At times, we put parameters around God's power and abilities with our own limited belief, but the truth is, God can do whatever he wants to do. It's time to believe that God is able! In this powerful sermon, Carter Conlon challenges us to ask the question: What am I willing to believe God for in my life?
That was very gracious of you, pastor John. Thank you for that introduction. And for everybody who is here today, can you believe with me that we're going to have an encounter with God. Every time we open God's word, we should be changed. We should be transformed from where we were to where God is taking us. That's been the... it's been the source of my love for the Lord and the strength of my life. I've been a student of the word of God from the day I got saved.
I remember when I first came to Christ, I was a young police officer and I was working a radar. They used to call it; I don't know what they call it now. They used to call it radar back then. Speed gun. Okay? And I used to pray for rain because when it rained, the radar didn't work. So, I could park behind a building somewhere and I would open the word of God and I would weep. I would weep in my car. I'm talking about real tears and I would read Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I would read, and every word was life and I believed it and continue to believe it to this day. 42 years later, I still believe the word of God as much or hopefully more than I ever have in my life.
And every day when I go to the word of God, I'm always trusting that there's going to be something of his mind and his character built into my life and into my heart. And as we shared this morning, you can't believe if you don't know what you believe. A lot of folks are trying to build their walk with God on emotion, on high times and good experiences in the church, nice music, and it's all great, but you can't believe on that. That will leave you short at some point. You have to get in the word of God. Another blessing the Lord put in my life is that I didn't just search out the sweet things. I searched out the bitter things too as well.
And even the bitter things are sweet to those that, the scripture tells us, to those that do love God. I wasn't just trying to build the Christian life on the palatable parts of the word of God, but on the parts that are difficult to digest, harder to hear, and I didn't ever try to push it away and just create or craft a Jesus that makes me happy and comfortable, but I wanted the real Christ of the Bible. It has been an incredible journey. I have to tell you it's been a miraculous journey. It's been a journey beyond my deepest expectations. And it's left me now, I'm 66 now and it's left me with an understanding that with God all things are possible. That's where I began, and now I'm starting to believe it even more.
I don't look at anything as impossible anymore. If God is in it, if it's in his heart, if it's in his mind to do something, he's well able to do it. And I want to share with you... these are just thoughts from my heart today. I don't have any notes or anything. I just want to share with you a thought that I feel he's given me from Genesis chapter 18. I'm going to entitle it, again, as I did this morning, "It's Time to Believe". It's Time to Believe. It's time for you and I to come back to where the church began. Empowered by the spirit of God, enabled by the word of God and moving in unison with the plan and the purpose of God.
And I believe that it's possible for you and for me, for all of us, and we've got to get out of any place and every place of unbelief, anywhere where we've settled in and said, "This is as far as I can go and I can't go any farther." I challenge you to banish that thought. I challenge you to put that thought under foot because God can do whatever God wants to do. And when he finds a heart willing to believe him, there's no limit to what God can do. When I was a young cop, I remember I was walking the beat and I had never preached a sermon anywhere. I had no speaking ability whatsoever. I was not a candidate for the ministry, but I felt the Lord ask me a question, "How many souls would you like in your lifetime?"
And I saw in responding to that what I felt was an overture from the Lord, I said, "God, I would like to win 100,000 people to you before I die." And then I began to be specific in my prayer. I said, "I don't want these to be just people who raise their hands in services, but people who actually live for you, serve you, walk with you and one day end up at your throne and where you can actually look at them and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Now that was an impossible prayer for me in my circumstance in life and my abilities and everything else. That was never going to happen. No ministry credential, never been to Bible school, nothing like that.
Fast forward from that moment on the street to many years later, I was in the field in Nigeria and we're in a place... there was civil war, the city of Jos, Nigeria. And I remember we brought together into that place 500,000 people every night. And it was a volatile situation because they were at civil war, militant Islam versus nominal Christianity more or less. One group would rise and kill and burn the other group and they would rise and kill and burn the other side. The last time they had been publicly together, 6,000 people died. So, you can see how volatile this was. We were the first gathering in months allowed to be together outside the city.
And we didn't know how many people were going to come, but a sea of people showed up. I preached that night on the emptiness and the worthlessness of all religion from the parable of the Jericho road, both Christianity and Islam, all religion that has no compassion for its neighbor. At the end of the message, I basically gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior. But I did say to the people words to this effect, "If you have no intention on forgiving your brother, if you have no intention on stopping the murder and the carnage and the hatred and the vilification of one another and all the other things that go on in this society, then don't deceive yourself into thinking that eternal life will be yours.
But if you want to truly live for God, if you want the Jesus Christ of the Bible, if you want to live for God, if you want to forgive your neighbor, I'm asking you now to raise your hand and receive Christ as Savior." And I was told that if the numbers were correct, the local people estimated the crowd between four and 700,000. There was no way to really measure it. We settled in at five. If the numbers were correct, more than 100,000 people raised their hands that night to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. I went back to my hotel and in my hotel, I got down on my knees beside my bed to give God thanks for truly a miraculous night.
And then suddenly I remembered the prayer that I prayed when I was a young police officer many years before walking the beat, and before I could even open my mouth to say thank you, the Lord spoke to me and said, "Carter, don't limit me. Don't limit what I can do. Don't put parameters around my compassion. Don't put parameters around my power. Don't put parameters around my ability. I am God. I can do whatever I want to do." Now fast forward from there to just a couple of months ago, I took a stroll down Broadway one night. I was walking from where the church is down to Penn Station. And I walked right through Times Square and folks, it's like Sodom and Gomorrah.
I can't even begin to describe to you what's going on. Let me just give you one example. They're painting naked people there now. Tourists pay to paint people. I mean, it's just unimaginable. If you ever wondered in the Bible what Sodom looked like, that's probably what it looked like. The conversation is less than idiotic. I don't even know how to describe the conversation. The drugs are being sold openly everywhere. The prostitution that's going on, on the streets, it's just... and that's only the beginning of it. It's almost every sin you can think of is being committed there. And so, I was so overwhelmed by what I was looking, because I don't go down there very often.
I was so overwhelmed, I started praying out loud. I started first saying, "God have mercy on the people." And nobody much cares. You can pray out loud there, nobody cares what you're doing. So, I start to pray and then I started to point to people, different groups doing different activities. "Have mercy on those people. Oh Jesus, have mercy on these people." And once again, I felt the Lord asking me, "How many souls would you like before you die?" And I prayed a prayer and I said, "God..." And immediately as I felt the Lord ask me that question again, I thought of the king in the presence of Elisha as he was dying and he sat straight there on the ground, and he only struck it three times and the Elisha said, "You should have hit it five or six. You would have had a full victory over the Syrian army. Now you're only going to get a temporary deliverance."
Based on that story, I said, "Lord, I'd like 60 million souls before I die." Now see how quiet it got all of a sudden, right? See, we're talking about what, what's the theme of this conference? It's Time to Believe. Is God able to do that? Is God able to bring a spiritual awakening to this nation? Is God able to... I'm not talking about just brand-new souls, but I'm talking about churches coming back to Christ. I'm talking about Christian believers coming home to God. I'm talking about God doing what only God can do. I'd rather die on the side of faith than live on the side of unbelief. Given the choice, that's where I'm going to finish out my days.
I'm on the radio now and I speak to almost one to three million people a day as I'm told by Ambassador Communications. So why should I consider it an impossible thing that God could grant that many souls in this last hour of time? If we don't believe God, we're to be pitied of all people because we have all the history, we have the teaching, we've got the tapes, we've got the testimonies, we hear what God has done, we talk about the great awakenings throughout history. And if we are the final generation before Christ's return, aren't we to be pitied if we've come to the place with all of our history and teaching that we simply don't believe God that he's able to do what he's always done?
And of course, now it starts with the individual. That's what I want to talk about for just a few moments this afternoon. It starts with you. It starts with me. What am I willing to believe God for in my life? As a believer, I can fall short of what God could do, I'll still go to heaven. You'll still go to heaven. We're believers in Christ. We have this inheritance of eternal life with God because of Jesus Christ. But we can fall short of what God has for our lives just by simply building parameters around ourselves. We choose to believe what others have said about us or we choose to believe the frailties of our own hearts rather than what God is speaking.
I'm continuing the theme that the Lord started me on this morning for you, for people that are gathered here today. We're not the largest crowd in history, but neither was the first church. They were only 120 in that upper room and eventually even the Roman army bent its knee to the presence of God through 120 people that God was able to speak to and empower. And they come out of that upper room, thrust themselves into the marketplace and in many cases, many of these people knew that doing this was going to cost them their lives and many of them did. It cost them everything to do this. But they came out in the power of God and they began to speak.
