Mark Batterson - House of Miracles
If you're in the house this weekend, it feels like you're sitting still, and you are, but you aren't. All of us, including those online, are on a planet that is spinning around its axis at a thousand miles per hour. But, we're not just spinning. We are speeding through space at 67,000 miles per hour, and you aren't even dizzy right now. Even on a day when you didn't get much done, you did travel 1.6 million miles through space. So, there's that. Albert Einstein said there are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is miracle. And the other is as if everything is. Every day, you take about 23,000 breaths, and with every breath, hemoglobin delivers oxygen to about 37 trillion cells in the human body. Your heart beats about a hundred thousand times a day, five quarts of blood traveling through 60,000 miles of veins and arteries and capillaries. 37 sextillion chemical reactions happening in your body every moment of every minute.
And if your double Helix DNA was stretched end to end, it would be twice the diameter of the solar system. I know people and you do too, who would say they've never experienced a miracle. With all due respect, you have never not. In fact, you are one. The average woman carries more than a million eggs in her ovaries, which means you're one in a million. Your once in a lifetime. Of course, that's half the equation. The average ejaculation, don't start every sentence that way, contains a hundred million spurt. Aren't you glad you came to church this weekend? Stop and think about it. There was once a swim meet, a hundred million swimmers and you, my friend, you won that race. You have been beating the odd since day one, mathematically speaking, you are one in a million multiplied by one in a hundred million, which makes you one in a hundred tri... You go swimmer!
Welcome to National Community Church. And I might say, you're not here by accident. I hope you feel seen, heard, love. It might be your first time. Can I just say welcome home? Last time I check more than 70 nationalities represented in person at our campuses. More than 90 countries represented by NCC online, the Philippines are 12 hours ahead, but that doesn't keep Chris from serving on our prayer team. Glenda Green lives in Jamaica, also serves as a small group leader, the Chenoweth and Sebastian families in Cypress, shout out and then Drew attends our 11:00 AM online, which is 3:00 AM in New Zealand. Can we just give it up for our extended family online and pop on that chat? Let us know where you're from.
We're in a series called "Welcome Home: Week One and Two". We talked about the fact that this is a house of prayer and a house of praise. And can I tell you what those two things add up to? House of prayer plus house of praise equals house of miracles. When we pray, like it depends on God. When we prophesy our praise, it shifts the atmosphere. It exercises our spiritual authority. It activates the gifts of the spirit. It catalyzes supernatural synergies. When we pray, when we praise, heaven begins to invade earth and miracles begin to manifest themselves. House of prayer plus house of praise equals house of miracles. And I might add, this is a literal house of miracles. We should not own this city block. Are you kidding me? It's one corner of that 4.7 mile prayer walk. We get it 18 years to the day from the day of the, we're in a house of miracles. And so it's a little bit easier to believe God for the next one.
Well, grab your Bible. You can meet me in ancient Israel, second Kings chapter five. But before we jump in, let me talk about the elephant in the room. I think all of us have prayed for miracles and been disappointed a time or two or 10, or is that just me? There are some lines of lyrics. You're never gonna let me down. You've never lost a battle, really hard to sing. Why? Because it doesn't match our reality. We prayed for a miracle, miracle didn't happen. I remember kneeling in a prayer room in college, begging God to heal my knee two weeks before the national tournament, I was a first team, all American, NCCAA, but we had a shot. In fact, we may have been favored to win that national championship. And my college career ends with an injury. It still hurts. It still doesn't make any sense to me, but I learned a couple of things through that.
I didn't get the miracle I wanted, but I've gotta be grateful for the doctor that reconstructed that torn ACL, grateful for the physical therapist. And I'm grateful that next weekend I'll be biking a century. I can still do things. And I think I've also learned that when it seems like the God of miracles is MIA, the God of comfort shows up. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Sticks closer than a brother, and even when I can't see his hand, I've gotta trust his heart. I've gotta trust his timing. I've gotta trust his will, his way. And so, yeah, I've gotta Deuteronomy 29, 29 file. It says that that the revealed things belong to us, but the secret things belong to God. I mean, friends are just some mysteries that are past our pay grade. That will not make sense on this side of eternity because we're human. And so I think there's this tension that we feel when the miracle doesn't happen.
