Video Podcast | World Challenge

Video Podcast

It's Going to Happen

 

Gary Wilkerson

October 17, 2019

Are you struggling to believe and have faith God will provide for you in the storm? Or perhaps feeling forgotten or bypassed by the purposes of God? In this powerful sermon, Gary Wilkerson shares how to come through difficult times while believing God for great things.

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It's Time to Believe

 

Nicky Cruz

July 22, 2012

Jesus told the disciples that it is for our advantage that he went away because in his place the Holy Spirit would be our helper. The Holy Spirit's role is to convict the world of their sin and impending judgment from God, but for believers he convinces us of the righteousness that we have in Christ. Nicky Cruz reminds us that it's time to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ still has the power to change and transform lives!

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Receiving a Portion

 

Gary Wilkerson

October 20, 2019

God has a portion for you and a vision for your life. A vision beyond the borders that originated in your mind. Gary Wilkerson calls the church to become hungry again for a portion beyond the border.

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Sometimes God Makes Me Really Really Angry

 

Tim Dilena

June 21, 2020

When life isn't going as planned or we face trauma and pain, we get angry at God. However, at the core of this emotion, we aren't actually mad because there is a defect in Him, but because there is a defect in our own heart. Tim Dilena shares a powerful message for those traveling a dark tunnel. He reminds us that, while God is faithful, ultimately, our view of God must change even when the circumstances don't.

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Having a Cutting Edge

 

Gary Wilkerson

February 25, 2020

Many of us have experienced discouragement and lost a passion for the vision and calling God has given us. But God wants to restore the passion and do a miracle, but He wants us to participate in it. Gary Wilkerson challenges us to be the person that will willingly stand up and say, "I'm not going to settle, I'm not going to be passionless. I'm going to ask God for more."

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The Pursuit of True Happiness

 

Claude Houde

July 24, 2016

Pastor Claude Houde examines Psalm 1, and the direction it gives us in pursuing true happiness. For some, happiness can seem fleeting; while for others it seems circumstantial. True happiness from God is spiritual and supernatural. Our life must be truly and deeply rooted in Christ if we want happiness through every season of life.

I'm going to speak on the Psalms this morning. Everybody turn with me to Psalm 1, the first Psalm. The message would be entitled "The Pursuit of True Happiness" or "Happiness According to God." I'm speaking a series on the Psalms all summer at our church and felt to just bring you a simple summer word to you. In the times we are living, everything happening in our nations and in your nations, I want you to know that Christians around the world are being shaken. Also, praying for you in the United States.

With everything that has been taking place from Orlando to Dallas and all the events taking place, we are standing in prayer with the body of Christ here in America. Most of the Psalms have been written in moments when the nations were in turmoil, the nations were. The people of God had to stand. The people of God had to shine in the midst of the turmoil. The Psalms are universal expression of every aspect and relationship in the life of the believer. They are written over a period, over 900 years, generation after generation but are profoundly relevant to our 21st century context.

When we look at the Psalms, we know from history and commentaries that the first Psalm that we believe theologians believe, the first Psalm that was written, it was Psalm 90. Written by Moses, a Psalm that reflects of the frailty of men and life in the light of God's eternal greatness. The last Psalm that we believe is Psalm 137, the one that was closest to us speaking. Because it speaks to direct events that took place that we know like the Babylonian captivity, 586, 538 BC. There are 150 Psalms. David wrote 73 of the Psalms and many different authors.

David and Moses, Solomon, Asaph, the sons of Korah but certain Psalms are so personal. They're so raw. They're so intense in their emotions and in the realness of what is being expressed that they are anonymous. Almost as if the author says, "I don't want to admit that I said that. I don't want to take ownership of that." Some of the Psalms are so open. A man, a woman crying out to God in such an amazingly, almost violent way sometimes. The deepest expression, nothing fancy, no varnish. Just the heart to God. It reminds us and reminds you today that God is not afraid of your emotions, of what you're going through.

We can have in certain circles a tendency to pack up prayer, all nice and clean. You're angry. You're hurting. You don't know why. You're suffering inside. You feel anguish. You'll find yourselves in the Psalms. The Psalms are a reminder to all of us that true prayer is not formatted and it's not to be heard by others and to impress anybody. True prayer as the Psalms says, "Pouring out my heart with everything in it before God." Say yes, please.

When we look at the Psalms, every aspect of the human experience, they're fascinating. Our faith in relationship to God, to others, to ourselves, who God is, in the Psalms' his character, his true nature, his attributes. There are Psalms of prayer, Psalms of worship. There's Psalms of intercession. Psalms of great joy and celebration and dancing and Psalms of the deepest grief and sorrow. Psalms of anger and betrayal, Psalms of forgiveness and reconciliation. Psalms for the family, for marriage, husband and wife. Psalms for the sons and daughters.

Psalms teaching us how to heal from depression, how to overcome our worst tragedies, how to protect our integrity, the purity of our hearts. How to transcend what we do not understand. There are Psalms that are so pertinent to what we are living through in these days, in these last days where God wants us to and teaches us who he wants us to be in seasons of turmoil. In seasons of where everything is shaken in our lives, in our family, with our kids or even in our nations. The body of Christ in America, we're not taking our cues from MSNBC or from Fox. Who are we to be? How are we to address this? How are we to speak? How are we to stand?

How are we to shine in this hour comes from the spirit of God to our hearts and the word of God wants to teach us. Say yes, please. The Psalms are at the same time, a window, a mirror in the land. They're a window into the hearts. We see into the hearts, into the very, very hearts of men and of the people of God and in relationship with their God. As they pour out their hearts to the Creator. They're also a mirror, the Psalm. We find ourselves, we see ourselves in the Psalm. They're a mirror but they're a path. They're a path in every aspect of our life. Now, we will look at Psalm 1. It's the opening Psalm.

It's a wisdom Psalm. It is contrasting two ways of life in the pursuit of happiness. Psalm 1 is literally the gateway to his fulfillment and abundant life. Now this morning, Psalm 1, most theologians believe it was either written by Ezra or by David. Now most would lead them the side of David having written Psalm 1. Now, David wrote Psalms through every season of his life. We have Psalms when he was a teenager in a broken, dysfunctional family, abandoned and treated so terribly by his family. We have Psalms of his highest hopes and dreams when he was just a boy walking the field and calling out to God.

We have Psalms of his highest aspirations. We have Psalms in the moments of his greatest victories but also Psalms in his most somber defeats. We have Psalms where he writes at a moment in his life like you and me. Moments in his life where he feels the favor of God, where he's pleasing to God. He's walking in communion with his God but we have Psalms of David in a moment where he blew it. Where his failure was to be seen by all, where he broke every vow, broke every commitment, broke everything that was whole, that was dear to him.

We have him in the steps of the temple in Psalm 51 saying, "Create in me a clean heart, oh, God. Renew in me a steadfast spirit." He wrote and taught us how to build life but also to rebuild our lives. He wrote his Psalms in every season. He wrote a Psalm celebrating the great things of God. He wrote Psalms that some parents might identify this morning. He wrote Psalms in moments where he laments literally, where he weeps over in a season of his life what his own son had become. His son was so far away from what he had dreamed and thought and believed and wanted. And poured into him that he laments.

One thing that marches from Psalm 1 and there's a sentence there to the very end of the Psalms. At the end of the Psalms from 144 to the end, we have Psalms of David that we know that were written at the end of his life. There was one thing that David emanates. There's something that goes through every Psalm. He writes the Psalms to remind us and to shout to us. David says it in a thousand ways. No matter what I went through, no matter what I went through, no matter what season, what came against me, God always turned it around for his glory. There's nothing that could keep me down with my God. Can you say yes, please?

This is like golf clapping. If that is your testimony, I look at some of you, there are a lot of young people here but also a lot of seasoned believers. If you can say this morning, "I've been through so many things. Sometimes, I thought I'm not going to make it out of this but God took me through the water and the fires but I came out with true abundance. That is my Psalm." I want you to shout and give praise to God. Come on. We don't look at Psalm 1 in the pursuit of true happiness or happiness according to God. Psalm 1, blessed, happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.

Nor stands in the path of sinners. Nor sits in the seat of the scornful but his delight is in the law of the Lord. In his law, he meditates day and night. When he speaks of the law, the Lord doesn't speak of law in terms of legalism. He speaks his counsel, his word, his kingdom, his promises, his heart to his people, his commands. He delights in the law of the Lord. Then he shall be—here's the contrast—he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season. Whose leaves shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so but they are like chaff, which the wind drives away.

Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand into judgment or sinners in a congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Now, the Psalmist begins and approaches our pursuit of true happiness with a contrast of our pursuit, a confrontation in our pursuit and the choice of our pursuit. He begins by saying blessed is the man. The Hebrew word speaks of being happy, joyful, peaceful but also being fully developed. I've accomplished what I was to accomplish. I'm fulfilled. It's developed, fulfilled, satisfied.

Happy, joyful, peaceful, developed, fulfilled and satisfied. The Psalmist begins with an affirmation that I think is still pertinent and needs to be said again. It needs to be believed again. It needs to be laid hold of again. He begins by shouting out happiness, blessedness. Happiness is not only possible but it is God's will of abundance for each of his child. Now, it's important to say that because as we go through life, even if you come from a tough background, I grew up in a horrible background in many generations. It stopped with me. The blood of Christ changed it all.

Many generations of alcoholic, drug addicts and violence in the home. Yet as a child, most of us who grew up with a thinking that happiness ... Some of you grew up in good homes or places with a sense of happiness is automatic. He'll come one day. At least we always feel that happiness must be in the next season of life, in the next step. When I go to school, after school, when I'm a teenager. When you're a teenager, hard years, teenager years. When I go to college, when you're single, you say, "When I'm married." When you're married, you'll say, "Maybe I'll be single again." You go through this.

When you have kids, when you have grandkids, every season of life and many of us, many people around us find that as the years go by, we go from happiness must be natural or automatic or in the next season of life. Many come to feel that happiness is hard. It's fleeting. It's hard to find. Some in the darkness of their soul come to a place where happiness is ... They're not going to say it. Happiness is not for me. It's impossible. It's out of reach for me. I come from a place, the nation of Quebec that has the highest suicide rates in the world. Five people, 4.8 people per day take their life in Quebec.

We have the highest standard of life in Canada. They say one of the three countries with the highest standard of life decades after decade. Yet there's a darkness of the soul. Just two weeks ago, when I preached this at our church, that very Friday, there was an elder in our church who's talking with his neighbor. They're talking. Just shooting the breeze, talking to one another. The neighbor said to our elder, "Okay. I got go to. See you." He went into his garage. That very day, that very minute, he went and hung himself. Now, if you go in Quebec, if you sit in our church in Quebec, you go row by row.

Everybody has somebody next to them. Everybody knows somebody in their family, in their own lives, somebody that took their lives or try to take their lives. That sense of despair. The Psalmist says, reminds us that if we are to find, if we are to walk and abide in that blessedness, we don't only need to know where to look for it. He's going to teach that but we also need to know where not to look for it. It says, "Blessed a man who walks not in..." He exposes, he reminds us what our pursuit should be but also what our pursuit should not be.

We will not find transcending deep and authentic happiness if we don't have a basic biblical understanding of where it is not found. Scripture tells us throughout the word that happiness, blessedness is not found in material pursuits only. Now there's a book that just came out in Canada. It's fascinating. It's a bestseller in Canada. They surveyed 50 people that won the lotto at least a million dollars. There was someone with 10 million but from one to $15 million. They surveyed over 50 of them over a period of 25, 30 years. It's astonishing the stories of heartbreaks.

The book shouts out what the word has been teaching for millenniums that true happiness is not in material things only. I'm hearing some of you saying, I'm hearing. I'm telling you. People that won millions of dollars are not happy. I'm hearing some of you are saying, "I'd like to try anyway." I know. I know. "Let me try. Let me try anyway." No. It's not in material. It's not outward. It's inward. It's not natural. It's spiritual. That state of blessedness is not lateral just in human relationships. It's vertical. It's with God. It is not circumstantial. It is supernatural.

It's not found in professional pursuit only, vocational. God gives us gifts. There's a fulfillment. If you're only for the next promotion and the gold watch and the next step and the status, you'll find it strangely empty. It's not found in the new pursuit of relational or family only. If your happiness depends solely on a perfect family, perfect kids, perfect marriage, it will be fickle. Often truly disappointing and you can waste years of your life. Happiness is not found in social, sensual or pleasure or hedonism and success and power and influence. He begins by confronting. He makes a contrast.

He says, "You have to choose what will be your pursuit." He contrasted between two lifestyles. One is compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water who springs forth his fruit in every season. Would you say out loud with me? Every season.

The fruit in every season whose leaves shall not wither. Then he says, the ungodly, they're like chaff in the wind. He makes a comparison. He says literally there's a way of life that leads to blessedness and vitality and productivity and security and joy and fulfillment and accomplishment and satisfaction that is beyond the temporary and peace of mind and heart. There's a way of life that leads to emptiness, to perpetual disappointment, pain, waste, regrets, hurt. Ultimately, judgment speaks of each man standing in judgment before God.

There's a lifestyle of faith that awakens and feeds and nourishes and strengthens our soul and our destinies. There are choices that deaden our soul little by little. He makes a comparison. He's asking every one of you here this morning. No matter if you've been a believer, weeks, months, years or decades, if you're in your 20s, 50s, 60s, 70s, it doesn't matter. He asks every one of you a question. What kind of life do you want to have? Who do you want to be? What life will you be? The contrast is so amazing. He says the one type of life is alive. He compares it to a tree that's planted.

Imagine that's a scenery of a tree but planted with deep roots, in deep water. The two things he says make my heart leap as a believer. Not only as a pastor, as a believer. He says, "That type of life, when you are rooted in God, rooted in him, he says they will bring forth new fruits in every season. Nobody said amen and my notes had said, "The people of Springs Church would say amen spontaneously at this place." If you have to ask, it doesn't count. I'll give you other chances throughout the message.

As a believer, isn't that my heart, isn't that yours to say, "My God, thank you for the food you gave in my life yesterday, but I want fresh fruit today." The old things are passed away, fresh things. No matter what season I go through, there's a fruit." The Spirit of God would ask a question to all of you this morning. What is your recent fruit? If I'm asking you or asking your wife or your husband or your kids, what is the fresh fruit in your dad's life, in your husband's life? What is your testimony. You say, "Well, in 1983, I was at a breakfast and I accepted the Lord. I was baptized there." That is gorgeous and beautiful and everlasting and eternal.

It's so precious. Thank God his Spirit says, "I want to call you to fresh fruit today. I want to plant you to fresh fruit today. The other thing that makes my heart leap is that not only fresh fruit but bearing forth fruit in every season. Every season whose leaves shall not wither. I turned 54 recently. I've been serving the Lord for 30 some years. In this season of my life, there's a burning like never before. I think I've always had it but it's so strong to say, "God, I want nothing to wither in me."

To have the honesty and the humility and also the openness before God to say, "Lord, I bring my life to you. Is there anything that is withered? I don't want my worship to be withered. I don't want my passion for you, my love for people, my sensitivity to your Spirit..." Those seasons where we leaped out and we did what God called us to do and it was amazing. Those moments where I was so hurt, so broken, so touched by what I heard that I gave in an extravagant way. I gave them my time. I gave finances. Lord, God, I want none of it to wither."

"I want you to renew my worship, my prayer, my love for your word, my love for people, my zeal to serve you." Say amen anytime you like. I say, "God, plant me anew. I want fruit in every season. I don't want to wither. I want to be renewed by your Spirit in every aspect of my life." Say yes, please. That's the contrast. That's the tree planted near deep waters. The ungodly, they're like chaff in the winds. No weight to their lives. No values. No strength. Nothing solid. Nothing lasting. No substance. They have no roots. They have no fruit. They're chaffed.

The harvesters in ancient times would take their baskets and fill it with grain and chaff and they would throw it in the air. The wind would drive the chaff away. It would fall to the ground just to be trampled over like dirt. He says, "You have a choice in life." As a believer, you have a choice in life. A life of substance and meaning with deep roots in God or a life where your pursuits and just a chaff in the wind. I know the janitor people hate me right now but I'm going to do this anyway. We did three services at our church. They had to clean up after every service. Chaff in the wind. No substance.

He speaks of the ungodly. Now the ungodly in the Hebrew word here is not people that commit wicked acts. In Hebrew, it's literally without God, ungodly. Their roots are not in the Lord. Their roots are not in God. Some of you would say, "That's unbelievers." The ungodly, people that don't believe in God. I believe it's not only unbelievers. You could be a Christian that accepted Christ and you know Christ and you accepted his message of grace and you received grace but your roots are not in him. You have not rooted yourself in him, your pursuit.