It says in the Greek, the megaleios of God. That's what other nations heard them and said, "We hear them speaking in our tongues, the wonderful works of God." It says in the King James. But the word in the Greek is megaleios, and what it means is the anticipated outworkings of the inward presence of Christ. Now upon them they were speaking about things that God was going to do and how God was going to do it and who he was going to use to do it. Truly amazing. This is the difference between 3,000 plus people coming back from the temple where they had been reading things about God that were true. Those people that had just come from the temple, they were opening the scrolls, they were reading Isaiah or other scriptures. They were reading and it was all true, but it was all just facts about God.
And on the way home they encountered 120 people that had met with God. There's a huge difference between the two. They're going home filled with unbelief. They have a lot of history, but they're filled with unbelief. They meet 120 people coming out of an encounter with God filled with faith. Oh, I tell you one more time, it's time to believe. It's time. We've got to become the church again in this generation. The way things have been done, there's been great good done. I don't negate it, but the hour now, the hour requires something else. Something new, something old maybe that we rediscover one more time.
Genesis chapter 18. Father, thank you for your word. Your word is indeed a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. I thank you Lord that your word tells us that the entrance of your words gives light. So, God today give us light, illuminate our path. Show us Lord individually, corporately, where you can take us as the people of God. I pray, Lord, that you would enable me by your Holy Spirit to speak the thoughts of your heart. My voice is powerless. Yours can create a universe. And so, God, I pray for the grace to disappear that you may appear. I pray that my thoughts would be brought into subjection to yours. I pray, God, you'd take this frail old man one more time and use my life for your glory.
You promised that the glory of the latter house would be greater than the former. And in the scriptures, we see that you saved the best wine for the end of the wedding feast. So, Lord I stand today on that truth and I believe, oh God, if I will yield to you that the years that remain will be greater than the years that have gone before. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of gaining fruit for your kingdom. Thank you, my God, for the ability to yield to you, to recognize the weaker we become, the stronger you become. And so, Lord, thank you. Open every heart. Open every set of ears here today, God. Help us to believe you again. In Jesus name.
Genesis 18. It says, the Lord appeared to him, that's Abraham, by the terebinth trees of Mamre as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. He lifted his eyes and looked and behold three men were standing by him. Now there's opinion about this, but I think it's generally accepted that it was a pre-incarnated appearance of Christ and two angels, two messengers, were with him. I'm not here to debate that, but that's generally what's said about it. He ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the ground and he said, "My Lord, if I've now found favor in your sight, do not pass on by your servant."
And this ought to be your cry today and mine. Oh God, if I've found any favor in your sight, would you please Lord, don't pass me by. Pray that right now. Let that be your prayer. If I've found favor with you, God, don't pass me by for somebody else. Don't keep walking. As you come close to the place where I am, where I dwell, where I'm sitting right now, Lord, just don't keep walking. Stop. So, the Lord did stop at the entrance to his tent. And then in verse nine he says to him, "Where's Sarah, your wife?" And so, he said, "Here in the tent." And he said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life. And behold, Sarah, your wife shall have a son." Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well-advanced in age and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore, Sarah said within herself, "After I've grown old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord, being old also?" And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child since I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you according to the time of life and Sarah shall have a son." I just love this in the word of God that quite often God gives a promise and then waits till we are too weak to fulfill it. If you're young and you live long enough, you'll find that you can't fulfill the promises that God has made to you.
He waits until our strength is gone so that his strength... You see, he begins where we end. That's exactly the way it works. And I love that about God. I love that about the kingdom of God. You'll see that all the way through the scriptures when you study the scriptures, if the Lord wanted to bring a prophet into the world, he searched for a barren womb. He looked for somebody who couldn't bear children in the case, for example, of Hannah, Elizabeth as well for John the Baptist and etc., etc. The list goes on and on. He wants to deliver his people out of Egypt and what does he do?
He waits till the man who once was in a place of authority, once held a sword in his hand, once commanded respect and perhaps even soldiers is now an old man in the wilderness and has no power in himself to do any of the things that he was once promised that he would do. And I thank God for that because if we were able to do this, then our testimony would be, "Look what God and I have done, hallelujah," instead of, "Look what God has done through me. Look what God has done for his own glory through my weakness, through my lack of strength." That's why there're some people sitting here that you may have a promise that God gave you one day, and you say, "What happened to that promise? Where did it go?"
Oh, it didn't go anywhere. It just has to wait for you to get out of the way and then you watch what God's going to do with that promise. Years ago, God started speaking to me about spiritual awakening. He started speaking to me about it before I even knew what it was. And I was so excited about it. One day I came, and I said to my wife, we lived in a farmhouse at the time. I said, "Theresa," I said, "The Lord's been speaking to me about that I would live to see a spiritual awakening." I wasn't even sure what it was, but I would live to see a massive turning to God, of people turning to God from every walk of life.
And I was so sure of what God had spoken to my heart, and she was standing in the farmhouse. I'll never forget it. And she turned and she pointed at me and she said, "God will never give the mantle of revival to a man until he no longer wants it." I want you to think about that because when we are still involved in the mix, we will always take over the work of God. Always. It will start God alone, then me and God, then it will be me and God will be somewhere back there, and we will take over the work of God. But God comes to Abraham and remember the promise was you're going to be a blessing. The promise was your descendants are going to be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The promise was that through you, all the world is going to be blessed.
Now you and I know that through Abraham was going the come the patriarchs of Israel, through whom was going to come to the tribe of Judah, through whom was going to come the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom was going to come the church, through whom was going to come you and I here today. So, we are actually the promise that God gave to Abraham sitting right here today. We are the stars. Remember Jesus himself said, "You are the light of the world." He's referring back again to the promise made to Abraham. You are the light of the world. You are that which is set in the heavens in a sense to give light, to give direction, to give hope, to show times, to show seasons. You are the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hidden.
But before the promise could be fulfilled, God had to wait until Abraham was too old to have a child. Now he made mistakes along the way, just like you and I do, and the mistakes that he made didn't negate the promise. So don't let the devil tell you that the mistakes you've made along the way have somehow caused God to take away plan A and give you plan B or plan C in your life. No. Plan A is still there. Plan A has not been dependent on you. It's been dependent on God and God alone. Now the men arose from there, verse 16, here's where it gets interesting, and looked towards Sodom. And Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I've known him, verse 19, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has spoken to him." In other words, I know this man that he will do right. I know this man that he will follow the words that I give to him, so I'm not going to hide from him what I am doing. Remember Jesus himself in the gospel of John said, "When he, the comforter has come, he will what, he will guide you into all truth and he will show you things to come." He will show you things to come in your own life. He will show you things to come in the world around you.
In other words, we're not people of darkness that the day we're living in should overtake us as a thief. You and I should not be a people on the outside looking in or having to go to watch Fox or CNN at night to find out what's going on in the world or what the spiritual condition of the country is. We are the people of God and if the Holy Spirit is inside of us and we are open to the working of God, he will show us things to come. He will speak to us about things that he is about to do in the nation. Now he says, "Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grave..." This is verse 20 of chapter 18. "I will go down now and see whether they've done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to me and if not, I will know."
I want to tell you something. We are very, very close in America to where Sodom and Gomorrah were. I want to tell you why. You know what the flashpoint of God's judgment was on Sodom and Gomorrah, is when the Sodomites came to the door where the two angels were and tried to force their way in and make the messengers of God partakers of their sin. And when the Sodomites tried to force their way into the house of God and say, "You will become, you will acquiesce to us. You will bend your knee to our lifestyle. You will declare our sin to be good." When that happens, that is the flashpoint in my opinion, in historically looking at of God's judgment. When that happened, when they tried to make the messengers of God partakers of their sin.
We're not that far away from this moment in America right now. We are fighting this battle. You will see it shortly. It will probably in America in the next several years become a hate crime to refuse to acknowledge gay marriage in the church of Jesus Christ as leadership. So, we are at the point where this lifestyle is trying to push its way into the door of the house of God and say, "You will partake of our sin." "If God doesn't judge us," Billy Graham said, "He's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." "I will go down and see and if not, I will know."
Verse 22 it says, then the men turned away from there and went towards Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Now here's the type of a church that begins to pray. I just wrote a book recently called, It's Time to Pray, and I believe that with all my heart, if ever there was a time to pray, it's now. Here's a moment where there's a man standing before God who has the power to turn his heart in some measure. But what we're going to see becomes a bit, in my opinion, of a strange prayer meeting. This is a prayer meeting outside of Sodom, may I call it that? This is a man who's now standing... He knows he's standing before God, the son of God, pre-incarnated Christ at this point. He knows that who he's petitioning has the power to stop this judgment that's about to come.
