see, that's what was required of her. As the Bible says, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you yield your bodies as a living sacrifice for God," which is your reasonable service, not unreasonable, it's not exemplary, it's just reasonable, that He gave His life for me, I give my life now back to him. He starts to speak to me about what He wants to do and it can be a messenger like me tonight, it can be you just reading your Bible and God suddenly something jumps off the page. You can be waiting at the bus stop and suddenly He begins to speak to your heart about something that He has for your life.

    Here was Mary's part. She said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, and let it be to me according to your word." That's your part tonight, behold, the servant of God. Lord, if you did that for that man, you can do something through me. If you've done things like that for people in the past, you can do something through me. You're not limited by my abilities or lack thereof, because it's not about me. What's going to be planted inside of me is going to be divinely put there by God. It's going to be birthed by God. That power member, the power of the Spirit will overshadow you and come upon you and that which is born will be called the Son of God. That's the incredible truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    You see, it all comes down to this at some point in your walk with God. Now, you can choose to draw back into academics, you can draw back into works, you can draw back into things, then you'll still go to heaven folks, but you'll so miss what God had for you if you don't reach out and say, "Be it done to me according to your word." Shortly after this, she got up and she went to visit Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Elizabeth and she wanted to see this thing that was told her that about her cousin is in the sixth month of pregnancy. It's good to read biographies about the people that God has used. It's good to ask other people to share their testimony. Tell me what God has done in your life because it will build your faith.

    When she walked in, it says Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby in her womb leapt and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Now that is a greeting, right? Hallelujah to the love of God. I'd love to greet somebody like that and whatever is in them just leaps and they start speaking in tongues and they're just filled with the Spirit just because I've just walked in the room, I love that, that something is going on. The only one that had nothing to say was Elizabeth's husband, Zachariah, who was a priest and should have known better but didn't believe. So he was struck dumb until John was born. You know the story, so he has nothing to say, isn't this exciting?

    You see Mary and Elizabeth, sitting at the table. She was there for about three months, I think. Sitting at the table and Zachariah says isn't this incredible this angel appeared to Mary and told her she's going to bear the Son of God and the same angel came to me and told me we were going to have a child. Of course, Zachariah, he's like his sign was like he appeared to me but I didn't believe him. You know you can get so stuck in religion that faith is gone out the window. God has to come to these people and they're not in proximity to the altar. They're not the high priests. They're not going in and offering their sacrifice. They're not spending the whole day studying the Torah, all that can lead to unbelief if it doesn't lead to a place where you say, "God be it done to me according to your word."

    He had all the knowledge and they had almost nothing but they had a willing heart and they were open for God to do what only God can do. Blessed is he, Elizabeth said, who believe for there shall be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Now the Spirit of God comes on Mary. This is what's going to happen to you, when you leave the place of unbelief and you go in and just say, "God, I'm asking you, Jesus to do whatever you choose to do in my life. Take me where you want me to go. Make me what you want me to be. Give me what I need to possess. I'm just here" and I open my heart and say, "Lord, let it be done to me according to your word and your will."

    Suddenly, when Mary comes in and she visits Elizabeth, the Spirit of God now comes on her and I believe that she begins to prophesy. I think you'll see it as I read this and Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord." Oh, God, I feel like jumping out of my skin sometimes when I stand in a pulpit like this and grabbing some of you and shake and say, "Are you getting this man? Do you understand what this kingdom is all about?" You know you're eating a hotdog and there's T-bone steak over there. Do you understand? "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." In other words, to do something that this world has never seen he didn't go to somebody who was high profile, somebody that this world would choose to do this. He came to me, a nothing and a nobody. No one, nobody would ever notice me. Nobody would ever think that anything spiritually great is going to happen to my life. He's regarded the lowliest state of his maidservant and from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

    It's important to me, it's important that my grandson sitting here is going to be able to point to my picture one day when I'm gone, and show his kids that was my grandpa, and he was a man of God. God blessed him, and God used his life. It's important. It should be important to you. What do you want to be when you die? Just a picture on the wall? "Who was that?", "I don't know, I think it was Uncle Frank." Or do you want to be remembered as a man or woman of God. Do you want to press in and leave something for your heritage after you.

