We’re going back to the book of Acts to see what God did through the church in a hostile environment, when the culture of the day was so anti-Christian. Other religions permeated the region with their thoughts and philosophies.  As Paul traveled he spoke to the Greeks about the “unknown god”.  They were worshiping all kinds of different deities, those from whom we get the names of our planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, along with Hercules and others.  They had this pluralistic belief of all these different gods and had made a shrine to the “unknown god” that they didn’t know much about.  They didn’t know what to ascribe his name to or what he did.  Paul told them that He was the One who was superior over all other gods and he preached Christ to them.

In the midst of such obstinance, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ became the greatest movement the world has ever seen or heard. Because you and I live in a secular progressive society now, they are boasting the stats that say that in the next 50 years Christianity will be an obsolete religion in America. They say it’s in a drastic decline and the only segment of the Christian church that’s growing, according to a Pew Research study, is the Pentecostal or charismatic segment.  All other areas, according to them, are on a decline now.  I’m not saying that Pentecostals are better than Methodists or Baptists, but we live with the belief that there will be a mighty outpouring of the Spirit before the return of Jesus and we want to be a part of it.

I know that Second Timothy chapter 3 says that in the last days perilous times will come and some people look for the perilous times. They recognize that’s the state that we’re in now and what will be will be, but the Spirit-filled people are acquainted with Acts 2 and Joel 2:28 and say that in the last days God said He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh.While there may be something happening in the demonic realm that is perilous there's something happening in the realm of the Kingdom that is glorious and it's the outpouring of the Spirit.

In Acts 2, Peter relates the last days as being marked by the outpouring of the Spirit that began nearly 2,000 years ago on the day of Pentecost so in essence we are living in the last days. They’ve been going on now for some 2,000 years. I taught some time ago about dynamic synergy that says the unification of the body moving all the time at the same pace creates an energy that builds and builds and builds.  I believe that God is pouring out His Spirit for those who are hungry for the work of the Spirit of God. I’m not trying to put us into Christian class warfare but it has been the Spirit-filled church that says we want all that the Holy Spirit has for us.  We’ve not been the ones that said that all of that ended when the last apostle died or that it ended when the canon of scriptures of the Bible was put together.  We say He is still doing that and we’re still hungry for it.  As a result, I believe that the Lord is continuously pouring that out.

With that being said I want us as the people of God to be able to go to the scriptures and say, “Lord, what do you want to do in this day and time? How did they do it when the culture was so obstinate then? How can we learn what we need to learn now and do that? We know that the spiritual things are the ones that change lives, not the setting such as church buildings, air conditioning, lighting,seat, stage - all the things that we use to “do church” these days.  Those are not what qualify changed lives.  It’s the moving of the same Holy Spirit who broke in two thousand years ago, who used those guys two thousand years ago.  That produces life change.  You won’t be changed because you sit in good seats or the atmosphere is perfect with the heat and the lighting and the cooling and if the sound is just right.  We can get all of that wrong, but what will change your life is the move of the same Spirit that raised Jesus up from the dead. He will radically and drastically change our lives.

We looked at Acts chapter 3 where the man at the gate called Beautiful was healed. He was raised up, walking and leaping and praising God, but that brings the apostles to a place of trouble.  Here’s the first trouble that hits the church. How do we handle when trouble comes knocking at our door?  You know it's coming.

Now we’ll look at Acts chapter 4:

"Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand."

So now as a result of the day of Pentecost and a miracle, the church has about 8,000 people.  What phenomenal growth!  It’s interesting to me that we tried to emulate the corporate world for church growth when the greatest model for church growth is authenticity - an authentic move of God. I’m not anti-corporate, but we’ve got to be pro-biblical!

"And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes,  as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.  And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel:  If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well,  let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.  And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.  But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,  saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a ]notable miracle has been done through them is evident[b] to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.  But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.  For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,  who [c]by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together  to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.  Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness."

That’s some kind of prayer meeting right there! They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Do you know that you need a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit? Some people look at the one time they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and that becomes their trophy that they sit on the shelf collecting dust, but the Bible teaches us that you can be filled and refilled.
"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus,  having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet."

I want to take some highlights out of this chapter and see what we can learn from what happened, so that we can align ourselves with the truth.

  1. Being a Christ follower is not a fanfare. 

To the eyes of the culture this is not a pathway to success.  You don’t get into church operations to be popular, to be liked, to find friends..When I stand on this stage, I’m not propping up my life or my lifestyle.  This is not a way by which I become cool, fly, hip, dope, fleek, Gucci, legit, lit, red, savage, sick, sweet, wicked, boss, deaf, or even heat!  I hope I hit your culture lingo because I started way back there!

This is not how you somehow rise to fame. This is not how you get to the place of success. This is not how people finally know your name or where you get plastered on magazines and invited to other places so that somebody looks at you.  In fact, to do the work of God should, in the face of culture, be something that causes issues and problems. I believe one of the problems with the church and why we've gotten to a place of compromise is that we've wanted to be affirmed by the culture. If you are looking to the culture to find some place of legitimization as it pertains to being a Christ follower I've got bad news for you, but I’ve also got some good news.

Let's start with the bad news. This man was lame from birth. He’d had this issue for over 40 years.  You would think that a 40-year-old getting a miracle would be something that would be celebrated, especially by the religious leadership. You would think those who are spiritual or those who study the Bible or those critiquing everything that is done would look at it and say, “Whoa, this is a legitimate miracle!  This man who we have seen for four decades laying at the gate called Beautiful who begged all of us for money is healed.  Now he doesn’t have to beg anymore; he doesn’t have to be a person of need.  Now he’s walking, and leaping, and praising God. Now he can go to work; now he can have a family; now he can function in society; now he has a better way of living.”  It looks like they would celebrate and be on board, but they didn’t do that.
When we see miracles, signs and wonders, let’s not expect everybody to celebrate it. I know we as Christians sometimes tend to idolize our favorite singers, speakers, and preachers.  We tend to idolize the people who have the spotlight and the microphone, but I promise you with every fiber of my being and challenge those of you who have a call of God for pulpit ministry that takes you to a platform or stage, that you need to recognize that this is never going to be a fanfare. People are going to be critical; religious people are going to be jealous. Do you understand that it was jealousy working here? Can you discern the undertow?  They’re jealous that it wasn’t the name of their religious setup that made this man well.  They feel threatened as though somebody else is going to get the credit - as though somebody else has more spiritual power than they do.  Somebody else is going to get recognized before they do.

We need to be careful in the Kingdom to make your calling and election sure.  I recognize that has to do with being sure you are saved, but I want to move that also into a place of purpose and calling.  I need you to know if you feel a call of God into functional, operational ministry, you need to be secure enough in your purpose that if somebody else comes along that does the same thing that you do and does it a little better according to how you evaluate it, that you still stand firm in you identity in God.  Nobody can unseat you and nobody can unsettle you.  You need to be alright.  God still makes the appointments and God still opens the doors and God still gives the opportunities.  There don’t need to be any divisions.There don’t need to be cliques - there needs to be unity in the body and that is where God commands the blessing - life forevermore.  Who cares if somebody can sing better or preach better?  I constantly have to pull down the idea that somebody can preach better than me. That’s my carnality thinking that how I say it is the way that people get right with God.  The truth is it’s how the Holy Spirit works that causes people to get right with God.  I want to be able to preach good, I want to be able to communicate well, but I cannot believe the lie that it’s the cause why people want to invite me or I get a chance to do something.  It’s only by the Lord,because it’s the Lord that can lift one up or He can pull one down.  It’s the Lord who is able to make a way.  He’s the Waymaker - not me.  I understand that your gifting makes room for you. I know that people will look at your gift and there has to be a level of gifting, but it is not the gift that will keep you. It's going to be the character and the anointing of God that will be able to keep you.

I've heard some eloquent tongues speak the things of God before and they don't have enough anointing to raise a fly from the dead.  They have no anointing; they’ve just learned how to communicate.  They have studied all of the books to be able to say it all right and have it all together.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to hone your craft and develop your gift, but the gifting does not elevate above the anointing. So this is not a fanfare. The only one that should be able to be praised is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

There’s nothing wrong with having heroes in the Kingdom.  I would rather somebody have a hero in the Kingdom than a zero in the culture. I admire somebody that's given their life so much to the Lord and the anointing rests upon their life.God uses them to change the lives of people all over because they've been willing to submit themselves to the things of God and the will of God and the plan of God. I look at those and say, “God I want my life to look like that”.

  1. No matter how hard they try, they can’t shut up a move of God.

 Any culture, any person, any government, any agency that is against a move of God will not ever be able to stop a move of God.  Years ago there was a Roman emperor who came to power by the name of Diocletian.  He came to power at the turn of the second century, right before 300 A.D.  He hated Christians and was a worshiper of Hercules.  He made a declaration as the emperor of Rome that he would banish Christianity out of his Empire and it would cease to exist. He was vehement about doing that and he felt like he had succeeded. He had some blacksmiths make some signage that he put on the Roman roads that led to some of his palaces.  The signs were a celebration of his leadership to banish Christianity.  He said that it would not exist and the people would return to their ancient worship.  That’s the only thing that was going to sustain the Roman Empire.

About 35 years later, an emperor rose up by the name of Constantine. One of the things he was famous for, though it started the Crusades, was to make a decree saying the national religion of all the Roman Empire would be Christianity. You’ve got one guy saying Christianity ceases to exist and will never be a part of the Roman Empire to the ruler in 35 years saying the national religion of all of the Roman Empire will be Christianity, because when you start saying God can't do, I'll show you God can do. When the devil says,” I'm going to declare warfare on the kingdom of God”, God says,” I know how to fight the battle, I have won every single time”. I want to encourage you to understand now no matter how many things threaten to snuff out the life of Christ if you'll stand with God, God is able to turn everything around. That's one of the reasons why I expect a move of God that will blow people's minds just any day now.

