#21 Strength, 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 carefully.

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,

"I 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 Psalms:.

"I 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 allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The 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.

The 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 30, 1993

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 de Jesus."

And I say to my guide, 'Did Lenin believe in Jesus? What did he believe?'

Alexander, my 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:

The kind of God I believe in:
1. A God who guides us.
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.

God 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 . . .

The God I believe in will PROVIDE what you need when He guides you into a call to do the impossible. He will provide 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?"

"Oh," he 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.

He 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.

"I 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:

"I 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.


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