Security and Serenity for YOU in 2002! IX (20/04/02)
By Robert H. Schuller
Well, this morning
I'm going to share one of the most simple sermons I have ever
delivered in my whole life. I have three simple points that when
you read the words you will be tempted to ignore them because
they do not seem to be profound, insightful or challenging. And
so you might even be bored when you read them, but don't let that
happen. They are three of the most important
points of a single sermon I have ever preached in over
50 years of writing about 3,000 sermons and 33 books, so read
My message today comes
from Psalm 121. It is believed that this Psalm is one of the collection
of singing psalms that were used for people of the faith to memorize
and sing together as they traveled as pilgrims from wherever they
lived to visit the holy site of Jerusalem and the temple. And
even Jesus, at the age of 12, when He traveled to the temple of
Jerusalem with his parents, very likely sang this Psalm,
will lift my eyes to the hills
From where comes my help . . ."
Traveling from Nazareth
and Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south, the first
thing you see are the hills and mountains that surround the city
of Jerusalem. And when the pilgrims would see the sight of the
first mountain peaks, they knew that they were within distance
of the temple where they would feel the presence of God and where
their worship would exhilarate them. So they sang this Psalm as
the sight of the hills immediately uplifted them.
The hills call out ... dream ... inspire ...believe ... have joy
... let hope flow through you. You're about to connect with the
God who created you. And so they would continue to sing these
mighty words from Psalm 121 probably the favorite of all the singing
will lift up my eyes to the hills - from where comes my help.
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not
slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor
Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your
soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
from this time forth, and even forevermore."
This Psalm sums up
for me the God that I believe in. That's a very heartfelt testimony
of a man 75 years of age who was raised in a Christian home and
went to church, Sunday School and catechism classes and has never
departed from the faith. I have had it challenged many times.
I have tested it intelligently and sincerely, but I have never
doubted the faith. I was led to a belief in a God and I want to
tell you about the God I believe in. It is very significant because
it has given me strength,
security and serenity.
I was just reading
yesterday from one of my unpublished journals. I found it in an
unlikely place or I would have contained it in my autobiography,
"My Journey." These handwritten notes, are dated April
I am writing
them in the apartment of Lenin in the Kremlin in Moscow.
I had been invited by a top official of Russia to visit
Lenin's apartment in Moscow. And they requested I visit
on April 30. They didn't explain why. My guide was Alexander
Schafhof, the single most knowledgeable person on the private
life of Lenin. He is assigned to me personally to escort
me through the place where Lenin lived those many years.
It is not open
to the public. You walk up the steps into a long hall. At
the end of the hall there is a combination lock at a door.
Everything is left as it was after Lenin died. And there
on the table is a plate and on it is translated; "Only
those who work may eat." Interesting. We go into his
library, which is very small, but I'm allowed to sit in
the chair where Lenin sat behind the desk where he wrote.
There are several books in 19 foreign languages. Within
reach of my hand as I sit down is a book and the title catches
my eye ... the author is Ernst Renan. The title is "Vie
And I say to
my guide, 'Did Lenin believe in Jesus? What did he believe?'
guide, answers, 'He always did.'
'Well then, how
could he become an atheist? Why did he reject the faith?'
And then he tells me how as a student, Lenin heard a priest
in a class answer a question from another student, 'Why
is Jesus on a cross?' And the priest answered, 'To teach
us that the more we suffer the better it is for us.' When
Lenin heard that statement at the age of 15, and he took
the cross which he always wore around his neck, ripped it
off and threw it on the floor. 'I don't want to believe
in that kind of a God,' he said.
My guide then
says to me, "If he had only known people like you,
Dr. Schuller, who teach a God of love, Lenin's whole life
would have been different."
I don't have time to
share with you the rest of my notes, but what is interesting is
that at the end of my tour there is a guest register and the guide
said, "Now, Dr. Schuller, we want you to sign your name here.
Today is important. We wanted you here today because today, April
30, 1993, is the 75th anniversary of Lenin's move into this apartment.
Today is a new day for our country, and we want the signature
of a man who believes in a God of love. Sign your name, Dr. Schuller."
And my signature is there today.
Wow! What kind of a
God do I believe in? The three words that I told you about are
so simple. Here they are:
kind of God I believe in:
1. A God who guides
2. A God who provides
what we really need when we really need it.
