We often go through storms, wrestling with their pain and purpose. This week, Pastor Claude Houde takes a look at the lives of Jesus and the disciples to share hope for your storm and how to navigate them.Download MP3 Download MP4
Jesus knew exactly what people needed not only because he was God but because he truly listened to people's pain. As believers, we are called to mimic Jesus' life, and part of this is learning to ask questions and really listen to people's answers and pray for them. Pastor Tim Dilena talks this week about scripture where Jesus names himself the Great Physician.Download MP3 Download MP4
We often find sins in our lives that we justify as okay, the "little, white lies" that are condoned by secular culture and excused or ignored by many Christians. What if these "small" sins have a much more serious impact than we could ever imagine? This week, Pastor Carter Conlon talks about rooting out the little weeds in our spiritual lives.Download MP3 Download MP4
Following the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary, Carter Conlon challenges us to let go of the old ways of thinking and doing, and embrace His Kingdom ways. To get to a place where it's not your voice trying to dictate God, but it's God's voice leading you. There's a powerful truth in this sermon: God doesn't conform to your life plan. Surrender your voice and will to Him, and watch what He will do with your life.
Now I want to talk tonight and we're going to begin in John chapter 2. If you have your Bible with you or if you have a device with the scriptures on it, and it's the final stage in a sense that the Bible reveals about the journey of Mary and I've entitled this sharing tonight, "The end of yourself is the beginning of God."
Father, I thank you God with all my heart. Lord, for the beauty of truth. Truth is beautiful. Truth is sustaining. Truth is guiding. Truth is enabling. Truth gives light. Truth gives comfort. Truth helps us navigate the roadways of life that can be so perplexing that we can be left sometimes in despair. I thank you, God, for just giving us a desire to look at your word and to see truth as it played out in the life of one girl who said, "Be it unto me according to your word."
God. Thank you, Lord. Thank you that you've shown us patterns in scripture of what it looks like to have your life being lived out inside of ours, of how you carry us, Lord, through our trials, our misunderstandings, our troubles, our sorrows, even moments of joy. Father, I just pray God for an enlightenment tonight and that through these three messages that have been spoken this week, Lord, that you, God, would sow something very, very deep in the hearts of your people.
That we'd not be led astray Lord by other voices, not be led down a path that's going to lead to weakness, but that we would stay in the boundaries of your word. Father, I thank you God with all my heart in Jesus name. I really suggest that you get these three messages on Mary and just every once in a while listen to them. Just let it soak in you because it's coming from the Holy Spirit, but it's also coming from a life that I've lived a long time with God now. This is not just a theory to me, I have walked this. I've experienced this. I've seen where we're going to go tonight and what the Lord has given me to speak to you.
Chapter 2 of John, the next time we see Mary after she lost Jesus when he was 12 years old, it says, "It was on the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, they have no wine. Jesus said to her "woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, whatever he says to you, do it."
This is an amazing moment. Jesus Christ, the son of God, is literally forced into public ministry by his mother. Now, if you don't believe as a mother, you got power in your prayers and you don't fully understand who you are in God. This is truly an amazing moment. Now, I love the humor of this because they've gone to a wedding, they've invited by their hosts and in that culture at that time, if you ran out of wine, it was a shameful thing and Mary is not willing that her hosts should be brought to shame. Now, she knows at this point what Jesus can do.
This interaction proves that. She's a Jewish mother. She looks to Him and says, "They've run out of wine," and looks back and He knows what she's talking about. She knows what He can do at this point. She knows that He can do the miraculous. I'm convinced of it by this interaction. I can just picture when He's 18 years old, for example, she says, "now I'm going out to the store and I want you to clean up the house. I want you to do the dishes. I want you to clean the table, do up your room, do the laundry before I get back."
Of course, He never disobeyed, right? He says, "Yes, mother, it'll be all done." She gets to the gate she says "Oh my, I forgot my keys." Goes back to the house and everything is done. I don't know, after Joseph, it's assumed that he died somewhere along the line between when Jesus was 12 and 30 that Joseph died and so He became the provider for the house. I can just imagine how many times at the table, maybe if they were a little short of food, that they bowed their heads, they thanked the father, and then suddenly there's this beautiful meal.
You see, the issue is, it's obvious from this interaction that she knew what He could do. She looks and says, "They have no wine." He looks back and says, "Mom, you know it's not my time yet." Now, He fully understands that she's asking Him to do a miracle. He fully understands that. She turns back to the servants now, this is an amazing interaction. She says, "Whatever he tells you," in a Jewish accent, "whatever he tells you to do, do it." That's not a very good Jewish accent but in the Jewish--I don't do accents well, "Whatever he tells you to do, do it."
She's saying, "Okay, if you want to run down to the store, by all means, go ahead but these hosts are not going to be embarrassed when you have the power to do something about it so I don't care how you do it, but you're going to do it." Now He's put in a real catch 22 situation right now because if He does nothing, He breaks one of His own commandments. Think it through. She checkmated the son of God at this point because this commandment is, honor your father and your mother.
If He does nothing, He dishonors His mother and if you really want to-- for the theologians who want to debate this point, you wonder if He had done nothing could He have died for our sins? Think it through. I mean, it's an incredible-- There's so much more in scripture than just the casual reading of it. Then, of course, you know, this is his first miracle caused to happen by His mother. Now, what do you and I learned from this?
Now, she got away with it because she's His mother. I don't suggest you and I try this, like a lot of churches do, a lot of believers do. They think that when we become familiar with the son of God, that we have the right to actually command Him to do things. I want to encourage you don't become so familiar with God that you start telling Him how things need to be done. That's an error and it ought not to-- Remember that when Mary prayed at the beginning of our discussion in the Gospel of Luke, "When the Holy Spirit came on her, she said holy is his name and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation."
My encouragement to you is don't try to get Jesus to do things through you when the time is not right yet. Don't try to get to where you need to go too fast. Don't try to tell Jesus how you need to get there. A lot of people make that mistake. You remember when Jacob came to his father looking for the blessing of God that he brought the venison and his father said to him, "How did you get it so fast?" He says, "Well, the Lord brought it to me." In other words-- and there's a lot of young people who try to get--you to want to be prophets.
You get saved at five o'clock, you want to be a prophet by eight o'clock in the evening. You want to stand and say, "thus sayeth the Lord." The Lord looks at you and said, "how'd you get here so fast, son" "Oh, the Lord gave me this great gift of the spirit." Don't try to get too quick to where you need to go. There's a little bit of a school involved between point A and point Z. There's some teaching. There's some understanding and don't think that because we've become familiar with the presence of God, that we have the right to dictate to Him how to do things.
Sometimes we'll cry out for something in our life and He'll look at you as he did His mother and say, "It's not time yet. You're not ready for that ministry. It's not time for this to happen in your life." Be careful you don't fall into the trap, the theological trap of thinking you have the right to dictate to the son of God. You don't and neither do I. It's God's choice. He knows how to get us where we need to go. He knows how to take us there. He knows how to get us there. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives before we arrive at the place where we honestly will be used for His glory.
The next time we see Mary is in Mark chapter 3. Now incredible things are happening in Mark chapter 3. Jesus himself now is gone into the temple on the Sabbath and He's healed a man with a withered hand. He's now directly challenging the religious system of the day and it's a dangerous thing to challenge that system because the people were so zealous like the Apostle Paul or Saul was in the beginning that they would be willing to the death to get rid of people so they could preserve it.
There's a violence that comes along sometimes with religion that's not got the heart of God at the center core of it. They were looking to accuse him at this time. Then verse 6 after he healed this man on the Sabbath, it says, "The Pharisees went out immediately and plotted with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him." He's carrying on the ministry, he’s healing people and the Bible says in verse 11 in Mark 3, "that unclean spirits when they see them are falling down and crying out, "You are the son of God."
He's healing people. He's confronting the religious system. Demons are calling out that He's the son of God. He appoints 12, in verse 14 he's calling people to himself. He's appointing them as leaders, He's giving them the power to cast out devils. In verse 21 of Mark 3, it says, "But when his own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold on them for they said he's out of his mind."
I don't believe for a second they’re thinking He's crazy. They're saying, "He's going to get himself killed." If you ever had a situation when you see somebody up on a roof or doing something, you say, "You're out of your mind, man, with what you're doing." It doesn't mean he's crazy. It means what he's doing he's up against a system, he doesn't understand. He's going to get himself killed doing this. Now, it's possible that some of His family did think too that He had actually lost His mind.
As He was teaching His brothers it says and his mother, this is Mary, came standing outside the building that He was in where there was such oppressive people you couldn't even get in, calling to Him. A multitude was sitting around. They said, "Look, your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you." He answered them saying, "Who is my mother and my brothers?" He looked around at the circle of those who sat about Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother."
Now, Mary's outside with her children basically, the family members. They're calling from outside because they can't get in. They're worried. I think His brothers at this point do think He's lost his mind because the scripture bears witness they didn't believe in Him till probably after the cross, but I don't know about Mary, I honestly don't know. I'm only conjecturing on it but in my heart, as a mother, I'm feeling that she's trying to protect what she loves.
It's hard, if not impossible, it's hard to let go of the things that we love the most and fear will be lost if we continue in the will of God. There's something about her that knows that this child has been born as Simeon once said, "For the rise and the fall.” There's something that knows that a sword is about to pierce your heart. She loves this boy with all her heart. Think about this, moms and dads. You have children that you love with all your heart, you'd die for them, you'd do anything in your power to protect them.
You warn them when they're going in the direction that you feel is going to be harm. What would make her any different? The problem is she's trying to protect something that God has not designed to be protected. I remember years ago, my daughter went to India. She was working with a ministry that we have in India to the children of prostitutes in the red light district in Pune, India. I remember she came home the first time and she said, "I was in this home where children are used for prostitution, little girls.
She was sitting there, trying to minister to them, and talking to a few dozen of these girls when suddenly a bunch of either American or European men came into the home to do what they do. The girls surrounded her and protected her because in that particular home, there are no laws and everybody is vulnerable in that situation. She came home and told me this. As a father, you picture your daughter, at that time she's about 18, 19 years old.
You picture your daughter in a situation where she can be sexually abused, where men come who are sexually-crazed from all over the Western world so that they can molest children. It just doesn't get any worse. This is what goes on in India. My daughter's in the midst of this, she comes home and she was so sick. When she came home, it was three days before she could speak. She was traumatized. It was almost like post-traumatic stress disorder. Then about a year or so later, she said, "Dad, I feel like God's calling me to go back."
Now, I had to make a choice. I went to prayer because I could have said, "No, you're not going back. You're not going to be in the situation like that." She said, "I feel God calling me to go back." When I prayed, the Lord said, "Would you rather have her there or in a bar? Which do you choose, which would be your preference?" I remember yielding to God. I remember how hard it was to yield to God, how hard it was to take her to the airport, how hard it was to see her get on that plane and go back to that place to minister to those girls.
To this day, I thank God that even with my desire to protect what I love, I realized the will of God comes first and our will must come second. That's why Jesus was not trying to trash His mother but He looked around and He said, "No, it's those who do the will of God that are my mother, my brother, and my sister." What He was identifying is it outside are people that are trying to get me to do things another way, but I was born to be sacrificed for the sins of this world and I'm on the course of my Father, even the best of intentions are not acceptable in the sight of God.