The news media puts up all the new things like drag queen hour and I hear Christians say, “I don’t know what in the world this place is about to come to!”  Inside of me I feel that just any moment, any second now, there’s going to be a move of God that so shakes our nation and our world and I believe it’ll be God giving one more opportunity for people who will listen- people who will say yes to the Lord. I believe there's a move of the Lord that is coming.

  1.  People either love or hate Jesus.

You can’t just kind of like Him - you either love Him or you hate Him.  He’s not going to let you kind of like Him.  He’s going to back you into a corner and say, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood or you don't have any part with me”.He'll let you walk around and see all the miracles and He'll let you be a part of the feeding line in the five loaves and and two fishes.  You'll be able to partake of it and you'll see all the glorious things, but He'll keep moving you to a place to ask you, “Do you love me or do you love the world? Do you want me or do you want this?” He’ll keep moving you in that direction. People either love Him or people hate Him but he won’t let you live in that place of a lack of decision. In fact to not decide is to decide, because to know Him is to love Him. If you’ve ever met Him you have to fall in love with Him.  If you haven’t fallen in love with Him I just wonder if you’ve ever met the real one.  I just wonder if you’ve only met a smoke screen of somebody who put up some image or idea or thought of Him.

If you really know Him, you'll love Him if you know Him in the fact that He washed your sins away.  How can you not love Him if you know Him in the fact that He's willing to give you the Holy Spirit? How can you not love Him if you know him in the fact that he's been willing to give you His fruit and give you His love and give you His power and give you His anointing? How can you not love Him?

  1.  Nothing will stop the mouth of a critic like a good miracle.

I think the church has been guilty of splitting hairs.  I'm not saying that doctrine is not an important thing.  The Bible says that in the last days people would not endure sound doctrine. You’ve got to have good, right teaching, but good, right teaching is not an opportunity for you to argue.  If you’ve got the good, right teaching then God is with you - put up or shut up. How do you put up or shut up?  God worked with the disciples, confirming their words by signs following. I believe in the wake of the authentic should be a wave of the transformational power of God, the miracles of the Lord.  I believe that is the bread of the righteous.  It’s the miracles and the hand of the Lord - not an argument. We’re not here to win the argument. I believe that when you stand on the truth, the truth has a way of expressing itself.  I believe the truth has a way of showing you exactly its expression.  

They had Peter and John standing there with the man who experienced his miracle and the religious leaders really wanted to let these guys have it, but they couldn’t deny the miracle.  What put them in a conundrum was not how well they argued a point, but how well the point argued itself! 

You might think I’m placing too much emphasis on the miraculous.  You might ask, “Aren’t we living in the day that there’s lying signs and wonders? You’re placing too much emphasis on this whole spiritual thing, this whole Pentecostal thing.”  I am good with great doctrine. I listen to deep doctrinal stuff that makes my wife tell me to turn it off or put my headphones on.  I will listen to theological debate for hours. I’ll listen to the stuff that makes people want to just vomit. There’s discussions like: what’s the meaning of this word, what’s the original meaning, what was the intent of this word, what is it in this context and what is it in that context, and how does it work, and and how do you apply it, and all the sort of thing that goes along with that.  I love to listen to that stuff that drives other people crazy, but I cannot let it get me into the place where I’m looking for somebody who I want to argue some theological point with. I've got to say, “What does God say about this? What does this actually mean? How can I operate in what He has for me?” Nothing stops the mouth of a critic like a good miracle.

  1. You can be filled with the Spirit again.

I believe the will of God is for us to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit.  The scripture says, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the Holy Spirit”.  The word “be filled” there is a present infinitive. It means “keep on being filled”. It’s repetitive - over and over again be filled with the Holy Spirit.

You may ask, “Ok, I got filled with the Holy Spirit. What do you want me to do now?” 

“Be filled with the Holy Spirit!”

“I got filled with the Holy Spirit. What do you want me to do now?” 

“Be filled with the Holy Spirit!”

“I got filled with the Holy Spirit. What do you want me to do now?” 

“Be filled with the Holy Spirit!”

…….and keep on and keep on until your cup is running over in the things of God and
then freely pour that out.

  1. We as the body of Christ have to come together as one family united in the
mission that God has called us to.

The disciples were threatened and they went back to a prayer meeting.  The place is shaken where they are and they are filled with the spirit of God again.  They then do something that is profound. The Bible says they had such unity that people who had possessions sold them and laid them at the apostles’ feet. I believe that these were extra possessions. I don’t think they sold their home and went to live under a bridge so somebody else could have a house.  I believe if they had lands, they sold one or two of them and brought the profits so that somebody who had a need would be able to have their needs met.

It’s hard to be united. I view the spirit realm in the ranks of authority. When God establishes authorities for the purposes for which He establishes authorities,the moment those authorities
become perverted I believe that they could operate in a realm that allows demonic control. If they become righteous they operate in a realm that allows the righteous things to happen. The Bible teaches in the book of Romans that governmental authority is for the care of the people, but when those types of authorities begin to be perverted then they allow perverted things to happen.  It elevates the spiritual pressure that people have to live under at that moment.  When a governmental authority makes a decision, everybody has to live underneath the spiritual climate which that brings.

If you bring this to the family level, you have the authority - the headship in the family-which should be the husband. I’m not saying control - I'm saying headship. If that is a brutal person, if that is an unholy person-everybody in the family has to live under that pressure.  In our country, our headship has to do with our president, our congress, etc. and it’s so divided and so antagonistic that our nation has to live under the pressure.  When we live under that pressure, we feel that we have a right to be divided in the Kingdom.  We have the attitude of, “Well, this is just my way, and you’re going to have to deal with it!”

Let me tell you the authority in this church. It’s God’s Holy Word.  I don’t care what our opinions are; I don’t care what our differences are.  It’s not okay for us to come in and not say what the Word of the Lord is saying. We all get to bow down to its truth - not “this is my opinion”, but “what does the Bible say about it?” When the word of God is the authority it says endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

It’s that sense that I don’t know everybody’s name, but I know I have to unify with you if you call yourself a Christian.  You and I have got to come together somehow and be unified as one body.  I believe the greatest tool of the culture against the church has been the fact that it has been so divided for so long.  Then the enemy force feeds the excuse to somebody one day that the Christians can’t even get on the same page. That’s why we have Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians and all that.

I have never in my ministry been what I call a shotgun preacher, but some of my recent messages feel quite shotgun. A shotgun is different from a rifle because a shotgun takes a shell and puts all kinds of little BBs in it. It shoots it at a target and then all those little buckshots just go all over the page. Now, at least you hit the target but half of it missed and half went wherever else. I’ve always liked to preach with laser-like focus, like a rifle shot right in the very direction that God has me preaching - not running down this path and running down that path. Some of these messages have more of a shotgun feeling, but I hope that in some of these that at least a portion of it lands right where you are as a child of God to help you ask, “How can I, based off of what pertains to me in this message, recognize what God is speaking to me and bring myself into a place of alignment by surrendering to the Lord to make sure that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is what He wants it to be in this last hour and this last day?”’

Would you love to see us be a church where the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lost find hope, the addict is freed, the prostitute finds purpose and relationship and meaning? Wouldn't you love to be the place where your family gets whole and healed and
well? I believe that's the heart of God.

I believe that we're a church that is destined for that expression and I won't quit and I won't shut up until we get there. I'll preach and I'll proclaim and I'll call us all to a place of intimacy, authenticity, and passion for the Lord and say let's do it the biblical way. Let's search the word of God and let's do that.
-Lead Pastor Michael Booker

7/30/23 Let’s Act Out: The Holy Spirit and His Unstoppable Church

In Psalm 11:3-4 it says “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?  If your house’s foundation is destroyed, that’s catastrophic damage.  It means it’s going to cost you a lot to make sure those repairs are done.  It’s more than just a facade falling off. If your guttering falls off, it’s not that it’s not going to cost you, but I promise you it’s not like your foundation being broken or destroyed.
After this question, it says, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.” It’s almost as if God is saying, “Do you see the foundations are destroyed? I’m going to watch what you do. I’m going to see what you do with your foundations destroyed.”

If you look at the operations of our society, we recognize that so much about the foundations have been destroyed.  I’m not talking about the Constitution or political things.  I’m talking about the fact that Christian principles are so fractured that not only are they no longer something of high value, but in fact society sees them as the very thing that is holding back its progress. So God is saying when the foundations are destroyed, what are the righteous going to do? He’s saying, “What are you going to do about it?”  We like to turn it to Him and say, “Whoa, what are you going to do about it?”, but He’s asking what we will do.

If the foundations are destroyed, that feels like a bit of an indictment.  How did it get destroyed in the first place?  Some will say the Democrats did it; the progressives did it; the Republicans did it. But sometimes the fault lies at the feet of the ones who have been called by God with the authority of the Holy Spirit to push back the darkness.  Those are the ones responsible. What we did instead of maintaining a watchman on the wall with the power of God in our lives is that we got entertained in and of ourselves and we let down our guard.  We thought it was just a few people that wanted to act crazy and it’s alright as long as they’re not bothering us or bringing it to our homes.  We’ve thought that way and we didn’t cry loud, spare not, and lift up our voice like a trumpet. (Isaiah 58:1) Because we didn’t do that, it created the snowball effect.  It was small in the beginning, but it picked up speed in this society.

