New years. New beginnings. A time of change. A chance for a clean slate. Some of us will make goals, but not do anything at all. Some of us will actually try for a while. Some will stick to it and make new habits. We do this every new year. Why? Why do we really believe that change can actually happen? Why do so many of us have things we want to change? And why do we always try to do it on our own? People seem to think this is the only season to start building new habits.
So, we make resolutions and we build. And yet, sometimes, it still doesn't go as planned. So, what? Wait until the next New Year's rolls around? Well, what if we had access to a reset for our lives? What if Jesus was offering each and every one of us a chance to be renewed regardless of who you are, where you have been or what you have done? It's time for a restart; a redo. It's time to reset.
You know what's cool about this weekend? You probably don't think the way I think. Because, as a pastor, you sort of think about your weekends on a regular basis. Last night, I got to end 2016 with part of the congregation and today I get to start 2017 with part of the congregation. That doesn't happen that often. And in case some of you are nerds or geeks like me, it won't happen again until 2022. I know you came to church to know that. But, that's the way I think. I mean, I'm just a crazy guy like that. But, that's the way I think. It's just sort of cool. It's a cool weekend.
For those of you all who have been around for a couple of years, you'll know this. For those of you all who are new, this will be something good for you to know. At the beginning of every year, what I do is is I try to revisit all of the things that are important to our church. Like who we are, what's our vision, why do we do the things that we do? I talk about serving, I talk about giving, I talk about all of those things. And we're going to do that over the next many weeks in a series called "Reset."
The reason I chose "Reset" is because I'm not a huge fan – please don't be mad at me, because I know some of you all probably love New Year's resolutions. I'm not a huge fan of them. And the reason I'm not is because most of them don't work. I mean, let's be honest. By February, most of us would have a resolution that we've done, we've blown it. Or, by March for sure. Come on. You know that's true. It's truth. I mean, it is. So, if you're going to make a resolution, that's cool. I'm not trying to say don't do it. I'm just saying it just seems like they don't work very well for the majority of us.
And not only that, but there's sort of, I think, a built-in problem with resolutions to begin with anyway. The built-in problem is that there's this assumption that, "Okay, I've got this area in my life or these areas in my life that I want to change. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to just sort of willpower through it or read a book or DVD it or do something and, all of a sudden, life's going to get better."
And it doesn't even take into account that there might be a lot of stuff that happened before you decided to make that resolution and the things that are creating that area in your life that you want to have changed. There might be a lot of stuff that needs to be dealt with back there in the past before you start making that change. So, resolutions, to me, seem to be a little self-defeating on paper, at least, and also in practice.
That being said, the idea of wanting to change, though, I think is a God-given desire. And that I applaud. And I think all of us want to change, as we go into 2017, at least some areas in our lives. So, the beauty about God is God doesn't say, "Okay, here's what I want you to do. I want you to put forth a resolution and go, go, go, go, go."
What God provides for you and me through His mercy and His grace and His love is He provides all of us, in all the areas of our lives, a reset through His forgiveness and through His mercy. I think a great example of that would be the Apostle Paul. Paul was arresting Christians and beating up Christians and throwing them in jail. And, all of a sudden, God arrests Paul on the Damascus road in chapter 9 and, all of a sudden, Paul becomes a different man. He has a reset in his life. And it takes the early church months to figure out whether or not this has really happened in Paul's life. But, God provides you and me a reset.
So, over the next many weeks, we're going to look at this idea of reset and how God can reset things in our lives that, going into 2017 – and part of that will be looking at our vision and all of those things and I think it's going to be a great series. But, before we do that, today what I want to do and this weekend what I want to do with you all is share something from my heart going into 2017. I hope you'll listen attentively, because this is coming from my heart.
I had read some books and watched some videos of some pastors of larger churches about how they pastor and how they plan and so on and so forth. And almost every single one of them said, "Two or three months before the new year starts, I go to God and start asking God, 'What are You going to do for next year?'"
And I thought, "That's pretty cool. I ought to try that."
Right? You know? I mean, that sounds like a good idea. So, I did. So, a couple months ago I started saying, "God, will you speak to me?"