It's hard but it's not impossible to let go of the things that we love the most. We fear that they will be lost if they continue in the will of God. It's my opinion for what it's worth that that's what was in her heart because she loved this boy, this boy who never sinned, this boy who was the perfect child, this boy who was the son of God, this boy who was a gift from God, this boy that people prophesied about, this boy that angels appeared in heaven to rejoice over. Was putting himself in a position that she feared he was going to be killed. It was just so hard to let him go.
There will be times in your life where it's hard to let things go. Sometimes it's dreams you had, plans, it's what you thought your life was going to be. It's how you lived for a certain objective and suddenly God is leading you to another place. It's just very, very difficult to let it go but may I encourage you, it's difficult but it's not impossible. You will never regret letting things go that God is asking you for. The next time we see Mary is now at the cross of Christ.
In John 19:25-27, the scripture says, "There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son," then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother," from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. This might be perhaps the first time that Mary fully understands that the kingdom of God goes forward with power when we live for the benefit of others and not to preserve ourselves.
I have to feel that she saw something there. You say, "Well, why do you feel that?" Because her son spoke a word that drew her out of the cultural context of the day. When Joseph died, Jesus Christ being the firstborn son would have been now the protector of His mother and the provider and of the home. Now that protection and provision should have gone to his brother, James, who was the next in line but at this point, James was not a believer.
Now, Jesus Christ is speaking something to His mother. He's leading her to something that is so out of her cultural context. He's leading her into a new family, he's leading her into a new way of thinking, into a new place. For the first time, we see something different. You see in John 3, we see her trying to lead her son. Do you remember that? In John 3, she's trying to tell him how to do things, how things should be done, she's pushing him into that first public miracle.
But now in John 20, she's following the leading of His voice into a new way of life. He's now leading her. A transition happened on that mountain. It's much deeper than she's just standing there and Jesus says, "By the way, here's your son." He is now taking her out of a whole other way of living, a whole other way of thinking, and he's bringing her into the family of God. The beauty of it all is she's now following His voice. I think up to this point in her life, she had been a major voice perhaps in His life, in His upbringing, in His early years, in His teen years.
Now He's on the cross, He's 33 years old, He's dying, and is it possible? I'm just throwing it out to you as a thought. Is it possible? This is the first time all these voices start coming back now, the words of Simeon, the words of the angels, the words of the shepherd, everything's coming back. Suddenly, it comes into view. This is not defeat, this is victory. This is not the end, this is the beginning. This is not the devil winning, this is the actual plan of God. It's now coming into focus.
Now she's seeing that this baby she carried within her womb, this child she once lost in the temple, this one that she pushed into ministry in His early years at a wedding is now dying for the sins of the world. She suddenly realizes it's His voice I must listen to. It's not my voice he needs now, I need his voice to speak to me. He says, "Woman, behold your son. Son, this is now your mother." The scripture says, "From that moment, John took her and she went into his house. She became part of the family of God."
I love the perspective of it when you and I get to a place where there's a new order in our lives, where it's not our voice trying to dictate to God, it's God's voice leading us now. He's leading us out of an old way of thinking. "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation, the old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new." We leave an old way of thinking, an old way of living.
The old people we used to hang around with, and if necessary, our old acquaintances, and even our family. We become part of the family of God. This is not just a fanciful idea, this is the plan of God for His Church on the earth. I don't know what it's like at home, but I know here you've got brothers and sisters. You got mothers and fathers here, you got people who love you, will support you, will stand with you for the rest of your life. Woman behold your son, son behold your mother. This is a new family order on the Earth. This is now the family of God.
The next place we find Mary, and this is a beautiful place. The scripture says, "After Jesus rose from the dead," in the book of Acts chapter one, "they returned to Jerusalem to the Mount called Olivet which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. When they had entered, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, the son of James. They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers."
Thank God, I didn't see this, somebody else brought this to my attention today they came to visit me. Mary did not give up on her other children, you understand? She brought them to the upper room. James became the head of the church in Jerusalem. James was once outside the window saying My brother is insane. We got to get ahold of him. James did not believe. James who did not inherit even his own mother, as a charge in his life is being brought into the upper room by his mother. She did not give up and you don't have to give up on your children.
Neither one of you, none of you have to give up on your child. I don't care how old they are, I don't care about down they are, I don't care how agnostic they are, I don't care how scornful they are, don't give up on your sons and don't give up on your daughters. She brought her children into the upper room. Now, there's nothing that even says that they were believers at this time. They might have been, the most likely were, but there's nothing that really identifies that.
Bible just tells me that she brought the brothers of Christ, her other children into that upper room by God's Almighty grace, and she began this journey. The Scripture tells us in chapter 2, where we started she began her journey saying, "Let it be to me according to your word." The yielding gave birth to the Son of God within her. That's the way it is for you and. "Let it be to me oh God, according to your word. Let your life be born inside of mine. Let your plan become my plan. Let your mind become mine. Let your strength become my strength."
This is where she began, but she at the end of the scriptural witness of Mary, she continued again with the same words, "Let it be to me according to your word." Going into that upper room had to be similar to that, let it be to me according to your word. Going to John's house had to be, let it be to me according to your word. The beauty of her life, the beauty of this whole life is she began her journey with the Son of God being born within her and she finishes the scriptural witness of her journey filled again with the Spirit of God.
Praise be to God. The same Christ in her, the same power of God in her. I can envision Mary coming out of the upper room with 120. Perhaps James and Joseph and Simon, and brothers and sisters of Christ, filled with the Spirit of God. Speaking in other languages in ways that people could understand. Speaking about the mighty works of God. Jesus Son of God, may it be. May it be in this last day, in this last hour of time in which we're now living. In this potentially last generation, God Himself only knows but it's certainly the signs seem to be on the horizon.
May it be that one more time, you and I come out of the upper room, filled with the Spirit of God. Filled with the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit of God saying not my will but thine. God, let your word be alive in me. God let your spirit govern me. Let the mysteries of heaven be spoken by my lips. Let the power of God raise me out of weakness and bring me into this power of an endless life that's given to me through Jesus Christ.
My God, what a finish. If this was the finish, I don't know where she went from there. The history doesn't record it. She may have died in the arena with everybody else, who knows of that generation. I do know she's one of 120 that came out of that upper room filled with the Spirit of God, and she started with the Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. That has to be the cry, be it done to me according to your word. Oh God, if you tell me to go into an upper room and tarry and pray until you come then that's what I'm going to do.
Why do we want to make it any different than the way it began? Why do we want to get so fancy with so many schemes and gimmicks and programs and strategies? When the strategies of the church was, "Listen to my voice, go into the upper room and pray until you be empowered with the Holy Spirit. When you come out, you'll be a wonder to your generation." Religion will bend its knee, and folks even Rome bend its knee to those 120 that came out of that upper room by God's Almighty grace. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord.
This is the journey of one person, one girl. She took the journey, what a beautiful journey it is and what a lesson we can learn from it, and what a pattern we can see in it. God help me to leave off the old ways of thinking. Help me Lord, to embrace your kingdom. Help me God to go into that upper room. To be so filled with your spirit that I can make a difference in my generation. Years ago, I was reading the scriptures and I saw some of these things.
I was isolated, I was in a farm out in the middle of nowhere. One night in my kitchen, at home, a farmhouse kitchen. I was sitting in the chair and I was just putting some wood on the fire, and suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit just urging me to pray. I was struggling folks, I was struggling with a bad temper, and I was struggling with despair. I was wondering if I was ever going to change, and will I ever learn to be a father and a husband? Will my life ever amount to anything in the kingdom of God.
I'm just sitting in this chair in my kitchen and I started to pray and I said, "Oh Jesus, Son of God." I said, "If you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. God if you will help me to break out of the confines of this, the limitations of this body and my experience and my upbringing, in my self-view. God, all of these things that are just have me in a prison. If you will--"
See at this point I just had the Son of God, do you understand? I had the Holy Spirit. I have received Christ as Savior, but I saw in the Bible there was just so much more and I just went into that upper room in my kitchen. I didn't even know or fully understand these things, but I went in that upper room and I just started to pray, "Oh God, would you set me free, and if you would, I will serve you all the days of my life." My wife was standing off on my left hand just hearing me pray.
I was just sitting in a chair, and then suddenly I looked to the right corner of the room, and a light as bright as that light right there was coming towards me. I wasn't imagining it, I saw it and it was a brightness like nothing of this world could produce. When I saw it, I thought, "Wow, I think I better stop this because I'm--" I just had a feeling like maybe I shouldn't be doing this. You know the fear of the Lord sometimes it's not always the beginning of wisdom.
It's like-- and so I closed my eyes, and the light was just as bright when my eyes were closed as when they were open. It's my eyelids couldn't shut it out. I was a fitness fanatic back then. I was bench pressing hundreds of pounds and I had my hands in the air and I suddenly got scared. I tried to pull my hands down, and I couldn't pull my hands down. They were frozen. The light just kept coming towards me, towards me, towards me and then suddenly hit me right in the face. Went through my whole body, and I let out a scream.
Like I'm not a screamer, but I let out a scream. My wife says to this day, "I've never heard you scream like that." I let out a scream, I was knocked off my chair and knocked on to the floor. I was in a sweat, and I was shaking. Then suddenly, I heard a voice saying, "Stand up, I want to speak to you." I stood up on my feet. You get my wife, maybe next year I'll get her to share the story because she witnessed it. She said, "You started quoting scripture you didn't know." She said, "It was a psalm you'd never read." She says, "I'm sure of it, you started quoting it verbatim. Line, after line, after line as it just started to flow out of me."
See God, if we're willing to seek Him, He is willing to meet us. If we're saying, "I will serve you." He will respond with the power to serve Him. As God lives I've never been the same since that day. Never been the same. I started speaking to people, they would cry. I led 21 people to Christ in the next couple of weeks. It was just a short little season. Everyone I would talk to would start crying, and they'd give their lives to Christ. Not by power, not by might, but by the spirit of Almighty God. I understand what the upper room looks like, I understand there's a surrender.
We don't go seeking the Holy Spirit just so we can have an experience. We seek the Holy Spirit so we can have the power to live according to the will of God. It's always about being given for other people always, always. It's not just about having an experience so we have a notch on our wall. That, "Oh yes, check that box, I did that. I got that." It's the power of God that leads us into the will of God.
This is my brother, this is my sister, this is my mother. It's these who hear the will of God and they do it. He was not being rude to His family He was defining what the kingdom of God is going to look like. The end of ourselves is the beginning of God. If you feel strong in yourself you might be farther away from the beginning of God than you realize. If you feel weak, you might be closer than the person beside you. That's the irony and the beauty of the kingdom of God.
He takes us in our weakness, not in our strength. Not when we have a plan or telling him what to do, but when we've come to a place where we're actually listening to his voice now and saying, "God, I want you. Jesus, I want your will, I want your power. I want something of you in my life more than anything that this world has got to offer. I yearn for it, I long for it and if you will touch me, my God, I will live for you the rest of my life."
