Sermons

This is a collection of Michael White’s sermons, from CityLIght Church in New York City.

Genuine Faith

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Genuine Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/6/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Genuine Faith

What does it mean to have genuine faith? How can we know if our faith is genuine?

Scripture introduces the term “genuineness of faith” in 1 Peter 1:3-9:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9, bold added

In order for faith to be genuine, it has to be tested. Just because your life is not perfect, does not mean that God isn’t good!

Peter encourages us that God has given us a “living hope” through the Cross (v 3). No matter what happens during out life on earth, we have an “incorruptible” inheritance in Heaven (v 4): one that cannot be stolen, and cannot be lost. We should not be discouraged, then, if our life on earth is not perfect! We are not living for a reward here on earth, but rather for an eternal future in Heaven.

Common Misperception

What happens when you give your life to Jesus? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean your life will be perfect? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean that your life will be easy?

Sometimes in the church, we paint a picture that once we give our lives to Jesus, all our problems will disappear. That creates a stumbling block that can be difficult for some Christians to get over. When something difficult happens, we lose hope. We wonder if God is really who He says He is. We wonder if He is for us. We wonder if He even exists at all!

Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean your problems will go away; it simply means they will fade away because God’s presence will be so big! God will give you a hope in Heaven that overwhelms your problems here on earth.

Did I Do That?

Just because you are going through something difficult, does not mean you did something wrong. We see this clearly in the Book of Job.

At first, Job had it all:

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. – Job 1:1-3

Job was upright! He was blameless. He feared God, and shunned evil! He had happy, healthy kids. He was rich! In fact, he was the “greatest” (i.e. wealthiest) of all the people of the East.

But then calamity came. Job lost his children. He lost everything he owned. Then he was afflicted with painful boils all over his body: an outbreak that could easily become a terminal illness. But did Job’s affliction come because he had done something wrong?

Soon, Job’s friends arrived to help him sort things out:

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. – Job 2:11-13

At first, Job’s friends sat quietly and mourned with Job. But they couldn’t keep quiet for long. In Job 3, they started to speak up. One by one, they told Job how they really felt. You must be here, they argued, because you deserve to be here. You lost it all because you messed up! You did something wrong!

This is retribution theology. Retribution theology says that if you’re doing well, it means God is happy with you! But as soon as something goes wrong, it means God is angry with you. But retribution theology is not the Gospel. Retribution theology is Old Covenant, not New Covenant!

Job’s friends were just plain wrong. They had no idea what they were talking about. God would make that clear to them in the end:

And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” – Job 42:7

Just because something goes wrong in your life, doesn’t mean God is mad at you! Just because life is not perfect, doesn’t mean you did something wrong!

Do you know why Job suffered? It wasn’t because he did something wrong. It was because Satan attacked his life (see Job 1:11). We have an adversary – Satan – who is trying to shake our faith. The only question is: will you let him? Will you let Satan rob you of your relationship with God when something doesn’t go according to plan? Or will you cling to the Cross, and proclaim that God will work it all out for good in the end?

Life Is Not Perfect

Chris Quilala is a worship leader with a band called Jesus Culture.[1] He grew up in Bethel Church in Redding, California. He has spent his entire life worshipping God. But did you know his life has not been perfect?

Chris and his wife, Alyssa, lost their son in December, 2014. Out of nowhere – with no warning – their son stopped breathing in the final stages of pregnancy. Alyssa delivered the baby’s body, but their boy was already in Heaven with Jesus.

This was a Job moment if I’ve ever seen one. Here was a man who was righteous. He lived his life for God, and it showed! But then, out of nowhere, calamity came. Did that mean he had done something wrong? Did that mean God was mad at him?

Jesus Culture released their next album in January, 2016: a little over a year after the tragedy. Here is what Chris said on one of the tracks:

“My wife and I lost our son, as you know, back in December. While we were believing for a miracle, things didn’t quite turn out how we expected. But for us, the journey ahead of us was: can we still proclaim the truth? That God is our healer, that God is the God who raises the dead, that God is good.

“And so as we continued on from losing our son, it was really important for us to keep the truth of who God is in front of us. So we started writing song: songs about God’s miracle power. For us it was really important to proclaim that: even though we didn’t quite see what we had expected, and what we were praying for; but we still know it’s true.”[2]

What an amazing response to calamity. This is genuine faith! If anyone had an excuse to question God’s goodness, it was Chris and his wife! Yet in the midst of tragedy, they didn’t back away from God; they pressed in all the more. Will you worship God as the God of miracles, even if you haven’t seen your miracle yet?

Thorn in the Flesh

The Apostle Paul was a man of great faith; yet even he had problems:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 12:7-10

Paul had a thorn in the flesh. He was going through something, and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away! We don’t know what this “thorn” was; but we do know it was a tool Satan was trying to use to “buffet” Paul: to make him less effective and knock him off course.

He pleaded with God three times to take his suffering away; but for whatever reason, the problem persisted. But Paul didn’t let it phase him. He didn’t back away from his relationship with God. He pressed in all the more! He relied on the grace of God like never before; and God showed up in his life like never before!

Paul was going through something painful; and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away. But Paul made a decision: I’m going to praise God anyway.

What is Genuine Faith?

Genuine faith doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. Faith in Jesus doesn’t mean all your problems will disappear! It simply means you make a decision to worship in the face of those problems. It means you abandon the perception that God is serving you, and embrace the invitation to serve Him!

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Pet 1:6-9

Will you make the decision to worship God, no matter what?

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://jesusculture.com/

[2] Let It Echo, Track #6, Jesus Culture, released 2016

How Miracles Happen

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How Miracles Happen’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/22/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Have You Ever?

Have you ever seen a miracle? Have you ever seen a body healed by the blood of Jesus? Have you ever seen an afflicted person delivered in the name of Jesus?

I have. I have seen a five-week-old girl with a life-threatening liver disease healed. I have seen bone spurs shrink bank into feet as I have prayed. I have seen crooked spines straightened from scoliosis. I have seen a woman come into our church for prayer leaning on a cane, and then walk out of the church with the cane in her hand.

Have you ever seen a miracle? Jesus saw miracles everywhere He went; and I believe as His disciples, we should see miracles everywhere we go too!

