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2021 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - Forever Hold Your Peace

Levi Lusko - Forever Hold Your Peace

Levi Lusko - Forever Hold Your Peace

I want to bring to you a message this Good Friday that I'm calling Forever Hold Your Peace. If you have a way to get to the scriptures, Exodus 14. And if you don't we'll have them on the screen for you. I want to read to you verses 10 through 16. And it says, "And when Pharoah drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moses, 'because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt saying, let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians. For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.' And Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians, whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.' And the Lord said to Moses, 'Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod,' God said to Moses, 'and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.'"

God we bless your name. We say that you're good. We're grateful for this day and what we remember. And what it causes us to realize. And what it gives us permission to look forward to. We don't know what to say in response to such great love except thank you. We pray in these quiet moments together you would cause something new to burst forth inside of us. We pray for people who don't know you to be drawn to you through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the way that we are linked up across thousands of different cities and places all around the country and world, and yet we have this in common. We're loved by our God. And you have something to say to us. And you wrote a book for us to read. And your spirit is with us near not far able to help us to see the way through, the way forward, the way to go. And what you said to the children of Israel, you say to us today. Forward, yes many difficult dark days lie behind us. But you say forward. Yes, it's been challenging in many ways. Unprecedented, that word has been touted around, and yet you say to us, forward. No retreat, no surrender. You're calling us to go further up and further in. And we pray you'd give us the grace to do so. And we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

I don't know where it came from, for real. I found some different things online, the book of Common Prayer came up a bunch of times. But I've never in my entirety of being a pastor some 17, 18, 19 years, in all the weddings I've done, I've never given permission for anybody in the room to object to what's happening on the platform. Really ain't none of their business. You're there as a guest to support, to celebrate, to endorse, to commit to pray, and hopefully to bring something good off the registry. But you're not there to object, right? But it's in the movies. There's always the scene where the pastor, when he is finished with his "Mah-wedge" the bad Princess Bride jokes are obligatory in a wedding ceremony. I always have a hard time with obligatory. That's a hard word to say, obligatory. Obligated to tell bad jokes. That's what pastors are, all right? So when you're done with that, you're in the movies always see them moving on to the moment where it's like, now does anybody here have reason to object to these two coming together in Holy matrimony? If you do, speak now or hold your peace, means this is your time y'all.

One website I found said that this was actually really important at one point in history. In the medieval time is when they began to be commonly a part of wedding ceremonies because there was risks of someone being already in a marriage. Or someone being forced to marry against their will. Or, this was legit, that they hadn't been baptized yet. If one of the two hadn't been baptized yet, that was cause for you to be like, no that girl is dry, she has not been baptized. She has not been dunked. And my favorite, the funniest to me was, if you had proof that they were actually blood relatives, you could speak up. Like, no, that ain't right she's his sister. And so that's actually like, you can object. If you are ever at a wedding and you happen to know that dude is marrying his sister, please do speak up, and do not hold your peace. But every other situation please be quiet during the service.

But here we have Moses and the children of Israel, they've come out of bondage. They've come out of Egypt. They've come out of, what was for 400 years unimaginable pain and difficulty and loss being slaves to a cruel king. And, God miraculously, with his power raining down plagues upon the Egyptians, eventually pharaoh relented and allowed them to go free. Having been spared the plague, the most horrific of all, the death of the firstborn. And that the death of all the Israelites' first born was spared because of the death of an innocent third party, a lamb, which was revered in Egypt, by the way, as a god. And it was at that time of the year that they worshipped that particular god out of all their gods. And so it was definitely flouting their God and sticking it in his nose a little bit to save them through the death of a lamb. And of course, all of this gives us such a clear picture in our minds of Jesus.

And how did Jesus spend his final moments on the earth, his final hours before going to the Garden of Gethsemane and eventually to the cross? He was of course, remembering these days he was remembering these moments, the Passover lamb, and the rich symbolism and imagery contained therein. So if there ever were a group of people who was like, no matter what happens, we're unflappable, we're just going to trust you God. It should be them. They had seen boils. They had seen hail. They had seen frogs. They had seen lice. They had seen pets heads were not falling off, but the Egyptians were. I mean they had seen God so clearly, dramatically, emphatically, once and for all prove that he's good. And yet the first sign of resistance, the first barrier in front of them, they get to this Red Sea. How are we going to cross it?

