Craig Groeschel - The Power of a Memory
Well, I am guessing that most of you have been pretty busy. So, what I wanna do is I wanna take a moment to slow things down and give you a chance, maybe even just to take a deep breath. You wanna do that at all of our churches? Maybe just take a deep breath in and breathe out. And as you do so, I just wanna say to you, from my family to every single one of you, Merry Christmas to all of you. We pray that you're incredibly blessed in every single way. From our family to all of you, we pray that you experience the joy of Jesus this Christmas in a way that you never ever have before.
And what I wanna do is I wanna try to give you a little bit of a gift for the next half hour or so, and just invite you to slow down and enjoy the presence of God and the power of His Word. And I'll start today, with a quote from the famous theologian, Dr. Seuss, who said, "Sometimes you don't know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Sometimes you don't know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory".
This week we're concluding our message series called Holy Moments, and I want to start today in Luke's gospel, Luke 2. Wherever you are today, if you're able, would you mind just standing together in the honor of the reading of God's Word? Luke 2, the angel declared to the shepherds and said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger".
Now, if you were here with us last week, we looked at the shepherds who without any hesitation rushed to see the baby, and told everyone with all of the passion they had, "The Savior's been born, the Savior's been born," and everyone was amazed. And yet, there's this little verse in Luke's gospel that is so easy to miss. While everyone else was amazed, Scripture says this. "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart". Sometimes you don't know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. The title of today's message is The Power of a Memory.
And Father, we ask that as we look back, You would reveal Yourself and the true power of the gospel and Your love. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray. And everybody said. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Hey, how about you High five somebody next to you and say, "Get ready for the power". Get ready for the power, the power of a memory. Get ready for the power. Those of you online, you can type it in the chat. I'm ready for the power. I'm ready for the power. Scripture says this, that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart". That raises the question, what do you think Mary thought about? If everybody else was excited and she slowed things down for a moment and pondered and thought and treasured, what did she ponder? What did she think? And what did she treasure?
I'm gonna tell you what I think she thought. And this isn't just an accidental guess, believe me, I went to four years of cemetery. Excuse me. I went to four years of seminary in order to give you a very biblical opinion of what I think that she thought. And I can almost guarantee you that Mary thought some version of these three different things as she reflected and pondered. I can almost promise you that she thought about God's promises from the past. She thought about God's peace in the present. And she likely thought about God's power in the future. Let's unpack these as Mary pondered and treasured in her heart. I am almost certain that at some point and in some way, that she would've thought about God's promises from the past because she had just given birth to a baby in a barn next to farm animals with no anesthesia.
Now, there are few things more memorable than giving birth, which admittedly is risky for me to say, since I've never given birth. But I was there assisting six different times, which means I was in the room trying not to say anything that I would regret and praying for help the whole time. But if you could imagine the chaos of giving birth in a barn. And finally things slowed down enough for Mary to catch her breath. And I'm guessing she probably thought to herself, "I'm glad those shepherds finally left". And she took a moment like I want to give you today just to ponder.
And I'm guessing at some point, holding her little baby, she probably thought, "Wait a minute, where are we right now? We're in Bethlehem for that stupid census". And then she probably remembered, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. There's that prophecy, that 700 year old prophecy in the book of Micah that said, 'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, through you, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.'" It probably dawned on her, "We're in Bethlehem, and it was prophesied 700 years ago, the Savior, the ruler would be born in Bethlehem". And she might have remembered how frustrated she was when Joseph came home late from work and said, "Caesar said, we all have to go to Bethlehem for this census". And Mary said, "To heck we are".
And I know she said, "To heck we are," because she wouldn't have said to hell we're not, because she was the virgin Mary. And she said, "We're not doing that". And I can only imagine perhaps, that she thought, "This isn't fair. There's no way, being nine months pregnant that I can go all the way on this journey. God, You can't be asking me to do this now". And I can promise you she thought some version of that. Because if you knew how intense the journey was, you would think the exact same thing. I promise you. The journey, I'll show you, was about 100 miles long from Nazareth, around the mountains, all the way down the valley, 100 miles, while nine months pregnant. A 10 day, 10 night journey on unpaved roads with no Cracker Barrel, no Chick-fil-A, not even a Waffle House, on incredibly dangerous roads. I mean, we're talking, imagine sleeping outside tonight.
