When you speak just once, you always have to ask yourself the question, what do you really want to say to the people, or what would God have me select as a topic that would be important for you? You know, we have the privilege as traveling people to be able to repeat ourselves. Pastors don’t often have that privilege. They have to be so fresh week after week. And it’s a very challenging call. But I want to bring to you today a message that I think will be meaningful for you because it answers one of the most fundamental questions of life.
Life is punctuated by questions. The moment you begin to use language, the word, why, what, how?
When all these questions come up very, very quickly in your mind and mind. So the subject that I want to address for you this morning is untitled. Who are you? God, who is God?
I’ll never forget years ago, speaking at the Lenine Military Academy in Moscow and all but one person in the audience were atheists.
They were all atheists except one guy who came to me afterwards and told me he’d been praying for years that somebody would come and share the gospel in that setting. And through my talk, one other officer kept going like this the whole time, giving me the choke sign. But I kept going. I just looked in a different direction because sitting next to me was the general who had invited me. But as soon as I finished my talk, this guy with the choke sign bounced to his feet.
And here’s what he said. He said, God, what do you mean, God?
You’ve been talking about God for 45 minutes. What are you talking about? I have no idea. So whenever you get jolted with a question, you have to quickly pray. So I said to him, Are you an atheist? He said, yes. I said, What are you denying?
If you say you’re an atheist, is the negative in Greek thallus for God, negative God, you say you’re an atheist. What are you denying? You’re asking me who God is, but you’re telling me you deny God. So what is the God you’re denying? He was stumped and didn’t know how to backtrack and respond. So I gave him about a two or three line answer from God being the creator and the designer of the universe to the one who’s made us in his image and that our hearts are ultimately restless until they find their rest in him.
I want to read for you a prayer this morning from Second Chronicles 20, where there are questions asked about God implicit in which are the answers themselves. So Second Chronicles 20 reading from verse six, Jehoshaphat is surrounded by a massive army and he doesn’t know how he’s going to deal with this. Invariably, when you’re attacked by a massive army, you really go immediately to prayer. I remember talking to one of your generals, Isolator, years ago during the revolution, and he and 800 of his men were at war at EDSA.
And all of a sudden he said, We open to the Book of Psalms and we’re reading from some 91 crying out to God, dwelling in the shadow of the almighty Napoleon when he’s surrounded Moscow and the spires of Moscow are burning.
The Tsar, who had had no time for God, goes to church and falls on his face before God crying out in prayer. And God answered his prayer by sending a minor, minor prophet the winter.
And that took care of the rest of the battle as Napoleon’s army couldn’t withstand the severity of the winter.
So his Jehoshaphat, surrounded by the armies that he didn’t know he could handle, noticed the three questions he asked. This prayer has both passion of heart and intelligence of mind. It retains theological integrity while blending it with deliberate passion and desire for God to intervene.
The first part of the chapter describes the armies coming and surrounding him. In verse six, he says this Oh Lord God of our fathers. Are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nation’s power and might are in your hand and no one can withstand you. Oh our God. Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people? Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham, your friend?
First question he asks, are you not verse seven? Second question he asked. Did you not in verse twelve, he comes up with this or God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. And in these three questions, are you not? Did you not? And will you not? You see the answers that he ultimately gets.
In 1952, Encyclopedia Britannica published one of its most popular series ever. It was called The Great Books of the Western World. It’s about 53 volumes of compilation. And I remember as a young student studying young, actually more of a professor in New York at that time, walking past the bookstores and wishing so much I could buy that series, but I kept waiting and waiting till it went on sale. And one day it did. And today it sits on the top shelf of one of my sections there, the great books of the Western world.
Fifty three volumes. The first two volumes are entitled Sendup Gone. It combines two words the synthesis of topics. What does it mean? The way the books are distributed, the first two volumes deal with themes, great themes, history, philosophy, law, ethics, God in the first two volumes. Then in the remaining fifty one volumes, those very themes are covered by the great writers of the Western world. So if you read the essay on law and you want to know what Augustine said about law, you turn to the 18th volume on Augustan and see his section on law.