Unusual Miracles

The Book of Acts tells us about “unusual miracles:”

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. – Acts 9:11-12

Sometimes miracles happen the way we expect them to. Several years ago, we had a woman in our church who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. As she sought the Lord in prayer, she felt His perfect peace to go through with treatment. She underwent radiation, and took communion every day as the doctors walked her through a healing process. Today she is completely healed: not only free of cancer, but also running marathons and competing in Ironman competitions.

But other times, miracles happen in unusual ways. We once had a woman at our church who was attending a party with our worship team. Everyone went up on the roof to catch a view of the city; but somehow her finger got closed in the giant steel fire door that opened up on the roof from the stairs. The entire tip of her left ring-finger was severed. She went to the ER, with the fingertip on ice. Doctors told her they couldn’t re-attach the fingertip; instead, they wanted to tuck her finger into a small incision in the palm of her hand to encourage her body to re-grow what had been cut off. But she felt perfect peace from God to deny the surgery, and to trust Him to restore what had been lost. God completely restored her finger. Today, looking at her finger, you cannot tell anything had ever happened!

Are you waiting on a miracle? Everyone’s miracle happens differently. Some happen the way we expect them to, through treatment and visits to the doctor. But other times, God works “unusual miracles” in our lives. When He calls you to do something unusual – or irrational – to get your hands on the miracle you’ve been waiting for, will you be ready?

Naaman the Syrian

Naaman knew what it was like to follow God’s instructions – no matter how strange they seemed – to get his miracle!

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”- 2 Kings 5:1-4

Naaman had it all! He was the commander of the Syrian army: a great and victorious one at that! But he had one problem: he was a leper. If he didn’t get his miracle – quickly – his body would deteriorate, and he would die. But he had hope: a Hebrew slave knew a prophet in Samaria who healed by the hand of God.

Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, ‘Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.’ And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.”

So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” – 2 Kings 5:5-8

The king had never seen a miracle before; but Elisha had faith that God could do anything.

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” – 2 Kings 5:9-10

These were simple instructions! But Naaman wasn’t ready for an unusual miracle! He thought his miracle would come the way he expected it to. He thought it would come with a dramatic demonstration from heaven. But God was asking Naaman to trust Him.

But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. – 2 Kings 5:11-12

Lucky for Naaman, his servants talked some sense into him before it was too late.

And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. – 2 Kings 5:13-14

There was nothing special about the water in the Jordan. Plenty of other people had gone swimming and never been healed! But God sometimes uses unexpected methods to heal. He doesn’t need us to understand how it’s all going to work; He simply wants us to trust Him that it’s going to work!

Naaman made a simple decision to trust God, no matter how his healing came. He didn’t just dip in a river; he was baptized in the Jordan. Because he trusted God, even thought the methods seemed ridiculous, he was completely healed! Are you willing to trust God for your miracle, no matter how unusual it seems?

King Hezekiah

Hezekiah was a great and mighty king; but sickness came for him at the end of his life, and he had nowhere to turn except to God:

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”

Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. – 2 Kings 20:1-3

Hezekiah got some bad news! But instead of getting a second opinion or trying to find a cure, he cried out to God. Lo and behold, God answered.

And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’”

Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. – 2 Kings 20:4-7

A lump of figs?! Did these figs have some medicinal property that nobody knew about? Of course not. But God works unusual miracles. Sometimes He will ask you to do seemingly simple, or even silly things, to get your miracle. But when you listen to Him, it works.

God didn’t need Hezekiah to understand how a lump of figs was going to heal him. He simply asked Hezekiah to trust Him. And as he did, “…he recovered” (v 7). Are you willing to trust God for your miracle, no matter how unusual it seems?

Woman with the Issue of Blood

Luke was a Gospel writer; and he was also a physician. He tells the story of a woman with uncontrollable bleeding who was healed by radical faith:

But as [Jesus] went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on phgbysicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. – Lk 8:43-44

All this woman needed was a touch from Heaven! But it took her twelve years to figure out that she didn’t need to try a new treatment, or the latest potential cure; she just needed Jesus. As she reached out to touch Him, everything changed.

And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” – Lk 8:45-48

Now we love to read this woman’s testimony and think she got her miracle right away. We take her experience and make it a template for our own healing, and wonder why we aren’t healed immediately when we come to Jesus, just like she was. But we can’t forget that this woman had just gone through a twelve year process! She had looked under every stone, and dug up every root; and it wasn’t until she found herself in a place of complete reliance on Jesus that she got her miracle.

God is not a God of formula; He is a God of faith. Your miracle might happen immediately; or, it might take twelve years. This is the tension we have to embrace as we wait for God to come through on our behalf. Yes, He heals immediately; but yes, He also might ask us to go through a process to develop the faith we need for a miracle to take place!

Trust God

God is a God of miracles! So, what miracle are you waiting on? I can’t tell you how He’s going to do it; but I do know He can do it. Don’t try to predict what your miracle will look like. Simply make a decision to trust God, and do what He says.

No matter how long it takes for your miracle to come: never give up!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Other Peoples’ Opinions

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Other Peoples’ Opinions’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/8/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Your ‘Why?’

What is your ‘why?’ What are you living for? What is the reason you get up and out of bed in the morning? When you go to bed at night, what defines a successful day for you, and really says, ‘Today was worth it?’

Jesus tells us what our ‘why’ shouldn’t be:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matt 6:19-21

According to Scripture, we shouldn’t live for temporal things: money and other earthly measures of success. They simply won’t last. We can’t take them to Heaven with us! This begs the question: are you living for earthly things because you believe this life is all there is? Or are you living for things that will last forever because you know there is an eternity at stake?

Here is my ‘why:’ obedience. If I wake up and do what God tells me to do – every single day, no matter the cost – it is a good day. Every day it’s a struggle. The world tells me to live for material gain; but God tells me to build up spiritual riches. I have to constantly fight against what my flesh tells me to do. But I believe that at the end of my life, I will be judged according to my works:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” – Matt 16:24-27

What’s more, as a pastor, I know that Scripture says I will receive an even “stricter judgment:”

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. – Jas 3:1

So quite frankly, I can’t afford to live for anyone but God. There is too much on the line. If He tells me to do something, I’m going to do it; and if He tells me not to do something, I am going to avoid doing it. It’s still a struggle; but it’s just that simple.