Your roots are not in his kingdom, in his principle, in his life, in what he loves, who he is, his commands. Your roots are not in him. The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche says something interesting. 100 years ago, author and philosopher realized that the belief in God was losing its compelling and redemptive power in Western society. Literally, this is one of his most insightful things he said. He says, "When God dies in Western society, all things will seem weightless and hollow." That's what's happening. From the internet to the everything around us, you see it so much.

Not everything but so much. On social media, there's a sense of hollowness, a sense of nothing has value. It's chaff in the wind. God says, "If you root yourself in him, every other aspect of your life comes to fulfillment." Then the vocation says, "Yes." The vocational, the professional, yes but rooted in God as a Christian. I am working. I have a career. I have aspirations but rooted in God in hard and honest work, in honesty and in integrity, in rest and balance, in keeping of our priorities. Relational, yes but rooted in God, in his plan, in his values, his love, his faithfulness.

In respect and in honesty and in honor and in lifting up the other and giving yourself for the other. Fulfillment in material, yes. In Timothy, he says, "Tell the rich to enjoy it but to use what God has given them." Now you say he's not talking to me. If you have a roof over your head, you drink clean water and you have two pairs of shoes, you are in the 3% on this planet. You are rich. We are the rich this morning. Say yes, please. I want you to say to somebody next to you, "I don't want to impress you but I'm very rich." Say that to somebody next to you.

Family, yes. There's blessedness in family but only when we are deeply rooted in his principles, in his kingdoms, deeply rooted, an example for our children in love and security and patience and resilience and absolute trust and confidence in God's love and eternal commitment to our children. I've seen this as a pastor in thousands and thousands of lives around the world. I mentioned that Pastor Gary and I traveled the world. We've been together on many continents. I remember one of the trip that marked me was a trip we did together in Egypt.

We were together in Egypt speaking at a pastors' conference in Alexandria where pastors have been under severe persecution to radical Islam. We were in Cairo just a few months before everything exploded in Egypt. We preached in Cairo, Egypt. This is a pastors' conference. You can look at the next one and you go to the last slide and you'll see a shot. Gary will remember this. This is the church, one of the largest Arabic Christian church in the world. We preached there, Gary and I. At the end, we met on altar time and there's thousands of people. We spent I don't know how long. It was so long. Praying hours.

People would take our hands and say, "Pray for me." We prayed with people one after the other. One man that was there that I didn't know at all, there was a man that was there who was a diplomat, a politician in the Egyptian government. He was a copt Christian by family but totally non-practicing but a brilliant man. Everything life can offer. He spoke five languages, two Master's Degrees in Political Science and in Philosophy. He traveled the world. Any nation he was in representing Egypt. He was always living a high life, in limousines and everything else.

His wife was a believer going to that church but he never came to church. He had everything in this world. Everything that the world can offer and he was a man of influence and power and education. Yet he was year after year into deep depression and depression and depression and depression and a sense if I can say this way, a sense of chaff-ness. He would tell his wife all of this. She would say, "I have something you don't. You come." No. One day, she told him, "There's a Canadian, a French-Canadian who will be speaking at our church this Sunday."

Because he speaks French, one of five languages he speaks and he likes the French, he just thought, "Canadian. We've never had a Canadian at our church in Egypt. I'll just go and listen." He came that night. Gary and I were speaking. That night where I preached, he was there. When we brought everybody forward to pray with people, I didn't know. Among the hundreds we prayed for but he was there and I prayed with him. He says that as I prayed with him, it was a prophetic word. I prayed with him and said, "You have been pursuing so many things in your life. You've had so many successes but they leave you completely empty.

God has brought you here for a purpose. If you hold on to him, he's going to lead you in every surprising way." He said I stopped and said that the ways of God will be surprising but he will lead you. He was touched. His wife was so blessed to see him in church. I led him in a prayer of salvation. I don't even remember what he's telling me. It marked his life because that Wednesday following that service, he got called by his authorities and they said, "We're sending you on a new post. You're going into a new country. You're going to be Egypt's ambassador to Canada."

The embassy is in Montreal. I arrived in Montreal a few days later but a few weeks later, he arrived in Montreal. I got this call from an ambassador. I went to visit him at the embassy in Montreal. Hooked him up with some men in our church, Bible study. He's very cool. He comes to church with the limo and the bodyguards but he parks two streets away. He's in jeans and a polo. He comes to church and nobody knows. His country went through so much turmoil. There's something in that man, when he tells me what he was before, he had contemplated suicide. His family was in havoc. He is rooted in God. He has his Bible study.

Listen, there's a peace. There's a strength. His children have come. His children have given their lives to Christ. He has as well. I'm telling you. There's a life of chaff but there's a life that is solid. There's a life that is rooted in God that no matter what moves around us, God calls us. Say yes, please.

I would say that as God called him in the midst of that crowd, he calls you. This morning, he calls you and says, "You come and root yourself in me." There's a contrast but then there's a confrontation to our pursuit. In Verse 1, he says, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the path of sinner nor sits in the seat of the scornful." The Psalmist asked hard questions. He asked what do you want your life to be in a year or two years and five years? When you look over the future of your life and you don't know how many years you have, but what do you want your life to be?

If you are serious about pursuing God's abundant life for you, you're going to have to lower your engagement in certain activities, environments, relationships, habits. You are going to have to dramatically raise your commitment to what brings life to your soul. He's speaking of a pattern. You could say it this way. In everyone of our lives, you see but then you choose where you stop and you choose where you sit. He says, "Walk and stops and dwells." You see but you choose where you stop and you choose where you dwell.

If you are serious with God, you will limit your exposure to activities, environments, relationships, habits that deaden your soul to his love, to his word, to his kingdom. Listen. Here's the truth in all of our lives. We all know that there are conversations, people, relationships, habits, environments, things we watch, hours we spend that cheapen and weaken our soul. That make God seem distant and silent and deaden our soul a little bit. In 30 years of ministry, we all walk. We walk through this life. We're on this earth but where you will stop and where you will sit is your choice. There's a choice.

There's a confrontation. As pastors, we see this pattern. After grace and walking in grace and in God, you see this pattern in the use of pornography or substance abuse and cheating and fraud and adultery where you look and you stop. You sat and dwelled there. You watched on the internet the destructive sexual behaviors, illicit sex, bitterness, pride, unforgiveness, arrogance, anger, verbal or physical abuse in the home, carnal and wasted life. This sounds like legalism. It's not fear or legalism. It's feeding the light of God in you.

No one had a greater revelation of grace and of the finished work of Christ than the Apostle Paul. He had the greatest revelation of what Christ did. He spoke over and over. His whole ministry was declaring the grace of God, the perfect work of Christ. Reminding every believer that because of the cross, when God looks at Jesus on the cross, he saw you. When we put our faith in him, when God looks at me, he sees Christ and his perfection and his finished work. Say yes. That's good news. But Paul will say, 1 Corinthians 11:20, all things are lawful, permitted and allowed but not all things are useful.

Not all things will edify or build you up. Contribute to build you up or help you become stronger. If you come to the Springs Church for more than a week, you will know that our message here, the message of your pastor and of the teachers, the pastors of this church ... Christianity is not a set of rules and regulation that you have to obey with fear. Christianity is a relationship between human beings and God and God with us in faith and grace and love. Say yes, please.

Paul teaches there are things in everyone of our lives, from the Psalmist to Paul to Peter to Jesus will teach us some things, choices in your life that will feed, build, develop that communion. There are things that deaden it, that cheapen it, that abort the kingdom desires of God, the counsel of the ungodly. He sees. He stands. He sits. The question of the Spirit today is where do you sit? What do you look at? Where do you sit? Where do you spend your hours? Where are your roots? What are you rooted in in your life for your life to bear fruit and not wither?

Bear fruit in every season or for your life to be a chaff? Peter will teach it this way. In Second Peter, he'll use the Old Testament model of Lot and says, "Lot oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked tormented his soul everyday by dwelling among them. Those who walk according to the pursuits of their flesh and the lust of uncleanness, they are presumptuous and arrogant. Not afraid to speak evil and mock dignitaries." Here's the question. Do you allow activities, habits and relationships in your life to pollute your soul?

The question of the Psalm is how much of your life do you waste watching, listening, chatting in the seat of the mockers? According to Time Magazine, the average American spends four and a half hours a day on social media, watching TV or downloading materials on the internet. Over a 65-year life span, that's nine years in front of the TV. Now Barna, in 2014, they surveyed Christians from 30 different denominations. 30 hours a week of watching this stuff, the average believer spends less according to Barna, average believer spends less than one hour a week on devotional pursuits outside of church attendance.

There's a choice. There's a choice: what you look at, your perception, what you look at, what you feed your soul, what you look at and sit, what you sit in front of will greatly affect how you conduct yourself. What you see in God, how you live your life. Jesus taught on this powerfully. Matthew 6:23-24. He says, "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in you is darkness, how awful will be the darkness." It's an important spiritual dynamic. Your perception, what you look at will affect your behavior. You're not sure. Okay. Let me ask you a question.

How many of you when you're driving in Colorado Springs or wherever, you're driving in Colorado. You realize there's a cop following you. You see a cop following you. How many of you it affects your driving? The rest of you, just as I am. Liars will come and be and repent. As a pastor in my city, we have week in and week out, between four and 5,000 people coming to church and planted church all around our city. I can't go anywhere in the city. I meet Christians from our church everywhere. I have to confess. It's good that pastors go in different cities to be able to confess their stuff in their own city.

Recently, I was driving in my city. I was driving a bit nervous and just wanted to get there. I was on my way to a spiritual meeting. On my way, there was a lady in front of me. I could just see the white haired little granny. She's beautiful. She's signaling left, turning right, stopping and I just finally passed. I almost went like this. She goes, "Hi, Pastor Claude." Come on. If Colorado police assigned an officer every morning of your life starting tomorrow morning, you get out of your house. Good morning. Good morning. He's following you everywhere.

How many of you would confess it would change your driving patterns? Say yes, please. You know why? Because you would begin to see the laws, boundaries, promises and freedom of the kingdom of Colorado according to how he sees them. Are you getting it? Some of you are only going to get it after lunch this afternoon. You're not getting God's perspective watching 50 episodes of Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy and watching a zillion episodes of Game of Thrones. When are you going to go to the throne? Go to God. Go to him where he begins to feed your mind, your heart.

You plant yourself in deep waters and his truth, his promises, his perspective, who he is, what he's done before, what he will do for you. How he turns things around invades your soul. Say yes, please.

The only way you could believe and stand strong and bless in blessedness through seasons where it says if you're going through an intermission, as if you don't understand. As if the curtains are closed and it's like, "I don't know what you're doing God." It is a very treacherous thing because as many of you, when you were younger believer, you were more avid in the word of God than you are now. As years go by and sometimes, disappointments or hurts or just a certain... And then many of us or all of us, our flesh, our nature. When we go through hard times, I just want to forget. I just want to...

Many, many times, things that we're watching to relax are demonizing us. Even worse, they're blinding us. They're blinding us to what God is doing behind the scene. Many years ago, I was preaching in New York in Times Square Church. When I was going to preach, somebody told me that they were playing on Broadway "The Merchant of Venice." It's a Shakespeare, a great play. It speaks of racism and justice. It's a play I know. It was very rare. The actor playing the main role was Al Pacino right there. Al Pacino right there. Somebody helped me and we got some tickets. I brought the kids. We went there. It's so exciting.

We were watching the play and Al Pacino's right there. There's the intermission in the middle. I went to the back and I said to the kids, "Did you want something to drink?" "Yes. I want a Coke." I went to the back and this is Manhattan. This is New York. I ordered Perrier, which is water. I ordered a sparkling water. The one Perrier was $26. This is Manhattan. I ordered one Perrier, four straws. We'll share. During that time, my son actually spilled $7 of Perrier on his knee. You know, we're talking. We're chatting. The curtains are closed. Nothing going on. The first act is so dark. Everything's dark. The décor, it's so dark.

We were talking. There's nothing going on. We're just thinking we're going to start where they left. We're talking and the curtains are drawn. They go, "Okay. Second act." When the curtains open, behind the curtain while we're just going through our stuff, they changed everything. It was all luminous. I'm here to say to everyone of us or to you in particular that needs to hear it when you think the curtains are drawn, nothing is happening. There's nothing going on. I don't see what you're doing, God. He is working behind the scenes. His hands are in control of all things. Say yes, please.

I need to make an inventory, a daily and a yearly inventory of my soul. Blessed is the man who walks, stands and sits not in a counsel of the ungodly. An inventory of our soul. Peter mentioned something that really touched me because it connects with something I went through two summers ago. He says, "Lot tormented his soul surrounding himself with people that were not afraid to speak evil and even to mock dignitaries." Two summers ago, I was sitting home watching tennis in my house. There was a rain delay. I'm just flipping through channels. There's a festival in Quebec called Just for Laughs.

It's all standup comics. They come from all over the world. We also have tons of standup comics in Quebec. I never go to a standup show or anything like that. Most of it is filth. I was just watching and then a guy appeared. I was just flipping through a channel. I recognized him. I had heard him before do a shtick. It was funny but it was not unclean. He announced his topic. He said, "I want to talk about church and Jesus." I thought, "Huh. That's interesting." I just sat there and watched it. It's called Just for Laughs. There's 2,000 people. It's a live show. People are just screaming in laughter.

I sat there petrified because the stuff coming out of his mouth, the mockery, the vileness of it, the demeaning of Christ. As he was doing it, my son walked up the stairs. I felt ashamed. I said, "Hey. Forgive me. This is filth. I shouldn't even be watching this." I remember building an altar in my room upstairs after that.

Just shutting the door and kneeling and saying, "God, I'm in the ministry. I'm serving you. I love your word. Let me never lose that sensitivity. They're talking about you. You're my Savior. You're my lord. The mockers that just speak without fear and mocking what is pure. As a believer, we're not legalist with people I don't know, God. We take care of our own souls." Say yes, please. Years ago, I was preaching with Gary's dad. I was his interpreter in the city. Pastor David Wilkerson. He had preached an amazing message in the morning in a pastors' conference. 1,000 pastors there.

When the altar time came, it was such a divine moment. It was just a one hour lunch between the sessions. In between the sessions, we went to eat with the organizing committee. They're all pastors. I'm saying this with shame. I'm saying this with sadness. We sat with a group of pastors there. They were the organizing committee. I'm not going to tell you which country. We sat there and as soon as we sat down, Brother Dave is there and I'm there. As soon as we sat down, the conversations were so... they were mocking and they were mocking church and they're putting down this church. Nothing about... we had just come out of the glory of God.

They talk about anything and they're mocking. I'm sitting there. The menus are coming. We haven't even started. The menus are coming. Brother Dave stood up. He says, "Excuse me, brothers. I have to go. I'm sorry. I have to leave." He starts to walk away and I said, "I'm his interpreter. I'm going to go, too. I'm going with him." We walked away and he says, "Please tell them. I don't want to offend them. I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to appear high. I just don't want them to ruin my spirit. I don't want this to pollute my spirit." I want to say somebody to all of us. There's some tables we need to leave.

There's some tables we need to leave as we pursue God. Say yes, please. There's a confrontation to this pursuit. There's a contrast and I close, there's a choice. Read verse 2 and 3. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord." His law, he meditates day and night and then he's like a tree planted by the rivers. He brings fruit in its season. His leaves shall never wither. This is the amazing. Whatsoever he does shall prosper. Now, you could go word for word into Hebrew and exegesis of the text. Literally, you could translate them in many ways.

The best I believe truest way is whatever he goes through, God turns it into blessing. It's a testimony of life. He begins the Psalms with this and he ends the Psalms with this. He said, "If you're rooted in God, if you make your delight," and he's not talking about the law in terms of law versus grace. It's God's law. It's God's word. It's his principles. It's his plan. It's his kingdom. It's his purposes. It's his assembling manual. It's his owner's manual. It's his maker's warranty.

It's his will, his passion, his absolute desire to teach us how day in and day out, we can live a life of substance, significance with a life of deep, deep roots. Now, Proverbs 4 says it this way. "My son, give attention to his words. Incline your ear to the law of the Lord. Do not let them depart from your eyes. Keep them at the center, at the core of your heart. For there are lives to those who find them. Keep your heart above all things with all diligence for out of your heart will spring all the issues of life." John Lennon sang "Imagine" and as I close, the Psalmist, literally calls out and says imagine.

