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Steven Furtick - OFF MENU

Steven Furtick - OFF MENU

"I'm praising you because…" Hey, how big is your "because"? Let me hear it right now. If you have a reason… I tell you what. Somebody is praising him today because they woke up today. That's a good start. Now listen. Some people don't praise God because they woke up to see another day, but if you ever thought you wouldn't see another day and you did, then you have a reason to praise him. Everything that has breath and is thankful, praise the Lord. Somebody is praising him because they had something to eat today. I'm not saying it was healthy. That was your decision. I'm not saying you aren't still hungry, but somebody is praising him today because he fed them.

Somebody is praising him today because they had somewhere to sleep last night that was soft and comfortable. Somebody is praising him because this week you smiled again, and it has been a long time since that smile was on your face. You felt a trickle of joy, and you're about to see an avalanche of God's blessing come against your depression. Somebody is praising him today because somebody is in church with you who you thought would never be back in church, but they came today. Somebody is praising him because although the medical diagnosis doesn't look good right now, you know that Jehovah-Rapha is your healer and that he is the resurrection and the life.

Somebody is praising him today because although they're not where they want to be, they look back at their past and thank him that they're not who they used to be. "I'm praising him because…" Now you fill in the blank. "I'm praising him because he's faithful. I'm praising him because he's King of Kings. I'm praising him because he's my Elohim. I'm praising him because he's my shepherd. I'm praising him because I shall not want. I'm praising him because he fed me in the valley. I'm praising him for every mountain he brought me over". Give him a personal praise right now!

High-five seven people and say, "He's been good to me". Yeah, he's really that good. Yeah, he's really worthy of it. Yeah, I really love him. Yeah, I really appreciate him. Yeah, I really know him. Yeah, he really did it. Jesus is real to me. Do y'all want to keep singing that? All right. Download it on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, or Amazon Music. Go get a cassette. "Sure Been Good". The new song is out now. I have a feeling for some of you that's not a new song. For some of you, that has been the song of your heart through every season of your life. Life hasn't always been good and people haven't always treated you good, but he has always been good through it all. For we know that in all things God works all things together for good. They're not all good; he's all good.

How many know, "It was all God in my life that I made it this far"? Hey, eFam, I want in the comments every "because" you can think of why you're praising him. "I'm praising him because…" Just fill in the blank. We're praising him today because you're here with us. Elevation Ballantyne, let's welcome our eFam around the world. Welcome. We're glad you're here for the final installment of our series Ghost Writer. This is it, y'all. We have to make it count. Well, it's at least the series or season finale. We might do a season 2 sometime, because we only got to Acts 10. The birthday girl herself, Holly Furtick, left us last week in Acts, chapter 9. I'm going to pick up where Holly dropped you off in Acts, chapter 10.

I want to say not only "Happy birthday" to you, Holly, and all of the things I wrote in that letter I wrote to you at 4:30 a.m.… If there were typos, please forgive them, and if I got a little mushy at the end or a little inappropriate with some of the things I said at the end, you'll forgive me. Thank you for the way you nourish our family, our dreams; for the way you fight against our fears and insecurities with the loveliness of your poise and the precision of your words and encouragement. When I call you the "Holly spirit," I'm kidding…kind of. The Holy Spirit is the greatest guide I was ever given in my life, and the Holly spirit is the second greatest. You know what's crazy? There are so many times where the first guide, the Holy Spirit, used the Holly spirit in a way to steer me, because sometimes I won't listen to him, but I will listen to you. Thank you for seeing the best in us, and thank you for bringing the best of you. You're amazing.

Is it a coincidence that today is Pentecost Sunday? Fifty days after the resurrection where the church celebrates the birth of the church and the giving of the Holy Spirit, and May 19 happens to be a Sunday this year, the birthday, not of the church but of my Holly spirit. I told her, "This week, where your birthday falls, I would take the weekend off and go do it". She said, "Well, would you just preach a special birthday sermon for me"? I said, "Deal". We wanted to close this series where we've been talking about the Holy Spirit. How many are grateful, by the way, for the Holy Spirit and for what he's teaching you in your life? He is so much more than a goose bump or a good feeling. He can give you a goose bump. He can give you a good feeling. If God is giving out goose bumps, I'll take them. How about you? People say faith is not feelings.

