INTRODUCTION – I believe it was about 12 and a half years ago when Anne and I got a phone call from our real estate agent telling us that he believed he had found the house for us. We had lived in a very nice two story rental home on the last block of 13th street near the Elfin forest for our first five years here in Los Osos. Our kids had made good friends on the block; we had at least two block parties a year with our neighbors, and hardly anything needed fixed on this house.
Because the house on 15th street was in the process of being foreclosed, we couldn’t walk through it; but Anne and I took several walks by it – scoping it out and praying about the possibilities. When we finally got a chance to walk through it, my wife immediately knew this was the one for us. This was the answer to years of prayers amidst some tears – as by that time we had been married 18 years and never owned a home – due to our having to get me through graduate school, and then being missionaries in Hong Kong for four years. The only problem was: this house was a disaster inside and out. When Caroline first saw it she cried in disbelief that we would dare consider leaving a house – that compared to this one was in immaculate condition. I mean this house was basically a garbage dump – inside and out. Today though – it is a testament to the transformation that vision can bring about in a much abused and dilapidated home.
Once we got the house in livable condition – with the help of many of you – my wife began to dream about our front and back yards. She had visions of fruit and vegetables and fresh chicken eggs. And over a period of years these things began to materialize.
As amazing a wife and visionary as Anne is – – everything that we now have – came from something already in existence. There already was a house at 1547 15th street. All of our lemons and nectarines and apples and plums and oranges and tangerines came from already existing trees that over time we purchased from various nurseries – or that were given to us. Our wonderful daily supply of fresh eggs came from chickens that some rooster and chicken somewhere had already brought into being. The transformation we helped bring about had happened many times in many other places.
Everything that we now have in our home and in our front and back yards, we have seen somewhere before. It still took considerable faith and vision on my wife’s part – and considerable giving in to her persistence on my part – – but because we had seen and experienced these things before – – it wasn’t terribly difficult to bring them into existence at 1547 15th street.
But this morning I believe God wants to bring about in His people – you and I – a much greater vision and level of faith than my lovely wife had for our new home and yard. The reason I believe this greater vision and level of faith is necessary is because God is wanting to do things in our families, and in our city and in our nation that most of us have never seen done or accomplished anywhere else before in our lifetimes.
In fact – precisely because most of us have not come from Christ centered, Spirit led and Spirit filled families; and precisely because most of us have never lived in a city where the gospel of Jesus Christ has so transformed the city that everyone knows He brought it about – whether they are willing to bow down to Him or not – – and precisely because all of us are too young to have experienced the last great revival that swept our nation and brought about widespread transformation for a time – – because of these things – – there is a growing crisis of faith and vision in our nation among believers. Some reputable Christian leaders believe that if we were to poll all the Christians in our nation and they were to answer honestly – – many of them would state that the devil is winning. Many of them feel the state of the family in our nation is so messed up; and the government in our nation is so divided and ineffective; and the economy is in such bad straits – – that nothing can really turn this situation around. Many believe secular humanism and post modernism have such a hold on the mindsets of those who control the media and our educational system and even our government – – that it is just too far gone to overcome. Many believe that while the church in our cities in America is certainly better than nothing, and is having some impact, it is nowhere near strong and powerful and pure and united enough to see whole cities and regions impacted in a city transforming way.
So this morning, I want to ask you: Is there any solid rational reason to believe that Jesus Christ – through His church – can turn this situation around?? Is the message that we typically celebrate and proclaim on Easter anything more than a nice happy thought? Or is there solid reason to hope against hope, and to believe that God is going to do in our life time – – in our region – – through you and me – – what has never been done before?
To answer that question I would like for you to turn in your bibles to Romans ch. 4 vs. 13-25. (read it) (pray)
What I want to share with you – in the remainder of our time together – is 3 reasons why you and I can be absolutely confident that God can and will radically transform our families , our cities and our nation through His church – even through the likes of you and me!
I. The first reason is because God specializes in bringing life to the dead, and bringing something out of nothing. Vs. 17 (read it) Have you studied the accounts of creation in Genesis and Job recently? In the beginning there was nothing but our triune God, who has existed for all eternity. Somewhere along the line, He decided He was ready to create the universe. He didn’t pattern it after some other universe or the creation acts of some other god. There was no other universe and there were no other gods. This amazing universe that the BBC and the Hubble Space Telescope have filmed for us – in all its splendor and glory – came out of nothing, zip, zero, nothingness, nata. No set of plans; no architect’s drawings, no computer models.
