#238 (18/06/06)
Partnering With God

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

She is a young woman who has a wonderful testimony and a beautiful, just a beautiful thing to share with us. Her name is Judy Winter. She was a devoted and loving mother to her son Eric, a musically talented child with cerebral palsy who passed away in February of 2003, at the age of 12. She is a recipient of the 2006 CEO Award, which stands for Chief Everything Officer for community outreach in the nationwide search, sponsored by AOL and Dove, for her work as an advocate for children with special needs. As an award winning journalist, she has written her book entitled, “Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" For the Beauty of the Earth "
" Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us "

" Saints Bound for Heaven "

NATALIE LEONARD – “Jesus Loves Me”
DAVID PHELPS – “Gentle Savior”

The Message

As many of you know I have just returned from a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana, to assist in a house build partnering with The Fuller Center for Housing, and Habitat for Humanity. The reason I'm here today is my husband, asked me to partner with he and his father as he started this series on the 23rd Psalm. I don't think it's any coincidence that my scripture verse was assigned to me a couple of weeks ago, it just happened to fit in with this project of restoration and renewal in Shreveport. I really believe that is the way God works. We think we have it all together and we think we plan it but in the end, God is the master planner. When you hear these two verses you will definitely agree with me. "The Lord leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul."

I first think about this passage and the way it was written by the great Psalmist David, and he uses as an example the way a shepherd leads his sheep to calm waters. You have a flock of sheep and they're thirsty, they're hungry, and they need rest. Surely, the shepherd would want them to rest in calm waters. He would not want them to be led down the wrong road and end up in the rapid water; they would surely be swept away. How does that equate to us? Surely, our shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants to lead us beside still waters and He does, if we allow Him.

That is another thing about leadership. You can try to lead but if no one follows, then you're not a true leader. So we have a daily choice, whether or not we want to follow Christ.

I've spent a lot of time on the water. I grew up at the beach, both swimming in the water and also boating on the water, and enjoying all kinds of water activities. When thinking about calm waters, I was reminded of some times when I actually put myself into some rather choppy waters. Several years ago we were in Mexico, in the mid section of Baja, California. We wanted to go ashore as there are a group of little villages on the way down to the tip of Baja. We were making our way ashore in a small dinghy. I think it was a 14 foot dinghy and it had a little engine on it. So as we started into shore, at some point I lost my trust in the leader. I decided that the swell behind us was going to take us over, and before it did, guess what I did? I went overboard myself. I said, "I'm out of here. I'm a good swimmer; I'm going to swim the rest of the way to shore." As I dove overboard, guess what happened to the dingy and the rest of the people? The dinghy flipped, and all three of them went into the ocean. Now there was really no harm done except the fact is that I created chaos, I created the rough waters, and it was all in my mind. Had I stayed in the boat, I'm sure it would have been fine, and especially since I had a great leader. My husband was the leader or the captain of that little ship that day. Sometimes, we just get into our own problems, we make our own chaos, and we create our own rough waters because we do not seek out still waters, we do not allow someone to lead us, and we try to do it ourselves.

I am also reminded of a time, about a year and a half ago when we took our family to Israel, the week after Christmas. On one of the days, our group had arranged a jeep trip into the Golan Heights. From the Golan Heights you can see the Sea of Galilee behind you, and what we didn't know is it's a very, very dangerous trip. As we were driving, the driver said, "You know there are live landmines all around here." I thought, "I am thankful that we are with this guide." Because we followed our guide, he kept us safe. This is how God works in our lives. He guides us and He leads us, if we allow Him.

I can't help but come back to this last week and my partnership with all the wonderful people in Shreveport; in actually an Allendale community of Shreveport, Bossier City Louisiana. When we first arrived there, a bus picked us up every morning and as we arrived on the job site, the first day we thought, "This should be pretty easy." I think most of us thought, we'll be there and we'll do a little building, maybe we'll do a little painting, a little bit of supervising, and perhaps they'll let us hammer once in awhile, because surely there will be real contractors there. You can imagine our surprise, yes there were some foremen, and there was a structural engineer, so surely he knew what he was doing. There were two other representatives from the other partners in this project. They gave us direction and instruction on using the various power tools and pieces of equipment. One of the problems in having these power tools available is that there was a false sense of confidence and security and we would get ahead of the leaders. This made me think about life in general. When you have a false sense of confidence in life, when you don't know who you are following, you make mistakes. Are you going to make mistakes anyway by following God? Sure you will. But I think it's a great reminder that God's laws are there to protect us. They are meant to guide us and keep us safe and keep us on course so that we don't make huge mistakes.