That's what the people in the upper room had to be praying because they knew the society around them was hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God met them, including Mary. Praise be to God. I challenge you, I challenge you with all my heart. I hear that challenge from Pastor Mike McBride as well, and Pastor Nick. I challenge you. I challenge you. Don't be satisfied with less than what God has for you. Don't be satisfied with a secondary plan, don't dictate to the Son of God.
Don't try to get him to conform to your life plan. It doesn't work that way. Yield your life plan. Let it go, even the things you love, let them go and let God take over and you watch what God will do. It is a miracle, a miraculous life. It's a supernatural life. It's a life like you never believed that you could ever have. It's born in God. That's my altar call tonight. It's really just that simple. I'm going to ask the worship team if you would come at this time.
We're just going to say, "God, if you can do that for him, if you can do that for people in the Bible. If you did that for Mary, if you've done that for others throughout history, I'm not willing to sit on the sidelines and be an observer and watch you use other people when my life is available to you. I'm asking you--" It takes your humility. "I'm asking God, that you would give me the anointing the power of your Holy Spirit. That you would make me into the kind of a man or woman that I can't be in my own strength. That you would take me to places that I can't go. No matter what kind of a roadmap I've crafted for myself, I can't get there.
Would you give me the power to listen to your voice and obey it, and when you call me out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar help me to say yes. Help me to go through every door you set before me. Help me, God." This has been the cry of my heart my whole Christian life now. "Don't let me say no to you. Wherever you lead me, let me follow you. Don't let me ever think it's too big or too out of my league. Just let me obey you, God. Wherever you call me, give me your word and I know that you'll do the work that you've destined to do. All you really ever looked is for human vessels that you can work through, so let it be my story. Let it be my story."
Let that be your cry tonight. I can't put that cry in you, it's got to come from your heart. If you want religion, that's all you get. That's all you get. You'll spend the rest of your life just doctrinally debating and fighting in churches. That's it. Dry on Sunday, just going home criticizing the pastor. Dry on Monday, backslidden Tuesday. You can spend your whole life doing that. Then you try to create a sense of righteousness by criticizing everybody around you. It's such a mediocre way to live as a Christian. When the power of God is available for you. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Takes you out of this little box that religion can put you in and gives you a heart big enough to love even the worst of the lost. Gives you a heart to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Gives you a vision much bigger than anything that we could ever produce. Let it be. Let it be that SummerFire became that upper room in Ireland. Let it be, let it be. That's the cry of my heart.
Let this be the place tonight where we say, "God, you've done it for all these other people with all their struggles and all their frailties and all their failings, so Lord, you can do it for me. Here I am Lord, let it be unto me according to your word. Let my life be led according to your will. Thank you, God, you give me the power. You're not asking me to go anywhere that you won't give me the power to go there. You give me the giftings that I need to get the work done that you've desired to do through my life." Let that be your cry.
We're going to worship and what I'm asking of you tonight is simply a cry, just a cry from your heart. "God, I want your Holy Spirit. I want your presence. I want your power. I want your will. I want the way that you want to take my life. I want the power to lay down God, those things that are precious to me. I want the power to say yes when everything inside wants to say no. I want the power to yield and not try to dictate to you or anyone else. Lord, I want my life to count. I desperately want my life to count."
If that's the cry of your heart, we're going to stand and I'm going to ask you to step out of your seat and just come. Just come here and we're going to worship together, we're going to pray together. Be prepared for God to meet you. Just be prepared tonight. Wherever you are just come and come expecting the Spirit of God to touch you. Hallelujah. God tonight Lord, I thank you, Lord. I thank you're going to fill people with the Holy Spirit tonight.
I thank you Almighty God, this is your plan it always has been for your church Lord. You take us in our weakness, in our struggles or trials, when we don't understand God. When we feel like we've failed, when we feel like we've lost you, Lord. You take us in spite of it all God to an upper room and you fill us with your spirit. You give us the power to go out and confound and confront those things in our society that stand in opposition to this incredible truth. God, I ask tonight, Lord, for my brothers, my sisters, that nobody leave this altar disappointed.
That you'd fill everyone every person God with the Holy Spirit. That people would have the power to speak in other tongues tonight. The power to speak to people of other cultures. The power Lord, to speak of the wonderous things of the Kingdom of God. The power to stand Lord, in their homes, their families, their communities, Lord, even before their enemies talking about the wonderful works of God.
God, I pray that you make everyone at this altar a soul winner, everyone Lord, no exceptions, not one exception here tonight. Every man, every woman a soul winner. Every preacher with new power in their ministry God. Every pulpit up flame of fire God confronting every soul that stands before it, oh God. In Jesus name, Lord, in Jesus name. We are your church Lord, there's no other plan for this generation. There's no plan B or C, this is Plan A. This is Plan A for this nation, God. Here we are, Lord, as your people. Here we are God, the servants that you've called God, and so be done to us according to your word, Lord.
We will not fight against your word, we will not fight against where you lead us, Lord. God give us your Holy Spirit tonight. Give us your Holy Spirit. Now you start crying up for the Holy Spirit. You ask God to fill your life. You ask him for what only He can do. Don't be satisfied with anything less than him. Let him be your strength. Call out to Him now. Call out from the depths of your heart.
Pray like I prayed, "Lord if you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. I will serve you Lord, I will go where you call me. I will speak what you give me Lord, but it will have to be your power. It will have to be your spirit because I can't do it in my own strength." Call out to the Holy Spirit, and don't be ashamed. Don't be ashamed to declare your need for God, because He's not ashamed of you. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.
Sometimes faith follows favor—God shows up and points to the will He has for you. And from that place of calling and surrender, you ask for the faith to step into something bigger than yourself. Carter Conlon shares in this powerful teaching that submission to God leads to a fruitful life that will change the world beyond your reach.
Luke Chapter one. I’ll make no apologies for what I'm about to say. I believe for somebody here tonight, hopefully, several it will be a life-changing moment for you.
This will be the moment that determines your future. There's something that God has for you that you've not considered yet. It's something deeper, it's something farther, it's something supernatural. It's actually something you can't even possibly achieve in your own strength. He does it so that his name will be glorified. He does it because his church was intended from the beginning to be a supernatural organization, not a natural one. It's not a kingdom that can be strategized by the minds of man.
It cannot be put forward by human effort. There's parts of that are involved in that. I understand, but ultimately it has to be God himself being God through us that makes us into people that can affect our generation. Father, I thank you with all my heart for this evening. I thank you, Lord God, that you have shown me things over the years and are giving me in my later years the opportunity to share them with others. I pray tonight with all my heart, God, that you would take my body as a yielded vessel to you and that you would pour your thoughts through me. My thoughts are worthless, yours can create a universe.
God, I thank you Lord for the privilege of hiding behind the cross tonight and disappearing. I thank you for the privilege of letting you lead me one more time. I thank you that you are a supernatural, God. You're willing and calling to do things that we've not considered yet in many cases. Lord, I thank you. I thank you for everything you have done, for what you will do, for lives that will be transformed. There would be somebody here tonight that can mark this night as the beginning of a future they never believed was possible.
Lord, I thank you in Jesus name. Luke chapter one beginning at verse 26 now, "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary and having come in, the angel said to her rejoice highly favored one. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." When she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and considered what manner of greeting is this?
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man." The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the son of God. Now, indeed Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For, with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold, the maid, servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word." The angel departed from her. Now when we pray, we have a concept of prayer. You and I and the concept that we have of prayer it's not an erroneous one. The concept is that we go into the word of God.
The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." In the word of God, we see the promises of God and which quite often are a lot farther down the road than are in our personal experience. We pray for exempts that God, I'm not a loving person but I want to be. By faith, we believe that God's going to answer. Our faith expects the favor of God. That's the way prayer generally works. We pray, we believe, and we expect God's favor to come to us, but there are moments in history, there are moments in every Christian life when favor comes first and asks us for faith.
I want you to catch this because it's important to everything I'm going to talk about tonight. It's a moment when favor asks for faith when God himself has determined to do something in you and through you that you and I have not even considered. It's not even in our thinking. I want to think about Mary for a moment. She's a young girl, she's probably in her teens. She's betrothed to a man. She's going to get married, she's got a prayer life. I have no doubt she has a prayer life.
Most likely, the Bible doesn't tell us, but most likely she's praying about the things that she's facing. She has a life plan just like you do. She's going to be marrying this young man called Joseph, she's probably praying that she could be a good wife and possibly that she could be a good mother, most likely praying that the wedding would go well, that the guests could all arrive from where they had to come, that the resources, the finances would be there for the expenses that had to be met. She's praying, she's talking to God. I have no doubt because she found favor with God.
There's an innocence in her, there's a purity in her. There's a desire for spiritual things in her then suddenly one day, a messenger, an unexpected messenger comes to her. Just like tonight, I might be your unexpected messenger tonight. Somebody that's come to you to talk to you about something that God has planned for your life, that you've not considered. It's not been in your prayers. It's not been in your thinking, most of your prayer has been asking God for a favor in certain areas, favor in your finances, favor in your relationship, favor in your marriage, favor in your ministry, all kinds of things and it's totally acceptable with God. Now she's confronted by a messenger who's talking to her about she's been highly favored of the Lord, blessed among women, and she has found favor with God.
In other words, God says, "I've come to do something in you and through you that you have not yet considered for your life." That is in my opinion, the supernatural part of the church of Jesus Christ. We're a supernatural people. We are empowered by the spirit of God to walk in the will of God, to allow God to do through us. We don't do things for God. We do some things I suppose like that, but essentially speaking the real miracle of our salvation is allowing God to do through us what he chooses to do.
He has a plan for your life. Young people here, especially your plan is so small in the sight of God in comparison to what God has for you. You're probably thinking about college, maybe you're thinking about career, you're thinking about relationships, you're thinking about all kinds of things and realistically you have somewhat of a life plan and your prayer life is if you have one, is more or less asking God to bless your life plan. It's not wrong. There's nothing wrong with Mary getting married.
There's nothing wrong with having a family and being betrothed through a husband and planning a wedding and thinking about what town they're going to live in and all of these things, but suddenly out of nowhere a messenger comes and says, "Hail, you are highly favored, rejoice," He says to her, "You are highly favored of God." Then these incredible words, “you're going to conceive something in your womb and you're going to bring forth a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.” Now picture you digging that place like I can wait well, can we slow this down just a little bit? It's a lot of stuff you're saying here. God's essentially saying God himself is going to birth something in you. He's going to birth something through you. That thing He's going to do in your life is going to bring a glory to the name of God like nothing else that you've ever considered in your lifetime. Mary must have been like you and I are tonight. If we were going to do something great, and we were God, we wouldn't choose ourselves, would we? Do you not think that God would-- if he's going to send His son through a human vessel, is he not at least going to choose somebody with experience? It doesn't say in the Bible, that Mary ran a daycare.
He's going to choose somebody that knows how to raise a kid, at least? How about somebody who's married? For her to receive this word from God, you understand in that generation, you could be stoned to death for what God was speaking to her. She had to completely put her life into the hands of God. "And He will reign over the house of Jacob and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be? I'm a virgin. I've not even known to man in an intimate or physical way."