Well, I sometimes need to feel God's presence because I feel a lot of other things too. But the book of Acts has also spoken of the Holy Spirit in so many ways as being the promise of God, the gift of God, the fountain of God, the outpouring, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the fullness, the power, the witness, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Lord led me to this special passage today not only, of course, for Holly but for all of us as we are listening now for what the Spirit says. For those of you who are here for the first time, we don't stand for the whole sermon. We stand for the Scripture, then we sit, and then standing is discretionary from that point forward. I ask that you stand wherever you are for the reading of God's Word. Maybe you're going to have a birthday too. Maybe God is going to birth something in your life you weren't even prepared for today.

The Bible says in Acts 10:9: "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat…" For some of you, that's your new life verse. "I want something to eat. Lord, I claim Acts 10:10 over my life. I want something to eat". "…and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' 'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.'" "There are reptiles and birds on this sheet. I can't eat that. That is not on my diet. That is forbidden in Leviticus 11, and I am a good, observant Jewish boy. I can't do it, Lord. I never have, and I'm not going to start now".

Verse 15: "The voice spoke to him a second time…" This is the persistence of God. "'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times…" Peter is kind of hardheaded. "…and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there". I'm going to make a whole sandwich out of that verse. We'll come back to it.

Verse 19: "While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, [I hate to interrupt your deep thoughts, but] three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.' Peter went down and said to the men, 'I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?' The men replied, 'We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.' Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them…"

Go back to this verse. This is the verse I want to dedicate to Holly and to all of you on Pentecost Sunday, Holly's birthday. Verse 10: "He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared…" Now look at your neighbor and tell them, "God is preparing something amazing for you". Now flip it a little bit. Turn to your other neighbor, your second choice. Say, "And God is preparing you for something amazing". So, Peter is hungry. Somebody has been hungry. Somebody needs something from the Lord today. You need bread from heaven. You need water from the rock in the wilderness of your despair. Here it comes. God is preparing something, but today I want to tell you a little secret: it's going to be off menu. The title and assignment of my final installment of our series Ghost Writer is Off Menu. Speak, Lord. We're listening. In Jesus' name, amen.

I feel something special about to happen in our lives today. Of all of the wonderful things I would miss about Holly if she ever was raptured and I was left here, I would not miss the moments before we order our food in a restaurant together. Our favorite thing to do together…our second favorite thing to do together is to go out to eat. (Our first favorite is to pray and recite Philippians.) We're just different. Our taste in food is different, but the only thing that… Well, first of all, she likes to order appetizers, and I have this thing that appetizers make the meal take 35 more minutes, and I don't like it. The second thing is I'll pretty much walk into the restaurant knowing what I'm going to eat, whether I've been there or not. There are three items that are pretty common to every menu, protein-based, so I'll order one of those.

My wife, on the other hand… I have to tell you something about her. You know, you see her up here on the stage, and she looks wonderful, and she's even more wonderful the more you get to know her. She mentioned how her favorite kinds of stories to read are stories where the character goes through something and it's really difficult. She talked about that last week. Did you hear that message? Now What? What a word. Aren't we all wondering that? "Now what"? "God, I prayed for this baby. You gave me this baby. Now what"? "God, I got them out of the car seat. Now they want the car keys. Now what"? It was such a good word. In the process of her speaking to you, she left something out. She said her favorite thing to read was a story where the character goes through… That's not true.

My wife, Holly Furtick… Her favorite thing to read in the entire world is a menu. I have seen this woman study a menu at a restaurant that we have gone to every Thursday night for 18 months. We're not very adventurous. We go to the same restaurants. It's the same menu, and she studies it like it was the Declaration of Independence and she's in an eighth-grade history class. She studies it like it is a contract for an entire condominium. She studies it like it is a Nicholas Sparks The Notebook letter that was left by the love of… She studies it like it is the state capitals and she is about to go to geography… She studies it. I have seen her late at night before, scrolling on her phone. It looks kind of suspicious because she looks so happy scrolling on the phone. I'm like, "What, are you looking at Candy Crush? Did you beat a new level? What's happening over there"? She will be reading a menu for a restaurant in a city we are going to in two and a half months.

The woman loves a menu. Am I preaching the truth, Abbey? I'm picking on her, but I love it, because I'm the one who leans over to her. "What would I like here"? After all of that I just said, it's really nice to have somebody who studies the menu. But what I can't understand, Elevation Church… (Forgive me. This is the last week of my series. My wife's birthday is Pentecost Sunday. We're celebrating the Holy Spirit and all that. I'm excited about it.) Why would you read the whole menu, study it in advance…? I mean, she will grill the server. If you are a server and you get us at the restaurant, we will tip big, but you will earn it, because you will be answering a quiz. It will be a quiz. There will be a quiz. I've watched her do it so many times. "So, the broccoli chicken with the lemon cream sauce… Tell me about the lemon cream sauce".

