Claim Your Possibilities (4 May 2008)

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

Ken Behring

Special Music

Joyful, Joyful
Medley – O Jesus, We Adore You/What a Friend
Medley – Hand in Hand now Walk w/Jesus/Jesus is all the World to Me
Rise Up, O Church of God
We Walk by Faith

Solo/ Anthem
Sara Groves – Something Has Changed
Let Loud Hosannas Ring
Mark Harris – One True God

The Message

You know many people believe that my father was the founder of this church. And in many ways that’s true but the real foundation goes way back before him, actually. In fact I want to give a little credit to my great uncle. That would be his mother’s brother. My great uncle was a man by the name of Henry Beltman, and Henry Beltman was a missionary in China. And Henry Beltman came back from a furlough in China in the 30’s, saw my father five years old and he rustled his hair as he visited his sister and said oh you’re going to be a preacher when you grow up, and my father took that to heart and became a pastor.

Well today when I prepare for my sermons, I always pull out this book. It’s called A Harmony of the Gospels. It’s written by Kerr, k-e-r-r. It’s a very simple book, actually. What it does is it puts the four gospels side by side next to each other, and it puts it in chronological order, so that if there’s a text that I’m reading out of the New Testament or the gospel specifically, I can look at all four of the gospels side by side. For instance, I don’t know if you can get a close up of here, this is the passion week where the triumphant entry or Palm Sunday, you can notice that there’s four columns here and there’s writing in all four columns, which means the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ is in all four gospels. Otherwise you can go to another passage, like here are three columns of a passage but there’s nothing in John so that doesn’t appear in John’s gospel. But you can read them side-by-side, so I like to know what all the different gospels have to say about the same text, so I always read it.

And why do I bring this in here? This is given to me by my Uncle Henry Beltman. It’s got his signature in it and it says 11/4/18. That’s when he bought it. And he gave it to me when he passed away, he willed his entire library to me so I have several hundred books from him, and this is just one of his books that I’ve inherited. My Uncle Henry. A missionary in China in the 30’s. Imprisoned, escaped and found his way back to the United States. He’s buried here on the Cathedral campus.

We have a tremendous history and a long history with China. It starts back before China closed its gates and closed its doors. And they remained completely closed from the II World War up until 1978. That was a long time, decades. While the rest of the western world was watching television and listening to radio and looking at magazines and understanding a completely different culture, China was closed, completely closed. Seventy-eight it changed like that. They developed a new constitution, they developed what they called the socialist capitalism, and they opened their doors. Within months, I got on an airplane and I went there. The doors were open and I went. And when I went to China for the very first time, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life. There were no hotels. No new hotels. The old hotels were taken out of mothballs and literally the pillows and the sheets smelled like mothballs. I kid you not. I walked around those streets and you would have thought that I was an alien from Mars. There was not a single colored piece of clothing that I saw on anyone in all of China. Not one. They had what was considered the Mau dress which was a white shirt, and black slacks, and the women had white blouses and black skirts. And that was the dress. There wasn’t a single piece of colored clothing in the country. There weren’t any cars. No cars. In fact, the car, they had a car in the square where people could go and it wasn’t operating. People could go and sit in it and take their picture so they could show somebody that they actually sat in a real car. Can you believe it? And then I go walking down the streets of China. I’m a head taller than everybody else. I’m wearing a pink polo shirt, denim jeans; Levi’s to be specific, white Adidas tennis shoes. It’s the 70’s, the late 70’s so I’ve got my bling bling going, you know. I had a gold cross that I’m wearing that would show on my chest as I walked around.

And you would have thought I was the pied piper. I looked behind me and there would be a hundred people following me down the streets. So I’d stop and they would all gather around me and just gawk at me, stare at me and I’d stick my hand out and they would look at my hand and chuckle. And so I’d say hello. Anyone speak English? And there was this sea of beautiful black hair, and suddenly out of this sea I would hear this voice, I speak a little English. I said can I talk to you and you’d see this ripple come through this sea, like a fish swimming up a still, calm lake. And all of a sudden here would be this man or this woman, young man or young woman, and I would talk to them, I’d say so you speak English? Yes, we study in the university. It was always the same answer; it was always the same questions. Yes we study in the University. And then they’d say so what do you do? And I said oh I’m a teacher. Oh what do you teach? I teach about God. And when I said that, their jaws dropped. Teach about God? Are you kidding me? They wouldn’t say that, but that was the expression on their face. And then they’d say what’s that around your neck and I said oh that’s a cross and it says God loves you and so do I. And they’d laugh and then they’d ask me about God because I’m a teacher of God and they haven’t had any, they haven’t heard about God. They didn’t know God exists, basically. But they did in their hearts.

And what I would do is I would lead them through a pamphlet that was written by Bill Bright in 1965. He is the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. And I would sit there and just open up the pages and they’d read it word for word. And I remember one night we were.. I had my flashlight out and underneath the flashlight we’re reading the pages or they’re reading the pages and they get to this point where it says if you would like to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can pray this prayer right now. And they said can we do that? I said sure. We can pray here? And I said yes. There’s no reason not to. And I led them in a prayer and they accepted Jesus Christ and it was the same thing everywhere I went. A hunger and a thirst to know God, to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and to begin a journey living with Christ and then I’d give them one of the little pocket New Testaments that I brought with me and that was my time in China.

