Francis Chan on “God Is Strength”

Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA, opens his talk with a question: If you met the children of the world’s strongest man (an actual member of his church) and his wife who can benchpress 275 pounds, would you expect to meet some “scrawny kids”?

We have an all-powerful God, but many churches today are puny and weak.  What happened?  We grew up with powerful stories (e.g. David and Goliath, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego, Daniel and the lions’ den, Elijah on Mt. Carmel).  Joshua and Caleb were ready to march into the Promised Land with Moses and when that failed, they waited 45 years and responded with the same vigor and strength.  Where are the 85 year old Caleb’s today?

Paul reminded Timothy “ God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Or as John tells us in Revelation, “Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:7-8).  The first on the list are the cowards.  Do people see you as powerful?

What are we waiting for?  It seems as if the longer we are in the church the more we get scared.  We need to remember who we worship.

“Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel says it this way:

For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty,and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,and he does what he wills with the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can stay his hand or say to him, “What are you doing?” (Daniel 4:34b-35).

God can do whatever God wants to do … we are often told we can, but in the end we cannot do anything.  J. Vernon McGee once said, “This is God’s universe and God does things his way.  You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe!”

Paul tells Timothy “[God] who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen (1 Timothy 6:15b-16).  No matter how powerful or successful we become, God is still King of kings, Lord of lords, who provides us sustenance.  Only in our arrogance can we question God.

Paul’s baptismal credo in Philippians 2:5-11 echoes the prophet Isaiah’s words “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear'” (Isaiah 45:22-33). When God says it, it happens … he even swears by himself.  There will be a day when every knee will bow, every knee, before God.

Our God is strong and as his people are called to be strong as well.  Remember God’s challenge to Joshua:

Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9).

We are called to be bold and strong and courageous, because we are children of a bold and strong and courageous God.

Dino Rizzo on “God Is … Here and Anything Can Happen”

Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA, begins by spinning a great tale about preaching his first revival in Homa, LA.  Despite its “failure” in his eyes, God began to move that Sunday morning … he had to step aside and let God.  Something amazing occurs when we realize that God is here and anything can happen.

The lesson this week is from Mark 7:31-37:

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Jesus tells us that if we see him, we have seen our Father.  What can we learn about God from this encounter with Jesus.

  • Faith Happens:  The crowd gathered with an expectation that something could happen … they brought others to meet Jesus.
  • Love Happens: Jesus pulled the man aside, perhaps to help him feel at ease.  Jesus does not want to embarrass us in front of others.
  • Spit Happens: Jesus seems to use “sign language” process (he touched his ears, touched his tongue, looked to heaven, sighed, etc.).  Dino observes that “spit” is a cure-all for all kinds of situations.  More importantly, Jesus will meet us where we are and will communicate with us where we are.
  • Hope Happens: Jesus says “be opened” and the man hears his own voice.  A miracle was accomplished in power, but more than that, Jesus responded with love and expectations changed.

Jesus shows up every day.  Do we believe that God is here and anything can happen?

God Is … Love w/ Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel, of LifeChurch.tv in Edmund OK, launches our One Prayer campaign with the question “Why would God love ME?”  Like John Wesley, he knew that God loved the world and he knew how to point at others and say “God loves you.”  But Craig, like many of us, found it hard to comprehend that “God loves me.”
Two questions prompt his thoughts:

  • Why would God love someone as BAD as me? Job reflects upon his encounter with God and says “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Paul said to the church in Corinth “for I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
  • Why would God love someone as INSIGNIFICANT as me (among six billion people on planet earth)? Moses said to God when he was being called to liberate the children of Israel “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). David said to God as he led worship with his people “but who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

God does not just love you – there is more to God than that.  God is more that what God does, God is LOVE.  “ Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:8-10).  We are not reflecting on God’s action, we are paying attention to who God is … God is LOVE! That changes everything!

  • God’s love COVERS your sins. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). When Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden, God covered them with the skin of an innocent animal (see Genesis 3:21). When a son rebelled against his father and squandered his fortune, the father welcomed him home and covered him with a new robe (see Luke 15:22). Paul said to Titus “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5).
  • God’s love makes you SIGNIFICANT.I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).  See Luke 15 for the stories of the widow looking for a lost coin, a father with two sons, and a shepherd with 100 sheep left 99 to find the one lost sheep.

So this is Craig and my prayer for you this day: “for God so loved (insert your name) that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Amen.

I will post a link to the online version of the sermon at a later date.  It’s worth the watch!  Craig is a great storyteller and offers the gospel in a fresh way. Meanwhile check out his books below:

ONE PRAYER Campaign for 2009

This year at Queen Street Church, the early service will feature preachers from several churches as we seek to be in union with churches around the world.  Last year LifeChurch.tv invited other pastors and churches from around the world to share in Jesus’ ONE PRAYER for the church, to share in hearing God’s word, and enter into service to a broken world.  This year’s One Prayer messages emerge from each preacher’s desire to convey a single truth emerging from the phrase “God Is … .”  
  • “God Is … Love” from Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv in Edmund, OK.
  • “God Is …  Here and Anything Can Happen” from Dino Rizzo of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA.
  • “God Is …  in Control” from Greg Surratt of Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.
  • “God Is …  Incomparable” from Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC.
  • “God Is …  Strength” from Francis Chan of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA.  
  • “God Is …  Waiting on You” from Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church in South Bend, IN.
  • “God Is …  ” from Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
Last year’s theme was built on each pastor’s simple prayer for the church “Make Us … .”  You may want to check out last year’s messages from several of the the preachers we will be hearing.

I am praying that you will enjoy the coming month as we ponder the mystery of our God.