Immeasurably More by Stephanie Grounds

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Stephanie Grounds has been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2005 and resides in Grand Prairie, TX with her husband Chad and their three children. You can find Stephanie teaching in the Refinery or Boulevard of Kid City on most Sundays.  In her spare time, Stephanie likes to hang out with family, play volleyball, and cheer for THE Dallas Cowboys!

Immeasurably More

Some of you might know me as Chad's wife or you might know me as the girl that wears the blue shirt since I'm always in Kid City. I met my husband at Arlington Baptist College in 1995. Seven months into our friendship, and our courtship, we were sitting in an Arlington hospital room with my parents, and a doctor with bad bedside manner.  At the age of 20, he told me I needed a full hysterectomy. The words simply rolled off the tip of his tongue, “You're never going to be able to have children. You might as well go ahead and get the surgery. We can schedule it today or tomorrow.” What he said so easily, felt as if a house just landed on me, and crushed me. I also remember my very sweet, but very Texan mama replying, “Well, I don't think you are God and we will definitely be seeking a second opinion! Thank you, bye-bye. You are done here.”

The road to my surgeries began. There were six surgeries to be exact, one before I was married, five to follow afterwards, and they all led to exactly the same place: no children. It is amazing how during some of the loneliest times in my life, I absolutely felt my Savior the closest to me. He was right there beside me. He was whispering truths because the enemy was on a mission. Satan wanted to sift me like wheat and sometimes I let him. He would start whispering, “What kind of a woman are you? This is what your husband has dreamed of! All he talked about while you dated was having a family. You cannot give him that. What is wrong with you?” About the time that the enemy would start feeding me those lies, my Savior would start shouting out words of truth; everything depended on who I chose to listen to. The Lord taught me so much during my journey and gave me what I like to call “nuggets of truth”.

About eight years into my journey with infertility I was at my very lowest after learning a birth mom was choosing another family; not Chad and I. This was the second time we had tried to pursue adoption and the door had been shut. I fell on my face in my living room floor and sobbed from the depths of my soul. I gave myself time to weep and mourn before I got up and I went to the Word. That's where the comfort came from - friends can give you comfort, I love my family more than life, but the Word is what kept me sustained. I remember telling the Lord specifically, “I am lost. Please take away this desire to be a mom. I feel dried up and empty.”

My kind and gracious Savior took me to the Bible study I had been doing. The verse was Isaiah 58:11,

”And the Lord will guide you continually...”   Wait Lord, you mean I’m not lost?

“And satisfy your desire in scorched places...” My desire was to be a Mom and let me tell you, I felt really burned.

“And make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Wait, I’m not dried up?

Then I gave up! Not the way you quit something, but I surrendered once and for all. This journey would be 100% His will and not mine, His timing and not mine, His way and not my way. I promise you, besides salvation, that was the sweetest surrender of my life!

In August 2008, after a nine-year battle with infertility (and you can say nine years, “like oh yeah nine years” but that’s a LONG time), I found out we were expecting. I embraced every moment of sickness. Every time I felt like throwing up I celebrated; I was so excited! It was a reminder of the life that the Lord had amazingly placed inside me. One month later we found out we weren’t only expecting, but we were expecting twins! At 20 we were told we would never have children and 13 years later we’re carrying twins... TWIN GIRLS! Their daddy was in trouble.

Everything was going perfect until my 24th week. I taught at an elementary school, having a normal day, until the pain hit. I thought, “Good grief what did I eat that you two disagree with?” Before I knew it, I found myself in the nurse’s station at the school, buckled over, while she told the school counselor to get me to the hospital pronto! This could not be happening.

At the hospital, they told me I was in full labor. This was not good, it was January and my babies were not due until May! There were about six people in the room and everybody was doing something different - rolling me side to side, giving me shots, pumping meds through my IV. I had no idea what was happening because nobody was talking to me. I remember thinking, “I haven't even had a Tylenol since I found out about these babies!”

