April 28, 2024

The following transcript is provided by Beluga AI.

Lord Jesus, we exalt you for a great salvation. We are so grateful for your great love, for your great mercy. Lord, we are grateful to you. We exalt your name. And, Lord, we pray that your name would be exalted in all the earth and all God’s people said, amen. All right, so we have a special treat tonight. As you know, if you’ve been a part of the firehouse church last fall, Otts and Aiko Kagawa came to us with a prayer request for their neighbor, Julie Harris, who had been diagnosed with cancer.

And we began to pray. Other people, of course, prayed for Julie all over the place, but we were a part of that and we just began to pray for her. And of course, every week Ats and Aiko would come back and the report just didn’t get better. It felt like, wow. But we just continued to pray and we believe that God heals, that there is healing in the name of Jesus. He did it on earth when he walked the earth and he’s still doing it today. And so we were persistent.

And then the last Sunday, Iko came to us and said, I don’t know, this is, you know, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think Julie’s going to go and be with the Lord in a week, in this next week or so. Unbeknownst to us, that was Sunday evening. Unbeknownst to us, that Sunday morning, you had had quite an experience of meeting with the Lord. And so we wanted you to come, Julie, and share that. And so you’re just welcome here. You know, this is the first time a lot of us have gotten to meet you, but we feel like we’ve known you for a while. So, welcome to the Firehouse Church, and come and share for us, will you? All right, good.

Well, thank you for having me, and thank you for praying for me because Jesus does hear, and He does answer, and all glory to Him. And I’m going to follow my notes really closely because this time of night my brain gets a little scatterbrained. So, pardon me.

I’m really excited to share because it’s a story of God and his goodness from really the moment I was born till it brings me here today. At first, I was a little bit hesitant to come and share because I don’t really like to talk about me. But it’s also the realization that it’s not really about me, it’s about God and it’s his story.

And I really want to share that God is real, that there is nothing that he can’t do, as you guys already know by the fact that I’m standing here. I want to talk about the power and goodness I experienced in that moment of healing, but also the journey up to it, because that really revealed God in a way that I never knew him before. So last October, on October 22, I was in a hospice bed. I was barely alive.

It was nearing the end of a couple year battle against cancer, as you guys know, because you walked through it from afar with me, praying. I don’t remember much of that week. My last conscious memories were that I was too weak to lift my head out of the bed on my own. Breathing was painful and it took such effort. I was coughing up blood.

This is probably because I’m an oversharer, but I like to share it all because it’s in that oversharing, it’s in those details that we see the greatness of God, the extreme goodness of Him. Every movement hurt, every breath hurt. When I would wake up, it was just for brief times to be with my loved ones. And I don’t even really remember them coming. That last week, I would wake up, I would need more meds, and I would drift back into just restless slumber. I was filled with dreams of just darkness.

But I also can tell, looking back, that Jesus was with me even in those moments. And I was really supposed to die at any point. Like you said, Iko told you that I was supposed to die that week. They were surprised I’d made it to Sunday. It was at any point. And it was in that nick of time. So, there is proof that it’s nothing but Jesus. There’s no other. There’s nothing else that made this happen but Jesus. In a moment, on that Sunday morning, my brain was cleared of the darkness and the hallucinations.

I was fully awake. And though it still seems strangely wild to see, it almost feels like I’m saying something that I shouldn’t be allowed to say. I saw Jesus. I don’t know if he was in my room with me or if I was briefly there with him. And it’s really hard to come up with words to express exactly what it was like. He was so bright, I couldn’t see him clearly. But what I can say is that he was bright like a raging fire, a raging inferno.

And also, when the sunlight hits the water at a blinding angle, it was somehow like those combined, just that sheer brightness and majesty. And he was so bright that one thing that stands out to me, that’s wild, is even the corners of the room disappeared. You know how even in a brightly lit room, there’s still that teeny little darkness in the corner corners, and there was no darkness in the corners. And that has stood out with me as just, that’s the magnitude of his brightness and glory is that there is no darkness at all.

It was a powerful Jesus. It was like, I can’t use words really to describe it, but it was a powerful Jesus. It was the conquering King Jesus. It was the roaring lion of Judah King Jesus. It was not a weak Jesus. It was the powerful Jesus. And while I can’t really use words to describe exactly how, I know that what I also felt was perfect peace and perfect joy. It was everything the Bible says about in his presence. There’s perfect joy and peace. That’s what I experienced.