Well while we're figuring out that they turn around and see that Pharaoh has had a severe case of seller's remorse. And he and his buffest army are hot on their heels. They're only 70 miles outside of Egypt. But now it looks like, if anybody ever used the analogy correctly, they were between a rock and a hard place. Sea on the one hand and an army of soldiers on the other. And so what do they do? Is their first resort to trust? Is their first resort to assume the best? God's got this. Remember the frogs? It's cool. Remember the lice? It's amazing. Remember the bloody river that he's got this. No, they panic. They completely panic. They start crying out to God and then they start screaming to Moses. And they start turning on each other. And this will become a theme throughout the Book of Exodus. Any difficulty, they freak out. Moses is gone for a while?

Let's just have an orgy and declare this metal god that we just made the new god. Right? They just completely lose their cool under pressure. They start bickering. They start devouring each other. They will in many times throughout the Exodus period turn on Moses and want to tear him down want to take him out. Under stress the worst in them came out. I wrote this question down, this uncomfortable question, but one that we have no option but to confront because it's such a useless exercise to just pile on them for their mistakes. But rather we should be asking the question, how are we like them? Because I don't think human nature has changed that much. The question I wrote down is, how much discomfort and disappointment does it take for you to become unhappy? How much hardship do you have to go through to become disillusioned with God and to start acting badly? What does it take? How much does the pressure have to get turned up for you to turn on others in your life?

I think that this is a perfect and an appropriate question in response to these days that we've just lived through and are living through. Where in response to all of these things, what we have seen is people turning on each other. But we have seen is people turning away from God. What we have seen is people criticizing, devouring, cannibalizing, finger pointing. Yes, living in the day of the cancel culture, which is really just nothing new. It's just sinful human nature repeated again and again. When life gets hard we lose our cool. When things go bad we freak out. Welcome to being a human. And in response I love what Moses speaks and God so clearly put it on my heart, as a word for us this Good Friday marching towards Easter, heading into what is before us in 2021, in the days of this decade that still are before us where there is so much that God wants us to do. I felt like God whispering to each of us Exodus 14:14, the Lord will fight for you, and you to hold your peace.

Do you receive that word from God? That's my whole assignment today I feel like God wants you to hold peace in response to every single thing we see on the news, in response to every single thing we read on Facebook, in response to every polarizing opinion, and faction, and party, and dissenting, disagreeing. This is not how it should be. You're the problem. This is the issue. God wants us to realize he's going to fight for us. So we get to hold our peace. The cross proves once and for all that when we face difficulty behind us, when we are up against something insurmountable in front of us, God has a plan. He saw it coming. He is not surprised. He was not caught off guard and he has more than prepared to deal with every single difficulty that will coming your way, Christian. Do you have the confidence to believe that you can hold your peace because he's going to fight your battles for you?

I dare you to believe that God is better at fighting than you are. So when we walk in rest, we get to watch him fight our battles. So, first takeaway truth of five, jot it down, peace is what we need. I would dare say that peace is our greatest need. God will fight for you. To hold peace you've got to have peace. So first we must acknowledge the fact that we have a need for peace. But let's define it. Because peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. We throw the peace sign peace. What is peace? Peace is in the Bible, one of the most important, and one of the most rich words. It's shalom, in the Old Testament, and that became so important that the capital city of Jerusalem, of Israel, Jerusalem. Where Jesus would die on the cross for us, 2000 years ago, became named the city of peace. The city of peace, Jeru Shalom. Salem, the city of peace. There's a promise of peace. Peace is what we need, shalom. In the New Testament the word is Eirene, in the Greek, the same richness, same importance, and much more than just, there's not conflict right now. It's finally a moment of peace and quiet, that's kind of how we use it.

In fact, just words upon words to try and get a sense of how big this concept is. It includes well-being, it includes completeness, it includes safety, it includes wholeness, it includes tranquility, it includes prosperity. These are all synonyms attached to it at various points. Just to give you a picture of what God wants you, what you need inside, his perfect peace. Warren Wiersbe said that, "Peace is what happens when God's will is being completed in your life, and you look up one day and you see streams of living water gushing out of the inmost parts of you". What a wonderful thing to believe for. That as we walk in God's will we'll look up and there's just gushing living water instead of the dryness, instead of the fear, instead of the worry, instead of the meanness. There will be love. There will be peace. That's good news. That peace is an amazing thing. Who's like, I like peace. That sounds great? That is my greatest need.