I was finally able to ask what the nurses were giving me but nobody was listening. Finally, one nurse looked at me and she said, “Honey, we're giving you steroid shots. Your babies’ lungs have not developed. If they're born today, there's a very good chance they’re not going to make it.” I was devastated. They had done a sonogram and Baby A weighed one pound and Baby B weighed 14 ounces! This was a nightmare, but within a few hours the meds started working, my body was responding, and life started making sense again. I was told the girls were stable, but I would have to spend the duration of my pregnancy in the hospital on bed rest.  Two days later as I lay in that hospital bed, two of my precious friends were trying to cheer me up and brighten up my room. I'll never forget they painted a verse for me on a little board:

They hung it up in my room without knowing a few hours later that verse would be my lifeline! I had complained to the nurses that I was having a hard time breathing and they told me it was the medicine they gave me to stop the contractions and I was okay, but the feeling continued. I insisted that I really couldn’t catch my breath, but they suggested that I was going through some anxiety. Once I made it clear that I COULD NOT BREATHE I was taken for a CT scan and chest X-rays. The techs were laughing and having a good time, cutting up, and then all of a sudden they were very somber. When they took me back to my room, they treated me like I was a delicate rose.  I was confused, “What’s going on? What happened to the funny people from before?”

The techs said my doctor would talk to me if there was anything they needed to discuss.  The on-call nurse came in and she told me they found an aneurysm on my heart. They were talking with a heart specialist who would be in shortly to discuss this with me.  The heart surgeon arrived with my mom, my husband, and preacher.  When I saw preacher, I knew it was bad. My husband wanted to break the news to me, so with tears in his eyes, yet so strong, he said, “Stephanie, this aneurysm has to be removed but in order to do so, it requires open-heart surgery. They're going to have to lower your body’s core temperature to the point that your pulse is very weak. But the girls won’t survive that.”

I refused and insisted we just wait because they were only 24 weeks; we just needed to give them a chance and wait a little longer.  The heart surgeon insisted that I didn’t have time. The aneurysm could burst at any moment.  Again, I insisted we give my daughters a chance. I suggested doing a c-section.  They could deliver the babies (and we would pray for God to sustain their life) and then the doctors could do the open heart surgery afterwards.  The surgeon told me my body could not go through a c-section and in then immediately have open heart surgery. I would die on the table.  I recognized the options all as lose-lose situations but right there hanging in my window, seriously the same day, was this freshly painted sign: God is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we can ask or imagine. It is His promise, immeasurably more, and that was what it would take. A peace came over my body that I can’t explain to you, it was the Lord, and I resolved this wasn’t my story. This was not where God brought me. He did not bring me here for this.

No heart surgeon in DFW wanted to touch me because I was a huge insurance liability, but the hospital found a surgeon in Houston who would do the surgery. The plan was to CareFlight me to Houston so the doctors wanted to do a sonogram of my heart. They brought in the sonogram machines and told all my family and friends to step out. As hot tears were streaming out of my eyes, they had me swallow a scope. Normally scopes are done while you are under anesthesia, but I couldn't have any, so I was consciously swallowing a scope that would take a picture of my heart. The process seemed to last forever but I felt (literally felt) my Savior holding my hand through it. After it was over, I looked up at that surgeon and he had a very strange look on his face. He told me I had done well and walked out of the room.  That was all he said.

I was later told the heart surgeon went straight to my husband and a waiting room full of prayer warriors there that day.  The doctor looked at Chad and told my husband he couldn’t find the aneurysm.  It was on the CT scans, every test they did, but when they did the sonogram the aneurysm was gone. Chad asked if I still needed surgery, and the doctor said “Nope. She doesn’t need anything. It's gone.” The doctor was so puzzled and even had me go in weeks later for follow ups.  He admitted he didn’t know what happened.  I said, “I do! I told you. It was God. He did immeasurably more...”