That's what it would've been like, because it was winter and they would've been in snow much of the times and they didn't have any hotel. They would've had to make like, temporary sheds in the side of a mountain, bundle up, night after night, after night, after night, the whole time exposed to organized criminals that would attack and bandits and thieves and vulnerable to wild animals like lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Not really tigers, but yes lions and yes bears and also wild boars, which are no joke.
If you've never seen a wild boar, they'll mess with you. I saw one chase my daughter on a four-wheeler and I climbed up a tree. That's how scary they are. And so, you can almost imagine her sitting there saying, "Bethlehem, God took us to Bethlehem. He did this to fulfill His promise". And then maybe she thought again, "Wait, wait, wait. There, there, there's more". There's Isaiah, also seven centuries prior to that moment who prophesied, "The Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive a child! She'll give birth to a Son and call Him," what? "Call Him Emmanuel, which means God with us". And she's holding Emmanuel, looking down and probably thinking, "God is with me now, and God has been with us every moment and every step of the way".
She stopped and she pondered. And I wanna give you the chance to do that as well, just to take a moment and to reflect, and to see if you can't see all the different ways that God has been faithful to you, fulfilling His promises, even in ways you didn't understand and in things you didn't even like. And she probably thought, "He's always been with us". So she pondered, and I'm guessing, I'm almost certain, in some form or fashion, she pondered God's promises from the past. And I'm guessing in some form or fashion, she pondered God's peace in the present. She treasured up these things. I'm guessing she might have looked over at Joseph, and maybe seen him in a different light and thought to herself, "My goodness, this man stood by me, when he could have so easily not believed the story that this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit".
And maybe she looked at him in a different light and had a peace. Or maybe she'd been worried about money, because he was a carpenter and they didn't make a whole lot of money. And then it dawned on her when she looked down, "Wait a minute, the wisemen were here". And what'd they bring? They brought Frankincense and Myrrh, and what else? And gold. Gold, meaning God was miraculously providing for them, even when they didn't ask for God to provide. And I'm thinking in that moment, she just looks down and in the middle of all the chaos, all the questions, all the turmoil, she experiences this supernatural peace that goes beyond her ability to even understand. And she probably thought some version of this, like, "I never would've chosen this and it's not what I wanted, but God has always been faithful and I could experience His peace right now".
So I was pondering and thinking through some events in my life and I'll tell you a few of them, so that maybe you can see God's work in your own life. Give you an example. My dad who is in extra innings, just found out today he does not have lung cancer. He thought he did. And so, as he would say, he's in extra innings. And the reason he would say he's in extra innings, is because he was a minor league pro baseball player and everything is baseball talk. In other words, if I do good today, this one will be a fastball down the middle or it'll be a grand slam out of the park. That'll be how he would rate my talk. Everything's baseball talk.
And so, he was almost a big leagues pro baseball player, so I was raised with the hopes of playing pro baseball. I did make the All-Star team. I'll show you the picture of this. And I wore that hat everywhere. I would still wear that hat today if I knew where it was. And I was gonna pitch in the All-Star game. And the night before I went to pitch, we went to a batting cage and I got in the big league batting cage, but I should have been in the little league batting cage. First pitch I took inside and it crushed my pitching hand and crushed my dreams. And even though I wouldn't say that I was a follower of Jesus, I believed in God. I was mad at God, hurt by God, disappointed by God, and thought that God let me down. In my little mind, my world was coming to an end and I couldn't pitch the next day.
Well, lo and behold, it was worse than that, because I actually got afraid to get back in the box and I would always hesitate. I would step out and I was afraid. So, out of fear, during the off semester, I saw a cute girl who played tennis, so I thought, I'll give tennis a try. Oddly enough, I had made the team as the last player on the team. And the next year a bunch of people graduated, and somehow I ended up playing number one on a state championship team my second year to play, and ended up being good enough at it to get a scholarship to go and play for a college I would've never ever gone to otherwise. And at that college, I did what most college students did. I got wild and had fun sinning for a while, until my sin caught up with me.