The question is, how do you deal with that tension? I mean, you can play the victim. You can play possum. You can play God. Here's the bottom line for me. I have come to terms with the fact that I don't get to decide how and when and where miracles happen. It's past my pay grade, but I've experienced too many miracles not to believe God for the next one. So, I'm gonna keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, and I'm gonna leave the outcome to God. Listen, even though God didn't heal that torn ACL, this is crazy, I'm putting it out there. I'm praying that God would regrow some of that cartilage in my knee. Oh, but Pastor Mark don't you know, did you take biology? Because cartilage doesn't regrow, it doesn't regenerate. Yeah, and water doesn't turn into wine. And those who are born blind will never see again. And those who are four days dead, don't come walking out of a tomb. If God did it before he can do it again.
And so, I'm gonna live in the tension and keep believing God for those miracles, don't tell me he can't do it. When God has healed your lungs after 40 years of severe asthma, it's really hard not to believe God for the next miracle. And I will say this, I think there is a faith that is unaffected by the outcome. It's Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Faith, Daniel 3:17. "If we are throwing into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able, is able, is able to deliver us from it. But even if, even if, even if he does not, we want you to know your majesty, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up". So, I'm gonna keep playing the hand that I've been dealt and keep believing God for miracles. All right, let's dive in second Kings five one. I bet you're there by now. "Now, Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. Naaman was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy".
Naaman is the second most powerful person in Aram, but disease is no respecter of persons. Disease is the great equalizer. Naaman contracts one of the most deadly diseases in the ancient world, considered incurable. And it was a lonely death because it was so contagious that you had to quarantine from everybody else. Verse two, "Now bands of Raiders from Aram had gone out and taken captive a young girl from Israel and she served Naaman's wife". The hero of this story is this little girl. Would we have had the courage to do what she's about to do? Listen. She had been trafficked by the Aramians. There is tremendous trauma, no doubt. And I better say this, we better seek justice.
So grateful for groups like IJM and Visible Angels, Safe House, Project, coming outta NCC-ers, A21, End It Movement. Listen to me, those who prey on innocent children, it would be better for them to have a mill stung hung around their neck and drowned in the sea. Jesus said that. He also said 70 times 7. He also said, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. You can't get around the tension ever if you're following Jesus. Now, if you reverse engineer this miracle, you know, spoiler alert, Naaman gets healed, okay? But I bet you knew that. And by the way, leads to the healing of two nations. But the Genesis is forgiveness. I wonder if today, for some of us, the miracle is gonna start with forgive. Oh, we want to hurt those who hurt us. I'm no different than you, but that has never healed me.
If this isn't loving your enemies, if this isn't blessing those who curse you, I'm not sure what is, she could have held a grudge, could have withheld information, could have sought vengeance. She could have played the victim, could have played God. But it says, she said to her mistress, if only my master would see the prophet who was in Samaria, he would cure him of leprosy. But I think she knew, she knew that he would cure him of something so much bigger. You know what? The people we want to get even with, could we have the boldness to say, oh God, I pray the prophet, I pray a prophetic word. I pray somehow some way you would intervene in their life and give them a vision. All of us want a miracle. None of us wanna be in a situation that necessitates one, but you can't have one without the other. So in my experience, the right place usually feels like the wrong place. Right time usually feels like the wrong time. You can't spell testimony without the first four letters, "test," you have to pass the test to get the testimony. Bottom line, most miracles start out as sickness and suffering and setbacks.
Now, let me kind of zoom out and I wanna be careful. I think there are different categories of miracles. There are kind of those life and death miracles. And then there are those circumstantial miracles. And I can't talk all the way around this, but can I just say this weekend, I am trusting the holy spirit to speak to you and give you encouragement where you need it. We have experienced so many real estate miracles as a church it's not even fair, but many of those miracles come on the heels of what seem like setbacks. I remember, this would've been '97. Summers was born in '97. Her bedroom became, was our church office. So it was office by day, bedroom by night, portable crib. And like, we need some scenario here that isn't this. And so, we started looking for an office space. Two failed contracts, and I was so frustrated 'cause I told God the address. He knew, he knew my plan.
So frustrated, but without those two setbacks, we don't purchase a row house, 205 F Street, that is adjacent to a crack house that would become Ebeneezer Coffee House. Without that adjacency, there is no way that we turn that crack house into a coffee house. When, it was a setback that set up that miracle. When you have a setback, feels like you take a step back, but maybe just maybe God is preparing some kind of comeback. Listen, what the enemy intends for evil, God can use for good. It doesn't make it good. It's still evil, but God can flip the script. He can turn it for a testimony. Ah, I wanna tell you so many stories, but so many divine delays and detours. In fact, we wouldn't own this city block if it weren't for one of them, we had God closed the door at Union Station. Again, a huge setback. I was devastated. We met there for 13 years. I thought our best days were behind us, but that's what initiated a real estate search.