An Audience of One

Are you ready to live for an audience of One? To be free from the opinions of others? To live your life for the right reasons – the ones that will bring a lasting reward –instead of the wrong ones?

If you really live for an audience of One, it will change every area of your life:

1) The way you serve

Are you happy to serve, because you know it’s what God has called you to do? One of the most interesting stories about service we have in Scripture is the story of Mary and Martha:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Lk 10:38-42

When Jesus came to Mary and Martha’s house, Martha chose to serve; but Mary chose to sit! This passage is challenging for me, because I am built like Martha. It’s easy for me to plug into service and forget about intimacy with God. It’s natural for me to stay busy instead of focusing on relationship with other people.

So what was Martha doing wrong? Why did Jesus say that Mary – not Martha, the servant – had chosen the “good part” (v 42)? First, Martha was “distracted” (v 40) by her serving. If your service doesn’t get you closer to Jesus, is it really service at all?

Second, Martha was bothered because Mary wasn’t serving like she was! Look at what she says to Jesus in verse 40: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Do You not care!! Tell her to help me!! If your service is genuine, it doesn’t matter what other people are doing! You serve for the joy of serving! But Martha had lost her joy. She didn’t just love to serve; she wanted someone else to serve like she was! And that caused her to lose sight of her ‘why.’ She was no longer obsessed with serving Jesus; she simply cared about getting other people to join her cause.

2) The way you worship

David loved to worship. He didn’t let the opinions of others impact his praise:

Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. – 2 Sam 6:14-16

David danced with “all his might” for all the world to see. He was free from the opinion of others! He knew God had called him to be an example – to dance and praise like no one was watching – and he embraced his role with all his heart.

But that didn’t make his life easy. Even his own wife despised him for it (v 16). But David made a decision not to care. He chose to be free from the opinions of others, no matter the cost. David was rewarded for his freedom; but Michal suffered because she cared too much about other peoples’ opinions:

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. – 2 Sam 6:20-23

Aren’t you ready to praise God with your whole heart, no matter what other people think? There is an eternity to be gained by casting off the opinions of others, and loving God with your whole heart!

My wife recently gave birth to our third child. Our first two pregnancies did not end in perfect deliveries: they were long, and they were painful! But with our third baby, we made a decision to praise like no one was watching. We got to the hospital, and turned on worship music. I remember wondering what the doctors would think if they weren’t saved: Who are these silly Christians, trusting God instead of their doctor? But then I remembered not to care. And can I tell you something? Our delivery was nothing short of supernatural. It was quick. Our baby was big (10.5 lbs!!), but our God is bigger!! I believe our day was so amazing because we made a decision to praise, no matter what everyone else thought!

3) The way you pray

Do you get nervous when you pray in front of other people? If you answer yes, my question to you is: why? Who cares? It doesn’t matter what other people think when you pray; it only matter what God hears! You are praying for an audience of One; so who cares what the rest of the room thinks?

What Stands in Our Way

We care way too much about what other people think; so much, in fact, that it is affecting our judgment. Did you know that other peoples’ opinions can actually alter your own judgment, and cause you to make decisions that don’t line up with your personal convictions?

Dr. Solomon Asch was a social science researcher who conducted a number of ground-breaking experiments to estimate the impact other peoples’ opinions have on us. He conducted a series of studies[1] with groups of 7 to 9 college students. Each participant in the group was shown 2 different cards: one with one line on it, and another with a group of 3 lines. Each participant was then asked to choose – for the rest of the group to hear – the line on the second card that matched the line on the first card.

At first, the margin for error was tiny. In the first round, experimenters failed to pick the correct line less than 1% of the time. But then the rules changed. In the second round, all but one of the participants (the real subject) were asked to collude – without the real subject knowing it – and incorrectly choose the wrong line. So the participant would watch the entire rest of the group pick the wrong line; and it had a huge impact on his judgment! All of a sudden, the participant chose the wrong line 37% of the time. Some of the participants went with the group – even though they knew it was wrong – almost 100% of the time, simply to prevent publicly disagreeing with the rest of the group. Here is what Dr. Asch had to say about the results:

“What the dissenter does not know is that all the other members of the group were instructed by the experimenter beforehand to give incorrect answers in unanimity at certain points. The single individual who is not a party to this prearrangement is the focal subject of our experiment. He is placed in a position in which, while he is actually giving the correct answers, he finds himself unexpectedly in a minority of one, opposed by a unanimous and arbitrary majority with respect to a clear and simple fact. Upon him we have brought to bear two opposed forces: the evidence of his senses and the unanimous opinion of a group of his peers. Also, he must declare his judgments in public, before a majority which has also stated its position publicly.”

How many times have you been, “…opposed by a unanimous and arbitrary majority?” Does social media come to mind? You go against what you know is right – deep down in your soul – simply because other people are vocally proclaiming something else.

Think about the effect this can have on our faith! When we care too much about the opinions of others, we can make bad decisions – decisions that do not align with our values – simply because other people are making a bad choice! Even if you know what’s “right” according to your belief system, you can be easily swayed by the opinions of others. Even if you intuitively know that there is a higher power (i.e. God), you can be swayed by a society that tells you believing in God is just a silly fairy tale. Even if you know you were built for something more than just this life, we live in a world where people are obsessed with the here and now. “There is no eternity!” they scream. So why should we waste a single moment doing anything besides what we want to do, in that moment?

The difficult question these findings present for every Christian is: are you compromising your values for the sake of other people? Is your faith in God affected by what other people think? Have you lost sight of the Scriptural truth that, at the end of your life, you will be the only person responsible for your choices? If so, why are you living your life for people who can’t answer to God on your behalf?

The Gospel

But here is the good news: the Gospel sets us free from the opinions of others. Jesus tells us to embrace the simple reality that not everyone is going to like us! But He reminds us not to care.

He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” – Lk 10:16

If people reject you for doing what Jesus calls you to do, they’re not really rejecting you; they’re rejecting Jesus in you.