For those of you all who know me, I'm pretty linear; pretty academic. I mean, I'm a professor by nature. So, for me to go, "Okay, God, I want You to download Your Word to me."
Not that I don't think He can do that, it's just that I tend to be the guy who just reads the Bible and go, "God's already downloaded His Word."
You know what I'm talking about? So, the deal is I started praying. And believe it or not – and we're going to find out in 2017 whether or not I heard from God or had a bad burrito. So, there you go. But, the reality is I started praying and said, "God, what do You want to do?"
And I really believe, with all of my heart, that what God wants to do at Grace Community Church – and I have crafted my whole series. I've got seven or eight series that I'm already working on for 2017, and they're all going to be based around this sort of umbrella of what I feel like God has laid on my heart for our church for 2017. And that word that kept coming to me – and not only did it keep coming to me, but even last night as I spoke on this, I had seven people that walked up to me or talked to me during the time that said, "You must be reading what I'm reading. You must be praying what I'm praying. This is exactly what God has spoken to me."
I'm like, "Man. It might not have been a bad Domino's pizza. I might really have heard from God."
So, here's the word that kept coming over and over to me as I prayed. The word was "restoration." What I want to say is this: I believe, with all of my heart, that in 2017, in mass – not for one, but in mass – for those of you who have been praying prayers, "God, restore my marriage. God, restore my finances. God, restore my son to the Lord. God, do this stuff." I believe with all of my heart that 2017 is going to be a year at Grace Community Church, for those of you all who come and for those that will join us during the year, I believe God is going to do some massive restoration in the church's lives. I believe that. That's great. Give the Lord a hand clap.
And what we're going to do is we're going to, when you get a restoration in your life, we want to know as a staff document it and we'd like to video it, to be honest with you. Because, what we want to do at the end of the year is we want to play a video for everybody to let them know all the things that God did during 2017 in restoring. So, when I get a word like this or sort of think that God's talking to me about restoration, the first thing that I do is ask this question. I don't know if you do this, but this is what I do. I go, "Is there a clear case biblically – I mean, is there really a clear case – that God really does want to restore? Is that something that we can sort of find in the Bible as a truism and as something that God really wants to do in our lives?"
This is the way I think whenever I think of whatever, before I do anything, "Is God's Word clear on this particular issue or is it not clear no this particular issue?"
So, we need to ask that question of what would it look like if God restored in our life. What would it look like for you if He did that? How would that be accomplished in our lives? You know, all of this stuff. Because, when you make a statement like I made like, "Hey, in 2017, God's going to do this stuff," there are a lot of things that are moving parts. Because, some of you have been praying for years for things to be restored. And for God to do it at that moment, we've got to ask the question: "Is that something God could do? Is there a clear case? Is anything like that true?"
So, when I ask these questions, what I do is I remember what Paul said to the Roman church writing around 52 or 54 A.D. Very early on. He writes to the Roman church; he says this: "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction."
Now, what he's saying is is that the things that were written in the Old Testament, those stories in the Old Testament, those things that were written in former days were written so that we could be taught the things that God wants us to do. So, in asking that question of are there things in the Bible, are there stories in the Bible that you and I can look at and that we can go, "Hey, here's a clear case of God doing some massive restoration, here's some ways He did it, here's the way He accomplished it," that you and I can leave out of here inspired and encouraged when we leave today to believe that, "Hey, 2017 could be my year that God does some major restoration."
So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do a couple of stories, I'm going to talk through them and I'm going to just trust that God, on some of the things that I talk about, will speak to some of your hearts because I believe some of these issues are issues that some of you all will be dealing with and I hope they encourage you and I hope they inspire you here as we walk into 2017.
The first person that I want to talk about is the story of Joseph. And many of you all probably know the story of Joseph and you've probably been taught it. You know that Joseph was a young guy and God gave him a dream and then he got sold into slavery and it didn't look like God was going to do that dream. Then finally, at the end, God restores that dream. It's a great story about God telling us something and accomplishing it. And I don't want to change that story at all. That's a beautiful story and I think that's in there. But, I'd like to tell the story of Joseph a little bit differently, because I think that the way the biblical writer has started and ended the story – which I think is really important if you're going to read the Bible, and I hope that you do. This is Genesis 37-50, the Story of Joseph. I hope that you will see that the writer has started off the story a certain way and ended the story a certain way to show you what God has really restored in the life of Joseph.