Imagine right here in the Springs Church, 2016, this summer. Imagine every believer renewing his heart and every family that comes to the Springs Church and thousands by through the internet and will watch this message. That would choose to dwell, that would choose to cut off any environment. Not legalism. I'm going to cut off environments, habits, relationships, viewing things, hours that deaden my soul. That make God feel distant and just so far from me. Imagine every couple that would have every men, I speak to men, as the priest of your home if you're married.

Every couple that would go beyond, that would reach beyond the uneasiness or I'm shy. I'm embarrassed. We were never really able to do that. To say, "No. We're going to spend one evening a week spending time in the word together or praying together." By the same survey that Barna had, over 80% of Christian couples that never prayed together except in church or in moments of tragedy. "Oh, God. Spare my son." Imagine every young person walking in grace saying, "God, I want to feed my soul. I want to be rooted in you." Imagine every family with their children. Imagine every single person.

Imagine every one of us, whatever season we go through, rooted in God every day. Day and night doesn't mean that you're stopping everything else and all you're doing is repeating verses. It just means it's a part of your life. You're feeding your heart. You're feeding your soul. Imagine God renewing, giving you fresh fruit. Imagine God bringing life back to what has been withered in you. Just a forever work of the Spirit of God, a sense of blessedness. Imagine you when the curtains are drawn, "God, what are you doing?" You are going to him.

He brings his perspective and his peace and the fears subsides. He turns the woes into worship and the pit into praise. He brings it to a place of confidence. God will see me through this. Imagine the magnate of believers in these troubled days. In these troubled times, we don't need more pundants. We don't need more opinions. We need men and women that will shine with a strength that is beyond what everybody else is experiencing. With a courage and with a grace and with a sense of God deeply rooted. Enough chaff. I want my life to bear fruit. Say yes, please. Say yes, please.

I'm going to ask the musicians to come. We're going through seasons in our nations. I'm not making light of it. Europe is very close. I go to Europe many times a year. In the last year or so, when you saw the terrorist act at the theater in Paris, the Bataclan, 80 died. They were killing people and the blood bath that was there. I preached in that theater with the grace of God a year before. 2,000 Christians there. I preached there for three nights.

The very place where we preached, the very rooms where we prayed together, the very altars where we lifted our voices were covered with the bodies of people that had been assassinated. You saw in Nice last week on the prom, the Promenade in Nice and when you saw the truck that's mowing people down, I preached there. We did outdoor meetings there. All around us, things are being shaken. When you look at history and everything, the dark things that happen through history, we oftentimes forget that there's always a people of God that were there.

That stood in the midst and we're sin abound and their grace much more abounded. When darkness was at its worst, their light shone so bright. The people that are different, I'm not taking any political position in your election or anything like that. I'm saying believers are to stand. We have traveled the world and seen and even in post genocide countries, countries that had been through genocides. I'm not going to name the African country because some of the leaders are still very, very involved. I've been to Rwanda. I've been to Burundi and many countries.

In one African country I was in, it was just months before that they had a genocide with over 250,000 people were struck down. We looked at our nation. We say there's so much division. This was a nation where one tribe historically, over hundreds of years and the other, the division is such that in cyclical ways, demonic inspiration comes. They literally butchered hundreds and thousands of people. I was there preaching at a pastors' conference. 4,000 pastors there. On the way back, we stopped. I think it's Number 21 in the PowerPoint. We stopped and they have these memorials all over.

I'm there with a brother from New York at Times Square Church and the other one is a pastor from the country who told us that the memorial sites were all over the country. Everywhere it says, "Never again." Plus jamais ça. Never again. On that particular site, we stood there. On that particular site was a gas station where when the genocide started, the soldiers that were killing took control of the air waves. They were telling everybody on the radio, "Go kill them. They're over there. They're over there." On that site, there was this school teacher, if you can imagine.

Primary school teacher to call the kids on a bus say that the tribe was under attack. They didn't know. They're just boys and girls. Took them on the bus. Took them to the gas station. Soaked them in gas and set them on fire. The kids are under our feet on that shot. It's all over the nation. The next shot is a pastor that was interpreting for me and I'm not going to mention his name but he actually told me that while the genocide was taking place, the darkness is so heavy. He was in his house. They were cut off from any help. They were coming through the town with machetes and killing house to house to house.

He says, "Some of these boys, I knew. I knew them when they were boys." He's been a pastor there for years. I knew them when they were boys. They came into his house. He's holding his wife's hand. She's seven months pregnant. They came with their machetes. He knelt down, him and his wife holding hands and they started praying. Saying, "Oh, God. Forgive them for they know not. Holy Spirit, speak to their hearts." Thinking this would be his last words. He's like Stephen in the Book of Acts. As he's doing it, they actually shot and sliced his wife. As they did it, he continues praying.

They in an inexplicable way, they started backing off as if they were scared. They ran out. Took his wife to, it wasn't even a hospital, it just a doctor he knew and helped. She survived and the baby survived miraculously and both healthy. This pastor told me the months after the genocide where the government was literally requisitioning some buildings to put the dead bodies. They put in front of his church plastics. People would come into church with dead bodies piled up. The grief was so intense. I preached in that church where thousands of pastors were there.

On the wall, they had a mural with a verse from Hosea where it says, "I will take you out of the valley of tears. I will open up for you a door of hope." I said, "Where did you put that up?" He says, "We put that up when we started coming to church and they had requisitioned buildings that were ours and they were piling the bodies." Some of the people would walk in, recognize bodies there. There's a level of hurt. I was there a few years after the genocide. Here are the pastors. I'm telling you, some of you that are troubled. There's a joy. There was a peace. In one of the services, the pastor interpreted me.

Next service, a young man came up and I said, "Who is that?" He said, "That's my son. He was in my wife's womb when they came in. He's the son of reconciliation. He's the son of feast." I was watching him with the band, with young people his own age, of the different tribes. There is a light. There is a peace. There is a substance. There is a strength. There is a grace. There is a love that God wants to infuse to his people that would be rooted in him no matter what they go through. God will turn it towards fruit, his glory. We want to be that people today.

Would you stand and give God an ovation? Say, God, we want to be that people today. Would you stand and give God an ovation today? We want to be that people. Come on. Come on. Give him a standing ovation. We want to be your people. I felt a special call this morning if you would allow me. Maybe it's 10 minutes more than usual. I don't know. Before the whirlwind of life takes us out, we go back, we take a moment, a solemn moment this morning, middle of summer. I had this picture in my mind when I was praying for this service of the whole church coming together. We're in one service now so we're all together.

I know many are on vacation. Could I ask you this favor? I'm going to ask the worship band to lead the song "Forever" because we are standing with the forever God. He's forever. He's forever. We are rooted in him. Would you please just for a moment, just stop everything and just bow your head for a moment. If you're here today and you say I'm coming to this altar with you. My God, I want to have that fruit in my life. In this season, it might be the nations but might be in your heart, in your life, in your marriage, with your kids, with your sons or grandsons.

Broken relationship and you've been through a divorce or you're single, no matter what you are going through. You say, God, in this season, I want to be planted deep in you. I want my roots to be in you. I want my fruit. I want to bear fruit for you in this season. To have the courage just throwing away the masks and to say, "God, there's something that's withered in me. I'm bringing it to you." Oh, God. Restore my worship. Restore life to my worship. Restore life to my prayer.

Restore life, oh, God to my love and my patience and my kindness and my zeal and my courage to speak and witness for you. There was a day where I would speak for you. It was a day where I would call on you. There was a day where I would give extravagantly. I would just give because the need was so great. I knew God would bless and use me. Oh, God, if anything is withered in me, I'm giving it to you today. Come and renew me fruit in this season. No legalism. No laws. No dos and don'ts but a deep sense of love and wanting to please him and wanting to bear fruit in him. God, there's some things in my life I need to cut off.

I've been sitting. I've been seeing, sitting, stopping in places and things. Lord, I want to release it to you today. I want to be planted in you today. I am choosing even when I'm going through what I'm going through now, I am choosing to delight in you. In your promises, in your law, in your grace, in your kingdom, in what you have prepared, in your plan for my life. In these days, we will be your church. We will shine. In these days, we want to be your people. God, put a guard on my lips, my mind.

No matter what opinions I might have, myself, my culture, my background, God, only the body of Christ can bring true unity and divisions in this nation. Father God, let us not speak with our roots in anything else, anyone else but you and you alone. Your word, your heart, your purposes. We declare today with confidence with the Psalmist, I will walk in this blessedness. No matter what I go through, God will turn it. God will transform it. God will redeem it. God will use it for his glory, his purposes. I will say with the Psalmist anything I went through, God turned it for his glory in Jesus' name.

Here's the call this morning. Can I ask you this favor? Can I ask the whole church to come forward? Would you all come? Everybody, would you just come right now? Everybody come. I had this picture of all of us coming together. Would you come? As the musicians lead us for singing the forever-ness of God, we sing hallelujah. You need to come and say, "God, here I come." Would you come? Everybody, families coming together, husband and wife grabbing each other's hand. Friends, teenagers, young adults, moms, dads, you're coming together. Coming together. Come on. Come on, church. We come together. They're going to lead us into song and we're going to sing together.

Even before we sing and we sing the forever-ness of God, men with men and women with women unless it's husbands and wives or friends, of course. Would you put your hand on someone next to you and just pray for one another. The body of Christ, of the Springs Church, we want to shine in this hour. We want to be rooted in you. We want to bear fruit in this season in our lives, in our church history's lives, in my life, in my heart, in my family, in this city, in this state, in this year of election, in this year of turmoil. Oh, God. We want to bear.

Even before we sing, would you begin to pray for one another. Acts Chapter 4. They lifted their voices together. The place where they were assembled was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit again. Would you pray for the person next to you. Lift your voices. Let me hear the voices of the redeemed. Oh, God. We're planted in you.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the path of a sinner nor sits in the seat of the scornful. Our delight is in the law of the Lord. We will meditate and live by it day and night. We shall be like trees planted by the rivers of water.

We will bring forth fruit in this season. Whatsoever we go through, we will bear fruit. Our leaves will not wither. Our worship will not wither. Our prayer, our courage, our faith, our confidence in you will not wither. Whatever we go through, you will turn it into your glory. God, use us. Let us be your people for such a time as this. In this hour, in our lives, in our state, in our city, in our nation, in the nations of the world but also in our own homes with our children and our families. In this generation, in the name of Jesus. All of God's people shout amen and amen and amen.

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Praise is the Final Word

 

Gary Wilkerson

November 15, 2019

Leah was a woman who felt unloved and unwelcome, and she hoped that through her first three sons, she'd find acceptance. It's evident by the meaning of their names that she felt giving Jacob children would validate her. But then something happened to Leah, and when her fourth son was born, she names him "praise." She realized that her value wasn't in what she did, but in who she was. Perhaps you've experienced a trauma of absence—something that should have happened for you that didn't. Don't let the enemy steal your praise, but rather, praise God in every season for who he is and what he has done for you.

Amen. My message, in closing here, is ... You may be seated. Praise is the final word. Praise is the final word. When I was 17 years old, I had moved from New York City, a big city, to a small little town in Texas. How many of you have heard of Texas? It was very different. New York City is big city and fast moving, Texas is slow and cowboys on horses. Everything's big in Texas. One night, when I was 17 years old, my friend invited me to an outdoor Christian concert. And if you could picture the most beautiful, warm evening with a breeze blowing, a full moon in the sky. They had these little outdoor seats for all the ... There's about 700 young teenagers there at this outdoor Christian concert. I was with my friend Kevin and two other friends. Kevin saw this young woman named Kelly, and Kevin said, "I'm going to go over to Kelly. There she is. She's standing over there. I'm going to go ask her out on a date."

I walked over there with him and as I was walking, I saw Kelly for the very first time in my life and I was smitten. Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I fell in love instantly. Her face was shining with either the moon or the glory of God or both. Lovely hair and can I say kind of a nice shape. You know, she's, she's looking good. But Kevin was asking her out, not me. And so Kevin gets over there and he's blowing it. She's like, [yawning sound] and I think maybe I have a shot at this, but I'm too shy. I'm not a bold guy. I would never in school, I would never ask a girl out unless I knew she was going to say yes because I didn't want to be rejected.

And so I would like ask my friend to go ask her if she would be interested in me asking her out on a date and then I'd have somebody else confirm it and then she'd have to write me a promise note saying if I ask her out she'll say yes because I was just afraid she was going to reject me. But I was standing there and I just so wanted to ask her to go out with me to have a meal and I just too afraid. I got froze up and just stood there and you know Kevin was trying to schmooze her, you know what that word schmooze means? He's going to Hey dude, like look at me. My sister walks up and my sister says, doesn't know Kelly and says, "You four guys, whoever picks a number between one and 10 and gets the right number, gets to go out on a date for a meal with Kelly." Kelly looks at her like, "Who is this lady?" I picked the number seven, which is a godly number, right, is the number of perfection. I was just looking at perfection there that East Texas night. And so I said seven and my sister said, you're right, you get to go on a date with her. My sister later told me whatever number I would have picked would have been the right number.

So I am eternally grateful to my sister. I looked at her, I was in love with her. It took her a little longer to fall in love with me, 17 years. No, it took a little while. Then I remember that day. How many of you husbands remember that day? In the United States, we do this. We get down on one knee and we have a ring in our pocket. And I gave her the ring and I'm still a little bit nervous. I had already asked her before if she would say yes, if I asked her and she said yes. But I was still afraid of rejection and I gave her the ring and she said yes. And she cried and I cried. It was such a beautiful, we had an amazing time. We've been married now for 41 years, as I said to you the other day.

[applause] Thank you. There's a story and I'm going to try to be brief. There's a story in Genesis chapter 29 of a man named Jacob who sees a girl name, anybody know? Rachel. Finds Rachel. Rachel is just like, Kelly. Rachel is gorgeous. She's a knockdown, gorgeous, drop dead beautiful woman. That's according to scripture. She was amazing and he's just like, "Oh, I love her. I love her. I wonder if she'll love me." And, and then he asks Laban if he could marry her and Laban says, sure, I would love for you to marry. All you have to do is work for me for seven years. If her father would've told me that, I would have said, "Yes." Because that's what beauty and love does to you. He gets excited and anyway he works and works and works, I'm going to follow pastor Claude's lead and use, do an experiment here.

Have some people come up on the stage. How many of you, is there anybody here that's been married less than a year? Can you wave at me if you've been married less than a year? Anyone? No one. Is there someone, okay. Less than a year. Is your husband here? I need somebody that has both of the husband and wife here. Anybody? Two years. Oh, okay. Two years? Less than two years. Okay. In the back. Is your wife with you? Okay. Come on up here if you would please. They are way in the back. Come on up. Do you mind? Oh, they're getting, they're looking at each other like they're nervous. Where?

Oh, okay. Well they're already coming, so I'm sorry. Come on up here. Rachel and Leah. No, excuse me. Rachel and Jacob, look at this. Look at Rachel and Jacob. Come on up here. Let's put our hands together. She does kind of look like a Rachel, doesn't she? Okay. You have worked 7 years and now you get down on that one knee and you say, will you marry me? And she says, what do you say?

All right, good news. Okay, I'm not going to get too graphic here, but on your wedding night. Laban does a trick. I need one more volunteer. I need a Leah. Pastor, would you come help me? Seriously. Come on. You're my Leah. This is my princess Leah. All right, come on over here brother. Again, not to get too graphic. But honeymoon, we call it honeymoon. Do you call it honeymoon here?

Honeymoon. He wakes up in the morning, and what does he see?

He's not too happy because the Bible is very nice and it says Leah had weak eyes, which in the Hebrew means she was ugly. Not that you are, you're handsome. But for if you were a girl, you would be ugly. But for a man, you're extremely handsome. But for a girl you have way too much hair on your face. You're like me. Okay. All right. He says, "I don't really love you. I'm not attracted to you. You've not won my heart. You... This is the girl for me. This is the one I dreamed of." So Laban says, okay, well work seven more years and then I'll give you Rachel. He gets excited. He actually gives her Rachel that same week. But then what happens? Yeah, he then he works a seven years after that. So then they're, then they're kind of a happy, weird family. You guys can go sit down. Thank you, and you're so kind. He's been Moses. He's been Leah. He's been the usher. He's been... are you going to... won't you be the song leader at the end of the service today? Just come.

He could do it. He could do it. So Genesis chapter 29, Leah is brokenhearted. She is wounded by what another person says about her, feels about her, thinks about her. She's an outcast. She's unloved, she's unwelcomed, she's unwanted. She doesn't feel needed. Leah is like a lot of us who have wounded hearts. As a strategy to overcome her woundedness she says, "If I could produce something, if I could make something happen, if I could be good enough, if I could be strong enough, if I could be beautiful enough, if I could prove my worth, then somebody will love me." Real quickly in Genesis chapter 29 Leah has a child. God cares for her and she has a child and his her verse 32 says, and Leah conceived a son and his name was Reuben for she said, "Because the Lord has looked on my affliction." The name Ruben means, look, it's a boy or look, I have a son.