Great themes covered as topics, great writers and how they covered them. The chief editor is a man by the name of Mortimer Adler, one of the brightest minds in America, a latecomer to Christ Jewish scholar Alette. Come to Jesus Christ and Mortimer Adler years ago was being interviewed by Larry King on CNN and Larry King looked at him and said, Schertler, I was looking at the themes of the great books of the Western world, and the longest essay is on God.
You’ve covered great themes, but the longest essay is on God, can you explain that? Mortimer Adler just shrugged his shoulders and said, Larry, because more consequences for your life follow from that one issue than any other issue you can think of more consequences for your life, follow from what you believe or disbelieve about God.
And that’s absolutely right. You are here today and cannot deny that statement. Your belief or disbelief in God defines everything else you do. If you believe and trust in God, your language of giving your behavior, your ethics, you may not always live consistently with it, but your guilt or fulfillment comes on how you think about God.
I believe it was the famed C.S. Charles Haden Spurgeon who put it in these words. The proper study of the Christian is the Godhead. It’s the highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature and the person and the doings of the existence of this great God. There is something exceedingly improving to my to the mind in a contemplation of the divinity. It is a subject so vast that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity, so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity.
Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with in them, we feel a kind of self contentment and go on our way with the thought. Behold, I am wise. But when we come to this master science finding there are plumb line cannot sound its depth and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought I am but of yesterday and know nothing.
What Spurgeon is saying is a large number of subjects in the world. You can walk away and say, Boy, I know an awful lot about this, but when you put your plumb line to understand the doings, then the person of God, you walk away saying, I hardly know anything about this vast and grand thing. Stephen Hawking years ago wrote a book called A Brief History of Time, and he goes through all of the intricacies of how he sees the origin of the universe.
And in the last paragraph, he says this. I have now told you what, if I could tell you why I wouldn’t know the mind of God, he’d have to take the mind of God to explain the why, why life exists, why we are here in the first place.
That is the exhaustive subject. And I want to talk to you briefly this morning on exactly what it means to answer the question of who God is. So let’s take the first one, are you not?
If I were to give you a blank sheet of paper and give you a pen and begin the words like this, God, are you not how would you fill it out?
How would you fill in the blanks?
There are many, many things you might say. You might say he is my he is my savior. He’s my friend. All kinds of ideas can come to your mind. And yet some of you might say, I don’t have a clue.
I don’t have a clue. As Pastor Peter Ten, she was talking about him in that one statement on raising your children and showing them what Christ can do in and through them. Not every child has the privilege of being raised that way. And some children may say, I have no idea what the word God means. So how do we come to this? We come to this first listening to the common person, and I listen to the common person numerous times and my flights, somebody sitting next to me will turn to me and say, what do you do?
And depending on whether I want to have a conversation or not, I answer the question. And if I I’ve got all the energy to answer the question, I will say something like this. I travel all over the world answering people’s deepest questions. And then you can just see the wheels turning and about 30 seconds later, they say, like what? And I say to them, what is your deepest question?
And sure enough, nine times out of ten, they’ll tell you something like, what’s life all about? You know, why does why do we pay? Why do we suffer? And I say to them, that’s one of the questions. And they’ll say, What’s your answer?
You see, the common person struggles with the issue of God.
This is why one of the finest philosophers in the world today, Alvin Plantinga from the University of Notre Dame, he refers to the belief in God as a PBB category, properly basic belief category. It’s a basic belief in the masses of humanity. He says you don’t even have to prove it to the masses of them. It’s a properly basic belief. They don’t care to argue about it. They don’t want to debate about it. It’s deeply entrenched within the soul, a properly basic belief in India today.
In the pantheon of Hinduism, there are 330 million gods and they’re making more of them all the time.
That’s why they say in the eastern part of the world, you’re asking the question which part of which got to believe in and the western part of the world. You’re answering the question if there is a God.
This properly basic belief is right there, but how do we come to it?
Several years ago, Life magazine on a December issue had the lead article. Who is God? And on the cover was a beautiful picture of a night sky. And then in big white words, who is God?
So I picked up that issue and started to read early in the reading.
There’s they’re interviewing people and there’s a woman, an elderly woman who’s dying of cancer. And she says, I have believed in Jesus Christ as my savior. All my life. He has been my savior. And now in my cancer, he’s been in my strength and my my my sustenance and all such beautiful testimony. Only one paragraph. The next one is from a preacher, a minister who had lived a duplicitous life, lived a dark life in the background and a publicly preaching life in the foreground.