The server is always so nice because she's so nice. "Well, ma'am, it's a sauce that consists of lemon, and then there's cream". And the level of nuance. "Well, is it, like, lemony lemon or is it more creamy lemon? Is it more cream than lemon or more…"? "Tell me about the honey sriracha". "Well, ma'am, it's honey…sriracha". I've come to admire it in a way. What I want to know is after all of that, when the server says, "Thank you for dining with us tonight. We have a few specials that are not on the menu. Would you like to hear about those…"? I'm thinking, "No way. She prepared for this like it was the bar exam. We're not just going to take a flier on something the chef whipped up because he was tired of what he has to make every night". She'll lean in and go, "Yes. Tell me about the specials, and leave nothing out". I'm going, "Oh god! Just bring me a steak or a burger patty and some A.1. I can make it work. Do you have some peanuts"?

I asked her recently, "Why do you want to hear about the specials"? She said, "Well, what if it's something fresh? What if it's something new"? I guess what she's doing is, since I'm so boring and take her to the same three restaurants over and over again, she's creating a new experience in the same place. I want to be a little bit more like you, because as I get off of this way-too-long opening illustration that I indulged in (and I thank you for allowing me to indulge), I was thinking about how in Acts, chapter 10… You were probably wondering why I was reading that story to you. Like, "Are you…? What…? This is… You're reading to me about somebody who went up on a roof, prayed, went in a trance, and went downstairs. What does that have to do with this divorce I'm going through"? "What does that have to do with this situation with my kid, who probably needs to go to rehab, but I can't make them go, and I can't force them, and now they're not even under my jurisdiction anymore? What does this that happened 2,000 years ago have to do with what I'm going through today"?

Your story is not really that different from Peter's other than the fact that you have air conditioning so you don't have to go up on a roof to pray to catch the breeze that's coming in from the port city called Joppa. And you probably have a little different diet than Peter. The Bible talks about how this sheet came down from heaven while he was praying. Let's take note of that in verse 9 before we move any farther. It says, "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray". I think there are some situations you have to pray your way through because you can't figure them out. Anytime life gives you a situation where you can't figure it out, that's an opportunity for you to learn to pray your way through what you can't figure out.

That does not mean you will have to spend every waking minute of your life reciting prayers and reading Scriptures, but it does mean you will have to learn how to prepare yourself for what God has prepared for you. I see Peter here praying on the roof, and my question is, "What is he praying about"? He has a lot to pray about. There's a lot of pressure on Peter. Does anybody have a lot of pressure on you? You're embarrassed to say, "Yes" to that because you're like, "Not compared to Peter. He's taking the gospel to the world". Well, I mean, you're taking the gospel to somebody. You're responsible for somebody. You're fighting through something that doesn't seem to want to let you go.

If nothing else, you have the pressure of struggling against that old nature in you that keeps making you want to act like you don't know God even though you do. If nothing else, you have the pressure of waking up another day and feeling like you have more agenda than you have energy. So, we pray our way through pressure or the pressure pushes us over the edge and pushes us into places of hiding that are dangerous. I don't want to get sidetracked by this, because, honestly, I'm not so interested that Peter was praying or that he was praying at noon, which, by the way, was not even a required time to pray. This was like a bonus prayer for Peter.

Let's take a moment in the church… We beat up on Peter a lot, how he went to walk on water and slipped and fell, how he cut off somebody's ear in the garden when they were coming to get Jesus, and how he was cussing and denying Christ when he went to the cross. Let's give Peter five seconds of "attaboy" hand-clapping ovation that he's up there praying when he doesn't have to be praying. I think we should do that. I think we need to humanize these Bible characters. I think you ought to keep those hands going because you're in church right now and you don't have to be. Just like you clapped for Peter, I want you to clap for yourself for a minute. I want you to clap for yourself for a minute that you made it to church today.

I know you're not praising yourself, but praise God that he got you here today. Praise God that he brought you back to church another day. I didn't say you prayed an hour before you came, but you came. I thank God you're here. I wonder what he was praying about. Don't you? I mean, like Pastor Holly shared last week, he just raised somebody from the dead, and he never did that before. Now he's staying in the city and, certainly, the paparazzi are looking for him, trying to find Peter in Joppa. So now, in order to get a little bit of perspective, he has to go up on a roof to pray. Maybe if you're a new mom, you have to go into the bathroom sometimes and pray. Maybe your prayer closet is your bathroom for a little while, but they will find you in that bathroom. There is no safe place for you to go and pray. I think it's interesting that he went up on a roof, because that's a high place.