When I was a little boy, it used to snow a lot more, at least where I was from. We used to make snowmen and everybody had hills in their yard in Dante, Virginia, over in Russell County. The mountains are awfully steep over in that part of coal country.  If you just start that snowball downhill, you didn’t have to push it too far until you got a big base for your snowman. The truth is that the snowball effect has happened and now it’s at such a capacity that the only way to deal with the snowball is if the light of the sun can melt that thing, but that’s a metaphor for another day.

Jeremiah gives a good response in Jeremiah 6:16 for what the righteous should do.   It says, “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.  But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’”. The answer is there, but the declaration “we will not walk in it,” led to the Babylonian captivity for the nation of Israel.  Maybe in our day there’s a group of people who will say, “Okay, I want to go to the old paths.  I want to see what God did.  I want to see what God can do, and I want to see him do it again in my day!”

When I talk about the old paths, I’m not talking about antiquated things in terms of methodology. I’m talking about spiritual things that worked and will work and always will work. We’re trying to go back and see, from the scriptures, where the church changed the world. They did this even in hostile territory, in difficult situations, under mass persecution, under governments not favorable to Christianity. We think that secular progressivism is a modern day idea, but the Roman Empire had a secular progressive mindset.  They took all the gods, all the Greek gods and mixed in everything they could to try to make a utopian society.  In their day, if you didn’t bow or bend, you’d be crucified.  You’d be corrected publicly.  So, in an atmosphere where it was much harder than it is today, the power of God and an empowered Church made a difference.

If we’re ever going to make a difference; if we’re ever going to see God do something incredible, I say to the righteous, you’ve got to see that the foundations are in trouble. You have to start looking into some things that worked, will work and will work in the future, called the power of God and the things of God.  We call this series, “Let’s Act Out” because we are going to the book of Acts. We’re saying, “If that’s what they did, let’s do that under the power of God and under the purpose of God.  Let’s see what a difference it will make in our culture, in our families, and in our lives.”

I see a huge difference between their gatherings and the 21st Century American church gathering. I see in their gatherings that the place was shaken where they were. I see in their gatherings the power of God to heal the sick was present. I see in their gatherings the glory of the Lord manifested sometimes.

In our gatherings in the 21st Century American church, I see pizza and hot dogs. There’s nothing wrong with pizza and a hot dog, but that cannot be our emphasis. It’s got to be the presence of God.

Last week, we looked at Acts chapter 3 and saw how one prayer meeting led to another prayer meeting, which led to a man that was at the gate called Beautiful.  He received a miracle from the Lord.  We watched this man get up and glorify God, walking and leaping and praising God! A move of God will change the perspective of people.

Acts 3: 11-26

Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His Name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the father, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our father, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.

There are six things in this passage of scripture that I want to look at with you.

1.The loyalty to the mission that Peter and John had and that the man who was healed ultimately has. The scripture says he clung to Peter and John.  You’ll see as we go to the next chapter that this man stays with them.  He doesn’t appease the people that are so antagonistic against the people of God.  An authentic move of God moves you into loyalty to His mission and His purpose.
Last week we talked about how Pew Research stated that about 64 percent of Americans call themselves Christians today.  That may sound like a lot, but just 50 years ago, the same research showed that 90 percent of people identified themselves as Christians.  I know that some of that has to be qualified in some senses because sometimes Christian means different things to different folks, but we know that true authentic Christianity is those who are sold out to the mission of God. However, this same survey said that the Christian majority in the U.S will disappear by 2070 and potentially cease to exist by 2075.  The Pew Researchers don’t know everything, but it is an indicator of the fact that Christianity in America seems as though it is not the typical norm that it used to be.

I’ve talked to some great men and women of God of days gone by and they’ll tell me stories about how it used to be. On Sunday nights, all kinds of people would actually come to church.  They said that was your evangelistic service.  You treated it like an outreach and invited everybody that you could.  It was so easy to pack the church house out on a Sunday night.  Now it’s like you almost have to have every dog and pony show in the country to gather a few people. You can invite people and invite people and invite people and they come up with excuse after excuse after excuse after excuse. The idea that church should be important in somebody’s life has declined more and more.  I know you see it as important, but in the country as a whole, it is declining.
The hope is that we see people that are engaged in the mission of Christ and engaged in the call of God and engaged in the kingdom of God.  The same God who formed the nation that would seek after the Lord, that would make Christianity and the pursuit of God their highest purpose and calling, is the same God who is able to do it again.  He’s the same God who changed the heart of the king of Nineveh and the entire nation.  We read those stories as if it’s a history lesson rather than a present day possibility. We read it like it’s something that God used to do, but it’s not something God will do. It’s like we think God’s not interested, or we’ve gone too far. We think now He doesn’t want to have anything to do with us because too many people are in the wrong place of power.

The powers that be are still subject under the hand of a sovereign God who could say today, “It’s done” and it’s all done.  Because I believe that, I pursue after this God that He might render some type of judgment and say, “America will not be lost, the American church will not be nominal.  It will not be full of lukewarmness.  It will be a place where my glory dwells, where my power is. It will be a place where my Son is glorified”.  

That’s the cry and the call of the heart to reach out to God and say, “Lord, do it!”  It’s going to take people who are loyal to the mission. We think the way to get people loyal to the mission is to make sure they are comfortable so they will stay, but I believe what will make people stay and become a part of the mission is when they have been touched, blessed, and transformed by the same mission. If that same power will touch you and bless you and minister to you and change your life today, it’s hard to walk away from the authentic. If the church will not be an inch deep and a mile wide, it will be a place where people can authentically encounter God.
Our church’s mission is to share the good news of Jesus with everyone everywhere. Part of our vision to do that is that we want everyone to have an encounter with the Lord.  I want you to have an encounter with God, not just hear about him. I don’t want you to just have an encounter with the church and good people, but I want you to have an encounter with the resurrected King and the power of His Holy Spirit. I want you to know that this is more than a story. This is more than people with the same ideology. This is more than us just standing behind a historical book. This is serving the one true, living God.  I believe a church can grow if people experience the authentic power of God.

 I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have good first impressions, but I am saying that the first impression we ought to make is an introduction to the presence and the power of God. I believe people should experience the goodness of the Lord. First impressions are good, but we don’t want to just impress them with our brand of coffee. We don’t want to just impress them with the type of snacks that we have. We don’t want to just impress them by the accouterments that we have in the foyer. What we want to impress them with is that the very same spirit that raised Jesus up from the dead is flowing through everything that we say and everything that we do that God might touch you with His Spirit today.

2.  Miracles should be common. They should not be a rarity in the assembly of the saints. They shouldn’t be for just those special days. The miracle working power of God never gets old to me. It’s never something that I witness and say, “Oh well, there was another miracle”.  I look at it with my jaw dropped and say, “Look at what the Lord has done among us again! Can you believe that this God, who is glorious and beautiful and pure and holy, has touched a human being and given them a miracle that nobody else could do for them?”

I don’t think that the call is to marvel at the miracle but marvel at the miracle-worker. Often we marvel at the miracle, but how many times have you marveled at the miracle- worker? I believe that every miracle that He does is not just for us to have a better life; I believe it is to help others to marvel at the One who works miracles.

3. It’s all about glorifying Jesus. I fully believe that some people have trouble getting healed because they want to be healed, not so that they could give glory and honor to the Lord, but because they’re done with pain.  I understand that.  Who wants to live life in pain?  Who wants to live life in a broken state? I hope you don’t, but if the Lord touches my life, I’m not going to say, “Well, I’m glad I don’t have to be in pain anymore.”  I’m going to shout loudly, “Look what the Lord has done!  He didn’t have to do it but He did.  He didn’t do it because I’m good; He did it because He’s good.  He didn’t do it because I deserved it; He did it because He deserves all the glory for it.”

Every time you get a miracle, every time you are touched by the Lord, you ought to stand up and testify.  In the Creations Department, they ask for people who are willing to testify of the goodness and the favor of the Lord.  As your pastor, I say that it shouldn’t be like pulling teeth. You shouldn’t say, “Well, when I get around to it.”  If you treat the miracles and the glory and the manifestation of the things of God like that, don’t expect another one. I know He’s good and I’m speaking on his behalf here.  He might correct me for that, but it’s no wonder that you seem to have one trouble after another and God says, “What did you do with the first answer I gave you?  You didn’t give me glory, and you didn’t give me honor or praise.  The newness of it wore off,  and you were all about your life again.

We ought to give God praise. I know it’s important to give him praise for the miracle you need. I believe in praising him beforehand.  The worship team should not have to be like dredging through mud to get you to worship, to get you to praise and give God glory. That should never happen, especially if you’ve been touched by the authentic. If you’ve ever been touched by the real; if you’ve ever been forgiven by the hand of the One who can cleanse your sin, then there’s already a praise inside of you.

Somebody says, “I praise at the drop of a hat.” I’m saying, “Give me the hat, let me drop it first. I want to throw down the hat and give Him praise and glory for all that He’s done.”  Sometimes when I get happy I’m liable to throw my shoe.

4.  The name of Jesus brings miracle power. Peter gives all the glory to Jesus. He said to them, “Why do you look at us as though through our own wisdom or holiness we have made this man walk?” He points to Jesus, who did it.  It’s by faith in His name. Why did Peter make that statement?

When he spoke to the man at the gate called Beautiful, he said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  He said that because in John 14:14, Jesus said, “If you ask anything in my Name, I will do it.”  