Let them. God’s opinion is the only opinion that holds any weight. If Jesus has received you, that is all that really matters!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.lucs.lu.se/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Asch-1955-Opinions-and-Social-Pressure.pdf

Look Again!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Look Again’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/1/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Mary at the Tomb

When Jesus was laid to rest, Mary was there:

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. – Matt 27:57-61

Imagine the hopelessness and despair that must have been overtaking Mary in that moment. Everything she had been hoping for was gone. Jesus was supposed to be King! But it’s hard to rule as King when you’re dead. Jesus had promised her eternal life! But how could He give her eternal life if He couldn’t even keep Himself alive? How many times have you been in Mary’s shoes? You’ve been hoping and praying for something amazing to happen; but in an instant, your dreams are laid to rest.

But after Mary left the tomb, something happened. There was a Resurrection!

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. – Matt 28:1-8

The Resurrection changes everything! While Mary was weeping, a Resurrection happened. While the disciples were hiding because they were afraid and didn’t know what to do, a Resurrection happened! They didn’t have to change their behavior. They didn’t have to fix anything they were doing wrong. They simply had to look again.

After the Resurrection, Mary went to look again. Because of the Resurrection, everything that seemed dead was brought back to perfect life. Are you ready to believe that God can do the same in your life?

Life After Death

The Resurrection changes everything. Jesus told His disciples why the Resurrection was so important: because He died and was raised again, we – all those who believe – will get to follow Him into Heaven:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” – Jn 14:1-3

He rose again so we could follow in His footsteps! Jesus was raised from the dead to prepare a place for us, so that we would have entry into eternal life in Heaven, just as He did!

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. – 1 Thess 4:13-14

Without the Resurrection, we die; but because of the Resurrection, death has been defeated! Death only exists apart from Jesus; but when we are in Him, death is no longer alive!

If you are in Christ, there is no such thing as death. Nothing in your life is dead. Nothing is too far gone! At the end of our lives, you no longer die; you simply fall asleep and wait for Jesus to come again and bring you where He is! You don’t have to sorrow as those who have no hope! Because You have Jesus, you have hope for an eternal future with God in Heaven because Jesus rose again! When you understand you will be with Jesus in Heaven, you can face anything, can’t you?

Resurrection Life

But you don’t have to wait until you get to Heaven to experience Resurrection power. When you gave your life to Jesus (i.e. got saved), the Holy Spirit didn’t put a sign on you that says “Back in 50 years,” and then go about His business! He filled you with life and power in that moment.

Resurrection power is not something you have to wait to experience until you get to Heaven and see God face to face. Jesus died so you can experience Resurrection power here and now!

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Rom 8:11

The Holy Spirit is in you! The same spirit who caused the Resurrection in Jesus will cause a Resurrection in you! All you have to do is look again! Declare Resurrection life over every dead place, and then go back and look again! Expect that when you roll back that stone and look at the contents of your life – everything you thought was dead – that God will have moved with power, and worked a mighty work, and nothing in your life will ever be the same again!

Look Again!

It’s time to declare Resurrection over every area of your life:

1) Relationships

Do you have relationships that seem dead? Too far gone? Past the point of no return? Pray this: “Father, I speak Resurrection life over every single relationship in my life. I expect them to be full of life, and to rise again – just as Jesus did!”

I have a great Dad; but he and I haven’t always been the best at communication. He doesn’t have a cell phone – and my mom always picks up the house phone – so he and I rarely get to talk. But I’ve been speaking Resurrection life over our relationship.

Last week, when my wife gave birth to our third baby, I called my parents. My Dad picked up the phone. He told me how proud of us he was, and how excited he was to come visit our new daughter. I was in shock! He’s never been so open with me before. I’ve never heard him talk like that! He came down the next day to visit our new baby: smiling ear to ear. After my parents left the hospital, my mom sent me this text: “Dad is smiling the widest smile I’ve seen on his face in quite some time…”

Look again! Jesus can resurrect a relationship you thought was totally dead in just one moment!

 2) Health

Do you have persistent health issues? Places you need healing that seem past the point of no return? You’re ready to just give up and stop praying? Don’t stop praying! Pray this: “Father, I speak Resurrection life over every single cell of my body. I declare my body is full of life, and it will rise back to perfect health again – just like Jesus did!”

My wife, Rachael, gave birth to our third child last week. The first two times she gave birth, it did not go as planned. The births were induced. They were hard. We were praying for supernatural, pain-free childbirth: that she would feel no resistance as the babies came out. But our experience was a little different than our expectation!

So we had to look again. We had to look back at God’s word, and remind ourselves that Jesus took on every curse on the Cross (Gal 3:13): even the curse of childbirth. We had to remind ourselves of everything God had spoken to us in prayer. We had to position ourselves to believe for supernatural childbirth like nothing could stand in our way.

And nothing did! This third birth was nothing short of redemptive. We walked into that hospital and the baby was almost already out! It wasn’t easy. My wife is a rock star! But our prayers were answered. And all we had to do was look again! 

3) Finances/Career

What career ambitions have dropped off our prayer list and died? What financial hopes and dreams have you let slip away because you’ve been praying so many years but your prayers still haven’t been answered? Pray this: “Father, I speak Resurrection life over my finances, and over my career! I command my career to take shape according to Your word, and Your will, in Jesus’ name! I expect them to rise again – just as Jesus did!”

God’s promise is for you to be prosperous:

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. – Prov 10:22

You don’t have to settle for living paycheck to paycheck, and working that dead-end job anymore. Declare there has been a Resurrection, and then go and look again!

4) Faith

Did your faith used to be stronger? Have you lost the faith and desire to believe for some of your dreams over the years because you’ve tasted defeat? You don’t have to settle for dry, lifeless faith. You don’t have to come to church on Sunday and just warm the pew! God created you with destiny, on purpose! So pray this over your faith: “Father, I speak Resurrection life over my faith! Help my unbelief. Increase my faith! I command my faith to rise up – just as Jesus did!”

As you pray those prayers, I believe that Resurrection life is flooding over every single part of you. This week, go back and look again. Mary saw the power of the Resurrection because she looked again. And in Jesus’ name, so will you.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” – Matt 28:9-10

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© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

From Stress to Rest

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘From Stress to Rest’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/4/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

From Stress to Rest

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matt 11:28-30

Rest. All of us seek it, but few of us really find it. Wouldn’t you love to live a life of rest?!