I think sometimes while we're just around all this stuff of our lives and just around the surroundings and around the demands… That's why I think anytime you can get to church physically, get to church physically, especially if the church is called Elevation, because we'll try to get you higher for a few minutes. He's up there praying, and as he's praying, we don't know what he's praying. I imagine he is praying about his purpose. "God, how do you want me, little ol' me, Simon Peter, the disciple who cursed while the rooster was crowing…? How do you want me to keep this going? I mean, it's amazing how you used me to heal that man at the gate called Beautiful. It's amazing how you used me to preach and convert all of these people. It's amazing how you were there with me in the prison.

It's amazing how you used me to get Aeneas off of his mat. It's amazing how you used me to get Tabitha up, that woman who had made all of those things for all of these people, but now I'm in Joppa". He's still in Joppa. He doesn't really know what he's doing in Joppa, but he's in Joppa. He's stopping somewhere, and he doesn't know where he's going, but he is stopped somewhere that he is praying about where God has him and where God is taking him, and he's praying. Then he gets sleepy while he's praying, and he sees something in his vision that completely freaks him out. A blanket comes down from heaven. This is where everybody who really thinks while I read the Bible is like, "So, Pastor, when you say that Peter got high, are you just talking about the roof he went up on? Did they have mushrooms back then, Pastor? What's going on that he would see this blanket"?

Oh, you just see blankets with birds and stuff on them every day. The stuff that happens in the Bible. That's the way we like it, though. The Bible stuff can be weird, supernatural, freaky, and crazy, but we're just trying to pay our bills. What I am suggesting to you is that the God who showed Peter this wants to show you something too. Somebody shout, "God, show me something". Be more specific. "Holy Spirit, show me something". That has been my biggest prayer of the last year. You can rip it off and use it. I just pray, "God, show me something. What did I not see about that conversation that I should have seen? God, what did I miss while I went through my day that you want me to incorporate into my tomorrow? God, what was the thing I missed today that if I don't pick up on it and adjust it, I will multiply the mistakes of today into tomorrow?

God, what is the thing I have thought I was right about all my life that I'm really wrong about right now? What are the answers I knew yesterday that have become irrelevant in this season of my life that I am still clinging to that are keeping me from being who I need to be"? Peter was praying. I wonder if he was praying for an opportunity to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Now, just to catch you up a little bit, the Gentiles were not bad people, but they were not God's covenant people. God's covenant people were the Jews, and God always had a plan to bless the Gentiles through the Jews. He told Abraham, "I will bless you, and you will be a blessing, and all of the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you".

Now Peter is standing in the continuation of something that God spoke centuries before he was ever born. This thing did not start with you. It's bigger than you. Everything you're going through is connected to something bigger than you. One of the greatest gifts the Holy Spirit can give you is a wide lens on your life to realize there will come somebody after you who is dependent on your example, that there has come somebody before you who has given you an example to follow, and that those who came before you might have had chains on them that you have the power to break because God called you and assigned you to break them. That's a wide lens. When you worship, it gives you a wide lens. When you worry, it narrows the scope of what you're going through. When you don't pray, you feel nothing but pressure. But I came to tell you if you will pray your way through this pressure… It doesn't have to be a long prayer. It doesn't even have to be a focused prayer. Peter was half asleep and God spoke to him.

So, as long as you will set your heart in the direction of God, he wants to speak to you more than you want to hear him. He wants to show you more than you want to see it. Stop talking to God like you have to negotiate a hostage out of the situation. He wants to give you wisdom, wants to give you opportunity, wants to show you open doors, wants to tell you who to call, wants to tell you who to talk to, wants to bring people in your path. He just wants to know if you will be prepared. Peter was preparing. "I don't know what's next, but I've got to get ready for it, so I've got to pray my way through this thing. I've got to pray my way so I can prepare".

I almost brought my screen out today, because I wanted to show you something. I wanted to write the word prepare on the screen and spell it the way you would think was wrong but the way that would actually be right. I was just going to write "God is preparing you," but I was going to spell it P-R-E-P-A-I-R. I was going to let it sit there for about 15 minutes until all of the OCD grammar police started throwing stones at me at the stage. I'd be like Stephen in Acts, chapter 7, just up here taking the stones. Just before I went unconscious and died… Throwing your Elevation pens at me and stuff. "You spelled it wrong"! I was going to say, "No, no, no. God is preparing you for what he has pre-paired you for". I believe, while Holly was growing up in Miami, Florida, and I was growing up in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the experiences and gifts God was giving me in Moncks Corner and the experiences and gifts God was giving her in Miami were two ingredients that were meant to go together to make the ministry God has privileged us to serve within today.