And a gentleman that I met one time and again years later by the name of Mike, gave me a little free green Bible. And I started reading in Scripture about the grace of Jesus. And the truth of God's love completely transformed my life. The old sinfulness was gone. And I'm telling you, I became new and completely different. Everybody made fun of me. Groeschel's overboard for God. They called me Oral Roberts on the team. You're the Oral Roberts, what they called me on the tennis team. I was so overboard for God. And there's this girl making fun of me who said, "You're the overboard for God. There's this girl you ought to meet, she's just like you. She's overboard for God. Her name is Amy".
And so, I met Amy and someone invited us to go to First United Methodist Church where we went together and we fell in love with Jesus and fell in love with each other. And then I proposed to her at First United Methodist Church when I was on staff and our lives were completely changed serving under my hero who's now with the Lord, Nick Harris. Five years later we felt stirred to start a different kind of church. And 27 years ago we started Life.Church in a little two car garage. The beginning of something that became incredibly special. And then, oddly enough, every time I looked at Amy she got pregnant. I'd look at her, she'd get pregnant I'd look at her, she'd get pregnant. And after we had our fourth child, Sam, he was born between Saturday night and Sunday morning and I was unable to be there to teach on Sunday morning, and we didn't have a bench of team teachers yet, I was devastated. God, why'd you let it happen then?
And so we ran video from the night before. We ran the Saturday service Sunday morning, something that we had never done, and to our knowledge hadn't been done before. And lo and behold, people didn't even seem to notice. And that led us to the idea to pioneer video teaching, which led us to the idea to go multi-site. Along that time, pastor Bobby came to me and he said, "Hey, you remember how you got that free green Bible? Well, Apple's coming out with something called an app". I said, "What's an app"? He said, "I don't know, but it sounds pretty cool". He said, "What if we created an app and gave the Bible away just like they gave it to you"?
And here we are years later, at this very moment broadcasting to 45 Life.Church locations, to hundreds of thousands of people around the world with the biggest Bible engagement tool in the history of the world. And none of this would've happened if I didn't break my hand. None of this would've happened. And as I pondered on it, I thought about all the ways that God has always been with us, even in the things that I didn't understand and even in the things that I didn't want. Maybe if you take some time, a moment, slow down and ponder and look back or even look now with different eyes, I'm praying you might just see the presence of God in a way that you didn't notice before.
Now, I wish I could end the message here. Some of you do too, but I can't, because I think she continued to reflect. I think she probably thought about God's promises from the past and His peace in the present. And I'm thinking in some ways, knowing that she had the Son of God in her arms, she had to be thinking about God's power in the future. Because if you don't know what happened, she and Joseph actually took the baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated, and they met a prophet named Simeon. And this prophet took Jesus and lifted Him up, and with his arms raised, praised God. And this is what the prophet said. The prophet said, "This child, Jesus, has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him".
And we see that all throughout the gospels. And then the prophet looked at Mary and said this, something that you would never want to hear. He looked at this mother who gave of herself and said yes to God and said to her, "And a sword will pierce your very soul. And a sword will pierce your very soul". And there is no way that Mary could have ever known in that moment that the world's greatest blessing, would be her greatest breaking. Because one day she would stand by the cross and look on as her innocent, sinless Son suffered and died on a cross. And even in the middle of her pain.
When you've walked with God like Mary did and when you know God like Mary did, when you've seen His faithfulness in the past and you've known His peace in the present, you say, "I can trust Him with the future. He's always been faithful in my life. And because He's always been faithful, and because His promises are always true, I can trust Him no matter what". And sure enough, she could trust Him, because three days after she watched Him die, her heavenly Father, our heavenly Father, raised Jesus from the dead. The tomb could not hold Him. When the stone was rolled away, the Lamb of God who was slain for the forgiveness of our sins. He was not there, defeating death, hell, and the power of the grave, so that anyone at any moment. So that anyone, no matter what you've done, at any moment when you call on the name of the Lord, your sins would be forgiven. You would be made completely brand new. Not because of your good works, but because of the love of our Father, and the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God.