And I heard a sound that I can also not put my fingers on exactly what it is, but I think it was the sound of joy and the sound of peace. And it was amazing. And I heard Jesus say, the prayers of the righteous have been heard. And that is all of you who prayed for me. And I knew I was healed. And in that moment, I thought that I was healed with the forever healing. I thought that I was in heaven. I thought that I was with him.

And that was the end of the story. And that is where we want to be. I can confidently say that while I knew it before, in that moment, there’s that no knowing that where we want to be is with Jesus. That’s where we intended to be. That is the goal of all of us. That is where we definitely want to be. And all I could do, and all I wanted to do when faced with Jesus was fall on my face and worship him.

And that is where my husband found me when he came into the room a short time later. It seems unreal to say this, kind of like it seems unreal to say that I saw Jesus in that moment of healing. All of the cancer disappeared. All of the swollen lymph nodes disappeared. All of the masses that you could feel in my abdomen disappeared. I was no longer coughing up blood. I was no longer having a hard time breathing. Like in that split second moment, it was gone. And I kept saying, can you believe it?

It doesn’t hurt to breathe. It doesn’t. I’m not coughing up blood. And finally, dance like he’s, like, you’re not even coughing. And it was like, whoa, I didn’t even. It had been months that it had hurt to breathe. So it was just that instantaneous. Nothing but Jesus. So all glory to Jesus. That is the short story of my meeting with Jesus, and it’s where we want to be.

And I still can’t say why I was chosen to have my cancer removed, because I know it’s a fallen world and we’re all in these bodies which are decaying because of sin and we’re all going to someday die. But I can say that there’s nothing special about me. And it’s purely just to bring God glory, to show that he is real, that he can indeed still do anything. There is nothing outside of his reach. There was no magic formula.

He heard our prayers, and he answered them, but he wants to hear our prayers, even if he answers them in a different way. So I don’t. It’s nothing about me. And we can’t take credit for it. It’s all Jesus. And it’s also a little bit crazy to say it feels kind of strange to stand up here and say it, that while it’s this place of complete rejoicing in the power of God and that he is real and that he can do anything.

And I’m so grateful to have more time with my kids and my loved ones and my family, and I’m still excited to get to have. I get to stand and share God’s goodness. There’s still that part of me where I would so rather be there, just that tiny little glimpse of Jesus. That’s where we want to be. And I have to say that because that’s the hope that we all have, is that we have forever in that perfect place where we would not even want to come back.

So while I can confidently say that with Jesus, eternity is where we want to be, and that’s where we all will be, I can also just as confidently say that he’s with us here and will continue to be each step of the way until then. Because Jesus really, truly, he faithfully walked me home and to the point of death or healing as it was. And His faithfulness in walking with me to that point was amazing. And that’s kind of where I want to. I’m losing my notes.

I want to share on that because I feel like that’s something that God does for each of us as children. He faithfully walks us wherever we may go, wherever the road leads us, in the ups and the downs and the hard times. So I really wanted to share a little bit, actually, like four pages long of the way, of the way that I experienced God’s goodness to me over that year of dying.

And I thought I would start with just sharing just a little bit of a background about me because you guys don’t know me and I talk too much about me, even though it’s God’s story. I was born into a christian family, and I was raised in a very conservative, homeschooled family with four sisters. I was number two with four sisters.

During my teenage years, I rebelled and rejected God, and I spent the next ten years doing whatever I wanted, trying to prove that I could have real, full, abundant life without God and that none of that actually mattered. I worked as a firefighter in profession, and when I wasn’t working as a firefighter, I would spend my life trying to get the biggest thrill, the biggest adrenaline thing possible. It was basically, how much can I please myself? How fast, how quickly?

And I still believe that the biggest miracle of my life is that I lived long enough to meet Jesus, because there were multiple times I should have died before Jesus. And that carried me through the year of dying was I should have died so many other times. And it was his grace that brought me to knowing him first. So really, that was. That’s my forever miracle story, is that he proved himself real to me then and pulled me from the depths of sin and washed me and gave me a clean and new heart then.