I believe that we were pre-paired. You still don't get it. My second illustration is this. Before I preach, I always take out of my pocket this thing. It just seems unnecessary weight to be up here preaching, so I always take it out of my pocket. I went to take it out… Do y'all know what this is? I'm not going to do a product endorsement. This is the thing that drives you crazy when you see somebody walking around like they are such a baller that they can't take that out of their ear for five minutes to check out in the grocery store line. I do it too, but I'm usually just listening to something. I'm usually not talking to anybody. Sometimes, if I want to get somewhere quickly, I'll put it in and pretend like I'm talking to somebody just so I can walk through. "Yeah, yeah. We'll get back to you on that. That'll be great".

It's funny, because I can't hear your phone through this Bluetooth AirPod, but I can hear mine because my phone is paired. You don't know. I might be listening to Fred Hammond or Drake up here right now, but it's my phone. I wouldn't have to make this work with this, because I'm not waiting until I get up here to pair it; it's pre-paired. So, the voice I would hear in my ear would be relative to the device this instrument was paired to. The Bible says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh". Is the problem with the voices that are going through your mind that are sabotaging your strength, sucking you dry of your joy, and causing you to lose your confidence in what you know good and well God called you to do…? Is it possible that you have been pre-paired to the wrong device? Is there something that's going on in your mind today?

I'm just asking, because when I read the passage, you were like, "This is a weird one, Pastor". Is it really? Or is it a picture that even though Peter wasn't prepared to raise a dead girl, wasn't prepared to go to Cornelius' house, and wasn't prepared to speak to a centurion in Acts, chapter 10, he was pre-paired? I think it's possible. I think it's possible that although you don't feel ready for this season of your life, although you feel alone in this season of your life, although you feel you don't have the skills it takes for this step of faith God has given you, although you feel like you're the wrong one for the job, God has been pre-pairing you for the exact assignment you are designed to accomplish. "I will fulfill it". Say it out loud. "I will fulfill it. If it's for me, it will be".

That's why I want you to disconnect from every device that is not a part of your destiny, every voice, every website, every social media app, everything you play on your head in a loop and call your truth. It's not your truth. You are in a trance, baby. You are in a trance of thinking, "This is the way I have to be. This is who I've always been. This is how the world is. This is how every teenager is". Not every teenager, baby. You haven't met me yet. I'm full of the Holy Ghost and fire. I'm baptized, I'm bold, I'm born again, I'm fired up, and I'm prepared. All right. I'll do it. The Lord said I have to tell you about David. He saw Goliath. What could prepare you for Goliath? "Oh, I killed a lion. Oh, I killed a bear. Oh, I have a slingshot". "Now when I hook up this instrument to this device… When I hook up this experience with this challenge…"

Sometimes you forget what you have. Sometimes you remember where you've been, and sometimes that's a good thing, but sometimes you have memorized a menu that is no longer available to you. Can I preach this thing, y'all? I have to get you ready for the summer. Everybody is trying to get a beach body. I'm trying to get you a beach spirit. Biceps won't help you when all hell breaks loose in your family. None of that is going to matter a bit. But what matters… We're talking about food, but God is using the food. If you thought this passage was actually about food, you need to read it again through the lens of the Holy Spirit. Peter did. He's up there hungry, and whenever you're hungry, everything looks good. Ain't that the truth? Ask Esau how good a bowl of beans will look when you're hungry. That's why some people date the wrong people. Okay. Eating stuff you never would have eaten. "He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal…" Okay. This is so good. You have to see this.

Verse 10: "…and while the meal was being prepared…" What was being prepared? The meal wasn't the only thing being prepared. Peter was being prepared. Part of that preparation process was an unpairing, an unpairing with his past. The Spirit of God confirmed to me so many times through our worship experience today when we were singing… Everything we sang today was a confirmation of what he gave me to preach. It was like it was paired together. One of the things you may not have seen on the surface was there was a video for my wife's birthday, and people were saying, "Thank you, Pastor Holly. Thank you, Pastor Holly. Thank you, Pastor Holly, for the words you've spoken". I thought it was appropriate. Although we do not praise men, we praise God who gives us men and women as gifts. So it was right that they celebrated you, but it wasn't that they celebrated you that touched me; it was what they called you: "Pastor Holly". It took me back to the memory of the time that you said, "I will never marry a pastor". She said that. Now you is one.

