Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship by the Word to the world.
Lord God, we thank you for this opportunity that we have to study your Word. God, we believe we know that Your Word does not return void, that it penetrates deep into our hearts, that it is sharper than any two edged sword, that it cuts through the chaos of life, God. And it reveals the truth, the reality, of who we are, our purpose here on this earth, Your will, Your desires for us.
And so Lord, I pray right now for everyone who's here, Lord. People from different walks of life, different struggles, different trials, different temptations, Lord. But God, we all have one thing in common, and that is that we need You to intervene on our behalf.
And so Lord, we pray tonight that You would speak to us, that You would reveal your Word in a real and relevant way, and we leave here changed. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Hey, turn to your neighbor and say, it's hot today. Now whoever told you that, say, hey, you're hot today. Just kidding, don't do that. Playing matchmaker here.
Hey, do you believe that God wants to speak to you tonight? If you believe that you're here tonight for a reason, turn to someone and say, God wants to speak to me tonight.
Well, tonight we're going to be in Psalm 23. You can turn in your Bibles there, Psalm 23. And the opening message tonight is just called "Summer Heat." And this week has been one of the hottest weeks of the year. Who's ready for it to cool off, hopefully, in a month or so?
As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first official day of summer, and it's going to be a hot one. Summer heat is upon us. I was reading an article online yesterday talking about what extreme temperatures can do, and do you know what extreme temperatures can do? Well, I'm going to tell you.
When it's 100 degrees outside, the temperature in your car can soar to over 200 degrees in just a short amount of time. Now do you know what that means? That means that the temperature is high enough to make pizza and cookies. Your car becomes an oven.
So if you were to leave either one of those items in your cart uncooked, by the end of the day, you'd have fresh dinner and fresh dessert waiting for you in your car. That sounds pretty nice, right? Somebody's going to try to that like, hey, there we go. I'm not having enough time to cook right now. Work's getting busy. I'll be making dinner in my car during the day.
It's hot, man. The heat can do crazy things. The heat can do intense things when it's put onto a subject for a period of time. But there's certain things you don't want to leave in the heat. Candy bars, string cheese, ice cream. The same heat that can make cookies can melt candy. It can melt cheese. It can melt ice cream.
The same heat can either melt or make, based on the subject that it is inflicting. Now this isn't the Food Network. We're going to get to talking about some spiritual truth here in a second, because the same is true for you. The heat can either melt you or make you, based on who you are.
And so tonight as we start this series off, I want to have you ask yourself the question of, who am I? The heat that's in my life, the heat that I'm in right now, the heat that I'm experiencing, what is it going to do to my character? What is it going to do to who I am? What is it going to do to my outlook and my understanding of life? How is the heat that I'm experiencing going to impact those around me? The heat can either melt you, or the heat can make you.
Have you ever had the heat turned up in your life? Raise your hand if you've had the heat turned up in your life? I think some people are lying in here. This is the church. It's OK to be honest. We're going to get 100% participation here by the end of eight weeks. We're working our way there.
Maybe you've had a time when unexpected circumstances came crashing down on you, when a hardship rocked your world that you didn't know how to deal with, a time when you felt like God had abandoned you. Maybe you're having family problems tonight. Maybe you're in the midst of going through a divorce, and you're trying everything you can to keep your marriage together, but you don't see a whole lot of hope in the future.
Maybe your parents are going through a divorce, and the thought of that terrifies you, what it's going to do to your ethos, to who you are, to your sense of belonging and security. Maybe you have physical problems. Maybe you've been sick for a long time, and it's hard for you just to get the strength to get out of the house. Maybe it was really hard for you to get to church tonight.
Maybe it's really hard for you to just do the basic things of life. Maybe you're experiencing times of intense temptation or trials, and you've got this sin that you don't want the person next to you to know about right now. And you try so hard every day not to fall into the trap, into this snare of sin, but every time you make a good decision, you feel like Satan's there to bring you three steps backwards.
And you're stuck in the heat of life. And you're saying, man when is it going to cool off so I can just take a breath. Have you ever wondered if this difficulty, if this heat, would ever come to an end? Anyone ever felt like that before?
Each one of us has experienced pain. Each one of us has experienced heartache, but what sets us apart is how we respond to it. Look, it's easy to say, man things would be different if I wasn't going through this. It's easy to say, if I just had that person's life, then I would succeed. But one thing that all human beings have in common is that pain, sadness, and difficulty is universal.
Look, I want you to know right now the person next to you that you think has it all together has things going on in their life that they don't want you to know about. Their life isn't as perfect as you think it is. Their life isn't as charmed, as magical, as you think it is. They're dealing with things that they don't want you to know about.
Your hardships might be different than theirs, but the emotion of pain and sadness is unifying. So my question for you is, when the heat gets turned up in your life, when you have a choice to make of how you're going to respond, what choice do you make? Do you melt under its force, or do you rise to the occasion and be strengthened by it?