When you see the word rest, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A day off from work? Kicking your feet up and watching TV at the end of a long day? Vacation?!

Typically, we think of rest as an escape. If we really want to rest, we have to get away! If you’re a parent, “rest” means a few days without having to chase your kids. If you have a stressful career, “rest” means some time out of the office: not having to commute in or run to any meetings. But did you know that some of the things we do in the name of “rest” aren’t actually that restful?

Take vacation as an example. When work gets tough, what is the first thing we think? I need a vacation! But a study[1] in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacations don’t actually help us to relax the way we think they will! Researchers interviewed 1,530 people: some went on vacation, and some didn’t. They found that vacationers actually felt happiest before their trips, not after. In fact, they found no difference in post-trip happiness for those who went on vacation, versus those who did not. So that big trip you’ve been planning? Anticipating the trip might make you happy! But the trip itself might not make you happy at all!

So what can we do if even a vacation won’t help us relax and unwind?

Sources of Stress

In order to manage stress, we need to know where it comes from. The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a survey[2] of New Yorkers to determine their most significant sources of stress. Money was at the top of the list with 78% of respondents saying their financial situation was significantly stressful. Work (78%) was next, followed by the economy (71%), personal health concerns (68%), and health problems affecting family members (62%).

How do most New Yorkers deal with stress? The most commonly reported stress management techniques from the same survey include listening to music (53%), exercising or walking (51%), and reading (40%). Notice our most frequent coping mechanisms are escapes. We’re trying to avoid the stressors – the things that create stress in our lives – to create space so stress can dissipate. I need to get away from work, we think. I need a break from family! Or I need a night out with my friends!

But what if true rest doesn’t actually mean getting away from anything? What if true rest actually means getting closer to something, or Someone?

Redefining Rest

Look again at Jesus’ prescription for rest:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matt 11:28-30

Jesus didn’t say, stop what you are doing, and take a vacation! He simply said, come to Me! We don’t have to go anywhere to find rest; we just have to go to Him! We don’t have to get rid of anything to find rest; we simply have to receive what He has to offer!

Luke 8 tells the story of a woman who struggled with a persistent and potentially life-threatening medical issue for twelve years:

Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any… – Luke 8:43

What was this woman’s stressor? This was a personal health concern. She didn’t have any rest because she had been struggling with her health – running to doctors left and right – for twelve years. Imagine how that would drain you. Imagine how stressful it would be to see physician after physician, without ever finding anyone who could actually help!

This woman discovered an important truth. She didn’t have to run from her sickness by taking a vacation. She didn’t need something that would help her forget what she was going through. The prescription wasn’t to distance herself from her problems. She knew if she could just get to Jesus, she would receive rest. So, she…

…came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. – Luke 8:44

This woman pushed through a crowd to get to Jesus, and she was released: from stress, into rest! All it took was one touch. One touch from Heaven. One encounter with Jesus. One moment in His presence. And she was made perfectly well.

And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me for I perceived power going out from Me.”

Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” – Luke 8:45-48

“Go in peace.” Peace is the Greek eirene,[3] which can also be translated as…rest. Here was Jesus’ message for us, through this woman with the issue of blood: when we come to Him with our stress, He will release us and give us rest!

True rest does not mean the absence of stressful stimuli; it means being close to Jesus, no matter what is going on all around you.

Get Close to Him

The most powerful stress-reducing realization you can have is this: God is here. The woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8; above) had to press through a crowd to get close to Jesus; but you and I simply have to realize that when we give our lives to Jesus, He already lives in us.

No matter what you are going through, God is there. No matter what you are facing, God is there. No matter what is causing you stress, God is there! The next time you feel stressed, take a moment to lift your head towards Heaven, open up your arms, and just say, “Daddy, thank You for being here. You are close to me, and I have nothing to fear.”

A few nights ago, I was putting our one-year-old daughter to bed. At first, I held her in my arms while rocking back and forth. Then, when she started to doze off, I put her down in her crib. She instantly woke up, started to whimper, and looked for me: she needed to know I was there. I put my hand out and started to rub her back, just so she would know I hadn’t left. Eventually, I took my hand off her back and just sat in a chair next to her crib. For the next ten minutes, she would sleep for a moment, only to wake up and look around the room to make sure I was still there, and then go back to sleep. In order to rest, she needed to know her father was there.

Your Father is here. He’s here to love you! He’s here to take away your burden. He’s here to relieve you of the stress that’s been overwhelming you for years! You don’t have to get away; you just have to come to Him, and know that He is here.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2837207/

[2] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/new-york.aspx

[3] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/eirene.html

Strongs 1515

How to Hear from God

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How to Hear from God’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/28/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

The Importance of Hearing from God

God is still speaking. Are you making time to listen?

I love my Bible. I read it every day. But even if I know God’s written word, I still need to hear from Him! Hearing from God is an essential part of our relationship with God; and it’s also the part that many Christians completely ignore.

In Greek – the original language of the New Testament – God’s written word is knows as the logos.[1] The logos – God’s written word – should be the benchmark for the way we live our daily lives. It should be the foundation upon which we build our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But even if you know your logos – even if you have Scripture memorized inside and out – there will still be moments in life where you need to hear an on-time word from God.

The on-time, spoken word of God is the rhema:[2]

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Rom 10:17

We can only have faith if we hear God; and hearing comes by the rhema – the spoken word of God. When was the last time you received a rhema, spoken word from Heaven?

We need the rhema. Let me give you an example why. When I reached a certain age, I decided I wanted to get married. I read Proverbs 31 and learned what makes a godly woman great. I studied Ephesians 5 to examine my own responsibilities as a future husband. I went to 2 Corinthians 6:14 and was reminded of the importance of being equally yoked! But nowhere in the logos – God’s written word – did God say, “Mike, thou shalt marry Rachael.” God’s word told me what my future wife’s character should be like; but the logos didn’t tell me what she would look like, where I was going to meet her, or any other pertinent details I needed to determine if she was “the one.”

So guess what? I needed a rhema. I needed to trust that when I met the right woman, God would speak to me and let me know, this is her. When I met my wife, that is exactly what He did. The Holy Spirit was with us from our first date, knitting our hearts together, and encouraging us to dive in as we got to know each other and worked towards courtship and marriage. I already had the logos, but I needed the rhema to make the right decision.

