TD Jakes - Living Off A Memory
They were captives, and they were bound. And when we step into our text, we step into the text of people who have carried their bloody, beaten body away from the holy city of Jerusalem and found themselves in a strange place called Babylon. Brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, we find ourselves in a strange place today. We find ourselves in a place that we have never been in before. I have seen a lot of things happen in my life. I remember the "I Have A Dream" speech when Dr. King spoke. I remember the day that they shot him in the motel in Memphis. I remember it. I was a young boy, but I still remember it. I remember his funeral, and the wood-drawn, horse-drawn carriage that they put his body. I still remember Mahalia Jackson singing "Move On Up A Little Higher," at the funeral. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I remember the Vietnam War. I remember the Vietnam War and I remember the hippies and I remember a lot of things. And I remember when John Kennedy was killed right down here in Dallas, and I remember when Bobby Kennedy was destroyed. And I remember when we were lied to about Vietnam, and I remember Watergate and the scandal and Nixon. And I remember the civil rights, and I remember the penance bread. And I remember when they carried the charred bodies of black little girls out of a church service. And Emmett Till, and Medgar Evers, I remember all of that.
I've seen all of that in the spread of my life, but I have never seen a time like this. I have never seen a time where churches were closed down and those who dared to come wear masks like they were gettin' ready to rob a bank. And I have never seen a time that you had to pray about whether it was safe to go to the grocery store. And I have never seen a time that people are taking your temperature before you walked into a mall. And I have never seen a time that hundreds and thousands of people are dead from an invisible disease that you can't tell whether you're walking into it or not. I have never seen a time like this.
And so when my brother sits by the rivers of Babylon, I sit there with him. I sit there with him. 'Cause he has never seen Babylon, and I have never seen this. And the Bible says that he sat down by the rivers of Babylon and he wept. And when I studied the rivers of Babylon, it is in all likelihood not so much a river but a canal that was built from the rivers, because the Babylonians irrigated their crops by building canals that caused water to flow so that they didn't have to carry water so far in order to water their crops. And this manmade river is accentuated by man-caused tears. And as the tears run down his face, the rivers flow until you cannot tell one from the other. We sat by the rivers of Babylon. They sat by the rivers of Babylon and we wept. Not because of the pain in our bodies or the laceration in our flesh or the discomfort of the chains around our ankles, we wept when we remembered what we lost. Oh, what we lost.
I come here every Sunday and preach, and it really doesn't bother me to preach in an empty building. It didn't bother me, it didn't upset me, because it put me in a war mode. And when I get in a war mode, fighting becomes the optimum drug. And all I'm going to do is fight, and I'm going to fight with anybody sitting there or not to let the devil know, you ain't going to take me out like this, I'll fight ya if don't nobody come. I'll preach in a room by myself, it didn't bother me to see the empty room. But the other night, the other night, the other night on New Year's Eve, when they showed the room full and the balcony was loaded and the choir stand was jumping and the music was everywhere and the traffic was backed up, I looked at it and tears welled up in my eyes, because I remembered.
I remembered what normal looks like. I remember what we have lost, I remember that I remember the thunderous sound than I'm used to hearing on Sunday morning when thousands of people break out in spontaneous praise and the aisle is filled with dancing and it's funny the emptiness didn't hurt like the memory of the full. It was all I could do to fight back the tears, Pastor, when I remembered what was. And I sat with my brother by the banks of the river with tears in my eyes, not over a torch or a pain, but over a memory. A memory of what we had lost. The Bible says in Revelation, remember from what Great height you have fallen, and repent. And it seems like a weird thing to say, but sometimes you forget what you lost until something comes along and reminds you. No wonder he got angry. No wonder he sat there and got bitter and condemned their children and asked God to destroy the Edamites and the Babylonians and to rise up against him because he knew three things. And there are three things I want you to get and remember, they're very important.
Number one, taking me to Babylon doesn't make me a Babylonian. You can take me to Babylon, but you can't make me a Babylonian. I will always be who I am. I don't care where you dragged me, I don't care what you do to me, I don't care what you take from me, taking me to Babylon doesn't make me a Babylonian. You can change my name, and they did. You can change my clothes, and they did. You can impart a name on me that honors your God, and they did that too. But you can never make me forget who I am! I am not this. I may be in this, but I am not this. I don't know who I'm preaching to, you may be in it but you are not that. Don't let the devil convince you, just because of a temporary circumstance that you forget who you really are. You might be in a storm right now, you might be suffering right now, you might be broke right now, but don't believe it! Tell the devil, you took my clothes and you took my name, but you did not take my memory, and I still remember who I am.
Number two, remember this. That my memories define my identity. And you can take my clothes, but it wasn't in my clothes. And you can take my bracelets, it's not in my bracelets. And you can change my name and cut my hair, but you cannot take my identity, because I still remember who I am. The last thing I told my youngest son when I took him off to college, I hollered out the window and said, hey! Boy! Don't you forget who you are! I want to tell this church, I don't care how long the pandemic lasts, I don't care how much we go through, I don't care how tough it gets, I don't care how much they fight in Washingon. Hey! Don't you forget who you are! Hold onto your memories. There's not a person in this room that God didn't do something in your life as an evidence to you that he is God over every circumstance in your life. Some momento, some moment, some time, some situation where God showed up in your life. And don't you get in the store and forget what he taught you!