It starts off this way: Joseph's a young dude when we meet him and he's a part of a dysfunctional family. You may not have thought that when you start reading Joseph, but he has got a dysfunctional family. First of all, Joseph likes to rat out his brothers when they do the wrong thing. Anybody ever had a brother that ratted you out? I'm still praying for my brother. He's younger. God bless his wretched soul. Actually, I did most of the things he ratted out. Anyway, Joseph likes to rat on his brothers. Not only that, but his brothers don't like him because of the situation. And they don't like him also because his dad likes him more than he likes his other brothers. That's not a good thing. You all know that, right? You've got children and you like one better. "I don't like you. I don't like you, Grace. I don't like you, Esther. I like Jack."
You know, that doesn't work very well in a family. So, Joseph's got a pretty dysfunctional family. Well, the straw that breaks the dysfunctional family's back is when Joseph goes, "I had a dream, baby, and you brothers are all going to be bowing down to me."
You can imagine how well that went over. That was like a Chip Bennett sermon. So, the deal is is that they're sort of upset and frustrated and all of this stuff's going on in this family. So, they decide to do something about it. They decide to sell Joseph to some traders and he gets shipped off to Egypt. And then to continue the dysfunction, they go back to his dad and go, "He died. He died. Yeah. That's what he did. Here's some blood on the robe that you gave him. You know, that multicolored robe that you gave him because you like him better than us. Yeah. He's dead."
Then off he goes to Egypt. Well, in Egypt, God starts to work in his life and he finds this guy, Potiphar, that is a well-to-do guy. And Potiphar, as he works with him, God elevates Joseph and things start going better. And I'm sure that as this is happening, Joseph's able to reflect and to think about some things. But, in that process, Potiphar's wife decides that she thinks Joseph is a good looking guy. She makes an advance on him. Joseph is smart enough to not succumb to the advance, but he's not smart enough to not leave an article of clothing in the house that she can use against him. So, Joseph ends up in a pit again. The Egyptians, their prisons were pits. So, Joseph was in a pit and now he's in another pit. He's probably thinking, "What's going on? Where's God?" All this stuff.
Over time, God is probably refining in Joseph those things that he had thought about as a kid, and especially those dreams start to have different meanings to him, which we'll see here in just a minute, as time has gone on. Well, Joseph, in the pit, is given some dreams; interpretations for some people who have had dreams. Because of that and because of his interpretation, a couple of years after he's n prison, a guy gets freed and about two years later he tells Pharaoh about Joseph's interpretation skills. So, Pharaoh brings Joseph out of the pit and he makes him second-in-command, because he's got these great gifts. And about that time is when the famine hits and his brothers come to Egypt.
And we have this moment where Joseph is able to do some incredible reconciliation, especially if you read the story in the way that it is put together. Because, the writer, Moses, tells us here in the very first part of Genesis 37, he tells us that Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Probably a lot of people don't read that when they're reading Genesis. It's funny because people go, "Man, is that really in there? I forgot that that was in there."
Yeah. They're in there because the storywriters are telling us something. They're telling us that Joseph, he doesn't speak very well of his brothers. That's important for us to know. So, as the story moves on, eventually he gets to talk to his brothers in Egypt. And a lot has gone on between here and there. And Joseph has started to be refined, and Joseph's able to see the world a little bit differently. He says, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors, so it was not you who sent me here, but God."
Over time what's happened is is Joseph would have said, "My scoundrel brothers are the ones who sent me down here. They're the ones who sold me into slavery. They're the ones who did all this stuff. God gave me a dream. I was going to be so good. I was going to be awesome. They were bowing down to me. But, over time, what I've realized is God was involved in this, God was doing something, and He wasn't doing it just for me. He was doing it for them."
Things have started to change. Then, at the very end of Genesis and the Joseph story, we sort of get the ending here, which is incredible. He says, "This is for you. You meant evil against me."
In other words, "Bottom line is, look, I probably had done some things that were bad and I shouldn't have said some of the things that I did. There's a lot of dysfunction going around. But, when you guys sold me to these traitors, you guys didn't do it because you love me. You did it because of evil things. But, the deal is God, someway, somehow, meant all of that for good. God was behind this. He was doing something behind this whole thing to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today."
