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Pastor Chris Paavola: My name is Chris Paavola. I’m a senior pastor here at St. Mark. Great to be with you guys. Usually we get right into a message, but what I’d like to do today is a little bit different.

I’d like to start with a prayer, and it’s not my prayer, it’s actually a prayer from the Psalms about our topic today, and this prayer is just so perfect. I thought, well, let’s just read this together as our opening prayer and then we’ll get into the message. So I invite you to say these words with me from Psalm 68. Summon Your Power. God, show us your strength, our God, do as you have done before. Heavenly Father, we ask that you would make those words true among us, that you would fulfill your word even in our midst, but in our lives that you would show us your power. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.

So we are again, my name is Chris. We are in the series called Prosper the City, and it’s not really a series though, it’s more like a campaign that we’re doing where we are breaking. We have 16 different teams that we’ve broken into. So exciting and we’re taking three weeks to plan a service project on the fourth week that make an immediate impact in our community. Good job. You guys are doing great. And actually this is serve week for most of our groups. The next six days you guys are knocking it out of the park and rocking our community and serving them in the next six days and we’re so absolutely excited, so grateful for you guys to be doing that. And that’s this week, the next six days. And what we’ve been doing each week in this series is looking at a principle of service from scripture that we can talk about to help us prepare and plan and then execute our service projects.

But also these are principles of service that not only can we apply to our projects for prosper the city, but also we can apply to our daily lives. So in week one we talked about how there is power and small things done with great love and that was a great principle that we can apply. Then in week two we talked about how you can serve where you are while you wait for where you want. If you’re in a season where you’re looking ahead and you wish you weren’t, where you could still serve where you are and there’s an importance and a value in that. And then last week, last week we talked about this idea where to serve. We really have to know who are we called to serve? Who are you specifically called to serve? Really important question because there’s only so much oil to go around and if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin and you’re pulled in eight different directions and you don’t know what to do and everybody is needing something from you, it’s a really important concept for us to understand who are you called to serve and then ranking the people in your lives.

Again, there’s only so much oil to go around. Really important concept. Now admittedly as I was writing that message and talking about overwhelmed people, I felt my fingers kind of going a different direction and I was like, it’s already a long sermon last week. We’re not going to go there. But because there was another group of people I wanted to talk to, not the overwhelmed people, but somebody who’s related like a cousin, different name, but they’re related and it’s the people who feel powerless, exhausted, running on fumes. You’ve just got nothing left. This is the single mom who is working. And then you come home and you take care of the kids the best you can and don’t have any energy for anything else, and you just kind of feel like you’re stuck in this lot of life. This is the person whose bank account is overdraft, overdraft, overdraft.

This is somebody especially, and I’m speaking delicately here, but if you’ve recently come under a health diagnosis where maybe your vitality has been robbed from you, maybe you’re in a later season of life in the final chapters and you’re like, I’m just so exhausted. I don’t have the energy I used to have, I can’t get around. I used to get around and I just feel powerless. Well, today, today is for you. That’s the principle of service we’re going to be talking about. And what we’re going to be looking at is this concept that God promises for his people. This concept of power, it’s all throughout scripture and this is going to be a little bit of a different message. Usually I like to camp out in one section and go really deep into it and pull out concepts and really just saturate ourselves in one specific text.

Today what I’d like to do is kind of an overview of all of scripture and do a tour of this word power throughout scripture. Because when we do and we step back and we take a look at how power is at work and all of scripture, it really starts to highlight something where we can pull out a concept and apply it to our lives. Because this idea of power is everywhere. If you just open the Bible everywhere between table of contents and the concordance and maps in the back of your Bible, everything in between it, it is just power is it’s everywhere, even in the beginning. So most if you study world religions and I had to become a pastor, that’s one of the things they have you do is just to be able to understand them and speak to them. But in most world religions, if not all their origin stories, there’s chaos or disorder and then their God or Gods create order out of that.

So there’s chaos and then order. And that’s most world religion’s creation account and in our faith, in our scripture, yes, that’s true, God creates order out of disorder. That’s what he does. But our God does more. Our God is the God who creates everything out of nothing, nothing. And he gets everything. In fact, the book begins, your Bible begins saying in the beginning the world was dark, formless. And he said, let there be light. And there was lights and the heavens were created, the stars. And it’s an emphasis on his power. He creates all of this. He has the power to create all of this with just a word. He doesn’t conjure it up and fight and fabricate something He just says, let there be and there be was is be. And then he continues creating with just a word. He creates the heavens and the earth and oceans and all the creatures therein, all of them.