And so, Abraham came near, verse 23, and said, "Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were 50 righteous within the city, would you also destroy the place and not spare it for the 50 righteous that were in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous should be as the wicked. Far be it from you. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Talk about the humility of God. There's a man standing before him that basically is saying, "If you do this, you're not righteous. If you do this, you're doing wrong because it's not right that you should slay the righteous with the wicked."
So, the Lord said, "If I find in Sodom 50 righteous within the city, then I will spare the place for their sakes." Then Abraham answered and said, "Well, indeed now..." Remember we're on the theme of, It's Time to Believe. "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose there were five less than the 50 righteous, would you destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So, he said, "If I find there 45, I will not destroy it." And he spoke to him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be 40 found there?" So, he said, "I will not do it for the sake of 40." Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak. Suppose 30 should be found there?" So, he said, "I will not do it if I find 30 there."
And he said, "Indeed now, I've taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose 20 should be found there?" So, he said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of 20." Then he said, "Oh, let not the Lord be angry and I'll speak, but once more, suppose 10 should be found there?" And he said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of 10." So, the Lord went his way as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham and Abraham returned to his place. Now this is an ironic kind of a prayer meeting. If you believe as I do that God is omniscient, now he knows, he knows how many righteous are in the city. He knows there's not 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10, so why is he playing with Abraham? Is he playing with Abraham or what? Is he looking for something that Abraham is not aware of?
Why doesn't he just say right out of the gate, "Abraham, don't waste your time. There's not even 10 righteous in the city." Is he looking for something? What is he looking for? When you look at this passage, this scripture, there's no indication that the Lord said, "Now enough, Abraham, don't ask me for anymore." Abraham chose to stop. It's an incredible thing really. He was six souls short of a victory. Six souls short of a moment of mercy on a wicked society. Six short. Now Lot was there, and Peter's epistle declares him to be righteous. That's a really iffy righteousness, but he was declared to be righteous. That means his wife was also righteous and his two daughters.
The angels brought four out of Sodom before Sodom burned. This whole society is about to go into judgment. It's all about to be judged. Abraham stops praying. Stop spraying right at the point he's six short of a victory. Why didn't he go down to five? Was the Lord toying with him or was God after something in this man? Which I believe I see in this passage. Now it's conjecture on my part. Okay? Conjecture means that I'm reading this into the text, it doesn't necessarily say that, so you are free to accept or reject my conjecture. But here's my conjecture for what it's worth. I think God was after one thing and Abraham didn't arrive there. I think he was after Abraham to say, "Lord, I will go into the city. I will go. Give me 30 days, give me 60 days to go into the city and if I find 10 righteous, will you spare it?"
You see, this is why I feel the Lord didn't say "No, stop praying right now." Because the scripture says, as soon as he'd finished speaking, the Lord went his way and Abraham went back to his place. And that's the way a lot of our prayer meetings are. In a sense, even if we do pray, we come to a prayer meeting and we say, "Oh God, have mercy. God have mercy on New York City. God have mercy. Save people. God have mercy, let the children know you." And then we get up after the prayer meeting and just go home. I mean, we don't put ourselves in with our prayers and bring it to the place of saying, "Lord, send me, send me somewhere. Send me into that neighborhood. Send me to that single mum with her kids. Send me across the hall in the place where I live.
Send me, my God. Open my mouth. Use my life for your glory." And I honestly believe that's what God was looking for but didn't find it. He didn't even intercede for his own family if you read the text, the scripture, for his own nephew. Remember the Lord said, "I will show him what I'm about to do because he will command his household after him." Well, his own nephew was there or his cousin, whichever way you want to look at it, but was in Sodom with his family. That was by extension in that culture, that was his family. And God said, "I will show him what I'm about to do because he will instruct his family." Now Lot had no authority. Lot was so intermixed with the backsliddeness of that society that nobody believed him when he finally opened his mouth and said, "Judgment is coming."
His own family didn't believe him. His sons-in-law didn't believe him. They laughed. They thought he was joking. But you imagine if a man would have shown up there as Jonah once did in Nineveh and say, "I've been talking face to face with the living God. I'm telling you judgment is coming here. And if 10 righteous can be found in the city..." Now Lot and his family were four, Abraham would have made it five, which means he had to win five people over to the worship of the true God. Five in a city and it would have been spared. Five, and it might've been given another year, maybe another two years, maybe a season to repent. Five who might have turned from their wickedness and started preaching to the people.
God only knows what history would say if Abraham would have just not quit at that point. If he would have believed right through to the final until God says no, until God says, "No more. Don't ask me for anymore. You've brought this thing down far enough; it can't go anymore." But there's no evidence the Lord had gotten to that point. And I think sometimes we think that prayer in itself, it's a good thing and thank God for prayer, but at some point, we have to throw ourselves in with our prayers and say, "Lord, here am I. Here am I." But it might mean we don't get to go home when we say that. See, he went home. It might've meant he didn't get to go home. The here am I can mean we might end up somewhere we never anticipated we're going to go. We might end up doing something we never thought we would do. We might find ourselves in places we never thought we would be.
I remember one time I was invited to speak in a prison just for sex offenders and I was a police officer. And the Lord opened the door and it was a hard door to go through, a difficult door to go through. But there was great fruit born and there were 700 men there and there was great fruit born in that meeting by not hiding from the truth, but by bringing the truth to people who were locked in a prison of immorality as well as a prison of their own making. There are so many doors that God will open if we're willing to go through those doors. And he takes us into impossible places, places where we could never hope to achieve what only he can do if he only finds a willing vessel.
One of the greatest tragedies in scriptures in the book of Ezekiel. Now he begins to describe, Ezekiel describes the society, he said the politicians were corrupt and stealing from the people. The judges were accepting bribes. There was a religion that was being bankrolled by this whole corrupt system and it was in cahoots with it. Underneath that, the people were exercising oppression, cheating, robbing, stealing, oppressing the stranger underneath that. And it just gets worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. And then he says, "And I sought for a man that I should not have to judge my own people and I could not find one." Can you imagine? Israel at this time is the most religious nation on the face of the earth.
God says, "I sought for a man to spare the city." It became easier to believe that God was going to judge that society than to believe he could show mercy. I personally feel that he sought for a man among all of this religious crowd that believed that he was willing to be merciful and couldn't find one. Everybody had fallen in line with the common thought of the day. This place is going to be judged. It's all going to be doomed. It's damned. It's going to burn. He said, "I decided to show mercy, but I needed a human vessel to work through and I couldn't find one." Couldn't find one among his own people with all their history of mercy. I mean, think it through. This was a nation birthed in mercy, guided by mercy. They knew the failings of their history. They knew the mercy of God all the way through their history.
They knew that God was, at least should have known he was merciful, but there's points in life where it becomes easier to believe in unbelief than to believe that God can be God and God can do what God can do. Yes, we're living in a dangerous day. We're living in a decadent day. We're living in a day when evil is being called good and good is being called evil. We're living in a day of corruption at every conceivable level in society. We're living in a day when our children are being deliberately gender confused and baptized in filth even in their own schools. It's a terrible day that we're living in. But again, God's saying, "I'm looking for someone. I'm looking for someone, a man, a woman, somebody somewhere.
I'm looking for someone in your neighborhood. I'm looking for someone on your job. I'm looking for someone at your table. I'm looking for someone to show mercy through. Someone who could just speak maybe what everybody's been thinking or maybe words they've never heard before. Maybe a warning that's never been given, maybe love that they'd never felt, I don't know." The gospel is preached different ways to different people at different times. As Jude says, "Save some with love and save others with fire, but in any way reach them." I sought for a man, I sought for a man. You see, this is not just a conference and if you're just going to build the resume of what you've learned at conferences, aren't we just then a people always learning and not coming to the knowledge of the truth?
That's going to be the condition of the last days, the apostle Paul says, always learning, learning, learning as if attending like 1,500 conferences is somehow going to make us into culture changers, but that's not what it's all about. It's about taking what we do know and saying, "God, use me for your glory and take me where you want me to go and give me what you want me to speak and take me to the people that you want me to speak to." And quite often it might be a culture. It might be a situation that's completely out of your culture or your comfort zone, something you never anticipated that God was going to do.
It's been the story of my life. I've been in places speaking to people who I have absolutely no experience and all I have is the word of God. But I've watched God do what only God can do. I've seen miracles, honest to God miracles in my lifetime. I've seen God change societies, do things that only he can do. And so here we are again, thank God for yesterday's victory, but we live in today and we're moving into tomorrow. And I believe that God is searching again, searching again, searching again. I sought for a man, I sought for a woman. I sought for somebody, sought for an Esther who would go before the king, feeling unlovely, feeling unwanted, feeling like the former relationship is all gone.