In other words, "My dream's no longer about me being great and everybody bowing down to me. I'm realizing that the dream that God gave to me is about people coming and the place that God gave me in the position that God gave me that would require people to bow down and honor the position was for them. God wasn't promoting me just for me, God was promoting me so that I could take care of others and many could be kept alive as they are today."
And then here's the beauty. Look at this: "So, don't fear."
Because, you can imagine that they're thinking, "We sold Joseph into slavery. He's probably going to get us."
He says, "Don't fear. I'm going to provide for you..." – this is huge – "...and for your little ones."
In other words, "All that dysfunction that we had in our family is not going to go into the next generation."
And then here's the beauty. Look at this: "Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."
We start off with him having a bad report and we end with him speaking kindly. What we have is a family that has been restored. God is a God who restores. Let's look at another example here out of the Bible. Job. I know some of you are probably looking for a job and you're like going, "God just spoke to me. He said job."
People online are like, "Oh! Woo! Glory!"
No, no. This is "Job," okay? This is a guy named Job. I don't want to take away any of the glory moment that you had, but I do not to talk about you here in terms of the Bible. So, here's the deal: Job is an interesting cat because Job's a good man. Job didn't do anything wrong. Job's a perfect guy. I mean, he's all of it and a bag of chips. I mean, in terms of God, this is the deal. He's a great guy. Well, Job, during the course of a day, gets these rolling reports that came in to him that, "Hey, everything you have, your houses, your livestock and your children, they're gone. Everything."
It's a moment where he's lost everything. He doesn't know what to do. He just falls down and says, "Hey, I love You, God. I came out of the womb naked. I'm going to return naked. Blessed is Your name."
I don't know about you, but when bad things go to me, I usually don't fall down to the ground and go, "God, I love You so much and I just think You're awesome."
Job did. That's not what Chip Bennett normally does. I'm like, "Hey, can we have a talk here for a minute? This is not the way it's supposed to work."
I know you all don't do that because you're Christians and all that good stuff, but I do have those moments and you probably couldn't relate. Anyway, so the deal is is Job's lost everything. Then we have a number of chapters. There's 42 chapters in the book of Job. We have a number of chapters where all of his friends come and try to tell him what he's done wrong. Anybody every had that in your life? Come on, now. I mean, can I say something? Why are Christians the ones that shoot their wounded? Why do we do that stuff? Let's stop that for 2017.
So, these people come and try to tell Job all the things that he's done wrong. He keeps trying to defend himself. Finally, he decides, "You know what? This is wearing me out. I'm going to go to God. God, I need to know what's going on here, man."
And God's like, "Oh, you want to know what's going on? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?"
He's like, "I wasn't there."
"Where were you when I put the stars in the sky?"
"I wasn't there."
"Where where you when I..."
"I wasn't there."
And it says in Job 40:4 that Job takes his hands and he puts it over his mouth. He's like, "I'm going to just shut up, because I don't understand."
And what's beautiful is God tells him, He's like, "Job, even if I told you, you wouldn't understand."
We want to understand so bad, don't we? And God says you wouldn't even understand. It's like your kid, you know? When your kid comes to you and he says, "Daddy, can you explain this to me? How does that computer work?"
You're like, "You don't know and I don't know either."
So, anyway, the reality is that sometimes we just don't know what's going on and we see this in Job. But, here's the thing. Look at what happens to Job at the end. Because, remember, you've got to start at the beginning and the end. At the end it says, "The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning."
So, what we see here is is God not only restored Job, He gave him abundance in the restoration, and I think that's huge. But, we learn a lot in this story about not knowing certain things and not being able to fully grasp all the things that God is doing. It's a great story.
Let's talk about another story here briefly. A lady named Naomi. Naomi is a beautiful picture here of a lady at the beginning of Ruth. Four chapters. What you do here is you find that she's left without her two sons and her husbands. In other words, she's lost everything. She's lost the ability to carry on that family name. She's lost everything. The book ends in a way that's important. It ends with saying, "Then Naomi took the child..." – this is Obed, this is Ruth and Boaz's child – "...and laid him on her lap."