I want you to realize something that's imperative for our walk as Christians. This is huge. This is life changing. The heat defines your legacy. The heat defines your legacy.
When you go through the heat, when you go through the trials and the temptations and the tribulations, your response to the heat defines your legacy as a human being. See, each one of us only has a few moments in life that will determine how we're remembered. We have the tendency to think that it's the totality of our existence that defines our legacy, but it's really only a few key moments in your life that determine how you're remembered.
We're going to talk about Daniel in the series. Daniel, throughout the entirety of the book of Daniel, had about 70 years of ministry. Within that 70 years of ministry, there's about three or four big moments that he's remembered by. 70 years and about four moments that defined his legacy.
Now when I think about that, I think about how many moments have you already experienced? And have you passed or have you failed your response to those moments that you've already had? Now it's easy to look at that and say, man, that's depressing because I think I've failed those moments.
But then my second question is, how many more moments do you have ahead of you, and what's your response going to be to those moments? When the heat gets turned up in your life, when you're thrown into a pit like Daniel, how are you going to respond? When the heat gets turned up in your life, and you get thrown into a furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, how are you going to respond?
When the heat gets turned up, and your family abandons you like Joseph, how are you going to respond? When they heat gets turned up in your life, and you find yourself running from God like Jonah, how are you going to respond? Because you only have a few moments in your life that will determine your legacy, and it's best to have a plan of how you're going to respond before you get into it.
The heat defines our legacy. David's greatest fall and greatest triumph occurred when the heat was turned up. How we respond to the heat determines how the world remembers us. The heat makes you, or the heat breaks you.
So church, I'm going to issue a challenge to all of us, myself included. Let's stop asking God to turn down the heat, and instead let's ask God how to respond to the heat. We have to realize that God has a purpose in allowing the heat to be turned up in our life, and God can use that heat within your life as a megaphone to proclaim His glory to the ends of the earth.
You know how I know that? Because Paul did it. Paul used the trial, the tribulation, the stuff that he went through as a platform, as a megaphone, to get him to Rome, to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And I think He wants to do the same with you.
And you say, I'm just from Albuquerque. I'm just from New Mexico. I just work at a laboratory. Or I just work at Intel, or I just work at a sandwich shop. Or I'm just in school. How could God possibly use my life to impact His kingdom?
Man, Joseph thought the same thing when he had crazy dreams of grander, dreams of being used to do incredible things. And he probably thought, man, I'm just one of 12 kids, and at that, I'm the youngest one. How are these dreams going to come true?
Daniel probably felt that way when he was being drug off to be a slave in a foreign land that he had no idea what was going to happen to him. I'm sure Jonah thought that when he was on a ship to Tarshish and then when he was sitting inside of a giant whale's belly. How could God use me?
Don't underestimate the position that you're in right now. Don't underestimate the place that you're in right now, because God wants to use the place that you're in right now to do something phenomenal, something incredible. And you can't see it right now, but right now is the time when you formulate that dream. You formulate that understanding. You formulate that belief that God can and that God will use you as a megaphone to the world. It starts with belief.
Let's read Psalm 23. Psalm 23, probably the most famous passage of Scripture. Non believers quote it. Believers quote it. Let's see what it really means.
Verse 1, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
And we're just going to look at the first half of this psalm tonight. We're really going to hone in on verse 4, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." You know the Message translates that, yea, though I walk through Death Valley.
Man, it's hot in Albuquerque today, but I can't imagine how hot it is in Death Valley. It's got to be scorching. It's got to be grueling. It's got to be terrifying. You could probably just die walking in Death Valley right now. 20 minutes without water, you're done for.
David, the author of this psalm, was no stranger to the heat. He was no stranger to hardship and calamity. This guy could have been a country music star he was so depressing. And as a matter of fact, maybe he tried to use that pick up line on Bathsheba. Hey, save a horse, ride a cowboy, girlfriend. I don't know, but he was a country music star. This guy had some serious issues.
For years, he was hunted like a wild animal. Even after being anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next King of Israel, he had a tough life. This psalm starts off so encouraging, so pleasant. Green pastures, still waters, no wanting. I don't want to want.
That sounds nice. I want that for my life. Come on, somebody, if that sounds like a good Sunday afternoon, somebody give me an amen. We want some green pastures and still waters in our life.
And then verse 3 signals a change in the mood. Verse 3 says, "He restores my soul." You say, that sounds good, but I want to bring up a question. What happens in your life that causes you to be in a place that you need restoration? Falling, right?
In order to be restored, you have to be down. You've got to be low. You've got to have experienced something that requires the need of restoration. Wouldn't you think that anyone under the care of the Good Shepherd would never go astray or need restoration? But sadly, that is not the case.