    A story, something that the young people that follow you are going to want to emulate. They're going to want to follow and then say, "If God could do that, for my grandma, my grandpa, then God can do that for me. All generation shall call me blessed." Mary said, "For he was mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." We sing that, "Oh God, you are so other than what we are. You live so far above our thinking.

    Your mercy is so much greater than we can even understand it. Your power, your willingness to use our lives for your glory. We can't even fathom, we can't even begin to think about these things. No wonder the angels around your throne, the created beings spend their whole day just shouting, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with his glory."

    Now we know Heaven is filled with his glory, but the earth is filled with his glory when there is a yielded body called The Church of Jesus Christ. This is where the glory of God is revealed in the earth. It's you and I letting Christ be Christ in us. Letting Christ govern us. Letting Christ guide us. Letting Christ set us free. Letting Christ put the words in our minds and in our mouths. Letting his hands reach out through our hands. Letting his voice speak through our voice. Letting his eyes see through our eyes. Letting his feet walk through our feet, and he is glorified.

    I'm not satisfied that he's glorified alone in heaven, is the end the created beings are saying heaven and earth are filled with his glory. There should be something that gets into your heart, gets into my heart and say, "While I live God is going to be glorified in me. God's going to be glorified through me. Yes, they may throw me in a pit, but they're going to have to deal with the reality of Christ in my life. For he who is mighty, has done great things for me, and holy is his name."

    His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. Those who hold him in awe, those who hold them as God. Those who understand his character, those who know why he went to a cross. Those who understand why He sent His Holy Spirit. From generation to generation, they will open their hearts and receive His mercy. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts, and he has put down the mighty from the thrones and exalted the lowly.

    He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent away empty. He has helped us serve and Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever. This had to be the Spirit of God come upon Mary, because she wouldn't fully have understood these things unless God’s Spirit was speaking it through her. That there was a promise made to Abraham, that he would have descendants through whom the whole world would be blessed. She was now carrying in her womb the seed of that promise.

    Oh, God and she said, He's taken the lowly to do this. He's taken not those that are mighty, not those that are filled with themselves or with their own efforts. Not those that are rich in their own understanding. He's taken the empty, and He's taken the lowly, he's taken the hungry, and he's taken us to do something that only he can do to fulfill the promise that he spoke to us through our father Abraham. God, if I there's a video reel in heaven, I'd love to see this moment, where Elizabeth is prophesying. The Spirit of God comes on Mary and she begins to speak.

    This is exactly what's going to happen to you. When you open your heart, you're going to be here a year from now, you're going to be standing up as we worship, and you're going to say, "Oh, God, you've done mighty things for me. Your mercy was on me, because I chose to believe that with you all things are possible. From generation to generation, Lord, you've come on my heart and into my life, and you're going to break that curse that's been on my house and on my lineage. God from this day forward, there's going to be people in my lineage that live for you. You've done it with your own strength, not with mine. You've done it with your thoughts, not with mine."

    You've put down all those that stand in their own strength, and you've lifted me up in my emptiness. You've used my life to be a fulfillment of the promise, the greatest promise that was ever made to this world. That there would be a seed in this world, and through that seed, the whole world would be blessed. The cry of my heart is God, whatever I have left, I give it to you, and I'm asking you to bless somebody with it. Bless the people with it. Bring the lost home with it. Set the captives free with it. Give sight to the spiritually blind with it. God, touch those who don't believe that Mercy is still available to them. Use me Lord, in whatever way you choose to use me.

    I tell you, it might be a big crowd, it might be a small neighborhood but I tell you, it's equally glorious in the sight of God. When you and I are banded to him, and he has birthed something inside of us. You see it becomes almost natural into evangelize we're not bringing people to a program anymore. Oh thank God. We're just saying, I want to tell you what Jesus did for me. I won't tell you what he'll do for you. Praise be to God.