That's what she felt like. But she said, "Well, I'm going to pray and I'm going to go in and if I perish, I perish." And not only did she win a victory for her people, but she became a co-regent with her husband, which was unheard of in that culture. Amazing. I wish I had time to just speak on that topic because it is one of the more profound passages of scripture, not just scripture-wise, but historically too as well. She rewrote the law of death into a law of life. Just one girl that was willing to go in and say, "God, you put me where I am, so I'm giving you my life for your glory. And if I perish, I perish. But I'm going in not for my sake, but for the sake of people that are destined for the slaughter. A society that's going to die and are defenseless to protect themselves."
And here we are again one more time. One more time called to go in. And so, I want to challenge you with all my heart. I want to challenge you with everything that's inside of me. I feel like that old song in Flanders Fields, I don't know how many know that, an old soldier song in a sense. It's a poem. It says, to you from failing hands, we throw the torch. I can't do this forever. I'm 66 but some of you are only 26 here. You're younger and you've got years ahead of you. And some of us older guys, we're not going to be around forever, but we're throwing a torch to you and saying, "Who will take the baton? Who will take the torch? Who will run with it? Who will stand when nobody else will?
Who will go up to people that nobody else wants to go to? Who will believe that God can show mercy when all the society is yelling, "Judge them, judge them, judged them, judge them." Who will believe? Who will believe that certain communities can be reached that people say they can't be reached? Who will believe? Who will go with that torch of mercy? And so that's my challenge to you. It's time to believe. It's time to believe. I don't want this just to be a slogan for a conference, and I believe that it was put on your heart, pastor Gary, pastor John, for a deeper reason than just more knowledge. That there are people here, you're going to be used of God.
Didn't Daniel say, "In the latter days, the people who know their God will be strong and they will do exploits." All hell seemingly will be breaking out in the world and knowledge will increase and people will be going to and fro and there'll be all these scary things on the horizon like artificial intelligence and facial recognition and all these things that are coming our way. But there still will be a people who are strong, and they will do things that only God can do through them. Praise be to God. Be a warrior church in a sense, glorifying God and be a demonstration that God is still alive, still on the throne and still God through a body, through a people. May we be that people. May you be that person, may we together be the people of God.
That is the challenge in my heart. I'm going to ask the worship team to come, if you will, please. I've seen you move. I've seen you move the mountains and I believe you can do it again. It's time to believe. It's time to believe that God can use you. It's time to believe. It's time to believe. There's a point of learning, but if it doesn't bring us to faith, what good is it? All you will be is a doctrinal argument somewhere, but we're not called to be a doctrinal argument. We're called to be a living expression of the reality of God, the mercy of God, that mercy that sent the son of God to a cross. That's what you and I are called to be.
And so, my challenge to you is as it was given to me. I was a young believer; I was about 28 years old and I went to a church one Sunday. I was visiting there and as the pastor was speaking, my heart was strangely warmed, and I felt a call of God to yield my body to him for his purposes. To yield my future, my life. And I'm sitting in my seat and I was in the back, and I was thinking, I got nothing, Lord. I got a bad temper. If you need that, I can give you that. I mean, I'm just trying to be a husband. I'm just learning what it means to be a father. I'm trying to break out of the basic boxes of human behavior that had become very familiar with my life. I'm just getting free myself. I've got so much in myself to deal with and suddenly I feel God calling me even in that place of weakness into something of himself.
He's asking me for everything. And I was thinking, because it was a big church and there had to be 900 people or 1,000 people there. And suddenly my heart is pounding, and the altar call is given, and nobody is moving. I was thinking in the back, what's wrong with these people? They've got the knowledge, I don't. They've got the history, I don't. They were raised in Christian families, I wasn't. They're all so nice and I'm fighting just not to punch people in the face when I disagree with them. For real. I'm still fighting. I've just got this wagon load of baggage and yet you're calling me? And to me it didn't make any sense. I didn't understand it. Why don't you call him?
And I'm looking around at her or him, they look so nice. Their hair's all nice and their suits are all nice and I'm there. I don't even have a suit. Yeah. I couldn't fight it any longer and I get out of my seat. I came down to the front and I got on my knees and there was another guy who got out, there was two of us. There's 1,000 people there who were being called to give our all to God and there was only two who came forward. And I started weeping and weeping and weeping. And here's my prayer, I said, "God, the little boy in the Bible had a bag lunch. I don't even have that. I have nothing. I have nothing." That was my prayer. I said, "God, I have nothing that I think you could use for your kingdom, but if you can use nothing, here I am. Use me for your glory."
I couldn't offer him... I had no history of faithfulness. I had no giftings. I didn't even know what you giftings of the Spirit were. I had no giftings that I would want. I had no good self-image. I had nothing, nothing, nothing. Hardly knew the Bible. I knew the parts I was reading in the New Testament and yet he was calling me to make a difference. And I cried and I cried, and I cried, and I cried, and all these counselors were coming around me and saying, asking me all kinds of questions and I kept saying, "Just go away. Just go away. Leave me alone. Leave me alone." I kept saying, "Go away." "Oh brother, can we pray for you for this?" "Go away." It's all I could think of telling him. I was alone with God.
They weren't used to that happening unfortunately. And so that's the call of God for you. Come ye weary. Come ye poor. Come, those who don't have any money to buy. Come, come and watch what God can do. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Let's stand please. If that's you, would you join me here? Would you come? Just slip out wherever you are. Lord, I don't have much. Maybe you say, "I have nothing, but I'll give you what I got." A little boy just had a couple of loaves and some fish and you fed 5,000 plus people with it. So, here's my little lunch. And if you can take it, God, please take it and multiply it and feed people through my life. Use me for your glory. You watch what God will do. You watch what God will do. You watch.
It's time to believe that God can. It's time to believe. Whatever you put in his hand, he can multiply it by a million times, and he could start feeding people all over the world with it. You just give it to him and believe him and just believe him. Just believe that he can use your life. Hallelujah. Let's sing that song and just take time to pray, just to talk to God. Or you can sing the song, do whatever you want. Just make it a meaningful moment right now. A meaningful moment.
It was such a confidence that others looked at them and said, "Where did these people get this kind of confidence? Where did they get this kind of authority? How did they have this kind of an encounter with God?" Lord, let that be our testimony. Let that be our testimony God everywhere we go that people look at say, "Where did they get this anointing? How did they get such power? Where do you get that from?" Oh God, give us the ability, Lord, to go into the deepest presence of the human mind and the human heart, bringing life and light as Paul and Silas brought you into that inner prison. God, give us the power to reach the inner prisons, Lord, of this society, God. Prisons in people's minds and hearts, Lord.
Give us, Lord, the keys, God, into these places, Lord. God, thank you for what you're doing right now, Lord, in young men, young women, older men, older women who are gathered here at this altar, Lord. We've gathered with the little we have and some feel like we've got nothing, but God what we have we give it to you, Lord, and you are able to do miracles with it. You're able to feed thousands with it, oh God. Oh Jesus, son of God. Oh Jesus, son of God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Raise up evangelists, Lord, here today. Raise up powerful, powerful testimonies for Christ. Raise up teachers that will speak in the classroom boldly to their students, Lord.
Raise up, God, people in every aspect of life and society that will be living witnesses for you, Lord. God, let it be, Lord. Let it be. Let it be oh God. Let it be oh Lord. Let it be. I'm going to ask you just to open your mouth and talk to God right now. Just pour your heart out before him unashamedly, unashamedly. Let him begin to speak to your heart about what he has for you in the future. Let's believe. Make this a sacred moment, a sacred moment where you stand before God. You kneel before God. Whatever it is, you sit before God. Make it a sacred moment. Say, Lord, hear am I. Here am I. Here am I, Lord. One more down the line of weak people. One more down the line of people that society wouldn't even look to for you, Lord God. One more Lord, and I'm asking you to take my life and use it for your glory. Hallelujah.