Since then, I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve with a husband, Dan, who I couldn’t talk into coming with me today, but he’s amazing. And with two kids, Amanda, who’s twelve, and Ben is almost ten. I’ve been blessed beyond words with a church family and with wonderful neighbors, with people in my life who have taught me who the God of the Bible is, that it wasn’t a God that I wanted to avoid like I thought as a child.

And I’ve just been amazed to watch God change my heart over the years, in drawing me closer to him. I’ve watched him change my heart and save my marriage. I’ve seen him take my heart of anger and give me compassion for people. I’ve watched over that first year or almost two years of being sick, just the way that he pulled me gently, faithfully, closer and closer to him, like, you can trust me. You can trust me a little more, a little more each day.

But then, in October of 2022, a year before I was healed, is really where I want to start my story. It was then that the reality of my terminal diagnosis was kind of sinking in. I’m a huge “why” person; I want to know why to everything, I want to have everything explained to me. So because of that, I kind of hit this breaking point where I really needed to go one step deeper with God.

I really needed to sort out with him how he fit into the picture of just continued pain and suffering, of dying, of leaving my family, my friends, how that worked, all those hard questions. And I needed to bring to God what I was really not okay with him about and figure it out. So when I honestly went there, I found that I was really disappointed in God allowing me to have cancer with a terminal diagnosis. And I had a lot of arguing with him about why it wasn’t okay.

A lot of telling him how he couldn’t fit this into his promises. Like, he has lots of promises for us and this doesn’t fit in. I was angry on behalf of my family and friends, I was. That they’d have to enter it with me. I was angry that I had no say and was helpless. And for a time, I told God all of that. I poured out my heart to him. I was hurting. I was honest with him, but I didn’t really stop to listen.

And I knew God enough to know that there were answers to it, and I knew I wanted them. But at the same time, I was also a little bit like an irrational, angry toddler who was like, tell me. Tell me why, but I don’t want to hear what you have to say because it might be something I don’t want to hear. And I spent too long like that. But then one day, I broke and I was like, Dan, tell me why. And I emailed my pastor. I’m like, answer me, tell me why.

And, like, just the whole long litany of it. And then that night, my insomnia was really bad. And I often, when I have insomnia, I play my audio bible. And the passage that was on that night was in the gospels, and it was the trial, the death and resurrection of Jesus. And as I listened through that, I was just, again, in such awe. Sorry, this makes me cry of the love that was shown on the cross. I was in such awe of what Jesus had done for me.

And it was like he so gently and so powerfully pulled the hands off my ears and like, okay, bring it to me. Don’t just complain about it to me. Come and wrestle with me about this. And he met the challenges with his goodness. Every single one of the whys, he somehow showed me what ones actually mattered, which whys actually mattered. It was like, why is it okay to die? Became, why would he suffer and die to save me and conquer death for me and give me such complete hope of forever. Why? How is this okay?

Became, how can I not trust the God who’s already carried me so far and whose ways are so much higher than mine? How can I not trust Him? What about redeeming the time lost in my life? Became, why not today? Why can’t you redeem today by living it fully? Is this of the devil? Is this the discipline of God? Is this just because life stinks? Those wise is to bring God glory, not enough. A why? Every single one of that long list of hows, of whys, it was met with just the goodness of God.

And to be honest, his power was really scary. I was kind of left with no words, no complaints. It was there on my living room floor, on my knees at three in the morning, that Jesus won. He became worthy of making the decisions. He became good enough to trust with my kids, with my wife, with my friends, with my cancer, and praying your will be done.

It became something that wasn’t just said as an afterthought or because it’s something I’m supposed to say, but in absolute sincerity as I truly surrendered it all to Jesus. And there’s something about knowing the magnitude of what’s asked of us, but then working it out and being in that place of complete submission to God, desiring only His way, only His glory, that that’s where real life was found. That is where God with us, with God, for us, it became reality.

Not when I was healed and was able to get up and walk, but when it was your way, God, that is where I had that complete confidence of he was with us. He was for us the entire way. And it was like that. It was like a culmination of years long process of Jesus Christ calling me further and deeper and more complete into his will and second to salvation, second to seeing Jesus in my bedroom last October. That was seriously the most powerful night of my life.