And then all of those creatures, all of those creatures, he sustains them with life. He is the one that gives them life and breath in their lungs, him in the Bible it says that we all in him, we live and breathe and have our being and over and over scripture just observes the created world and stands in awe. And it always talks about his power. Your power, oh God, your majesty, your might accomplish this or what we see in Psalm 1 47, he determines the number of the stars he gives to all of them. Their names. Great is our Lord and abundance in say it power. And it’s all about his power to do this. And not only does he create it all, but he orchestrates it all and marshals it all in order, not in disorder. He balances the earth right at the right angle and right at the right distance, he marshals and numbers the stars.

He frames the seasons, he tames the oceans. He orchestrates the rain that waters the earth. This morning that was his doing. His power made it happen. And then scripture starts to talk about how not only does he have power to set the natural order of things, he has supernatural power to disrupt that order anytime and he has power over its He has power to not only put the oceans in place but to separate the oceans. He makes fire fall from heaven. He can walk in water, multiply bread that is superseding the natural order of things. And in scripture, every time it happens, it makes this observation whether he’s giving a command to shut the mouth of lions or he is giving a command to calm the wind and waves, or he is giving a command for the grave to release its captive. Every time people go, who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him. Who is this? Even the grave submits to him the power of death beneath him. That’s how great and awesome. That’s why we sang this morning, my God is bigger and better and greater and stronger. It’s power on display. It’s awesome. And then what’s really cool is God makes a really specific point to call out the other gods of the nations all throughout, especially in the Old Testament, all throughout scripture, and he confronts them.

He has showdowns with the supposed gods of other nations. Like in Exodus, you’ve maybe heard the story of the Exodus. The people of Israel are rescued from Egypt, right? Every one of the plagues that were done in Egypt were done in confrontation with one of the Egyptian gods, the plague in the river, confronted the river God, where he confronts the fertility God, where he confronts the harvest God, every time he defeats them. And there’s just kind of this message of nah and nah, my God can do this. Your God, can’t. We see God’s like mole and mole tipped over in the temple rescued from Babylon and God defeats them. My favorite example of God facing off with another God of a nation is when he faces off against Baal with the prophet Elijah. There’s Elijah, he’s a prophet of God. And then there’s all of these prophets of Baal and they want to see who’s God is the God whose is the Lord.

And here’s the setup to the show down. They’re about to have in one Kings chapter 18, one Kings chapter 18. There it is. You call on the name of your God and I will call on the name of the Lord my God, and the God who answers by fire, he is God. And all the prophets of Paal are like, okay, we’ll do this. And so there is Elijah, little Elijah just himself and all these prophets of Baal and they have an offering set up and whoever sends fire from heaven to consume the offering, that’s the Lord. That’s the God. And so all these prophets of Baal start and then he honestly starts mocking them because nothing happens. He’s like, maybe your God is sleeping, pray louder, dance harder. Why can’t he? Where is he? Where’s your God? Literally. And then with just a word, which is what prayer is, it’s the same performative word of God that makes lights from darkness, right? He says just a word and God sends fire from heaven and consumes the offering because he’s greater than even Baal.

Powerful, powerful stuff. And so when God chooses people that he wants to demonstrate his power, it shouldn’t surprise us when we flip through scripture that we see time and time again unqualified and ill-equipped people being called into service of the Lord all the time. He calls a stutterer, a man with a speech impediment and sends him to be his spokesman to Egypt. He calls a cowardly man hiding in a wine press to be a captain of his armies. Gideon, he calls a shepherd boy, defeat the Philistine who’s defying the armies of the living God. He calls a fisherman who establishes church and be its leader, calls a murderer, preach his message of good news to the Roman Empire. This man named Paul again and again, he calls these underqualified, disqualified ill-equipped people to be his ambassadors. Why? Because if they’re really strong, they’re really wise, they’re really capable, the really rich, then we can’t tell when God’s works or when their work stopped and God’s work started, they have an excuse. Well, that only happened because you’re really rich. That only happened because you’re really smart. That only happened because you’re really powerful. That wasn’t God. And I love one of my favorite lines in the Book of Acts is that they’re looking at all of these incredible things that are happening in the Pharisees. These really educated men turn to one another and go, these are ordinary and uneducated people. Exactly. That’s who God chooses. Because when an ordinary and uneducated person, when a disqualified, unqualified, ill-equipped person does something remarkable, everyone goes, how did that happen? And the only explanation is you go, God did it. His power is on display. It’s God not me.