I know that almost seems surface level. I hear people saying it all the time in the church today, but have you ever stopped to understand that it is not a magic phrase? It has to do with the identity of His personhood, but it also has to do with the reputation of Heaven.  Jesus is the express image of the living God and as we use His name, the Bible teaches us that at His name God is going to move.  There’s going to be a response in His name. Often we use the name of Jesus flippantly, like something can happen and we’ll say, ‘ Oh, Jesus, what am I going to do now?’ We’ll just use him in hyperbole statements and I’m not saying that’s sacrilege.  It can be, but sometimes those types of phrases take away from us the power of that name.  When the Jews early on would speak about God, there were certain names of God that they would never use because of the reverence of the Holiness of that name.  My point is that there is something about reverencing the Name that is above every other name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee has to bow.  When you say the name of Jesus, is there a bowing of the heart or is it just a word we use all the time? Is there a sense of reverence? On Wednesdays, we’re studying the awe of God. I’m excited for seek week prayer this week. God has got our hearts moving in a direction where a sense of reverence and awe and amazement and wonderment is coming back to the hearts of people. They are getting a revelation that the Holy Spirit is imparting to us about who this God is that we serve.  Because of who He is, it’s sparking an awe in us.  I just wonder at times when we’re praying, is there that sense of awe when we speak the name of Jesus? I feel if we recapture the awe of Jesus’ name, when we pray and lay hands on someone, we’ll begin to see something happen and shift in the atmosphere.  Miracles will start moving when you start saying that with a different sense and nature in your heart about who He is.  

It’s not just mindlessness; it’s intentionality.  I’m about to invoke the Name over you that is so far superior to every other thing that I could ever speak over your life. I couldn’t put a sentence together that would sound more eloquent. I couldn’t put enough adjectives together to make a description.  I could not put enough emphasis. I couldn’t be expressive enough. I couldn’t shout it loud enough. I couldn’t declare it strong enough, but I’m about to say the name of the One who moved mountains, who opened the grave, who walked on the water, who parted the sea. When you have that sense of intensity about who He is and can recapture that, we’ll begin to see God do something in prayer.

Today, because of Jesus, you’re free. Today, because of Jesus, you have hope. Today, because of Jesus, you’ll go to heaven if you die. Because of Jesus, you’ll get healed and have a miracle. Because of Jesus, your marriage will be restored. Because of Jesus your joy will come back. Because of Jesus, your life will be transformed.  It’s all about Him!

Do you remember this song?

Jesus, Jesus holy and anointed one, Jesus

Your name is like honey on my lips, your spirit like water to my soul

Your word is a lamp unto my feet

Jesus I love you I love you….

There’s nobody like Jesus. Nothing like Jesus. He is the wonderment of heaven and when you speak his name, it is Heaven’s reputation behind that name. When he came from Heaven, he began to say things like the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto this and those weren’t just pretty statements. He knew about it because that’s where he came from.  He knew exactly what it was like in heaven. He said the Kingdom of Heaven is like this, in my father’s house it’s like this…. When you use his name, all of Heaven’s reputation stands at his name. Let’s not, as His church. misrepresent His name; let’s not misuse His name; let’s not dumb down His name, but let’s hallow His name; let’s glorify His name.  Let’s praise His name, but then let’s use His name because it is at His name that even the demons in Hell have to bow down. It is at His name that cancer has to bow. It is at His name that sin has to be removed. I’m telling you how this thing will turn around. It will be as a result of His name.

5.  Repentance brings refreshing.  We’ve almost turned this word “repent” into a vile word.  It’s calling people to change their course of action by changing the way they think. “Repent therefore and be converted.” The intention of God is that repentance brings times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.

This man who was healed is clinging to Peter and John as they go on into the temple for prayer time - this man who had been walking, and leaping, and praising God. People say, “Isn’t that the man that was out at the gate called Beautiful?”

They’re marveling at what has happened. Peter, perceiving that they’re just marveling at this man and looking at the disciples as though they had done something, directs it all to Jesus. Then he gives the prescription for all the issues that led up to this event.

He says something like, “First off, every one of you crucified Jesus. Now I know you did it in ignorance and maybe none of you ever took Jesus to do this.  The Romans and the Sanhedrin Council took hold of Jesus, but your sin and my sin took hold of Jesus.  Your sins and my sins crucified Him.”

He said, “You did it in ignorance”, but he’s not talking about cranial understanding; he’s talking about revelation. They might have had a mindset that the Messiah was coming and somebody might have told them that Jesus was the answer, but they were ignorant.

He says, “The reason you’re not ignorant now is that this dude that’s hanging on me is something authentic. Something has happened to this guy and you see it and you know it and you’re all amazed at it.  The reason that it happened is that through your ignorance and through your sin, you destroyed the Prince of Life, but it pleased the Lord to raise Him up again.  He raised Jesus up and He raised this man up, who is right here in front of you.  If you want this God, all you have to do is repent and a time of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord.

The Church must be a place that calls people to repentance, not because we like to see people cry and weep, not because we like to put people down for their sin. It’s because we know just on the other side of conviction; just on the other side of confession; just on the other side of repentance, there will be an open heaven that comes down on those people.  A refreshing from heaven will touch them like nothing they’ve ever experienced before and they’ll know the goodness of this God that we all talk about.

6.  Family Blessing.  Peter ties the fact that a prophecy came through Abraham that said that through him, all the families of the earth will be blessed.  In our core values, we say that we are family focused because the family matters to God. Without family, you don’t have a community.  If you destroy the family, you’ll destroy the community.

We’re in a season where the idea of God’s family is hated by humanity or at least by leadership. It’s seen as though the nuclear family of daddy, mommy and children is the enemy of the day. Now we know who’s behind that. The devil’s behind it, but that’s what the devil does. He tries to break down and undermine what God established as holy and right, like Adam and Eve in the garden.  The devil hated it, so he came to undermine it.

Now here you and I are, and now what we’re supposed to do is go back to the place of ruling and reigning.  We’ve been on the other side of the fall and we see what happens as a result of not doing it God’s way.  Jesus came and bought us back and re-established us as people of authority and dominion. He re-established us in garden-like fellowship. Now there is an expression that we’re supposed to live out of since we know the effects of the destruction of the enemy.  What we’re supposed to do is stand for the glory and the righteousness of God. That means we value marriage between man and woman. We value the fact that you’re supposed to work out your problems and stay together.  Divorce is not the first option -  healing, forgiveness, transformation is supposed to be first. As a result, he said through Abraham, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. How is that going to happen? He ties in the word “faith”. Abraham is the father of faith. God’s intention was families. He was going to bless the families through the faith in God that Abraham had.

Remember when Abraham’s faith was tested? He was asked by God to take his son, the one he loved, to go to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice.  The book of Hebrews says that Abraham believed God to the point that he believed that God was able to raise Isaac even from the dead.  If God wanted him to sacrifice his son, he would do it.  Abraham fixes the altar and takes the knife in his hand and stretches it back.  As he gets to the top, the angel of the Lord stops him and says, “Now I know…”

There comes a time in all our lives regarding faith and walking with God. There will be a “now I know” moment. This will happen, whether or not your family and the families around you who are watching you are experiencing the fuller things of God you say you believe.

Peter’s about to be tested tremendously in Acts 4 because of this miracle, but he does not bow and he does not bend. Remember, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand souls are added.  When this is finished, five thousand souls will be added.

Somebody’s watching you right now to see if there’s something authentic in your life.  This whole series called “Let’s Act Out” probably could have been titled, “Authenticity”. Let’s be authentic. In the spirit of the way it came to me, I was trying to figure out, “God, how do we make a difference in a world that’s so broken? How can I really let your light so shine? I feel like the Lord says, go back and see how it’s done.
-Lead Pastor, Michael Booker