We ended up buying a property on Virginia Avenue, Miles Glass Company, we assembled six properties. We own a block of frontage on the 695 expressway. That's ridiculous, and we hired an architect. We had our plans together and CSX decides they're gonna build a double decker train tunnel underneath Virginia Avenue, are you kidding me? And our plans are derailed. We knew it would take five years. God, what is going on up in here? But without that divine delay, divine detour, we don't buy the Miracle Theater and we don't purchase a city block that is now the capital turnaround. Praise God for supernatural setbacks, praise God for some of those closed doors. Very few miracles come in nice, neat packages. Just as God comes to us disguised as our lives, miracles come to us disguised as our problems. Luke 7:13, KJV, go look it up. Jesus says there are gonna be wars and rumors of wars. There's gonna be earthquakes and famines and pandemics. You're gonna be persecuted for my sake. He's talking to his disciples, by the way, 11 out of the 12 apostles will be martyred for their faith.
But I love what Jesus says next. Are you ready for this? It will turn to you for a testimony. I'm believing that I'm praying for that. I can't tell you when or where or how, but you will find love again. You will dream again. You will hold in your hands on this side of eternity or the other. Oh God. Oh God, is there something you need to let go of today? Just, I feel like we need to do this right now, online, as well. Just hands, like this. Oh God. Put it in your hands. We cast our cares. We let go. There's a lot of pain. Lot of disappointment, lot of frustration. It's real. And by the way, in so many instances, it should feel exactly the way it feels. You're okay, but we give it to you today. God, we trust you. We trust you in Jesus name. Verse four, "Naaman went with his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 'By all means, go.' The king of Aram replied. 'I will send a letter to the king of Israel.' So, Naaman left, taking with him," Check this out, "10 talents of silver, 6,000 shekels of gold and 10 sets of clothing".
But this is maybe where I remind us that there are some things money can't buy. Can't buy happiness. It can't buy health. It can get you a good doctor. It can buy you medicine, but it can't. Steve Jobs, one of history's great entrepreneurs died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. On his death bed, he said this, "I reached the pinnacle success in the business world. But at this moment on my sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realized that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have failed and become meaningless in the face of impending death". These are hard words. He said, "You can employ someone to drive the car, make money for you, but you cannot have someone bear the sickness for you". But there is someone who bore the sickness for my sin, my shame, and healed and delivered. Thank you, Lord. Verse nine. So, Naaman and went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed".
Now, when I first read this, I thought, "Rude". Like, doesn't even go and greet him. And then I remembered Naaman has leprosy. Elisha is observing Jewish law, but Naaman went away, angry and said, "I thought," and that's the problem, isn't it? That's the problem. It's our preconceived notions. It's our fault. We think we're so smart. You don't know what you don't know. And the more you know, the more you ought to know what you don't know. I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord, his God and wave his hand, like just gonna wax on and wax off, right? Like, isn't it crazy how our expectations can keep us from so many good things? "I thought he would wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not the Abana and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? I could have just washed in them and be cleansed".
And so he turned off and went away in a rage. In psychology, there's a concept called cognitive entrenchment. It's not unlike confirmation bias, but I think spiritually speaking, we often box God out by boxing God in. But God works in strange and mysterious ways. Since when do we tell God how to do what God does? And so, there's another little frozen perceptions, we kind of get stuck and God is saying, no, sing a new song. No, no, no. I'm doing a new thing. Come on, I wanna pour out new wine into new wine skins, but we get entrenched, you know, on the day of Pentecost, when God pours out his spirit, it says the people were amazed and perplexed. We all wanna be amazed. Right? Lord, amaze me. Amaze me. Come on, God. Do you know anybody who, perplex me Lord. Confuse me, perplex me. Yeah, but if you weren't willing to be perplexed, you'll never be amazed.
Verse 13, Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My Father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you have done it? How much more than when he tell", thank God for people with common sense. "When he tells you wash and be cleansed". So, and you gotta give Naaman some credit right here, right? So, he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan river seven times. And as the man of God, as the man of God had told him and his flesh was restored and he became clean like that of a young boy. Oh God. Oh God, that inner child that was violated. Oh God, I pray restoration. I pray healing of memory. I pray hope where the enemy meant harm and what the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy. Oh God, you came that we might have life and have it more abundantly in Jesus name. I'm not saying this is easy. It might take years of counseling. I'm not, I'm a both and guy, you know this, thank God for medicine. It has saved my life so many times. And thank God for a great physician. Yes. 'Cause I need both. Amen?