We see in the gospels that Jesus was willing to take a detour for just one person. He leaves the ninety-nine to go after one lost sheep. God’s desire is to deliver, rescue and heal. In this sermon from the Arise Conference in Fresno, California, Nicky Cruz shares how Christ set him and his family free from demons, abuse, depression and more.Download MP3 Download MP4
Some athletes are so good that they call them game changers. Jesus Christ is the true game changer. He has the power to heal your broken marriage, break your addictions, deliver you from demonic oppression, and replace your anxiety with peace. Don’t worry. He’s got this!Download MP3 Download MP4
After you make a decision to follow Christ, there will then be things from your past you're going to have to face. Sharing from his own personal experience and pulling from the life of Jephthah, Nicky Cruz shines a light on finding freedom from your past by the power of God in your life.Download MP3 Download MP4
Before the flood, there were two lines of man: Seth, which led to people who praised God, and Cain, who did more evil than ever before. But both needed God. It doesn't matter what kind of background you have or where you come from, from the prostitutes to the preachers, we all need Jesus. Gary Wilkerson shares a powerful evangelistic message on the need we all have for God's redemptive work.Download MP3 Download MP4
Do you face a storm that threatens to shipwreck your life? Reflecting on Acts 27, Claude Houde shares God's plan for your storm and encourages you that there is a miracle waiting on the other side.
Claude Houde: It all began when in 1985, I was asked to in Canada to be pastor David Wilkinson's interpreter. I think they're going to show a picture of me and brother Dave when we were together in 1985 and all these years, 34 years together, ministering, yes.
Claude Houde: I was waiting for the picture to come up. I know I looked like a Latino narco-trafficking on that one.
Claude Houde: I was formerly a French narco-trafficking. It's very different. 34 amazing years coming every year to bring the word here we've been set good and close friends with pastor Carter and pastor Theresa, for all these years. Pastor Carter and I have preached together all over the world. This is pastor Carter and I in Ivory Coast. Say it to the person next to you, they look good. Say that to the person next to you.
Audience: They look good.
Claude Houde: Ivory Coast, Ireland, Haiti, Canada, Burundi and many, many French countries together. Actually pastor Carter and I were also preaching a few years ago to over 2,000 pastors and leaders for three days in the center of Paris at a theater called the Bataclan. You might remember that just after a few weeks after we were there, preaching salvation and forgiveness and love, and the full life of Christ, a terrible terrorist attack occurred at the very place where pastor Carter and I preached the word. Over 130 were killed. 90 in that very building at the Bataclan. 413 were seriously wounded.
A massacre, one of the worst in France's history, and in the days that followed while I was watching the news and I saw was I was struck by the testimony of this young man who was in that theater where we preached and prayed in the same room, same stage. He witnessed many of his friends die right around him. He just threw himself to the floor and his friends fell over him and he actually would see the terrorists walk by and the boots and the machine gun and he actually said, I was watching it on TV, French TV and he said, "I was saved because I was covered with the blood of an innocent man."
I thought we're all saved because we're covered by the blood of Christ. Would you say, yes, please? Pastor Carter, I come to you today, they have rebuilt, they have cleaned up and reopened the Bataclan. I come today with an invitation from over 100 French pastors. They want us to go back. They want you and I to go back to preach. How many of you think we should be there to preach God's love, salvation, forgiveness? Would you give a shout out to the love of God that overcomes all things?
Claude Houde: I want you to turn with me to Acts 27:28. The title of my message today is shipwrecked under His sovereignty. Shipwrecked under His sovereignty. You may feel you are shipwreck, but you are always under His sovereignty. There's a kingdom sequence, there's a kingdom principle that I actually taught here last time I was here, that as we follow Jesus through the gospels, we see this chapter by chapter.
You will see this in your life, you will see this in the life of a ministry, the life of the church. In a family where we go from a season of multiplication under the blessing of God right into storms and sometimes can be from multiplication to multiplication right into storm. The sequence is from multiplication into storm into greater measures of the miraculous in His purposes.
If you're in a storm right now, on the other side of that tumultuous sea, there is a bank of God's blessing and deeper blessing and deeper miracle. In that, we see the secret in all four gospels, but we also see it in the book of Acts. I've been teaching for weeks on the book of Acts. When we go through the book of Acts, we see the exact same thing.
We see the church that is born and multiplication, but then there are seasons of storms, but on the other side of the seasons of storm there is always a deeper work deeper purposes and we could actually, when we look in the book of Acts, it's actually closer in a certain way to our reality, the disciples and the gospels walked with Jesus. In the book of Acts in the 30 years span covered by the book of Acts, it's so much closer to us because we know they just like they, we know is immutable, he doesn't change, but he's invisible sometimes.
We know His promises, but we don't have His physical presence. We believe in His deity, but there are delays in his answers. He's our Savior, we know he’s our Savior, but sometimes we are shipwrecked. We have his instructions, but sometimes we suffer injustices that are simply incomprehensible. That's where we find Paul. We find him in the book of Acts.
Over the book of Acts Chapter 26:27, we find him. We look at his condition, his circumstances and they're so close to ours. He's going to be shipwrecked under his sovereignty, but he's done nothing wrong. In Acts 26:31, the Governor and Agrippa and Festus actually say, Acts 26:31, "This man has done nothing deserving of death or chains." This man could've been set free, but he asked to go to Rome and I'll get to that again.
You will find yourself and I'll find myself in storms or I've done nothing wrong. Where I've wanted was to serve God and honor Him and yet I'm shipwrecked, yet I'm in a storm, yet insane opposition come conflict, nasty conflict and opposition. Acts 27:4, "We sailed but needed shelter for the winds were contrary." May I say today, the special weekend with all the events of the weekend right here in Times Square at the crossroads of the world.
When we stand for truth and for the sanctity of life, for God, for the defenseless inside and outside of the womb, there will be fierce opposition, but we must stand with love for truth in Jesus’ name.
Claude Houde: Here they are shipwrecked on their sovereignty, the context of injustice of opposition. There's the context of impatience. In Acts 27:7, He says, we write, we read, "We sailed slowly for so many days. The winds would not allow us to advance." For many of us, we have been in these moments where we think it’s just going too slow. The situation not changing fast enough. My husband, my wife, don't look to the side, look at me, my husband, my wife-
Claude Houde: -is not changing fast. My kids aren't changing fast enough. This breakthrough is not coming. This healing is not coming. Our ministry is not changing, is not growing, is not evolving fast enough. The fulfillment of the promise is not coming fast enough. In the seasons of it's not fast enough, it can become very dangerous spiritually. In Acts 27:9, "Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now becoming dangerous, and in these times of waiting, these times of storms there's dangers because these seasons of storms can develop us, they can define us, we can discover deeply our destinies, we can deepen ourselves in His desires, but they can also diminish us because they are dangerous.
Our deployments and development depend on our decisions. During these storms, I would say this way Pastor Theresa, Dr. Conlon, said it beautifully yesterday, she said to the students. "You are born looking like your parents, but you die looking like your decisions."
Claude Houde: Like the decisions you took your life through your storms. There's injustice and opposition and impatience and danger and there's also frustration. If you look at Chapter 27 and verse 10, Paul said to them, "Advise them, warn them, saying men, I perceive this trip will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo but threats to ships and also our lives."
Nevertheless, the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. Sometimes we are in storms because people around us ignored our warnings. Parents are in storms because their kids did not listen to the ways of the Lord they taught them. We suffer sometimes because-- Paul found himself completely innocent in a storm because they actually ignored what he had said.
A nation can be in a storm because it ignores the voice of God, the message of God, the law of God. They're in a storm, family members, spouse, children, friends, parents, people were trying to help, minister to and brings us in their storm because they're ignoring and there's that frustration that could very easily turn into hopelessness. If you read Verse 13 to 17 of Acts 27. "When the south wind blows softly, supposing that they had obtained the desire," actually said, "supposing the thinking they had their destiny in their hands." Would you say to somebody next to you, "You're not controlling anything". Say that to the somebody next to you.
Audience: You're not controlling anything.
Claude Houde: You are not in control of anything. We are only in control of ourselves before our God. He's in control of all things. Not long after a tempestuous head wind arose called the Euroclydon and they have myths, they have legends, they have history, historians of the day. Poem were written about that storm that brought death. That type of storm we would call it in modern days a perfect storm, a deadly storm.
When the ship was caught, they could not head into the wind. We let adrift and running under the shelter of an island called Clada, we secured the skip with difficulty. There's hopelessness. They began to drift. Let me ask you a question, "Have you ever underestimated what began like a soft wind in your life?" A soft wind of rebellion, a soft wind of discontentment, a soft wind of criticism, a soft wind of murmuring, a soft wind of a hidden sin that nobody sees nobody knows.
It began like a soft wind and they were saying we can handle this but it actually began to lose such control. It was so hopeless, they had lost every hope of coming alive and they began to let themselves just drift. That is the question of the Holy Spirit for each of us in certain seasons of our lives and maybe for you today. Have you been allowing yourself to drift? To drift away from God's principles in your life, from His commands, from His love, from His purposes, from your very identity.