And just to experience the submitting to Jesus in the way he was so with us and for us. And it’s hard to put it into words. And I do believe that we are to pray for healing and that God wants to hear us and he does hear us and he does answer us. And there is that moment. This may be kind of silly to say I never prayed for healing again because I felt like God had told me my way, you just follow me.

And that was him readying me to experience the full, abundant life in the year rather than hanging on to the physical hope. And I’m not saying that we can’t hold on to physical hope because God is a healer and he can do anything. But in my walk, it was that complete giving it up that it readied me to receive his abundant life in the midst of heart. And I’m just really thankful that he brought me to that place. So then over the next year, there were good times. Basically.

It was awful because that’s what happens as you’re dying. And I don’t mean it as a victim, but just it’s the realizing the depth of it that it’s such a miracle that the healing happened, but also the magnitude of Jesus carrying me through. It was amazing. There was November after that, I was on this new medication which made me absolutely crazy.

It brought back out that ugly part of me of anger that I felt like I was going to ruin the entire world around me if I had just one little moment of freedom to do so. But there, Jesus was more real and he was more powerful. And he, day by day, mercifully gave me the grace to resist that, to just keep your mouth shut, just don’t do anything. Just that. And those are those little ways that just over the year, I saw Jesus at work in my life. There was no December depression.

Darkness itself came and could be felt. And it was like I was just held there. But Jesus is more real and more powerful than that, too. Even in the deepest parts of it, I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew he was giving strength to get up and do another day. He gave strength to keep opening the Bible day by day; in that opening the Bible to see Jesus and to have the man of sorrows become my closest friend. And then little bit by bit, pull back out into the life. There’s a purpose still here.

There’s a purpose to not waste today. So get up and live to love those around me with abandon, what little time I have left. In March, I was alone in a hospital yet again, and I wasn’t alone very much. It just felt like it when those midnight hours go on. And it was like the fullness of the broken dreams was overwhelming. As I realized what I was actively giving up, not just life, but future dreams to ever be pain free again, independence, dignity, my kids, my husband, my friends. It was just overwhelming.

But somehow in that moment, Jesus was there, and he tenderly came into the room and was enough in every way. It was almost like that little foretaste of heaven where he wipes the tears from her eyes, where he’s like, I am here. I’m in every way, enough. You are not alone.

And I love the prophets in the Old Testament and the way that they gave such full expression to all the emotions of lamentation as they warned people against sin, against sin’s coming punishment.

And I think in our culture, we often skip that step where it’s often the, “you’re not supposed to cry, be tough,” or, “That was last week’s problem. Get over it. Why are we sad about it today?” And I don’t think that’s what we’re meant to do. I think it’s when we step into that complete sorrow and heartbreak, when we pause in the lamenting in the morning, in the sadness, that that’s where we experience God being near us is the, the brokenhearted.

And then, like the prophets, always came back to the hope of God, making the current awful rite that he wanted to rescue. God was going to rescue his people. He had unending love for his people. I found that to be true, too, that it was in that lament, in the fully knowing the wrongness of what was happening, that it was like seeing God like the prophets did, as one who was coming to rescue, one who was coming to make all things right.

And while I didn’t think it would be all things right and that I could stand here and talk, it was all things right and that we’re going to have forever healed bodies in heaven. And it was just in experiencing that deepest part of lament that then it’s the freedom to stand up and to move on. Because Jesus actually wiped the tears from our eyes because we realized where we were. And I lost my notes again.

So over the summer, death became more real. Pain increased. God in his mercy became even more real.

It’s truly the God of the universe, the Jesus who already walked this world and suffered for me. He came and he did it again with me. He’s true to his promise of being right there when we call on him. He’s faithful to give rest to our souls when we come heavy laden to him when we approach the throne. We do find mercy and grace in our time of need.

And over and over again, he did that, sometimes in completely feeling his presence, feeling that he was wiping the tears from the eyes, and sometimes more just in that peace of mind of knowing the truth and knowing it without even the feeling of it. But in the long hours, he was there in the pain; he knew it. The prayers of “I believe, help my unbelief” were always met with peace and confidence. The peace that I was met with over and over again.