Come on. Simon would have never seen himself as a shepherd, but Jesus called him Peter and said, "Feed my sheep". God was pre-pairing Jews and Gentiles. It was pre-paired. God needed somebody who was an official apostle to knock down that barrier officially and get the gospel to the Gentiles. I'm glad he did, because I am a Gentile. I'm glad the gospel didn't stop with what Peter thought about it. He's preparing me. He's not just preparing a meal; he's preparing me. Are you so focused on the meal you don't even see the mission? Are you so focused on this day's needs, this day's inconvenience, this season's hunger, this season's annoyance…? It is so typical for me to get so irritated, so I will miss something that could have been a miracle because of something as small as an irritation. I thought it significant, on our last week of the Ghost Writer series, to talk about how sometimes the greatest things God brings into our lives are off menu.

When I say menu, I'm talking about how you expected him to use you. "I'll never be a pastor's wife". "Cool. I'll just make you a pastor, and then you'll have to be a pastor's wife". "I'll never be free," you say. Well, God says, "Good. I'll just give you the blood of Jesus. I'll declare you righteous, and I'll set you free, and if the Son sets you free, you'll be free indeed. I'll just do what I want to do". You can't call unclean what God has called clean. That's what he told Peter. We look at the passage, and we see a bunch of characters. There's this guy… I didn't get to tell you about him, but this guy Cornelius is amazing. He's over 100 soldiers. He is very, very faithful. He's not a believer. He's not a Jew. He's not circumcised. He's definitely not a Christian yet, but God wants to give him the Holy Spirit.

So, one day he's praying at 3:00 p.m. This is amazing, because while he's praying at 3:00 p.m. one day, God is already pre-pairing him with somebody who's going to be praying at noon the next day, but that's beside the point. While you are praying about stuff, God is preparing stuff. Don't worry if you don't see what he's preparing, because he was praying 30 miles away. Don't stop praying just because you don't see proof. The proof might be on the way while you're praying. So, Cornelius sees an angel. Now, Peter didn't see an angel. Peter heard a voice and saw a sheet. I think one of the reasons for that is he had had three years with Jesus. When he called him "Lord" and said, "I can't do this," he knew the voice because he was pre-paired.

One thing… And I'll leave this illustration alone after this. Even if it was paired, if I left it back there, it would be too distant to pick it up. That's why you have to stay close to God in your heart throughout the day. For it to connect, it must be close. God didn't leave you; you left him in your heart. Do not leave Jesus in this church today when you leave. You have the Holy Spirit. He goes with you. This is a moving menu. Yeah. This is like a faith food truck. It's going to show up wherever you need it this week. Boy, I needed it yesterday. I was about to road rage really bad on somebody. That relationship with Jesus has Peter so familiar that even though he does not recognize what God is showing him… He sees a sheet with animals, and he's not supposed to eat them. "I don't know". Isn't that how most of our life feels? Honestly. It's not so clear always.

If the Bible had a verse… "Should I let my aging parent move in with me or should I provide them with a nursing home? And if I provide them with a nursing home, how will I pay for it, because I don't have any money anyway"? If the Bible gave you an exact verse about that… But it says, "My God will supply all your needs". It does not go into that level of detail. The detail in this passage is fascinating, how Peter sees this sheet, and the Lord tells him something about food, but he is using the food to show Peter his future. What he is saying to Peter he's saying to you and me. God is saying, "Just because it's not on your menu doesn't mean it's not on mine. Just because you don't think I can do it doesn't mean it's not already happening. Just because you don't see a way it would turn around at this stage doesn't mean it's not already halfway turned".

Notice what the Bible says. Verse 9: "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray". Y'all missed it. Drop down to verse 17. "While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was…" When the angel came to Cornelius, he said, "Go find a guy named Simon the tanner, and when you get there in Joppa, you're going to ask for a man who used to be called Simon but goes by the name Peter". So, the men get there. When? Verse 17: "While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision…"

In my prayer this morning, I saw somebody who is wondering, "What does this mean"? "Here I am single again. What does this mean"? "Here I am going back through this cycle again. I thought I was through with it. What does this mean"? "My kids aren't speaking to me. What does this mean"? "I cannot get through this door because of my employment record. What does this mean"? "Here I am in a situation where I feel rejected. Should I fall back now or is that a sign to try harder? Is the fact that it hasn't happened yet a sign I'm doing the wrong thing and I should try something else? Is the fact that I'm struggling the way I'm getting stronger or is it a sign that God is redirecting me"?

While Peter is praying about all of this… Like, you've been thinking about this and wondering, "What does this mean that I'm going through this? What does this mean that I'm anxious? What does it mean that I'm so afraid? What does it mean that I feel like I'm out of options? What does this mean"? Verse 17: "While Peter was still wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found Simon's house and stopped at the gate". God said to tell you while you're wondering about your next step, the answer is already at the gate, waiting for you. I'll declare it again. While Peter was praying, the men were already there. I am so slow, church. Forgive me. I am so slow.