7/23/23 Let's Act Out: The Holy Spirit and His Unstoppable Church

   We're in a series called Let's Act Out, and I want you to join me in the Book of Acts, chapter number three this morning. The series called Let's Act Out was prompted by the Lord from a cry of, “God, I don't want to live life without making a significant difference.  You've saved me and I know there's a place called Heaven. According to John 14, you went to prepare a place for me and for all of us who've been born again”. Jesus talked about “in my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you”. I've read the Book of Revelation to see about the city of God with the streets of transparent gold and gates of pearl, and a land where there is no suffering, no sorrow, crying or dying.
     Yet God has allowed my life and your life to continue in a world where the pavements of this life are sometimes hot, dusty, dirty, rocky and unmaintained, where there is a world of sickness and sorrow, pain and hurting and it begs the question, “ God, if you save somebody, why wouldn't you take us to heaven right then if that your goal was to get us out of suffering and pain?” The answer to that is that there's so many other people who've not yet made their calling and election sure, who are not where they need to be with God. My story of God's transformation and your story of God's transformation is a witness and a testimony to others that there is a God in heaven with grace sufficient enough for them, with power enough to transform them with a goodness and a love that they've never understood or seen in anyone else that pursues after them.
     I'm 50 years old. I don't know how many years I have, but what I do know is in the time that I have left, if God wants me to make a difference, then I don't want to make just some small difference. I know that sounds really humble, but I want to make the most significant difference -  that God would anoint my life and allow me to do so. I hope that that is your heart as well, that for the rest of your life that God would so use you in a significant way that it touches and transforms lives. So with that my heart's cry is coming,” Lord, I don't want to just do church like normal. I don't want to just do life like normal”.
     I believe the greatest addiction of the 21st century American church is complacency. I read a statistic the other day that says in the last 20 years, America has reduced from 90% of the people identifying as Christian to 64%, with the prediction of this Pew report saying that by the year 2070, so about 47 years from now, that Christianity will cease to exist in America. I think that's stupid to make that kind of prediction. But on the other hand, I also think it ought to be a wake up call because there was a time that the UK called itself a Christian nation and it now boldly declares that it is a non-Christian society. What happened? I believe what happened is that church and experience with God became a complacent liturgical formality rather than a passionate pursuit for God and the things of God. So from my heart, as much as it depends upon my life, I don't want to have a complacent life. I don't want to just have a good, comfortable Christianity so that my family is just happy.. I want to make a significant difference. And so in prayer, “God, how do I do this”?
     The answer came - “Go back and see how they did it in the beginning”.It's really easy to look at church today and look at a smokescreen of what you think is making a difference. Sometimes it's nothing more than a huge gathering of  more “worldlians", rather than the gathering of the saints, where the dynamic power of God resides and life change is happening everywhere.
     So I want to make a significant difference. So this series is birthed  out of a cry, “ Lord, how can we make a significant difference”? We're going back to the Book of Acts, and the series is called Let's Act Out, because we're going chapter by chapter, especially in these first few chapters of the Book of Acts when the church age began and this thing called Christianity shaped the face of the world. It so shifted cultures and ideologies and thought processes that there has never been anything like it in all of human history.
     Some think it's just a philosophical way of thinking, but others of us know that it is an encounter with the living resurrected Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that makes the difference.So the cry from Jeremiah 13, “Go to the old paths, wherein is the good way, seek those and walk in it”.That is the thrust of my heart, is to say, “God, how did you do it in the early days”?
     I believe the way that He did it will transcend cultures. I think the mistake of the modern church is to culturalize our message and in some ways our methodologies. I recognize people say, “Well, the message never changes, but the methods do”.  I would concur with that if you mean lights, chairs, carpet, air conditioning, clothing, those types of things, but I would not agree with that if you say, “Well, we've got to tone it down a little bit on this whole charismatic Pentecostal stuff.  We just got to tone down a little bit speaking in tongues stuff. We've got to tone down that prophesying stuff. We got to tone down that kind of stuff”. I don't agree with that. I believe that it's still the witness of Christ. The problem is that we have not sought the authentic -  people have just put on the show. Therefore, we've lost credibility in the eyes of culture. My hope is that we can go back, that we can seek these old paths.
     I know that this flies in the face of a younger generation, but I believe that there's a younger generation that is really looking for authenticity. I believe that they have seen the fake and they've seen the phony enough that they're willing to say if this stuff is real, if this Jesus is real, then there's got to be something more tangible than just the fake and the easy.
     And so my heart's cry is to say, “Oh, if we could just act”. I know “act” sounds like a movie. I don't mean to be plastic, but let’s go back to the Book of Acts and see something about what those early first Christians did in a world, in an antagonistic culture and a culture that was already filled with religion.
     Some would say, “Well, religion, why do you need another religion”? It is not religion. I don't care what anybody says. I don't care how many philosophical thought processes you have to argue that Christianity is a religion. It is a relationship. Oh, there's a way of Christianity that people have adapted to that is religious formalities. But I'm telling you, authentic Christianity is a relationship with the living resurrected King through the power of the Holy Spirit who will talk to you every day of your life, who will allow you to experience His full Holy Spirit, who will be present in your very time of need. So my heart is to recapture that. So right now we're in Acts chapter three.
     We're going to read down through verse ten. The Bible says, “ Now, Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and a certain man, lame from his mother's womb, carried whom they lay daily at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful to ask alms from those who entered the temple, who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms and fixing his eyes on him with John, Peter said, Look at us. So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold I do not have. But what I do have, I give you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up and immediately his feet and bones received strength.So he leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God”. Do you notice that all the people saw him walking and praising God? “Then they knew that it was He who had sat begging alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple, and they were all filled with wonder and amazement at what happened to him”.
     Slip up your hands, family, and let's pray for a moment. Father, I'm so thankful for the Word of the Lord. Now seal it forever in our heart and for the next few moments, would you give me words inspired only by the Holy Spirit? Would you lead and guide and direct me so that what is delivered to your precious people is the Word of the Lord and not the opinion of Michael?
But I pray, Father, that you would give us ears to hear, a heart to receive and anoint us to walk this out. We give you glory for it in Jesus name. 
     You know the last time that we preached, we preached from Acts chapter two and it was the day that the Holy Spirit came, the inaugural day of the empowerment of the church to begin its mission of going into all the world and preaching the gospel, being a witness of Jesus Christ. Just a chapter before this and with that great power and that great anointing, Peter steps out and he preaches that great message on that first day and 3000 souls are added to the church. The Bible says that they continued daily in the apostles’ doctrine, breaking bread, having fellowship with the Saints, going from house to house and worshiping in the temple. So we see their life groups meeting. We see their corporate worship time and them continuing on in the things of God. What a  powerful display of the grace of God!
     It was on that inaugural birthday of the church that we begin to read about all of the things that happened, at least what is recorded for us to be able to receive as the gospel message in the Bible of the works of the church. In fact, the book of Acts probably should be titled The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Church.That's really kind of what it is, but it's called the Acts of the Apostles, as though the apostles could have acted without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit  - they could not have. So this is what it is. And here's what we see happening. The result of Acts chapter two is a result of a ten day prayer meeting. Now you get over to the next powerful display of God and here they go to a prayer meeting again.
     I think that ought to give us a clue about the importance of prayer, don't you? Don't you think so? No wonder Jesus said my house should be called a house of prayer to all nations. There's something powerful about corporate prayer. There's something powerful about when the people of God get together to talk to God together about the mission that God has called that corporate people to, something powerful about when God moves. That doesn't negate personal prayer. Everybody ought to pray personally, but we also ought to pray corporately. And here they are. They are headed to the corporate prayer meeting. I love this because, again, it's from Acts chapter two, which tells me every encounter with God should lead to another encounter with God. The way to do that is, first and foremost, make prayer a priority.
     That's one of the things that we talked about in the very onset of this message, that if we're going to be a people of impact, if we're going to let God use like He wants to use us, if we're going to be church that really makes a difference, we’ve got to be a people of prayer and and we’ve got to catch prayer.
     Some of us crisis pray, we pray over our food, but do we really know how to supplicate before the Lord? Do we really know how to intercede before the Lord? Do we really know how to interact with God in prayer? And oftentimes I find that people pray out of their crisis, they pray out of their need, they pray out of their situation, but can you pray out of your calling? Can you pray out of a mandate from the Lord? Can you pray out of purpose? Can you pray out of praise? Can you pray out of God working inside of you in such a significant way? Can you pray out of an encounter that would lead to another encounter? So they begin with going to another prayer meeting.
     Now you have to think of this prayer meeting because when we preach some more now, we're going to fast forward here just a second. When we get on into this chapter, you'll recognize these guys get in trouble for what happens here. Because, again, even though 3000 souls had been saved, it did not stop the aggression that the Jews, the Sanhedrin council, the high priest, had against Jesus and his followers.
     So still yet in a very difficult atmosphere, in a very difficult setting, these people are willing to push through the trouble in order to get to the prayer meeting. Now, I want to lay something on your lap a little bit, and that is if you think that God's going to explode in a significant way, that it's just going to be easy to do and an easy price to pay, that's never going to happen.
     The point that I'm trying to make is that these guys recognized that, yes, there's people that don't like us and yes, there's people that would get mad at us for doing this. But we see the importance of prayer and corporate prayer together as one of the most important things that the church can do, that even if this gets us in trouble, that's what we're going to do 
     I'm thankful for the 20 or so that show up on Thursday night and the handful that show up on Thursday mornings for prayer and those that show up for Seek Week night of worship and prayer. But the truth is, it's usually a small crowd. And I'm not mad. I'm trying to help you to understand that if you don't engage in corporate prayer, you can't get to acting out like God wants you to act out.
     It's got to be something that is of great value and you don't get it to great value unless you get involved in it. You could get all the teachings of the world about prayer. But I like what Doug Small says, “Prayer is more caught than taught”. You have to catch the heart of prayer. You have to pray and then catch the heart of what praying is about - praying through and experiencing God in prayer. And when you're praying and you're seeking God corporately, when you're doing that in a way that you recognize that together, missionally, we're coming together for the glory and the will of God to be done through our community of believers. God does something in that. He gives you a greater appetite for it, and you have to press through.
     You have to press through the mundane to get to the encounter of prayer that I believe God wants to have with us. The prayer meeting goes from one prayer meeting to the next prayer meeting and I believe that every encounter should lead to another encounter. 
     His presence will continuously draw you into His presence. Thursday night, when we were talking about dismissing,  because it was an hour of prayer, Lydia was saying, “I just really don't want to dismiss in prayer because there's something about the presence of God that filled the atmosphere”.
     It's so powerful, it's so refreshing. It feels like home. I mean, it feels like this is what I'm intended for. This is what my life is about, is being in the presence of God. Prayer should be a lifestyle that we live, not a duty that we do, but a lifestyle that we live. And then there's something about the hour of prayer.
     Here's where we need to go with this. The power of the prayer meeting led them not just to an encounter with God, but an encounter with a hurting person. Because here's where ministry happens. It's beautiful to be in the presence of the Lord, but there's got to be a purpose for being in the presence of the Lord.
     Here we see the purpose in this man. Here he is. He's at this gate called Beautiful. The Bible says that he is carried there daily. This man who is hurting, he's lame, he's broken, he's damaged, he's despondent,but what he really needs in this is something authentic and I love this. I love Peter. Here he is in this setting, we get to read about where he's going up to this man who is a beggar.
     He's carried there by family members or friends or whoever sitting at the gate called Beautiful because they know that people are going to go to prayer. I love that, that there's an assumption that people are going to go to prayer but wish the church was known for that. I wish we were known for that. I've heard stories from years gone by.
      I don't remember if it was one of our overseers or something telling a story one time of the way that his dad actually was saved was that he, as a child, fell deeply sick and there was nothing that the doctors could do. So his father decided he had heard that the church down the street prays for the sick.It was a Church of God church. Not that the Church of God is the only one that prays for the sick, but he took the boy there. He was miraculously healed and the dad gave his life to the Lord. And that started the legacy of this individual. Now, I don’t remember who told that story. I just remember that portion of the story of the church being known for a place that prays for the sick and that there were sick people that were healed.
    Man, I'd love it if the notoriety of the kingdom in our community was a place where people are getting healed. And people are getting delivered set free, where miracles, signs and wonders are truly happening, not just a place that just holds good events. I'm not against good events, but I'm just telling you we can work events until our hands fall off, but if we don't have something tangible to that event that meets the needs of hurting broken people, we're missing it. 
    This man is hurting.maybe internally, you know, he's this outcast guy. And you know how it is when you see somebody that's homeless or dirty or or you're kind of unsure about. I don't know if you've seen this, but I've seen this with my own eyes.You kind of see people walking a little farther away and dodging them just a little bit. I notice that sometimes some of the homeless people downtown, sometimes people dodge them a little bit because they don't want to be asked for money. It can get annoying, I know. Or maybe some of the people at Wal-Mart every week, they're on the corner up there and it's trying to find an entrance to go out where you don't have to look at the person saying they will work for food.
   Now, this is not my guilt trip to get you to give money to everybody there, because that's not what happens here. That's not what happens in the story. What happens in this story is profound. But before we get there, notice that those who are hurting, lame, broke and damaged, despondent, don't have to be if they really can encounter the authentic. That places a necessity upon us as a child of God to recognize being filled with the spirit we understand our authority, we understand our assignment, and we really, truly have his power in us.
      I believe we ought to be people that don't just speak in tongues, but really have the power of God in our lives. Hey, I'm all for speaking in tongues because I recognize that it's communication with God and my mind is unfruitful. But in the Spirit you speak mysteries unto God. I love it that it's biblical. I love it that God uses it profoundly. And I'm not here to minimize it. But listen to me, it’s like the only thing that some people have is tongues. They don't have power. At least they don't recognize that they have power. The hurting needs to meet somebody that authentically is spirit filled, authentically has the goods, authentically knows their assignment.
     The hurting don't truly understand their needs. We got to understand that the hurting doesn't really, truly understand their needs. They think they know what their need is. But the truth is that everyone needs the Lord and everyone needs his touch. He thought money would help him. Would money help him that day? Yes, it would. But healing would help him for the rest of his life.    A touch of God would make a difference for him for the rest of his life.
     Oftentimes, I find we as the church look at people who are dealing with life and trying to cope and they try to cope with money, drugs. They try to cope with everything that they can. And sometimes we get mad at them and sometimes we feel like we're better than them and sometimes we get judgmental at them.
     But the truth is, the hurting doesn't really recognize what they really have need of. I like this. The words of the great preacher, D.L. Moody.I read this in a biography of him walking along the street side with another minister as they were ministering in a community, and the minister had actually had invited D. L. Moody into this particular town. And they were walking the streets. They were going to different places, inviting people to the meetings. And as they were walking down the street, they noticed over in a ditch a man who had passed out drunk.He had urine on him and had vomited everywhere. And the minister tried to avoid the guy and have D.L.  Moody to walk a little farther away. But Moody said he began to weep as he saw the man and he said something to the minister. He said,” There but for the grace of God, go I.”
     Like some people think that because we're so smart or come from money, or come from affluency, or we have better sense or we have more self-control, we think that we're so much better off and somebody like that ought to know better. But, friend, listen to me. You have no idea what they've walked through. You have no idea the life that they have had to live.You don't even know their psychological capacity. You know, sometimes I hear people say this all the time. Tell the homeless people to just get a job. There's so many jobs out there. Listen, do you know that half of the homeless people in our community suffer a psychological, mental illness and mentally they cannot get a job? I never thought of that.Yeah, it's easy to just say there's so many jobs out there. Go get a job. You know what I say? Get out of your car, Spirit-filled person. Go lay hands on them and let's see if there's a difference made that way instead of judging.
     The hurting doesn't even recognize the essence of their need. The enemy has blinded them.Do you not know that the Bible says that the god of this world has blinded them Lest the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine up on their path? They can't see. This man thought he needed money, but Peter knew exactly what he needed. He needed a healing. He needed something from heaven to transact into his life.
     A real encounter with the Lord through someone who truly has the goods is what this guy needed. The church must possess what it professes. Peter knew that he had been given something that Jesus had promised. . These points are not rhyming things. I didn't make these poetic for you to be able to remember them. I’m just trying to in some way speak from a place of just authenticity and just straightforwardness.
    I've taken preaching classes that say, if you give them three points, make it poetic, everybody can remember it. And that's been the mode of preaching. And I'm thinking, if everybody remembers it, then where's the power of God working through everybody? Peter knew that he had been given something that Jesus promised. So I love that.
       I love the fact that Jesus told Peter and told the rest of the disciples that this same spirit that's on me, I'm  going to give that to you and the works that I do, you're going to do greater than these. You'll be my witness when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. So Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, I promise you, I bet he had some money in his pocket. If you do a study of the culture, one of the things that had to be done is you go into the temple and Jesus pointed it out when the widow was going into the temple, when she gave the mite. In other words, there was an offering time that you had to give when you went into the temple.So I believe he had an offering in his pocket, but I believe he was unwilling to let this man be helped by some temporary means. He had recognized that Jesus had truly fulfilled his promise in giving the Holy Spirit. Now, all that he had that day was speaking in other tongues, but he knew that Jesus said the works that I do greater than these shall you do.
     So I believe He recognized this is the inauguration of the understanding that God's power, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in me and I've got to activate that by meeting the needs of humanity so that this guy and everybody that will see him from this point on recognizes that Jesus Christ, who was crucified and buried is alive and well, and that He is the Christ.
     The point that I'm trying to make here is that there comes a time when you and I have to recognize that if you have been baptized with the Holy Ghost, that there is something more than just the ability to speak with tongues inside of you. And you and I have to learn to activate the power of God into hurting humanity so that people will see clearly that Christ is truly who He says He is. 
     Jesus said, It's the power to witness. Oftentimes I see the church is pretty good at witnessing the story of the cross, but we are woefully weak in witnessing the resurrection. We tell the story about it. It's interesting to me when the Holy Spirit is identified as being in you and me.It's interesting that God gave the revelation that the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the one dwelling in you. I think that's significant because He could have said the same spirit that caused Jesus to walk on the water lives inside of you, and then we would all try to be water walkers or the same spirit that caused Him to multiply the loaves and fishes and we would be the greatest grocery supplier in the world.
     But the way the spirit is accentuated when He says it's the same spirit that raised Him from the dead is significant because multiplying loaves and fishes and walking on water is minuscule compared to raising from the dead. And the Lord saying that the same spirit that raised Him from the dead shall also give life - quicken you -  is something that should help us to understand that there should be no limit to the power that God is working within us and that we, as the people of God, should be willing to activate it through faith to be able to minister to human need.
     But oftentimes we think it's a way to have a good church service, and I'm all for it in a church service. Now we're going to have practice on it in a few minutes. I mean, you can't run the play without practice, right? How many in this room have been baptized with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with other tongues? Raise your hand and  just wave at me. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. The rest of you. I pray for you. You need to ask the Lord because this promise is for you, your children and your children's children, for as many as are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. It's for you. Make no doubt about it.
     If you're born again, this gift is for you. But I want to challenge those of you that raised your hand. I want to challenge you in this to recognize the possibilities of God working through you in a greater dimension, in the power of the Spirit.
     I remember this was several years ago, and I hadn't been saved very long and recently baptized in the Holy Spirit. I was working a job. I was at my job. And one of the ladies came to me and said, Hey, there's somebody out back that's asking for you. They didn't go through the office. They were out back. They had gone to one of the back doors, knocked on the door. Somebody answered the door and said they asked for me.
     So I went there. And it actually was my Aunt Sheila and my Aunt Sheila had my cousin in her hands when she was just little. I'm the oldest grandchild on my mom's side. Like I say, I hadn’t been saved very long and had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Lord had begun to work in my life. And she brought Miranda to the place where I was working. And what happened was that Miranda's feet were scaling like fish scales everywhere and just continued to flake. And she could hardly walk on those, but she was just little and, and she like came and she said, Hey, I was praying. Now this is when Sheila used to walk with the Lord. But she said, I was praying and the Lord said to bring this child to you, to pray for. You have to understand, I'm new in the Lord, pretty much. I've been baptized in the Holy Ghost, and I had maybe not a full understanding of how God was going to use my life in ministry or anything like that.
     So maybe I was struggling with the understanding of the presence of God, the power of God, all that sort of thing. Not not, you know, not not being raised in church as a little kid. Nothing to really measure by much. And I remember her bringing  Miranda and I'm like, okay, I'll pray for her and don't you know the Lord healed that child. The Lord healed that kid. But I'll tell you what it did to my faith. I mean, it built my faith so much.
      I remember our church at the time, just a little, small congregation. I'm newly saved in the Lord. And that year, Kingsway Charities was giving away turkeys for Thanksgiving. And the caveat to the people was that you had to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. You know what I did? I mean, I wasn't give me one or two. You know how many turkeys I asked for? I asked for 300. Like, what are you going to put these turkeys? We had these big 55 gallon plastic drums that we used for trash cans. I got those things and I washed and washed and washed and washed those things out until you could eat off of them. I asked the boss, could I get them there because I'm going to witness to people. I asked for 300 turkeys. I’ll give every one away. So 300 turkeys came my way. Oh, Lord, I could feel that sinking feeling - 300 turkeys, dear God. So I got those turkeys, put them in those tubs, and put ice all over them. But man, I went to witnessing. 
    You want to know what fueled that in me? I felt like my hands were loaded. I mean,I  prayed for this child that got healed. Now again, I recognize that it's as the Holy Spirit does it.I recognize it is His work. But I'm telling you what it did to my faith. I'm to tell you what it did to my heart that God showed up when I prayed, God moved when I asked Him to move in this situation. Well, dear God, everybody needs to know the Lord, give me 300 turkeys for a talking point, honey. I'm going to  dangle a turkey in front of somebody. Do you want this turkey? Be good for you on Thanksgiving. I'm going to tell you about Jesus before you get it.
      I'll never forget Brother Miller and I; we were going with our church cause they’d gotten some too. And some of us were going up and down the street and I remember we went up a few doors from the church, knocked on the door, and this guy comes to the door and it's my turn up. I think Brother Miller had taken the house before, so it's my turn, you know. So I got this turkey and I asked the dude, I said, Hey, man, listen, happy Thanksgiving to you. We're from the church down the road here. We’d love to be able to give you a turkey for Thanksgiving coming up. But I want to talk to you about Jesus. He said, I don't want to hear about your Jesus, and shut the door in my face. Didn't he shut the door in our face? And I'm like, Wait just a minute, dude. I mean, he opened the door. I was like, Really, dude, I’d  really like to give you this turkey. He said, I'll take your turkey, but I don't need your  Jesus. And I'm like, but I got to tell you about Jesus. Then I don't want your turkey and shut the door and left. I was disappointed. We were all disappointed.Dude shut the door in my face. But that didn't deter me. I'd seen the hand of the Lord. I've witnessed the move of God.
     I wanted other people to know the goodness of the Lord. I wanted them to experience the fullness of God's power and presence. I wanted them to know how good God would be if they would just accept the same Lord that transformed my life so radically. I just believed that people needed to know the Lord. This man at the gate called Beautiful was transformed because Peter recognized he possessed what he professed.
     Do you really have the goods? And if you don't, you got to stir yourself up in the most holy faith of God. You got to start stepping out. You got to believe. You got to step into the more full things of God. 
     Faith pulled this man to his feet. Peter knew that he had the goods,but when he had prayed for this man, the Bible says that he pulled him to his feet. He reached his right hand and pulled him up.
     God wants such power and faith in His church that we can pull hurting humanity to its feet. God wants us to raise up and truly be the church that He’s called us to be,  to make the impact that God has called us to make. It is to authentically have the gifts of God, the faith of God working inside of us and the results of God. Some people say, well, the results, those are left up to God. Yes, that's true. But I believe that we should be people that expect results. I don't pray for you with wishful thinking. If I pray for you with wishful thinking, then I'm not activating faith at all. I hear sometimes people will pray, God, whatever your will is.If you know what His will is in the Word of God, then don't fight with whatever. Fight with what is. If His will is spelled out in the Word of God, then pray His will. Activate in faith. It is faith that pleases God. It is faith that transacts from heaven. It's not the crisis of my need. It's not the tears that I shed.It's the faith that is released. When Jesus said. When the son of man returns, will he find faith? he wasn't just talking. He was stating the reality that there would be a day, a time when people's faith would fail them because of the circumstances, because of the criticism of the culture, because of the philosophical ideologies surrounding scripture? Is it true? Is it not true? Is it man's ideas? It's the living word of God and  only faith in the living word of God activated in a child that truly knows the Lord, truly believes God, truly filled with the Spirit. That's where the move of God will happen. We’ve got to be a church of great faith. If we're ever going to see God move, we got to have the goods and we’ve got to have great faith. We can't be just alright with mustard seed. We use that passage of Scripture as though Jesus is giving permission for mustard seed. That's the starting point. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. God is expecting expansion on that mustard seed. 
     If you get into the Word of God, because that's where faith comes from is the Word of God, you'll begin to experience the expansion of faith.  Life groups are not just something where you are obeying God in discipleship. While you're obeying God in discipleship and learning and growing in the Scripture, God is stretching your faith. He's increasing your faith with some capacity to take Him at his word, to believe Him completely, to act on it, to hurting and broken humanity, to see the outpouring of his presence.
    The last thing when I read this passage of scripture, it's astounding to me toward the end of that it says about the people that were there that when they see this man, then they knew that it was he who sat at the gate, begging alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple.They were all filled with wonder and amazement. They were all filled with wonder and amazement, not criticism and cynicism. Now they're going to question this man not because he was healed, but because of the Name that was used for his healing. The disciples are later going to get in trouble. We're going to get into that here in our next message, the disciples get in trouble not because this man was walking and leaping and praising God, but because Peter said, You know how this happened? This Jesus, Jesus did it. The power of Jesus' name, the power of who He is. That gets them in trouble with the religious leaders. But everybody else is in wonder and amazement.
     Are people in wonder and amazement of how God is using your life? Are they just cynical and critical because you're just a religious person?  God wants to use you. God wants to work in your life. The reason he left you here - remember where I started with this? The reason he left you here is to make a difference in humanity.
I recognize serving humanitarian needs is a good gesture and we should do that. We should clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and help where we can help in a humanitarian way. Those things are good gestures and they're good. And the Lord even tells us to do such, but only with great power. Can you give witness to the resurrection? Only with great power can you give witness to the resurrection.
    I believe that power needs to be displayed at Wal-Mart. Sam's Club, high school, college campuses, workplaces. Humanity is hurting. They're hurting for a myriad of reasons. But the culprit at the bottom of that is the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. For this very reason was the son of God manifested to destroy the works of the enemy, the works of the devil and the way that he does that is through Christians who recognize their relationship, their purpose and calling and they have the authenticity of his power working in them.
     We talked about some people being filled with the Holy Spirit at camp and that's powerful. But I had a conversation with Miss Jess this morning, our children's pastor. And we were talking about the kids that were filled with the spirit.  She said I wish that would be on the first night instead of camp leading up to the last night, seeing them baptized in the Holy Ghost and then send them home.  I wish it was on the first night so that we can help them to understand:  What do you do with this? Because this is not just some spiritual merit badge to fit into the Pentecostal club.
     This is supposed to signify to you and to me that that same spirit now is in you and on you and if you, through faith and you through purpose, will activate it, hurting people will find the help that they are so looking for. 
     I will tell you what I struggle with in prayer - preaching a message about helping others in a society that is all about self. This will be difficult and I really need your help because sometimes we think as long as it's not me and as long as it's not mine, and as long as my needs are met, and as long as my life is comfortable, I don't need to involve myself in the affairs of others.And I want to remind you that it's all about others. This mission that we're on is about somebody. The freedom that you and I found in Christ. This mission that we're on is about others knowing the resurrection and the life who is Christ.
-Lead Pastor, Michael Booker.