It’s hard to describe just the joy that was in the midst of it. And the knowledge of a powerful God only increased as the body became weaker, which is such a. I look back and it’s like that’s where I realized the power of God, really, in a way, almost for the first time. The peace that God granted in letting me know that my kids were loved by Jesus and that they would be cared for and loved by Dan and by so many people around us, that was beyond what I could ask for.

It was amazing to watch God at work with my kids, in my kids’ life, to see Him being enough for them as well each day, and watching Dan be able to trust God fully and see His faithfulness as he just did the next step each day. He did what he needed to do. And I still worried. I still had those moments of darkness, of anxiety, worrying about my loved ones, about my kids. There were still nights of darkness, moments of anxiety, times of discouragement.

I was human the whole way through, and I had all those human emotions. But everywhere I turned, I saw Jesus. And he met me again and again and again. In his word, I heard his voice assure me he was with me. I saw him in control of all his. I saw his majesty as coming king. I saw the light faithfully return in the morning after long nights, and just as faithfully, his presence was with me. I saw his forgiveness as the depths of pain can reveal sin that I really didn’t like in my life.

And I saw how faithfully he was to forgive. And I also saw him in victory over sin and strength to love. Well, as I ran to him, I saw him in the absolute, unshakable hope that there is life beyond the grave and death itself really held no fear. I saw him over and over again in my friends, my church, my family, hearing about people like you praying for me in the text, the visits, feeling the power of the prayers for comfort, watching my kids be loved by so many in each place, big or little.

I saw Jesus as good and worthy of all worship. And that is just the power of God at work. So the power of God at work in healing me, but the power of God at work in carrying us so faithfully, every step. And it was all his strength and my utter weakness, giving me even the strength to call on him.

And there’s this one I always debate if I want to share this or not, but I’m going to. About the time at the end of August or early September, I hit this point of complete despair.

My son had had surgery, and the same day, my palliative chemo had ended because they’d said it would kill me if I did anymore. And when he came home a few days later, I was too weak to really interact with him. It hurt to have him touch me and sit by me, and it was just the pain was too much, and I saw no purpose in continuing on. And the end was coming, but it felt like the end was forever away.

So I hit this point where if I wasn’t in my medicine induced rest, I would be like, I need to end this. So I started saving up all of my strong meds half at a time because I couldn’t just overdose, because I was, like, the whole way through. I’ve told my family Jesus is enough. I can’t let them know that I finished the bottle as the end, so I would save it up half at a time. And it was the night that I saved the last half of it.

It was like Jesus spoke, not audibly, but to my heart. He was like, you hate it when people do one thing and say another. And that is a pet peeve of mine. What are you doing? Am I not enough? And it just. It so makes me cry because it’s the beauty of being called out for sin, right? It’s like I took my eyes off of the one who is enough. I don’t just say he’s actually enough, he actually is enough. And repentance isn’t a bad word.

It’s turning back to the one who is for us and holds us and is in every way, enough. And that’s when I realized that it’s like an invitation to turn from sin, to admit my wrongness. But it’s an invitation from the king of all kings to return to him, to return to the place and let him be right. Let him be enough, because he is enough. So that was just his goodness.

Just his goodness in every little detail, in every little moment, where he met me, where I was, and showed that he really is a fountain of mercy that doesn’t run dry no matter how hard it is. He is that light in the darkness that nothing can stop. He’s enough. And he will faithfully do what he says he will, and he will faithfully walk us home. And he did that. And I’m confident he’ll do it again. So my last memories before seeing Jesus, after that, because it’s like from there, I just deteriorated down, aren’t. I?

Don’t remember the loved ones who came and visited and read the Bible and sang and prayed. But I remember hallucinations of dark figures and pain and darkness and feeling like I was drowning, I think because I was coughing up the blood. And I was convinced these dark figures were going to come and drown me. But I had perfect peace because I knew Jesus was there, and I knew that when they did, he would take me home. And I don’t know what was reality, what was dream, but once again, that is our God at work.

It’s him walking the darkest path that no matter how dark the hallucination, how dark the dream, how dark it actually is in the room, I don’t know what it is. He is there walking those paths with us. And if I would have died that October day instead of being healed, I would have done so marveling in the power and goodness of God, because that’s our powerful God at work. To live or die, He is with us, He is good, He is enough.