So I can almost promise you, she sat there reflecting, thinking about the goodness of God. And I want to give you a moment to do that as well. He's with you. I mean, He's here now. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Who is He? Well, if you're hurting and I know many of you are, He is your comforter. If you're afraid right now, and I know some of you are, He is your help in a time of trouble. If you feel weak right now, there's just too much. You're overwhelmed. He's your perfect strength. In your weakness, His strength is made perfect. If you're hurting right now, because you've lost a relationship, you feel rejected, He is the friend that will never ever leave you. He'll never ever leave you. If you feel financially strapped, He's your provider. He always comes through. If you're sick, we believe that by the stripes of Jesus, you can be healed.
And no matter where you are, no matter what you've done, He's your heavenly Father who loves you perfectly, in every way. There's nothing you can do to make Him love you any more, and there's nothing you can do to cause Him to love you any less. And what I want you to know right now, Emmanuel, He is with you now, ponder it, embrace it, savor it in this moment. Emmanuel, God with us. Because sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
So Father, right now, I ask that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, You would do what only You can do.
Wherever you're praying from today, those of you online or at a one of our Life.Church locations, I wanna just give you a moment and ask. I wonder how many of you would like to be even more aware of the presence and the goodness of God in this moment? Would you lift up your hands right now? Just wherever you are, lift up your hands. Just say, "Yes". I hope that's all of you online. You can type in the chat, help me know Him even better. Help me know Him even better.
Father, I pray right now that according to Your promises, that wherever two or three are gathered together in your name, that we'd be aware that You're with us. And God, in the busyness of the days to come, would You just give us the courage to take a few moments, open up Your Word, open up our hearts to see Your goodness, to see Your presence. God, for those that are hurting right now, would You just open up heaven and give us a peace? Give them a peace God that goes beyond their human ability to understand. God, help us to know Your goodness, that You're always with us. Reveal Yourself in this moment.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches there, there may be some of you that would say, "I'm not really sure where I stand with God. I don't even, I don't, I don't know if He's with me". I wanna help you understand, that this could be one of the most important moments of your life. People say that Jesus is the reason for the season and in so many ways, He is. He is the reason. But I also want you to understand that you're the reason for the season too. Meaning like, God loved you so much, like, you were on His mind. He loved you so much that He sent His Son Jesus, who was born of a virgin.
Why does this matter? Jesus didn't inherit the sin nature of an earthly father, but the spiritual nature from a heavenly Father. He was God in the flesh. And that's why He could live without sin. And that's why He could be the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. And maybe that's why you're here today. It's not an accident. It's not a coincidence, that life has been pointing toward this moment for you to recognize that God loves you, He cares about you, and He's reaching out to you. And so, what do you do? Kind of like Mary, you just stop and you ponder, what's life like without Him? Full of sin and brokenness. But when you want to invite Him in, you just step away from that old life, and you just say yes to Jesus, yes to Jesus. Yes to His love. And "When you call out on Him," as Scripture says, "He will forgive every sin". You'll become brand new. The old is gone and He transforms you.
Wherever you're watching from today, there are those of you, you recognize, you need His love. What are we gonna do? We're gonna step away from the old life. We're gonna say yes to the grace of Jesus and we're gonna become followers of Jesus. We're His disciples. We're not joining a church or joining a religion or trying to do good work. We're just gonna join the journey of following Jesus. Who needs Him? Who's ready to be changed? Who's hurting and needs His healing? Who's broken and needs His wholeness? What I'm gonna do, I'm gonna count to three. And if you wanna say yes to Him, if you wanna step away from your old life and say yes, or maybe you wanna rededicate your life and come back to Him again. At the count of three, I want you to raise your hands. One, God loves you. Two, your sins will be forgiven. Three, you will be brand new.
Raise your hands now and say, "Yes, Jesus. I need Your grace. I need Your love". Up here, others of you say yes to Jesus. "I need Your grace and mercy". Come on somebody church. Let's thank God for His goodness. Up here and right over here. Praise God for you guys. Right up there. Yes sir. Yes sir. God is with you. He's here. Those of you online, you can just type it in the comment section, I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in the comment section. And today, in the presence of God, let's take a moment together, as angels in heaven, rejoice and pray aloud. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sins. Jesus, be my Savior. Fill me with Your Spirit so I could know You, and live for You, and serve You, and follow You for the rest of my life. My life is not my own, I give it all to You. In Jesus' name, I pray.