And he now had AIDS. And he said, I’ve lived a double life, I’ve lived a lie, I have always preached about the savior in Jesus Christ. This is the first time while I’m living with AIDS and all of my regrets that I find out how gracious and merciful my God really is. Even though I have lived such a horrible life, he has stooped down to pick me up in these last days and to give me in a hope and peace.
These were the kinds of testimonials till you come to the editor himself and the editor says, I don’t believe in God at all. God is an idea or an energy or a source made the sword. May the force be with you. That’s the idea.
You don’t want to have a person. You want to have a force, because to a person you have a relationship and an accountability to a force. You just use the force. For your purposes, and so at the end of it, there were so many conflicting testimonials, you just put it aside and say, I didn’t get any answers here. So then they talked to philosophers. You can talk to philosophers. And after you begin to read philosophers, you wonder whether they are real people.
Do they really care about real things? You know, I had to study a lot of philosophy. And my friend Lee Strobel, who’s written the case for Chrisann and the case for God and so on, so forth, he he one day contacted me and he said, I have to get even with you. I said, Why? He said, My son came to listen to you and now he wants to study philosophy. So I said, Is that bad?
He said, Yeah.
I looked at my son and I said, what is the difference between a professor of philosophy and a large pizza? He said, Son, do you know the difference between a professor of philosophy and a large pizza? And his son said, I don’t know what you’re getting at. He said, son, a professor of philosophy and a large pizza. Here is the difference. A large pizza can feed a family of four. In other words, a professor of philosophy is not going to feed you.
They don’t get any money and philosophers will climb up ideas. And at the end of it all, you say to yourself, I don’t understand where they’re going.
You listen to philosophers debate the idea of time, and at the end of that one hour you will probably say, I have just wasted my time. I better head on and go back home so you can talk to the common person, you can talk to the philosopher, then you get closer and closer and you get to the scriptures and you start reading Revelation. What do you see? Things like this. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. God is holy.
God is immutable, omnipotent, all powerful, omniscient, knows everything. Holy distance away from me, immutable. He never changes, cannot be destroyed. They are wonderful, wonderful concepts. And all of a sudden you say something like this. If he is omnipotent, why have I got cancer? If he’s sovereign over everything, why did allow my baby to die if he has complete control? Why is my body so wracked with pain? And all these terms, as powerful and meaningful as they are, become almost abstractions when you are going through a lot of heartache and a lot of trouble.
I remember one year, one some some years ago in my office that my wife, my secretary, came to me and said, Ravi, we’ve got a telephone call from a stranger. I think you should take it. I said, I’ll be happy to if you tell me what it’s about. She said it’s about a man who’s been in an accident and he’s totally paralyzed and he wants to talk to you.
So I picked up the phone. I said, Hello, sir, my name is Ravi. Can I help you? Because Ravi says, I listen to you on the radio all the time, but I’m calling you from a hospital bed. He said a few days ago, I went out on a company picnic. I’m a father of a few children and he described how many and so on. He was in his 40s, I think, and he said I was we were having fun playing baseball and I hit the ball and was running around the bases and being just a fun game.
I was running full speed. I didn’t realize that the guy in one of the bases was not going to move and it was a big guy at his foot on the base and standing. And as I ran there, I put my head down hoping he would move.
He didn’t. I hit him full tilt with my head and I’ve snapped my neck. I am paralyzed from neck downwards for life. And I have a young family. So I’m listening to this and I say my word. And then I said, and you’re calling me because he said, do you pray for healing? So I started to talk to him and discuss with him what we really think of when we think of healing, how we think of it, trying to explain all of this.
But what was he saying? God is sovereign. Why is this happened to me? And by the way, I should mention to you, and this is the truth. Years later, one of the ladies was a great supporter of our ministry and was on our advisory council. She said to me, Do you ever remember a man calling you from Dallas, Texas, or Dallas or Houston? I forget about a broken snap. And I said, yeah.
She said he was my brother. She said he was healed. God touched him. Some years later, he was starting to walk again.