And number three. Why do we value more in retrospect than we do in real time? Sometimes we don't appreciate the good things 'til we lose them. Sometimes we don't value the people we have in our lives 'til we lose them. Sometimes we don't appreciate a good job, a good ministry, a good opportunity, a good friend, 'til they're gone. Why do we value more in retrospect than we do in real time? We throw people away so easily. We get rid of 'em like they're expendable commodities. Sometimes you ought to remember, before you make a decision, that you may be throwing away somebody today that you need tomorrow. And he said, I hung my harp by the willow tree. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. If you've ever seen a willow tree, out of all the trees that stretch their branches upward toward heaven, a willow tree always looks sad because its branches hang down. And he said, I hung my harp on the willow tree. I took the instrument of praise that I sang and danced before God with and tied it to a tree that was pointed to the ground. And on the willow tree we hung our harps.
And when we hung our harps by the willow trees, the only sound they could hear from us is weeping. You can take me from it, but you can't make me not want it. You can lock me up, but you can't stop me from remembering it. I took that last look as you dragged me away, and it burned a picture in my mind before a camera had ever been made. If I forget Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. My only defiance to the times we're living in is a memory that God gave me to hold on. And this do in remembrance of me. And as often as you do this, I don't want you to ever get in a situation that you forget that I am God. I don't want you to ever let some change get on you so tight that you forget that I'm God. Don't you ever get so broke that you forget that I'm God. Don't you ever get so lonely that you forget that I'm God. Don't you ever get so depressed that you forget that I'm God!
I'm wondering if there's anybody in this room or listening online who has anything that God ever did for you, that you know that you know that you know that you know that God did for you. That whenever all hell breaks loose and the enemy tries to take you captive, you can remember it and say, devil, you're a liar, I know God is real. If there's anybody who's got a memory of God in your life, open your mouth and give him a praise! Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Just a praise. I know he did that. I know he did that. I know he did that for me. I know he did that for me. I know he did that. I don't know what I'm gonna eat tomorrow, but I know he did that. I don't know whether my marriage is gonna work, but I know God did that. I don't know whether I'll get my job back, but I know God. I know, I know! I know that my redeemer lives. Though the skin worms eat up my flesh, there are boils all over my body, I know that my redeemer lives.
Job said that with his kids dead and his house burned down and his crops all eaten up. He said, all of that might be true, but I know that my redeemer lives. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know. Somebody I'm preaching to, the enemy's tryin' to make you forget what you know about God. Do you not know the enemy comes against your memory of God? The Bible says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Somebody holler, I know it! It might not look like it, but I know it. I may be tied up right now, but I know it. I may be down to my last dime, but I know it. I may be hurting right now, but I know it. I might be tied in chains, but I know it. I might be crying by the willow tree, but I know it. I know it!
And they asked us to sing the Lord's Song. They wanted us to reduce our worship down to their entertainment. And I will not allow something that's holy to me to become entertainment to you. This song belongs to God, and if I can't sing it to him, I won't sing it to you. I won't let anything be another God before me. Come on, somebody. Somebody wants to replace God in your life and get you to be as dedicated to them as you are to God. But hang your harp by the willow tree and say, don't nobody get that part of me but God. You can have this and that and the other, but don't nobody get that part of me but God. I love you 'til my heart busts, but you don't get this part of me, this part belongs to God. I have an inner sanctuary that I don't let nobody in but God. To God be the glory! I will not dance and sing and become your entertainment. No, no. I lost my culture, I lost my name, I lost my apparel, I lost my environment, but I have not lost my memory. If I forget Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.
There ought to be something that you remember about God that can make you sing in your house. Oh, y'all didn't hear me. Not in a church, in your house. There ought to be something that you remember about God that'll make you shout while you're washing your dishes. There ought to be something that you remember about God that you don't need praise dancers, you don't need praise singers, you don't need equipment, all you need to do is think on the goodness of Jesus and all that he's done for you. You ought to be able to praise him right in front of that computer. When you look back and you see where God brought you from, there oughtta be something in your life that you've not let the devil take from you. And if you can hear me, you oughtta give God a praise for that thing you still got! I still got it! I was young but now I'm old, but I still got it. I lost some friends, but I still got it. I got my anointing, I got the glory, I got the power of God, I got the thing that I know that he did in my life.
If there's a witness out there, if God's got a witness anywhere, open your mouth and give God the praise! The praise! If there's a cancer survivor out there, give God the praise! If there's anybody that's ever been ill or sick and got up, give God the praise! If the devil tried to destroy your mind and you're still here, give God the... Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! Holler at somebody say, excuse me, but I gotta praise him! I might get on your nerves, but I gotta praise him. I might get loud, but I gotta praise him. I just remembered something. I remembered something, something between me and God. I remember what he brought me through. I remember how he raised me. I remember how he brought me out of jail. I remember how he opened up a door. I remember how he grabbed me off of drugs. If you got a testimony, for the next three minutes give God a crazy praise! Just a crazy praise! A crazy! A crazy praise! A crazy, spontaneous, gut-wrenching, gulley-washing, thirst-quenching, you got a minute left! You've got a minute left, don't waste it looking at me, give God! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
I feel the Holy Ghost walking in this room! I feel the power of God going through technology! I feel the power coming in your house! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! Every now and then, every now and then, I tell the Lord I've got some goals, I got some things I want to see you do. I got some more mountains I wanna climb. I got some valleys I want to go through. But then I tell him, I want you to know, though, if you don't do anything else for me the rest of my life, I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Is there anybody out there that if God don't do anything else? Is there anybody over here if God don't do another thing for you, you'll praise him the rest of your life?