What a tender, beautiful picture of God taking someone who's lost children, lost a husband, and now she has a baby on her lap. It's beautiful. It's a beautiful picture of restoration. Because, God wants to restore. And I know you're thinking and you're going, "Yeah, but I wonder what happens when I make a boneheaded move and I really make some bad mistakes and all of that. Isn't God going to get me and all this stuff? I s He really going to restore? Because, I mean, some of this stuff, Chip, that I've done is like my own stuff. It's not like I'm Job. I get Job's sort of and I don't really understand why all that happened, but I get God blessing Him because he was a good dude. But, I've not always been a good dude."
Well, Joel writes to his group and he says, "Hey, you guys have blown it. You've just gone totally off doing your own thing and missed out on God and there's going to be consequences."
And when you read the book of Job, it doesn't always sound like it makes sense. Because, he starts in Job 1:4 and he starts talking about these locusts coming, and there's cutter locusts and hopper locusts and all this stuff and we're going, "What does that have to do with anything?"
Well, in that world, it had to do a lot with everything, because they were an Agrarian society and their crops mattered and having those crops and those crops coming to fruition mattered immensely. So, if there wasn't the rain to keep the crops going or if the pests got involved or locusts got involved, you didn't have any crops. Joel says to his people, "Listen, there's a bunch of locusts coming. And when the first group comes, they're going to eat. And when they're done, whatever they leave, there's another group coming. And they're going to eat and they're going to leave. And whatever they left, another group is going to come to where there's nothing."
And some of us, in our lives, have had that moment where we're like, "We lost something. I mean, something just ate. Like, we lost a job. Man, it can't get any worse than this."
Well, then you didn't get another job and you didn't have any money and then you lost your car and you're like, "It can't get any worse than this."
And it just keeps eating and eating and eating and eating. And some if it's just stuff that we've done that creates these things in our lives. But, Joel knows God. Joel knows about God and God speaks through Joel to this group of people that had made bad decisions and everything is being eaten away."
He says, in chapter 2, this to them. This is God speaking. He says, "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, that the hopper, the destroyer, the cutter, my great army which I sent among you," in a way that we can't even understand. It's like God says, "Okay. I let these things happen in your life and you lost everything. But, here's the deal: I'm a good God and I'm a gracious God and I'm going to restore back every single one of those years that you lost for your agricultural stuff. You're going to get every single thing back."
And I want you to hear God's word to you. God can restore those years to you that you have lost emotionally, that you have lost physically, that you have lost in your marriage, that you have lost in your finances, that you have lost with your sons or daughter. God can restore every single one of those years back, because that's who He is. So, that being said, take out a sheet of paper if you will and write these down. I've got five things that I want you and me to think about. If you're watching via the internet, please write these down as well. Or the mobile app. We're glad to have you a part of this as well. Write these down. These are some things I want you to just think about and reflect on over the next few weeks and months as we go into 2017.
The first one, and this is really important for everybody to get this, is that God's restoration plans are beyond our comprehension. You say, "Chip, why would you tell me that?"
Because the first thing that we do is when we hear, "Hey, God can restore," we start going, "Well, how's He going to do that? What's He going to do?"
That's the way our minds work. Listen, your mind working like that's great. There's nothing wrong with your mind working like that. But, that's not faith. Faith has to trust God. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews says this: "Without faith, it's impossible to please God."
And what we do is we substitute doing all of these things and calculations in our mind for faith. "That's faith. I've got faith."
No, no. That's you and me trying to play the mind game with figuring out God. We're not going to be able to figure out God. Let me just tell you that right now. I can't tell you how God's going to restore in your life. I can't tell you that for the last 12 years you've been praying for something and why God or how He's going to do it in 2017. I'm just telling you that God's restoration plans are beyond our comprehension. At some point, we just have to trust that He is a good God and that He will restore in our lives, in His timing, at His place, for His reasons.
Secondly, God restores so that He can demonstrate His goodness to you and me. I want you to listen here. This is important. If we didn't have cold water, we wouldn't know what hot water was. You wouldn't know. You'd just have water. If we didn't know problems, we wouldn't know God as the problem solver. If we didn't have issues, we wouldn't know God is the deliverer. I can't explain how all of this works. I'm just telling you that when God restores, He does it in a way that we can see His goodness. The things that are broken in our lives, the things that have gone dysfunctional in our lives, when He restores it, we're able to see His goodness. Because, we know where we came from.