Look at my child. I want to be seen. I want to be noticed. I want to have affection. I want to have somebody approve of me. I want to have somebody care about me. Now look what I've done for you, Jacob and now you'll love me. But she doesn't win the love through this effort of saying, look at the great things I've done. Sometimes we do that with Jesus. Look at the great things I've done now will you love me. Look at how much hard work I do for you now will you love me? But the reality is he already loves you. You're not working to get his love. You're working because he loves you. And so she doesn't understand this and so she's trying to earn it. Then she goes on and has a second son and it says, she conceived again a son and said, because the Lord has heard that I am hated.

He has given me also son and his name shall be called Simeon and Simeon's name is 'the Lord heard me' and his name means 'hearing, hear me'. And so the first one we say is, she says, look, see me. The second one is hear me have a voice. One of my wife's, if she doesn't mind me sharing this, the wounds that she had as a child was that she didn't get heard. She had to be quiet, she had to not say anything. And she grew up in an environment as loving as their parents were there was a sense of children are seen and not heard. And so even though she has a beautiful voice, but she went through a struggle of being heard. Some people struggle with being seen. Some people struggle with being heard. Leah says if I have somebody who, a second son, then I'll be heard.

I can have a voice. I can say something. I can have meaning, I can have purpose. Somebody will listen to me. Being listened to makes us feel we're worthwhile, important. We mean something to people, but it still doesn't work and Jacob still doesn't show her love and affection. And then she has a third son and this time, his name is Levi and Levi means 'attachment' or 'belonging' or 'connection'. And now she's really excited. I have three sons now he's going to really be attached to me. He's going to be connected to me. We're going to have this wonderful relationship and it still doesn't work. And so she has gone through the wounds that many of us in this room have gone through. Not being seen, not being heard, not being attached or loved or connected.

When you were a child, you were born by the Holy Spirit. He created you as he wanted you to be. You were not a mistake. You were not a random happening. Your parents may, they might have thought you were a mistake, but God formed you from your mother's womb. He built you the way you were supposed to be. You are perfect in his eyes. You are loved by him, seen by him and heard by him and attached to him, but sometimes we don't feel that way and we were created by God and something happened sometimes when we're children, we were built to be attached. Have you ever noticed that children love to just look in their mother's eyes and they have that, oooh, it's my mommy. There's such preciousness and we were built for that attachment, but something happened sometimes in our life is we were built for attachment, but we get detached from people.

There's a sense of pulling away. Something happens in all of our childhood that causes us to have insecurity, a wound or a detachment. That wound is a thing called trauma. Everybody say trauma. Trauma. There are two types of trauma. One of my friends who went through a trauma of when he was a little boy, six, seven, eight, nine years old, his mother abused him. I mean she beat him. She would punch him in the nose. His mouth would be bloody. His eyes would be closed shut from the wounds of her fist on his face. She would lock him in a closet without food or water for a whole day. He would cry himself to sleep in that closet. That is the first type of trauma. It got so bad. This first type of trauma is something that should have never happened to a child that happened to a child.

You were not built for that. God never intended for that type of ... something happened to this boy that should've never happened. When he was 12 years old, it got so bad that he went to a tree in his neighborhood, climbed up the tree, got a rope, and put the rope around his neck, tied the other end of the rope to the tree and was getting ready to jump to kill himself as a boy. His brother saw him in the tree, climbed up in the tree and said, don't do it. Don't do it. Don't kill yourself. That is the most severe type of trauma I think I've ever heard in my life. He didn't do it. He ended up moving to New York City where years later about five or six years later, my father met him on the streets of New York City and preached Jesus to him and that day Nicky Cruz gave his life to Jesus Christ. Nicky faced a horrible type of trauma that no child should have faced.

There's a second type of trauma that's less recognized. People that have the second type of trauma often don't deal with it. Christian counselors will tell you, people who have gone through the first type of trauma are more likely to get healed because they recognize it's trauma and they deal with it because it's a necessity. The pain is so bad. The second one, people kind of hide it. They cover it because it doesn't feel like it's such a bad thing. Or you feel like you might be complaining if you call this trauma because it's not so bad. The first type of type is what I said, is when something that should have never happened to a child happens to a child. The second type of trauma is something that ... listen to this carefully.

Something that should have happened to you as a child that didn't happen to you and what do I mean by this? You were meant to be spoken to and heard. You were meant to be seen and appreciated. You were meant to be attached and connected and loved deeply and so when that doesn't happen, where there is a withdrawal of affection or a lack of connection, then that is a trauma as well. My upbringing was totally opposite of Nicky Cruz's. I grew up in a Christian environment. We talked about earlier, like seven generations of pastors in our family, but my father, he traveled all the time. He was gone sometimes three weeks in a row, home for four or five days, gone another three weeks, home for a few days. He was always kind. He was always loving. And I am so grateful that he served the Lord with such passion. I am thankful for the souls saved.

But one of the things that did in my life as a child was a sense of detachment. Like I'm not being seen, I'm not being heard. Maybe I have to do something to get attached. So I faced a trauma, even in a good home. That tells me this, that probably everyone in this room has faced some form of trauma or the other, and those who have suffered horrible traumas, things that should've never happened to you, that did oftentimes deal with it quicker. Those of us who've had trauma in our life, that are things that should've fed us, nurtured us, spoke to us, encouraged us, and it didn't. And sometimes we don't deal with that. And I didn't deal with it until I was in my thirties and it caused all kinds of problems in my soul and in my heart and my emotions, my striving.

And I thought ... I was kind of like Leah. I'm not loved. I'm not seen, I'm not heard. I'm not attached. And maybe if I do this, look, dad, look, mom, I produced this in the ministry and I created this event and I did this thing and now like now you'll love me. Now you'll be attached to me. And this causes trauma. And we build sometimes even in the church, we build this sense of if I can do something, if I can do enough for me, my trauma resulted in a concept of myself, a core wound in my heart that I said about myself. I'm never enough. No matter what I do, it's not enough. It's not. It's not big enough. It's not effective enough. It's not strong enough. I built this tower of religious events, start a church, let it grow, get it bigger, bigger, bigger, more books to write, more conferences to go, more crusades, to preach that. More sermons, more podcasts, more websites.

And I'm building this big tower of Christian ministry, but I'm building it on a foundation that says I'm not enough. But look, I built this. Look, I did this. And one day I had this vision. I was standing on top of this tower and I'm thinking, it's not enough. I've got to do more. I've got to be more, I've got to be more aggressive. I'm going to be more powerful and I'm on top of this tower and I have this scaffolding all around it and that's to help build it higher. But the whole building is shaking back and forth and I cry out in this vision that Jesus, please help hold this building I'm doing up. Help hold it up. But he comes and he grabs it at the bottom and I'm going like, "Oh, thank you Jesus for holding that." And instead of holding it up, you know what he starts doing?

He starts shaking it back and forth. He starts moving it back and forth more and more. And I'm saying, "Jesus, this whole thing is going to crumble unless you hold it up. This thing's going to fall down." And you know what Jesus says in the vision? "Good. Let it come down. Let it fall. Because you're trying to build a life to have God or others say, look, haven't I done something significant? I'll be enough when I get this done. And the truth is you have to move off that what Jesus called the sandy foundation and puts your life on the rock, a solid foundation, and on that rock foundation, it's where Jesus says to you, "You are enough. I see you. I hear your cry." How many times is that mention the scripture, "Call on me and I will answer you. I will hear you. I see you when you were formed in your mothers' wombs and you are attached to me and I love you."

And something happens in Leah's life where she finally catches this vision. And I'm going to ask the worship team to come if they would, we're going to close it just a moment. She catches his vision and she has one more child. She has one more child and she calls this boy Judah. Judah. And now she's not saying, "Look at me please Jacob, love me, please Jacob, help me. Can I do something to earn love and favor?" Now she says something very different. She says, "I'm going to name this boy Judah and the name Judah means praise." Praise. She says, "Enough of earning, enough of striving, enough of trying, enough of trying to get you to look at me and approve of me and enough of trying to overcome this detachment, overcoming the sense of I'm never enough."

And that wound in your heart that says you're never enough, Jesus saying to you. "You're enough. I love you just the way you are." Yes, pastor, yes. Be strong. Yes, do exploits, but don't do that to try to earn God's love and God's favor. Realize that the final word is just like the final son. It says she stopped bearing children after this because it was enough. I don't need attachment now because I have something else. I don't need to be seen by you because someone else sees me. I don't need to be heard by you husband, father, mother, because God in heaven hears me and all of a sudden Leah says, "I know what my life is all about. It's about praise. It's about worship. It's about loving you, God. It's not about me. My hurts, my pain, my sorrow, my suffering. It's about you, Jesus, and I will praise you. I will praise you in my pain."

When I am not seen yet, will I praise you? When I am not heard by others, yet I will praise you. I could be put on a shelf, yet I will praise you. I could be unrecognized as a pastor, yet I will praise you. I could not get credit for the work I've done yet, I will praise you. I can be sick and yet I will praise you. I could be dying on a death bed, yet I will praise the Lord at all times. My soul shall continually bless his name. I will praise him when I'm hurting. I will praise him when I'm crying. I will praise him when I feel defeated. I will praise him when I'm alone. I will praise him on a mountaintop and I will praise him in the valley. How many of you in this room say it's time for me to start praising the Lord to start praising his name in my struggle?

I praise his name. I praise his name. You see, the devil doesn't just try to steal your relationships. He's trying to steal your praise. The devil isn't just trying to steal your health. He's trying to steal your praise. So when you're sick, you don't praise. And you say, "Why am I sick, Lord? I thought you'd heal me." What's the devil after, you being sick? Not exactly. He's after stealing your praise. When you've lost, he's not after your confidence. He's after your praise. He's not just after your ministry to ruin your ministry. He wants to ruin your ministry so he can end your praise. He wants nothing but you to stop your praise.

So when your health is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When your family is not what you want it to be, maybe your children are prodigals and you're worried and you're stressed when your family is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When you are not a Rachel, you are a Leah. You still have your praise. And let me say this, by the way, at some time or another, every Rachel becomes a Leah. You think you're beautiful. You're a Rachel. And you go to a Hollywood and Los Angeles and all of a sudden in Hollywood, Los Angeles, all the Rachel's from the small town are now Leahs.

So don't worry if you feel like you're a Leah, because to Jesus, you're a Rachel. And so if you feel like a Rachel, don't let it rob your praise. You still have your praise. Oh, I don't have any money, but you have your praise. I don't have a big church, but you have your praise. I'm not talented, but I have my praise. When my body is weak, yet I will praise him. When my journey is hard, yet I will praise him. When the seats in my church there are kind of emptier than I want to be, yet I will praise him. When my heart is overwhelmed with troubles, yet I will praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

You say to the devil, you can have my body. You can have my money. You can have all these things, but you can't steal my praise. You can't take my praise. You will never take my praise. I will praise the Lord at all times. My praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will bless the Lord, I will exalt the Lord. I will call on his name and he will hear me. He will see me. He will deliver me. He will be mine. I will bless the Lord. I will bless the Lord. When I am not seen, I will praise. When they don't hear my voice, I will praise the Lord. When I don't feel loved or accepted, I will praise the Lord. When I've been wounded as a child and I don't know how to overcome it anymore, I will praise the Lord.

When the addictions get back in my brain and say go back to that world. I'm going to say, no, no, no. You can't have that because I'm here to praise the Lord. I will not stop praising. I will not give up praising. I'll give up a lot of stuff. I'll give up a lot of popularity. I'll give up a lot of fame. I'll give up a lot of notoriety. I'll give up a lot of affection, but I will not give up my praise. I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Hallelujah. Praise him. Praise church. Let's praise him right now. This is how we praise you Jesus. Through the storm, though the difficulties, through the night, through the fire, through the wilderness. I will praise you Lord, I will praise you Lord. Oh, God. Through it all, I will praise you God.

When I'm struggling, when I'm hurting, when I'm weak, when I'm lonely, when I feel like I'm not enough, I will say I praise you God. I praise you God. I praise you God. Shout it out to him. Praise God. Praise you God. Praise you for the victory. Praise you for the power. Praise you for your love. Praise you that you are enough. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him in the morning. Praise him in the afternoon. Praise him in the evening. Praise him on Sunday. Praise him on Monday. Praise him all week long, praise him in January and praise him in December. Praise the Lord at all times I praise you, I praise you, because you are worthy because you are worthy. No matter how I feel, I will praise you. No matter what the state of my emotions, I will praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you. Praise you. Praise you, praise the Lord.

Hallelujah. Yeah. Yeah. Praise him. Praise him. Who's worthy to be praised? Jesus. Who alone should be praised? Jesus. Who takes away all of our wounds and pain? Jesus. And when he takes it away, what are we going to do? Praise him. Praise him, praise him. I praise him because my wife said yes and she married me so I said praise him. But if she had said no, I still have to praise him, right? If you're married here today and you love your wife or husband, you say, praise the Lord. If your husband or wife doesn't love you very much, you say, praise the Lord. If your church is exploding with thousands of people being saved, you say, praise the Lord. But if your church is small and it's kind of struggling and you're hurting a little bit, you still say, praise the Lord. When do you say it? You praise the Lord at all times and his praise shall continuously be not in my emotions, not in my mind, not in my thinking.

It'll be in my what? My mouth. That's what you're doing here today at church. You're putting it in your mouth, but let it come through your mouth one more time. So I say I praise you Jesus. I praise you Lord. My praise is healing my wounds right now. My praise is healing my wounds. Lord, my praise is healing my rejection. My praise is healing things that happened to me as a child that should have never happened. There are women in this room who were abused, who were abandoned and your praise right now, Jesus says, that this is your Judah. You don't have to strive anymore to get healed. You are healed. That's your praise. There are men in this room. You're still trying to prove yourself. I can prove myself that I'm worthy. You can lay all that down, all you have to do is praise.

Praise shall continue to be in my mouth.

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By This All Will Know: From Abraham to Antioch

 

Claude Houde

July 16, 2017

Without faith it is impossible to please God and we remain prisoners to our past hurts. The Bible shows Abraham as an example of faith and in Genesis, Abraham exemplifies three elements of faith. Faith that refuses to be limited by what is seen and faith that releases the hurts and pains from the past. Claude Houde encourages us to ask the question: Are you willing to have the faith that releases bitterness in order to step into the increase of God?

Claude Houde: My title this morning is, By This All Will Know: From Abraham to Antioch. By This All Will Know: From Abraham to Antioch. Unusual title, but I'm believing that by the end of these few minutes, not only will it make sense, but by the grace of God and the anointing of his spirit, that it will have an impact on your life. Jesus said in John 13, verse 34 and 35, "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you, by this all will know..." Would you say out loud with me, by this all will know.

Congregation: By this all will know.

Claude Houde: By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. I want you to turn with me to Genesis chapter 12. Genesis chapter 12. Everyone please turn with me to Genesis chapter 12. Share your Bible with the person next to you if they don't seem to have a Bible. I want you to be able to see the word of God this morning. We will look at this principle of, by this all will know, a new commandment Jesus gives us from Abraham all the way to the church of Antioch. Abraham over 2000 years before Christ and the resurrection and the birth of the church and the church of Antioch. But Jesus speaks of the definite distinguishing mark, the ultimate differential, the only true identifier and passport of a citizen of the kingdom of God as the love that we have for one another.

Now, this morning we will look at Abraham as our model of faith, as our model of faith because the scripture tells us to look to Abraham. In the New Covenant, in the epistle of Romans, when Paul writes a letter to the Roman, to the New Covenant church, he calls us to look to the faith of Abraham. Abraham is our model of faith. Romans chapter four, verse 16, 17, 20, 21, I'm going to read it for you. Therefore, it is of faith that it might be according to the grace that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only of those who are of the law, but those who are of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all, of many nations.

I have made you a father of many nations in the presence of him whom he believed, God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. Abraham did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. Being fully convinced that what God has promised, he is able to perform. Faith that gives life to what is dead and call into existence what does not exist yet being fully persuaded that what God has promised, he is able to perform. No wonder the disciples cried out. This is our model. This is God's intent for our faith in him. This is what God has in mind for your faith. So much more than salvation faith or knowledge faith or being in church faith, but actually every believer walking in that dimension of calling to life what was dead.