It seems like we are constantly giving in to the foolish and illogical pattern of sin. Can anybody relate with me on that? That you feel like even though you know you shouldn't do it, you still do it. Paul said it way before One Republic did. "Everything that kills me makes me feel alive."
We don't want to sin. We don't want to do the bad things, but we find ourselves in this illogical pattern of sin. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition, we're all insane. It feels like insanity doing the same thing over and over again, wanting a way out, wanting a release from sin, but we can't find it.
In fact, David himself knew all about the need for restoration, considering the chain of events that unfolded in his life as a result of his sin. I told you he had a messed up life. David's life looked like an episode of Jerry Springer, The Real World, Doctor Phil, Teen Mom, and CSI combined. Sometimes he acted more like Hugh Hefner than Billy Graham. He had a messed up life.
When you think of David, two other names should come to mind. David and Goliath and David and Bathsheba. Again, I told you we only have a few moments in our lives, a few moments where our decision defines our legacy. Those two moments defined David's legacy.
He's remembered for his greatest fall and his greatest triumph. His greatest victory and his greatest defeat. His greatest moment of faith and his greatest moment of sin. Heat defines our legacy. It melts you, or it makes you.
How you respond to the heat determines how the world remembers you. Times of greatest temptation often follow times of greatest triumph. Think about it. Right after the Father said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," the Devil was there.
The Devil always opposes those who God approves. Church, you need to write that down in your heart tonight. The Devil always opposes those who God approves. The Bible says that Satan is going to and fro, seeking whom he may devour.
Hey, I've seen National Geographic, and I know what that looks like. You see a big lion-- it's terrifying. You see this lion in the grass, and he's going back and forth, looking at some cute baby animal, licking his chops, thinking about how good that meal's going to taste.
Do those lions walk back and forth? It is not a pretty sight when they get their prey. They jump out from nowhere, and they-- you don't want to have your kids watch that stuff. My kids were watching National Geographic, and my son was like, Dad, why is that lion playing with that baby zebra? Son, he's not playing with that baby zebra. This isn't fun for that baby zebra. It's not a pretty sight.
I go to the zoo with my kids. Anyone like to go to the zoo? We've got a good zoo in Albuquerque. I'm proud of our zoo. It's a good zoo. Well, I love going to do the zoo with my kids, and one of the favorite animals for us to look at is the mountain lions.
I like looking at the mountain lions because I realize we have them here. And then I realize how terrifying they are, and it scares me to go hike in La Luz. But you watch those mountain lions.
And one day my son, Seth, was watching the mountain lions. And this lion was walking back and forth, licking his lips. My son says, Dad, he looks hungry. And I'm like, yeah, for you, bro. He's looking at you.
Church, I want to let you know Satan's walking back and forth, licking his lips, looking at you. And you're saying, man, he looks hungry. And I'm going to let you know, yeah, he is, for you. He wants to kill you. He wants to devour you. He wants to annihilate you. He wants to snap your neck and eat you up like a cute baby zebra.
Satan's on the prowl, but guess what? So is God. The Bible says that God, His eyes are going to and fro looking for those whom He can make himself strong on their behalf. Can somebody give me an amen to that truth, that promise of God?
Guess what? Satan's going to and fro, but so is God. God's eyes are going to and fro, looking for those who He can strengthen, looking for those whose hearts are loyal to Him. So if Satan's a lion, God's the zookeeper.
If Satan's that big, bad dinosaur from Jurassic Park-- Jurassic World, the indominus rex, God's the bigger, water dinosaur who's going to jump out of the water and swallow him whole. And you say, Nate, I can't do it. I don't have the strength to get through my struggles. You're right. You finally get it.
You're not strong enough. You can't do it on your own. If it's you against Satan, you don't stand a chance. But if it's you and God against Satan, Satan doesn't stand a chance. Somebody give me an amen.
The Devil opposes those who God approves. Let me tell you, it's better to have God approve of you than it is to have the Devil oppose you. God's approval is stronger than the Devil's opposition.
Those who are obedient and faithful to God become the biggest targets of Satan, and we need to realize it. We need to be aware of it. Many times in our lives the most difficult trials come after the greatest triumphs. Usually the most intense heat comes after a time of quiet refreshment.
Summer refresh leads to summer heat. After Jesus was baptized in the cool water, he was tempted in the hot wilderness. After Jesus had His mountaintop experience of being transfigured with Moses and Elijah, He came down to meet a demon-possessed person waiting at the bottom of the hill for him.
David, after slaying Goliath, was met with praise from the people and a spear from Saul. Samson, after he destroyed 1,000 enemy, met a hot momma named Delilah. Peter, who boldly stood for Christ, and who even hacked the ear off a soldier, only hours later was ashamed to even acknowledge Jesus.
Sometimes our successes can cause us to feel invincible, and we let our guard down. And when the heat gets turned up, we're not prepared for it. We're not ready for it.
