Pastor Harold: A number of years ago, I stood in the Arizona desert, then looked up at the skies. It was fabulous. The sky itself looked like, this was at night. It looked like black velvet. There are no cities around, no lights to disturb things and the stars, it was a moonless night. The stars just shown like diamonds against the velvet. It was an amazing sight. Beautiful. It was awesome. I mean there's just a sense of awe.
Sometime later I went through the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Illinois. I was there speaking and I had a few extra hours. And so I went with some friends to the tomb and walked through it. You walked down some steps. It was mostly in the ground and there was a large thing, this casket was buried in the wall. And as you walked through, it was white marble and had a few small metal statues, but some mementos from his life, but not a whole lot. But as I came out, I had this sense of, almost a religious experience, kind of a sense of awe. That was curious to me because it had just been a guy's tomb, but had been set up to stir that sense within me. This sense of awe.
You and I really have been made to worship God. And even if we are not walking with God, that sense is still there within us. He's put some things in us. One of them is that sense of awe. And whenever you look at the beauty of the night skies or maybe you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon at a point where you can really see some of the sweep of that thing. Or sometimes in the mountains you get a view of just the tremendous complexity of the mountain systems and how large it is. This thing, this is just magnificent and overwhelming. It calls up something in you and you don't necessarily worship it, but there's just something there that's just, it's more than going to Sam's Club or Costco. God put that within us. See, we were made to walk with him, to interact with him, actually to worship him.
Now something else. You sort of get this too occasionally. Sometimes in the movies, you see that moment when the forces of evil are lined up against the forces of good and the good charges the evil. And there's something in your heart that just rises to that. God has made us in a lot of ways like himself and there's within a still the echoes of that wanting to be a part of something great and good that's moving against what is wrong. We have that within us. Guys particularly have that and little boys when they're five, six years old, their big desire is to be a good guy against evil. It's just part of us. But ladies have it too. You see it in The Lord of the Rings, the charges that occur there. And one of them, a woman, gets into the battle anyway. And when the character mocks her and say no man can kill me, she says I'm not a man. And does he bend?
These things call to something very deep within us. It's part of being a human being but it's part of being made in God's image. It's a part of being made for him.
Another thing that's from God is our conscience. Our conscience is that thing that nags at us. Sometimes it says, nope. Other times it says you shouldn't have. And other times it calls us, choose this way. It's sort of like a sensor. It's a moral sensor that God gave us. It's not infallible because we can mess with it. But it's still there. Sometimes people say, let your conscience be your guide. That's actually not a good idea. So it's sort of like a smoke detector, it alerts you if there's something about to happen, but you don't want your smoke detector to be your guide. No. It can help you. If it's a moment of moral choice your conscious can help you but it will not help you set direction in life.
So anyway, these things come from God and they're there because he made and he made us for himself. And everyone has these. People are of all kinds. We have all kinds of backgrounds, we have lots of different life experiences. But we all have these things. They're echoes of the fact God made us for him, for a relationship with him.
We've been separated from God by our rebellion, and in order to be connected with Christ again, with God through Christ, we need some things. We need adequate information. There's stuff you just need to know and you can sense God tugging at your heart, but there's stuff you need to know. Romans 14 says how can they believe in him, whom they've not heard? I've not heard about him. And how can they hear without someone to tell them? You need information.
If you're here this morning and you're trying to figure out this thing with God, get some information, we have New Hope Pavilion right outside the doors here. Just turn to the left. And there's material there that would help you out. Brief things but helpful. You need some information, but you also need openness. If you need information, but you're very closed, you don't find the Lord yet. You need openness.
In Acts 17, the book of Acts in the new testament, it's the history of the early church, a team had gone, a team of believers had gone from Antioch in the eastern end of the Mediterranean and started a church in a town called Thessalonica in Greece. And the church got going and then there was an uprising on the part of the citizenry and they left and went to another town called Berea. The statement that is now the Bereans were of a more noble character than the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Now they were really open. There weren't gullible. They want to make sure this is what, this was from God, but their hearts were really open.