Calling into existence what did not exist, fully persuaded that what God has promised, he is faithful to accomplish it. No wonder the disciples cried out, "Oh Jesus, increase our faith." How many of you are crying out this morning, "Lord increase my faith?" Because without faith, it is impossible even to please him. Hebrew 11:6, without faith, it is impossible to please him, there can be scripture, there could be knowledge, there could be church attendance, there could be past testimonies, there can be doctrine and knowledge, but unless today faith is in your heart, vibrant faith, confidence, trust, bold, audacious, trust in him, it is impossible to please him. Without faith, it's impossible to please him. Without faith, we are prisoners. We have faith scriptures that teaches us we are prisoners.

Without faith, we're prisoners of legalism or are prisoners of our tradition, prisoners of our past failures or even our past successes can lock us and rob us of what God wants to do today. Without faith, we're prisoners of the measure we are known of God, as God always wants, as we sang today so anointedly and I believe directed by the Holy Spirit, as God always wants us to go deeper in him, without faith, we're incapable. It's impossible to possess. Hebrews 11:2, it is by faith that the elders possessed, that they acquired a good testimony. Without faith, there's no peace. The fruit of the spirit is faith and in peace and in love in joy and in self-control, without faith, we can't conquer our past. Without faith, we forget that our past has no future.

Say that to somebody next to you. I thought I was very deep. Say that to somebody next to you. I want you to say to somebody next to you, your past has no future. Say that to somebody please.

Congregation: Your past has no future.

Claude Houde: Isaiah 51, one and two, tells us, Abraham is our model. Listen, freeing us from our past. Isaiah 51, one and two. Listen to me you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord... Anyone here following after righteousness and seeking the Lord? Seek righteousness and seek the Lord, look to the rock from which you were hewn. Look to Abraham your father and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug out of. For I called him alone. I called him when he was alone and I blessed him and I increased him.

I'm here, I had on my heart this week to say, I preached this last week at our church and I had all my heart all week in prayer to speak to somebody who feels alone. I want to say, somebody who feels that your past is too much you can't be dug out of that pit. Maybe it was a pit of addiction or depression or oppression, pit of past mistakes or failures. A pit of neglect or abuse. You feel abandoned. You feel overwhelmed. I want his voice to ring to your heart, reach a depth of your soul this morning. He is calling you and he will bless you and he will multiply you. Hell has not created a pit that God can't dig you out of. Hell has no pits he can't dig you out of. And earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

A word for those who feel alone, you say, "I'm alone. I've gone through a divorce and I feel so alone. I feel so abandoned." He is calling you. He will bless you. He will and still can and will multiply you. I'm a single mother. I'm a single father. I feel so alone sometimes, so helpless. He has called you. He will bless you. He will multiply you. I'm single. I'm single. I've been to 15 of my friends' weddings. I am single. I'm single. Sometimes I feel so alone, it almost pushes me over the edge to throw away the whole thing. He has called you, he will bless you and he will multiply you. Hold onto him. We look to Abraham. We'll look at three elements of his faith this morning. By this all will know from Abraham to Antioch.

And when we look at Genesis chapter 12, we look at what we would call the refusal of his faith. Now when we speak of faith, we often talk rightly so of things we accept. We accept Christ, we accept his love. We accept his grace. We accept his will for our lives, but there is a definite, there is a fundamental refusal to our faith. In Genesis chapter 12, verse one to three, we have the calling. Roman says, look to him. Walk in the steps of Abraham. By this, all will know from Abraham to Antioch. Genesis chapter 12, verse one to three. Now the Lord had said to Abraham, "Get out of your country from your family and from your father's house to a land that I will show you and I will make you a great nation.

I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing and I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." There's a refusal to great faith. There's a refusal to our faith. If we are to call to life what was dead, and if we are to call to existence what does not exist, if we are to live in a dimension that by this, they shall know that we are his true disciples, there's a refusal of the very heart of true faith. In this calling, there's a refusal that becomes from Abraham's refusal to you and I. It is faith that says, I refuse to be limited by my background, my context or my culture. Get out of your country.

We honor certain aspects of culture, but I will not be limited to my background, I will not be limited. And I don't know what your background is, but this was essential to me at age 17 when I came to Christ and it's just essential at 55. Now, all these years later, I come from four generations of men. My family, my country, my background is alcoholics and criminals and liars and adulterers and cheaters and addicts and men that break every promise and ruin their lives and the lives of the ones around them. And when I came to Christ, I walked into this knowledge and understanding, I refused to die in that place. God calls me to come out of that into his will. Say yes.

I refuse to be limited to what I have seen. He says, "No, no, look up. Lift up your eyes to a place that I will show you." Something needs to rise up in your heart this morning. I refuse to be limited no matter how great it has been. I refuse to be limited to the experience I have with God, to the measure I have now. I refuse to be limited to what I see in my life, in my children, in my circumstances, in what is happening, in my health. I refuse to be limited to what I see. Lift up your eyes, I will show you. I refuse. I refuse to be limited. I refuse to be limited to what my name, my identity had been. I will make your name great. It is not a matter of pride and you'll make your name known. You'll be on Entertainment Tonight, Lifestyle, The Rich and Famous. It's not about getting your name on a stone.

It's not about that. It is about your identity. Your identity. You will not be limited to what your name has been. It doesn't matter what your name has been, your identity is in Christ now. I have plans for your life. He who is approved by Christ has nothing to prove. I'm not going to be limited to my... I refuse to be limited by my enemies. What has been my enemy? The addiction has been my enemy. This pattern of my life has been my enemy. This wound in my spirit has been my enemy. I refuse to be limited by enemies. God says, "I will bless those who bless you, curse those who curse you." It is Old Testament language for God to say, your battles have become my battles. Your enemies have become my enemies. Walk with me. I will fight your battles until every enemy has fallen. Say, yes please.

Congregation: Yes please.

Claude Houde: I refuse to be limited to my father's house. Come out of your father's house to the place that I will show you. Now, to fully understand the impact of that calling, you need to go just a previous chapter. You need to go just a little bit before that in chapter 11 when there's actually what we... This is what the Christians call the genealogy chapters. You know when at January you start a Bible reading plan and you got behind in July or August. You say, "Man, I'm behind." You get to Leviticus or you get to Genesis 11 and you skip right over to get back into... How many of you have done that? Raise your hand as we sing, Just As I Am. Now there's something important to catch to full impact in Genesis 12 is, come out of your father's house.

But when you look at Genesis 11, you have in verse 31, and Terah took his son, Abraham, his grandson, Lot, and his daughter-in-law, Sarai, his son's wife. And they went out with him from Ur of Chaldea to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they stopped there, they dwelt there. And actually verse 32 of chapter 11 says, and Terah, Abraham's father, Terah died in Haran. Please understand the key words. Terah is Abraham's father. Joshua chapter 24 tells us that he was following other gods. And a call came to get out of the land of Ur of Chaldea, which speaks of their... it was their land of security. Everything they had known. It was the known. It was the secure land in their call to a land of promise.

Canaan for every one of us, speaks of the land of promise, of the fullness of our destiny, the prophetic fulfillment of what God has prepared, the abundant life God has prepared for all of us. And we know just from the geography of it, that it was a long journey and they journeyed two third of the journey. And we know a little bit, just glimpses from the previous chapters. It was a hard journey. They're surrounded by enemies. There was a mourning that took place, somebody died, Lot's father died and Abraham takes over as his father, as his protector. We don't know all the reasons, but they stop in a place called Haran. And the place Haran, in the Hebrew speaks of... it illiterately means the dried up mountain of the parched land or literally the place of small fruit.

They are called to a place of abundance. They are called to a place of promise. They are called to a place of destiny, but they stop in a place of small fruit. Now, I don't believe after 30 some years of pastorate, I don't believe that they meant to stay there. I don't believe that they purposed to stay. I'm going to be content with small fruit in my life. I'll never reach the land of promise. I'll just content myself with this. I'll live a small life in a place of small fruit. I believe it is more insidious than that. I believe the devil is more conniving than that. Maybe they stopped and said, "Well, I'm just taking a few steps back." Maybe they were comparing themselves with before or with someone else. I've seen Christians for over 30 years in one area of their lives, just stop. Just content themselves in a place of small fruit.

But the voice of God rings to Abraham and to you and to me calling you to a holy refusal. Come out of your father's house. Come out of the place of small fruit. I want to bring you into my abundance. Now when you study the genealogies, what is startling and striking is that when we do the genealogies, we realize that even if chapter 11 tells us that his father died there, we realize that Abraham was alive when the call came. He had to come out of that comfort. He had to come out... There was something in his spirit that said, "I'm not going to die in the place of small fruit." You know the place of small fruit in our lives today. Small love, small life, small commitments, small conquest and crowns. Small inspiration and small investment on my part. Small impact, small risks, small rewards, small aspirations, small accomplishments, small sacrifices, small spiritual successes, small brokenness.

You don't allow the brokenness of God to be done in you. Now, small brokenness, small breakthroughs. Small generosity, small glory to God. Small dreams, small destinies. Small repentance, small resurrection and restoration. Small transformation, small testimony. Small in sanctification, small in the supernatural. Small in forgiveness, small fire, small favor, small faith. Something has been rising in me all my Christian life. And I pray today for a powerful anointing of the Spirit on me again, on you again to rise up and say, I will not die. I refuse to die in a place of small fruit. I'm coming out of my father's house. Say yes, please.

Say to somebody next to you, I'm coming out. Say that to somebody next to you.

Congregation: I'm coming out.

Claude Houde: This is a lifestyle. This is a heart cry. You have to understand for us even in Quebec, in ministry as a pastor, it's hard for you to fathom this, but the average evangelical church in our nation, even if, say, just a few hours away in Canada, the French nation of Quebec on the average age, number of years of the church is about 67 years of existence, but the average attendance is 70 people. 97% of our churches are under 100 people. It is a mentality of smallness. When we come and say, by the grace of God, we began with 40 people, and there's over 4,000 today and we helped to plan 40 churches. It is something that was birthed in our heart to say, I refuse to die in the place of small fruit.

And I remember years ago, beginning my ministry, just a few years, I was having... After a long fast, I was having breakfast a few weeks after with a pastor friend of mine and we were having coffee and what he was doing was complaining about the movement of churches. And then, it's like this and it's like that, and nothing moves and nothing changes. And I was doing it with him. "Oh yeah, you're right. And this is wrong, and this is wrong, and this is wrong." And as we came out of the restaurant, we're walking on a sidewalk and the Holy Spirit hit me, I was walking on the sidewalk and I saw myself five or 10 years before having the same conversation with him. Just complaining and moaning, it's small and it's this, and it's that. And as I was walking, I felt so convicted right there on the street. He was a bit startled.

We're walking on the street and I stop on a sidewalk and I said, "You know what, Dan, five years ago we were on this sidewalk having these talks. I'm tired of it." In words of Abraham, "I'm not going to die in the place of small fruit." I told him, "You know what? I'm changing sidewalks. I'm changing sidewalks." And he said, "I'm going with you. I'm going with you." I spoke this to our church a few weeks after and there's a man, an engineer from our church who was doing construction in the city on bridges and he mounted a piece of sidewalk on a plaque and he came in and it says on it, "I'm changing sidewalks. I am not dying in a place of small fruit." Right now, if you come to Montreal, anytime come into my office, walk in, the first thing you'll see is a piece of sidewalk.

I pray someone here hears the voice of God today and says, "Oh God, Lord Jesus, today, July 2017, I'm changing sidewalks. I want to go in a place of fruit. Say yes, please. That's the refusal. Now listen carefully. Most of us at some point had that burning desire for more of God. Everything we sang, everything everybody sang, and the choir sang this morning, deeper and more and more God, more of him. I'm not voluntarily, I'm not willingly dying in a place of small fruit. But in the next step in his journey, in the next principle from Abraham's to Antioch, Abraham models for us, this could change your life, and identify one of the worst and most devastating faith killer and how to overcome it and protect and increase our faith.

We were in Genesis chapter 12, if you turn your page to Genesis chapter 13, here's the context. Abraham obeyed. Abraham came out of the place of small fruit. And he's walking with God step by step. Look up here for a second. Genesis 13 will still be there. Look up here for a second. I want to get you to context. And he... chapter... verse one to five. And the Bible says he's building altars. He's calling on God and he's trusting God and God is blessing him in the going and he has become a man of influence. He's become a blessed man. He has influence. He has an army, but we'll hear of his army in a second. He has an army. He has power. He was a protector and he was a benefactor to his nephew, Lot.

His father died and he took him under his wing and he allowed him to grow. He probably started him out. And Lot is being blessed, and Lot is growing and progressing and prospering, and so is Abraham. And they're walking together on their way to the promised land, on their way to where God called them to be. And in verse 14 of chapter 13, in verse five, excuse me, verse five, and Lot also who went with Abraham, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them that they might dwell together for their possessions were so great, and so they could not dwell together. Don't miss verse seven. Now there was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock, and the Canaanites and the Perizzites were all around in the land.

Look up for a second. This is a prophetic picture. This is an actual, this is a picture. You have a picture of leaders, of the shepherds, Lot's shepherds and Abraham's shepherd. You have a picture of leaders in conflict warring against one another inside as they are surrounded by enemies. These are pictures of the modern church. One church against the other and one church splitting and people inside the church and one against the other and the strife that is on one side and on the other while we are... Well, our fight is not supposed to be inside, it's not supposed to be with one another. Our fight is supposed to be against sin and against darkness and against the devil and against activities of hell. Our fight is to be against injustice and famine in the world.

And our fight is supposed to be together against darkness, one light together in the cities. Say yes please.

Congregation: Yes please.

Claude Houde: And here's the crux. Here's the moment. There was strife between them. And Abraham, verse eight, said to Lot... There was a refusal to Abraham's faith, but watch this. There's a release. There's a release to his faith. There's faith from Abraham to Antioch. By this they shall know, his faith put a release. Verse eight. So Abraham said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me and between my herdsman and your herdsman for we are brothers." Would you say out loud with me, for we are brothers.

Congregation: For we are brothers.

Claude Houde: Please understand the context. Just the history, just by the culture, the history and the culture, the Hebraic and Judaic culture where the elder is to be honored, where the elder is to be respected, where the elder is to have preeminence and you always have to step back for the elders. This conversation should not even have happened. Automatically, Lot should have just said, "Well, uh, there's strife between... Oh, let me... you take... You take the land, you take the..." And Abraham is so conscious, he's so aware of the power of impartation. He says, "You and me, the way... Lot, you and I, how we behave with each other will have impact. Let there not be strife between you and me, my shepherds and your shepherds.

There's power of impartation. I want to say to every married couple, every family, every mom, every dad, how you deal with your strife, how you deal with conflict, whether you are forgiving or an unforgiving, will have great impartation. Will have great influence over everybody you touch. Say to somebody next to you, you're very contagious. Say that to somebody next to you please.

Congregation: You're very contagious.

Claude Houde: There's a power of impartation. And on a human standpoint and scale, just logical and just wisdom, Abraham is the man with the power. Abraham is the man with influence. Abraham is the father with the army. He has soldiers. In that chapter, he'll arm 318 of them. He has the power. He can wipe out Lot with the back of his hand. And you can hear, it's not in the text, but I've been pastoring for over 35 years, so you can read the voices, what's going on around. You can see, you can hear people saying, the herdsmen saying to Abraham, What are you saying? Well, how dare he after everything you've done for him, how generous you've been? He's wrong. Don't let him step over you. Don't let him... Oh, you're about to lose..."

I'll tell you this, Abraham was not so concerned about losing face on the human level. He was more concerned about losing the face of God over his life. Many of us have been at moments where to save face, we're losing the face of God. Let there be no strife among us. There's something higher. There's a higher purpose to my life. Let there be no strife. We are brothers. I have a testimony to give. I have to keep the anointing of God on my life. We have a message. We have a name we will give to the nation. By this all will know. By the love that we have for one another, the name will become the name that will change the world. Say yes please.

Congregation: Yes please.

Claude Houde: Let there be no strife between us. We are brothers. Let there be no strife between us. We are brothers. I remember a few years ago being with Pastor Carter in the city of France in a theater called the Bataclan in Paris. And you might remember that name because it was where the terrorist struck and massacred 80 people, 130 people over about three hours were massacred. 80 people in the very place in the year before. The year before I was preaching there, I was interpreting for Pastor Carter and we were sharing in preaching to thousands of Christians in a crowd. It was one of the first times that that theater, that mythic theater in Paris had the permission to have Christians and we were praying... had allowed Christians to be there.

And I remember one night Pastor Carter preached amazing words. I remember one night I felt to call the Christians that were there from 30 denominations. My message was a prophetic call to supernatural love and unity. And it struck me when I sat there watching the news in horror that on the very place, very stage, very backed rooms, everywhere where we preached unity and where believers were called to come in to be the voice of peace to the nation, hell itself came and struck and shed blood. And there was article after article that spoke of the Bataclan generation. A generation where there'll be hatred. Generation where there will be cynicism with one another, divided nations, nations becoming more and more divided.