In the contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal and Mount Carmel, God personally worked in a powerful and tangible way. But in spite of the miraculous working of God, within a week Elijah was in despair, asking God to kill him.
No sooner had Israel been delivered from Egypt than Pharaoh came pursuing them with his army. No sooner had Paul had an abundance of revelations than he was hit with a thorn in the flash by a messenger of Satan.
Whether you're 15 or you're 50, you need to hear this. Whether you've been a Christian for three months or 30 years, this is for you. The most intense heat comes in the beginning and the end of our Christian life.
The most intense heat, the most intense trials, the most intense attack in warfare, comes in the beginning and the end. In the beginning, because Satan wants to derail you from your walk with God. He doesn't want you to be used by Him.
He hits you in predictable ways with temptation, trying to cause you to doubt your salvation and walk away from God. But it's also at the end that some of the greatest attacks come. Because let me tell you, if Satan can get you to fall on your last lap, he can discredit all the years of faithful running.
All you've got to do is look at some of the biggest pastors who have been found guilty of impropriety, guilty of adultery. And all the work, all the energy they poured into impacting the Kingdom gets derailed and discredited by a fall in the last lap. Satan knows the power and the influence of a life faithfully lived for God.
There are those who don't finish well the race of life, who lower their guard, put our spiritual lives in cruise control, sit back and relax. And we think that somehow cruise control means we can take our hands off the wheel and take a nap. And we don't our seat belts on, and Satan would love to scrape your dead body off the pavement.
Satan's plan for you looks a whole lot like a scene of True TV's most shocking car accidents. You're an accident waiting to happen. The question isn't will it happen, but how will you respond?
Because Satan won't stop when you're down. Satan wants you dead. Satan won't stop when you fall. He doesn't want you to get back up. Satan won't stop when you look. He wants you to lust, as we see with David, often when we least expect it.
Perhaps just like David, after a great moment of faith comes a moment of sin. Perhaps after a great blessing or spiritual victory in our lives, we're feeling a little spiritually fat and sassy. We lower our guards. We take it easy. We kick back.
Look at David's life to illustrate this, the author of this psalm. We already talked about his greatest fall in Bathsheba. Well, what led him there? His notorious fall didn't begin when he, as a brave king, was leading his troops into battle. It didn't happen when he was doing what he was supposed to do.
It happened when he wasn't doing what he was supposed to do. It happened when he wasn't at war like the king should do, but when he was sitting back at home in his mansion, feeling a bit fat and sassy, that Satan got him to do what he shouldn't do.
This is the importance of sanctification. You know what we tell every single person that gives their life to the Lord in that room? We say, hey, you made a big step tonight. But it was the first step, because anyone who's been a Christian for a matter of time knows that walking with God is about daily taking a step with Him. And guess what? You don't just have to walk backwards to lose your relationship with God. If you just stand still, He's going to get away from you, because you're not walking with Him.
We've got to walk. We've got to be moving. We've got to be doing what we're supposed to do. If we aren't daily making a conscious effort to do what God has called us to do, then we will naturally begin to do what Satan knows we shouldn't do. We are always better off to obey God and to trust in His provision then to impatiently and selfishly provide for ourselves in ways that disobey or compromise His Word.
But what happens when we sin? This leads us to our next question. What happens when we sin? What is God's attitude towards us when we fall? Is God out to get us?
A lot of people think that God is out to get them. The famous Bruce Almighty quote is that God is a big, mean bully holding a magnifying glass, burning ants, and I'm one of the ants. People believe that. People feel that way, that God is out to get them, to destroy them, to hurt them.
If you love someone, set them free. If they don't return, hunt them down and kill them. Maybe for your psycho ex but not for God. He, like that shepherd with the lost sheep, will lovingly search you and find you. Or as the father, in the prodigal son story, God misses you and yearns for your return.
And when you come back, he's not ready to vindictively hurt you. He's ready to, with open arms, welcome you back into the fold, to put a coat of honor upon you, to feed you, to put you back in your rightful place as His son or daughter.
That's all fine and good. We love it when our Good Shepherd leads us to green pastures and still waters. We rejoice that when we are cast down, He seeks to restore us. We love the places He leads and guides us to, except for one.
Everyone loves the green pastures unless those pastures happen to be on the show The Walking Dead, and you find yourself being chased by zombies into the valley. The yellow brick road is great until the flying monkeys snatch you. The still waters are beautiful until Jaws takes a chunk out of you.
Verse 4 is the dread of every Christian. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." It's like, God, can we just leave that verse out? Can we just stick to the still waters and the green pastures? This passage has a twofold message.
One, it speaks to every child of God who gets a step closer to death each and every day. Number two, it speaks to those of us as we go through the valleys of life, through the heat of life. Now let me first approach this is it applies to the hardships of life, the heat, if you will.