Didn't even know about that. The problem is, Isaiah 48 says, "There is no peace for the wicked. There is no peace for the wicked". The problem is we can't, that's an amazing lofty thing but we can't have it. Why? Because according to the Bible's definition, ready for it? Here's the offensive truth, you're wicked and I'm wicked. How dare you? You don't even know me? And why would we push back on that? Why would in a secular society, this ever-hastening to a post-Christian culture mentality, would we not even have room for the notion of sin? Partially because we've all been through enough therapy to know every single thing that's wrong with us is the fault of someone up the family tree. So how dare you, sir. You don't know what I've been through, so how can you judge me?

So we're ever hastening towards a worldview where there's not even language for sin. And if there is room for transgression, room for improvement in our lives, then we kind of have this mentality where sin, and here's kind of how we've probably more define it if we would even allow the word to even be used, is that I've done more bad than good. So I'm not a sinner as long as I've done more good things than bad things. Because surely when I die, if there is a God, he's going to add up everything good I did, and everything bad I did. And as long as the heaviness of the good side is a little bit heavier, even my one little coin, than the bad side, that I'm going to be OK. So I'm not a sinner and Levi, I am certainly not wicked. And I would say this to you, two things. Number one, the biblical definition of sin, is not you've done more bad than good but that you've ever done anything bad ever. Kind of makes sense, how many people you got a murder to be a murderer? Right? How many sins you have to commit to be a sinner?

Well just the one, actually, and you have sinned. And the Bible says that the soul that sins shall surely die. There's wickedness that comes through even a sin. Romans 3 says, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore all of us have come lower than the standard of righteousness required by God to not be a sinner, to not be wicked. And the second thing I would say is that if we're not sinners, then the cross makes no sense. If we're not wicked, then the cross makes no sense. And if we're not completely and totally helpless when it comes to saving ourselves, the cross makes no sense. If indeed to not be a sinner you just had to do slightly more good things than bad. Then don't you think when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Father, if there's any other way let this cup pass from me. I don't want to go to the cross. I don't want to be separated from you. Don't you think the father would have said, you know Jesus we could just tell them to be good. If that was a possibility. But Jesus said, there's no other way.

Therefore he took the cup and was willing to drink the cup of sorrow so you and I could drink the cup of joy. He wants you to walk in peace but there's no peace for the wicked. So peace remains elusive to us. And what do we do, We, on this fallen planet? We grasp for things that we hope will give us just a taste of peace. Maybe this will do. Maybe that will do. Because we need to, it we all kind of know that don't we? We're all kind of with a, there's still something. It's an uncomfortable reality that all of us, no matter how successful, no matter how accomplished, no matter how put together we try to appear, there's a real brokenness isn't there? When we lie in bed in those difficult hours, two, three, four. And we're awakened with those terrors, and we're awakened with those bad dreams. And heck, let's even just admit it full tilt. Sometimes even after our greatest accomplishments are in our hands do we realize they're hollow. Man I sure sure thought if I got to this I would be, but it turns to sand in our mouth. Jesus put it this way, it's possible to gain the whole world but lose your soul.

Peace, church is what we need. Secondly, jot it down, peace is who He is. Peace is who He is. That means that it's not just what he does. But it's actually a part of his character and it's part of his essence. It's part of his identity not just his personality. In fact, one of his names, God has many names, one of his names is Yahweh Shalom. God who is peace. To know God is to know peace. And that's why 1 Thessalonians 5 introduces him as the God of peace, notice, who wants to sanctify you completely, your whole spirit, your whole soul, your whole body. So you'd be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is he saying? He's saying, the God of peace wants you to experience that peace. Then we could say this, and it would be true, peace is everything sin has made wrong turned right. And you all of a sudden one day, not just in your body, not just in your soul, but also in your mind, in your complete total being, experience that wholeness, that tranquility, that wellness, feeling a sense of buoyancy and light and joy. It's who He is.