And in the midst of all these voices, and in the midst of all these divisions, God is calling the church of Jesus Christ. You in this city, in this city, in this city to be within the church, a city, a people who will speak of a love, who will live out a love, a forgiveness, a capacity to love, a capacity to respect, a capacity to let go of strife that is supernatural and will become the anointing that will reveal you to this city and to this world and to these nations. Say yes please.

Congregation: Yes please.

Claude Houde: There's an increase... say out loud with me. There's an increase in the release.

Congregation: There's an increase in the release.

Claude Houde: There's an increase in the release. Abraham's got all these voices, "How do you let him do that?" And they're all coming and he's not worried about these voices. I'm waiting for another voice. What is God saying to me? What is God saying to me? Releasing. Because Abraham in the human standpoint seemed to be losing. Some of you know the rest of the text. Read it at home. It's a homework. Read it at home. He says, "You go. Let not there be strife among us. We're brothers. Take the land that you want." And Lot takes the land that appeared good to him. The fertile land, the land that seemed to be where he's got to have more prosperity.

And Abraham turns and walks toward the land that looks dry, that looks like he's lost, that looked like on a human level, he's lost. But listen to what God says to him. Listen to God's response. Verse 14, and the Lord said to Abraham after he separated from Lot, "Lift up your eyes now and look to the place from where you are, North, South, East and West, for all the land..." Say, all the land. "All the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth. And if a man can count the dust of the earth, then your descendens also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you."

And Abraham moved his tent and went and dwelled and built there an altar to the Lord. As Abraham released and as you walk in this release from Abraham to Antioch, great faith refuses and great faith releases, releases hurts, offenses, failures, what we perceive as injustices, abuses, disappointments, questions without answers, betrayals. As we day-to-day release ancestral racial tensions, present racial tensions. I grew up to be told that, they grew up to be told about us that, as we release, that there'd be no strife. We are brothers. As we release, the voice of God says everything will increase. The clarity of your vision will increase. Lift up your eyes from the place you have been. You know why? Because bitterness and unforgiveness makes us blind.

It blinds us to the good things God is doing. It blinds us to the qualities of the people around us. It blinds us to our own wrongs and mistakes, in the conflicts. We are blinded. Our own responsibilities, we never learn. We never see them. It blinds us to destructive patterns in our own lives that ruins relationship. It blinds us to new, life-giving relationships God would want to give us because now we've become cold and hardened. It is the release that opens our eyes to see with clarity. It increases clarity. It increases communication. And the blessing shall be on you and your family and your descendants from generations to generations because bitterness and unforgiveness poisons, diminishes, and even eradicates our power to communicate faith to our children or people around us.

Congregation: We got to be born again. We got to be born again.

Claude Houde: Yes. Yes sister.

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Claude Houde: When you're experiencing your born again experience and you're living in faith, what will kill your capacity to communicate faith to your children is when you're trying to do it with bitterness in your own heart. Children that grew up in Christian homes where the songs were sang and the great declarations of faith were repeated, but bitterness was in their heart, strife, criticism, attack against him or her or family or the church, have become desensitized, become hardened to the gospel and to the message. I want to give a very, very sound advice to every parent. I'm a parent now and a grandparent. You want to have a flow of communication of your faith to your children.

Ask God everyday, Lord, release bitterness, release anything from my heart. Put a guard at my lips and in my heart that when I speak of you, when I speak of your people, when I speak of your house, when I speak of your servants, I'll lift up the name of Christ. It will increase clarity. It will increase communication. It will increase concrete fulfillment and more than mere confession. All this land that I've promised you I will give you because bitterness and unforgiveness results in unclaimed treasures and blessing, unclaimed destinies, unfulfilled promises that God had planned and prepared for you that never seem to materialize. The promise is there, but it's never possessed.

Bitterness prevents you from laying hold of what God has for you. As a pastor and shepherd and a developer of men and women of God, mentor, we have a Bible school with over 300 students. I've seen some of the greatest callings in ministry and in the church. Some great destinies be aborted when bitterness is allowed to stay. Unclaimed treasures. Recently I was reading... Every month of July, 1st of July in Quebec, the Revenue Canada, which is like your IRS, they publish in a newspaper a list of unclaimed money. It's people that had heritages, they had money in the bank, they had savings and they... $16 million in six months in unclaimed funds, wills, successions, investment, bonds, I always check to see if my name is there just in case too.

It never has in 50 years. But what you have, you have, and you know about it. When I was looking at this, the Spirit of the Lord just moved me. I was looking at all these treasures that are unclaimed and something came so powerfully in my spirit as if God was saying, "You don't realize through bitterness, how many spiritual unclaimed blessing, how many things are left on the shelves of God's provision and God's plan and destiny. I say today, release them and you will be free, release it and you will be free. Let there be no strife. We are brothers.

It increases in so many aspects of our life, but it will increase in our capacity for compassion and conquest. Turn the page again to Genesis 14. And then you have Abraham that released his nephew, Lot, calls him his brother. After everything he had done for him, he released him and they're walking each in their way. And Lot went close to Sodom and Gomorrah and there was back in those days, nothing is new. There were bands of terrorists who would go around killing people and kidnapping people. From ISIS to Boko Haram, nothing's new. So there's a band of terrorists that kidnapped Lot, his nephew. They kidnap him in Genesis 14, him, his family, everything he owns.

And in verse 13 of Genesis 14, we read, then one who had escaped came and told Abraham about his nephew Lot. Verse 14. Now when Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive, he... Stop a second. Look up, what would you have done? What would you have said? "Huh, him after everything he's done to me? I hate to say I told you so, but you wanted to go to Sodom, you got Sodom. After everything we've done. After everything... I'm not going to put myself in danger. I'm not going to..." No. You know what he did? The Bible says as soon as he heard, he armed 318 of his best soldiers and went after to free the one who had offended him, to free his brother and to go and bring back and fight and even this, again, impartation.

Do you think he would have been able to convince 318 of his servants who had been witnesses to this fight and to this strife if he had been bitter for all the time in between? You think he would have convinced them to risk their life for others? We lose our capacity to... even ourselves, we become desensitized. We become completely somebody who's bitter and somebody who is in his offense. And the Bible says, it's likened beyond the bars of a dungeon. You become self-centered. All you see is what was done to you. You walk right by needs all around you, ways that God would want to use you. You don't see anything. If bitterness had had any root in Abraham, he would not have been able to say, "What, I am called to free him. Let's go. 318 of us, we're going to save my nephew. My brother, Lot."

And when he brought him back he was again, he was again preparing. He was announcing to the world, a people that would bear his name, a people that would bear the name that is above every name, a people that will bear a name. I shall make your name great, a people that will be distinguished by their love in cities of hatred. They will love in cities of past bitterness, they will release. In cities of tearing down, they will intercede and love and be kind and by this love they shall know, all will know that we are true disciples in Jesus' name. We have to release.

From Antioch, by this all will know. From Antioch, turn now, last verse together, go all the way. You're going 2000 years later, but to Acts chapter 11. Please everybody, let me hear the pages. Acts chapter 11. In this age of phones and tablets and I don't know what, I don't hear pages anymore. Turn the pages. I'm hoping you're still going there. Acts 11. Now God said to Abraham, "I will make your name great, and in that name you'll be a blessing to all the families of the earth." While you're turning to Acts 11, he said, "I will bless you. Your descendants will be as the stars of the heaven, the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of the enemies.

In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have refused to dine in a place of small fruit, because you release that there be no strife among us. We are brothers. I will make your name great and your descendants will be as the sands on the seashore." That's the human descendants that will come unto faith, but they will be as the stars of the heaven, as human beings with eternal destinies. That's us. That's people of God. A people who will bless all the families of the earth. Now, religions, movements, philosophies, empires conquer by force. They conquer by fear. They conquer by fierceness. They conquer for their own fortunes.

But God said to Abraham, "In you and in your seed, a name will rise and this name will build families and become a family, the family of God. A family of families that will bless and touch all the families of the earth." And this message is modeled by Abraham and Jesus comes and fulfills every promise and dies and resurrects. And the church is born from Abraham. And Jesus said, by this, there's new commandments, totally new, there'll be a new, not race in a sense of racial, but there will be a new kind of human beings on the earth. There will be children of God, there will be Christians and they will be modeling my heart and my desire and my purposes for the nations, reconciliation and peace and love and the capacity for forgiveness and love and in every relationship that is totally supernational and beyond any capacity human beings can attain outside of a relationship with Christ.

And we get to the church of Antioch and we read this in the book of... It's one of the first churches we read about, but in Acts 11, and if you read in verse 19, now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose and Stephen traveled and they came to the city of... No. After the persecution that arose over Stephen, they traveled and went to Antioch preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyrus and Cyrene and they came to Antioch and they also spoke to the Greeks preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them. Great numbers believed and turned to the Lord. The news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

And when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart, that they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith and great many people were added to the church. Look up for a second. There's a great... When the church is birthed, the Holy Spirit is poured out and healings are taking place and thousands being converted, and there's a radical terrorist by the name of Saul of Tarsus, a religious, radical terrorist, who is persecuting Christians, putting them to death. And to a point where in Jerusalem it comes to a moment of horror where a man of God, Stephen is arrested and they stoned, they put him to death. I've actually once witnessed a stoning in Africa, I never forgot it. It just stayed with me, the horror of it.

And they stoned Stephen in front of this man breathing murder and revenge, Saul of Tarsus. And as they did, they take the blood soak garments of Stephen and they bring it at the feet of Saul of Tarsus. And you would think that would put him to his knees and he would say, "What am I doing?" No, no. The Bible says he's galvanized by it. The next verse, he's breathing murder against the church. So the church in Jerusalem is scattered. They lose everything. In our modern terms, listen to me, they become migrants. They become immigrants. They're going to a different place, they have nothing. They've lost everything they had. So they end up in Antioch, Christians coming together in Antioch.

And as the Christians come together in Antioch, the grace of God is so strong and the love of God is so strong in them that they begin to pray together and they gather and they begin to share their faith. And some of them are sharing only with Jews as they were always taught that the spirit of God is breaking down every barrier. So now they're sharing with Greeks and many are getting saved. And the Bible says that there's a lot of things that today we'd say, "Well, this is the name. This is the name. This is the gospel. This is a real church." Because there's a crowd. People are saved. There's great joy. If you read just the verses around, there's mercy, they're taking an offering for missions as we took this morning because there was a famine and there's great teaching and preaching. And the Bible says even in the next chapter that Apollos, and teachers, and prophets.

So there's all this going on great, but at the same... So all this taking place and it came to the... we just read it, came to the ears of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas, he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit, but to go and to verify, to authenticate, is this truly the church of Christ? Is this truly the church of Jesus? Is this the name? Is this the name that will change the world? Is this real? Because already at this time you have false churches, false prophets, false teachers, false salvations, so they send him. When he's coming in, he's impressed. The hand of God is upon them. There's great salvation, great healing, great advancement, mercy, preaching, teaching.

So he encourages them. He says, "Go, continue to stay firm in the Lord. I'll be back." And now he has to go and he needs to get the ultimate test. He needs to get the, by this, they shall know. So he goes to the city of Tarsus because the persecutor, the murdering persecutor became a Christian. At first the disciples would not believe it, but finally he's coming in. So he goes to Tarsus and he takes Saul of Tarsus and he says, "Come with me. We're going..." It was now the apostle Paul, new convert Paul. "Now we are going on a journey together." I don't know at what points Barnabas told him where they were going. I don't know at what point he told him. That's going to be one of the first DVDs I get in heaven when I...

Because he's going and he's so honored maybe to be with Barnabas and he's telling his testimony and Paul was very, very wounded by the hurt. All his life, 30 years later in some of the epistles, he will write with great pain what he had done to Christians. I, the worst of sinners, I persecuted the church. It's something that only the grace of God could lift off him. But he's walking with Barnabas and I don't know how close they were getting to the city, but eventually Paul says, "And where are we going? " "We're going to the church of Antioch." And you could see, Paul saying, "No Barnabas, no, don't take me there. This is the people that I hurt. This is the people that lost everything because of me. This is the people I persecuted. Some of them are Stephen's family, do you understand? They stoned him. I was so blind. I was so filled with hatred.

I was so... They brought us. His family will be there. Please don't take me there." "No, come with me. We have something greater in ourselves where I have eternal purpose here. We have to determine if this is the name, if this is the name, if this is the name, if this is the people that will change the world. If this is the people who will carry the name of God to the nations all the way to the end of times in 2017, in the nations that are filled with strife and anger and rising divisions in the nations." So they come in and I don't know, you have to imagine it when they come in and what a Sunday morning.

The Bible says that Antioch says, this is my privilege, a bit like Patrick said this morning, "It is my privilege this morning to invite our guest to come and speak. We're so happy to have him with us. Please open your heart and can welcome please, brother, formerly Saul of Tarsus, now our brother Paul. Please welcome him warmly." It wasn't only a matter of grinding your teeth and enduring him for one Sunday, the Bible says that they taught for a whole year. He became part of the body with them. And this next verse has to be extremely important. God said to Abraham... as the musicians come, please, we'll sing, What a Wonderful Name. That beautiful song by which we began. The Bible says that when he had found him, he brought him, verse 26, to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they taught a great many people.

And it was in Antioch that for the first time they were named Christians like Christ. Before that they're disciples. And most commentaries believe that it was actually the unsaved, the secular people of the city that said, when they saw the capacity for forgiveness, when they saw the capacity for people who had hurt each other and had been hurt and wounded with such different racial backgrounds and religious backgrounds and every nationality and every racist prejudice possible rooted so deeply in them being uprooted, seeing them being freed from it. And when the unsaved people would walk by the gathering and see the former persecutor with tears in his eyes speaking to people he had persecuted and each other calling themselves brother, living out let there be no strife among us, we are brothers.

Seeing this for the first time, they called them Christian. God said, that's my name now. That's the name of my people in the nations. When purposes are stronger than our pasts, than your past, then we're Christians. When the offering of obedience in your life is greater than the offenses, I've been offended but I want to glorify God more. So God release this. I release this to you and free me. When forgiveness is stronger than fear, when my gospel is more important than the grievances, when my spiritual testimony is more important than society's tensions. When my light shines in love, we will be called Christians.

We will become a blessing to every city, every family, every place of work, every city, and every nation of the world. And it starts right where we live. Last week I was... we have different ministries in our church as you do. And of the ministries is the ministry to group of... we called it, well, it's a ministry of people 65 and over. And a few times a year, I go with a pastor that leads this great ministry and we have seniors. So there was about 150 to 200 people, 65 and over. And I went to speak to them and to pray with them and spend time with them last Saturday morning. And there was a man leading, involved in worship and he leads groups and visitations and I thought, what an amazing power the Holy Spirit has when we allow him to work.

It is with the family's permission that I share this without mentioning their name, but they said, "Share it, that it'd be a testimony." It's a Christian family. This man was the first in his family who became a Christian years and years ago and he brought his family to Christ and they grew up in church, not in our church, but in church. And they became adults and married. But the grandfather was a Christian, but a bitter man, a conflictual man. A man who criticized a lot, a man who switched from church to church to church because nobody was ever... and this I don't like, and this is not right, and this is not this. And he tore up a lot. And he criticized a lot and he became embittered. A talented, gifted man, but embittered and for years and years and years to a point where the impartation as Abraham said, took place.

And it was a sad, sad thing. I didn't know this. He started coming to our church a few years ago, I didn't know him. And his family started coming to our church and there was a season, and I say this with great hurt. There was a season of two years where the three families, one daughter, two sons and their husbands and wives and kids were not talking to one another, but coming to our church every week. And they weren't talking to their father. And there was all this strife and everybody is singing and everybody is praising and everybody is... and their grandkids are away from God. And I'm not putting a burden on you. That's not the only reason. But there's something very deep there.

And New Year's Eve, two years ago, New Year's Eve, 2000 and the last service of the year, last Sunday of the year, 2015, I spoke a word and one of the brothers sitting over there, one of the brothers, just the Holy Spirit, and he was one of the most bitter like his dad and he just broke in tears. And very unusual for him, he walked all the way across during the call at the end of the service. And he went and he grabbed his two brothers and sisters and said, "It's enough. It's enough. How can we do this?" And he was anointed. And at first they were resistant, but then they began to weep together. And the father wasn't there in that service that morning. And they finally went to him in the days that followed, first days of the year 2015, they went together and said, "Dad, it's enough, we..." In the words of Abraham, "Let there be no strife among us.