Just an amazing thing. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know all the details. And I can honestly tell you it doesn’t always happen. I myself suffered with my back for many, many years. Doesn’t always happen. But you see, the moment you are thrown with your back to the wall at a point of tension, all these terms begin to beg for different definitions and different meanings. Sovereign, holy, omnipotent omniscience, immutable.
And so we move from the common person of Jamir experience to the philosopher of ideas to revelation of how God has chosen to speak of himself. And then we realize that sovereignty can seem tyrannical, but only if it’s unbounded by goodness. Holiness is terrifying if it is untempered by grace, Omnes insists, taunting. If it’s uncoupled with mercy and you’ve got immutability, become torturous if it’s uncertain of goodwill. What we long for is goodness, grace, mercy, goodwill.
How do we find all of this? How do we know all of this? See, the apostle Paul was a product of many cultures. He was a Hebrew by birth. He was a citizen of Rome, and he studied in a Greek city, a Hebrew by birth, a citizen of Rome, and he’d studied in a Greek city. He he was writing epistles to the to all of these cultures and all of these nations after he had come to know Jesus Christ.
And it is interesting to me what all he must have had backed into his mind. If you you’d asked the Hebrews for what is ideal, they would have said, lt the Lord is my light and my salvation. This is the light that lights everyone that comes into the world. If you talk to a Greek God, they would see the ideal as knowledge. They are the ones who form the universities. If you talk to the Romans, they would have said glory for the Hebrews, it was light for the Greeks, it was knowledge.
For the Romans it was glory. These are all ideas, light, knowledge, glory. They are abstractions.
Writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul says this and Second Corinthians for God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness, has caused his light to shine in our hearts, to give to us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, Jesus, Allah.
He’s given to us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, Jesus, our Lord, all these abstractions get poured into a person. This is the difference, this is the cardinal difference, you know, when I was growing up in India, we used to love to see movies. Indians still love to see movies. One good thing about many of Indian movies, even if you fall asleep halfway through, you’ve really missed nothing.
All you’ve missed is fellows chasing girls around the trees most of the time. We had an Indian comedian by the name of is Jowhar because when I was growing up, there was no kissing on the Indian screen.
You’d never see a kiss on the Indian screen. So somebody wrote to Jowhar and said, What is the difference between love on the Indian screen and love on the Western screen? He answered in one word, trees.
You run around the trees chasing each other, and as soon as you catch up with each other, the scene changes. And of course, they have to be 5000 songs in all of the movies and as many dances. So we used to see a lot of movies. We had a servant in the house whose name was automatism, which literally means six faces out. Among them are is six. Mom is six faces named after an Indian God. So one day my mother put money into his hand and said, Would you like to see a movie?
And he said, I’ve never seen one, you know. She said, go and enjoy it. It was a Sunday, his off day. He got on his white shirt, white trousers, polished his black shoes and marched off to the theater.
And we saw him going so happily with the money in his pocket. And I waited about three or four hours for him to come back, saw him coming from a distance. I said, automatism. How was it? He said, Are you, sir? And then he goes on to tell me, I made a big mistake. So what happened? He said, I’ve never been to a movie before, as you know. And I lost my way.
And I came late and I walked into the middle door and the whole room was dark. I don’t know what to do.
So I looked at a wall and I saw some lights coming out of holes. And I said, why have I paid money to see lights coming out of holes? And then it took me about 30 seconds to look in the other direction and see faces on the screen. And I started to shout, Oh, there’s a beautiful, little beautiful. Somebody had to come and silence him and sit him down and watch the movie. You know what? I thought his name was six faces, but he only had one and he was looking in the wrong direction.
But all those beams are like some of the religions of the world, they are beams trying to shine on something and in all these beams come together, in truth, they shine on the face of the person called Jesus Christ the savior of the world. Who is God? Who is God? Listen to Jesus, I want you to listen to Jesus. Is in prayer, John, 17. Three times he addresses God, how does he call him Holy Father?
Holy Father. Holy Father. That’s who got is he’s holy, he’s at a distance, but his father, he comes near as he sends his only begotten son. Do you know what that means? You know what that means. I was in a major city of the world a few months ago and my colleagues and we were speaking to some of the members of parliament and city leaders. And the men sitting two away from me was the chief of police.