3. He is a God who abides
forever. My God is never out of touch.
GUIDES . . . then He PROVIDES . . . and He ABIDES.
That's the God I've
lived with for 75 years! Look at this profoundly for a moment.
God will lead us, then He will equip and empower us, and then
He will sustain us. What more do you need? What more could you
want? And God will do it all within the objective in mind that
He has a plan for your life. In Jeremiah 29:11, God promises:
"I have a plan
for your life. It is a plan for good and not evil."
His purpose for every human being is to turn us into creative
creatures. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and
that is why the mountains inspired the Old Testament leaders,
Moses, David and the prophets. That is why the mountains inspire,
I suppose, all of us. The taller peaks call us to think taller,
to dream bigger dreams, and to attempt the impossible.
I have to say that
in my 47 years as the pastor of this ministry here with a congregation
that is made up of possibility thinkers, never has anyone been
more of a possibility thinker than Terry Larson. He worked so
closely to me in a working relationship. He was like a brother.
Last night he finished dinner, he didn't feel well ... then collapsed
and died instantly. Wow!
Terry was a super possibility
thinker. Any beautiful dream that I came up with I'd ask, "Terry,
what do you think about it?" "Oh, fantastic." Nothing
was impossible to him. As manager of the Crystal Cathedral he
would supervise all the events behind the scenes. After the last
performance of the Glory of Easter at 10:30 PM Terry would supervise
the staff and volunteers as they dismantled the Easter set and
transformed the Cathedral into an Easter garden before 6:00 AM
for Easter Sunday. He often worked straight through without sleep
for 24, even 36 hours, for a major event.
The settings of our
statues with their landscaping were also all supervised by Terry
Larson. This last year he was working side by side with the architect
on the construction of our new Hospitality Center. Terry got his
degree in art from Minnesota and he was always so supportive when
I dreamed my dreams of art and architecture. God guided Terry
to dream the impossible. I never heard him say, "That's impossible."
Terry Larson was saved
from death 20 years ago. Depending on alcohol, he was ready to
kill himself and would have, but he tuned into a television program
called the Hour of Power, and he was introduced to "a God
who loves you and will save you." Terry gave his life to
God and then he came to tell us about it and stayed to work.
What kind of a God
do I believe in? I believe in a God who loves us ¡K a God
who will lead us to become creative people, kind people, compassionate
people, helpful people, people who are dreamers of great dreams
making our world more beautiful for everyone.
|Wow. God will
guide you as He has guided me.
1. Believe in a God who guides
2. Believe in a God who provides . . .
God I believe in will PROVIDE what you need when He
guides you into a call to do the impossible. He will
information for your mind. He will provide
education for your brain. He will provide inspiration
for your heart. Every single living human receives provisions
from God every moment of life, but you and I don't often recognize
that it all comes from God. God provides.
Let me illustrate:
Charlie Plumb is a
great guy and many of you heard him share his story. I was so
impressed when he shared his story here at the Crystal Cathedral
many years ago. Charlie flew 75 combat missions over Vietnam before
a ground-to-air missile hit his plane and blew it up. But he ejected,
landed safely, and would spend six years as a Vietnam prisoner
of war. After the war, Charlie returned home. One night as he
was having dinner in a restaurant, a man jumped up from a nearby
table and came to Charlie and said, "Are you Charlie Plumb?"
Charlie replied, "Yes,
how did you know?"
said, "I was on the Kitty Hawk Aircraft Carrier with you.
I packed parachutes down below in the ship. I packed
your parachute and I see that it worked!"
And a shocked Charlie
Plumb tried to say "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Charlie tells it this way: "I thought how many times did
I pass this kid? He was one of so many sailors all dressed in
white and he was one of the lowest ranks on ship. But I was an
officer! I flew a jet. I ate in the Officers' Club. I never knew
that kid. How much time did he spend at that long table in the
bottom of the aircraft carrier carefully folding the silk of the
parachutes. They had to be perfect! I wore his parachute, probably
passed him on the deck, but never said hello. I never knew what
he did for me."
Who packed your parachute?
Do you know him? Do you know her? We meet people all the time
on the street, maybe at a gas station or in a store not knowing
that we are survivors today because of something they made or
they delivered or produced. God has an incredible plan.