Couple of quick observations. Okay? As we reverse engineer this miracle, pretty practical four or five of them. I think it's gonna help us position ourselves, posture ourselves for the miracles. That again, we don't determine how, when or where, but there are things we can do to set the table. One, if you want God to do the super, you've gotta do the natural. You can't just pray like it depends on God. You have to work like it depends on you. You have to participate in your own healing. When God healed my lungs, I started smoking. No, I didn't. I did not start smoking. I think that would've been counterproductive. No, I started training for a marathon because I'm in a part, I'm gonna do what I could not have done to celebrate the miracle that God's done. But that training is me participating in my own healing.
Two, faith is taking the first step before God reveals the second step. Notice what Naaman does, against his better judgment, he actually steps into the river. In the early days of this church, I led worship. Only thing worse than my voice is my rhythm. And we didn't have a drummer, predominant prayer. Lord send us a drummer, send us a drummer, and you've heard this story a time or two. And after praying that probably a hundred times, one day I felt like the Lord said, well, why don't you go out and buy a drum set? My response to this, "Well, just as soon as you send us a drummer, 'cause I want God to go first". But it was a feel the dream moment. I felt like if you buy it, they will come.
I remember driving up to Silver Spring, saw a drum set for 400 bucks. And just to put this in context, our church income, monthly income as a church, the entire, $2,000 a month, 1600 to rent the DC Public School, that left $400 for our salary and all other expenses. And I find a drum set for 400. This is like all in moment. I'm driving up to Silver Spring and I feel pretty foolish. Like, I'm buying a drum set for an imaginary drummer that doesn't exist with money that we don't have. This makes no sense. Buy it on a Thursday. I've experienced this so many times, guy walks in on Sunday, clean cut, eighth and I, drum and bugle core. God doesn't just send us a drummer, sends us a rock star. If I could tell you how many little steps of faith, you don't have to take big steps. You have to take little steps and just trust the Lord.
And that brings this to three. If you do little things like they're big things, God will do big things like they're little things. Like Naaman couldn't do anything about his leprosy, but he could step into the river. Joshua 3:5, "Consecrate yourselves to the Lord, for tomorrow he'll do amazing things among you". All of us want to do amazing things for God, yes? But that's not your job. God is the one who does amazing things for us. Our job is to consecrate ourselves past, present, future, time, talent, treasure, heart, soul, mind, and strength. God, I just consecrate myself to you, what little I have, I put it in your hands and I trust you. You can't feed 5,000 people, but you can take five loaves and two fish, put 'em into God's hands, and five plus two doesn't equal seven anymore, five plus two now equals 5,000 remainder 12. I don't understand that. I don't get it.
Listen to me, generosity sets the table in amazing ways. We've given $25 million to missions because of your generosity. Giving to a common fund, to a dream fund. It started with a $50 check that, it was money we did not have in August of '96, but we stood on a promise, give and it'll be given onto you, a good measure, press down, shaken together, been running. That's not name it, claim it. That's just God, I'm gonna, we have a core conviction. God's gonna bless us in proportion to how we give to missions and care for the poor in our city. If we do what is near and dear to the heart of God, I'm not worried about our bottom line. God's got our back, right? That's how I feel corporately. And it's how Laura and I live personally.
Number four, I'm gonna get in our business a little bit. Swallow your pride. In some respects, this seems like a simple thing. Dipping into the river seven times, but he had to swallow his pride seven times. He had to change his mind, which by the way, metanoeo, Greek word for repentance, change of mind, like this, he had to humble himself seven times. Like I bet it got harder. Third time, nothing. Fourth time, seventh time. And I think like generosity, humility postures ourselves for the miracle. I think most miracles happen on the other side of awkward.
Number five, the way you steward a miracle is by believing God for bigger and better miracles. One of two things is gonna happen over time. Either your theology is gonna conform to your reality or your reality is gonna conform to your theology. "In every field of human endeavors," said A.W. Tozer, "progress has been made by those who stood up and said, I will not adjust to the world. I won't be conformed. I won't water down. I won't dumb down. I believe it, I've experienced it". And so, he points to and says the classical composers, poets, architects were people who would not adjust. And he says this, "Jesus was among the most maladjusted people of his generation". You may think I'm crazy, but my lungs are healed. I've experienced miracles you can't explain. What do I do with that? I believe God for the bigger and better miracles.
Now Jesus turned water into wine, healed a man born blind, raise a man four days dead. Unbelievable, and then he said this, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done". Woo. Like, but that's a stretch, right? Is that a little bit of a reach? Like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You're telling me do the same, same works like, oh man, you are stretching me. But wait, there's more. They will do even greater things than these because I'm going to the father. Greater things? Greater things? Oh God, stretch our faith and activate our spiritual authority to believe you for things that cannot be explained. I close with this, I want you to notice what Naaman does after this miracle.