And he, with all of his medals and uniform flashing, he leaned over and he said to me, you know, Ravi, what you have spoken about today on the values of culture, he said, let me tell you something. We’re about to celebrate Father’s Day in our country a couple of weeks from now. He said, I have 18000 law enforcement officials working under me, 18000 in this one area I’m talking about.
We have our biggest difficulty. And I’ll tell you why.
Father’s Day is the loneliest day of the year for them, because over 90 percent of that community there in that neighborhood don’t know who their father is.
Ninety percent of people in that community don’t know who their father is.
This is at epidemic level globally where the father comes back home to harvest thrills and frills and whatever, consummates his physical desires and oftentimes is gone and leaves the mother alone to raise the kids. And I wonder, so much of the mothers had not been there what would happen to our world and our society at large in America, at least if in this predicament and this problem, we are raising a whole generation of young men who have become so violent and so indulgent and so irrational because they’ve never had a person in the home with strength and character at the same time.
In Atlanta, I know a family very well, in fact, the my the young man I’m talking to about right now, I first met when he was only 12 years old when he wrote this letter and that his story is amazing. His name is McKitrick Simmons. In 1989, his father, Greg Simmons, very powerful businessman in Atlanta, very well loved, great investments and all of that. He and his wife, Christy, had five have five children.
McKitrick is the oldest four under him in 1989. The youngest was one year old. And Greg Simmons bought a beautiful property in the Highlands, North Carolina.
And Greg, the McKitrick said to him, Dad, can we come and see that vacation home? He said, yes. So he left his wife, Christy, with a one year old baby. He took the other four kids, asked a friend and his son to go with him. And so there there were seven of them got into his van and they drove for some hours to go to his highlands, North Carolina. And while they’re in highlands, looking at this, it’s a beautiful city.
Look at this beautiful home of theirs with a waterfall in their. McKitrick says to his dad, daddy said, can we go up to the waterfall? And the father said, you know, I haven’t gone very close to it. He said he’d love to see a dad. And so they all walk over towards the waterfall. And as he’s about to get closest to the waterfall, he puts his arm out, Greg Simmons does for the children and says, let me check it out first.
You stand back. So it takes two or three steps forward, one step too many. The soil underneath him gives way and he falls down a quarter of a mile to his death. McKitrick and his other brothers and sisters and this friend and young son, fortunately, the adult was also there, shattered by what they saw, shattered by it. And of course, they go through all of the police report and all and get back to Atlanta, to their home, their closest friend with a Wieland’s.
And this 12 year old boy, McKitrick, writes to the Wieland family. Here’s what he said. Gimmies Wieland. You don’t know how much your family has helped produce my father. He admired your husband and you a lot. He would talk about how good your faith was always with God. He tried to be as generous as you all have been to the church and to many other good things since his death. The true friends are now revealed. Your families of the top of our list.
You’re a great source of energy for my mother and I. My father loved you very much and was always trying to be like you. My father was like one of the three men in the Bible who had given the talents. One went out and invested them and multiplied them, but one went out and took some stock that failed and came back with nothing. The last one buried them and did absolutely nothing with them.
All of them returned in a few days and the Lord was pleased with the two who had tried to multiply them. But with the third man who had come back with the same amount, the Lord was disappointed because he didn’t even try. My father multiplied and lost many things, but he was always trying to please the Lord. He got that from your family. You see, my daddy was a risk taker. That’s just how he was. Genesis one one says in the beginning it was God.
And what that is the most that was the most important thing for my father in the beginning of my dad’s life. He was something special. He was so brilliant and successful. No one will ever understand why my daddy fell into the waterfall. Please do yourself a favor and don’t even try to figure it out. My daddy died for his children. He was making sure it was safe for us to come up. You may hear different things, but only six of us saw it and only three of us really understand or understood what happened that day.
I am one of those. My mother has lost her treasure chest, her husband. Most of the others have lost. Greg, you have lost your best friend. My grandparents have lost their son for us. John and Barbara have lost their brother. But Miss Wieland, I think it is different for me, totally different for me. He was my best friend and my idol. But when I got my last glimpse of him falling down the fall, I lost my most prized man on earth.