We all find ourselves in these valleys at one time or another, feeling the heat beating down on us in Death Valley. It might be, as we said before, a tremendous hardship you're dealing with. It might be family problems. It might be physical problems. It might be temptations or trials.
Whatever it is that you're facing, remember this. You are not alone. Satan's goal, just like a lion hunting prey in the savannah, is to isolate you, to make you feel like you're by yourself, to make you feel like that lion that's coming towards you, you've got nowhere to go. You're done for.
Satan wants to isolate you. But you've got to remember when you're facing that lion, when you're facing that heat, you've got to remember that you are not alone. Yes, the valleys are tough, but don't disregard that second part. You are with me. You are with me.
We all find ourselves in those valleys, and that hope and that promise that we experience in the heat of the valley is that God is with us. Maybe you can't feel or sense God's presence. That's usually the case. Usually when we're in the valley, we can't feel His presence. We can't sense His presence. We cry out to God in anguish. That doesn't mean that He's not there.
This is perfectly illustrated in our series "Summer Heat." If you go out tomorrow afternoon, and it happens to be overcast, and you can't see the sun, do you say, the sun no longer exists? I can't see it. I can't feel its warmth. I can't see it wit my eyes. Therefore, the sun is gone.
If you don't think the sun's out there tomorrow, then lay out for six hours without sunscreen and see what happens. You're going to burn worse. Or try it with gravity. You're going to get a little worse than a sunburn.
God is there, not because I feel Him, not because I see Him, but because He promised to be. Isaiah 43:2 says, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze.
Church, when the summer heat comes beating down, it's not going to burn you. It's not going to set you ablaze. How do I know that? Because God promised that it wouldn't. God promised that if you turn to Him, if you realize that He is with you, if you walk with Him as He walks with you, you're going to come through that fire like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, unscathed and stronger because of it.
You've got to realize and actualize the promises of God within your life to see Him work in a way above and beyond your expectations. Certainly Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego found that truth of great promise.
Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So we may boldly say, the Lord is my Helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?" I think that's an ironic verse, because I think so many people think that God's going to forsake them, because people have forsaken them. Their parents have forsaken them. Their spouse has forsaken them, left them, alone, wanting, sad, feeling like there's no hope. There's no way out. There's no way into the future.
What can man do to me? At times it can feel like man can do a lot. But you've got to realize though man might forsake you, though man might let you down, God never will. God will never leave you. God will never forsake you. He is with you. He loves you. He cares for you, and He wants good things for your life.
We must turn to Jesus, cast our problems upon Him when we find ourselves in the heat. When Mary and Martha saw that their beloved brother, Lazarus, was sick, they sent word to the Lord and said, "He that you love is sick."
Scripture tells us that God is our refuge and a strength, a very present help in times of trouble. When the people griped and complained about Moses' leadership, he said in Exodus 15:25 that he cried unto the Lord. When Hezekiah received a threatening letter from a king who wanted his life, he spread it before the Lord. When John the Baptist was beheaded, his disciples went and told Jesus.
You don't serve a God who is disinterested in your life. He is compassionate. He is caring. He is concerned, and He wants to help. Another one of my favorites psalms says "Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."
Church, God wants you to cast all your care upon Him, not part of your cares, not some of your cares, not just the cares that seem big enough that God would maybe want to be a part of it. He wants you to even cast the little cares. He wants you to cast the little things, the things that you think don't really matter to God. God kind of works in miracles. He works in big ways. He doesn't care about the little things.
Elijah found out that wasn't true when he came and thought God was going to speak in the fire, and in the wind, and in the thunder, and in the earthquakes. And God said, no, no, Elijah, I'm going to speak you in a still, small voice to show you that, even in the small things of life, the things when you feel like man, I just conquered prophets in Baal. God doesn't care that this wicked queen wants to kill me. God says, no, no, Elijah, I care even about the small things.
I don't just want to work in the miracles. I don't just want to work in the grandeur. I want to work in the small things of your life.
So maybe you say, Nate, my heat that I'm going through, it's not that big of a deal. It's not that big, man. We hear about real love, and there's kids who are without homes, who have lost their families, who have been driven. There's ISIS. There's big things in the world. God's worried about that. My stuff is just small. God doesn't care about it.
Don't lie to yourself. Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. The big, the small, the grand, what we feel is the insignificant, it's all significant. It's all important to God.
Most of us want to avoid the heat of life. We prefer the cool waters. We prefer the green pastures. As a matter of fact, we say, God, maybe we could pull a Driving Miss Daisy here. Maybe You could just drive me in an air conditioned car from cool water to green pastures. Can I get an amen to that? Can we get a God limo service here, taking us from good thing to good thing and just leaving out the Death Valley?
But there are lessons that we learn in the summer heat that we can't learn anywhere else. For one thing, God will reveal Himself to you in a unique way that He never would do in the green pastures and the still waters. How do I know? II Corinthians, chapter 12.