You Can Hear from God

Maybe you know the importance of hearing from God, but you’ve never done it. Maybe you’re wondering, what do I need to do to hear from Him?

Believe. Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” And under the New Covenant, on this side of the Cross, do you know who His “prophet” is? YOU!

For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” – Lk 7:28

Even if you are least in the Kingdom of God, you are a greater prophet than John the Baptist! You are filled with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself (Rom 8:11), and you are qualified to hear from Heaven!

Without the rhema, you will be lost…

Where there is no revelation, (prophetic vision) the people cast off restraint… – Prov 29:18

…but with the rhema, you have nothing to fear!

What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?

There are many ways to hear from God. Sometimes He speaks from a burning bush (Exodus 3). Other times His voice booms straight own from heaven (Matt 3)! But more often than not, God speaks in a still small voice.

Then [God] said [to Elijah], “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12

If Elijah had been waiting for a big booming voice to shake the sky, He would have missed the word of the Lord! God was not in the wind. He was not in the earthquake! He wasn’t in the fire. He delivered His message to Elijah in the form of a still small voice.

God spoke to Samuel in the same way:

Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold…” – 1 Sam 3:10-11a

As you read through God’s conversation with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, and then His conversation with Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, you will notice two common elements.

First, God speaks in the quiet. If we want to hear from God in chaos, we have to learn how to hear His voice in silence first! God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. He whispered to Samuel in a voice so soft that Samuel almost missed it! But He did it so that whenever He needed to speak to them in the future, they would already know the sound of his voice.

Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a crisis to seek the voice of God. What if I told you to go into the middle of a subway platform and “listen for Bob’s voice?” What would your first question be? Who is Bob and what does he sound like?! You can’t expect to pick out a voice you’ve never heard in chaos if you don’t know what (s)he sounds like in quiet; yet some of us wait to try and hear God’s voice until the stuff hits the fan, and wonder why we can’t tell if it’s Him! Get to know His still small voice now, before the heat is turned up!

Second, both Elijah and Samuel had to engage with God. In 1 Kings 19, God started speaking to Elijah; but Elijah had to “go out, and stand on the mountain” (v 11) before God delivered the message. In 1 Samuel 3, God started speaking to Samuel; but Samuel had to reply, “Speak, for Your servant hears!” (v 11), to hear the whole message. When God starts speaking to you, step up! When you hear His whisper, get closer to Him than ever, and ask to hear His voice loud and clear.

Was That Me, or Is That God?

How can you tell if what you’re hearing in prayer is really God? How do you know it’s not just your wants and desires creeping up on you? How can you be sure you are following His desires for you, instead of the wants and desires of your own heart?

Whenever I need to know “was that me, or is that God,” I do three things:

1) Go to the word

Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. – Matt 12:24-25

A house divided cannot stand. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are One. That means the Holy Spirit will not tell you something that disagrees with God’s word. Said another way, the rhema will always line up with the logos. If you “hear” something in prayer that doesn’t line up with Scripture, it wasn’t from God!

2) Ask other people

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. – Prov 11:14

If you’re not sure how to respond from a word from God, ask other people. Do you have trusted Christian friends who can help you decipher if the thoughts you are thinking – and the plans you are planning – are really from Him?

3) Wait for confirmation

“By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” – 2 Cor 13:1

Don’t rush. If you hear something from God in prayer, wait for Him to confirm His word. He may speak to you again. He may speak to one of your friends. Or, His Holy Spirit may highlight a Scripture verse that confirms what He is saying. But don’t be afraid to wait. I can’t tell you how many spiritual destinies I have seen derailed because God gives someone a nibble, and they try to bit off His whole hand.

God created you for such a time as this. He made you on purpose, to go out and do something no one else can do; but first, you need to hear his voice!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Strong’s G3056

[2] Strong’s G4487

Divine Healing

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Diving Healing’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/14/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

I believe in divine healing. I believe God heals because I see it in Scripture. I believe Jesus still heals because I have seen it in my life!

This is the promise Jesus gave His disciples:

And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Mk 16:17-18

And this is what happened when the disciples took hold of that promise and stepped out on God’s word:

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. – Mk 16:20

When the disciples believed the word Jesus spoke, miracles started to happen. Are you ready to believe God’s word when it comes to healing?

Our Recent History

Our three-year-old son, Clive, was in the hospital last week. My wife took him to his doctor on Tuesday because he was complaining his ear hurt. We assumed it would be a quick visit for an ear infection. But the doctor looked concerned and told her, “You need to take him to the emergency room.”

The emergency room doctors looked concerned too. They diagnosed him with mastoiditis: an infection in the bone behind the ear. Treatment would require a 3-4 day hospital stay. In a worst-case scenario, surgery would be required.

But my wife and I don’t believe in worst-case scenarios. We have seen God heal. We have seen crooked spines straightened and bone spurs retract. We have seen legs grow out, and terminal illnesses vanish. We know God’s will is to heal all His children all the time. So why would we believe any different?

Clive spent four days in the hospital hooked up to IV antibiotics. But no surgery. No lengthened stay. Physicians kept stopping to comment on how good his ear looked, and how fast he was recovering. Some stopped and asked us how we were in such a good mood! We were in a good mood because we know God heals. We believed the best because we know God heals.

I encourage you to learn what God’s word says about healing now before you find yourself in what otherwise could be a medical emergency – so that you will be armed with His word when you need it. We didn’t have to so much as break a sweat at the hospital, because 1) we know God’s will, 2) we are armed with His word, and 3) we are ready to worship at all times.

God’s Will

Step One in the healing process is knowing God’s will.

God makes His will known through His word. If you’re ever going through something difficult and you want to know how God feels about it, read His word! Decipher His heart in the pages of Scripture so you can have confidence and know exactly how He feels.

In Old Testament Scripture, God told His people exactly how He feels about physical healing. They reached a place called Marah on their way through the wilderness, and God spoke:

“There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, ‘If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.’” – Ex 15:25-26

God called Himself, “The Lord who heals you” (in the original Hebrew language: Jehovah Rapha). Healing is not just something God does; healing is who God is! Healing is an inseparable part of God’s character. He called Himself Jehovah Rapha so His people would know: no matter what, I am the God who heals!