You have to have openness. And people, some people are open. Others are more reluctant. And they're reluctant to move toward God or Christ. And they have different reasons. Sometimes the reasons are pretty foolish. I know of one situation where a fellow finally said that had done a lot of discussion about problems and coming to God, but whenever it all was said and done he said no, he wouldn't become a Christian because he'd have to give up his relationship with his girlfriend.
Now, I understand that emotionally but God is involved, that's sort of foolish. Guess who's going to last longer, his girlfriend or God? God. Sometimes we have foolish reasons, but a lot of times we actually have good reasons. We've had some experiences, questions have been raised or things don't make sense to us and some people have good reasons, but they're just not ready to move yet. We're going to talk about some of those reasons next week. We're going to take a look at them and hopefully give you some help with them. If people don't want to find God, they won't. It's just not gonna happen.
I read your quote a couple of weeks ago about from Aldous Huxley, the philosopher. And he talked about when he was young man and he wanted power and he wanted sexual liberation. So as a philosopher, he assumed there was no God and found plenty of reasons to back his assumption. But the issue is not the existence of God. The issue was the freedom he wanted and the power. If you don't want to find God, you won't. But if you do want to find him, there's a possibility you can find them. You have to want the truth. If you want it, you're going to discover there's actually a great deal of evidence for the reality of God. That is not the kind of stuff that will drive you to the wall, but it's plenty for you to say yep, that's the way it looks. And then I'm going to have to trust him and I take this step and I began a relationship with him. But if you don't want to find them, you won't. If you want to, he'll actually help you, help you move forward.
At this given moment, all kinds of people are open to move toward God. You see this in church history. If you look again that book about the early church in the book of Acts, a team went to another city. A team of guys to start a church. On the sabbath we went outside the city gate to find a river where we expected to find the place of prayer. They'd heard that people would gather out there and prayed to God. We began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia. She was a businesswoman, had done quite well, and she was a worshiper of God. She was already moving toward God, trying to do what she knew.
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. She and the members of our household were baptized. She's looking for God. She's open and she finds him. People in this area, and there are a lot of people very open to God. There are two million people in Tarrant County. Tow years ago there were a little bit less than two million. Now there are over tow million. If 1% of those people were open, that will be a lot of people. 20,000? Wow. 20,000, at this moment, would be open.
I'd like you to listen to Amy Watson. Amy is a part of the congregation, has been for a number of years. And she's going to just talk about how God dealt with her life as she moved toward him and she became a follower of Christ. And then a number of years later married one of the members of our congregation, Phillip Watson, and they're still part of the congregation. So listen to Amy's story. She was open.
Amy Watson: I had moved to Fort Worth in 1998. I had moved with a guy and we were in a relationship and we had a house together and we had a child out of wedlock. Something inside me changed when I was pregnant and I felt a tugging and a prompting of God was speaking to me and I didn't know how to respond. I had received a flyer from Hope Church inviting me to come spend an Easter Sunday at Hope Church.
And I knew, I just knew, I had this flyer in my hand and I said God, if you want me to go lord, you send me. And that Sunday I got dressed. I had my flyer in my hand. I drove to Hope Church with tears in my eyes, an emotional response to what God was trying to do in my life. I pulled into the parking lot of Hope Church and got out of my car, still gripping this pamphlet. I looked at the doors and I was terrified of even coming into the doors of the church.
And a young lady named Karine Moe met me. And she ministered to me and she prayed with me outside. We were outside. She prayed with me, she helped me to get inside and she sat with me and loved me and cared for me and it changed my life. God was speaking to me and he wanted me. He was calling me. You were mine. I saw love for the first time through people and through others. And I was just like, this is where I want to be. I want to be here every day of my life. And so I was so, I knew this is where God wanted me and I was so excited.
Shortly it had been about a couple of months and I was really growing in my faith and I was so excited and so passionate. Pastor Harold was teaching a sermon on how to discipline your kids and I was blown away. I was like wow, this is the greatest thing I've ever heard. And because the guy that I was living with, he didn't believe in that. He didn't believe in discipline. I was like man, I need to learn this. This is something that I need and this will be good for my child.