And when I saw that glimpse of Jesus, the glory and power of the risen king of all kings, it’s comparable to nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced. And I just love how it’s like what the Bible says is true, and I feel it’s true, and he’s also this. The same God that I saw is the God of the Bible. And he’s the same God that walked with me the whole way there. And I just, you all know, with Jesus is perfect joy and perfect peace.

And the presence that he showed me in that room that day is where we want to be. There’s really nothing in this world that compares to anything besides Jesus. And I can say that in the months since then, the battle is still real. There’s still pain and surgeries and all the stuff that we all could complain about, right? We can all talk half the day about the things that are wrong with us. But our alive, powerful Jesus is still there and he’s still giving victory and he’s still meeting me in his word.

He’s still renewing me in my soul with his goodness as I meet with him. And I just believe that the continued brokenness here point points to we don’t need the healing here and now. We need the healer. We need Jesus. He’s the only one who can walk it with us and that is enough. And he gives the forever healing with taking our sins and making it so that we can be in his presence now and forever.

So I had two things that I just wanted, I had on my heart that I wanted to share with you, kind of almost as like a message from the experience that I just want to share. The first is submitting isn’t a bad word. I thought it was for a really long time. I’m a really stubborn, ornery person, but it really is in submitting to God that real life is found. There’s nothing that we give up that isn’t met and made beautiful and fully gained in the presence of Jesus.

And I don’t say that because of being healed, but because I experienced that true life, more true life over that worst year of my life than ever before. We don’t really have a choice in what happens here and now because God is much bigger and stronger than us. But it’s in the wrestling and working through and giving up desires to God that real abundant life is found. And all through the Bible we see God calling his people to obey and follow him. And the call for us to submit and follow is just as real today.

And I wanted to share a couple of scriptures. In Luke 9, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

23 Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, NIV)

1 Peter 4 says, “So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

19 So then, those who suffer according to Gods will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

James 4 says, “Submit yourself then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7, NIV)

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

And we are told in Matthew 6 to pray, our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.

9 Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, ESV)

And if there’s one thing I want to convey to my children as I talk to them, to you guys here today, it is that God is good if we truly believe that he is good, if we truly believe that he is in control of all.

There is nothing too big to submit to him and obey him in; there’s nothing too big or too hard to face because he is good. Jesus says in John 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have life abundantly.”

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

And we do have an enemy. We do have an enemy, Satan. And he is real, and he does seek to steal joy, to steal peace, to destroy relationships, to destroy good things, to kill our hope and kill our purpose in life.

But we have a God who is bigger and stronger and gives victory over that enemy. And that Jesus, he suffered and died and rose in victory for us. And he will take all the hard things and he will make them beautiful because he’s with us in them. And I just wanted to just pause there. Do we see God as good? Do we see it as a good call to give up all that we want, all that we have?

Because a God who is in control of all, who is good and wants to give us real life, is that where we are? And I just want to encourage anyone, if you haven’t worked through, if God is good enough or trustworthy enough to submit to in every way, study in His word until you find it. Call on Him to show you. Today is the day to seek Him. Today is the day to repent from lack of trust, to repent from doing things our way. Today is the day to draw near and enter into His rest.

Rest, which is more full submission to Jesus, because there is no place that is too far away, no one who is too far gone, no sin that’s too deep for Jesus to save and make new. And that’s what the physical healing points to, is that there is nothing he can’t do. So today is the day to draw near to Jesus.

And then the second thing I wanted to leave you with is study the Bible. I know I’m preaching to people who study the Bible, but study the Bible. Study it, read it, pray over it.

Know the God of the Bible. We have an incredible gift to be given the word of God at our fingertips. And don’t wait until you have a hard period to seek God. Each choice we make here and now matters and sets the direction of our life. And I’m just so grateful for the years of growing and being transformed by Jesus leading up to that hard year.

And it’s in knowing what God actually says as we study the Bible that we see his goodness, because so many promises that sometimes we make God out to have are just kind of wishful thinking or like more of a prosperity gospel type thing of if we tithe 10%, we’ll be blessed with more money. If I pray enough, I’ll be healed. If I’m good enough, I’ll have an easy life. And those aren’t the promises of God. Jesus says in John 16, “I’ve told you these things so that you may have peace in this world.” You will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

33I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.(John 16:33, NIV)

He promises that hard stuff is going to come. But then, in knowing what the Bible actually says, when those hard times come, we aren’t disillusioned with God because we think that God isn’t being faithful to his promises. It’s in knowing him through his word that we know that this world is broken by sin and that it’s a fleeting life, and we see that what we need is his presence and that that is promised to us.