What seeds were planted? What has been the harvest of planting those seeds? Here you have some of the most intelligent minds in China, those who have studied English, those who are in the university coming to a full knowledge of who Jesus is, accepting Jesus as the person, Lord and Savior. And what happened to those young men and women? That was 30 years ago. And from that time to this moment, I have been praying that God would open the doors to China, that we could continue to minister and share the good news of Jesus Christ with this country who has been closed from western civilization, who has a pure understanding and a realization that there is a God because that is an instinctual reality within the human spirit. And they want to know who Jesus is. But they don’t even know Him. And how can we reach this country?

When my father started this ministry, he invited Dr. Norman Vincent Peale to come. And when Norman Vincent Peale came, he ignited this place with a positive energy. He had written the book The Power of Positive Thinking, one of the greatest selling books of all time at that time. And he came. And he spoke. And my father got excited with the idea of positive thinking and how important it is to think positive thoughts because until you can think positive thoughts, you can never really acquire the gifts and the skills that God has for you. Positive thinking is a foundation.

But this thought came to him, that’s not enough. We need to go further. And he wrote the Power of Possibility Thinking. And possibility thinking is where we fill our minds with positive thoughts so we can think of the opportunities that God has created for us, to do positive things. What I want to do is take those positive things and put them into positive action.

And today I’m challenging and incorporating and really encouraging all of us to partner together to make a difference in China, in a huge powerful way, because my father’s teaching is possibility thinking, he has been invited to China numerous times to speak and to teach. About what? Possibility thinking. And he’s plowed the fields and the seeds have been sown and it is time for us to reach out to this country and make a difference. Today we are reaching 180 million people a week in southern China with the Hour of Power. Today we are reaching out to that country and we want to reach the rest of the country. That’s only about 15 percent of the country. It sounds like a lot but its only 15 percent of the country. And we can reach the entire country with Jesus Christ’ gospel and good news as we continue to share with them that we care.

How do we do that? First of all we’re going to give wheelchairs. But these chairs are going to have a different title on it. They’re not going to be.. we’re not going to call these things wheelchairs. Can you see that sticker? It says wheelchair foundation? The chairs we give away are going to say possibility chairs. You like that idea? Possibility chairs. And that’s because we are giving the individuals new possibilities, new hope and a new drive in life. We’re going to give these chairs away. That’s just step one.

We’re going to continue to home mentoring program. The children of migrant workers in China are in desperate situations of education. And we have the opportunity to help the exceptional middle school students to help them acquire what they need to go on to high school and make a difference in their family, because we educate one, and that starts the ball rolling to help the whole family, and so we’re going to do that. We’re going to bring light into the dark huts that don’t have light so they can read at night. We’re going to provide clean, safe drinking water for families. We’re going to provide vocational mentoring. What does it mean? We need what we’re calling silver tigers. Like that name? I need silver tigers to help me go over there and provide vocational mentoring. In other words, I’m asking for retired engineers, doctors, nurses, educators, lawyers, scientists and teachers who are members of this church, no matter where you are in the world, global members from around the world to suit up and go into action by using your lifetime of experience and knowledge to help lift up the poor and the needy families of individuals in China and specifically the province of Guangzhou, to be a volunteer missionary, as a mentor and a team making a difference. A silver tiger. Is there anyone here who wants to be a silver tiger and go to China and make a difference? Oh there’s a few. It’s getting better. Oh there are two hands up, okay; we’ve got a few hands going up. We’re going to gather silver tigers from around the world and we’re going to make a difference.

The bottom line is, we’re going to raise a million dollars and the fact of the matter is we don’t have a million dollars. I’ve spent the last two, three weeks in budget meetings, trying to figure out how we’re going to operate within our projected income that we have for this year. There isn’t a million dollars left over. That’s the facts. That sounds a lot like many of your checkbooks, I suspect. Where you just don’t have enough money left over at the end of the month. But somehow, someway God always provides. And we survive. God I believe, truly I believe that God honors a commitment when you do something that you know you need to do, that God has called you to do and you make that commitment, God provides the way. I know that God’s going to provide the way today because first of all we’re just doing what He told us to do.

In Matthew, Jesus shares with us. He calls Himself the King. “Then the King will say tothose on His right, come you who are blessed by My Father. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty; you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I needed clothing and you clothed Me. I was sick and you looked after Me. I was in prison and you came and visited Me. And they all said when did we do these things, Lord? And He said when you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.” That’s what God has called us to do. To reach out to those who are hungry, thirsty. Those who need clothing, who are sick and in prison. He wants us to reach out to the strangers that we have never met and give them a hand. And the greatest hand we can give them is hope. Hope for a future that has potential, hope for eternity that’s going to make a huge impact in their lives. And that’s what I’m challenged to do today and I’m asking you to join me in this challenge.

And I’m asking you today to support this and to support me as we move forward and make a difference in reaching into a country today that is ripe for harvest. It’s ripe. The time is now.

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