My little boy Luke, he's crazy. We've got to pour Wesson oil on his head every night to rebuke all the stuff out of his life. He's crazy. Mindy says it best. She goes, "It's too much person for his little body."
That's exactly what he is. He got this police outfit that has a belt. And what he does is instead of using a police outfit, he takes a Black & Decker hammer that he got and he got a saw and a screwdriver and he wears this hat around the house. And he decides to destroy everything. He's a locust, is what he is. He gets into daddy's TV, the DVR, and he takes it all apart and he breaks it and then he brings it to me and he goes, "Hey, Daddy, can you fix it?"
And Mindy's across the kitchen laughing because she knows I can't even boil water. I have no mechanical skills whatsoever. I mean, I'm a professor. We don't do mechanical things. So, what I have to do is I have to go to Wal-Mart and rebuy it and bring it back and go, "Ha ha. Look what Daddy did."
He's like, "Oh, Daddy, you are awesome."
I'm like, "I know. I've got it."
But, the deal is he gets so excited when he gets that thing fixed. And what I want to say is I'm just a human being. Your heavenly Father, He wants so much to take you and I's stuff that's broken and He doesn't have to go to Wal-Mart and He doesn't have to do the Chip Bennett thing. He's the God of the universe. He spoke the world into existence. Your problems and my problems are not too difficult for Him. He can restore them and He wants to do it so that we can know He is a good God.
Third. This is the best biblical teaching/theology you're going to get this year. Listen. This is so important. God restores in the now as a partial fulfillment of what He promises for the future. Now, this is so important that you all get this. Because, here's where the church goes wrong. There is a segment of the church that says God's going to give you wealth and health and all of that. Everything. All of it right now. And if you don't get it, it's because somehow you didn't have enough faith or you didn't do something right or you didn't jump through the right hoops or whatever. That is an over-generalization to what's going on.
Then there are those that go, "Oh, woe is me. I'm suffering for Jesus. God's not going to do anything in this life for me until I get to heaven."
That's bogus thinking, too. Neither one of those are right. The beauty of it is this: Jesus, what He did, is when He came He brought heaven. He brought the out there into the now. And He started His Kingdom, He inaugurated His Kingdom in His personhood. Which means people got healed, people got delivered. You and me could get healed, you and me can get delivered. But, not every single person is going to get every single thing restored until eternity. But, there will be a lot of stuff that gets restored in the now, and it's taking that balance of understand that, "Hey, I've got nine issues in my life and all nine of those are potentials for God to restore in the now. But, maybe six of them get restored. But, all nine of them are going to get restored in the future, because that's the way God is."
But, understanding that will help you and me understand when we're going through difficulties and we wonder, "Hey, I'm doing everything I can do. I'm praying everything I can do and it's not working."
Don't get mad at God or frustrated at God, because His restoration in the now is just a partial fulfillment. It's like a deposit for you and me to know that in the future He's going to accomplish everything. And in my systematic theology classes that I teach, we call this inaugurated eschatology. We talk about what's out there in the future has been inaugurated in the now. Which means that you can pray for healing and you can pray for deliverance and you can pray for God to do great things. And don't be surprised when He does it, because He does restore in the now.
Fourth. This is important. God restores so that you and I have a ministry to others. Lean in here. This is so important that we get this. People say to me all the time, "Chip, I don't know how to share Jesus with people. I don't know what to say."
Share the areas of your life that God has restored. That's your testimony. And if you don't have one yet, use somebody else's testimony. Because, here's the deal: God doesn't want you and me to read an academic line of who He is and read some sort of factual basis propositional truths and tell people this is who Jesus is like a tract. "Here, do this here."
What God wants you and me to be able to do is to go, "Hey, listen. He touched my life. He changed my life. He restored my life. I know He's real because He's real with me because of what He's done in my life."