I want to thank so many of the people who prayed. When you tell somebody you will pray for them: pray for them! Prayer works and God is still in the miracle business! I was able, with the Lord's help, to hang on to those precious baby girls.  At 32 weeks, my beautiful twin miracles made their debut. Abigail Elise came first weighing 4lbs, 6oz and Reese McKenna came one minute later weighing 3lbs, 7oz. and they are the joys of our lives. I want you to know that God is still in the miracle business. He loves to show off because nine months later, we all discovered there was a sibling coming. Our son, Noah Colt was born 18 months after his sisters, rolling in at 9lbs pounds. More than their COMBINED weight.
    

The kicker of our story is that I delivered all three of those babies in the same hospital where that first doctor told me I needed a full hysterectomy and would never have children.  Wow, I guess my mama was right when she said that things aren't always as they seem.

What to Do with Unanswered Prayer via John Starke

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Last time, we read about the three keys to having a more powerful prayer life.  Today, let's touch on a subject I think we all have encountered a time or two: unanswered prayer.

In Christ,
Brandon H.

What to Do with Unanswered Prayer by John Starke 

Anyone who’s given himself or herself to prayer for a sustained amount of time has likely experienced the disappointment of unanswered prayer. But the more theological astute among you may not like that phrase “unanswered prayer.” You may call it a category mistake. I understand your point. In reality, there are no unanswered prayers. God is sovereign and giving us all what we would’ve asked for if we knew everything he knows.
And I’m sure David was told something similar when he penned Psalm 13: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (v. 1). 
Surely you know, David, that God hasn’t forgotten you!
I’m sure he knew.
David continues: “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God” (v. 3). Apparently, David hadn’t experienced an answer to his prayers for a while, and was asking God “why?” I trust you could give a quick, theologically accurate answer.
But David is a serial offender in the Psalms. Maybe you would even quote the Psalms to David and correct him! “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? (Ps. 94:9).
Still, David and other psalmists consistently ask the God who never forgets if he has forgotten them.
My Experience 
Have you experienced this pain? I have. There have been days I’ve felt as if I could only pray, “Will you forget me forever?” Maybe you feel that’s overdoing it. Perhaps you’d say, “Well, maybe you should pray for something else. It sounds like you’re expecting God to do your bidding!”
Maybe. But I wonder if you’d be as quick to say so to a brother or sister struggling with addiction, praying 10 years for relief, longing for a wandering child, or to a congregation fearful of its doors closing.
I penned a poem about unanswered prayer once. I wince sometimes when I read it:
Where is your listening ear, O Lord?
Why have you ignored me?
All my prayers are swallowed up in the ceiling!
Is my voice too quiet for you?
It gets worse:
Where have my prayers gone, Lord? What have you done with them? “Ask me anything,” you say—“The desire of your heart!” All my desires have been crushed. All my groanings ignored.
Those last two lines are a sore spot for people who experience unanswered prayer. We read Jesus’s words of almost completely unqualified invitation—“Ask me anything and I’ll give it to you!” (Matt. 18:1921:22Mark 11:24John 14:1315:715:1616:23–24James 1:5–61:171 John 3:225:14–15)—and wonder why he hasn’t answered us.
When will I get some relief?
When will my sighings give way to smiles?
I know where comfort comes from,
But you have locked its doors from me.