And so I had a situation at home where my son and I, we were just sitting, we would play with our toys and he would take his toy and he would just pick it up and bop his mama on the head. Just normal kid. And I just, something, this isn't right though. Something isn't right. So I didn't know how to properly discipline him. He was just a little, he was 16, 18 months old. And so asked Pastor Harold, I said so I have this situation he keeps bopping me on the head with his toys and I just don't know. I don't know how to get him to stop.
So Pastor Harold instructed me, he said get a spoon, put it by the side and when he bops you on the head, you bop him on the leg. I was like okay, cool. I can do that. I got it, I'm going to do it. So we went to the play area. I started playing with them and first thing he did, he reached down and he picked up that ball and he bopped his mama on the head. I was prepared, had this spoon in my hand and I just bopped him on the leg. When I did that, my child roared, he cried. He had never been disciplined, but it was a real intense cry.
And then his father roared up the stairs like a lion. And he picked up my chair and he picked up the Ottoman that we had and threw it across the room. He picked up my son's toys and he threw them and broke them. And then I had my bible and I was quoting God's word and I was telling him about what God's word said about discipline. And I had the Bible open. And he yanked it out of my hands and he ripped the Bible up into pieces in front of me and my child. And after that he picked me and he threw me in the closet. I prayed, God, please give me strength. And I stayed there. I stayed there for at least an hour. And I kept praying.
That next morning, the next morning God gave me courage. He provided a way out that was safe for me and a good transition and I can never be more thankful my whole entire life. I picked up the phone and I called my dad. I said dad, come and get me. And I fled to the women's shelter. And I stayed there for two weeks. But although it was just two weeks, it was enough for me to be safe and God protected me.
But during that time, I had friends from Hope Church that ministered to me, they helped me, they prayed with me, they encouraged me, they lifted me up. It was everything that friends do for one another. They build each other up and they help them through their darkness. Meals, prayer, reading, scripture together. That's what a body and a community of believers is about. That's what Hope Church has meant to me, is this community of believers and how people help each other and how people really love each other.
Pastor Harold: God was at work, before Amy came here. She had hit a point in life where she was really open. She mentioned discipline of the child. In our day, disciplining a child is a real questionable activity. You never abuse a child. But God's word talks about this. Actually God has a different way to do marriage, different way to do parenting, actually a different way to do a job. And it always turns out better his way. So she was not abusing her child. But God was at work in the middle of all this and she actually found Christ through his people.
There's another situation and the book of Acts that's really interesting. This is, an angel of the Lord said to Phillip, Phillip's a guy who really had a lot of ability. God was using him to bring people to Christ. And one day an angel such speaks to him, says to go south on the road. I had never had an angel speak to me. If I have one appear and start to speak, I want to check his credentials, make sure he's right group. And then I'm going to do what he says if he is. Says to Phillip, go south to the road, the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.
So he started up and on the way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, he's from the nation of Ethiopia, the people. He's an important official in charge of all the treasury of Kandaki, a queen of the Ethiopians. This a very powerful lady and he's the national treasure. He's riding in the chariot. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship. He also was looking for God. And on his way home he was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah, the Prophet. He had somebody else to drive and he's reading Isaiah, the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. And actually that's passage where he's reading is the one that talks about the sacrifice, the one who would come from God and how he would be punished for our sins.
He's reading this and the spirits said Phillip, go to that chariot and stay near it. Then Phillip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. Do you understand what you're reading, Phillip asked. And he basically says how can I? I don't know what he's talking about. So Phillip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. So you do need the information. They came to some water and the eunuch said look, here's water. Why should that be baptized? I'm following Christ now. And he gave orders to stop the chariot. And both Phillip and the eunuch went down into the water and Phillip baptized him.
This guy, he's on a desert road and the Lord Directs Philip to him and he just happens to be at the very point in Isiah where the sacrifice of Christ is talked about. This is God's doing. Phillip arrived just in time. The arrived in Philippi at the lady's prayer meeting just in time. God has people ready. Not only the ladies, he has men ready. And at the right time we can intersect with their lives.