The same was true when God called Abraham – however many thousands of years ago, and told him to leave his home and father, and that he would become a father of many nations. He and Sarah had no kids, and there were no nations to speak of at that time. God was not opening Sarah’s womb, and her biological clock was ticking away. God allowed that situation to continue for many years – because God wanted everyone to know that He specializes in bringing life to the dead (which in this passage speaks to their both being totally washed up when it comes to procreation – – it was humanly impossible for them to conceive and birth a child) ,and He specializes in bringing something out of nothing. God does not need precedents to bring something into being.
So when God begins to speak to you that he wants you to build a family wherein there will not only be a loving respectful harmonious marriage, but children who love God and respect their parents, and who grow up to be world changers, and grandchildren who will even surpass them in their character, gifts and influence – – and you remind God that you have studied the geneaological records of your clan and no one has ever pulled that off – – and in fact – there probably isn’t a more dysfunctional family – as far as the past generations go – on the planet – – God responds – that’s o.k. – “I specialize in bringing something out of nothing.” “I specialize in bringing life from the – dead and washed up.”
What is and what has been – – when God is involved – – has little to do with what will become.
In fact I think – in His mind – the worse the odds are – the better for what He intends to do on the earth.
II. The second reason why we should be abounding in hope and faith for extensive transformation in our families, cities and even nation – – is because God specializes in doing the extraordinary through very ordinary people. vs. 13, 17,
When God called Abraham and Sarah, He knew what He was getting.
There was nothing overly special about them. As their lives begin to unfold before us in the book of Genesis we find Sarah talking Abraham into having sex with her Egyptian maid – Hagar – thinking somehow that since God had not opened her womb – – maybe Hagar’s would be opened and her baby would suffice – for fulfilling their mission and calling. Then she gets jealous and resentful of Hagar so she has Abraham get rid of her and her son. Later we find Abraham lying to a pagan ruler – out of fear for their safety – which revealed that he certainly was not looking to God to protect them.
They were not super spiritual heroes. They were used by God in amazing ways because they learned the lessons that Paul is trying to convey in this chapter – – which are: first that our ability to be in right standing with God comes by faith in what He has done to make that possible through Christ, and not by our good works and earnest efforts. (vs. 13-16); and second: that our ability to fulfill His calling and destiny on our lives comes by trusting in His greatness, and standing on His promises (vs. 17-20), not leaning on our own gifts and brilliance and zeal.
God has been speaking to some of you about some of the societal problems we are facing in this region of CA, and even in our state. Whether it be the growing problem of hunger and poverty; or the growing problem of fatherlessness; or the growing problem of divorce or even fear of getting married for the first time for fear of getting divorced; or the growing problem of impotence and dysfunction in government; or the growing problem of ineffectiveness in education; or whatever.
God has been speaking to you; but you have not paid much attention because you have disqualified yourself for whatever reason. Your focus has been way too much on yourself and your circumstances; and far too little on the great God you serve. You need to know that God specializes in doing amazing things through people like you.
III. The third reason is because God specializes in performing what He promises. The third reason why you and I can be absolutely confident that God can radically transform our families , our cities and our nation through His church – even through you – is because God specializes in performing and fulfilling to the hilt what He promises. Vs. 21 – 25
He did this with Abraham. And even though there were many roadblocks along the way; and even though there were forces within and without that appeared to be detriments – if not even disastrous to God’s purposes – – God came through and absolutely fulfilled His promises through Abraham and his son, and his son.
And He did it with Jesus Christ. When the Father told His Son Jesus – that He would give Him the nations as His inheritance and the very ends of the earth as His possession – speaking first of what He would do on the cross and through the resurrection to break the hold the devil and sin had on the peoples of the world – – and of what He would do through His church to establish His kingdom among every tribe and every people and every nation – – – He overcame every obstacle imaginable to bring this about. In the last 2,000 plus years – God the Father has had to watch – – almost all the Jewish religious leaders reject and even crucify His Son. He had to watch his disciples – to the man – betray and/or deny Him. He had to watch various false teachers and false prophets arise to try to derail the church from the first century on. He had to watch men and even governments try to control the church for their own ends. He watched the crusades and the holocaust. He watched the governments of nations like China and Iran and Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the former Soviet Union seek to stamp out the church, imprisoning and sometimes murdering its leaders, and burning its bibles.