My smiles are like powder, my laughter like grass;
With a breeze, they are blown away.
Finding Companions 
As I read the Psalms, I continue to find companions. Asaph considers his trouble and all the times he has prayed for relief: “When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints” (Ps. 77:3). He’s grown tired of asking. The morning comes, and it’s time to pray, but he’s too tired of being disappointed to ask for anything again.
Asaph continues: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he shut up his compassion?” (Ps. 77:7–9). Asaph knows the answer to his questions. In fact, elsewhere he answers them. Even Jesus begs for relief (Mark 14:36), and when he experiences the Father’s absence, he cries aloud: “Why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
The Psalms keep good company. They give me words when I’m at a loss. They open windows in the rooms of my heart I didn’t know were there, and they let in fresh air. That’s a grace for seasons of unanswered prayer. 
When you sit patiently with these psalms, you find something more. You remember these aren’t just the words of David and Asaph; these are the words of God. Before David gave me the words, “Will you forget me forever?” God gave them to David. These complaints are God’s gifts. He knows how we are. When we are at the end of our rope, these words are his way of lengthening the tether.
Isn’t that something? God has inspired words of complaint and protest to say to him when we are confused and sad, angry and desperate. He gave us words to say into our pillow as we drink our tears. “Here,” he says, “these words will help. Go ahead. I’m not self-conscious.”
Fighting to Wait
There’s an old church father, Diadochus of Photike, who was part of the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. He was known for writing On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination, or as it’s best known, “The Hundred Chapters,” which is primarily on prayer. He introduces a term that probably won’t catch on with modern readers: “educative desolation.” Diadochus says “educative desolation” is God’s intentional hiding of his presence from the senses of his children. He hides the “experience of divine attention” in order to increase their desire for him. “Educative desolation,” he explains, “brings to the soul humiliation, grief, and proper despair in order that the part of the soul that seeks glory and is easily exalted may return to humility.” Such a soul that “seeks glory and is easily exalted,” he observes, “does not easily renew its love of God.” In infinite wisdom, the Lord uses various ways to awaken our longings for himself again.
I don’t know if this is why God sometimes doesn’t answer my prayers and makes me wonder if he’s near. But I’ve found comfort in these instructions and have tried to look for ways to stir my love for him. When I do seek him, I’ve often heard the whisper of the Lamentations: “You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear’” (Lam. 3:57). Notice he doesn’t say “Here’s your answer,” but “Do not fear.” I can use that.
Until then, Jeremiah teaches me to wait as he laments his exile: “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lam. 3:25). He says so when all he can think about is his affliction, and he wonders if God thinks of him (Lam. 3:19–20). He knows the right answer. So he waits. And God says “those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isa. 49:23).
The Lord is good to those who wait for him. In my heartache and confusion, my waiting is not in vain. He’s going to be good to me. He already has been. 
Copyright © 2016 The Gospel Coalition, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the original article at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-to-do-with-unanswered-prayer

Jonah Chapter 3: Reach (Part 2)

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The question we ended with in the last article is one we’ll all ask at some point. How am I supposed to respond to the evil in this world? To answer that question, I think it would do well for us to first look at the reason for evil in our world.

Jonah 3:8 “But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”


Let’s do a quick review about the emphasis on the evil, wickedness, and violence in the city of Nineveh that we find in the book of Jonah. The Bible uses several different ways to describe the situation in Nineveh:

  • Jonah 3:8 they were living in an “evil way”
  • Jonah 3:8 there was much “violence that is in their hand”
  • Jonah 3:10 God wanted them to be “...turned from their evil way…”

Now, while the evilness of this city is obvious, this is also a not so subtle emphasis on the disobedience and rebellious attitude of Jonah. Jonah was unable to properly respond to the evil in the city because he was blinded by the evil in his own life. Somehow we Christians have found it quite easy to look at the evil and sin of others and condemn it while never quite recognizing our own sin and evil.

So before we begin correcting this problem, let me explain to you first where the evil in the world comes from and why it is such a problem in our world.

1st. When God is left out of our choices there will always be evil. This is the rebellion in all of our hearts.

Our natural instinct is to be selfish, therefore any decision made without Jesus is selfish. Do you understand that? When we’re born into this world, we’re born selfish. It’s not natural for anybody to serve God and serve others. It’s only natural to serve ourselves. So to keep God in the choices we make is going to be a conscious effort. Don’t ever think that somebody makes wise, godly decisions because they have that type of personality. Following God’s plan isn’t a matter of personality. It’s a matter of the heart. So seek God’s plan in every choice you make.

2nd. When there is a strict moral code, there will be evil. This is the religion in all of our hearts.