We are brothers, we're family, we're Christians." And something so miraculous took place in his family step by step and month by month, and over the last two years, it's almost always just coincidence. In the last two years, six of the grandkids have been baptized at our church. Six of the grandkids. And every single one of them have said, "When this happened in our family, we thought this is amazing. If God can do that to grandpa, if he can change my dad..." It's as if their heart reopened. Do you understand that that family was communicating the gospel, you shall be born again in a very perfect way, but their lives, the strife in their heart was like a wall. But when forgiveness flowed, when the release took place, then the revelation of who Christ is and they were Christians.

And last week I was watching during that Saturday morning and that grandfather, that man was leading and the Spirit of God was upon him and he is in his 70s and I was shuddering at the thought of what he could have lost, what could have been lost. I'm saying today, God, we rise today and say from Abraham to Antioch to Times Square Church, by this all will know that we are your disciples as we refuse to die in a place of small fruit and we release what needs to be released. Let there be no strife, we are brothers and testimony to this city of the power of love in our hearts, in Jesus name and all of God's people say, amen and amen. Can we stand? Can we stand? Can we stand and can you give God an ovation this morning? Can you give him a standing ovation? We're going to sing the beautiful name of Jesus.

Hallelujah. Before we go, can you just stop for one second? Can you lift your hands with me all over the building and say, God, I will not die in a place of small fruit. Come on, everywhere, in your own heart, in your own words. Oh God, I'm coming out of my father's house and whatever needs to be released, I want to release to you. I want to release to you... Do you understand prophetically that this church has been called with many other churches in this city, but has been called to be a voice for forgiveness, a voice for reconciliation? The church with a hundred nationalities. This is a city within the city, the city of thousands within the city with such different backgrounds and nationalities. Our call to model, our call to shine. We are called together to shine. Let there be no strife among us. We are brothers.

I release, I release this morning all over this place. Begin to release. The Holy Spirit will show you. I'm releasing pain. I'm releasing hurt. I'm releasing offenses. I'm releasing my own shortcomings. I'm releasing failures. I'm releasing abuse. I'm releasing. Come on, begin to do it all over. The scripture says, when we know not how to pray, even the spirit will intercede within us. So begin to pray in English or in Spanish or in your spiritual language all over this place releasing. Lord, we want to walk in your way that is worthy of your beautiful name as we sing the beauty of your name. Your name is so beautiful, but we will become worthy of carrying your name, of living out your name, of sharing your name as we release, as we walk in forgiveness, as we release before you in Jesus name.

Hallelujah. All over this place, just a few minutes as the musicians play. We're going to sing the beauty of the name of Jesus. But as we sing, I pray you will release this morning. Lord God, I release to you and I pray in the name of Jesus for a great anointing of release, a great anointing of forgiveness, a great anointing of healing, a great anointing of mission. We're called to carry your name. We will release today in the name of Jesus. And in New York City, in Times Square Church, they shall be called Christians.

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When the Holy Spirit Comes

 

Tim Dilena

June 12, 2016

Jesus never promised life would be easy, but he did promise before he left that he would not leave us comfortless. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit—the great Comforter—he gives you the power to face anything that's ahead of you. In this powerful sermon, Tim Dilena reminds us where our source of power lies and the perfect gift we have in the Holy Spirit.

I want to just share something with you that I feel that God wants to help us, especially going into a new season where God is bringing us? When you go to the book of Acts where I want you to go, Acts chapter one, the disciples with the resurrected Jesus and Jesus is about to be ascended to heaven, to the right hand of God, the father, the disciples were about to enter into a time which would basically be considered the most difficult time in Christianity to be a follower of Jesus. It would be for that first century and not only for the first century, but for the next three centuries, 300 years, you would die or be persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ. And I have to tell you, and I'll discuss this in a few moments, I don't think we're far from that very time.

One of the things that I started to realize when I began to think about this is that Jesus really promised his disciples three things. He says, "One, you are going to be completely fearless. Two, you're going to be absurdly happy and joyful all the time. And number three, you're going to be in constant trouble." And I think that's really what Jesus promised them. One, you'll be fearless, crazy, fearless. Two, absurdly happy, but three, you're going to be in constant trouble if you are a follower, but don't be afraid because when you feel like things are over your head, just remember they're under God's feet. And he has to begin to remind us of this very thing. Three centuries probably considered to be 29 different persecutions.

I'm reading a book that just came out, it's about this thick, of someone that served many years ago in Washington, D.C., called William Bennett, who is secretary of education and wrote a book called Tried by Fire. And it is the first few centuries of Christianity. It is really an updated version of Foxe's Book of Martyrs to walk you through these 29 different persecutions that have come to the church and how the church didn't begin to fold, but the church began to grow. And it's amazing what God began to do as you read this starting from Nero at the ascension of Jesus and moving towards others like Diocletian and even some names that have been portrayed in movies recently in about maybe a decade ago would be names like Commodus and Marcus Aurelius, and what many see as the great man movie, the Gladiator, as these two were portrayed in that movie but forgotten is they were strict and literally unflinching persecutors of Christians.

Literally to be a follower of Jesus, you would be persecuted. In fact, in that movie, I was reading an article of movie called Gladiator, Ridley Scott, who began to direct that movie, left out what they call the deleted scene, which was a picture before the gladiators would come out. There was a minute and 16 seconds before the gladiators would come out there, they would send the Christians into the arena. And the Christians would go in there and there's this one minute and 16 seconds in the bowels of the arena where the main character is looking out through a portal and seeing a Christian father with his wife and children huddled around them and a lion pacing behind them.

In just a moment, all you see is the back of the head of this gladiator and as he's looking in the arena, this lion begins to climb up the back of the father and the scene stops. And they asked Ridley Scott, they said, "Why didn't you put that in the movie?" And he said, "Because I couldn't properly portray how persecuted the Christians were for their faith in Jesus Christ." That people have no idea, I have no idea of this persecution. And it was the great apologist, Francis Schaeffer in the '60s who really said something that's so touched my heart and challenged me with what really happened. He said this, he says, "Why did they kill the early Christians?" And this is what he said, "It was not for worshiping Jesus."

Don't miss this. He says, "It was not for worshiping Jesus." We think people will persecute, they were persecuting for worshiping Jesus. He says it wasn't that. It was because they wouldn't worship and acknowledge the other gods of the Roman empire. He said, "You can worship your Jesus, but you got to call every other religion legit." That's the generation we're living in today. You can be a Christian, but you better call everybody else legit, that everybody else is like this. And Jesus doesn't leave that open for us. He says, "I am here." He says, "This is who I am and you need to understand I'm not like this." Where every other religion says, "Die and pay for this." Jesus says, "No, I'll do it for you." That's called amazing grace like pastor Carter was talking about.

They hated the Christians, not because they were Christians, but because they didn't say all the other religions were just as legit as Christianity. And Jesus said, "In order for me to prepare you not only for what was going to be the hardest season..." And could very be a carbon copy of what we're getting ready to face here as a country and as a nation. Understand something, Jesus says, "I've got to equip you to face what is coming ahead. Always remember you will be crazy fearless, You will be absurdly happy, but get ready, you're going to be in a lot of trouble if you're going to follow after Jesus Christ." I know that sounds bad, but here's the thing I want you to understand. Jesus says, "Don't worry because I'm going to give you help for what's ahead."

Now, here's the part and this is where I want you to understand. Jesus says, "When I leave, I'm not going to leave you comfortless. I'm going to leave you a special gift." Now, in my years of ministry, I have received so many gifts from people. Some I'm so happy and some are interesting. And so there are some that Cindy and I, she could legitimize this. We have a special drawer that we have created called the special gifts drawer. So when people give us these special gifts and they come to us a year later and say, "Do you still have my..." and we can say without lying and before Jesus, "Yes we do." It made it to the drawer, but it didn't go any further than the drawer.

For example, somebody, when I first started in ministry in Detroit, crocheted me this sweater. Okay? It wasn't just a crocheted sweater. It was not only, and I love these people, but she has gone to be with the Lord and I can tell this story. And so it had to be the most hideous sweater I've ever seen in my life. It was crochet, but what made it get to the drawer is what they crocheted on it. I'm in Detroit, this very violent area, and she crocheted a bullseye right on the chest of the sweater. It was kind of like, hey, we want to make sure they see you easier when they kill you. And so I couldn't wear the bullseye sweater. So we put it in the special drawer and have it to this day, 30 years later. And in fact, you have to wear it when you lose in some of our family games, you have to wear the bullseye sweater.

Some precious woman, and you know what that means, precious woman gave us this, I didn't even know the name of it. It was called, I used to call it a hot plate, it was a trivet. I guess you put hot pots on it once you take them off the oven. But this wasn't just a trivet, it was the head of Jesus. And Jesus's head was on this and it wasn't just his head, his head was made out of the places he went to. So it was like one eyebrow was Capernaum and the other eyebrow was Judea and the mouth was Bethlehem. And it was like, really? So I get this trivet with the head of Jesus in the places he went. And I remember the first day we're putting beans and I said, "I can't. I can't put beans on Jesus's head. He's holy." We relent he's holy, holy, holy, put it in the drawer before we go to, not to heaven.

And so I just thought to myself, we can't, so in the drawer. So just think before you bless anybody. For heaven's sake, think so it doesn't go to the drawer. But here's what's amazing. When God gives a gift, it never goes to the drawer. Listen, the Bible says every gift is good and perfect. You will never get something from God you're going, "What is this?" And here's what he says, these two words are amazing, it's from James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above coming from the Father of lights." And these two words, good and perfect, if I could just separate them for a second and just unpack for a moment. These words, good and perfect, really speak to how he is going to equip you in the place that you're about to go into. Because the word good, let's start with that. In the original language, it doesn't sound like we would know.

So let me just push you a little bit on remembering old English classes. We would call this word a superlative, which means you would end the E-S-T at the end of it. So you would say in April it's hot, it could be hot in New York. In June, it gets hotter, but in August, it is at it's...

Hottest.

That's the superlative. So you can use it for anything. Great to see pastor David. Pastor David is a cool dude, but then there's pastor William, he is cooler, but then my friend pastor Carter, he is the...

Coolest.

Of course he is. That's the superlative. And what James was saying was when God gives you a gift, it's the best. Nothing can get any better than any gift that God is going to give to you. And then he says, "Not just good, but it's going to be perfect." And that's the word which we would say sometimes when someone gives you something and say, "That is perfect. That is exactly what I needed. I needed a bullseye sweater because I wanted to be with Jesus sooner." That's what you would say for that. But it wasn't perfect. It wasn't, the word meaning usable, something you needed. The word perfect means it's exactly what we need for this moment. It's exactly the thing that I can use at this time.

So when God gives me a gift and God gives you a gift, he's saying it's not just a gift. He says, "This gift is going to be the best gift you can ever have and this gift is going to be something you will always use." And he said, "In order for me to get you to the place of what you're about to face, I've got to give you a gift." And that gift that I want to just take a few moments to talk about is the gift of the Holy Spirit. That's the gift that he said, "I want to begin to change you, and before I leave," he says, "I want you to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. He says in Acts chapter one, verse eight, is the one verse that we're going to look at today. And he says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth."

And you know what he was saying? He was saying this to us. He was saying this to the disciples and he was saying this to us today. He says, "You're about to enter into the hardest point and the hardest time it is to be a Christian." And he says, "And the best thing I can do, the greatest thing I can do is give you a gift in how to face this." And when we speak about the Holy Spirit, I want you just to put everything aside, everything that you would see on a TV, listen on Christian radio, and let's just see it from the way that the Bible explains it. And let's look at how the Bible begins to speak of this because really when God says, "I'm going to fill you," like pastor Teresa talked about two weeks ago, like pastor David talked about last week at the six o'clock and what's about to take place today.

The baptism, the filling of the Holy Spirit, this is going to date me because probably only the old people would know this. The infilling of the Holy Spirit is like the phone booth is to Superman. It means when that thing happens, you come out, not normal, you come out absolutely changed. Why? Because it is perfect and it's good. It's the best I can get from God and it's something that I'm going to be able to use. When you've been touched by the Holy Spirit, people know it. People know what's happened. In fact, the best way I can explain it... I'm just telling you, I don't understand popcorn. And let me just tell you why. We were eating it the other day and as we're eating it, you take this bag of popcorn and you throw it in this microwave, it goes into this room.

And while it's in this room, all of these kernels are experiencing the same thing. They're in together. They're all packed in. They're experiencing this micro, this is going somewhere, and it's experiencing all this place. But when it's all said and done, there're just some of those kernels that are so stubborn, they won't be changed though they're in the same place, hearing the same buzz, under the same light, in the same situation, and you can't get them to pop. When I saw Greg leading us in worship and we got to this freedom song, some of you were beside yourself jumping up, but there were some kernels in this place that are just sitting there like this, and I'm going, you can't pop, but today, this may be your popping day for the Holy Ghost to come.

I'm tired already. So here, let's do this. His gift, he says this in Acts 1:8, "When the spirit comes, you will receive power." When the Spirit comes. I just want to give you two thoughts that you will receive power and you will be his witnesses. That's it. Let's just take what the Bible says. You will receive power number one, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. I have been very fortunate that I was raised by godly parents. For those that don't know my history and those that don't know how much this church means to me and what God has raised up here in New York City, when pastor David Wilkerson, the founding pastor came and started this church, before that was The Cross and the Switchblade and Teen Challenge. My dad was the police captain in the book, The Cross and the Switchblade.

So I was raised seeing and hearing the testimonies of a Nicky Cruz and Israel and seeing the beginning of Teen Challenge. And my dad was the first treasurer of Brooklyn Teen Challenge. When brother Dave first came to New York City, he met my dad. He was the one in the movie that when brother Dave was trying to preach on a street corner that they said, "You can't preach there unless you have an American flag." And then a police captain comes and says, "Let him preach," on that street corner. And they became lifelong friends at that moment. So I was raised seeing miracles, seeing what God was doing. I was raised in a church. Literally, I look at this choir and I literally was almost born in a choir loft on 33rd Street in a church called Glad Tidings Tabernacle during the Christmas cantata. It was during December 18th, no, December 22nd, that's when I was born.

So if you want to give me a gift. But it has to be good. It has to be good. I'm kidding. I was almost born in the choir loft and my mom sang soprano and I'm so thankful that I was raised in an environment that loved God and I never experienced the junk that others experience that we were exposed to watching the testimonies of the early Teen Challenge. And if pastor David was wanting to get somebody to give their testimony for the 6:00 PM, he wouldn't invite me because literally, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. I have never drank alcohol in my life. I have never been on drugs in my life. God kept me as a virgin all the way til I got married at 33 years old. I'm not ashamed of that. I thank God for his keeping power and I'm grateful for that.

And can I just tell you? I pray that testimony for my own children and I pray every day. I was telling pastor Carter, every day I pray for Christian, Anna, Lauren, and Grace. I pray, God fill them with the Holy Spirit, fill them with the Spirit. That very thing, that very gift, that very person you said would begin to take them through the toughest seasons and the toughest places of their life, God, would you do that? And while I was at college, brother Dave asked me, he says, "Would you go to Detroit and help my son plant a church in Detroit in the '80s?" And little did I know that God would take me and put me on the streets of Detroit who has in a sense, no testimony at all. In the testimony of I didn't do anything.

Gary Wilkerson, brother Dave's son, said, "I want you to pastor..." A pastor would do a Bible study at a prostitution hotel at 19 years old. So I have a guitar, I know three chords, and I'm in a prostitution hotel speaking to pimps and pro... and I haven't been addicted to anything. I mean, the closest thing was Oreos and that was it. And then double stuff came out and I was done. But it was like, "Really me? Me do this?" And he threw me in the deep end of the pool. And I'm sitting there trying to lead pimps and prostitutes thinking, how am I supposed to? This is crazy. And I had somebody tell me in the midst of this, they said, "Tim, we know you've been on the streets for 30 years, but we feel like we could do a better job than you."

And this is what they said. I want you to listen to what they said to me. They said, "Because we have experienced the world and you haven't. So to minister to those prostitutes because we've been out there on the streets, we have a better shot than you because we can relate to them better." And for those that are on drugs, we appreciate your story, but because you haven't experienced... And students, listen to me, college students, high school students, listen to me close. Parents, listen to me. And I kept thinking to myself, that doesn't sound fair. It doesn't sound right that God would say, "If you live in that, you get to minister better."