The God I believe in
. . .
1) A God who guides.
2) A God who provides
what we need when we need it.
GUIDES . . . He PROVIDES. . . and then . . . He ABIDES.
3) A God who
abides . . .
He doesn't leave us
alone. He does not abandon us. He is with us even in our last
dying breath to take our immortal soul out of this body into eternity.
God abides with us.
This is the God I believe
in . . the God who leads, equips and sustains.
to the hills will lift my eyes;
from where shall come my aid?
My help is from the Lord alone,
Who heaven and earth has made.
He will not let my foot be moved;
my Guardian never sleeps;
with watchful and unslumbering care
His own He safely keeps.
My faithful Keeper is the Lord,
My Shelter and my Shade;
'neath sun or moon, by day or night
I will not be afraid.
From evil He will keep me safe;
For me He will provide;
my going out, my coming in,
forever He will guide!"
Why do I believe this
will all my heart and soul? Why do I offer to you this faith to
embrace it as the God who wants to be your Lord? Because I have
seen how God abides with those
who are faithful to Him.
Many years ago God
called Dr. Henry Poppen to China as a missionary. And so Henry
Poppen went there with his new bride. They packed their suitcases
with their wedding gifts and on top of their trunks a neatly folded
American flag. They reached the shores of Amoy, China where they
had to take donkeys to travel inland to where their assignment
was. Loaded down with their precious wedding gifts, their small
caravan was attacked by bandits. That was their first experience
in China. All of their wedding gifts were stolen, the American
flag was thrown on the ground. They picked the flag up, carried
it with them until their death. Then at their inland mission they
built a hospital, a church and a school. Their first baby died
and is buried there, Henry Poppen nearly died from smallpox, his
casket was even being made ... then more bandits came, more anarchy
and troops came shooting. And Henry said, "Dorothy, get out
of here ... take the kids and run." Dorothy often told how
she ran through the streets with the children. Many years later
as she recalled this experience, she would say, "It was so
strange to be running for your life and then have the thought
come to your mind, which way will we fall when the bullets hit
us - to the right or the left?"
Then Dorothy would
share how God protected them as the bullets whizzed past her and
her children, and how their Chinese Christian friends hid them
and helped their escape. When Mao Tse-tung stopped in their village,
Henry Poppen was the first person to be captured. He was put on
a public trial held before 10,000 people in the courtyard of the
mission compound. There he was found guilty and put into a tiny
prison cell not knowing if and when he would be executed. The
prison cell was about 5' wide and 8' long, with only a cement
floor. There was no window nor natural light, only a little hole
in the cell door for the guard to watch him. All Henry Poppen
saw month after month was the eyeball of a guard until one night
he could take no more. He fell to his knees on the cement floor
and wept, repeating these words from Psalm 121 from his lips and
from his heart:
will lift up my eyes to the hills - from where comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will
not suffer my foot be moved. He who keeps me neither slumbers
nor sleeps. . ."
Then Henry Poppen prayed,
"God, I still believe in you, but I can take no more. Let
me go free or take me home to heaven." That same night there
was a quiet knock at his door and a stranger opened the cell door,
blindfolded him, and said, "Come with me." So Dr. Poppen
was led out, thinking he was going to be executed. Then he heard
the sound of water and he could tell that they were near the waterfront.
Now the blindfold was removed and he saw a boat with a ramp leading
to it . . . then the stranger said to him, "Don't look back.
Walk up the ramp, get on that boat. When you get to Hong Kong,
get off and run into the city streets and don't look back!"
That's how Henry Poppen
found his freedom. When he recovered from his imprisonment he
joined us here in California and worked tirelessly in our ministry
for the remainder of his life.
Henry and Dorothy believed
in the same God I do, a God who leads,
then empowers, equips
and sustains until
your last breath. God guides...
then God provides...and then
God abides. Remember these
three simple words and carry them with you. Hallelujah!
Lord, we thank You
that we've come to know You through the Bible and through the
lives of believers. We've come to know You through the mountains
... we've come to know You through the stillness and the silence
of the night ... through the Holy Spirit. I pray now for people
who are doubtful, skeptical or downright unbelieving. I hope and
pray, Lord, that they can find the faith in a loving God who is
my life and my joy. I find Him in Jesus Christ. Amen.