Look at the evil in Jonah’s life. He was angry, intense in his reaction to what God had done, and blatantly argumentative. He actually believed that he knew better than God about what should be done to the ‘heathen’ for what they were doing in their city.

Kim Jong Un is currently the dictating tyrant of North Korea who received a lot of publicity for his recent threats of war. He’s known as a selfish, proud man and he rules his people with no respect or concern for them. And yet they all worship him and go crazy when they see him. It’s actually really bizarre. But here’s the reason why. He has the power to imprison and even kill them. When his father died, many people were imprisoned because they did not cry enough or show enough grief at his funeral. That’s crazy! He even goes by the title “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.” Kim Jong Un has set himself in charge and is ruling with an incredibly strict and incredibly wrong moral code. The result is evil, misery, false affection, and forced adoration. There’s nothing healthy, pleasant, or sincere about it.

When we adhere to strict moral codes and set ourselves up as “supreme”, like Kim Jong Un or like Jonah, then we are going to have an inner wickedness about our lives that will cause us to have the same evil that we see in others.

It’s kind of shocking, and a little sad, at how aggressive the Bible is in exposing the rotten attitude in the heart of Jonah. I’m sure if Jonah had written this story he would have been like, “Yeah, let’s skip that part about me running from God. Oh and let’s skip that part about me being racist. Aaaand maybe that part about me pouting because God didn’t kill Nineveh.” But the Bible pulls no punches. God calls Jonah out and calls his judgmental attitude what it is: sin.

So before we start looking at others for their sins, let’s first take a look at our own life. 

If you’ve been reading this and all you can think about is, “Man, I hope so-and-so would read this. He’s so judgmental.” Than you better snap out of it, because that is a statement of a rebellious/religious person. That’s looking at someone else’s sin before your own. Watch out for your own religious or rebellious attitude first because that’s where evil comes from.

What to Do When the World Is Falling Apart

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Take your bibles and turn to Psalm 46. It's a good day; absolutely beautiful outside, beautiful inside; to be with all of you, friends and family and guests. I really had intended this morning to have a video element that was a montage of current events. It was going to be clips from the Middle East war on terrorism, our relationship with Russia, Iran, and North Korea, clips from the recent election and poles, clips from riots, clips from strained race relations. I almost had that and then determined, “No, I'm just going to bring a paper up here and read you a few quotes from the paper. You know what? I got to the point I decided I'm not going to do either one because I don't want to depress you this morning.

Let me sum up the morning paper for you in three words, let me sum up all the news broadcasts and three words: IT AIN’T GOOD! Everywhere we look today turmoil, hatred, violence, confusion, slander, incredible negativity. I can't tell you how many times I've asked people something about the election, or about what's going on, and literally people have gotten the point now most don't even reply they sigh.

I don't know where our country is headed, whichever path. I don't know how this is going to turn out. Things seem as messed up as they've ever been for a lot of us here on planet Earth. Some of you who lived through the 60’s, some of you saw some of that turmoil, may say differently, but a lot of folks I talked to would say “Brian, sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart.”

You may be here this morning and far more personally than the election, far more personally than clips from the Middle East, you can say “Brian, it feels like MY LIFE is falling apart.” Some of you today, your marriage is hanging by a thread; you’re about one fight away from being done. Some of you, financially you have no idea how you're going to make it through the next week, much less the next year. This has been such a theme throughout every family in America; a child, a grandchild, a family member are bent on destroying themselves and its killing you! It feels like you're world's falling apart. It could be one of a million scenarios where we just sigh and hold up our hand. I don't know what to do.