He was my father, my one and only dad.
I had a dream three nights ago, Miss Wheelin, but it wasn’t a dream. My daddy is all right. He told me that himself. Thank you for being a true friend. I love you a lot.
McKitrick, Simmons, 12 years old. You know, my kids are all grown up and the hardest things of the itinerant life is that you’re gone. So much sarcasm. But I’ll tell you one thing that gives me one of the greatest joys is when my phone rings and I hear, hi, dad, are you doing dad or missing you?
Dad, how the meetings going, Dad? My daughter was here for the conference. She’s on her way and stopped in Italy, two messages within an hour of her landing and landed safely. Dad, I’m in my hotel room, Dad. We need this, they need this, my mother in law is 96 years old and possibly in her last few days, I don’t know, after an accident and her daughters are around her bed and going there and following and watching her closely, no matter how old we get, we always need our parents because they are our biggest fans.
No matter what happens, they will cheer loudest when you succeed and weep for you the most when you’re broken.
And we have a heavenly father who loves us, who cares for us, who is God?
He is your Holy Father. You can come to him in a relationship not connecting with an idea, but connecting with a person. Because as the word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, I find it fascinating when Jesus is dying on the cross, bringing redemption to the whole world.
He looks at a young man and points to his mother and says, Take care of her. Take care of her. This family idea was instituted by God, it was not good for man to be alone, and I’m saying to you today, there is no other world view that will tell you what I am telling you. And that’s why Bilqis Shake, the Pakistani Muslim convert, titles her testimony. I dare to call him father. In Hindi, it’s Usmani up Heavenly Father.
I give to you who God is, he offers a relationship with you and calls you as a child to himself, are you not? Put down the first answer. He is my holy father. Secondly, did you not did you not rescue us a long time before when we faced huge enemies? Did you not rescue us? I’m going to ask you a very difficult question, and I want you to be honest with yourself. Have you experienced him?
Have you sensed his intervention in your life?
Do you know he has met you at some point? So many things happen in life. Not this year. But last year, my son, Nathan, they were celebrating July 4th. Then we were out of town, my wife and I. So the kids came to our home to celebrate July 4th and Nathan was grilling some hamburgers. My son, he has a two year old daughter. And so she was just a little passed over one, but she was standing next to him and he was frying something on the stove.
And all of a sudden as she tried to get to him, he bent down and flipped the handle of the frying pan and the hot oil just splashed all over.
And his daughter’s face was covered with that burning oil. And on the phone, he was just sobbing, he said, Dad, I don’t know how I did this, and this sweet little face is now getting blistered and covered. And of course, they took her to a burn unit. And it’s amazing, from what I gather, they heal and they heal marvelously.
But the doctor said to him, you know what, Nathan, I’m amazed that not one drop of that hot oil went into her eye.
God was there, God was there. There are times where he puts that hand out and says, I’m going to guard you, you’ll be hurt, but I’m going to protect you in that face.
As sweet as it is restored now with all those blisters and all of those marks gone in my summon book, I have a story written in the Reader’s Digest.
It’s a fascinating story. It’s the story of a man called Marcel Steinberger who gets into a train in Brooklyn on the subway.
And it’s a middle of the day. He’d gone to visit a sick friend who was dying and he visits a sick friend and takes the strain that he doesn’t ever take because he doesn’t live there. And it’s the middle of the days normally at work. And he gets into the train and it’s crowded. But as soon as he gets in, one man gets off and there’s one seat. He makes a beeline for it and sits down. But the man next to him is reading a newspaper with his arms outstretched.
So Sternbergh is sort of craning his neck away, but he looks at the newspaper and it’s in Polish and stunned bugger understood Polish. So he’s starting to read it and he notices the man is reading it from the classifieds section. So he looks at the man and he says, Are you looking for a job, sir? He said, no, I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking for my wife. He said, what do you mean, are you looking to find somebody to marry?
No, no, no, no, no, no. I’m from Hungary de Brecken in Hungary. And he said during the war, I was taken away by the Russians to bury the German dead. And by the time I came back, my city had been liberated. But I was not sure whether my wife ended up in a concentration camp in Auschwitz or whether she was liberated.