The Bible says in Acts 2:38 that Peter said to them, “Repent every one of you and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The verse right before that talks about when Peter had preached Christ to them. They were cut to the heart. When I preached this last week, I felt so strongly that somebody wanted to give their heart to the Lord that day, so I stayed in a salvation oriented altar call.  I waited, but no one lifted their hand. What I didn’t know was what was going on online, and somebody last week online gave their heart to the Lord during that time. We praise the Lord for that. I also got a card after the service that reported that someone in the service said that they’d rededicated their life to the Lord. They were cut to the heart. Something about the preaching of the Gospel, telling the story of Jesus, sharing the cross and the resurrection, causes people to be cut to the heart.
In this scripture, the conviction of the Spirit came upon their heart. They were walking one way - in Judaism. They were walking in the way that they knew, but they were cut to the heart when they heard the message about how Jesus came as the fulfilled promise of the Messiah who would come and pay the sin debt for humanity.  Peter said, “Here’s what you’ve got to do. Repent and be baptized”.

I don’t want to overcomplicate things, but I also don’t want to undersell things.  I believe in the American church, belief in God is undersold. It’s sold as though you just repeat a prayer only and then entrance into the kingdom is available.  That is true and I don’t want to add anything to salvation, but I don’t want it to sound like it’s just as simple as “repeat after me” and then you are saved.  When Peter talks to them he says, “So that you can receive this, you’ve got to repent and be baptized”.  

We are justified and saved by grace through faith. Peter says it's not enough to just repeat words to receive salvation and the Holy Spirit. He says, “It’s not going to be just ‘repeat after me’ and it’s all good.”  I know that might shake you, but we have been made to believe that all we do is repeat a prayer, and all is well, but it takes more than just repeating a prayer, according to Peter. It takes repentance.

It can be repeating a prayer if the prayer has authentic repentance coming from it.  Maybe some of you could say you were saved when you were in kids’ church gluing macaroni on a paper plate, and that could be.  But it also could not be unless you truly gave your heart to the Lord. Unless you dedicated your heart to the things of God and you were truly at that place in life where you were willing to say,” It’s all Jesus for the rest of my life”, you may not have been saved.

When Peter says repent, the word is a Greek word “metanoia”. Metanoia carries with it the idea of the change of mind.  It is a shift in thinking. Some have said repentance means to change directions.  It’s actually more than changing directions; it’s changing directions as a result of how you think.  If my thought process does not change to the view of the ways of God; directional change is something that I can do over and over again. If I don’t change the way I think, even though I turned and went this way, I could just turn right around and go that way again. If I don’t change the way I think about the sin that was taking me to a place of eternal condemnation; if I think that somehow some sin is okay or not that bad; then I’ll go right back to it.  Metanoia is the shift of thinking that says I’m not going to think the way that I want to think or think the way the cultural influences of life want me to think.  I'm going to think more godward. It’s the shift of mind.