During our short time together this morning, I want to entitle my message “What to Do When the World Is Falling Apart”. Psalm 46 says this:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. [In other words, that word in Hebrew means think about that, meditate on that. Picture this cataclysm of earthquake that sends mountains down into the ocean, landslides, turmoil.... think about that.] There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles [or habitation] of the most High.God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. [Some translations say when morning dawns.] The heathen [the nations] raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. [There it is again.] Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder [or the shatters the spear]; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen [nations], I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The Lord of hosts [here’s that refrain again] is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Father,
Thank you that already we've had the chance to sing beautiful lyrics, some old some new, all centered around Christ. Thank you that we heard from that from the lips of our children a lesson that would change everything, about how Jesus is our hope in our life. God today we want way more than information, that just won't be enough. I pray Holy Spirit you take your word, penetrate our hearts. Thank you for a beautiful day, make it even more beautiful, and get glory today.
It’s in Christ’s name that I pray.
Amen

What to Do When the World Is Falling Apart

I think the first thing to note is when you turn to the book of Psalms, it is essentially the Jewish songbook. All of these Psalms, each individual psalm, singular, is a song. So the Jewish people, by the way a people who know something about turmoil. Think of Syria, Rome, Babylon, Adolf Hitler, Nazis, think even today with all the surrounding nations against them. A nation of people who know something about turmoil, cataclysm, and pain; this is the song that they sang. They had a comfort in its message that’s so powerful the text says it calmed their fears. The text says, listen when they sang this, there was something in the message so incredibly strong that in the most cataclysmic, earth-shattering, circumstances imaginable...

Just imagine, I live in the shadow of a mountain that's been there all my life and all my family's life for generations beyond. I just watched the earth quake and shake and tear apart and I watch the mountain move and I watch the ocean swell. I'm seeing everything that was just taken for granted in my life busted up. I'm seeing the stuff that I never thought would happen, happen. They were scared, afraid, upset, and they sing this song and it would quench their fears.

So what is the message of this song? I tell you, at first read the message looks like God's saying, I will shelter you from adversity if your mine. At first read, that's kind of what it looks like. Hey listen, the world may suffer but you Christians, I'll take care of you and make sure that you don't. They may struggle, they may hurt, they may get sick, their kids may go wrong, but don't worry I'm your God I'm your shelter that won't happen to you. At first read it seems like that's what it's saying. Friend, here's the thing, if you live on the mountain and the mountain falls, it doesn't matter whether you’re God’s or not, your home falls. The truth is, that doesn't even ring true with our experience. Thank God if you're His, you can probably talk about deliverances you’ve experienced. There were things that didn't touch you because God delivered you. There were ways He blessed you and you look back and say, “man alive!” I think when we get to heaven, we're going to be shocked how much God did that we never even noticed, never even knew, but the truth is that prosperity gospel; when preachers stand up and have you touch your television screen and they're sitting on gold thrones, big hair, and if you send in your money you'll never have any problems and everything will go well and you'll be helped. There's only one big problem with that: the Bible. God says in the world you're going to have trouble.

I don't believe that was the ultimate comfort of this message. I think it would also be easy to come away with, and this is what I've done most of my life with the psalm, is saying the message of the psalm is God saying don't worry, I will win in the end. By the way, that's an awesome message! How many of you have read the back of the book and you see God wins? Right! Amazing thing to note, whenever it seems like things are utterly chaotic the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. He’s still the hand at the helm of the universe. He's still steering this ship. The Bible says no one can enter power as a president, a king, or a ruler unless God Almighty makes it so. It could be easy to say, okay God is saying don't worry, it's all going to turn out right in heaven, I win. I want you to know the text offers even more than that when it says that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He's offering present tense 2016 comfort. So what's the message of this song? Honestly, this book is so amazing. I've been preaching it for 20 years, I've been reading it for a lot longer, and I learn new things all the time. Something caught my eye, so strong. There's one little section of this Psalm this seems completely out of place. Did you notice that? It almost seems like the psalmist was like writing lyrics, and then he started writing another song, and then he came back to the original one, but such is not the case. Look at verse number four

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy [habitation] place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the midst of [this city] her; she shall not be moved.
Now remember, we’re in the midst of everything being moved! Mountain being moved, earth is moved, oceans being moved. There's a city that God lives in with a river that runs through it that will never be moved. The question, what city is he describing? I think we're real prone to take the Bible sometimes be like, “man that's beautiful. That poetical description. I'm going to put that up on my wall and stick it on a plaque. I mean it's gorgeous.” But what does it mean? He didn't write it for no reason. What is this city, and what is this river, and what is he talking about? Y’all, I discovered some things this week, honest, that I've never seen before my life! If you want to stay there and just trust me, that's cool, stay in Psalm 46; we’ll be back there.

