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Sermons

  • Enemies of Our Faith

     

    Claude Houde

    Date Preached: 
    July 28, 2019

    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

    Date Preached: 
    July 17, 2019

    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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  • One on One | With A Past That is Always With Us

     

    Tim Dilena

    Date Preached: 
    July 10, 2019

    Jesus knew exactly what people needed not only because he was God but because he truly listened to people's pain. As believers, we are called to mimic Jesus' life, and part of this is learning to ask questions and really listen to people's answers and pray for them. Pastor Tim Dilena talks this week about scripture where Jesus names himself the Great Physician.

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  • Pray While You Still Can

     

    Carter Conlon

    Date Preached: 
    July 3, 2019

    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

    Date Preached: 
    June 27, 2019

    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

    Date Preached: 
    June 25, 2019

    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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