But God’s people had to activate His healing. Look at the conditional nature of God’s promise: if you diligently heed My voice…I will put no disease on you. Do you know what it means to “diligently heed” God on this side of the Cross? Believe in Jesus! When you put your faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him for salvation, God becomes Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals – to you!

God wants to heal you. Knowing His heart is the first step in the healing process. I know too many Christians who believe God makes them sick to teach them a lesson. But Jesus spent His entire earthly ministry healing the sick, and Jesus and the Father are One. So why would Jesus heal, only to have God turn around and undo His work? A house divided cannot stand (Matt 12:25); and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8)! If Jesus healed when He walked the earth, God still wants to heal you now!

God’s Word

Step Two in the healing process is knowing God’s word.

Six years ago, my wife and I founded the healing rooms at CityLight Church. I knew what God’s word said about healing, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. It wasn’t enough just to know that Jesus healed; if God was real, I needed to know that He heals! So we put His word to the test.

I knew I had to get filled up with His word to pray effectively; so I took every single Scripture on healing I could find, wrote them all down on index cards, and started to memorize. The transformation was incredible. As God wrote His word on my heart, things started to happen when I prayed. Prayer for the sick was no longer an exercise to decipher God’s will; it was a declaration to release God’s will over sick bodies, to watch them come back to life.

Do you need healing in your body? Do you want to see other people healed as you pray for them? Get filled up with the word of God, and watch His Holy Spirit move!

The Book of Isaiah tells us why being filled with God’s word is so important:

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” – Is 55:10-11

God send His word to heal (see Ps 107:20). His promise is this: whatever He has spoken will not return to Him void. How do we make God’s word return to Him? By repeating it – out loud – over our bodies!

When we speak God’s word back to Him in the form of prayer, we exercise this promise from Isaiah 55:11. When we exercise His word, the power in His word is released. When we declare His word out loud over our bodies, miracles happen. His word will accomplish what He pleases (v 11). But if we want to pray His word, we have to know His word.

God’s Worship

Step Three in the healing process is knowing God through worship.

God is willing to heal. Can I prove it to you?

When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” – Matt 8:1-4

This leper asked a fair question! He needed to know, “God, are You willing to heal me?” But you and I already have that answer. The leper had an excuse to ask Jesus if He was willing to heal, because there was no written record of the miracles of Jesus Christ! But you and I don’t have an excuse. We know His will, and we have His word; so nothing should stop us from grabbing hold of it with everything we are. I believe Jesus’ response to the leper forever answers the question, “Is God willing to heal me?” He is willing; be cleansed!

Jesus was willing; but the leper had to come and worship to receive his healing. God is always willing to heal; but it is our worship that activates His willingness over our bodies and our lives. So if you know His will (you do!), and you have His word (you do!), now it’s time to worship.

To worship is the Greek proskuneo: to kiss the hand in reverence.[1] When a servant met a king, he would bow and kiss his hand to show love and submission. When we worship Jesus, we bow and submit our lives to Him in exactly the same way. Typically we associate worship with music; but Biblical worship is so much more than just music! To worship Jesus means to trust Him with all your heart: to bow your knee to Him, and believe what you see in His word more than what you see with your eyes. Are you willing to worship God like your healing already happened? Are you willing to act on your expectation that healing is coming?

Jairus learned the importance of worship first-hand when he came and asked Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead:

While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. – Matt 9:18-19

Jairus was a ruler! But he didn’t send a servant to meet Jesus. He came and bowed his own knee. He worshiped Jesus, because he knew it would make all the difference:

When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land. – Matt 9:23-26

Worship activates God’s willingness. He is already willing! Are you ready to make the decision to worship? To lay down your fears, and to trust in His faithfulness?

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/proskuneo.html

In That Place

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘In That Place’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/17/2017, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Jesus In A Manger

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. – Lk 2:1-7

Jesus’ birth was supernatural; but it wasn’t perfect. He was born, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger, “…because there was no room for them in the inn” (v 7). Surely God could have made room for them in the inn! But He didn’t. So the question becomes, why?

Sometimes God’s blessings are messy. Sometimes they come when and where we think they will happen; but other times they come in places we least expect. Surely Mary and Joseph would have been more comfortable in a hotel, or a nice bed and breakfast. People would have heard the news more easily if they had given birth in a big city, instead of a small town like Bethlehem. But God’s blessings do not always depend on location.

Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, and God blessed them in that place. I’m here to tell you that wherever you are – as long as you are following the will of God – He will bless you in that place. You don’t have to wish you were someone or somewhere else. He will do amazing things right where you are, in Jesus’ name!

Where Are You Now?

Where are you in your life plan? What is your living situation like? What about your financial plan? Are you living where you want to live? Are you single, or married? What about kids? Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking we have to be somewhere else to experience God’s goodness. Wherever you are: God wants to bless you in that place.

New York City is a very transient city. People often move here, stay for a matter of a few months or years, and then move on. I cannot tell you how many people I have met who think, “If I just leave New York, my life will be so much better.” We have this mindset that if we change location – or jobs, relationships, the list goes on – all our problems will disappear. But when you move, your problems won’t disappear; you will just have new problems!

Whenever we think about making a major change that God has not ordained, we are entertaining escapism. Escapism is, “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”[1] If we’re sick of New York, we daydream about moving to the South. If we’re struggling in our marriage, we wonder if we married the wrong person. If we’re tired of our job, we fantasize about switching jobs, or even careers.

But what if God wants to bless you right where you are?

In That Place

For many years, my wife Rachael and I wanted a big house. We both grew up in the suburbs, and we wanted a similar experience for our kids. When we got married, we told ourselves we would never raise kids in the city. We had a plan to move out and find more space. But don’t you know sometimes God’s plan is different from your plan? Here we are, still in New York City.

Instead of trying to escape, we started asking God to bless us right where we are. We’ve come to treasure the intimacy that comes from having two (going on three) kids in a New York City apartment. We wanted more, but we knew God wanted us to stay right where we are; so we asked Him to bless us in that place. And He did! We are financially blessed right where we are. Our kids are going to great schools right where we are. We love to host friends and family right where we are. We didn’t need to change locations; we simply needed to ask God to bless us in that place!