I want to turn back to the beginning of the Bible, Genesis Ch. 2. Here's what I found out: This city, this river, runs throughout the entire Bible. From Genesis to Revelation a river runs through it.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; [First of all, I’ve never seen this before, he didn’t say the garden was called Eden; there was a whole region called Eden and he put a garden in the middle of it], and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden....
There's Eden, one of the oldest translations of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Greek called the Septuagint. It translated the word Eden paradeisos... paradise. You had paradise on earth. You had heaven on earth. You had God on earth. You had the river of life on Earth. You had the tree of life, which we get the indication Adam and Eve were eating of this tree because God told them eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They're receiving life as they eat this tree. It's a city, so to speak, with a river that runs through it. Adam and Eve are living in communication with God, seeing God, hearing God, walking with God, and the most impressive thing in that garden wasn’t the fruit, and wasn’t the trees, it was God. If you know the story of the Bible, you know that Adam and Eve sin. They eat of the fruit of this one tree that God said don't eat of. They fall, they're put out of Eden. An angel, cherubim with flaming swords, is put to guard the entrance to that place lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever in a broke down sinful state.
It seems as if this city is dissolved. It seems as if we're never going to see this place with God, with a river of life, but they're drinking out of and they are satisfied ever again. But all through the Bible y'all, never seen it before; in Ezekiel, in Isaiah, all over the Bible it talks about the river, it talks about the city, it talks about something coming, and we reach the book of Revelation, the book of unveiling. The book where God says let me show you the future, let me show you some stuff that's on its way. I want to show you what we find in Revelation 7:9, John is taken up to see future events and he says,
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me [John], What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?[Where did they come from]
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Now in heaven/paradise, now God is there with martyrs, people that died for the cause of Christ. By the way they’re still dying all over planet Earth as we speak. Don't let anybody fool you. And here is God sitting on his throne, with the river of life running, and all these people gathered around him in complete and utter pleasure, with never a tear in their eyes again, never worry again, they are mesmerized by the glory of God but it doesn’t end there.

This is where some of us get involved.
21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, [the throne of God, the river of God, all that was up in heaven a few chapters before] coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
 Look at Chapter 22,
 22 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

What is the city of God with a river that runs through it? Friends, it has many names; it's paradise, it's heaven, its Eden, its the New Jerusalem, but above all the things that make it that, it's the place where God lives and His presence is so powerful, so satisfying, so filled with love, that when you're in that place and drinking from that river, everything you ever cared about falls
into the background. Everything that ever enamored you is pushed into obscurity.

Some of you that are here this morning, your suffering, and a lot of you that are here this morning and you're scared... "Brian, that’s fantastic that one day I'll drink from that river, one day I'll see that God, one day I'll have that peace, one day I'll have that comfort, but I live here and now." John Ch. 4, Jesus Christ, God, has come down to earth, has been born in a human body, is living a human life; He's still God but He's a man. For 33 years, He's living on earth and He finds himself one day, by the Providence of God, sitting down at a well. Tired because he's got a human body and a woman comes to draw water; she's a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hate each other's guts, have nothing to do with each other, Jews would go around their entire territory so they didn't get infected. Their race relations made ours look like a picnic in this country.