Peter told them they had to repent and then he added to that the idea of baptism. I don’t want baptism to be a thing that’s just a revolving door; something that we just do every time we have a baptism. The entire focus of Peter in Acts 2 is to help people to understand that this is more than just simple, easy “believism”. This is an “all-in” statement. Repentance has to be an “all-in” statement expressed through baptism.  Baptismal waters won’t save you.  I do not believe in baptismal regeneration.  I believe the only way a person is born again is by the spirit.

Baptism is for the person who says, “I want to follow God. I want to make a display for all of humanity to see what I am doing”.  Baptism is illustrated by what we call immersion.  The word translated “be baptized” in this scripture in Greek is the word that means “to be immersed or submerged”.  We do immersion baptism for that very purpose - to illustrate what this repentance actually is supposed to look like.  The Bible says in the New Testament that we become buried with Him in baptism.

The reason people were cut to the heart when Peter preached Jesus is because he helped them to understand that their sin was what Jesus bore on the cross.  Every sin that every human being ever committed was put on Jesus, for He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. So if He took our sin, then the whole idea of baptism is because Jesus bore those sins and He actually took them to hell in judgment.  

What we recognize is that baptism shows that I was dead in trespasses and sin.  Every one of us has been a person who walked in sin.  What is the prescription for sin? What happens to someone who sins? The Bible says the soul that sinneth, it shall die.  The Bible says it’s appointed unto man once to die and after that, the judgment.

If you believe in the rapture, have you ever struggled with that idea? If the Bible says it’s appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment, then if I don’t die because I’m raptured, how does that scripture come to fruition? He says here’s the death that you’re required to die - it’s the spiritual death.  The soul that sins shall die, so when I get in the baptismal pool, what I am showing is that I am a man who has been under this assignment of death. Now Jesus took my eternal punishment for me, but so that I identify with Christ, I go down in the water.  Water has always represented a cleansing agent. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Baptism expresses my lifestyle of repentance. It is saying to the world that I died, but now have been raised to a new life in Him.  We are buried with Him in baptism, but we’re raised anew in the resurrection.  

Some of you need more than just a profession of faith. You need a demonstration of faith. God ensures you can demonstrate your faith by giving us the first prescription that must happen once we’ve been born again and that is to be baptized.
Peter told them to repent and be baptized. I hope you have been baptized in water and demonstrated to the rest of the world your act of repentance.  He said if your mind is really changed; if you really are a person who is in Christ, then the first demonstration for you is to be baptized.

In that culture, baptism was a very profound thing. That’s the reason John the Baptist could get a group of people around when he was baptizing.  It was of great significance. It would represent leaving one way of life and stepping into another way of life; leaving one religion and stepping into another form of religion.  Christianity is not the only religion that uses baptism as a means of demonstration.
Baptism can mean a lot of different things in different religions. It means one thing in Hindu religions and another thing in Islamic religions, but in the kingdom of God, it represents the life of Christ.  It represents that I’m going to identify with Christ completely because He who knew no sin took my sin.  I’m going to take my sin and let it be buried in Him.  He judged sin, but on the third day, He was raised to new life again. I’m demonstrating that this old man died, but a new man came back up.  The Bible says that if any man be in Christ,he is a new creature, a new creation. Old things pass away and all things become new.

On January 17, 1996, my wife got a brand-new husband. We’d only been married for three years. The initial honeymoon was great.  The first few weeks and maybe months were great.  Then she got a second shift job, and I worked a first shift job. We grew apart.  A lot of factors started weighing in and I was unsaved. I was drinking, and I was partying.  I was going down a bad path and so was she.  I’m taking my fair share of the blame and she has to own hers.  We were arguing and fussing.
 I’ll never forget - I bought my first pair of expensive sunglasses. I bought a pair of Oakley sunglasses and paid a hundred and nine dollars for those sunglasses in 1995.  I grew up very rough and actually spent a lot of my early days fighting. I’ve been in more fights than I can count.  There was a time that I was literally in a fight every single day.  It was hard to be my friend.  I was hard to get along with and I had anger issues. One day I came home and we got into an argument. To demonstrate my anger, I took those sunglasses, and I was going to throw them on the couch. Wonderful ball player that I am, I missed the couch, hit the wall, and shattered those glasses into about fifty pieces and it was ten thousand times worse. I had a foul mouth. I could make a sailor blush.
But on that night, January 17,1996, God radically saved me. From that day forward, my wife can witness to you she has never heard a curse word come out of my mouth.  I’m not speaking perfection here in the sense that I became this perfect guy because it’s not about me. I’m just telling you that radical conversion happened that day and she got a very different husband.  She got someone who was willing to be accountable where before I wasn’t willing to be accountable.

She worked the second shift, and I worked the first shift and a lot of stupid things were happening. If cell phones would have been out in those days, I probably would have never given her the passwords to anything that I had.  Now I couldn't care less what she looks at of what I have. I have zero to hide. There’s nothing on my phone that she can’t access. Sometimes it’s frustrating, not because I have anything to hide, but when I want to use it she’s got it!

She got a different guy. God radically changed my life. He changed the way I spoke to her, the way I treated her, how I thought about her. I believe when you get in Christ, there has to be a transformational difference. I believe that’s what Peter was saying - you’ve got to demonstrate that something died and something else came to life again. You should not be the same as the day you got saved two or three weeks or a month afterwards.  I’m not saying there’s not a sanctification process.  It’s not like all of the sudden I never got angry again or even knew how to deal with anger.  I got angry again, but I never cursed.  I never laid my hands on her, but one day about two or three months after we were saved, we were going to church one Sunday morning. You know the devil likes to get on you on Sunday morning before church.  If you and your spouse are going to argue, beware of Sunday mornings!
I remember getting up that Sunday morning. I don’t know what happened that upset me, but I got so upset that I hammer-fisted the washing machine and dented the top of the machine.  I busted all the buttons off of my coat that I had on and that made it that much worse.I don’t know why, but when I got mad, I busted my own stuff.  I’ll never forget the conviction that fell on me that day.  It’s as if God was saying, “You have a new identity. That is not you anymore”.  I felt terrible literally all week long.
On Friday nights, we typically went to a prayer meeting at Chris Aker’s house. That Friday my wife asked, “Are you going to the prayer meeting?”. I said, “No, I’m not”. That might have been an indicator that things were going awry, but I said I wasn’t going.

I said, “I need to take care of this. I am not going to have these fits of anger and rage anymore and I need to get hold of God. You go right ahead.”  She left, and I put on some worship music. I turned it up a little where I could hear it and I went and opened the front door and I went and opened the back door.  If you were my neighbor, you’d have thought this is a crazy fool over here. I opened both doors, and I went and got in the middle of my house. I fell on my face before the Lord and I said,” God, that’s not who you’ve called me to be. I feel the strength of your conviction all over me and I ask you for mercy”. Then I rose up, and I said, “ Every demon and devil that has been passed down generationally that’s been trying to destroy me with this type of anger and this type of brokenness - I want you out of my house right now. So from this point to my front door, I want you out of every part of my house. I want you gone. This is not who I’m going to be. My kids can’t grow up under this. My wife can’t endure this anymore.”  I went to my back door, and I shouted. I ran through my house. I spoke in tongues, I twisted, I twirled, and I did everything that I possibly could. She came home that night from the prayer meeting and I asked how the prayer meeting was. She said it was amazing and asked me about my prayer time.  I told her, “Baby, it was fantastic. God has set me free.  The Lord has touched my life.”  

I’m trying to help you understand this thing has to be more than just me repeating a prayer and living the same life. What’s got to happen is that something has to die and a brand new life has to come up.  Any time that old nature has tried to raise its ugly head, you have to remind it that it’s dead.

Maybe you’ve been to church all your life and maybe you’ve been a pretty good person. Maybe though, you never thought of repentance as metanoia  - the transformation and the importance of baptism demonstrating the fact that you’ve been transformed into a new creation in Christ Jesus.

 I’ve been baptized four times.  The first one was right after I was first saved. Then I was baptized again in the Jordan River in 2007 in Israel. A few years ago on New Year’s Eve night I was baptized because the Lord had done something in my heart that was so significant I felt that I needed to be baptized to demonstrate that I wouldn’t be the same after that moment. Something in me died so that something could live. Then after my sabbatical I was baptized, not as a demonstration of repentance.  It was just the fact that I knew it was a new day after we’d gotten past the COVID thing.  I don’t know if it was the stress of those days or what, but I was questioning.  At that time, I’d been the pastor here for 19 years.  The dream that God had put into my heart had not yet come to fruition.  I’ve been offered multiple churches, and I’d been asking God if I missed His will somewhere. Was I supposed to be somewhere else, doing something else in a different city?  To know I would be leaving to do that would feel like something so incomplete. So I took a month and sought the face of the Lord and He renewed and refreshed the vision in my heart.  I read a book at that time called Dream Killers. It talked about those things that eat at the vision and the call of God on your life. If God calls you to something, it isn’t like it happens tomorrow. It takes time walking it out.  

I’d had this vision since I was 30 years old and became the pastor of the church with that first Sunday having 18 people.  I had this vision in my heart, but over time, over issues, I began to think maybe it was just youthful zeal. Maybe it was this I was supposed to do; maybe it was that. Maybe I got it wrong.  Maybe I didn’t hear from the Lord correctly. So I read the book Dream Killers and began to see these little things that would just eat at the call, the vision, and the purpose of God. I was shrinking it down in my mind. I was almost at a place to either settle or run somewhere else under a different assignment. At the end of that time, the Lord really shook me and I felt that being baptized showed that God had taken care of that frustration and that discouragement and it just needed to be washed away. Maybe you need something washed off.  Water just represents that fact that God’s doing something.  You need a change of mind - a metanoia moment of repentance.
-Lead Pastor, Michael Booker