Our Manhattan church meets in the basement of an Orthodox church. We have been renting the same space for the past fifteen years. As we’ve grown, we’ve started to run out of room. At first, we (our church leadership) prayed that God would move us out of that place. We needed more space, and we needed it now! (After all, our ‘kids room’ is an open-air playpen at the back of the sanctuary). But wanting to move just resulted in closed doors and endless frustration; so our prayer changed. Instead of praying for God to move us, we started praying He would bless us right where we are.

Since our prayer changed, we have been growing in that place. Now, we are on the threshold of buying that whole building for pennies on the dollar! If we had insisted on moving, we never would have been blessed the way God wanted us to be blessed!

Don’t waste your time wishing you were somewhere else. Ask God, “Lord, how do you want to bless me where I am?” Wherever you are, God wants to bless you in that place.

Time and Again

God is omnipresent: He is everywhere. That means He can put His power on display wherever you are. He doesn’t need to move you to bless you; He can bless you in that place! And He has proved it for His people time and time again.

When God’s people were wandering through the wilderness in Exodus 16, they cried out because they were hungry. God didn’t tell them to wait until they got there to eat; He blessed them in that place:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” – Ex 16:4

In Exodus 17, when God’s people got thirsty, He didn’t tell them to hang on until they reached their destination to have a drink. He blessed them in that place:

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” – Ex 17:6

When you and I needed a Savior, God didn’t tell us to clean up and get to church before we could be saved. He met us right where we were, and blessed us in that place. While you were still in sin, He died as your sin (see 2 Cor 5:21), so you could be free in everlasting life.

God persistently shows His people that He is willing to bless them wherever they are. So, what are you in the middle of? Wherever you are, and whatever you’re going through, God wants to bless you in that place.

© Michael D. White, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Google dictionary

Not My Will

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Not My Will’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/10/2017, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Let It Be

In Luke 1, Mary receives good news:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. – Lk 1:26-38

Mary would have a Son. She would call His name Jesus. He would be great, and of His kingdom there would be no end!

But there’s another side to this story. Mary wasn’t married! According to Jewish law, the punishment for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock was death. If anyone found out she was pregnant, she would be stoned!

Sometimes God’s blessings cause friction. Mary received a great promise; but receipt of that promise would not be without its challenges. What an infinite privilege to be the mother of Jesus! But what great shame to have your friends and family judge you for their lack of understanding God’s plan. What great pain to be destined to see your Son die on a Cross! What great danger if people didn’t believe Mary that her child was from God!

Mary didn’t ask for the gift God gave her; but her response showed the posture of her heart: “Let it be to me according to your word” (v 38). When you receive an unexpected blessing, is your first response to say yes to what God is trying to do? Or do you buck and kick against the will of God in an effort to maintain control?

You can’t always control what comes your way in life; but you can control how you respond to it. Mary was a woman after God’s own heart. She received unbelievable news (v 34); but she chose to believe it by faith (v 37). She refused to fight against God’s will for her life, and instead chose to receive everything He had for her; because she knew that God’s plan would be far greater than anything she could ever plan for herself.

God’s Will

“Will” is defined as “the thing that one desires or ordains.”[1] I believe you can know God’s will for your life, if you ask Him to show it to you in prayer. But “will” can also have another meaning.

In the fall of 2015, my Uncle Jon passed away. He was my mother’s little brother. He had been a smoker his whole life; and even though he was a fighter, the habit eventually caught up with him.

When he died, he left a will. His will was a legal document representing his desires for all his “stuff” – everything he left here on earth. My mom was the executor of his will: she was legally appointed to carry out his will, because he was no longer here on earth to carry it out himself.

For months, I watched my mom faithfully execute every single one of my uncle’s desires. She tied up every loose end to make sure his home was properly cared for. She tirelessly tracked down every single one of his personal possessions to make sure it got into the right hands. She spent countless hours of her time and energy to honor her brother’s memory.

Being the executor of a will is a thankless job. So why did she do it? She didn’t do it because she feared a consequence if she said no; she did it because she loved my uncle. She loved her little brother with all her heart, and wanted to make sure his desires were carried out.

You are the executor of God’s will. He has given you His stated desires in written form – His word – and your task is to carry out every last instruction. You don’t have to do it because you fear some consequence if you fail; you get to do it because you love Him with all your heart. Sometimes things might get messy. Sometimes it might be a pain! But God’s will is the best way: always, and forever.

So what happens if you choose not to do it? What happens if you ignore what God has called you to do? Someone else will do it; but if they do it, that means they get the reward (see Ester 4:14).

Yielding to God’s will for your life does not mean you become a casual observer. It does not mean you float through life, allowing whatever happens to just take place. Accepting God’s will actually makes you a fierce enforcer. It means you stand your ground with a healthy insistence – and a confident assurance – that His will is the only thing you will allow to take place in your life. You do not get to exercise your own will; instead you lay it down in favor of God’s will. The enemy does not get to exercise his will; instead you reject his plans for the plans of God alone!

Not My Will…

All great men and women of God share one characteristic in common: they continuously lay down their own will for God’s will. We saw Mary do it in Luke 1:38: “Let it be to me according to your word.” And we see Jesus make the same self-will sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Lk 22:39-44

Jesus made a decision: His Father’s will was more important than His own will. Now consider this: if even the very Son of God had to make a conscious decision to lay down His own self-will in favor God’s, how much more so do we?!

Jesus knew the road ahead would be hard; but He refused to settle for anything less than complete fulfillment of God’s will. God sent Him to earth with a very specific mission; and He would die to fulfill every last word.

Are you ready to do the same in your life? Are you ready to lay down your self-will, and pick up God’s will for you? Are you ready to throw out your plan, and simply carry out every instruction God has asked you to fulfill?

When you do, you will notice three things happening:

1) You will be more satisfied than you have ever been before, because you are fulfilling God’s design for you.
2) The people around you will be stepping into their destiny because your self-sacrifice propels them to obedience.
3) You will no longer live one day at a time; you will live with eternity in mind.

And that, my friends, is worth it!

© Michael D. White, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Google dictionary