And I'm not saying that God can't transform anybody's life. I'm not saying that at all. But it didn't seem right because... So the best way of effective ministry is to experience the world? That doesn't seem right. And in fact, this is the reason for Acts chapter one. "The best way," Jesus said, "To minister to the world..." You're ready for this? "Is not to experience the world, but to experience God." He said, all that I want you to know is God doesn't say, "Taste and see that the world is no good." He says, "Taste and see that God is good." What he was saying to us was this, once you get a taste of Jesus, he says, you don't want what's out there because there's nothing that can satisfy you like a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing can satisfy you. That's what he was telling us.

And so because it didn't seem right, so Jesus is saying to Peter... Excuse me if this is just a little over the top, but I want you to hear this. He didn't say, "Peter, you do drugs so you can minister to the drug addicts. Mary, you be a prostitute so you can minister to the ladies on the streets. And hey, we want you, Thomas, we want you to go ahead and be an alcoholic so you can minister to..." He didn't say that. He didn't say, "I don't want you to experience sin. I want you to experience the infilling of the Holy Spirit." He says, "Because what I knew is that if you can experience God, you will know how to lead people from this trap of sin that they can experience freedom in Jesus Christ." So when you are filled, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit... Listen to me today. He gives you a power to face anything that's ahead of you. Anything that's ahead of you.

In just a few months, we're going to go back into an Olympic season. And as that's beginning to take places, everybody's gearing up for Rio de Janeiro. We have somebody in our church, a woman who is training for the heptathlon to run those events in Rio de Janeiro. You see all these stories pop up. And one of the stories went all the way back, almost 12, 14 years ago to a winter Olympics that just really, I was so shocked to hear this, that when the winter Olympics were in Nagano, Japan, they said something interesting happened. They said, "Not only would they have to shut down sometimes a day or even two days," and they said, "We would never have to do this because of the extreme weather on the mountains of Nagano."

They said, "The part that we just couldn't understand, we expected that, but at the top of the mountain..." and this is what blew me away, they said, "There was a grove of trees at the top of the mountain that while we couldn't even see our hand in front of us because of the winds," he says, "This grove of trees were blooming in the dead of winter and fruit was coming out of them." They said, "We were so amazed. We were bummed that we had to shut down the slalom and we had to shut down some of the skiing events. But we were so amazed of why these trees were up there." And when I read this story, I just couldn't help but think of Acts chapter one and Acts chapter two, when the Spirit fell down and began to come with fire upon them.

This is what they said. They even sent geologists up there during the Olympics and said, "Why are these trees blooming in this harshest of weather?" And this is what they found, that the roots underneath the tree was touching volcanic activity, which meant that while it was snowing on top, they were experiencing fire underneath. So what that tells me is it doesn't matter what happens out there, these roots are touching the fire. They're touching the Holy Spirit. He will come and says, "You will receive power." And I love what he does. He says, "The first spot that I'll touch," listen to this. "The first spot I'll touch is the most untamed part that you have, that tongue." That tongue that no man can tame, God goes, "I can tame it."

He says, "Because when I baptize you with the Holy Spirit, I'm not going after your legs. I'm not going after your arms. I'm not going after your brain. I'm going after the most untamable part. I want to go after the part that James says no man can tame." He said, no man, he didn't say God can't go after it. And he says, "I want to begin to touch that." And all over the book of Acts, whether it was speaking in tongues or prophecy, some of them got filled with the Spirit in Acts chapter four and they spoke with boldness. And he says, "I'm going to go after your tongue. I'm going to go after this part. And what I'll do is I'll begin to fill you." And God is going, "I just want control of that. I want to take that."

And he says, "If you allow this heart of yours to touch fire, I'll take the most untamed part of you." But he says, "But the gift that I'm giving to you is going to help you to face the hardest season and the hardest season that you'll ever go through." I can't tell you how many times that in the hardest season that I've gone through I just would say, "God, fill me with the Holy Spirit today. I don't have anything else. I have nothing else God, unless you fill me with the Holy Spirit right now." And Jesus said this, "When I leave, I am going to let you receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." And then number two, and we close with this, he says, "You shall be my witnesses."

When you are filled... You know what I love? He didn't say, "You will be lawyers." No offense. He said, "You will be witnesses." I've been in many courtrooms because I've stood with people that have gotten saved off the streets of the major cities of our country, the cities that I served in. I've been to court. I've been there where people's lives have been changed and they're saying, "Pastor, would you come and maybe be a character witness or maybe just be there to pray?" And that's what I would do. And I've watched, once again, if you're a lawyer, God bless you. But I would see the lawyers come up because they knew just the way it went and they would get up there and go, "This is my client, this is Johnny, and we're just asking for the mercy of the court. We plead guilty. But would you go ahead and just..."

No emotion because they're not... though it's a client, it doesn't mean they're connected. But when you put up a witness, the emotion comes out because you can be a Christian and just give the lawyer facts, but it never touch your heart. And so he says, "When you become a Christian, I don't want you just to give the facts, I want you to experience what's happening inside." Put a witness on the stand, put someone who may be the crime was committed, put up a mother that may be is a character witness. Listen to the emotion come out. And he says, "What I want you to do is not do witnessing," but this is what he says, "I want you to be a witness." What he was saying to them was this, when the Holy Spirit touches you, witnessing is that something that you do at a certain time on a missions trip or on the screen when we send out our young people to go at different parts of the city, like we saw up there.

He didn't say, "You do witnessing on the time clock August 1st through August six," he says that's doing witnessing. He says, "But when the spirit dwells upon you, you will be a witness." Which means that whether it's on a campus, whether it's at your job, whether it's in your high rise, whether it's in your neighborhood, whether you're walking outside of church and even in the subway, you can be a witness because it's not based on a timeframe. If the Spirit is in you, I don't do something, I become something is what it says here. Because when he fills you, he says, when he fills you, he says, "You become a witness." You don't realize how important a part this church has played on some real significant parts of my life.

I can go through seasons, even recent seasons and seasons of the past of how much this church has meant to Cindy and I. And I'm so happy Cindy is here today who doesn't have a chance usually to come with me. Cindy, my two teenage children and my two girls who are in the children's ministry right now. So we had a chance to come with all four of our children and Cindy, and I'm always honored when Cindy is with me, but it was here, it was here that we first not only announced that we were going to get married, but I had proposed to her in Central Park on... It was perfect New York proposal. I took her to Tavern on the Green. Because I'm 33 years old, I'm going to do this right. And so I brought her to Tavern on the Green. She had no idea because I really felt like God said, "Never tell someone you love them until you're going to put a ring on their finger."

And so we went on the horse and carriage ride and we're going around New York and I had the guy stop right at Rockefeller Center. I got out on one knee, I opened up the box and as I'm there in front of all those flags, I just said, "Cindy, I love you..." I'm on one knee. And so the guy is irritated that I made him stop and I go, "I love you. Would you be my..." and literally, he was watching the whole thing like this. And this is what he did. Without missing a beat, he goes, "This is beautiful." That's what he said, Cindy can verify it. "This is beautiful." On a Tuesday night, I was able to tell you that I got engaged and it was Brother Dave that did my wedding and Pastor Carter and Pastor Theresa had such an important part of so many seasons of our life and so have you.

You have been such an important part of these seasons. And so our marriage, we've been married for 20 years now on November 6th, which is such a blessing. On November 9th, we got married. If that's another gift, you can just bring, but make it good. And what's crazy is this, this is what's crazy. It was magical until our first argument in Wendy's. And so all this time, it's been awesome. "Yeah, you're my baby. You're my baby girl. You're my boo." All that, it was... And so we're doing all this stuff. So we're going into a Wendy's and I just do what I do. I just go, "I want a double cheeseburger, ketchup only, French fries, and a lemonade and biggie size that for me." And so I say, "Baby girl, what do you want? What do you want to take?" This is what she said. First fight. She goes, "I want a grilled chicken sandwich."

Women always get grilled chicken sandwiches. I learned that. You'll always do. You'll always get a grilled chicken sandwich. "Do you want anything to drink baby girl? Do you want anything to drink?" "Diet Coke." Women always get Diet Coke. But they have this fantasy about Diet Coke, like you can eat whatever you want and Diet Coke fixes it. I'll have those eight cookies, but I've got a Diet Coke. It just doesn't work. This is a place of truth. So she gets that and then, then, then it happened. I said, "Do you want French fries with that?" She goes, "No, I'll have some of yours." Someone needs to speak up for the men of America. So let me just tell you this right now. Let me just tell you.

So I look, I just said, "Cindy," and that's when I'm serious. I didn't even call her bae. I said, "Cindy," I said, "No, listen," I said, "I'll buy you your own. It's not a big deal." She says, "I can't eat a whole one. I just need a few." I said, "First of all, you know that's not true." So I just go... I didn't say that. I didn't say it. I was just married a couple months. I didn't say it. So I said, "No, but you don't understand," I said, "They just put enough, they've done science on this and they've just put enough to meet the appetite of an individual and if you pull any out, you ruin it. So I'll buy you one if you want, but I can't eat..." I said, "Listen," I said, "Here's what happens," I said, "I don't care if you eat one and throw it out. You're not getting any of my fries." "She'll have her fries."

Then we got counseling. Here's what happened. Then it dawned on me, listen, as an Italian, we take food very seriously, which means, you're ready for this? I don't share food. Do you want to share a dessert? No, I don't want to share a dessert. Can I have some of what you got, which means I don't like mine, I want to start eating... No. So here's what happens and this is what takes place. Do you know when I share my food, you're ready for this? It's when I'm full. When I'm done with my plate, then I go, "Would you like some of this?" Which means, you're ready for this? When you're full, you'll share. You're not getting. When you are full, you will share. He says, "You don't need a course in evangelism.

You don't need to go through some online course. When you get full of the Holy Spirit," he says, there's something deep inside that says, "You can't stop me. It's going to come out of me." That's how you become a witness, not by a course online, it's when he fills you with the Holy Spirit. So here's how we stop and we're done. This is how you're done. How we're done. When the Spirit fills you, he says, "I will begin to take you even back to same environments that used to bring you down." But he says, "But there'll be a new backbone inside of you." He says, "You know who I want to preach after I fill you with the Holy Spirit because you've been full you can share? Peter. Denying Peter. I want you to preach right in the very city that made you a denier."

So what I'm going to do is when the Spirit comes, you're going to receive power, which means these roots are touching fire though they want to kill me on top. When the Spirit fills you, you will be, not do my witnessing, you will be my witness. Here it is, in Jerusalem, Jerusalem, where you denied me three times, listen, to a little girl, you're going to stand up and instead of denying me three times, I'm going to give you 3000 converts because what is happening inside of you is greater than what's happening on top of you. And he says, "I want to fill you." So he says, "When I send you back to corporate America, when you hear Jerry Hampton today speak about this important topic to so many of you in the business world, to so many of you all over this city," what he is doing is, he's saying, "I want to give you a frame of reference, but in order for you to stand, in order for you to have backbone, you have to be filled with the Holy...

That's why Jerry as one of our elders is able to work in Goldman Sachs, able to be a CEO in New York City, not because he went to church, it's because something deep inside of him called the Holy Spirit gave him Christian character in an environment that will begin to try to get you to compromise. Okay, pastor Tim, how does this happen? How do we do it? Is this going to be crazy? Is this going to be... Let me give it to you as Jesus said it. I'm going to have the band come. Greg, if we can get ready just to play and let me just give it to you the way Jesus said it. Last verse I'll read and we're done.

Luke chapter 11, Jesus said... I want to show you how this happens. And I want you to be receptive because no one is going to do anything that is unbiblical here. We're just going to do what the Bible says. And here's what it says in Luke chapter 11, verse nine, Jesus says this, "So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be open up to you." How many have ever heard of that verse before? Okay. Look at me for a second. Let's connect this to context. Let's connect it to context. Watch this. "For everyone who asks receives, and who seeks finds, and to him who knocked, it shall be opened.

Now suppose one of your fathers is asked by his son for a fish, will he give him a snake instead of a fish? No. And if he asks for an egg, will he give him a scorpion? Of course not. Verse 13. If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that just ask him?" That's it. Just ask. He says it's not anything I can do, any of these pastors can do, any of the elders can do, altar workers. It's you just going, "God, I just ask you, fill me with the Spirit today. Fill me with the Holy Spirit today." That's it. It's you to...

And you know it's interesting to me as a side note? I don't think it's by accident that he puts in there, he says, "If you ask a fish, will you get a snake? And if you ask for an egg, will you get a scorpion?" Listen, because what Jesus puts in there, the words that he uses for food, he doesn't even use meat. He doesn't say steak. He doesn't say lamb. He doesn't say any of those things. What Jesus says is fish and egg, which are the two staple foods of that day. What he was saying to him, listen to me, he was saying to them, the Holy Spirit is not a luxury. It's a necessity. You need him every single day. It is me just going, "Lord you're my food every single day. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Fill me."

It is a gift that he gives to you. It is a gift that he gives to you. And the last thing that I would ever tell you as you stand to your feet, here's what I want you to do. Everybody to stand with me. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights. Every good and perfect gift. Good, the superlative, nothing can be better. Perfect, the usable, the one that makes all the difference, the one that changes, the one that is useful. And here's what I want you to understand. With all the gift giving that goes on today, the thing that has rocked the gift giving world is when you just don't know what to give. Everybody shows up at a CVS or Rite Aid and you buy a gift card for somebody. And that's what people do today is they buy.

But here's what's amazing. Do you know the racket these companies are making on gift cards? For this reason, that almost 40% are never cashed because people forget or they lose them. So you're spending $50 for an iTunes card, $25 for an Amazon card, all these things, you give it, thank you so much. And people don't even know where it is. People forget that they even have it. They're still spending money and they forget they have a gift card. And when the Holy Spirit says, when Jesus says, "I'm giving you a gift today," I'm telling you, don't put that in your pocket. Don't put it aside. I'm telling you today, cash in that gift card and say, "Fill me with the Holy Spirit today."

Fill me with the Holy Spirit today. He did it two weeks ago at the one o'clock as Pastor Theresa prayed. He did it last Sunday at the six o'clock as Pastor David prayed, and can I tell you something? He can do it on a Sunday morning. In the balcony, if you're watching live at the New Jersey campus, if you're here in this sanctuary, you don't even have to bow your heads. But if you're here right now, and if we can play, How Great is Our God? If we can just get ready. Here's what I want you to do. We're just simply going to ask today. But if you're here today and say, "Pastor Tim, I'm cashing in that gift card today. He's given me a gift and what I have to face and what's ahead of me right now, I want him to fill me. I don't want there to be one empty spot inside my heart today. Fill me Jesus with the Holy Spirit."

And if you're here today and say, "Pastor Tim, I want the Holy Spirit. All we're going to do is ask, that's all we're going to do. And if you're here today and say, "What I'm facing right now, I can't do it without help. I need the Holy Spirit." And if you're here right now, heads up, eyes open, I want you to get down here as fast as you can. Just say, just pray for me today. Quickly. Just get down here as fast as you can. As we sing this song, I want you from the balcony, find your way to the exit and they'll lead you down here. Main floor, you come down. In New Jersey, they'll begin to guide you how to do it, in the annex, we'll pray for you in the annex. If you're watching in one of our home fellowship groups, I want you just to stand and just lift your hands and allow the Holy Spirit...

And as you come, can we just lift our hands and begin just to announce how great he is? And all we're going to do is ask him to. You come, make your way all the way down. Come on, let's begin to sing this together. Let all of us sing this as you come. How great is our God? How great? Here's what I want you to do. I don't want you to clap. I want you to speak with your tongue and just say, "Fill me with the Holy Spirit." Ask him right now. Just say, "Fill me with the Holy Spirit." Fill us Lord God. Fill us Lord God. Fill us Lord God with the Holy Spirit. God, I pray that you would just take us right now and fill us. We're about to face what could be, God, the most devastating point of being a Christian, but God, you have given us a good and perfect gift. And thank you for the person of the Holy Spirit.

And so God with our hands raised and these mouths asking you today, we are doing exactly Jesus what you said. You give good gifts to your children, so we just say, Holy Spirit, fill us right now. Holy Spirit, fill us right now. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Fill us all over this place, in the balcony, in the annex, on the main floor, up and down these aisles, in the choir, in the band, fill us with the Holy Spirit. Our home fellowship groups, in New Jersey, fill us with the Holy Spirit. [tongues]. We receive. We receive your gift. We receive the Holy Spirit.

I pray for power. And I pray, let them be your witnesses in this city. Power. Power in Manhattan. Power for our students at Saint John's. Power. Power, Lord God. Power, Lord God at Fordham. Power, Lord Jesus at Juilliard. Power for those that are on Broadway. Power for those in the business world. Power in Jesus name. Hallelujah.

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It's Time to Believe

 

Carter Conlon

October 17, 2019

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.

(silence)

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.

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