II Corinthians chapter 12, verse 7 through 10. I'm going to read it to you in the Message, because I think it's going to knock your socks off, and you're never going to hear it the same way again. This is what it says. "Because of the extravagance of those revelations, so that I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down. What he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger of walking around high and mighty.
At first, I didn't think of it as a gift, and I begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me, my grace is enough. It's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen.
I quit focusing on the handicap, and I began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ strength moving in on my weakness. And now I take my limitations in stride and with good cheer. These limitations that cut me down to size, my abuse, accidents, opposition, and bad breaks, I just let Christ take over. And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."
Man, talk about somebody who let the heat make them not melt them. Church, do you view the heat in your life-- do you view the handicap in your life, like Paul did, as a gift? It's time to stop dreading the handicap, and it's time to start appreciating the gift.
It's time to realize that in our weakest, God is strongest. Talk about letting the heat make you. When the heat gets turned up in your life, you have a choice of how you're going to respond. You can melt under its force, or you can rise to the occasion to be strengthened from it.
Listen to how he talks about the heat of his life. "Given the gift of a handicap. Satan did his best to get me down. I quit focusing on the handicap, and began appreciating the gift. The weaker I get, the stronger I become." When Paul experienced the heat, he rose to the occasion, and it made him stronger. It made him who he was.
So in the heat of life, the power and the presence of Jesus Christ are with you in a special way. God can't make you strong if you already are strong. We've got to be in a place of weakness for God to bring us strength.
Second, in the heat of life, we learn lessons of compassion that can only be learned there. I'm going to read to you II Corinthians chapter 1, verse 3 to 7, again, in the Message translation because we've all heard in the regular translation. And this sheds new light.
It says, "God comes along side us when we go through hard times. And before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who's going through hard times, so we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more than good times of healing and comfort. When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for others' healing and salvation. Your hard times are also our hard times."
Have you ever framed your hard times in that light? That maybe you're in your hard time so that God can bring you alongside someone else who's going through a hard time and help them through their hard time? That God's been conditioning you in the heat so that you can let somebody else know, hey, it's not that bad. You're going to get through it.
It always blows my mind when I talk to somebody from Phoenix, and they say, the heat's not that bad. Are you crazy? They're like, no, you get used to it. I don't want to get used to hell, thank you very much.
No, it gets so hot there, and it boggles my mind somebody who's been in that heat for a long period of time can say, man, it's not that bad. I get used to it. This is what you've got to do. Just stay hydrated. Turn your car on, and go back inside. Wait for it to cool off. Stay in the shade.
They give you pointers of how to deal with the heat. It's still brutal. Doesn't change that, make it any easier, it's still hard. But they're there to help you.
The heat in your life is the same way. Someone who's gone through it and comes alongside you can say, hey, it's not that bad. Are you serious? Yeah, I've been through it. I've been there. I've experienced it.
All you've got to do is this. Read this Scripture. That helped me when I was in there. Talk to this person. That ministry really helped me when I was going through that temptation or that trial. Join a connect group. Join my connect group. There's people who love you there, people who can help you through the trial.
I'm going to let you know it's not going to make the trial not hurt. It's still going to hurt. But it's a lot easier to hurt with someone than without someone.
God wants to use your trials. God wants to use your heat to prepare you to help someone else through their heat. But remember this-- this is how we're going to close-- the heat doesn't last forever. That's the most encouraging part, I think.
The heat doesn't last forever. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. And guess what happens at the end of that psalm? All of a sudden, we're at a feast. He's preparing a table before us.
The heat doesn't last forever. The heat is only temporary. I Peter 1:6 says, "Even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation, pure gold, put in the fire, comes out of it proved pure. Genuine faith, put through this suffering, comes out proved genuine. And when Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of His victory."
It's in the heat that our faith is not weakened but strengthened. The heat will melt you, or the heat will make you. If your faith in Christ is true, the heat will make you. If your faith in Christ is not true, the heat will melt you.
David didn't say, yea, though I crawl through the valley of the shadow of death. Yeah, though I curl up and die in the valley of the shadow of death. Yea, though I cry in the fetal position. Yea, though I walk with God, with others. Keep moving.
Anyone ever gone bungee jumping before? Very few. I've gone bungee jumping a couple times. Once on my honeymoon with my wife, and once in Africa into the Nile River, because that's a good decision. It's funny. With bungee jumping, they tell you something terrifying.
They say, the most important thing about bungee jumping is to pick a spot hundreds and hundreds of yards away and jump as though you were trying to hit that. And they tell you why that's important, because if you get scared as you're bungee jumping and don't jump and don't pursue and don't push and don't have faith, and you just kind of fall and just kind of let yourself go down, well, what's going to happen is the bungee is going to pull you back up and cause you to hit the platform. That's really encouraging, right?