I read verse 9 about 15 times, and I didn't get it. "About noon the following day as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray". I pictured it like this. While Peter and the other disciples he had met there in Joppa were going back to the city… They'd probably been out all morning doing some ministry, preaching some crusades. As they got to the city, they stopped at the house, and Peter was like, "I'm going to go up there and pray". That is not the they that is referenced in verse 9. "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city…" They are not Peter and his boys; they are the three men Cornelius sent out of the prayer he prayed a day earlier. They are already on the way.

I don't know whose word that is. I don't know what they you need in your life. I don't know if the they you need are people to partner with you or mentors to help you. I don't know if the they you need in your life are emotional areas of healing where you need the balm of almighty God. But God said to tell you on this final week of my series on the Holy Spirit they are already on the way. Get ready, because when you get down there, it's going to be somebody you haven't even met yet. Get ready, because what God is going to bless you with isn't even going to be on the menu. It's off menu.4 What God has on his mind for you is off the menu. What God has on his heart to do through you is off the menu. It's not in your mind. It's not in your senses. It's not in your past. It's not in your tradition, but it's coming. It's already at the gate. While you're praying, it's waiting. It's waiting at the gate.

So, you have a decision to make, honey pie. You have a decision to make, baby boo. You have a decision to make, saint. You have a decision to make, Simon. You have a decision to make, Peter. It goes like this. There are three men at the gate, and there are two men on the roof. "What do you mean, Pastor Steve? Who else is up there? Are you talking about the Lord, Peter and the Lord"? No, no, no. I read you the verse. I told you we were going to come back to it. I told you I was going to make a sandwich. I put it in a Ziploc bag. I prepared for this field trip. I packed this lunch, because I want you to get it. I want you to get it even if it's not on the menu. I want you to get it even if your mom didn't give it to you. I want you to get it even if your dad didn't give it to you. I want you to get it even if your kids aren't saying, "Thank you".

I want you to get it even if nobody recognizes the value of your life. The Bible says that they went to the house of Simon the tanner, looking for a man, and when they got there… Verse 18: "They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was there". There are two people on the roof and three people at the gate. There's Simon on the roof (everything Peter had been before he met Jesus), and there's Peter on the roof. Simon is looking at the blanket, saying, "I never did that before. I can't do that". It's the kind of stuff we say when God shows us what he wants us to do. This blanket is God showing him, "I want to cover the earth with the gospel. I'm not worried about a meal; I'm worried about a mission".

Stop getting tripped up on the wrong, stupid stuff. They hurt your feelings? Don't let a hurt feeling keep you from your future. My God! You need to have a birthday every week so I can preach this good, Holly. I knew the Holy Ghost was going to show up on Pentecost Sunday, because I knew there were some things he needed to talk to you about, Simon. There are some things he needs to say to you, Simon. Did you notice that? I want you to notice this. When the Lord starts talking to Simon Peter… Both of them are up there, you know. Simon represents the part of us that is stuck in our tradition and stuck in our limited experience and stuck in the way we perceive things and stuck in the way we think certain people are and the way we think of certain genders and the way we think women can do this and men can do that and people can do this and people can do that.

I'll never forget people asking me, "When did you decide to become a multicultural church"? It was never a decision. Kirk Franklin asked me one time, "Are you ever surprised how much Black people like you"? I said, "Absolutely not. It doesn't surprise me at all. It's mutual". We're pre-paired. We're not mismatched. The other day, my friend said, "What a lot of people don't know is you know more gospel music than any white man alive". I said, "Because I've been singing in gospel choirs since I was 16". So, this wasn't a surprise to me. Not to me. Now, the reason I bring these traditions up is because those are all pretty cute, but what if it's not so mentionable what you're attached to? What if yours is something that's sexual that makes you feel filthy? What if you are paired to and connected to a cycle of condemnation or compulsion that causes you to keep giving away everything valuable for the next meal? What if within you is a severe and chronic emotional condition that people tell you to just rejoice over top of, but it keeps getting down on the inside?