Have you allowed a storm that is incomprehensible to bring you into a place where you are drifting? Do you ever face a storm that threatens to shipwreck you? That shipwreck is that place in our life when it's too much, too late, too far gone. We had to unload too much, too painful, too desperate. Let me share with you from this passage some principles, some keys, some revelations from the word of God this morning for you that will strengthen you and root you as you walk out of the building today by the grace of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit with a sense of when I am in a shipwreck, I'm always under His sovereignty.
The first thought, the first anchor is that the revelation is more important than the reasons. Your revelation of God is more important than the reasons you are in the storm.
Again, look with me at Acts chapter 27 and verse 18, "Because we were exceedingly Tempest tossed, the next day they alighted the ship. On the third day, we threw the ship's tackle."
Verse 20, "When neither sun or stars appeared for many days, all hope that we would be saved was given up." After long abstinence from food, Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me." He couldn't help himself, "You have listened to me." How many of you have been in moments where you've told people around you, 'You should have listened to me?" He adds a ‘but’ don't stay and you should have listened to me. He goes on. "You should have listened to me but--"
He says, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have sailed from Crete and incurred a disaster. Now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only the ship." For there stood by me, that's the revelation, there stood by me, this night an angel of God of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, saying, "Do not be afraid, Paul, you must be brought before Caesar."
And indeed, God has granted you all that sail with you, therefore, take heart for I believe God that it will be just as it was told to me. However, we must run aground on a certain island. Paul says that I don't know all the reasons but the God who I serve, Paul is saying you can't go down because I'm on this ship. I'm under orders from God. I am on my way to Rome. Say that a person next to you, "You're so lucky to be sitting next to me."
Audience: You're so lucky to be sitting next to me.
Claude Houde: You're so blessed, you're so protected to be sitting next to me.
Audience: You're so blessed, you're so protected to be sitting next to me.
Claude Houde: Years ago, I was flying to Europe and at the airport in Montreal, I was in line waiting to get on the plane the young man came, "Hi Pastor Claude unbelievable we're on the same flight. I'm going to France and God bless you. Safe travels to you." We get on the plane I'm sitting I see him walk by he taps me, praise God and I say yes praise God safe travel.
He goes back to his seat and this young man, he's not from my church, this young man knew me and the people are filling up the plane, he gets up, "Attention everybody. I want you to know this plane is safe. This plane cannot go down."
Claude Houde: Air Canada flight to France, this flight is safe. There's a man of God on board, Pastor Claude is on board. Have a safe trip. I'm watching people around me, "Hello, hello, hello."
Pastor Claude: The God to whom I belong. The God that I would say this way the revelation is more important than the reasons. Whom I belong is more important than the beatings the ship was beaten. I want you to know and that's hard for us because we always want to know the reasons. I want to know why and why this and why so long, and why not, and why and why?
I want you to remember today when you feel you’re shipwrecked, when you feel you've lost control of an area of your life, I want you to know that God to whom you belong, the one that you serve has a plan, has a direction, has his hand over your life, and you are on your way to where He's calling you to do, and to be, and whatever it will be done unto you as he has promised. That is your revelation, that erases all reasons. Would you applaud the revelation of God in your life?
When you are shipwrecked under sovereignty the revelation is more important and the reasons and Malta prepares the miraculous. When they had escaped chapter 28:1, when they had escaped, they found out their shipwreck, they found out that the island was called Malta, and the natives showed us unusual kindness. For they kindled the fire and made us all welcome because of the rain that was falling, and because of the cold.
This is a man of God and he finds himself, he's done nothing wrong. He is on his way to Rome. He's on his way to his destiny. What is he doing in Malta? Malta is that place. This is Malta there's barbarians, there's a ship wreck, they barely escaped their lives. We lose everything. It's cold, it's raining on them. The chains, the unknown language. I don't understand anything, and those seasons we often feel nobody understands me and trying to explain I can't make myself understood anyone. I'm suffering alone.
Nobody understands me. It's also scary. It's threatening. It's so far from my destiny in Rome says, Paul. "I'm so far from why I thought I should be on my way to in my life."
Here's the question. Have you ever found yourself in a place in your life you absolutely had not planned? Never thought I'd be here. How did my family end up here? How did my marriage end up here? How did my kids end up here? How did my ministry? How did our church? How did my service? How did my career end up here in Malta?
Malta is the place you never expected to be. Malta is the place in our lives, it's that place in our life that we never thought would last this long, but I want you to hear the Spirit of God saying to you today, "Malta is the place that prepares the miraculous in your life." I see many students, I see many graduates, I see many people out on this graduation 25th graduation weekend.
Can I say this? We're going to have our graduation in a few weeks in our Bible school in Montreal, with 300 students from all over French countries, and I will say to them, after 30 some years of ministry, the Malta's of questions and doubts in our lives, is exactly the place that prepares us for ministry that prepares the miraculous in Malta. Where everything seems dead, everything is incomprehensible, you are letting go of your assumptions, and of your timetables, and of your plans and your capacities and all of your well-set ideas, strategies, knowledge, and you stand in a place of nakedness before God.
All I have is you. All I need is you. You are my all-sufficiency. I want to tell you that God says in Malta, God wants in Malta, God wants your trial to become your testimony, really. He wants that season of suffering to become a story of grace that you will minister to other, he wants to grieve and the fear to cause you to grow in faith under his favor.
The ship that I've sunk will become your season of the supernatural in your life. That the worst valleys will become shouts of victories and of worship before him. Say yes please. That's Malta. Years ago I preached in California and after a week. They took me visiting some sites in the area and they took me to a place I'd never seen before. It's called Death Valley. It is the driest, deadest, most suffocating and lifeless desert in America. Nothing leaves nothing grows year after year.
Here's what happened one time in a winter 2004 record rains results of El Nino inches and inches of water came over a few months. For a while nothing seemed to show nothing changed but-- And this is history, you can look it up. On Easter 2005 on resurrection weekend 2005 a phenomenon the Valley of death began to bloom. Miles and miles of flowers of every color. I want to say to somebody here today you think you're in Death Valley you think you're in Malta of misery? I'm here to tell you today let him feed you let him quench your thirst let him water your heart right now.
You say yes, but nothing is changing. I see nothing changing. The water of his spirit is watering your soul and the miraculous is being prepared. Death Valley will find life again say yes please.
Audience: Yes, please.
Pastor Claude: I know we're a few weeks after Easter but Easter is not an event on the calendar. Easter is the call of God the Angels did not roll away the stone to allow Jesus to come out. He rolled away the stone so we would come into resurrection. That we would come in and experience the resurrection so that the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead would dwell in us and Malta and prepare the miraculous in our lives.
Romans chapter four our faith is a faith that calls to life what was dead, that calls to hope when there was no hope and that calls to existence what did not exist. I want to declare your valley of death will blossom again under the power of God say yes please.
Audience: Yes, please.
Pastor Claude: Shipwrecked under sovereignty. The revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. Here's the third thought. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Acts 28:3 and when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire. A viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand they said to one another no doubt this man is a murderer whom though he had escaped the sea he had justice and that'll help them to live.
He off the creature unto the fire and suffered no harm. Please let's recap. Paul's in prison for the gospel and he's done nothing wrong on completely false accusations. He should have been free. His captor said he's under chain on a ship. He warned them they don't listen he is there accused condemned unjustly chains at his feet. He is there because of the stubbornness and stupidity of those who would not listen to him but preferring to listen to fools.
He's a prisoner in Malta, there's rain it's cold he's judged by pagans, forgotten in the rain and in the cold but here's what he's thinking. He's saying even in all of this, just like you sometimes and me sometimes. Even in all of this I'm going to continue I'm going to help them with the fire. Have you ever been in a place where everything you're shipwreck on Malta but you say, "I'm going praise God anyway. I'm going to serve him anyway I'm going to help to this fire. I'm going to continue upbringing my part to the Times Square Church fire. I'm going through so much but I'm going to come and offer the sacrifice of praise before God I'm putting my piece in the fire."
Say to the person next to you bring your piece to the fire. We need to you. Say that to somebody next to you.
Audience: Bring your piece to the fire. We need you.
Pastor Claude: This the place where he's saying, "I'm going to serve God anyway I'm going to go on. Okay, I'm the apostle Paul I'm called to preach in a Colosseum in Rome.
I'm on this barbarian Island in the cold and the rain but I'll serve. I'm going to bring a piece of wood that the fire because the worst has to be behind me." A viper comes down and attaches itself to him. A viper can you imagine Paul a viper?
Pastor Claude: The heat always brings out the viper. We're in the heat, shipwrecked in the heat of temptation and the heat of pressure or of being forsaken or unjustly accused of being abandoned, being betrayed. Heat of sickness, the heat of losing. [sobbing] Oh beware of the viper, that is trying-- The viper who's trying to attach itself to your hand. The viper of unbelief, the viper of these secret thoughts of sin you would have never imagined you would have.