    I went into a maximum security prison one day, which they say I shouldn't as an ex cop, but I did. They locked me in a room with 60 lifers, and there's just one guard. He's not armed. A lot of these guys has lived to kill a cop, you know that. An ex-cop well, maybe you don't know that. Some of you might know that but, and I'm locked in with lifers in solvent prison. I get up and I just told him, I says, "I'm not here because I'm a do gooder. I'm not here because I have nothing else to do. I'm here because God has set me free. I'm here because He can set you free. You may never… you'll never get out of prison, most of you, but you can be free even while you're in the confinement." I said, "Because your prison is not a prison made by man. It's a prison that comes because of sin."

    I spoke and give an altar call in a room full of guys that, I remember there was a guy with me, he was really nervous. Because he said, "Wow, these guys got nothing to lose, they can beat you to death right here and they don't get any more time for it. They're already in jail for life." When I gave the altar call it was lined up across in front of men in jail for life coming to Christ. I hugged every one of them, they cried like babies. Here's an ex-cop hugging on these guys that are in for life.

    You can't do that apart from God. You can't do it apart from the Spirit of God. You can't go into these environments unless Christ is with you. With God, what? All things are possible. That's got to go deep into your heart tonight. Otherwise, you will become another scriptural argument on the earth, and you're not destined to be that. You're destined to be a testimony of who God is. Not just a voice about what God is, but a testimony of who God is, and there's a huge difference between the two. Knowledge is good, thank God for knowledge, but it has to-- I don't want to be ever learning and never brought to where that knowledge is supposed to take me.

    The condition of the church in the last days according to the Apostle Paul, is they're always learning but never being brought to where that learning supposed to take them. Thank God for the Greek and the Hebrew, but I want a life that has Christ in it. I'm 65, now I should be retiring, but I find that as old preacher once told me he said, "Every time I wanted retire, I get refired by the Spirit of God. What am I going to do? Just go sit in a rocking chair and say enough people are saved? Not while I have breath, while I have strength. My son Jason told me, he said, "Dad you can't retire now, you finally know something."

    [laughter]

    This is all those years a yelling at us in church and you knew hardly anything, he says, "Now you know something." For heaven's sake, he says, "You can't retire now. You finally found who God is and about his mercy. The legalism is not part of your life anymore and you found something." It's my own son, a cop saying, "Dad, please don't even talk like that." Hallelujah. I'm your messenger tonight, I'm your messenger. I've appeared to you tonight. Come all the way, Gabriel came from heaven, I came from New York. I'm sure there's a comparison there. I call you highly favored of God. I tell you don't be afraid for you've found favor with God. The moment you came to Christ, you understand, It's not by works, you found favor when you came to Christ. That's your favor. He is your favor. He's recovering. He's your everything. When you came to Christ, you found favor with God. You didn't find favor because you're praying more than six minutes a day or six hours a day.

    You didn't find favor because you're reading your Bible more than the person next door. You found favor because of Christ. Then the Word of God comes to you and says, "You're going to conceive something in your life, that's going to bring God the glory."

    You're not going to do it by your strength, or by your plans, but the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. The power of the highest will overshadow you, and that which is born of you will be called the Son of God. You will call it that. The son of God's name is Jesus.

    When people say, "Well, how did this happen in your life?" You will say, "Jesus, it's the Son of God that did this in my life. It's the presence of God in me. I was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit of God, and the presence of Christ in my life has produced this which you now see and hear."

    That will be your testimony. That will be the moment that you bring glory to God. Your part now, and my part is, behold, the maidservant of the Lord, here I am. Let it be to me, according to your word. Then says at that moment, the angel departed. The work was done.

    Everything I've said tonight, everything I've tried to convey to you is done, and I can leave the moment you say, "Let it be done to me God, according to your word. According to what you have for my life, not what I have, not what I think, not what I'm asking for, but your favor has come and is asking me for faith to believe." That's the supernatural.