I'd like you to listen to Stephen Judd. Steven's a part of our congregation. And he tells a story about his own life and how he came to Christ. You see, you and I, you and are like that little video at the beginning. You and I are like threads in a tapestry that God is weaving. Our lives can intersect with other people and make tremendous difference. Listen to Steven, part of our congregation now.
Steven Judd: As a young man, I was born and raised Jewish and was a fateful practitioner for many years of my life. As I got older into my late 30s and early 40s, I became a little disillusioned with the Jewish faith because of the little bit of this is what we say and what we teach, but not so much in practice was being put. I married a young lady that was only a year younger than I was and seemed to have the same sort of background, growing up a lower financial scale for a lot of folks. And we dated for six and a half years and then decided to get married.
The long and short of it, the marriage didn't really work out and we wound up having to separate. And I was going through a really rough time from the people in my temple coming down and saying I married by lead outside of my faith and I should have expected this sort of thing.
Now during this period of time, I was driving nearby Hope Church one day and stopped at a stoplight up at the 30 and Beach. There was a few cars ahead of me at the and I noticed all these people at the intersection and they were walking amongst the cars. I thought, oh, is it people looking for donation for one thing or another. And basically what it was, people were passing out bottles of water and inviting people to Hope Church. This young man was coming in between the cars from the intersection with this water bottle in his hand. And I just kind of looked and him and put my finger up. Give me just a minute and I'll turn in the parking lot to this bank to go use the ATM.
Now, by the time I pulled it into the bank, got out of my car and turned to look back over my shoulder to see how far away that the people were at the intersection, this young man was walking across the parking lot towards me. And he comes up to me and introduced himself, his name was Jeff Gillooly. Very nice young guy. And he wanted to offer me a water bottle of water and invite me to Hope Church and asked me to come visit sometime. I explained that I appreciated the offer and everything, but I wasn't particularly Christian at the time. I was a Jew that hadn't been practicing for awhile because of personal difficulties with my marriage.
And I was kind of adrift and not sure what was going to happen next in my life. Kind of lost a little bit. We talked for a few minutes and he said well, I appreciate that you're Jewish and all but I'd like to invite you just to come visit, have a look around. Attend a service and see what you think.
Anyway, I left, went home that night. I kept thinking about this young man, just kept coming back to my thoughts. And I kept thinking somebody's trying to tell me something. And then I realized what was going on was that God was trying to get my attention. And I've been fortunate over the years, a couple of times in my life when things got a little confusing or I wasn't quite sure, God would, what I would say May fourth, he'd give me a little tap on the shoulder and say pay attention. Something important is about to happen. And that hadn't happened in many years, but it seemed to have happened. And right when I was going through a very rough part of my life because I had a divorce that was pending. My life was in upheaval as far as personal and everything else, business, work and everything was suffering because I was preoccupied with this situation.
And when I was thinking about this young guy and I kept thinking there's something there. The weekend I decided to go, which was two weeks later was Easter, and Jeff met me at the door. Out of nowhere Jeff appears. Introduced himself again, said he's glad to see me and I'm looking around, trying to take all this in. And all these people are smiling and just standing around talking and just intermingling. It looked like a big social event. It didn't look like a church. It didn't have that feel.
So Jeff brings me in and we talk for a little while and service is going to start in about 20 or minutes or so. And he takes me around and introduces me to a few people. From one person to the next, male and female, they were just as friendly as this young man Jeff. Now I could not tell you exactly what the first sermon was that I heard, but I remembered him making two points in the sermon. The first was is that he was here to give me all the help that I wanted and that I was ready for just to help you get to know Jesus and God better.
And that the second point was is that everyone in the room was on a journey with their faith toward a greater enlightenment and a closeness with God and his plan for us. But that all of us were on a little bit different part of the path, weren't all in the same place and marching all in unison. And that was okay. And for a fellow who grew up Jewish, very strict, very regimented, this openness was a little amazing.
I left and went home and spent the rest of the afternoon and the day thinking about how different churches were from what I remember. And I was astonished by how open and friendly and welcoming everybody seemed be to a total stranger. I thought about that all week. And then the next week I thought, yeah, I want to go back one more time. I'm want to see if that was a fluke. And I went back and it was the same again, warm, inviting people who were really happy that I just showed up.