The viper, the viper of doubting the whole thing. Is there even the viper of bitterness, the viper of letting your hands go down. Let me ask you a question, have you allowed the viper to attach? Psalm 91 says, "You will trample over the lion and a viper you will keep under your feet." What do you do? Here's the question, what do you do? Vipers will come out of the heat in every situation, at every one of us, but what do you do? What is the strategy for the vipers? Only one thing to do with the viper, shake it off.
I want everybody to go like this. I want everybody to shake it off, shake it off. Do you understand that Paul preached the most powerful sermon in the New Testament without saying a word. He preached the most powerful message in the New Testament. He shook it off into the fire. Somebody is watching your life as you go through the fire and a viper tries to attach itself to you. My God, we are living epistles, shake off, shake it off, whatever it is, and lift your hands unto Him.
Claude Houde: Would you give Him praise, shake it off with your hands.
Claude Houde: Shipwrecked under his sovereignty. The revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Here's the other thought or one or two more. Being approved of God counts more than the acclaim and the attacks of men. When you are going through this, don't you keep-- Don't you, have your eyes on what people are saying because you see what happened to Paul. It is almost comical.
When Paul gather, he shook off the snake, verse four of Chapter 28. When the natives saw that the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt, this man is a murderer." Though he escaped the sea, justice does not allow him to live, but he shook off the snake, the viper into the fire, suffered no harm. However, they were expecting him that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead, but after they had looked for a long time, and saw no harm coming to him, they changed their minds and said, "Well, he's a god."
Claude Houde: Nothing has changed from those barbarians on that island to social media today.
Claude Houde: To your Facebook “friends”, to people that are closest to you that should know you, that should know who you're, they should know your character they should know that when you are under attack, that when you are shipwrecked in an area of your life or what they think you're out of God's will or shipwreck or things are not going like they thought it should. Just move away from you and start to murmur to one another and then all of a sudden they come back. Please, whatever you go through don't pay attention to the acclaim and applause of men. Don't pay attention to the attacks of man.
Claude Houde: Do you remember His revelation? Remember what Paul said, "Angel of the God to whom I belong, whom I serve." Said, "Do not be afraid." I believe God that will be just as it was told, may the only audience I care when I'm shipwreck and I'm stuck on the island of Malta and I'm shaking off the vipers, that the only audience I care is my God. Let my the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my God, my strength.
Claude Houde: Not everyone's acceptance is a blessing and not everyone's rejection is a curse. He who is approved by God has nothing to prove. Your Maker is your mirror.
Claude Houde: Your Maker is your mirror, the only one that you look at to see where should I be? I want you to know that wherever you go through as your heart stays to Him, just let Him put his approval. Let him put his favor. Don't defend yourself. Don't fight it. Don't argue back. Don't respond back, just trust him and let Him put His hand a favor on you and His favor would throw down every wall, every enemy, every snake, every viper, and every storm say, Yes, please.
Audience: Yes please.
Pastor Claude: Let me close with this. The revelation is more important than the reason. When you're shipwrecked under sovereignty you understand that the revelation is more important than the reasons. Malta prepares the miraculous. You must shake off the snake to experience the supernatural. Being approved of God counts more than the acclaim or the attacks of men.
Here's the last thought. The pain and the pressures you're going through, they're preparing you for Publius. Say, "Who's Publius?" I'll tell you in a second. On April 15 of this year in the week before, the Monday before Easter, the whole world stopped because of the fire destroying the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It was a historical tragedy and one of the headlines that was translated in languages around the world was the tower has fallen.
I've been to Notre Dame many times and preached in churches all around. They actually had a tower that fell and over a billion dollar was raised over the first three days to rebuild it and president Macron said, "We shall rebuild it." I'm all in favor of rebuilding it. It's a historical site that has great historical significance, but let me say a few things. So much has been-- Let me say three things. The religious and religion can never rebuild lives, whether it is Catholic or Protestant or evangelical or Pentecostal or whatever it is.
That cathedral never built life, rebuilt life before and it won't rebuild life again. Relationship with the living God will rebuild life, only that. The second thing I want to say is there are towers that have fallen in your life and you found yourself shipwrecked on Malta. There are towers that fall in our lives that don't make the headlines, that nobody talks about and nobody raises money to help us, but are very, very real to us that nobody sees.
Of course, you understand that on that Island Paul, even with all the doctrinal knowledge he had, and the knowledge of deep revelation of God that he had, must have had every demon in hell saying, "You're forgotten. You're finishing there. You're dying there. There's nothing good that can come out of this." Whatever tower fell in your life, God sees it today.
Whatever Malta you find yourself in, he sees it today and the pressures and the pain are preparing you for Publius. The third thing I want to say about Notre Dame, we were astounded to see a billion dollars come in three days. One French family gave a 100 million Euros another French family gave €200 million and they're sitting on the platform right here. Thank you Patrick, we appreciate it so much.
You understand that no billionaires became poor because they gave. No billionaires ended up at the food bank the following week because they gave a 100 million, but Easter and today and every day of our lives is the reminder that when towers fall in our lives, the Son of God made himself poor. The son of God gave everything, stripped himself of heaven to come to your rescue, to come on your island of Malta and to turn it into his purposes. Say, "Yes please."
Audience: Yes please.
Pastor Claude: Last verse. The pain and pressures are preparing you for Publius. Acts Chapter 28 and verse 7:10."In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen, the King of the Island whose name was Publius who received us and entertained us courteously for three days." He was generous in the original. "And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went unto him and prayed and he laid his hands." This is so beautiful. "And he laid his hands on him and he healed him. And when that this was done, the rest of those they started coming from all over the Island."
There's a multiplication, there's a storm, a shipwreck, but on the other side of the shipwreck is the miraculous. When this was done, the rest of those on the Island who had diseases came and they were healed. Then they also honored us in many ways and when we departed, they provided such things that were necessary. Understand Paul had not chosen. We don't choose to end up on Malta.
Paul did not choose to be in Malta, but he had to choose what he was going to do and what he was going to be in Malta. Am I going to be miserable in Malta or I'm going to be fulfilling my mission in Malta. Just in passing that just stay with me was so beautiful that while he was in Malta, and Luke writes about this years later and he says all these people were there and they were kind to us and it took care of us. Are you grateful to God and to them? Do you remember the people that when you were in trouble were kind to you, were around you to provided for you and helped you?
Let me ask you this, are you one of those people believer, Jesus follower that when somebody is shipwrecked around you or are in trouble around you, open your not your arm not your finger in judgment, not your-- I understand an entire circle of Christianity, the Christians move away from people that look in trouble. They are been-- They're fair weather friends and when trouble comes, they're like no, I say, God, thank you. I want to be like you, when I was in my worst trouble you came to me. I want to be that man or that woman. Say yes, please say.
Audience: Yes please.
Pastor Claude: Say that to the person next to you, when I'm shipwrecked I need you. Say that to the person next to you please.
Audience: When I'm shipwrecked I need you.
Pastor Claude: That's the church. This this so beautiful? Can you imagine shipwreck where the rains, the fire and they're surviving? They can't even understand each other and when the snake hits, he doesn't understand what they're saying but he could feel their anger and their judgment and he's going to die and the gods are against him and what's going to happen to me but then he shakes it off and they all look at him for the longest time scripture longest time and when he's not swelling up or dying, they turn and maybe they fall on their knees and say he's a god.
I don't know how they make themselves understood. You can see him just sitting in Publius' house, the king of their village comes and says, "You come in and be-- " Nobody couldn't even tell them, there is no translators. How can we go about this? But somehow Paul sees and motions and this is my father and he's dying of dysentery. This is Paul. This is you and I please understand that the place of Malta is not the place to just turn on yourself and focus on your misery and pain. How come I'm not in Rome and where is Rome?
No, where you are in Malta God wants to lead people your way that you will minister to. This is so beautiful. The Bible says that Paul, your pain and your pressure it had to happen. Your pain and your pressure are preparing you for Publius. The hand, the very hand, the very hand with the snake bite wound on it still fresh was laid by the power of God on the sick man and healing began to touch the entire island. Would you say yes, please?
Audience: Yes please.
Pastor Claude: I want to be that man. I'm going to ask the musicians to come. I was yesterday so honored to be at the commencement 25th year of and to and I'm saying this I'm so keenly aware of the scripture says, the Bible warns us against flattering lips but asks us to give honor to whom honor is due. She's not here today. She'll be here in the next few weeks but I just wanted to-- If you allow me pastor Carter, I just wanted to honor pastor Theresa and honor Doctor Conlon and I was watching her lead. Maybe she's watching the service.