We've kind of snuck this into the various parts. He has kind of snuck this into various parts of his story from Genesis to Revelation. In fact, every year at Christmas, when we worship Jesus, one of the names that he told us that he would be worshipped by is the Prince of Peace, Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6. Peace was a part of the announcement of the angels. Goodwill on earth, peace, all this was a part of the Christmas story. Paul said in Ephesians 2, he himself is our peace, who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of separation. So it's his nature. Therefore it's the byproduct of knowing him. And it's what will happen to you as you walk with him. Because our God, who has so much peace as a part of who He is, is willing to share. Third take away, truth. Peace is what he gives. He came to this earth to give peace, to bring peace, to show us how to walk in peace. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, he wrote a beautiful poem worshiping God and one of the lines and it was, that Jesus was going to come to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet.

Notice this, into the way of peace. There are ways in life you can walk and you felt it. There's peace in it. And there's things that you've done, that I've done, there's things we've said, as arguments we've gotten into, and you just realize even if you won the fight you lost the peace. And even if you proved your point you forfeited the peace, the peace that God wants you to experience inside, outside, to be a part of. Jesus said on his way to the cross before he died, John 14, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid". Peace is what God offers. Philippians 4 says, don't be anxious for anything, but in everything you face, every wall of water you're up against, every army chasing you down, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And what will happen if you do this? The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and guard your minds through Jesus Christ.

It's so beautiful in the Greek, the word guard, peace is going to guard you, if you pray when you want to freak out, when you want to give in to anxiety, when you want to have an attack of your crazy panicked self that responds to the tribulations and troubles of this life by freaking out, when you want to just go berserk, and wish to be back in Egypt. I mean, what are they even saying? We want to be back in Egypt. It's so good there being a slave, building the pyramids. They honestly actually said, we would rather live as slaves than die free. Get us back there. And in that moment they gave in to that fear which is so common for us. But Paul says. If you instead choose to pray to God in the midst of what would make you want to doubt his love, then you will experience peace that will guard your heart. And the word 'guard' is a word that describes a whole battalion of soldiers coming to protect someone under their charge. Like when Paul in the New Testament was almost put to death, and they sent a whole bunch of soldiers to guard him, stand around him.

So think about it. That's what peace is going to do for you. So don't think about peace as just this kind of flowy. No. Peace can protect you. Peace has teeth to it. Peace is strong. Peace is what can protect your heart and your mind. Now peace is freely given to us. But we must never mistake something that's free with something that's cheap. I think because it's offered freely, we sometimes are tempted to take it for granted. I've been, throughout my life, our ministry, done lots of events around the country, tours, and hope to one day do things like that again. And in the ticketing, and the pricing of events and figuring it all out, we've learned the hard way over the years that it's actually a mistake to make an event free. Even if you don't need to, even if someone has made it available for everyone to be free of charge to come, that often times something free, even if people register and RSVP to come, they're far more likely to be a no show if they don't have anything invested in it. It's easy to take something for granted when there's no sense of ownership.

And so here's peace that Jesus offers freely. And I think we are all tempted to at times dismiss it because it can't be that good if it's free. But never mistake free and cheap. Free to you but not cheap to him. It was the most expensive thing ever purchased. In fact fourth point, peace is what he held. Jesus, in the moment of truth, the day we celebrate today, Good Friday he held his peace and he certainly didn't have to. In fact Matthew puts it this way, "Jesus stood before the governor and the governor asked him saying, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus said to him, 'It is as you say.' And while he was being accused by the chief priests and elders notice he answered nothing. " He held his peace "Then Pilate said to him, 'Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?'" They have straight canceled you, Jesus. You were Dr. Seuss, and Abraham Lincoln, and everybody else that's been... you are canceled, Jesus.

So speak up. Come on speak up for yourselves. Defend yourself Jesus. "But he answered him not one word so that the governor marveled greatly". Why? He was a man on a mission. He wasn't there to defend himself. He wasn't there for his ego energy. He wasn't caught up or swept up in this. He was walking in perfect peace. And when you're walking in peace people can bait you, and goad you, and try and push your buttons, and try and get you triggered, and try and get you to lash out so that they can feel vindicated in what they have said about you all along. But Jesus stood there perfectly at peace. Confident and competent to handle all that was coming at him, the river of pain that was headed his way. The soldiers there were all about the flagellum that was about to tear the skin off of his back, the nails that were about to go through his wrists, the crown of thorns that was about to be pressed upon his head, and worst of all, your sin and my sin put upon him that he was about to pay for, being separated from his father and having him losing all peace on the cross.