My question for you today is: "who are you following?" Everybody is following something or someone, and I'd like to encourage you to let Christ lead you beside still waters. "He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul." What does restoration mean? I pulled out the dictionary to see what it said and one of the definitions is: "to bring back to the former condition." Another definition I really like is: "a rebuilding of health."

I was recently talking to my brother-in-law before I left on this trip, and I was telling him I needed to speak today about restoration. His hobby is restoring cars. He said, "Let me tell you about restoring cars. I can restore a 1955 Thunderbird as an example. After that car is restored it's better then new, and it's also more valuable." As we were talking I thought, God does the same thing for us. Once He restores us, once He rebuilds us, He repairs our cracks and our brokenness and He gives us a new paint job, so to speak. We are actually better than we were before. We are not better than everybody else, but we are better than we were before, and that is what is important.

Going back to the restoration of Shreveport, I think I mentioned we were in Allendale Community. At one time, it was the most dangerous place in all of Shreveport, which is a city with a population of about 200,000. That's where all the drug dealers hung out, that's where all the prostitution was, it was a terrible, terrible area. This place has been empty for about the last ten years and it is only under rebuilding through some wonderful people from the local churches and from the Shreveport Bossier Community Renewal, this city has started to rebuild. So we were in what was once a very, very dangerous place. The idea is, or the goal is to build 60 homes, and I believe ours was the eighth or the ninth, so you can see they have a lot of work to do. Their goal is to have these homes built, rebuilt completely. They are going to rebuild sixty homes. I was doing a little bit of reading in scripture and I found something in Isaiah, chapter 61. "He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve, to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated, for I the Lord love justice. In My faithfulness, I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people, the Lord has blessed."

I think the important thing here and something that we didn't understand before we went down to Louisiana, was that we were in place to get this started and certainly all the partnerships with the various groups had a large role in God's plan and seeing that it came to fruition. But, just as the scripture says, at some point it switches to their responsibility as a society. I was so happy to be a part of this and see that we weren't just giving these people a hand out but we were truly giving them a hand up. I can tell you, they have to put in at least 350 what they called sweat equity hours. We were working side by side with people that will be getting the next house or the next house after that. So I just think it's really important if you're thinking of going down there, if you're thinking of supporting this project in any way, you need to know that its not a hand out, it's a hand up, and that's very important.

We knew we'd have an impact on this family, but we had no idea what it would do to us emotionally. We had no idea what it would do to us spiritually, because we weren't just rebuilding a community, we weren't just rebuilding a home for these people, but we realized it was greater than any of us could have imagined. We were rebuilding the kingdom of God, and we were showing them that a church from Southern California cared enough; a group of ladies cared enough to come all the way to Louisiana to help them rebuild.

The family that we are building the house for (Massey Family) shared their testimony with us. The most important thing they said is, even in their relatively new stress and hardship that they've been through, they said and I quote, "God had a better plan for us. We didn't know it at the time, but He had a better plan." Neither of them had ever been out of New Orleans. They'd struggled to get ahead, these are hardworking people. They struggled to get ahead, they have been relocated to Shreveport, not on their decision but somehow God had a better plan.

In closing, I want to let you know I really believe Jesus is in the restoration business. He is the greatest carpenter who ever lived. I don't know what kind of restoration you need today. I know there is probably something. I don't know if you are having financial difficulties. I don't know if you have had problems with your marriage. Jesus Christ can rebuild anything, no matter how broken, no matter how old, no matter how far off your foundation you have fallen. If you trust in Him, He will ignite your potential. He will lead you beside still waters, and he will most surely restore your soul. Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the opportunity to help others because through helping others restore their lost and broken parts, we restore ourselves as well. We believe what you say in the Bible: "if you give, it will be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. With what measure you give, it will be given back to you. Lord, thank you for the opportunities this Church provide through You, because truly You are the restorer of all. We love you, Lord. Amen.

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