What I want you to understand about this precious Holy Spirit you have been given, baptized with, empowered by, filled with, called by, chosen by, a witness to, and guided by in your life; the Holy Spirit who one writer said is the wind and the fire, who is the ship and the sea, who is the horse and the road…this Holy Spirit… Look at what he did for Peter. Verse 17: "While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there". This is what must happen in your life daily. Verse 19: "While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon…'" Catch it. While Peter was thinking, "What do I do about this? I can't do this. What does this mean? I don't know," the Spirit said, "Simon…"

See, all his life he has been playing "Simon Says," thinking like Simon, eating like Simon, moving like Simon. But how many know new minds make new moves? While Peter was thinking about it, the Spirit said, "Simon…" I want to spend less time playing "Simon Says" with myself, because my Simon will tell me some stuff that I know is not going to move me forward. Just me. My Simon will tell me (you know, I mentioned road rage), "Hey, drive up around this median, go cut them off, and turn this car sideways. Be there waiting for them. Get out and stand up on top of the Jeep with your shirt off, with your polo shirt tied around your head like a bandanna on top of the Jeep on the way home from church today. Let them know that's not right how they cut you off". So, I need the Spirit to speak to my Simon so when I go downstairs I can be Peter.

I need the Spirit to speak to my Simon and tell me, "That's crazy. That's your ego talking. That's just you trying to be somebody important, and you're not even thinking about what really matters". I need the Spirit to talk to my Simon, because the Spirit can show me the "me" that is new. Me…new. Menu. It kind of works if you put it together. God says, "You've been dealing with situations a certain way. You always hide when it gets scary. You've been dealing with situations a certain way. You always numb when it gets uncomfortable. You've been dealing with situations a certain way. You always withdraw. The moment it gets too intimate, you get squeamish and move out". But God says, "You have a new menu, and on this menu is a new set of fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control".

This is the fruit of the Spirit. It's amazing, because the Spirit started speaking to Simon, and when the Spirit spoke to Simon, he said, "Don't hesitate. Don't try to figure it out in your head". I don't know who this is for, but stop judging God's capacity by your calculator. Holy Spirit spoke to me four days ago and said, "You keep imagining scenarios like I'm not going to be there with you when you go through them. Stop it". Simon says, "You might not make it". The Spirit says, "I am in you and with you, and I will show you the deep things of God". "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of a man the things that God has prepared for those who love him. But God…"

Ooh, that's 1 Corinthians 2:10. Do y'all want to see it? "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of a [Simon] what God has prepared, but God has revealed them through his Spirit". This is the point I wanted to preach you to today. The Bible says you have to let his Spirit speak to your Simon so this can happen. Verse 20: "Get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate, for I have sent them". Verse 21: "Peter went down…" And it's a good thing, because if Simon went down, the Gentiles never would have gotten the gospel. Okay. Let me resay that. God would have had to pick somebody else. You know God is going to do what he's going to do how he's going to do it, but Peter would have missed it. Stop sending Simon down into Peter situations. Stop showing up like a baby Christian when you've been knowing God for 49 years.

God said, "I've got something I'm preparing for you, but I have to prepare you for what I have pre-paired". If Simon goes down, he tells these men, "I can't eat with you. You're Gentiles. Go away". But when Peter went down, he said, "I'm the one. I don't feel like the one. I don't get it. I don't understand it, but I'm the one. Now let's go to Caesarea, and let's take the gospel and the Holy Spirit with us". It says when they got there, Cornelius was expecting them. He had a whole crowd there. Peter started preaching, and the Lord did something that he did a lot with Peter. He interrupted him. He was like, "Shut up already". The Holy Spirit came, and they all began to speak with other tongues. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The gospel started rippling through generations to the point that, today, we are in church, as Gentiles, because Peter came down those stairs.

I'm so grateful that even though we weren't on the menu, we were on God's mind. When the Lord sends something into your life this week in your rooftop moments… When the Lord sends something into your life this week in your confused moments, and you're wondering what it means, check the gate and send Peter down and say, "I'm the one". Now, people wouldn't have picked you. You weren't on their menu, but we have an off-menu God. He takes people who say, "I'll never marry a pastor," and he goes, "Ha, ha! Ha, ha, Holly. Ha, ha, Pastor Holly".

Get ready for God to do something in your life this week that wasn't even on your menu. Get ready for God to change a situation that you gave up on. Get ready for God to do it in a way that your eyes have not seen and your ears have not heard. High-five 15 people and say, "I'm ready". "I'm on the rooftop, and I'm ready. I have a relationship with God, and I'm ready. I'm the righteousness of God, and I'm ready". Off menu. You weren't even expecting it, were you? That's good. God likes to throw surprise parties. Your pity party is going to be interrupted this week by a surprise party for God to show you that the thing you thought made you pitiful actually makes you powerful. Get Peter down those stairs. Let's go! Let's have a birthday party! Bye, Simon! Hey, Peter! Give him 25 seconds of praise! Give him a praise like Peter did!
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