I’ve had no contact with her, so I’ve come to America looking for my wife to see if she was liberated and brought here. We have no gun, no contact address for each other.
And Marcel Sternbergh asked us to think, you know what? A few days ago I was in a party talking to himself now, and there was a woman from Hungary who said she had been liberated by the allies and brought to the United States and her husband had been taken by the Soviets to bury the German dead.
And he’d written her name down because he said maybe we’ll get together sometime. And he had written her name down. And then he turns to Stone Berger and says to him, What’s your wife’s name?
She said he says, Maria, Maria, Paskin Berger takes that piece of paper and it says Maria Buskin phone number. Then she he says to her, he says to the man, And what’s your name, sir? My name is Bella Baskin. Some is Paskin. Please get off at the next station with me. I want to make a phone call for you. He didn’t tell him anything. So they get off and they go to a telephone booth and he dials and tells them to stay outside.
And after many, many rings, this woman picks it up. He says, Who am I speaking to? And she says, Maria, Paskin, Maria, you remember me? My name is Marcel Steinberger. She says, Yes, I remember. You said, Maria. What was your husband’s name? She said, My husband’s name was Bella Paskin. He said, Maria, you’re about to witness the greatest miracle of your life. Hold on.
And Bella Paskin comes in and he hands the receiver to him and he says hello. And Marcel is standing outside the phone booth and he sees the man slap his forehead and screaming out of control with absolute disbelief, not believing what had really happened so much.
Sternbergh is walking out with tears in his eyes and just thinking of how this all happened. He said, No, I don’t take this train. I don’t live here. How did all this happen?
And he and he gave the man some money to go and meet up with Bella Maria. And he ends the article with the man writing the article says this skeptical persons would no doubt attribute the events of that memorable afternoon to Michon’s. But was it chance that made Sternberg’s suddenly decide to visit a sick friend and take a subway line that he’d never been on before? Was it chance that caused a man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Dornberger came in was a chance that caused Bella Paasschen to be sitting beside Stoneburner reading a Hungarian newspaper?
Was it chance or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon?
Do you think he’ll here by accident, you really think your all your life is just a compilation of accidents?
Do you think God’s brought you here for a purpose this morning?
It may be you really don’t know him, but deep inside you wanting him, wanting him very badly and saying, God, if you’re real, speak to me.
I don’t know what you’re going through. I don’t know what heartache you’re facing. I don’t know what struggles you’re facing.
But the Lord of the Universe in a sovereign grace has brought you here and wants to speak to you and tell you that his love for you is enormous, that he wants to give to you that relationship with your holy father so that you may know the truth and the truth will set you free.
This is the story of the gospel, the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us full of grace and truth.
Again and again, I am reminded that nothing in my life has happened by accident, even the dark moments of bad choices God has used in a marvelous way for His glory.
Are you running from him today in an audience like this?
That has to be those who are running. Remember what Frances Thompson wrote? I’ve let him down the nights and down the days. I’ve let him down the arches of the years. I’ve let him down the labyrinth and weighs on my mind. And in the mist of tears, I hid from him a down titanic blooms of Qasm fears up wasted hopes. I spread from those strong feet that followed that followed after. And then he ends this poem by saying Our poorest, blindest meekest I am he whom thou sickest thou dreifus to love from the that us to me.
Then you drive God away from you driving the love away from you.
Are you not my Holy Father. Did you not speak to me and want to meet me? Did you not intervene in my path? And lastly, I say to you, he says in the prayer, will you not. Are you not. Did you not. Will you not. Will you not deliver us from the vast army? And God says this. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army, for this battle is not yours but gods.
I am 99 percent sure this verse is the middle verse of the Old Testament. The battle is not yours. It’s the Lord’s. I don’t know what you’re battling today, it’s not yours, it’s his, he’s fighting it for you. There are so many battles that come upon. We’ve taken on a big project in our ministry. And I said to my wife last week before we left, I said, boy, I sure hope I’ve not tried to bite off more than I can chew.
I said, this is huge. And she comforted me and said, Rovi, the Lord has brought you this far. He didn’t bring you here by accident. He’s brought you here for a purpose. He’ll provide he’ll take care of what it is we need. And you need this. And so here’s my challenge to you. The only way you can save the battle is not yours, but his is if he has won the battle in your heart.