That's like you and I saying, "God, I don't have any certificates on my wall. Have you considered my lineage? My family, the horse traders, and thieves that are part of my lineage? Are you sure you've got the right address?" You remember Gideon, when the messenger came to Gideon and says, "Greetings man of great resources." He says, "You sure you got the right house? I'm of the least tribe. Of all the people of God, my father's the least house of the least tribe of the people of God. I'm the least in my father's house, which is the least of the least tribe.
In case you haven't noticed, his got a grove to an idol in the backyard. Are you sure that you've got the right place?" God says, "No, I'm sending you. That's what makes you a mighty man of resources. That's what makes you what you're going to be. That's why I don't come to the strong, I don't come to the proud, I don't come to the noble, I don't come to the self-consumed, I don't come to those who walk in their own strength.
I always choose the nothings, the nobodies, the outcasts, those things that society has no value for, to show so that no flesh can glory in my presence. I come to those whose hearts are open, who know that whatever is going to happen here is going to have to be God." I remember years ago, I was a brand new believer in Christ, and my wife and I were out for dinner one night.
I had never preached a sermon, I was afraid of people, I was afraid of crowds, I had no speaking ability, no confidence, no nothing. She went off after we had eaten. She left me standing in the hall. She went off to the washroom. I'm standing there looking out the window and just in a moment of time, just a plane went overhead. I'm looking at it and the Lord spoke to me and says, "I'm going to send you all over the world. I'm going to do something in your life and I'm going to send you all over the world to tell people who I am and what I've done for you."
It was my choice at that moment to say no to God, never going to happen. I was in a church and it was the first time I'd ever heard these words, "With God, or with God, nothing shall be impossible." Matter of fact, I heard it the other way around, "With God, all things are possible," and I believed it. I looked out the window and I remember saying it, "Lord, if it's going to happen, it's going to be all you and none of me. I'm afraid of flying, number one. I can't speak in case you haven't noticed, number two. I'm afraid of crowds, in case, that's escaped your attention, number three. This ain't going to happen, but if it's you, Lord, if it's you who was bidding me to come, I will go." The rest is history.
It turned out to be the voice of God. It turned out to be the leading and the calling of the Lord to take me out of a place of living in the realm of what I could see, and what I could think, and what I could feel, and the prayers that I was praying that were probably mostly focused on those things. Listen, God's speaking so far into the future, I'm just trying to be normal. I'm just trying to get rid of a real bad temper. I'm trying to learn how to be a husband and not be selfish. I'm trying to learn how to be a father. I'm trying to learn.
I'm just so far down, and God's speaking about something 30,000 feet in the air suddenly to me. Thank God, he's not like we are. Thank God, his plans are bigger than our plans. His ways are higher than our ways, his mercy is deeper than you and I could ever imagine. The choice of who he uses is his choice. It's not our choice. It's not by our might, it's not by our power, it's by the Spirit of God. That what God has determined to do in our lives becomes a living reality.
The angel answered and said to her after she said, "How can this be I do not know a man." He said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." You see, you and I have something similar to this. We have the Spirit of the living Christ inside of our bodies. When we came to Christ, we were born again. The spirit...
As much as the physical Christ was placed inside the life of Mary, we have the third person of the Trinity, God inside our physical bodies. Birthing something, doing something that only God can do, leading us to where only God can take us, making us into what only God can make us into, and giving us what only God can give us. That's what makes this an incredible kingdom.
Don't ever let it just become an argument in your life. Don't ever let it just become accumulated scripture that never brings you to this simple understanding that God has a plan for you, for you. Not for the person beside you. There is a plan for them, but he has something very unique assigned to you. When we get to heaven, there's going to be so many people at the throne of God, they're going to still make heaven, but they're going to slap their foreheads when they see, for the first time what their life could have been, where they could have gone, what a surrender to God could have been.
I love the story of D. L. Moody, great, great evangelist of all. The young boy working in a shoe shop and he's such a clown that he doesn't get along with people. He glued the seat of his boss's pants to his chair one day and his boss ran after him down the road with the chair hanging off his behind. This is D. L. Moody. Who would choose him? He can hardly read, he can't write, he's virtually illiterate, if you've ever read any of his letters, he's 15 years old, he's a troublemaker everywhere he goes, a jokester.
Suddenly, this Sunday school teacher comes to visit him in his workplace and sits down beside him on a bench. A man who became his messenger and he shared Christ with him and then left him with a thought. He said, "Dwight, the world has yet to see what God could do through a fully surrendered vessel to the Holy Spirit." That's what he said and he got up and walked away. That was the messenger. That was the Gabriel that came to Mary. That was the messenger that came to Dwight Moody, a 15-year old that nobody would choose to do anything in this world.
D. L. Moody sat on that bench and he said these words, "By the Spirit of God within me, I shall be that man." Thank you, Lord. Thank you, God for the D. L. Moody, to get up that bench, started to walk with God, and led countless thousands to Christ on different continents throughout the world. Mesmerized even the academics at Princeton that came to mock him. There's such a touch of God on this man's life.
I remember there was a story of he came into Princeton, and the students only came out just to mock him, because he was known as this preacher-- He said Jerusalem as a one-syllable word. He couldn't pronounce things properly. They came to laugh at him. In the middle of the room, there was a spiral staircase where you went upstairs to do business with God when you came under conviction. That's the way they did things back then.
As he began to preach one by one the academics, one by one the people who had it all together, one by one the smartest types in the church world at that time, got out of their seats and began to go up publicly in front of everybody. That just a stream started going up that spiral staircase to say, "Whatever that man has, oh my God, I want that in my life. I want that in my life, whatever he has."
He had that one thing. He had that presence of God in Him. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his weakness. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his physical limitations, and something was born in him that can only be born of God. That's what happened on the day of Pentecost when 120 people came out of the upper room. They went in weak, they went in failures, they went in with a poor self-image, may I put it that way. They went in with all their boastings had failed, all their promises were in the dust, all their declarations of love and loyalty had amounted to nothing. They went into that upper room in absolute failure until the Holy Spirit came.
Until God birthed in them with only God can do. They went in like lambs and they walked out like lions. They walked out into a marketplace that was hostile to the things of God, a crowd that still had the blood-lust of crucifying their savior in its teeth. They stood out without fear and they began to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. God's Spirit and presence within them brought 3,000 people to their knees, that day and into the kingdom of heaven. Of his kingdom, there will be no end.
I remember as a young police officer walking down the street one day, and I'd never preached a sermon ever anywhere. I had no ability. As a matter of fact, I took a course in college. I tried to take a course. I wanted to be a dorm fellow, do you know what that is in college? A dorm fellow is just a greeter, that's all you are. You just you greet people. How hard can that be? If they have a problem, you tell them where to go to solve the problem, or where's the cafeteria and this is here and that's over there. I applied to that because I get a cut on my tuition and room and board for. I went to the training course and they told me at the end I wasn't leadership material. How much of a leader do you have to be to greet people? Thank God that Jesus didn't see it that way. Thank God. Thank God that He didn't look down and say, "Well, sorry, son, you're not leadership material. You got no certificate on your wall." No, it's not that way. I began to pray this secret prayer and I believe it came as a whisper to me first and I began to whisper it back to God. I said, "Lord, I want to lead 100,000 people to you before I die."
This is the prayer I've begun to pray just walking the beat, never preached a sermon. I have no diplomas. I have no theological training. I have nothing to give to God. I don't even have a bag lunch, the little boy at least had some loaves and fishes. I got nothing at all to give to God but I've got this prayer in my heart. He's whispering it to me and I'm whispering it back to Him. Amazing. Just amazing. Then I began to be specific as I would walk the beat and I said not just 100,000 that will raise their hands in a meeting somewhere or meetings that I go to, but I want 100,000 will live for you. 100,000 will serve you, 100,000 that will appear at your throne one day. The prayer was impossible.
Fast forward years later, I'm in a civil war in Africa in the Middle of a place called Jos, Nigeria. 500,000 people came out the first night. They were fighting, was the first allowable public meeting after six weeks or so. They had been quarantined in a sense by the government because when they were together the last time 6,000 people were killed. It was a really volatile situation. By the anointing in the Spirit of God, that first night over 100,000 people raised their hands to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, both nominal Christian and Muslim came to God was truly, truly amazing. The Lord brought peace into that area.
I remember I went back to my hotel room I was astounded. I went back to my hotel room, I got on my knees beside my bed just to say thank you to the Lord and suddenly I was transported back to when I walked the beat and God said to me, "I've answered your prayer in one night. In one night." In one night of prayer that was impossible years ago that I was with you and you whispered back to me was something I wanted to do through your life. In one night, He said now these words to me, "Now Carter, don't limit me. Don't limit what I can do. Don't limit. Don't put boundaries on me. Don't put boundaries on what I can do through you. I can do anything I decide to do. For with God, all things are possible."
My challenge to you tonight is don't put boundaries around your life. Don't let this world dictate to you what you are. Don't let people that have told you you're a loser dictate to you what you are, you're not. In Christ, you've already won. You're already more than a conqueror. You're already in Christ at the right hand of God. You've already won the victory in him. Don't let this world define you any longer. Let God define your life.
Let him speak to you about your future, about what you're going to be and don't say no, because it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your ability. He doesn't need your diplomas, doesn't need your ideas, doesn't need your gender. He simply needs your obedience.
In Mary's case, may I say He just needed her body and one more thing, He says now indeed, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age. This is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible. Gabriel, as a messenger of God, to encourage Mary is asking her in one sense to consider those that have gone before you. Consider those. Consider tonight the testimony that you're hearing from this pulpit. Consider it. Consider what God has done for other people because He's no respecter of persons, and what He's done for somebody else He will do for you. It may not be in a pulpit, it may be different. It doesn't really matter. It will be glorious if it's God, and what will be born in you and through you will be called the Son of God.
How will that be? Because you'll be able to say to people it's all Jesus and Jesus alone. That's what I'm telling you tonight. It's all Christ. Christ in me has been the hope of glory, the freedom of my life, the thoughts of my mind, the abilities to do what I'm called to do, it's all been Christ, that which will be born in you will be called the Son of God. That's the testimony of the church. It's not me, it's Christ in me. It's not my ability, it's His ability through me. It's not my will, it's His will being performed. It's not my leading, it's His leading. They're not my miracles, they're His miracles that are being done.
Now, here's Mary's part. Then Mary said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word" The messenger, the angel departed from her. You see, that's what was required of her. As the Bible says, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you yield your bodies as a living sacrifice for God," which is your reasonable service, not unreasonable, it's not exemplary, it's just reasonable, that He gave His life for me, I give my life now back to him. He starts to speak to me about what He wants to do and it can be a messenger like me tonight, it can be you just reading your Bible and God suddenly something jumps off the page. You can be waiting at the bus stop and suddenly He begins to speak to your heart about something that He has for your life.
Here was Mary's part. She said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, and let it be to me according to your word." That's your part tonight, behold, the servant of God. Lord, if you did that for that man, you can do something through me. If you've done things like that for people in the past, you can do something through me. You're not limited by my abilities or lack thereof, because it's not about me. What's going to be planted inside of me is going to be divinely put there by God. It's going to be birthed by God. That power member, the power of the Spirit will overshadow you and come upon you and that which is born will be called the Son of God. That's the incredible truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You see, it all comes down to this at some point in your walk with God. Now, you can choose to draw back into academics, you can draw back into works, you can draw back into things, then you'll still go to heaven folks, but you'll so miss what God had for you if you don't reach out and say, "Be it done to me according to your word." Shortly after this, she got up and she went to visit Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Elizabeth and she wanted to see this thing that was told her that about her cousin is in the sixth month of pregnancy. It's good to read biographies about the people that God has used. It's good to ask other people to share their testimony. Tell me what God has done in your life because it will build your faith.
When she walked in, it says Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby in her womb leapt and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Now that is a greeting, right? Hallelujah to the love of God. I'd love to greet somebody like that and whatever is in them just leaps and they start speaking in tongues and they're just filled with the Spirit just because I've just walked in the room, I love that, that something is going on. The only one that had nothing to say was Elizabeth's husband, Zachariah, who was a priest and should have known better but didn't believe. So he was struck dumb until John was born. You know the story, so he has nothing to say, isn't this exciting?
You see Mary and Elizabeth, sitting at the table. She was there for about three months, I think. Sitting at the table and Zachariah says isn't this incredible this angel appeared to Mary and told her she's going to bear the Son of God and the same angel came to me and told me we were going to have a child. Of course, Zachariah, he's like his sign was like he appeared to me but I didn't believe him. You know you can get so stuck in religion that faith is gone out the window. God has to come to these people and they're not in proximity to the altar. They're not the high priests. They're not going in and offering their sacrifice. They're not spending the whole day studying the Torah, all that can lead to unbelief if it doesn't lead to a place where you say, "God be it done to me according to your word."
He had all the knowledge and they had almost nothing but they had a willing heart and they were open for God to do what only God can do. Blessed is he, Elizabeth said, who believe for there shall be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Now the Spirit of God comes on Mary. This is what's going to happen to you, when you leave the place of unbelief and you go in and just say, "God, I'm asking you, Jesus to do whatever you choose to do in my life. Take me where you want me to go. Make me what you want me to be. Give me what I need to possess. I'm just here" and I open my heart and say, "Lord, let it be done to me according to your word and your will."
Suddenly, when Mary comes in and she visits Elizabeth, the Spirit of God now comes on her and I believe that she begins to prophesy. I think you'll see it as I read this and Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord." Oh, God, I feel like jumping out of my skin sometimes when I stand in a pulpit like this and grabbing some of you and shake and say, "Are you getting this man? Do you understand what this kingdom is all about?" You know you're eating a hotdog and there's T-bone steak over there. Do you understand? "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." In other words, to do something that this world has never seen he didn't go to somebody who was high profile, somebody that this world would choose to do this. He came to me, a nothing and a nobody. No one, nobody would ever notice me. Nobody would ever think that anything spiritually great is going to happen to my life. He's regarded the lowliest state of his maidservant and from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
It's important to me, it's important that my grandson sitting here is going to be able to point to my picture one day when I'm gone, and show his kids that was my grandpa, and he was a man of God. God blessed him, and God used his life. It's important. It should be important to you. What do you want to be when you die? Just a picture on the wall? "Who was that?", "I don't know, I think it was Uncle Frank." Or do you want to be remembered as a man or woman of God. Do you want to press in and leave something for your heritage after you.
A story, something that the young people that follow you are going to want to emulate. They're going to want to follow and then say, "If God could do that, for my grandma, my grandpa, then God can do that for me. All generation shall call me blessed." Mary said, "For he was mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." We sing that, "Oh God, you are so other than what we are. You live so far above our thinking.
Your mercy is so much greater than we can even understand it. Your power, your willingness to use our lives for your glory. We can't even fathom, we can't even begin to think about these things. No wonder the angels around your throne, the created beings spend their whole day just shouting, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with his glory."
Now we know Heaven is filled with his glory, but the earth is filled with his glory when there is a yielded body called The Church of Jesus Christ. This is where the glory of God is revealed in the earth. It's you and I letting Christ be Christ in us. Letting Christ govern us. Letting Christ guide us. Letting Christ set us free. Letting Christ put the words in our minds and in our mouths. Letting his hands reach out through our hands. Letting his voice speak through our voice. Letting his eyes see through our eyes. Letting his feet walk through our feet, and he is glorified.
I'm not satisfied that he's glorified alone in heaven, is the end the created beings are saying heaven and earth are filled with his glory. There should be something that gets into your heart, gets into my heart and say, "While I live God is going to be glorified in me. God's going to be glorified through me. Yes, they may throw me in a pit, but they're going to have to deal with the reality of Christ in my life. For he who is mighty, has done great things for me, and holy is his name."
His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. Those who hold him in awe, those who hold them as God. Those who understand his character, those who know why he went to a cross. Those who understand why He sent His Holy Spirit. From generation to generation, they will open their hearts and receive His mercy. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts, and he has put down the mighty from the thrones and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent away empty. He has helped us serve and Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever. This had to be the Spirit of God come upon Mary, because she wouldn't fully have understood these things unless God’s Spirit was speaking it through her. That there was a promise made to Abraham, that he would have descendants through whom the whole world would be blessed. She was now carrying in her womb the seed of that promise.
Oh, God and she said, He's taken the lowly to do this. He's taken not those that are mighty, not those that are filled with themselves or with their own efforts. Not those that are rich in their own understanding. He's taken the empty, and He's taken the lowly, he's taken the hungry, and he's taken us to do something that only he can do to fulfill the promise that he spoke to us through our father Abraham. God, if I there's a video reel in heaven, I'd love to see this moment, where Elizabeth is prophesying. The Spirit of God comes on Mary and she begins to speak.
This is exactly what's going to happen to you. When you open your heart, you're going to be here a year from now, you're going to be standing up as we worship, and you're going to say, "Oh, God, you've done mighty things for me. Your mercy was on me, because I chose to believe that with you all things are possible. From generation to generation, Lord, you've come on my heart and into my life, and you're going to break that curse that's been on my house and on my lineage. God from this day forward, there's going to be people in my lineage that live for you. You've done it with your own strength, not with mine. You've done it with your thoughts, not with mine."
You've put down all those that stand in their own strength, and you've lifted me up in my emptiness. You've used my life to be a fulfillment of the promise, the greatest promise that was ever made to this world. That there would be a seed in this world, and through that seed, the whole world would be blessed. The cry of my heart is God, whatever I have left, I give it to you, and I'm asking you to bless somebody with it. Bless the people with it. Bring the lost home with it. Set the captives free with it. Give sight to the spiritually blind with it. God, touch those who don't believe that Mercy is still available to them. Use me Lord, in whatever way you choose to use me.
I tell you, it might be a big crowd, it might be a small neighborhood but I tell you, it's equally glorious in the sight of God. When you and I are banded to him, and he has birthed something inside of us. You see it becomes almost natural into evangelize we're not bringing people to a program anymore. Oh thank God. We're just saying, I want to tell you what Jesus did for me. I won't tell you what he'll do for you. Praise be to God.
I went into a maximum security prison one day, which they say I shouldn't as an ex cop, but I did. They locked me in a room with 60 lifers, and there's just one guard. He's not armed. A lot of these guys has lived to kill a cop, you know that. An ex-cop well, maybe you don't know that. Some of you might know that but, and I'm locked in with lifers in solvent prison. I get up and I just told him, I says, "I'm not here because I'm a do gooder. I'm not here because I have nothing else to do. I'm here because God has set me free. I'm here because He can set you free. You may never… you'll never get out of prison, most of you, but you can be free even while you're in the confinement." I said, "Because your prison is not a prison made by man. It's a prison that comes because of sin."
I spoke and give an altar call in a room full of guys that, I remember there was a guy with me, he was really nervous. Because he said, "Wow, these guys got nothing to lose, they can beat you to death right here and they don't get any more time for it. They're already in jail for life." When I gave the altar call it was lined up across in front of men in jail for life coming to Christ. I hugged every one of them, they cried like babies. Here's an ex-cop hugging on these guys that are in for life.
You can't do that apart from God. You can't do it apart from the Spirit of God. You can't go into these environments unless Christ is with you. With God, what? All things are possible. That's got to go deep into your heart tonight. Otherwise, you will become another scriptural argument on the earth, and you're not destined to be that. You're destined to be a testimony of who God is. Not just a voice about what God is, but a testimony of who God is, and there's a huge difference between the two. Knowledge is good, thank God for knowledge, but it has to-- I don't want to be ever learning and never brought to where that knowledge is supposed to take me.
The condition of the church in the last days according to the Apostle Paul, is they're always learning but never being brought to where that learning supposed to take them. Thank God for the Greek and the Hebrew, but I want a life that has Christ in it. I'm 65, now I should be retiring, but I find that as old preacher once told me he said, "Every time I wanted retire, I get refired by the Spirit of God. What am I going to do? Just go sit in a rocking chair and say enough people are saved? Not while I have breath, while I have strength. My son Jason told me, he said, "Dad you can't retire now, you finally know something."
This is all those years a yelling at us in church and you knew hardly anything, he says, "Now you know something." For heaven's sake, he says, "You can't retire now. You finally found who God is and about his mercy. The legalism is not part of your life anymore and you found something." It's my own son, a cop saying, "Dad, please don't even talk like that." Hallelujah. I'm your messenger tonight, I'm your messenger. I've appeared to you tonight. Come all the way, Gabriel came from heaven, I came from New York. I'm sure there's a comparison there. I call you highly favored of God. I tell you don't be afraid for you've found favor with God. The moment you came to Christ, you understand, It's not by works, you found favor when you came to Christ. That's your favor. He is your favor. He's recovering. He's your everything. When you came to Christ, you found favor with God. You didn't find favor because you're praying more than six minutes a day or six hours a day.
You didn't find favor because you're reading your Bible more than the person next door. You found favor because of Christ. Then the Word of God comes to you and says, "You're going to conceive something in your life, that's going to bring God the glory."
You're not going to do it by your strength, or by your plans, but the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. The power of the highest will overshadow you, and that which is born of you will be called the Son of God. You will call it that. The son of God's name is Jesus.
When people say, "Well, how did this happen in your life?" You will say, "Jesus, it's the Son of God that did this in my life. It's the presence of God in me. I was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit of God, and the presence of Christ in my life has produced this which you now see and hear."
That will be your testimony. That will be the moment that you bring glory to God. Your part now, and my part is, behold, the maidservant of the Lord, here I am. Let it be to me, according to your word. Then says at that moment, the angel departed. The work was done.
Everything I've said tonight, everything I've tried to convey to you is done, and I can leave the moment you say, "Let it be done to me God, according to your word. According to what you have for my life, not what I have, not what I think, not what I'm asking for, but your favor has come and is asking me for faith to believe." That's the supernatural.
I want to challenge you with all my heart, with all of my heart tonight. I'm not bringing to you tonight a fiction. I've lived this. I've walked this, I thank God of all the people in the world, the Lord chose me to do what I'm doing, when he could have had so many more that are more qualified.
That's just not the way he chose to do it. Maybe some were more qualified and He said, "No". I don't know. Maybe it just got down to me and I'm the first guy that said, yes. I don't really know. I'll know what I get to heaven. I just know I said, yes, and it's been a miracle. It's been amazing. I have no words to tell you what this journey is, but it's a lot of it's in the book back there. You can read it, I guess, but it's been an absolutely amazing journey.
He healed my heart. Changed my character. Taught me how to be a father, better late than never, I guess. How to be a grandfather now. Taught me how to be a husband to my wife. Taught me how to have confidence in Him. Gave me courage to go through doors that in the natural, I would have been so afraid to go through. To stand in places I never thought I could stand, to see victories that are obviously not my own.
It's been an amazing journey, an amazing journey. It all starts with the words, according to your word, Lord. Whatever you have for my life, I'm going with it. You don't need to know it tonight. Could Mary have-- She couldn't. She just had the beginning. That's all. The Holy Spirit's going to overshadow you, a child is going to be born through you.
She doesn't know about the cross. She doesn't know about the 33 years. She doesn't understand about the walk. She doesn't know about the resurrection. She doesn't know anything, that's about to happen. She doesn't know about there's a thing called the church. There was no such a thing, back then. It's all been born in her because she says yes, and you have no idea what God will do for other people in other places until you say, "Lord, according to your word, not my will, but Thine be done". I've had times in my life where I've tried to back away and just said, "I've done my part, I'm getting tired. I'm a little older. I want to smell some of the roses. I want to spend time with my grandkids". [laughs]
But I had it the other way around. I thought I was going to spend time where they are, God's says, "No, I'm going to bring them to where you are, and you're going to spend time". I love the way He does the answers, but not the way we think He's going to answer it. He just turns it all around.
I'm telling Liam at home, "I want you to travel with me when you get a little bit older. I'm still going to travel and do a lot of conferences and speak to a lot of pastors and a lot of places, and I want you to start traveling with me and experience that."
The Lord blesses us and answers our prayers in incredible ways. I won't belabor the point. But tonight, the altar call for you is, "Yes, Lord." It doesn't matter but your failures, your struggles, your trials or where you are, even right now. It's really starts with, "Whatever you want from my life, Lord, that's what I'm going to do. That's what I'm going to go."
I promise you, there will be some of you here, by this time next year or less, that are going to be singing the song of Mary. You're going to be shouting from the rooftops, "Oh my God, what you begun to do in my life, I never dreamed you could do this. Lord, you could have taken the strong, you could've have taken the wise, you could've taken the noble, you could've taken the Royal, but instead you chose me.
You chose me to be the evangelist of my home. You chose me to be the change agent in my neighborhood and my community. You chose me--" Don't limit Him. Even though you're blocked, don't limit to what God can do. You have no idea where He'll take you. I'll tell you one thing, He will take you where He's destined your life to go.
Father, I just thank you tonight. Thank you with all my heart, Lord for the men and women, the young and the old that you've gathered in this room tonight. There's no limit to what you can do by age or by gender. There's no limit by education, by experience by inability or lack of anything in our lives, God. You are God, and Lord, the proof of it is that you take us in our weakness and you become our strength. You take our nothingness and make it something that can feed multitudes.
You've shown us in the scripture over and over again and throughout history. Now, we arrive at another point, another time with another generation. I pray God that the lessons that have been presented here throughout the week and tonight would not be in vain. That we would not stay in the seat of unbelief, that we would rise up to say, "Lord, here am I. Whatever you have for my life, I open my heart to it, and I will be the person that you want me to be."
We often fight our weaknesses and attempt to cover our failures. Yet, Paul boasted in his weakness and reminded us that in our deficiency, God gives us his strength. Gary Wilkerson shares three Scriptural truths that were redefined for him, allowing him to live with greater sincerity and honesty. When you embrace your weaknesses, you'll begin to rely on a source greater than yourself.
Gary Wilkerson: The title of my message tonight is by far, the most unusual title I have ever put upon a message or a sermon. I'm calling it Bicycles, Dancing Monkeys and Wax Statues. If you want to ever find this one online, it will probably be one of the easier ones for you to find, as we talk about bicycles, dancing monkeys, and wax statues.
I think this message is going to encourage you. Last night, there was that sense sometimes the Lord, He tears down before He builds up. He gives and He takes away. Sometimes, there's a taking away of things in our heart that don't belong, and then there's the building up.
Tonight, I pray that we would get build up in our faith. Let me pray for you that you'd be encouraged by the Lord tonight. How many of you just feel like you need to be encouraged? It's like a hard year, a hard week, a hard month, a hard life. I just want to be built up in my faith. If I leave this place, not only tonight, but later this week, just knowing that I'm loved, and knowing that there's a power in me.
Knowing that there's a grace that abounds, that I can do all things through Christ, and that He loves me. We thank you, Father. Now, in the name of Jesus, just bless this word, speak through us in Jesus name, amen. In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, sort of the latter part of verse eight, Paul says, "Three times I begged the Lord for Him to get rid of it, but His answer was My grace is all you need. Power comes to full strength in weakness."
"I shall, therefore, prefer to find my joy and pride in the very things that are weakness, and the power of Christ will come and rest upon me. Hence, when I am content for Christ's sake with weakness, contempt, persecution, hardship, and frustration. For when I am weak, then I am strong." I want to talk tonight about some ways that we might feel like we're weak, but in actuality, that is the way that God gives us strength.
Cause us to be strong in our life. Everybody in this room wants to have strength and overcome obstacles and defeat enemies and conquer giants in our life and in our land. The methodology that Jesus speaks to Paul about saying that I'm leaving this thorn in your flesh. This beating of Satan, this problem, this crisis in your life. I'm leaving it in your life for a purpose that when you understand the weakness that you have in your own strength, you'll begin to rely on a source greater than yourself.
Once you begin to rely on that source greater than yourself, then you're going to find a strength from heaven, from God, but also abiding and living in you. That gives you a grace to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. That's a glorious thing. I want to talk about these three things first. The bicycle, then the dancing monkey, and then the wax statue. The bicycle is when-- I have to come down here for this.
I actually was going to try to get a bicycle up here in the front row. Can you see me okay in the back? Are the lights still shining on me? Not that I really need the spotlight, but I just want to make sure you're able to see me and my wonderful expressions as I'm preaching here tonight. Can you follow me here on the screen too? What if I go like this? Back up? Okay, I'm getting distracted. If I had a bicycle here tonight, I would tell you the story of when I first learned to ride the bicycle.
How many of you remember being taught to ride a bicycle? Did anybody learn on your own without anybody teaching you? One, two, three, four. Okay, let's give a corporate sigh, like, "Aw. I'm so sorry you had to learn to ride your bicycle on your own." We'll give you a hug after the service here today. It's not a fun thing. Most of us, and then how many of you had your mom teach you how to ride your bicycle? Raise your hand if your mom taught you? One, two. Okay, that leaves 99% of you in here today-- Who taught you?
Gary: Dad taught you to ride your bicycle. Dad may not have done anything else in your whole life, but he taught you to ride a bicycle. Let's all say, "Thank you, dad." Thank you, dad. Can you be a volunteer for me today? Do you mind coming up here or does that make you shy? You feel shy? Can you come up here? All right. What's your name? Say again? Brooklyn. Cool. What a great name. Brooklyn, like from New York.
Yes, that's cool. I used to live in Brooklyn. Brooklyn's going to come up here. I didn't have a bicycle to illustrate this, but Brooklyn, you're going to pretend you're going to ride a bicycle, okay? He's looking at-- You see yourself? You look good. Look at that handsome young man. What's with this, man? Where's this come from? Ireland? That's cool. I like that. All right, so you're got to pretend I'm your dad. If I'm going to teach you how to ride a bicycle, where do I usually stand? In front of you? No, behind you.
What do dad do? They grab the back of the bicycle, right? Remember that? Then we and then we pushed it ahead. What did we say? I remember this is one of my early childhood memories. What did I say to my dad? Anybody think of what I might have said?
Congregation: Don't let go.
Gary: Don't let go or let go?
Congregation: Don't let go.
Gary: Okay, I thought you said let go. I thought Irish are much bolder more than Americans. You guys are-- "You let go, Dad. I can do this myself." That's really cool, the strong Irish people, but most people will say, "Don't let go, Dad." What does Dad say? "I won't let go." That's what I said. That's what my dad said. That's what I said when I was teaching my three boys and my daughter. They said, "Don't let go." I said, "I won't let go. Just keep pedaling. I won't let go." Then what does Dad do? He lets go. Usually, what happens to the child?
Congregation: He keeps going.
Gary: He keeps going a little bit, but 9 out of 10 of them?
Gary: Wobble. How many of them--
Gary: Fall. When you rode a bicycle, do you ever fall? Yes. Good job. Let's give him a hand. He did a great job. Thank you. You can go back to your seat. Over here. There we go. When my dad taught me how to ride a bicycle, I asked him, I was afraid. I was very fearful as a child. I was afraid of the concrete. The concrete, that's where you scrape the elbows and the knees. I made a compromise with my dad.
He really wanted to teach me. I said, "Okay, I'll learn. You can push me as long as you, number one, you hold on. Number two, I want to learn on the grass, not on the pavement, on the concrete." How many of you know what happens when you're riding a bicycle on the grass when you're first learning? It bogs you down, it slows you down. You can't pedal. He was trying to teach me on the grass.
He's having to push me more, and then I couldn't get any momentum up, so as soon as he let go after promising he wouldn't let go, I would fall over, but it was okay because it was on the grass. It was in a safe area, but you can't learn when you're safe. You can't learn when you're trying to stay in control. You can't learn without taking a risk of falling. You can't learn, you can't move ahead, you can't progress without in a sense, realizing your weakness and having to move into a strength that can come your way.
Nick, can I use you as an example as well? Come on up here, Nick.
Nick: I'm going to ride a bike?
Gary: You're going to ride the bike. Okay. All right. Now, does this look a little bit weird?
Gary: It feels a little bit weird. Okay, you can sit down. Why does that look weird? Because he's too big to be learning how to ride a bicycle, right? It's appropriate at a certain age to get a certain kind of help along the way. At a certain age, you become a grown man. When you're a grown man, you're certainly still dependent on the Lord, and there's certainly still a weakness in you that His strength has to come through you, but there's a certain time as well where I believe the Holy Spirit says to you, and He says this actually to Paul.
He says it's in Timothy, "Act like a man. Grow up. Don't let your fear control you." I know sometimes in the church we in our-- and it's right to say, please don't hear this as a correction or any desire in my heart to want you to change, your language, your heart. Sometimes we use the language like it's all of Jesus and none of me. Will then just die and go to heaven. He needs some of you here.
Some of who you are needs to be here, and you in your body you're not Jesus. It's not all Jesus, it's all Jesus and then He brings you into Himself and says, "I want it to be all of me, all of Jesus, but I want it to be all of You as well. The two of us together, your weakness will become strong." You learn to go and so. He says, "I'll never leave you or forsake you." At sometimes He seems to let us go and it feels nerve-racking and it feels like we're really weak, but it's in that weakness, He makes us strong.
Because He's sending us into new horizons and new adventures and new hope and new dreams and new realities of accomplishing things we could not have accomplished unless we took the risk, and we're willing to fall. So many Christians are more conscious of sin than they are of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and so they're living in sin fearfulness, rather than in grace accomplishment. They're living in a sense of, "I will not try anything because if I try something, it might be the flesh."
Maybe a young man is asked to preach a sermon at the church. He goes, "Just there's such flesh in me." "Why is there flesh in you?" "Because I want to preach, that's the flesh because I have a desire." No, it's not as God put that in you. Do it with joy and passion and power and life and then ride. Ride like the wind. Go for it. Just pour it out. Let it go. For me, there's been some falls. Anybody else taking some stumbles?
You skinned your knees, your elbows and what do you do? The Bible says if you fall seven times you get back up. The righteous gets back up. It doesn't say the righteous don't fall. It says they get back up and there's a sense of Holy Ghost gumption. Do you guys use that word here? A gumption, an inner sense of, "I'm going to stand. Having done all I'm going to stand. I'm going to keep standing." You keep riding that bicycle and you keep standing. When you fall, you don't say, "I'm too weak to go on."
You say, "In my weakness, He's strong." He gives you strength to continue the journey and take you to heights places you'd never go before. I learned to ride a bicycle when I was a baby, a little kid. The last few years I've been riding bicycles, about 70, 80 kilometers some days, I love to ride. I have a street bike and just go and go and go. I'm just like, "I'm full of sweat and I'm exhausted."
I get home and it feels so good to be able to do something that almost seems like I didn't know how to do before. That's what God wants to introduce you to. Whether it's a business or an idea or a vision or a dream that you might have. He's not interested in just you being religious. He's not interested in just like the only good service you might have is to be an usher in the church. That's a really good thing. He likes you being a plumber and a doctor and a lawyer and a farmer and a chef at a kitchen.
He loves you doing all those things. He sees those as spiritual. He's saying, "I'm going to teach you how to do these things and cause you to live and even if you might fall." Some of us are so afraid of falling, we don't actually take any risks. We don't go anywhere because we think we're not going to be able to do anything.
For me, I had to re-- This is going to sound strange when I first say it but hold with me.
Would you prefer I get back up here or you're okay in the back? I'm okay here. Okay. For me, I've had to redefine what I believe about certain scriptures. It doesn't mean that the scriptures aren't infallible or the true but I think I got to the point after falling a couple of times that maybe I'm interpreting scripture the wrong way and maybe I need to redefine that. This is one scripture when I think about falling, and it says that no- have you heard this one, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper."
Gary: Bible truth. No weapon formed against you shall prosper. I believe it. I quoted. Sometimes it's probably on your refrigerator, no weapon-- or bumper sticker on your car, no weapon formed against me shall prosper. How many of you believe that? No weapon formed-- How many of you have maybe not experienced that exactly? Can you be honest? Thank you for your honesty. I'm going to be honest with you.
The Bible says, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." It feels to me like hundreds of weapons are prospering against me. Tons of weapons seem to be prospering against me. Four kids and several of them became addicted to drugs. That seemed like an enemy prospering to some degree or another. I had a experience I think I told you about this little bit last year where the doctor found a little lump in my throat.
She said, "It's just probably nothing. Let's do a quick little biopsy and it'll be fine." She called me on a Thursday night after the biopsy test came back in and she said, "You have cancer. You have thyroid cancer." I went, "Oh my gosh," it's like my mom died of cancer. My nephew died of cancer. My niece died of cancer. Two of my sisters had cancer. The word cancer is-- It's like, the doctor says, "Hi, you're dying." She hung up the phone, and I said, "I don't really know what thyroid cancer is.
I know enough about cancer. I know certain kinds are bad and certain kinds are little more treatable." I went to Google. I know you did it. You've done it. You've done Google. I typed in thyroid cancer and it pretty much just screamed at me, "You're dying. You have about a week to live." You can type almost anything into Web MD and it will say, "You're dying." I have a runny nose and my eyes, "You're dying."
It said you're dying. It was two types of thyroid cancer. One, you have about six months to live. It's a really severe kind. The other kind is-- If we're going to get cancer, it's the best kind to get. It's highly treatable and very low impact on the future of your life. This was a Thursday night and she said you have cancer but I didn't ask what kinds. I didn't know there's different kinds. Online I found there's two kinds so I called her back that night she didn't answer.
I called her back Friday she didn't answer. Saturday, the office was closed. Sunday, I don't have an appointment till Tuesday. She doesn't come back till Tuesday. For five days, I'm like, "I'm dying. Kids come around to your dad because he's dying." I was a wreck. I talked about-- If there's any strength and weakness, there was a lot of strength in me at that time because I was just like, I was telling my wife where the will is in and what our insurance policy is and calling long lost friends like, "I'm sorry. I hurt your feelings in 1983."
I just really thought and then she went in and said, "No, you got the good kind." I was like, "Good." That made me happy. I've been through experiences like that where it seemed like, "The cancer seems like a weapon to me. The enemy. A drug addiction seems like an enemy." I started asking the Lord it’s like, "Okay, you're teaching me to become stronger. You're teaching me to ride and yet I'm falling. I'm getting hit. I'm getting--"
It's not like I'm just falling over for lack of balance. It's like cars are coming off the street and running into me That's what these weapons seem to be doing to my life. It seemed to be crashing into my life, causing pain and anxiety and worry and stress and fear. We're Christians so we say, "No weapon formed against us shall prosper." You just want to say baloney. Just want to yell at them. You just want to choke somebody and say, "It seems like all these weapons are prospering. It seems difficult."
I had to be honest about the Scripture. I totally believe it is, but it gave me a whole and I ask the Holy Spirit about this, "What you can have to describe this to me? What does that mean that no weapon against me shall prosper?" It gave me a whole new picture, almost like-- I'm sure you didn't see in any movies that don't have anything rated other than G, but there's a movie called Gladiator.
If you've ever seen that, they had the shields out and they move forward when they were fighting against the enemy. That was the whole new picture that the Lord gave me about that scripture verse, "No weapon formed against me shall prosper." It's like I'm moving forward, and the enemy is fighting hard, and they're throwing spears. Some of the spears like, "That spirit just hit my shoulder."
Then we're in the middle of battle and all sudden, just like a knife just cut across my leg and I'm limping and rock is got thrown in and hit me in the head but no weapon that's formed against me is going to prosper because even though I'm bloodied, and I'm beaten, and I'm tired, and I'm weary, I have the shield. I have a sword and a forging ahead and the Lord is with me. He's right behind me saying, "Keep moving ahead. I'm not going to let you go."
Maybe sometimes it feels like he lets us go because we're in the middle of battle. We don't see Him but He says, "He'll never leave us or forsake us," even though he may not be steering us because if He was holding on steering everything we did, He would not be training as the Bible says training our hands for war. We have a warfare we're in and in the middle of that battle, sometimes you get beat. Sometimes you get hit.
Sometimes you feel like you're on your last leg near destruction. Sometimes you want to give up. Sometimes you begin to question God, "Does this thing really work? Is this Christian thing really real?" It felt good when I came to the altar, whatever I did, when I first got saved, it felt really good. Sometimes even now, when I'm singing songs, like Hallelujah, I want to raise my hand I feel good. But inside my heart, I'm really hurting because I'm really wondering if this is true, and this is real.
If it is, why is my life sometimes in such turmoil? It feels like these weapons but they're not prospering. The Bible is true. The Bible is the Word of God and God has told us it's not going to prosper. Come what may, trials, tribulations, pain and sorrows, suffering, hardship, heartache, cancer, addictions, divorce, the doctor giving you a bad report, the money not being there, none of those things are going to prosper against you.
Because you're going to say, “Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God. This battle is what's caused me to learn how to trust.” It would be nice if we didn't have to go through the battle. We were built into the men and women of God by being in that so the bicycle is something that helps us go.
Then there's the dancing monkey. Last week or two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I was in the Ukraine and I was preaching there and we stopped overnight in Kiev and went for a walk with a missionary friend. We were walking through the downtown market area of Kiev.
This guy kept following me with a monkey on his shoulder. Have you ever seen these kinds of monkeys that wear the vest, the red vest and have the little black hat on and then they have shoes on and they have these little things that clap together like with their knees? Sometimes they have an accordion or something like that. They put the monkey down and the monkey goes kind of like this and you're supposed to give them money.
Well, I was watching this monkey and the monkey was like, he was dancing on the street. That's kind of cool, right? He looked really sad. Really. I know this sounds like a really weird thing to talk about. The monkey was dancing. He was doing exactly what he was told to do to earn his keep to get his food to get life sustenance. The owner would give him something and it was kind of a bargain, then, "You'll go out on the streets and you'll dance and you'll make money for me. You'll perform really well."
I could tell just look at-- I didn't want to give him any money because it's like that monkey looks miserable. He's like it's just like, I wanted to cry like, "Oh, poor monkey. I'm sorry, I will take you home except you're really ugly and all." This monkey was like a mess but he was dancing and stuff. I began to think about my own life and maybe our life in this room here today is how we have this bargain relationship with God.
I've had to redefine my whole way of working with the Lord so that I'm not bargaining with him. You'll keep me from cancer. You'll keep my kids from living in sin. You'll give me the new apartment, or house, or flat that I want. You'll help me with the car, you'll help me with the career, you'll help me meet that guy. You’ll help me meet that girl. You'll do these things I want.
If when in turn, what I'll do for you is I'll pray, and I'll tithe, and I'll give, and I'll serve in the church. Even if the girl is good looking enough, I'll even become a missionary if you required of me. Whatever it takes for her. There's this bargain situation, I will dance for you as long as the bargain's kept on your end, you got to keep feeding me. That's not the kind of relationship Jesus wants with us.
I've had to redefine the word, abundant life. Abundant life because when my kids were on drugs, one of my son is homeless for a while, I don't feel like I have abundant life. Do you ever feel like it's like, that's another thing okay? No weapon formed against us shall prosper. Then He says, "I come to give you life and life more abundantly." A lot of us, if we're really honest with one another, we might say, “I could hear it preached, I could read about it in the Bible, we could sing about it at church, but in my heart, I don't feel it.
I don't feel like this is abundant life. I feel like this is a struggling life. I feel like this is pain-filled life. I feel like this is hardship life. I feel like there's nothing abundant really very little abundant about that except one day I'll get to heaven then experience abundance there.” The giving of abundant life is not speaking in that place of-- when He's speaking of Heaven, He speaks of eternal life. But this place, He's speaking of life and abundant life meaning that He's going to give you life here and now and it's abundant.
My bargain with God, "Okay, I'll serve you, I’ll love you, I'll tithe, I’ll pray, I'll give, and in return, you keep me safe. No sickness, no low income, no struggle financially, no relationship problems with my wife and spouse, my kids are just perfect four perfect A students are getting the best grades and getting them into the best schools and having the best careers." That's my bargain with you, God. You know that bargain doesn't-- God doesn't bargain with us. Have you noticed that? He doesn't bargain with us.
I've had to redefine what abundant life means because if we think abundant life is what is preached in a lot of least United States churches, like abundant life is you're rich, and you're famous, and you're healthy, and you're good looking, and your kids are perfect and everything is-- and you live in the best house on the block. That's a testimony for Jesus. They're going to want to come to Christ because they see how prosperous, and healthy, and problem-free your life is.
We make this bargain with God and we call that abundant life. I kind of lived that way for too long thinking abundant life is a pain-free life or a happy peppy, bursting with love kind of life all the time. The Holy Spirit just as He helped me redefine the scripture verse about no weapon formed against me prospering, He's helped me redefine what abundant life is. Because the western idea in the church of abundant life, according to our western idea, then Jesus didn't live an abundant life.
He would not-- Our description of abundant life, we would look at His life and say, “Hey, Ian, I'm not signing up for that. I'm not dancing for that. I'm not going to work for you to get that from you.” What did Jesus have? He had friends who totally abandoned Him, miracles that He did that crowds-- Like He rescued mommy's little girl from death and then she abandoned Him. He had-- "Foxes have holes but I have no place to-- I don't have a home."
Some so misinterpret the Scripture and then talk about Jesus being materialistically rich on earth because He had this coat that was so valuable that they tore into four pieces. Look, I could give you a Hugo Boss coat tonight, a $1,000 jacket and if you're still homeless and not having an income, would you be rich then? No, you'd have one item that's wealthy. These people say like, “Well, Jesus had this wealthy coat, so he must have been wealthy and that’s abundant life." No.
Jesus and then He was taken to the cross and He was beaten, and He was abused, and He was hit, and He was struck with a sword in the side, it seemed like weapons forming against Him would prosper. It seemed like if this is what you call abundant life, I'm not dancing for that. I'm not signing up for that. The definition of abundant life for me changed almost the same way that the no weapon formed against me shall prosper.
Is abundant life for me now is the doctor says you have cancer, I say, "I have life." My sons are having some trouble at one point in the future, but I say, "I have life in Jesus." Maybe there's a marriage problem in your life and you go, what you say, "That’s not what I want it to be but I have life." Abundant life is through it all. No matter what kind of hardship you're going in, no matter what you're suffering, no matter how difficult your life might be, there's an abundance in your heart. It's life.
The “zoe” you talked about this morning. It's the spirit of life in you. It's not just the physical things around you. It's the spiritual life that God has given you. The good news is when you understand that, then the dance becomes natural. To me, the most amazing dance I see are like somebody with cerebral palsy. Their body is wrecked, they can't really move but they can raise their hand and they just go, “Thank you, Jesus.”
I'm going, “You're thanking Jesus?” I have a problem because the paycheck didn't work out as good as I thought it. You’re raising one hand because the other one wouldn't move and you're saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” that's abundant life. Now and I'm not saying, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that it's everybody who's poor and broken and hurt that they're the only ones who can have abundant life. You can have abundant life. Paul said, "I know how to abase and I know how to abound."
For him, abundant life was it's not in the abasing or in the abounding it's in the life in Jesus. It's knowing Him. I wrote a book a while back called Ultimate Favor and to me, I appreciate God's favor. I really do. Bettina who travels with me, she has this miraculous gift of God's favor. Anytime we go to the airport, she gets, like, upgraded the first class and the hotel said, “We're going to put you in the suite.”
I'm like, “I get at the closet, and I get your flight’s canceled.” It’s like she must be living-- she must be dancing, right. She's dancing getting the favor, I realized that there is that kind of favor and I like it. I asked for it, and I pray for it. I pray for a good marriage and healthy kids that they do well in school and they get a great college and they have wonderful children themselves that make me a great grandfather who's thrilled with life. I pray for those things, but I realized ultimate favor and that's what I wrote about in the book.
Ultimate favor is not in those things. Abundant life is not in those things. Ultimate favor and abundant life is what Moses talked about when God said to him, “Hey, you can go into the Promised Land, there's milk, and there's honey, and there’s ease, and there's comfort and there you have your land and your kids can grow up there and you're going to have fun, but I am not going to go with you." Moses says, "No, I want ultimate favor. That's a favor to let me go into that land, but ultimate favor is I won't go anywhere unless you go with me."
That's abundant life. That's favor of God is when He's with you. Whether you're abounding or abasing, whether you're up or whether you're down. Then you may be asking the question of, I understand a little bit about trusting the Lord to put you on a new journey. That journey might cause you to fall at times and there's difficulty as you define His grace and His abundance through His presence, that you make it on a journey and that you don't have to dance for this you want to because of His joy.
Then you might be asking yourself self the question. "Okay, that makes sense, but what does this thing about wax statues?" In the early Roman time period, there were sculptors like Michelangelo type people that sculpted marble for the Roman authorities, those in government or the very wealthy. If you saw their homes they might have a statue of a soldier or a lion out front of it. They sculpted these things out of marble.
When the sculptors were doing this, they became so famous and quite wealthy as they made this marble for the elite of the society. As they dug the marble out of the ground, they began to run out of what they call statuary marble. It's the good kind of marble that has no flaws in it and it's not porous. It's like just smooth and solid. They started finding this other type of marble. I think they call it travertine.
I don't know if you'd call it that here, but there's an American, they still call it, you can buy the travertine marble. The problem with travertine marble is that it's porous. It's not been pressed in the ground quite as long, like a diamond where it presses it together in that statuary marble just puts things together so there's no flaw in it and it's hard and it's easy, but it's also once you sculpt it, it's there.
With the travertine marble, it had holes in it. When they began to carve, let's just say there were, they were carving a statue of one of the gods of Rome or something like that, muscular, like me. Thank you for laughing. That makes me feel really good. They're carving this thing, but they were carving it with the travertine, so it would have pocks in it and holes in it. The face might look good, but there's like, well man, the guy looked like he had bad acne when he was a kid or something.
It was all messed up. What they did is they would take the good, statuary marble and sand it down, and they would take the dust of that good marble and mix it with a wax. Then they would put that wax on top of the statue and just begin to sand that in there so that it began to look like statuary marble. They took the poor marble and made it look like the good marble. Then they would bring that to the owners that they sold it to and it would pass muster.
No one could tell that it was any different even if it got close, once that wax hardened. From all indications externally, it looked like it was going to- everybody could accept it. It looked good, but it didn't really change it did it, it was still travertine. It still had the holes in it. As we're on this journey riding our bikes and we fall and it feels like weapons are forming against us and it feels like we don't have abundant life.
I close with this, our temptation in the church is to say, "I don't have any holes in me." Is to say, "I'm not travertine. I'm not an earthen vessel. I'm a statue. I am flawless." That's how we present our self and yet we've fallen off the bicycle and yet we're dancing for our food and yet we're been beaten by the enemy at times and we've been buffeted, as Paul said. He was shipwrecked and he was beaten but he was forging on.
The good thing about Paul, he writes in this passage, we started this message with, was that he said, "I could glory in all the revelation I've had." He says, "I've been to the third heaven." I have no idea what the third heaven is. I studied it. Maybe some of the scholars here might do that. The first heaven, second heaven, obviously if there's a third heaven, there's a first and a second heaven.
Then he goes, all Tom Cruise on us because he says like Tom Cruise says in one of his movies, "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you." In the Greek, it actually said no, but Paul says, "I was into the third heaven and I saw things--" He actually says, "unlawful for me to speak." Jesus said, "Look at this, but it's against the law for you to go back and tell anybody this." That is a hard secret to keep that he could.
Now everybody's writing a book about it. They go to heaven, they write a book about, what's in heaven and weird stuff. I don't want to get off subject. Paul, when he comes back and he says, "I could glory in that. I could build a whole conference on that. "I was in the third heaven. How many heavens you've been in? You haven't even been in the first haven't yet. I'm already after the third heaven. Next year Lord's inviting me to the fourth heaven."
He could have boasted in these things. Instead, he says, "I'm going to boast in my weakness. I'm going to boast that there are some holes in me. I'm going to boast that I fell a couple times. I'm going to boast that I'm not as strong as you might think I am. I'm going to boast it, that I failed a couple of times. I'm going to boast that if without the Holy spirit, man, I'm really messed up. That's what I'm going to boast on them. I'm going to come to church with holes in me."
Sometimes I'm going to ask people, "Would you pray for me? Because this hole, man, it's ugly, it's a mess and that scar and that beating I took and that fall off the bicycle. The in the sense of always kind of trying to dance for my meal to make God happy so I get stuff, I realize I do that junk and it disturbs me and be honest."
I really believe addictions would be cut in half in the churches if we started getting honest with each other. I believe men who look at pornography if we got honest with each other and found a group of men that you really trust and begin to share your heart with, I believe pornography in the church will be cut in half. I believe divorce, I believe suicidal thoughts, I believe depression, I believe anxiety, I believe stress.
I believe all of these things that are holes in us that are beating us, that seem to ruin us at times. I believe all of these things if we don't try to cover them with wax, the Latin word for that process that they did, you know what they called it? Really strange. We use the word today in English, they called it sincere. Is from two Latin words, sin meaning without and cere, meaning wax, without wax. If they sold something without the wax in it, they would be afraid they would make a profit.
Sometimes if we feel like we try to sell ourselves to our fellowship without the wax, unless we're acting sincere.
You know what acting sincere is? It's being sincere, it's without wax, it's without putting a mask on. It's without covering yourself up. It's about hiding yourself. It's not about being afraid of what others might think of you. It's about coming to church and not feeling like you might not being okay with not being spiritual that day.
Maybe not raising your hands, maybe not shouting to the Lord, maybe not clapping. We just go, "This is not a clapping day. This is a painful day." Through it all, you're forging ahead. Through it all, you have the shield out there in the sword out there. Maybe it feels like He let go, but He's right with you and there's a victory. There's a victory for you.
Do you understand that? Do you get that, that it's okay to be honest? It's okay because that's what's Paul's talking about here tonight when he's saying that, "That's what I glory in, my weakness." Not that he's proud of it, like, "Look how much of a failure I am." He's saying this, "You're all real without wax." I am real without wax and together we can become the body of Christ that helps each other grow, that helps ride to ride the bicycle, so to speak, or helps each other know how to dance for our food.
To not be like in the dancing monkey, to be real, to not put on the monkey uniform, to not try to make it on our own, but just trusting God for our life, trusting Him to do great things. As I've redefined these things in my life--and our worship team, if you guys would come back and we're going to sing a song and I'm going to invite you forward for prayer in just a moment. If you just need to get real with God and get answers and get help and get hope and allow Him to say, "Come in your weakness and we'll pray that strength will come into your life."
For those of you that feel like you've not had the abundant life, feel like you've not had that, that the weapons seem to be coming against you and defeating you. If that's you in just a moment, I'm going to ask you to come forward and we're going to pray. We're going to believe God will do something. As I have been through these experiences, I'm like Paul a little bit, just teeny, teeny little bit that I could actually say my weaknesses are actually the areas He's making me strong in.
That He's actually been bringing grace and power in areas. You might feel like you're too weak to merit God's favor, His presence, His abundant life, but you're not. Your weakness is what He calls forth to make you strong.