And a Samaritan woman comes to get some water, and Jesus Christ seated there at the well, asks her for a drink. She says why in the world is a Jew asking me, a Samaritan, and even lower than that in that culture, a woman, for a drink? This is what Jesus says in John 4:10,

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

What do you mean, Jesus? I don’t understand. Are you better than Jacob, who dug this well. What are you saying? Verse 13,
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Two chapters later, hang with me, on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, when the children of Israel would all be gathered for that ceremony and part of that ceremony included the pouring out of waters as a picture of God in the nation and restoration, Jesus said in John 7:37

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried [yelled], saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly [out of his soul, his heart, his innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him [Christ] should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Oh, I wish I could get passed just being so concerned about an election! I wish I could be more concerned in life than just my money. I wish I didn't have to worry about my kids, and I wish these problems that crowd on me didn't dominate. I wish I could sit beside that river in heaven and have peace. I wish I could see God's face and have everything else fade to the background. And I want to tell you something, Jesus is screaming at the top of his lungs, I am the river! I am the river of life! You know what friends? We are thirsty for far more than this world can offer; down in our soul. You know I found? I'd rather have money than not have money, but when I have money, I'm still thirsty. I don't want my kids to be sick. I want them to be healthy and happy and involved, but you know what? With they're healthy, and happy, and involved; I'm still thirsty. How often we run to the same muddy water over and over again.

When I was in Haiti on a missions trip, before the earthquake, I'll never in my life forget sewage, the filthiest water running down the middle of the street, and a little kid playing in that water, drinking from that water. Why? Because he didn't have anywhere else to go. You'll drink that if you don't have anything else to drink. Jeremiah 2:13, God says this:

13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

 What can you do when the world is falling apart? One more verse in Psalm 46. Y'all for some of us, every time I read this, there's something about this verse. There's something about it that almost moves me to tears every time I read it. You know I’m talking about? There's a bunch of you know exactly what I mean. There's something about this verse that every time I hear it, every time I speak it, every time I read it, I read 10,000 times; it still gets me.

Psalm 46: 10,
10 Be still, and know that I am God:

You know how I took that for the longest time? Hey, chill out! We're going to win in the end. It'll be alright. It's so much more than that. When God says be still, He's saying I see you running. I see you sprinting from one muddy stream to the next. I see you trying to scratch out satisfaction so many ways. Stop. Stop! Give up on it. You know what the Bible word is? Repent. Jesus says to that woman I got living water for you! I can give you water that you'll be satisfied. She says, “I want that water” and Jesus says, “okay go get your husband”, and she is taken aback. She says “I don't have a husband”. He's like,” you're right. you've been married five times and the guy you're living with now is not your husband.” Why would he do that? Just to be cruel? No, He's saying “I see you running. I see you running from bedroom to bedroom. I see you running to drugs, running to pornography. I see you running to the refrigerator. I see you trying to have your kids involved in everything under the sun thinking that if you're the perfect parent you'll be satisfied. I see you climbing that ladder trying to get that promotion. I see you trying to convince other people that you're okay because you really don't believe you're okay. I see you. I love you! Be still, be still, repent, turn back from that. Give me a chance, know that I am God.”

Not just know [in your mind] y'all, know [in your heart]. Matthew 11,
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke [my teaching, my way] upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

You know what? If an election, with what I think what most of us would agree are two inferior candidates, drives you and me to Jesus, thank God for a terrible election and inferior candidates! If America going under, by the way if you look in Revelation you don't find anything about America, is what it takes for us to stop; we're so scared and need to say Jesus I just want to be still and I want to drink from You. I want to know that You’re God.

Friend, you know what? I believe the people that are drinking deeply of the river that is Jesus, would tell you, they'd rather have all the pain in Jesus than have all the success in the world without him. This is the way I want to close out this service. If you have a Bible, turn a few chapters back, you may know this from memory. This is the 23rd Psalm, I want you to stand to your feet with me. The most famous chapter in the Bible, hit me in a whole different way this week, would you quote this with me aloud, or read it with me aloud? Let's think about these words,

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [cataclysm!], I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


 

"What To Do When The World Is Falling Apart" Brian Loveless Sermon on October 30, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.