So I wanted to just share a couple verses about his presence being promised. It starts back in Exodus 22:23, “If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.(Exodus 22:23, NIV)

Jeremiah 33, “Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

3Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.(Jeremiah 33:3, NIV)

Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24, NIV)

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

28Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Matthew 28:20: “Surely I am with you to the very end of the age.”

20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.(Matthew 28:20, NIV)

Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, and we will receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.”

16 Let us then approach Gods throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)

Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

So just that promise from God that he is with us, and that he will always answer our desperate cry in our time of need. He always answers the be near me, the give me more of you, the give me the fruits of your spirit, because there’s nothing special about me that I experienced that over and over. That’s because that is the father that we have. That is what God wants to give us. He wants to show us more and more of himself.

And it’s really just in reading scripture, knowing God, that we see his goodness more fully, because we see him more fully. So I just leave with the challenge of that. Today is the day to be obsessed with hearing from God, from his word, to relinquish the demands of what we think we want the Bible to promise and come as a child with the hands off the ears to a good, righteous father, just seeking to be with him, just seeking to know him better, because that will be answered. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

It’s the presence of Jesus with us. And I know I’ve just said, submit, read the Bible, seek Jesus. And if that seems like too much, start with just asking God for the desire to take the next step towards him, because I know I can’t even do that without his mercy and power enabling me. So I think I’m going to end there, because I’m not going to just ramble and leave my notes. But just join me in praising Jesus. Join me in praising Jesus that he’s real. He’s real to save from sin.

He’s real to heal the body. He’s real to heal for forever. And he’s real to be right here with us, walking this life. So praise the Lord.

Julie, thank you. You did a wonderful job. Thank you. And so we are very grateful. Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me. Bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all your iniquities. He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit, and he crowns you with love and compassion.

He renews your youth like the eagles, and he satisfies you with good things. Bless the Lord, O my soul, who have I in heaven but you? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My heart and my flesh may fail, but you are the strength of my life and my portion forever.

And trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

And so, God, we thank you for this story of your faithfulness, of this story of your power, of this story of your amazing grace, mercy and love. And let it move our hearts to submit to you, to trust you, to dive deeper into a relationship with you, to dive deeper into the study of your revealed word to us so that we might hear the voice of God and be transformed by it. We ask it in Jesus name. And here’s one of the things that Jesus said.

Paul says this actually in Corinthians, and I’m going to mix in what Jesus said. On the night that he was betrayed, he took bread and he broke it and he gave it to his disciples. And he said, this is my body which is given for you. And in the same way, after supper, he took out the wine or the tart cherry juice, and he gave it to his disciples and he said, this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28, ESV)

Dear ones, I want to say to you, as you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. And I want to say to you, you’ve heard me say this before. I’m going to say it again tonight: Shame off you. Shame off you. In Jesus’ name, your sins are forgiven. You are part of the new covenant. God has made a new covenant in his love and in his grace. And Colossians says, this is the hope that we have: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27, ESV)

And so, dear ones, take this meal tonight and be thankful. Jesus invites you to this meal. Firehouse. Not the firehouse, church, not me. Jesus invites you to this table. It’s his table. And he invites you to have fellowship with him. So come meet Jesus at the table. We can meet him in his word, we can meet him in our community, we can meet him in our prayers, and we can meet him at this table.

Meet Jesus tonight at this table and tell him thank you for his forgiveness, for his new covenant, for his great hope, this great salvation that we have inherited. I invite you now to come and eat. Keep going. Ouch. Keep looking for it. There you go. How’s one of my favorite people on the planet doing? Not as good as usual. I’m sorry to hear that. Want prayer tonight? Sure. All right, good. We’ll do that. I’ll pray for you right now before you receive communion. So I pray for Isaiah, Lord.

And I pray whatever the distress is, whatever the struggle is, that you will answer faithfully the prayer you always answer. Help.