And so they say, it's imperative that when you jump, you jump toward something. You move. You get out there. You don't stay on that platform. You don't stay where you are. You get out there.
Remember how important it is to take that leap of faith. Remember how important it is to pick a position, to pick a place, far away and say, man, this is scary. This is terrifying. I really don't want to hit this ledge, and so I'm going to take that step. I'm going to take that leap. I'm going to go forward. I'm not going to die on this platform.
I'm going to make it through. I'm going to get out of this. Pick a point and pursue. And remember He is with you in the furnace, showing His strength in your weakness, making you more compassionate, more like Jesus. And finally, remember that you will come through your valleys stronger and deeper.
One closing thought as we end. Maybe you're listening to this, you're saying, man, this is good. I'm going through trials. I'm going through temptations. I've got the heat turned up.
And I'm going to leave here, and I'm going to walk with the Good Shepherd. I'm going to put these principles into practice. I'm going to make it through the heat. I'm not going to melt in the heat. And you're leaving here strengthened and encouraged.
Understand this. Only a true believer can say the Lord is my shepherd. Only a true believer can say that You are with me. Not putting our hope in some unrealistic Hallmark slogan. For every cloud, there's a silver lining. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
All's well that ends well. I believe that every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows. That somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows. I believe that every time I hear a newborn baby cry or see a leaf or touch the sky. I believe, I believe-- make me vomit.
Sometimes life doesn't go well. Sometimes there isn't a happy ending around the corner, but guess what? There doesn't need to be, because it's not the journey that matters, but it's who's traveling with you. And it's what the destination is.
Listen, I believe the Lord is my Shepherd. I believe at the end of the valley is the House of the Lord, and it is in that truth that joy is found. It is in that truth that refreshment is found in the heat.
There's a lot in this world that we don't know, but there's a few things we do know. We know there's a heaven. We know that God died for our sins. We know that through that death He made it possible for us to join Him. And we know that if we accept Him and repent of our sins, we're going to go to heaven.
I think that should be our motto as Christians. We know. And that's where joy is found, in knowing. And so as we close, my question for you, on this first week of our series, is do you know? Do you know the Good Shepherd? Do you know that when you die you're going to go to heaven?
Because if you don't know that you're going to heaven, then you don't know that God's with you in the valleys. And if you're here tonight, and you're going through the heat of life, or maybe you're in a time of refreshing, but you know that the heat's coming, and you want to have somebody with you when it does, then today's the day to know Jesus Christ. Today's the day to give your life to Him, to be forgiven of your sin, to know that when you die, you're going to go to heaven, and to know that you have an advocate whose eyes are going to and fro looking for who He can make Himself strong on their behalf.
God wants to give you His strength. Will you let him tonight? Let's pray.
Lord, we thank you for Your Word. We thank you for Your truth. God, it's in those times of heat, in the valley, that we need it the most. Lord, I pray that you would help us to respond to the heat, to respond to the temptations, to respond to the trials, in such a way that we be purified like pure gold. That our faith would be proved genuine. That it would make us stronger. That we would be like Paul, and we would respond to the hard times in life by saying, Lord, what a gift.
Lord, I pray that I would do that. I pray for whatever people in this room are going through, God, whatever temptations, whatever trials, whatever pain. Lord, each and every one of us has our own set of struggles, but what makes us all unified is that we all have them.
And I pray that if there's anyone here tonight who does not have a relationship with the Good Shepherd, who is not walking with You, who is not communing with You, who doesn't have Your strength on their side, I pray that tonight You would help them to give up, to let go, and to turn to You.
As we're praying right now, if you're here in this room, if God's speaking to you right now, and you realize that you don't have a relationship ship with Him. You don't know that when you die, you're going to go to heaven. You don't know that your sins are forgiven. And you're in the heat right now. Or you think that maybe in the future you could be in the heat.
And you're tired of going through the heat. You're tired of going through the valley on your own. You're tired of the heartache. You're tired of the heartbreak. You're tired of striving and never getting anywhere. And you say, man, when I die, I want to go to the House of the Lord forever.
If that's you, and you want to accept Jesus Christ into your life and be forgiven of your sins and know that when you die, you're going to go to heaven and know that when you go through trials, you've got a friend, then I want you raise your hand up and say, Nate, pray for me. I need Jesus Christ in my life.
Just raise up your hand. If God is speaking to you, respond to His call. Don't push Him away. He offers you a gift of eternal life. Amen. Right here in the center.
Anyone else? Just raise up your hand so I can see you're saying, Nate, pray for me. I need Jesus in my life. In the back, to my left. Anyone else? Put your hand up high so I can see it? Over here to my right, in the center.
Towards the middle. Anyone else? Here in the balcony. Put your hand up in the family room. I'll acknowledge you. I see you. Anyone else?
You're tired of doing it on your own. Amen. I see you. Anyone else? To my right. Amen. Right here. God bless you.