That’s why Paul, when he’s talking about how he’s preaching this message, he, he’s not a very good speaker. And he says, I didn’t come to you with wise and persuasive words, but a demonstration of the spirit’s power that your faith might not rest in me, but on God, credible. And so if it’s true all throughout scripture, we shouldn’t be surprised if it’s true for us. And in fact, this man named Paul who’s talking about like, okay, so he’s this murderer and this religious person that God chose be to spread his message throughout the Roman Empire, Paul, Paul, Paul, the Apostle Paul, okay, that guy, he grew up highly educated, very wealthy and very religious. And in fact, he prided himself about how good he was. And if you would’ve asked him while he was at the height of his pharisaism, if you would’ve said, Hey, do you know God’s power? He would’ve said, yeah, I know God’s power. I know what it’s like to experience God’s power. And he could have listed you like a long, lengthy litmus of all the things of the power of God in his life.

But then God knocked him off his high horse. Quite literally. He met and experienced the risen Jesus and it changed everything and all of these things that he thought were so important, calls them rubbish after he met Jesus. And God begins to do remarkable things through him. Not a very good speaker. He says, I’m not eloquent with my words. I’m bold when I’m away, but when I’m with you, I’m timid. But God chose him to be his ambassador, to be his spokesman. And as Paul is watching the church grow and watching the church exploding the power of God at work within him and the demonstration of the spirit’s power in every church that he plants throughout the Roman empire again and again, he starts to realize this is about God’s power in my weakness. That’s what he writes. And so he writes to this church in Ephesus and he’s like, I want you guys to know this power that I know.

I thought I knew it, but I didn’t know it. And I want you guys to know this power too. And he prays these words and he’s praying these words for the small group of people in this town called Ephesus. But it’s a prayer that he has for you too. Take a look at this from Ephesians chapter one. I pray that you may know the incomparably great power available to all, who believe to all, who believe in him, to anyone, this incredibly incomparably, matchless, unrivaled power that is available to you. This power is the same mighty strength that God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead. He’s saying this power that God displayed to even raise Jesus from the dead is at work and available to you. You could tap into this power because he has risen.

You could tell who was on spring break for Easter, he has risen.

Response: He is risen indeed

Pastor Chris Paavola: You know what? Honestly, you did pretty good. You did better than I expected. That first time. I was like, wow. They were like, listen. They’re like listening. You guys. You guys did really good. Yeah, he has risen. And that resurrection power is available to you in your life. That’s what he wants you to know. That power to overcome the grave, you can tap into that on a Tuesday afternoon and this power that raised Christ in the dead and seated him at his right hand and the heavenly realms, and look what he does again, it’s all about how he’s supreme. He’s high. He’s lifted up far above all rule and authority, far above all power and dominion, far above every name that is ever going to be invoked, ever in the history of ever, ever, ever.

Not only in the present age, but also in the age to come. That’s how powerful this power is that’s available to you. And Paul talks about this enough, and eventually people are like, Paul, how do we tap into this power? And he writes about it in this letter to a group of people meeting in Corinth, and he talks about this. Now, here’s what we know. We don’t know the specifics, but we know he had some kind of an ailment or some kind of a pestering thing that wouldn’t leave him alone. Maybe it was a cough or maybe it was a speech impediment. We don’t know, but he calls it a thorn in his side. There’s this thorn in my side. There’s this rock in my shoe. There’s all this surpassing greatness is happening. All these incredible things being done. And to keep me humble, there was giving me a thorn in my side, this messenger of Satan two, and the word is translated like torment or oppress or buffet or fisticuffs me to, there’s this messenger, this thorn in my side, and he prays to God, God take away this ailment, take away this thing that is weighing me down, that bothers me.

And then God finally responds to him in one Corinthians two, two Corinthians chapter 12, my grace is sufficient for you, for my say it power is made perfect in weakness, not your strength, Paul, not your abilities, not your wisdom, not your riches. No, no, no. My power is made perfect in your weakness, Paul Getson. And so he makes this conclusion. Okay? If that’s true, therefore I will boast. I will boast, I will brag all the more gladly about my weaknesses, my limitations, my inabilities, my I cans, that Christ’s power may rest on me. There’s the secret. My friends, see if it’s our wisdom and our strength and our abilities and God’s kind of our copilot, just kind of helping us out where nobody can tell, where our power stops and God’s power begins. But when we serve in our weakness, suddenly, suddenly God’s power is fully on display.