But the church of Jesus Christ continues to march on – – and even thrive in some of these oppressive nations. Some believe the church in China may be the fastest growing church on the planet!
I remember in 1977 – when Dr. Ralph Winter dropped the bombshell on the various leaders of the missionary movement in North America- – that according to the best research available – – there were 17,000+ distinct people groups that were totally hidden and cut off from the gospel. As far as we could tell there was not a Christian, and certainly not a church among them. Certainly not a Bible in their language. But today that number has been drastically reduced. Even with oppressive governments, difficult languages, extreme climates, and all the other obstacles to establishing the church where it has never been before.
When God made promises to Abraham and later to His Son Jesus – He had every intention of fulfilling them to the inth degree. That is the kind of God He is. And that is one of the many things or aspects of His character that sets him apart from men. Numbers 23:19 puts it this way, “God is not man that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will he not make it good?”
Now – if I were to take a poll this morning – and I were to ask each of you whether you believe that: 1. God specializes in bringing life to the dead, and bringing something out of nothing. 2. Whether God specializes in doing the extraordinary through very ordinary people. 3. And whether God specializes in performing and fulfilling what He promises. Most of you would probably say yes. Theologically and intellectually you know this is true of our great God.
But when God – in a quiet moment while you are driving somewhere alone; or when you are out alone in the back yard weeding; or when you are alone early in the morning with His word open in your lap; or when you are singing a certain song in a worship service – – when God says to you in that quiet moment, “Through you – so and so student – I’m going to bring about a move of God on your campus that every student, teacher, and administrator and janitor will know about” or “Through you – so and so business person – – I am going to bring about a move of God in your business or corporation or field that is going to spread like wildfire – – and is going to result in many bowing the knee before King Jesus” or “Through you – so and so young husband and wife – – I am going to totally change the character and destiny of your clan to where world changers will regularly come forth from your loins – – and no longer will dysfunction and divorce and addictions characterize your family lines” or “Through you – so and so intercessor – – I am going to so thrill you and energize you – – that your eyes will see dramatic transformation in our coastal region to the point that everyone who lives here and works here will be talking about it – – whether they are willing to enter into it or not – – it will be the talk of the town – – yea, Jesus will be the talk of the town”
When He says that to you, will you hear His voice and answer His call? Or will you – like so many – deduct that – the enemy is too powerful, the world is too far gone, the Lord is coming back soon so it really doesn’t matter, I’m not adequate……, my family is too damaged, or any number of other excuses.
Please know that neither I nor God are looking for ambitious adventuresome individuals who have their own dreams for bringing about change. No, what God is looking for is people who – like Abraham will first: hear His voice, and listen to His dreams and intentions. That’s why vs. 18 emphasizes at the end of the verse, “according to that which had been spoken.” And then again in vs. 21, that Abraham was “fully assured that what God had promised, He – God was able to perform.” It must start with God, not with you.
The primary reason God was able to use Abraham and Sarah was because they heard His voice, they believed His promises, they learned from their mistakes, and they never gave up until they saw God’s word to them fulfilled.
Some of you need to repent this morning because you have given up. Oh you still come to church here and there. And you still believe in the fundamentals of the faith. But you have given up on the dreams God gave you, and the calling He gave you to be His instrument to see true transformation come to whatever He has burdened you for and called you to.
Some of you need to repent because you are holding bitterness and resentment against God because He allowed your dreams and sense of call to be dashed against the rocks of failure and disappointment and rejection. God never disqualified you because of your failure. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable the scripture says. You just need to humble yourself and learn from your mistakes and strengthen the weak knees again as the scripture says.
Some of you need to repent because you would rather work in your own power and wisdom than wait and listen for the voice of God. The problem is not that He has not spoken. The problem is you haven’t taken the time to listen. You have been too busy with your own agenda.
CONCLUSION – (For those who were not there, at this point we had four ministry teams down front and a Spanish speaking one in the back and invited folks to come forward for prayer, which many did. While I am sure the Lord ministered to many different needs, the main thing He seemed to be doing was dealing with discouragement, resentment, doubt and unbelief regarding His ability to truly use us in mighty ways for His purposes). I believe it was a day of “re-recruitment and mobilization”