Pastor Claude: I was Just watching her lead and in humility and simplicity, but it's such a lead and you could feel that love of the students and everyone that were there and in her leadership and the anointing God gives her and behind that, there's a lot of sacrifice. A lot of just listening to God. There's a lot of Malta's. There's a lot of-- There's a lot of I'm listening to God. There's a lot of I don't know, the reasons but I have a revelation.
There's a lot of I'm in Malta, but God is speaking preparing me for the next season of ministry. There's a lot of snakes that try to come but I'm shaking them off. There's a lot of all kinds of reactions of men around us but I'm looking for the approbation of my God and to be obedient to Him. There's a lot of pain and pressures that we preparing her for Publius.
When I was watching her and thinking of my friend, my brother pastor Carter and thinking-- I didn't know all this presentation was going to be made today on the book. It's time to pray that I've read over and over and this book is going around the world and God is using it. Why? Because when they were in Malta when they were in Canada when in his 30s, the physical breakdown and moments when he walked in fields screaming out the God why are you doing this to me but he held on and the revelation was developing in them.
The reasons are given back to God and the Revelation grows and Malta prepares the miraculous and whenever snakes try to hang on, they shake them back, throw them back in the fire and lift their hands onto God. The Bible said that Apostle Paul said, you follow me as you follow Christ and pastor Carter and Teresa are our friends but they're also models to me, models to so many of us and the reason why there's voice of prayer is resonating around the world now and this book is going through radio around the world and now and this message is going around the world is because when nobody watched nobody see, I've traveled with them all through nations, 6:00 in the morning with elders, wherever we are in the world seeking God.
When nobody sees, nobody knows, nobody understands. But the ministry was being prepared, the supernatural was being prepared. Whatever Malta you're in now surrender to his purposes. The revelation of the God to whom you serve and whom you belong to is more important, do you understand? Than the reasons, leave the reasons to God. Malta will prepare your ministry, your future, your future page of ministry.
The next season of your life, whatever snake tries to hold onto your hands, shake it and into fire because the pains and the pressures you're going through now are preparing you for Publius, are preparing you for the purposes of God in your life. In 1985, when they asked me, yesterday was a very emotional day for me, very honored, just be the commencement speaker at Bible school.
1985 I was invited, I was asked to be an interpreter for pastor David Wilkerson and I was just 20, 21. The reason why I was chosen was very particular. This was a different era of time. Pastor David Wilkerson came to Canada for five weeks on a bus and they are looking for an interpreter to be on the bus with him for five weeks in hockey arenas all over Canada, all over our nation.
When they gathered all the religious leaders and all the pastors and their superintendents to choose the interpreter and sometimes movements are like that men are men and they would say, "Who would be the interpreter?" Well, somebody would say, "Well, I would propose this brother. He's got so much experience as a great interpreter." People would say, "Well, no. If it's him, we're not participating."
Then they would say, "What about this one?" "Well, if it's him, we're not participating." Finally, some men inspired of God. I wasn't even in the room. I was just starting out. I was preaching then. I preached over those years 1,000 services to 50 people or less. I was nobody and they, just coming out of Bible school, just a young guy, just coming out of Bible school off the streets and just Bible school and now I'm preaching to 10, 20, 30. We had revival. We had 42 people on Wednesday. It was amazing.
Then somebody in the back room said, "Hey, why don't we ask the young guy, that Claude pastor. He can translate. Nobody knows him so he has no enemies.
Pastor Claude: My only claim, my only qualification was my insignificance.
Pastor Claude: Say to somebody next to you, "So is yours." Say that to somebody next to you.
Audience: So is yours.
Pastor Claude: I was the interpreter for David Wilkerson. I'm on stage with him, the first-- One of the first rally in a hockey arena in Montreal. Well, I'm just streets away from the neighborhoods, the project in which I grew up in Montreal. A few years before selling drugs, collecting and beating people up and collecting and then I'm standing on stage.
He put a suit on me and a tie, I'm standing on stage interpreting for David Wilkerson and there was a guy in the back that started yelling. He was agitated. He was a young man about my age, from my neighborhood who had become a Christian and he could not even imagine that I had become a Christian.
Pastor Claude: He started yelling, "Stop this. Stop this. This is an imposter. This is Claude Houde. Don't you know?"
Pastor Claude: At the end of the service, they brought him to me and he kept the-- I did the whole service interpreting prayer. It never occurred to him, "Maybe he got saved." I grabbed his face and said, "Brother, I became a Christian too." He's like, "Well." Just a couple of weeks, during that same trip, nobody knew on earth, not even my best friend. I was single when I was preaching in very small places, living in a one-room, just a studio, one-room apartment. I had a piano player to travel with me in that same room.
We would just small, very poor. The ministry was so hard in French, Quebec and because I could preach in English, I was invited to go preach many times in this large church. I'm not going to say where, this message goes everywhere, but they invited me to come and be an evangelist attached to that American church. Americans being Americans, they put, “This is going to be your salary. This is your apartment. This is a Christian with a car dealership. Which car do you want?” It was all that. I was 21 years old, and I just thought, “I'll go live in the states and I'll come back to Quebec once in a while.”
On a service in a city in Quebec just before the big hockey arena filled with people, we were going over to message, brother Dave and I, and no introduction, nothing preparing. Nobody knows I got my briefcase with the letter saying, "I'm just about to say yes. I'll be there in January. I'll move to the States." It's too hard in the French. Brother Dave gets up and he goes, [sobbing] "This is a word from the Lord for you. You will be lured. You will be tempted to be lured away from your people. If you do, you'll remain serving me but you'll be out of my will, out of what I've prepared for you.”
Then he went on. “If you stay, it will be hardship, and deserts, and accusations, and lonely.” I'm thinking, "When's the good part coming?"
Pastor Claude: "There will be time when you feel like you're dying. It will be time when you feel-- God will break you, and mold you, and shape you. God will--" I'm weeping and I’m just-- "But if you stay, there will be a wave to the French world, and you'll be at the center of it."
When he was saying, “You will go from Malta to Malta, to Malta, but if you hold on to the revelation that is greater than whatever reasons you go to, every Malta will mold you into the ministry I've called you to be in. Many snakes, many vipers, will come and attach themselves to you, but if you shake them off by the grace of God, and you lift the wounded hand to Him, the wounded hand will become the hand of healing, and I will use you in ways you can never imagine.”
Pastor Claude: Yesterday when I stood there so proud, so honored, so privileged, so undeserving to speak at that commencement and they told me, "You're wearing pastor David's robe." From the streets wearing his robe and that not because I'm in any way-- No, just one of many sons from around the world. You don't know the mantle, the robe that God has prepared for you. As you hold on to His promises, through your shipwrecks of your life, and you remain under His sovereignty, He will use you, prepare you, mold you, change you for His purposes. In Jesus name, and all of God's people say Amen and Amen, and Amen.
Pastor Claude: From the very last row of the balcony to the very first here to every seat in the attics, to the thousands who will download this message by streaming, and Facebook Live, God is speaking to us today. If you’re here and you say, “God, I've been shipwreck but I'm releasing the reasons. I am leaving the reasons to you that I’m leaving the wise to you. I'm surrendering to your purpose."
I want you to lift your hands to Him and say, "God here it is. Oh God, I've been in Malta. I’ve been in Malta but I believe that Malta is molding me for what you're preparing me to become. I surrender to your purposes." Come on, people of God. In Acts 4, "They lifted their voices together." Can we begin to lift our voice together? Speak to your God. I've had a snake try to attach itself to my hand. I've had a snake of unbelief, and doubt, and fear, and hurt, and bitterness maybe.
I'm shaking it off by your power and your grace. The wound, I'm declaring by faith that the wounded hand, my woundedness you will use for your purposes in Jesus name. The wounded hand will become the healing hand in Jesus name. You have a Publius of your purposes waiting for me. In Jesus name, would you lift your hands? For a moment even before we sing, and Greg will lead us and pastor Carter will come, as our Shepherd, as our pastor, and our leader, our general, to come and lead us in this closing moment.
Before we do as Times Square Church can do, would you lift your voices all over the place? This becomes a prayer meeting, a commitment moment, an altar-building moment, where we are surrendering. We are under His sovereignty no matter the shipwreck. I am under God's sovereignty. Come on all over the place, voices up. You from New York, you came from all over the US, you came to speak for God. You came to defend life. You came to stand, and it was such opposition.
There was such ugliness. Today you need to be renewed in love, and in strength, and empowered, and encouraged to stand. Every man and woman, to the sound of my voice, let me hear the volume of prayer go up for a minute today in Times Square Church. In the name of Jesus, Hallelujah.