But here he stood with steely resolve. He held his peace. He did not object to any of the accusations. He did object to any of the things they were saying, though he knew they were not true. Colossians 1:20 says, by him God chose to reconcile all things to himself. By Jesus, whether things on Earth or things in heaven. How? Having made peace through the blood of his cross. We heard it a moment ago but he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement or literally the stripes of the whip for our peace was upon him. And by those stripes we are healed, capable and able to walk in shalom, able to wake up, and through prayer and through worship, and through constantly relying on the Holy Spirit, and his word, and each other. We are able to walk in shalom every day until he brings us to the city of peace once again. His place, his city that will descend from the sky and re-fuse with the brand new created Earth, where there will be no pain, where there will be no sorrow, where it will take no effort to walk in peace, where it will take no constantly re-calibrating the compass of our soul to walk in peace.

In the meantime though, we get to wake up every day and walk in that peace because he purchased it for us looking forward to all that he has for us. And we get to be a part of him bringing peace to other people through us, as well. Peace is what Jesus held, showing us it's possible, proving the concept, telling us that we can follow his footsteps and exhibit serenity in the face of crushing adversity, complexity, and even torture of body. And now we're coming full circle because now I want you to see 2 million Israelites standing behind Moses murmuring, criticizing, doubting, and God's whisper, peace be still. I will take care of this. Hold your piece. Moses, stand at the edge of the water. Nation, you're about to move forward. I love that he told them to go forward even when the water was still there. He didn't make it all go away then say for, he said, no you're going forward. Watch as I take care of it to make it happen. Moses raises his arms out, stretches his rod out, the shepherd's staff, the rod in his hand, and the water parts, and a wall of fire appears between them and the Egyptians. And they're able to cross over on dry land and the Egyptian army was consumed in the sea when the walls of water fell back and folded back in upon one another.

I believe this happened as the Bible says that it did and I've read people who have said, oh well this couldn't have happened it's too crazy. Red seas parting, that's just, it couldn't happen like that. So what this is a translation issue. This isn't the Red Sea was the Reed Sea. a there was this very, very small very shallow 18 inch sea, a marsh really. And the Reed Sea was what they were at. And someone thought it was Red Sea. Well, you know that to me is even a bigger miracle than the Red Sea, if it was actually the Reed Sea. How did God drown an entire army in 18 inches of water? Either way you cut it to me it's miraculous but But to picture in your mind the nation of Israel standing there not doing anything to save themselves. How are they to be saved? The arms stretched out in front of them. Your rod and your staff they comfort me when I'm up against the Valley of the shadow of death. Soldiers and waves both things that could take me out. But I trust the one standing in front of me with his arms raised high who says, peace be still. The champion of our salvation, the lover of our souls, the one who gives us peace which we desperately need. He died so you could forever hold your peace.

Come on, thank him for a moment for His goodness and grace. And then let me tell you the final thing that is so beautiful. Peace is what gives us power. The peace that we hold on to gives us power to do what God has called us to do. It's a weapon. And it will always feel wrong just like standing in front of the Red Sea moving forward believing we're not toast, felt wrong. Sometimes it feels like a betrayal to reality to not freak out. I need to give justice to the situation here and at least be anxious for just a quick minute, right? I need to fire off seven nervous text messages just to at least dignify the reality of what I'm facing here. For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, in returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. I will fight for you. You hold your peace. Hold your peace and watch me fight for you. It's not in being loud, it's not in being angry, it's not in being even right. It's being people who are resolved to walk in peace and to allow that peace to flow through us. And the less you feel it the more important it is.

Hard times, difficulty, loss, complexity, setbacks, don't panic, remember. Remember the cost of your peace. Remember the rod stretched out. Remember the arms spread out. Remember that Moses points us to Jesus. Who, as he approached the grave, he did so with purpose so that he could part it. He split the sea of death so we could walk right through it. You and I will go through the valley of the shadow of death. But it will not be able to touch us. The walls have been torn wide open so we can pass through miraculously on dry ground which might be the greatest miracle of all. Not just that the water was parted but that he dried up all the mud. Remember when water pulls back that is a lot of mud. But he don't want their kicks to get messed up. He had appreciation for the beauty of a nice pair of shoes. So he didn't allow even mud to be there. So I just love that to be on your radar on your mind. Romans 8, what shall we say to these things then? If God is for us what can be against us, who can be against us? If he did not spare his son but he delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? This is called an argument from the greater to the lesser.