And the only explanation is this happened by the power of God. That’s the only explanation we got done with our series called Shape, where we were talking about how you should serve in your strengths. You should serve in your strengths and strengths finder, and what are your abilities? What are your passions or your networks? Who has God made you to be? That’s who God designed you to be. We want you to serve in your strengths, and that’s true experience. When you serve in your power, you experience God’s purpose. True. That’s why it’s a really important concept. When you serve God in your power, you experience his purpose. It’s true, but it doesn’t stop there. God calls you out of the comfort zone, out of the power zone and asks you to serve him in your weakness. And when you serve God in your weakness, you experience his power.


When you serve God in your power, you experience his purpose for you. When you serve God in your weakness, limitations, failures, you serve anyway. You experience his power in your life. So single mom in the room who is exhausted at the end of the day, and you’re the only one who can run the kids to all the practices or the person in the room who’s got overdraft, after overdraft, after overdraft in your bank account, the marriage that’s hanging on by a thread, the senior citizen just can’t get around like you used to, Joyce. You’re exactly where you need to be to experience God’s power. Do not use it as an excuse to opt out of service. Is this thing on? Do not use it as an excuse to opt out of service, embrace your limitation and serve any way in the place where God calls you and you’re uncomfortable and you’re unqualified, because that’s where his power shows up time and time again.

Okay? I think we have a mindset of Super Mario Brothers, right? Like we’re running and we hit the thing, and then that’s the Mario jumping by the way. You like that? And then the mushroom comes, or the fire plant power thing comes, and then we have power, right? Some of you guys didn’t play Mario Brothers, I can tell. Okay? Pack man. For the older generation, there’s the pellet, and you get the power pellet, right? And then you attack the ghosts, right? Because you powered up. You’ve got the power. Now, that’s how I think we think about Christian service. Well, God’s going to power me up to do this thing and then I will serve. But that’s the opposite of what we see in scripture. Time and time again, we see people stepping out in their weakness, and that’s when the power of God shows up. Hey, here’s what I want you guys to do, okay? I want you to walk around a city and blow some kazoos.

Then the wall’s going to fall down and they’re embracing their weakness. They look like idiots, but they do it anyway. They’re mocked. But God shows up with his power. God shows up with his power, not before they’re in the fiery furnace to rescue them from the fiery furnace. He shows up with power when they’re in the fiery furnace. Peter, God, give me the ability to walk on the water. And he’s like, all right, come on. He’s got to get out of the boat. Embrace your limitations, my friends. Do not use your age, your strength, your limp, your bank account, your autism, your divorce, your addiction as an excuse. Serve God even in your weakness, so you may experience his power.

Isn’t that what we see in the life of Jesus? Here He is powerful. But then he comes and he is born in anonymity, raised in poverty, serves in humility, all the way to ultimate symbol of weakness. Cross that cross that you wear around your neck, that you tattooed on your arm. You realize that’s like an instrument of torture. It’s a symbol of shame, of subjugation death. But Jesus served God in the ultimate weakness and in doing so, transformed the cross and to the symbol of power and love because it has the power to save you and me from our sins. This cross goes from this shameful, foolish, disgusting thing in the eyes of the world to being a symbol of hope and love and power.

We started this message, this time together, praying a prayer, asking for power, but having taken this tour of power through all of scripture considering power for just a few moments together, I think we could pray the prayer again and it will mean a little bit more. So as we pray these words from Psalm 68, verse 28, 1 more time, get your limitation in your mind. What’s your limitation? Embrace that limitation. What’s your weakness? What’s your failure? Get it in your mind. Let’s pray. Summon your power. Show us your strength, our God, do as you have done before we pray, heavenly Father, first of all, we just stand in awe, your power that is on full display. Every morning we wake up, the sound of birds and the rain and the stars. Your power is on display all around us, and we are too distracted to notice it. Forgive us, oh God.

And then we confess God, that we are often consumed with our own strength, our own ability, blinded by our own power, and that because of this, we don’t rely on you. We trust in other things. We trust in our bank account or our ability to get things done. We fail to trust in you and your power. God would confess all of our sins to you, the things we’ve done and the things we failed to do, and we ask about the power of the death and resurrection of your son on a cross and from a tomb that you would forgive us. In Jesus’ name, we pray all of this, amen upon this, your confession of your sins and this, your confession of your powerlessness. I, by virtue of my office, is a called and ordained servant of the word, your pastor. I announce to you that your sins are forgiven. I forgive you all your sins. The name of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit.