You know I’ve got to tell you, it is wonderful for me to be able to come and to share with you another message on Walking in Your Own Shoes.
But what I am excited about is the fact that it is the Christmas season. And I’m going to begin by sharing a question with you. Something for you to ponder, you can ponder it for the next few minutes and who knows you may ponder it the rest of your life but questions are important, in fact they’re one way of education. In fact all your Jewish Rabbi’s are basically taught by a series of questions. In the Reformed Church of America, we use the same concept called the Heidelberg Catechism which was written in the seventeenth century. It’s a series of questions with a series of answers. But here’s the question and it’s up to you to derive the answer. But the question is this: Do you believe when you see it? Or do you see it and then believe? That’s the question. Do you believe it when you see it? Or do you see it when you believe? Ponder that. Think about that and as you ponder and think about that let me share with you some realities and some stories if you don’t mind. One reality is the fact that the bible continues to reveal to us insight and understanding that helps us realize the fullness of God’s love for us and His direction and input in our lives.
With that, I have to share with you a story. I took my son when he was about five years old over to grandma and grandpa’s house, you know? And we’re over there and he finds this old bible, it’s actually an old Dutch bible. I think it may have been my grandparent’s bible. It’s one of these great big bibles. And he’s thumbing through the pages just in awe over this thing. And all of a sudden, he gets so excited. He goes, “dad! Dad! Dad!” I go “yeah?” He goes “I found something in the bible.” I go “yeah, there’s a lot of things to find in the bible.” He goes “no, no this is really, really, really important.” And what he had found was an old leaf or something that my grandmother or my mother had put in there. And he comes; “you got to see this, dad. Come over. Look at this!” And I’m looking at this leaf and he goes “Adam’s underwear!” You know, you never know what you’re going to find in the bible. The bible is full of truths that continue to minister to us and speak to us all the time.
And when we read the account of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, it begins with the following greeting. It says: “greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” And that’s the way the angel greets Mary. “You are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” And I believe that greeting is one that we need to continue to impart upon all people from now to eternity with the realization that God looks at us, not just Mary, but He looks at every single one of us. Those who are sitting next to you and behind you and around you, He looks at you and He says greetings you who are highly favored. Greetings. And do you know what would be a nice response to that? And so are you. Why don’t you do that right now? Shake hands with those who are sitting next to you and behind you and say “greetings, you are highly favored by God.” And respond, “and so are you.”
You know, there’s a huge difference in our perception. And there are people who go throughout their lives, never perceiving that they are favored by God. They spend their entire life in a fear of God, or in a misperception of God, never realizing that God favors His children. And it’s really sad.
You know Charles Lindbergh, May 21st, 1927, landed in Paris. And that set him apart in history as the very first person to make a solo from New York to Paris. Well his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, hangs in the Smithsonian Institute to this day, and when I’m in Washington DC, I like to get over to the Smithsonian and look at the fabulous pieces of art they have there. And it’s not uncommon for my wife and I to walk through there and look at the national air and space museum, specifically. That’s one of our favorites. But you know in ‘97, his daughter Reeve was asked to give the annual address that he originally had given, and she was asked to do that for the 70th anniversary.
And so they invited her to come early, and what they do is they put her in a cherry picker, because if you’ve ever been there, you can see the plane. They have it hanging off of the roof of the museum. So they put her in a cherry picker and sent her up 20 feet in the air so she could literally touch the plane that her father flew in. So she’s in this cherry picker with her son, and she’s rubbing the fuselage. And she’s touching the handles that her father would have touched as he climbed in and out of that plane. And she looks at her 8-year-old son, Ben and she goes, “Ben isn’t this absolutely amazing?” And Ben goes, “Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a cherry picker, mom.” And his whole perception of life was wow, this is cool. Look how high I am. I’m in a cherry picker. Never realizing how close he is to being able to touch history, and something that was so close to him, and something that would make his mother cry.
The same thing happens to us all the time. Our perceptions in life are such where we fail to realize that the power and the beauty and the wonder and the favor of God is upon us. And then we hear these words again. “Greetings you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you.” And God sent His angel Gabriel, the main message carrier to share this message with the world. With the world. You are highly favored. And it’s a message we need to hear, because it’s so easy for us to miss the beautiful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its truth and its reality and get diverted, and become confused and realize that God’s favor is upon us.
You know my book, “Walking in Your Own Shoes,” is all about walking in our own shoes, not somebody else’s. Being not a copy but an original so that we originate and not duplicate. And we can only do that when we realize the power and the majesty of God’s love upon our lives and that we have favor with God. And when we realize we have favor with God, the next verse is, or the next words aren’t even necessary to be quite honest. But just in case, I share them with you anyway. The next words from the angel are these: “do not be afraid.” A command. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” Again. Just to put the emphasis on the fact and the reality that God favors us. So don’t live in fear. Live in confidence. Walk with faith, believing, realizing, experiencing and originating the life that God has called you to live. Don’t try and copy everybody else. Don’t follow the seven steps to whatever it is, so that you can be the ultra success that somebody else used to be his or her success. You have favor with God. And God wants you to walk in your own shoes. It’s what it’s all about. But it begins by stepping out of fear and into courage. “Do not fear.”
Courage. What kind of fearful experiences or realities do you face today? How do they measure up as far as having enough faith to move forward? “Do not fear,” says Gabriel. “Do not fear.” With Mary, it was fear of ridicule, persecution. Here she is, conceiving a child in a world where sex outside of marriage was punishable by death. She doesn’t have a husband. Suddenly, she is pregnant. And you hear these words: “do not fear.” When you realize how deep and how meaningful and sincere it is for us to trust in God because we have to realize that there are people who believe when they see it, and then there’s people who see it when they believe. And we are called to believe. We are called to trust. We are called to follow. We are called to go and do not fear because you have favor with God. That’s it. It begins there. You have favor with God. Trust that, believe it, walk fervently and courageously with that realization and do not fear. And then, he tells Mary “the baby you’re going to have, you’ll name this child Jesus.”
I was in Israel and while we were there, I was talking with an Israeli guide, he’s a Jew. He’s not a Christian, but he was telling me, in fact his name is Menachem, he says “you know I’ve studied this name Jesus, in Hebrew.” And he says “you know, what’s interesting is it should be pronounced Yeshua.” I go, “yeah I know that, Yeshua.” What I didn’t know is what he shared with me next. He goes “Yeshua is a derivative which means actually ‘he is,’” which is very fascinating. I’ll tell you why it’s so fascinating. He said “Because when Moses met God on Mt. Sinai, and asked Him what is your name? God said I am that I am.” And in Hebrew I am is Jehovah. So we have Jehovah, I am. And then we have Jesus, He is. And in the Christian perspective of realizing the power of this name, what the angel Gabriel is telling us is that it is literally the incarnate Jesus, the incarnate God in the body and the life of this man, and He is, as a result of that, His name is Jesus. The I am becomes the He is.
And as a result of this name Jesus, we discover that we can do all things. All things. You can say to that mountain move, and it will move and nothing will be impossible to you. And I look at people who are addicted to drugs. And I look at people who are addicted to alcohol. And I look at people who are addicted to sex and gambling. And I say what kind of demons do we have today? We are surrounded with demons that continue to plague our minds and our hearts with these addictions. And then in addition to that, I look at the people who are committing suicide. Why are they committing suicide? Because they don’t have enough self esteem, and there are the demons who tear us down and say you’re nothing. You cannot succeed, you are a failure and no matter where we turn, we hear these demons whispering in our ears. And I’m brought back then to the very first message we received from the angel. Remember what that is? You greeted one another with it this morning. You have favor with God! And what more could you possibly ask for? What more could you possibly require? What more do you need? You have favor with God and if you have favor with God, do not fear. Do not fear anything, because Jesus is, and Jesus is with you, and Jesus is holding your hand, and Jesus is taking you wherever you go.
And the angel’s parting words were these: “nothing is impossible with God.” Nothing. How many dreams and aspirations and hopes have you allowed slip through your fingers and disappear because well, I couldn’t do that. Somebody else could do that, but you know God really wouldn’t have that much favor on me.
I look at the dreams and the aspirations that people have. And the hopes and the desires that they want to accomplish in their lives and over and over again I see people who have the ability to do something and so often they won’t take the next step when all God wants us to do is simply take the next step and allow the impossible to unfold as God moves and shapes and puts His hand at work in our lives. All He wants us to do is take the next step. Even if it seems like that the third step is impossible. If there is one step you can take today or tomorrow or this week, take that one step towards reaching the dreams and the goals He has for you and in the process of taking the steps, He’ll guide and direct and you may not accomplish what you thought you were designed to accomplish, but you will succeed because you are taking the steps. That’s living by faith. That’s what it’s all about.
There is a basketball player who was an utter failure in basketball and you all know his name. This young man wanted to be a basketball player in the worst way, he wanted to be a professional but guess what: he failed. He totally and completely failed. But he did succeed in being an attorney, but he failed at being an attorney, he didn’t want to be an attorney it wasn’t what he was called to do. So he decided he would write a book. He got up at five o’clock in the morning every morning to write a book. Which isn’t too early, I got up at four o’clock every morning to write my book, “Walking in Your Own Shoes.” But he got up at five o’clock every morning, spent a couple of hours before work to work on his book. And he finished his book and he tried to get a publisher to publish it and he failed again. Twenty-eight people turned him down! Failed twenty-eight times. He finally decided he’d just publish it himself. He published five thousand copies, pedaled the five thousand copies at different bookstores any way he could and sold a whopping five thousand copies. The next book was entitled “The Firm.” Before he finished the book they made a movie, by the time the book came out they sold five million copies. His name is John Gresham. If you don’t know that book maybe you know the book “The Pelican Brief.” They made a movie out of that one, too, and they made five million copies out of that one. He continues to sell books, he’s sold millions and millions of books to this day but guess what: he’s a failure in basketball. That was his original dream. But he just took one step at a time. One day at a time until suddenly he discovered what God had for him.
If we look at our failures, we can all see that we’re a failure. If we look at our successes, we can all see that we’re a success. And nobody succeeds at everything, and nobody fails at everything. And God looks upon you with His favor. And today He challenges us and calls us to have just a little bit of faith, and to realize that we can see it when we believe. But if you wait to believe until you see it, chances are it’ll never happen. Belief comes first, and once you believe it, then you can see it. That’s what walking in our own shoes is all about. It’s walking in faith, it’s walking in the belief and the realization that we have favor with God, and because we have favor with God, we do not need to fear. And since we don’t have to fear God, we can walk with God, and we can have Jesus around us and with us everywhere we go. And suddenly nothing is impossible.
And so we thank You God, for the impossible things that are being revealed to us this very moment. That as we continue to be the people You’ve called us to be, that we’ll have enough faith to walk firmly before us, without fear, realizing that with You, all things are possible. So we thank You Lord for everything. We thank You for the way You’re directing, for the way You’re leading, for the way You’re opening doors, for the way You’re allowing us to walk through those doors. And so we love You Lord and we praise Your name, Amen.