    I want to challenge you with all my heart, with all of my heart tonight. I'm not bringing to you tonight a fiction. I've lived this. I've walked this, I thank God of all the people in the world, the Lord chose me to do what I'm doing, when he could have had so many more that are more qualified.

    That's just not the way he chose to do it. Maybe some were more qualified and He said, "No". I don't know. Maybe it just got down to me and I'm the first guy that said, yes. I don't really know. I'll know what I get to heaven. I just know I said, yes, and it's been a miracle. It's been amazing. I have no words to tell you what this journey is, but it's a lot of it's in the book back there. You can read it, I guess, but it's been an absolutely amazing journey.

    He healed my heart. Changed my character. Taught me how to be a father, better late than never, I guess. How to be a grandfather now. Taught me how to be a husband to my wife. Taught me how to have confidence in Him. Gave me courage to go through doors that in the natural, I would have been so afraid to go through. To stand in places I never thought I could stand, to see victories that are obviously not my own.

    It's been an amazing journey, an amazing journey. It all starts with the words, according to your word, Lord. Whatever you have for my life, I'm going with it. You don't need to know it tonight. Could Mary have-- She couldn't. She just had the beginning. That's all. The Holy Spirit's going to overshadow you, a child is going to be born through you.

    She doesn't know about the cross. She doesn't know about the 33 years. She doesn't understand about the walk. She doesn't know about the resurrection. She doesn't know anything, that's about to happen. She doesn't know about there's a thing called the church. There was no such a thing, back then. It's all been born in her because she says yes, and you have no idea what God will do for other people in other places until you say, "Lord, according to your word, not my will, but Thine be done". I've had times in my life where I've tried to back away and just said, "I've done my part, I'm getting tired. I'm a little older. I want to smell some of the roses. I want to spend time with my grandkids". [laughs]

    But I had it the other way around. I thought I was going to spend time where they are, God's says, "No, I'm going to bring them to where you are, and you're going to spend time". I love the way He does the answers, but not the way we think He's going to answer it. He just turns it all around.

    I'm telling Liam at home, "I want you to travel with me when you get a little bit older. I'm still going to travel and do a lot of conferences and speak to a lot of pastors and a lot of places, and I want you to start traveling with me and experience that."

    The Lord blesses us and answers our prayers in incredible ways. I won't belabor the point. But tonight, the altar call for you is, "Yes, Lord." It doesn't matter but your failures, your struggles, your trials or where you are, even right now. It's really starts with, "Whatever you want from my life, Lord, that's what I'm going to do. That's what I'm going to go."

    I promise you, there will be some of you here, by this time next year or less, that are going to be singing the song of Mary. You're going to be shouting from the rooftops, "Oh my God, what you begun to do in my life, I never dreamed you could do this. Lord, you could have taken the strong, you could've have taken the wise, you could've taken the noble, you could've taken the Royal, but instead you chose me.

    You chose me to be the evangelist of my home. You chose me to be the change agent in my neighborhood and my community. You chose me--" Don't limit Him. Even though you're blocked, don't limit to what God can do. You have no idea where He'll take you. I'll tell you one thing, He will take you where He's destined your life to go.

    Father, I just thank you tonight. Thank you with all my heart, Lord for the men and women, the young and the old that you've gathered in this room tonight. There's no limit to what you can do by age or by gender. There's no limit by education, by experience by inability or lack of anything in our lives, God. You are God, and Lord, the proof of it is that you take us in our weakness and you become our strength. You take our nothingness and make it something that can feed multitudes.

    You've shown us in the scripture over and over again and throughout history. Now, we arrive at another point, another time with another generation. I pray God that the lessons that have been presented here throughout the week and tonight would not be in vain. That we would not stay in the seat of unbelief, that we would rise up to say, "Lord, here am I. Whatever you have for my life, I open my heart to it, and I will be the person that you want me to be."

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