And here's such an important thing to tuck away into your heart. God wants you to use massive truth to treat minuscule issues. So the smaller the issue is in your life the more important for you to use, it's like a tiny little nail that comes up and you grab like the giant mallet and just, comically oversized. He says you're up against difficulty and hardship. But if he let Jesus die to save you he's probably going to deal with this, too. Use massive truth to deal with minuscule issues. Then he continues, who will bring a charge against God's elect? It's God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It's Christ who died and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God who makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Can tribulation, can distress, can red seas, or soldiers, can bills, can pandemics, can difficulties, and presidential elections that we're thankful are over, can famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written we feel like sometimes for your sake we are killed all day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

This is our minds catastrophizing. The minuscule things have gotten really big. We're being killed. Oh my gosh. Life is so horrible. Life is so horrible. Remember in those moments when you feel like a sheep for the slaughter that he was oppressed and afflicted yet he opened not his mouth. He had the power to call for 12 legions of angels to get him off the cross. But he fixed the ear of Malchus when Peter tried to bust him out of the Garden of Gethsemane out of the chains he was in. And he said, put N chains back on me, I'm good. Could have called for 12 legions of angels but he opened not his mouth. And now you need to remember those angels are guarding you. Those angels are serving you. The New Testament says that angels are the guardians of those who are the heirs of salvation. God will send them to guard your home. God will send them to guard your heart. There is protection in peace.

Roman 16:20, the end of the story is the God of peace is going to crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with you. The devil wants you to get you on your heels, knocked down. And God will put peace under your feet to give you a firm foundation. And that's why in Ephesians 6 out of all the pieces of armor we're given, peace is what protects our feet. He says to shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You will find your footing as you walk in your peace.

Now I'm almost done. I want to close with this. And then we'll pray, we'll take communion, we'll believe for God to drive these truths through his spirit into our hearts as we sing again. A few months before the pandemic began my daughter Clover and I went on a little preaching trip. And I planned a day for us, just a daddy daughter day. And so we went to the beach and we were there and I was trying to really be present and focused and not distracted. So I turned my phone off and left it on the beach chair and we went to the edge of the water and was trying to care about what Clover cared about. And what Clover cared about were seashells. And she said, Daddy I want to get some seashells. And of course I go, where are we going to keep them? She goes... Pulls out a Ziploc baggie that she had produced out of her bathing suit. Because that's Clover, always a plan. She goes, they're going to go in this bag that I brought for the seashells that I'd planned to pick up.

And so we walked around. I got to admit Clover was better at picking up seashells than dad. Because I was having a hard time finding any. But she had so many in the bag already. And she goes, what's the matter with you? You haven't contributed any. I said, I can't find any. All these are broken. And she goes, Dad, the broken seashells are beautiful, too. That was worth the price of admission right there, church. Come on, thank God that he sees beauty in your broken places. He still puts us in his bag and has a plan to bring us home even though we're broken. So we end up, she gets 150 seashells. I know that because she counts them all 150. We were proud of our day's work. And we set the bag up by the chairs by my phone, and we went down to the edge of the water. And we had bought a boogie board and so were playing in the water And I don't know what made me, but at some point, I looked back up toward the chairs. And I saw that there was a seagull standing at the base of our chair and it had its head in the bag of seashells. And something told me, this is not good. So I just ran and Clover goes, Dad where are you going And I didn't even answer her.

I was on a mission. I had to get there before he noticed me. And about two feet away, he looked up and saw me, grabbed the bag of seashells and just started flying. And so I am off after this seagull I'm running, and he can't go that fast because the 150 seashells kind of a heavy bag. And so he's kind of trying to fly, and I'm gaining on him. And I am going to get him. And I hear Clover behind me and she trips on a dune and she falls. But I can't help her. I am on a mission at this moment. And luckily the seagull dropped the bag on the ground and I'm like, I got you now. And he grabbed it but he grabbed it by the side of the bag so when he flies off now the seashells are flying out of the bag. And they're like manna from heaven. I'm trying to catch them up but I'm still running. And so I realized, this is my moment because it's going to get lighter. He's just going to take off with it. So I just yell really loud Ah! And he dropped the bag. I got it and he just sat there right next to me.