If God is calling you right now, my question is, what do you have to lose? I've got a lot to lose, Nate. You do have a lot to lose. You're going to lose all the depression, all the sadness, all the pain, all the feelings that you've got to do it on your own. You've got to make something of yourself.
You're going to give up a lot tonight, but you're going to gain a lot. You're going to gain joy. You're going to gain satisfaction. You're going to gain assurance of salvation. You're going to gain a room of thousands of people who love you and care for you and want God's best for your life.
Is there anyone else who's ready to give up all that bad stuff and receive all that good stuff? Anyone else, just raise up your hand. Amen.
Well, Lord, I thank you for those who have raised their hands, acknowledging their need for You. And God, I pray that You would help them to take a stand of faith. I pray that You would help them to walk with You. I pray that You would help them to put their money where their mouth is, Lord, and be bold and be brave, pursue you. In Your name we pray, amen.
Would you stand with me? We're going to close a song. And as we close in this song, I'm going to ask that if you raised your hand up acknowledging your need for Jesus Christ, I'm going to ask you to do something bold and get up from wherever you are, come down here to the front, and say a prayer to accept Jesus Christ.
And I know what you're thinking, because we all think it. Man, I'm all about the dark room with the eyes closed and the hands raised, but you want me to take a step of faith in front of people? I do, and here's why.
If you can't stand up for Jesus in a room full of people that love Him, how are you going to do it when you walk out those doors into the heat and a world that hates Him? We love you. We care for you. Jesus wants a relationship with you, so as we sing this song, you get up from wherever you are. You come down to the front. Church, let's cheer them on as they do.
Amen. If you're coming, you still come. You guys can turn around. You guys are standing before Jesus not before these people. This is about you and God. And I believe that God might still be speaking to more out there tonight.
God might still be speaking to you. Maybe you raised your hand up. You know that need to do this, but something's holding you back. You think you don't have enough time. We'll wait for you.
If you're in the family room or the balcony, you have time to come up here and accept Jesus Christ. Or maybe you think that you've got more time to make this decision. You say, man, I know I need to get my life right, but I'm going to do that next month.
You don't know if you have next month. If you were to drive home on the way home and get in a car accident and stand before Jesus Christ on Judgment Day right now, what would your answer be to Him? You're not promised tomorrow. You're promised today.
So you respond to Jesus Christ today. You get your life right with Him today. There's no waiting. This is your moment, and God wants a relationship with you.
Maybe you've been a Christian for a while, but you've walked away from God. And you need to come back to Him. Maybe, like David, the heat is melting you right now. You've made a mistake. You've made a decision, and you're trying to figure out how to recover from that. The recovery process is the same as the process that they're going through, asking Jesus for forgiveness, asking Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit and help you to live for Him.
And so if you need to rededicate your life to Christ, you also come down and get your life right with Him. We're going to sing this through one more time. And if God is still speaking to you right now, you come. You come. You accept Him into your life. You experience the satisfaction that brings. You come now.
Amen. Amen. You come. Amen. Come on, church. Let's get loud.
Amen. Amen. I'm going to pray right now with those who have come forward. And we're not going to sing this through any longer. We're going to actually end on time.
But I always love to throw the net out one more time. Not going to sing it anymore. We're not going to keep singing, but I'm going to throw that out one more time and just acknowledge that you might be that person who waits for the last minute for everything in life.
You're late for class. You're late to work. You're late on your taxes. Don't be late for this opportunity. Don't go home tonight and feel the same pain that you woke up this morning feeling. Amen. Amen. You come. Amen. Amen. Amen. We'll wait for you. You come.
We love you. God loves you. Don't drive home in the car saying, man, I should have made that decision. I should have done that. I should have gotten my life right. Leave with the assurance.
So before we pray, is there anyone else? This is your moment. See, they were coming forward before I got to the moment, but that's OK. That was their moment. This is your moment. Anyone else? Praise the Lord.
Well, man, let's give God a huge round of applause for working in the lives of those who are here. Hey, for those of you that have come forward, I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now to accept Jesus Christ. This is the most important moment of your life, because as you say this prayer, you need to realize that as you say this prayer, you're being forgiven of your sins.
God is forgiving you of every bad thing you've ever done. You're receiving Jesus Christ into your heart, and you're being given the assurance that when you die, you're going to go to heaven. And that's the most exciting thing that could ever happen tonight.
And so as you say this prayer, I want you to say it out loud. And want you to say it after me. There's nothing magical about this, except that it's a acknowledgement from you that you're a sinner, and that Christ is a perfect Christ who died for your sin. And ask Him to come into your life.
So let's say this prayer together. Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. I've done many things that have hurt You. But Lord, I believe that You died for those things. And I believe that You rose from the dead.
So Lord, I ask you to come into my life. Forgive me of my sin. I turn from my old life, and I turn to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and help me to live for You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen, amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.