Lastly, God restores so that you and I have a real world testimony others can relate to. People don't relate to when we bring people up here and the kids have got all their teeth and no scars and no holes in their pants and the moms and dads have all the nice whatever and we go, "This is what it looks like to follow Jesus," and all of us are going, "Pff. My kids are drowning each other in the pool. It doesn't look like that."
Okay. The reason God restores in our life is because what it does is it gives us a real world testimony to share with others that, "Hey, I've been here and God elevated me to here. I was here and God moved me here."
So, here's the deal, the resolution for all of us. We're going to do a resolution. Let's do this. Let's make a pact. Let's join together that for the new year we're going to do two things that will come out of our mouth. We're going to talk about the things that I'm believing God to restore. So, when people come to you and go, "I can't believe what's going on in the world."
"I don't know what's going on in the world either. I know God's in charge. But, I can tell you one thing. I am believing, this year, for God to restore this in my life and restore this in my life."
And they'll be looking at you like, "What?"
Speak those words. Then, share with others the things He has restored. See, the beauty of use sharing to each other what God's done, the beauty of us listening to testimonies of restoration is it lets you and me know that it's possible that God can do that in our life as well. Make this your resolution this year. Use your tongue for positive things, not for negative things. And lastly here – I want you to lean in, because we're going to close with this. We're done with this.
There's all kinds of New Testament references of restoration. Peter would be a great one. But, I want you to think of Mary for a minute. The Bible says the Holy Spirit came up on here and birthed Jesus in her and then she delivered Jesus into the world. She had no idea the loss that she was going to have with that child even though Simeon sort of had told her up front. She had no idea or understanding God and His sovereignty and His goodness, because He's such a good God. If you read in the first couple chapters in Luke, you'll read that when Jesus was 12, they went to Jerusalem and then they left to go back in a caravan. They traveled in a caravan. You might read that story because they lose Jesus, if you remember. It's like they don't know where He went. You'd be thinking, "How could they do that?" Because we wouldn't lose our kids like that.
In that day and age when you traveled as a caravan, you just assumed everybody had everybody's back and if they weren't saying, "Where's Jesus," and you were on your way, everything was good and he was with somebody in the caravan. Well, they get a day into the journey and Mary realizes that Jesus isn't there. So, that second day they realize. They have to make a day trip back to Jerusalem. Well, she finds Jesus, 12 years old, in the temple on the third day. God, in His sovereignty, is preparing Mary for the loss of her son. And on the third day, she will find him again. What's beautiful, though, is at the beginning of Acts, Jesus says to the disciples, "The Holy Spirit's going to come upon you..." – the same words He uses for Mary – "...and you're going to be filled with the Spirit. I'll birth the Lord in you."
And on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Luke records – and he doesn't have to tell us this, but he records it for a reason – that there were 120 disciples there and Mary. It is Mary who had had the Holy Spirit come upon her and birth Jesus in her and had lost that. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon her, she got Jesus birthed back into her again. She was restored. It's beautiful. The Bible's beautiful. It's all about restoration. It's all about God doing great things in our lives. I want you to believe with me, I want you to leave inspired and encouraged today that 2017 can be a year at Grace Community Church where God does restoration in our lives in magnificent and marvelous ways.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You for who You are in Your character, Your goodness and Your mercy and Your restorative powers, Lord, that You have, and Your desire to restore. Lord, I pray for every marriage, every financial issue, every emotional issue, every physical issue, every problem with sons and daughters and families, Lord, all of that. I pray in Jesus' name that there would be restoration like we have never seen at Grace Community Church for 2017, Lord, for those of us that attend and for those that will be coming that You will call here during the calendar year. I pray massive restoration, Lord.
Let us leave here believing that no matter what the world says, no matter what the world's doing, that here in the church we can have the best year we have ever had in 2017 as You restore things that we don't even remember that we prayed about, but You do, and that You bring them to fruition in our lives, Lord, this year as a church. And we're going to give You praise and glory for it.
So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would continue to watch over us and protect us, that You would continue to lead and guide us, and I pray, Lord, that You'd bring us back safely until when we meet again and I pray, Lord, that You would give us faith and encouragement to believe that 2017 is going to be a great year for restoration for not only us, but for our church and for those that are coming. We thank You for it in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a hand clap. God bless everybody. Have a great day. Happy New Year.