As Clover and I began walking back to the chairs getting as many of these seashells as we can. At which point I immediately looked up and he was right there behind our chairs looking at us, looking for his opportunity to get them again with a smug look on his face. I turned on my phone and I snapped this photo to just document the moment because it was so beautiful. There's the seagull right there just looking for an opportunity And look at Clover. She's like, you will not prevail. We're going home with our beautiful broken seashells. We were walking to the car after this and we were just talking about how out of all that, we've picked up seashells on a lot of beaches in our lives. We're talking about how these ones they something different. She's like, Dad these seashells mean a lot more to me than any other seashells. Because not just not just are they special to me because I picked them all up but because they were taken away from you and we got them back.

And I just want you to know that if you're ever doubting that God's got a plan or God is good in your life, I just want you to know that he doubly loves you. He loves you because he made you. And he proved his love because when you were lost, when you were taken away from him by sin and it disconnected you from the peace that he wants to flow through you, look at the great lengths he went to on the cross to save you when you were taken away from him. And so yeah, you feel you're broken and you feel like, I can't really be used. God can't really love me because of all the pain, but you're misunderstanding the point. He clutches you to his heart because of your sin. He clutches you to his heart because of the ways that you've erred. Because you're a sheep that's gone astray. But he now has you around his shoulders and he is rejoicing that what was lost has now come home come home.

Come one, thank God for his love that knows no bounds. But I got to tell you That it's always a mistake to try and get the peace of God without first knowing the God of peace. This world is full of people trying to get the peace of God, trying through spirituality or this or for that, to experience that tranquility, that wholeness. A lot of people going to go to yoga classes this week trying to get the peace of God and not realizing that when you, as CS Lewis put it, when you aim at Earth you don't get heaven or earth, but when you aim at heaven you get both. When you just look to the God of peace as a byproduct you will always walk in peace. But we can't experience the blessings of God without knowing the one who blesses.

And so today if you've never given your heart to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that's your next step, to respond to his love and his invitation. Because he invites you to walk in relationship with him. He invites you to walk in wholeness with him. And then you will watch that peace begin to flow through you as your story unfolds. The Bible says that he stands at the door of our hearts and he knocks. And if anyone opens the door he will come in. And so today's the day and now's the time because the reality is we never know when our hour of death is going to come You and I don't know when we're going to stand before God to be judged. And it will not be did you do more good than bad. That's not how it works, it's heaven or hell, and it comes down to Jesus.

And so let's pray together. Let's believe for salvation. Let's believe for strength. Let's believe for peace. If you're ready to give your heart to Christ, to ask him to forgive you of your sins, to be your Lord and Savior, I'm going to say a prayer. And I would like for you to say it with me out loud after me, prayed in your heart yes. But speak it with your lips because there's power in confession. And even these words coming out of your mouth right there in your living room, right there in your car. At one of our locations there's power in confessing the name of Jesus. Church family say it with us, no one praying alone.

Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I need your peace I can't get it on my own. Thank you for buying it On the cross With your blood. And thank you that the story did not end there. that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive forever I give you my heart I give you my pain I give you my sin Be my Lord. Be my Savior, In Jesus' name.

Heads still bowed, eyes still closed, if you prayed that prayer I'm going to give you space to act on it. I'm going to count to three, and if you prayed that prayer to give your life to Jesus, when I get to three I want you to shoot your hand up in the air. If you're watching at home, if you're watching this on the beach somewhere, watch out for the seagulls, but raise your hand right where you are. Every location in the back of the room in Portland, Salt Lake City, Utah, in Bozeman, Montana, and Whitefish, and Kalispell, and in Helena. And I want you when I get to three, raise your hand believing, triumphantly for the peace of God to rule in your hearts, to rule in your minds. One, two, three, shoot your hands up, shoot your hands up. We're celebrating with you. We're praising God for you every single one of you. You can put your hands down. Well let's thank God for what he's doing. Look at the salvation he's working. Amen, Amen, Amen.

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