Mean, if he’s won the battle in your heart, then the battle is completely his from there on because he said, I am with you, I have overcome the world. I will equip you. I will empower you. The battle is his once he has conquered your heart. The peace that he brings from knowing that from you, knowing I can’t win this, I really can’t win this, and you have to be a person who has faced such battles.
I’ve faced them. When you say I can’t cope with this, it’s too much for me. God says the battle is mine, not yours. It’s at the heart of the Hebrew scriptures.
The battle is mine, not yours. And so I say to you today, have you surrendered your heart to him as a Muslim medical doctor, converted to Christ from Pakistan? I sat next to him at a meeting and at the end of it he told me his story. I don’t remember a lot of it. He said I was a total skeptic, a total skeptic. And I went to listen to a preacher one day and I was utterly bored, said I listen to nothing he said.
But I was glad when he said, I just want to close with two statements. So I was happy the end had come. And then he said this. In surrendering, you win. In dying, you live. He said, I sat up in surrendering, you win, in dying, you live. He said, I said, God, I’ve heard nothing of what he said, but those two lines make a lot of sense to me and he surrendered his heart to Jesus Christ and began his new life in God.
There we are seated this morning. What a beautiful crowd. Thank you for coming. Are you willing to surrender yourself to him and die today so that he might live in you? In 1939, King George the Sixth spoke to the world on the brink of a terrible war. And he used to stutter and stammer, but he gave the most powerful speech and he closed in the middle of the speech with these words I said to the man of the gates of the year, give me a light that I may walk safely into the unknown.
And he said to me, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall beat you better than the light and safer than the known. A new year was about to dawn. When he said this. I said to the man of the gates of the year, Give me a light that I may walk safely into the unknown. He said to me, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
It shall be to you better than the light and safer than the. How do you put your hand into the hand of God? With his work. That’s his message to you when you read this word and absorb this word and live by this word, your hand is in his hand. That’s how we put our hand into his hand. But we begin by surrendering our lives to him.
And I’m going to ask you to bow your heads in prayer with me, and I’m going to ask you to do this, not because anybody else is doing it, but because in your heart today, you know, God has spoken to you and you wish to surrender your life to him, receive him as your savior and die to yourself so that he might live within you. I would love to pray for you in closing and ask God to just garrison your heart and pour his love into your soul.
But if you’re willing today to be totally surrendered, maybe you’ve never done it before. But today you say, I’m ready to commit my life to Jesus Christ and put my hand into his hand while you’re wandering far off. Whatever that need, you know, you need to turn to him in total surrender. Will you stand? If that is your prayer, don’t stand because somebody else is standing, but stand because God has spoken to you and you wish to receive him into your life.
Yes. Standing here on the ground floor, please do so. Don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid. This is your moment between you and God. Just rise to your feet. And as you stand to your feet, you’re saying, Ravi, please pray for me. I have that need for my savior. I have that need to be surrendered upstairs. Looking across the balcony is just rise to your feet out there. If that is your prayer and that is your desire, God bless you. I see some of you rising up and the end of the upper tier right up there.
I’m going to wait just one minute more. Maybe you’re really struggling and you’re saying I really don’t want to do this. But, you know, deep in your heart, you need to do it. Will you do it when that battle for God today. So I’m waiting about 45 seconds. Just raised your feet and say, yes, I want to be one of these. Pray for me all across the auditorium. Father, I thank you for these men and women, these young people who are at their feet, you can hear the cry of their heart, Holy Father, you know why they are standing.
And that’s all that really matters. But before they leave here, Father, I pray they will talk to somebody. And let that person know what has happened in their heart today. They will talk to somebody from this congregation so that they can be prayed for and begin a new lock step march with you. Thank you for this morning. Thank you for the music. Thank you for this church and for giving me the privilege of bringing them to you.
Are you not. Did you not? Will you not as your head’s about. Let me answer the question. Who is God? Who is he? Is our Holy Father. Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. And our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. He’s the God of the past, the God of the present present and the God of the future is the Holy Father who sent his son to draw you into his own bosom.
That’s who God is. May you know him, love him and follow him. Father, in your sacred name. I commend them to you. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you.