We're almost done, Verse 15, "Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, 'Now I know,'" Now I know. I thought, remember that? I thought, now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So, please accept a gift from your servant. The prophet answered, "As surely as the Lord lives whom I serve, I will not accept a thing". And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me your servant be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry". Wait, what? "For your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other God but the Lord".
The scholars are a little mystified by what's happening here. Like what is up with Naaman asking for dirt? And is that even okay? I think it's practical and theological. See, at this point in human history, especially if you have studied comparative religions or the history of religion, you know that at this point God's were seen as geographical or territorial. They had local jurisdictions until Yawe comes along and says the whole earth is my foot stool.
Hold that thought, Dennis Bird played professional football for the New York Jets, grew up in Oklahoma, played his college ball at Tulsa where he was an All American. He was an Oklahoma boy through and through, drafted in the second round by the New York Jets. But before showing up for mini camp, he did something curious. He took a leather pouch and he filled that pouch with Oklahoma dirt. And he called it his memory bag and had a little ritual, pre-game ritual. He did this in stadiums across the NFL, no matter where they were playing, he would take a little dirt out of that memory bag. And he would sprinkle it on the field before the game, his teammates would ask him like, what is that about? He said, "It's where I've been, and it's who I am".
Oh, may we not forget where we've been and who we are. And even more importantly, who's we are. Naaman asked for as much dirt as two donkeys can carry. Why? Because like Dennis Bird, I think he wanted to remind himself of the miracle. There are places where God has done miracles in my life and it's holy ground where like, I just, you don't even wear shoes there, right? Stage left, Miracle Theater, July 2nd, 2016. After 40 years of severe asthma, God heals my lung. Haven't touch an inhaler from that day to this, that is holy ground. I mean a mailbox over at 45 L Street, Southwest, put in a $300 check, 60 seconds later, $10,000 check in the PO box. I just, I don't think those things are coincidences. I could show you the spot where laid hands on Ebeneezer, laid hands on the Miracle Theater. I could show you the spot on Virginia Avenue where I kneeled late at night, someone else had a contract on. I said, "God, this belongs to you. I know it does".
I was crying on that piece of property. That is holy ground and when we build there someday, we'll find some way to commemorate that spot. Do you know that beneath this alter at the Capital Turnaround, there is a time capsule buried, filled with artifacts. It is our arc of testimony because God's done too many miracles not to believe him for even bigger and better miracles. Don't turn it into an idol. Don't turn it into an idol. Let God be as original with others as he was with you, but you better build an alter. And then this is the last thing. Testimony is prophecy, testimony is prophecy. Woo.
I'm gonna give Wycliffe Thomas the last word. Oh, I love this, emailed me not long ago. Today marks one year since I recognized that I can see the words on the screen without pain. The astigmatism that I grew up with is gone. Thank you for walking with me over the last year, teaching me how to remember the miracle. Row five seat 14, row five seat 14 means a whole lot more. Every time I sit there, my worship accelerates and my heart quick connects to God. I love what Wycliffe says next, 'cause miracles are not neat and clean. You have to praise God for partial miracles. There's steps forward. There's steps back. Like, I mean, come on people. Like this is not, there's not like, it's just not a wave of the hand.
So, I love what Wycliffe says, "I'm learning to steward the miracle mainly through therapy for complex PTSD. I think I've somehow been afraid to be bold about not having all the answers". Anybody else like you failed to give God the praise 'cause you don't have it all figured out? You never will. Thank you for walking with me over the last year, teaching me how to remember the miracle. Oh, I went back, I keep hearing God say that learning how to receive this partial miracle and all that I'm learning through it will allow me to recognize bigger miracles as I can handle it, as I can steward it. The word of my testimony overcomes. The word of what? The word of my testimony.
Revelation 12. "They triumphed over him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony". I'm gonna park this thing. When Naaman pulled up with two donkey loads of dirt, in his little pay mobile, started taking the dirt out of those saddle bags, those memory bags, put it on the ground and knelt on it and prayed on it and praised on it. Do you think it raised a few eyebrows? Do you think it prompted a few questions? I think Naaman is sharing his testimony. I had leprosy. I had a death sentence. Not anymore. Here I am, whole. Wherever you have experienced victory, you have authority and your testimony is someone else's prophecy. If God did it before he can do it again. If God did it for you, he can do it for me. In Jesus' name, amen, and amen.