And I've felt that was such a inviting atmosphere that I started doing what I did as a young boy. I started opening up my ears and just really just listening to the messages that were being given and sharing with other people their faith and how they came to Christ. And everybody knew that they were a little bit shorter than what they could be, but they were working to get to where they should be. And the biggest part of that was the interaction with other people and the relationships.
After a while, I became firmly convinced that somehow, some way Pastor Harold knew what I needed to hear it on any particular Sunday, and it finally dawned on me. It was God using Pastor Harold to get my attention. I have this here for you. It's a gift. Take it. And the Bible was different. I'd read it probably at that time six or seven times over my lifetime, I was very young. But all of a sudden a lot of the passages just made things open up. Started seeing things a little brighter, a little clearer. And that even though being a flawed human being, a sinner, that there was a way and a path for me to come back to what God wanted for me.
And when I started understanding what Christ had done as far as giving up of his own life for my sins so that I could have a path to God, I realized then that all I had to do was open my arms and say yes. And as soon as I did that, as I've said many times before, life changed.
Pastor Harold: You know, Steven's a good size fellow. He could be intimidating. He's not, but if he were concerned about his life situation he might look intimidating just with the perplexity on his face. Yet that man is very open to God. We tend to walk around and look at people like the news media, the stuff we see in the news media or maybe movies we've seen. People are not interested in God. But people are. People have the echos in them of the creation, the need to worship something. To be in awe, the desire to be apart of what really counts. And then that conscious. Everyone has these.
You can work for years to resist them and not want to find God but most people have a sense and a lot of people are open right now. Out of the two million, if just 1% were open, that would be 20,000 people. Right now. And they are open. We can pray that our lives intersect them. And both Steven and Amy mentioned going through difficulty. It's very often in the middle of difficulty that God tugs on the things within us. He tugs on that worship sense. He tugs on the desire for the greater thing, to be a part of the greater. He tugs on being our conscience.
And we have a sense. CS Lewis said it this way. CS Lewis was a brilliant guy, became a Christian at 30 years, already a professor. Taught at Cambridge and then at Oxford. Wrote a lot of Christian books. Brilliant guy. This is what he says. Talks about pain. He wrote a book on pain. It's a brilliant book about the role of pain in the world. Pain insists on being attended to. What he means is if you're feeling happy, you don't feel like you have to do something. If you're feeling okay, you don't feel like you have to do something. If it ain't broke don't fix it, we say.
But if you're hurting, you got to do something. Pain has to be attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures. God wants you to understand he is for you. He speaks in our consciences, that's a whole lot clearer. But he shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. If you're going through difficulty this morning, I don't know all the reasons, I don't know all that it is, but I know this much. God wants to get your attention in the middle of this. He wants you to move toward him and if you will, he will meet you. I've experienced this myself many times. He shops in our pains.
Many people right now are reluctant to move toward God and a lot of them actually have good reasons. We'll talk about that next week and hopefully you'll get some insight into it. But there in a lot of people are ready now to move his direction. We need to pray that God will open our eyes to see them, make our lives intersect with them. And in the middle of their difficulty, God himself is knocking. Like Amy said, he said to her you're mine. Steven had the sense of God tapping him on the shoulder. Let's ask God to use us to help people who are already open. We'll talk about more next week.
Would you join me in prayer? And again, if you're here this morning and you have to yield your life to Christ, get the information or you might drop by the table. Our people will be glad to talk to you. And then ask God to open your own heart.
Father, thank you for loving us enough that Jesus Christ himself died for us to pay the price for our rebellion and to open a way for us to you. We delight to know you father and our heart's desire is that men and women in this county would come to know just the sheer liberation of Christ Jesus. Now, we understand Lord that it's not the perfect life and we live happy ever after. But we do live meaningful ever after and there are good things that flow from you. Thank you so much that in the middle of a broken world do you have spoken to us and called us to yourself. Thank you for the echoes and thank you for drawing us. We pray for our friends that they would find you in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.