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When I as in seminary getting my Masters of Divinity I was required to write and preach several sermons. This one right here was one of my favorites for so many reason.. God has already fought the battle for us, we just need to TRUST!!!

Todays journey is going to start with a story that I read from a book called, “Against an Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives,” by Ronald Rolheiser. I just ask that as you read this story that you meditate on it and imagine yourself in the midst of the story. John was a pheasant in Crete who deeply loved his wife. He enjoyed tilling the soil, feeling the soil under his feet and feeling the warm sun on his back as he worked in the fields. He loved the planting, the harvesting, and the very smell of nature. John loved his wife, his family and his friends, and he enjoyed being with them. And he especially loved Crete, his beautiful island! The earth, the sky, the sea, it was his! This was home. One day John sensed that death was near. What he feared was not what lay beyond, for he knew God’s goodness and he lived a good life. No, John feared leaving Crete, his wife, his children, his friends, his home, and his land. So, as he prepared to die, he grasped in his right hand a few grains of soil from his beloved Crete and he told his loved ones to bury him with it. John died, awoke, and found himself in heaven’s gates, the soil still in his hand and heaven’s gates firmly barred against him. Eventually St. Peter emerged through the gates and spoke to John: “You have lived a good life, and we have a place for you inside, but you cannot enter unless you drop that handful of soil. You cannot enter as you are now! John was reluctant to drop the soil and protested: “Why? Why must I let go of this soil? Indeed, I cannot! Whatever is inside those gates, I have no knowledge of. But this soil, I know…it’s my life, my work, my wife, my kids, it’s what I know and love, it’s Crete! Why should I let go for something I know nothing about?” Peter answered: “When you get to heaven you will know why. It’s too difficult to explain. I am asking you to trust, trust that God can give you something better than a few grains of soil.” But John refused. In the end, silent and seemingly defeated, Peter left him, closing the large gates behind. Several minutes later, the gates opened a second time and this time, from them emerged a young child. She did not try and coax John into letting go of the soil in his hand. She simply took John’s hand and, as she did, it opened and the soil of Crete spilled to the ground. She then led John through the gates. A shock awaited him as he entered heaven. There, before him, lay all of Crete.

When I read that story I could not help but think, isn’t this story true for our lives? Most, if not all of us live our lives in complacency. We feel safe and comfortable with the things that we have and more often than not, we hold on tight to these things because we do not trust God and His promises. There are many people in this world, including our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who are walking around trying to find their way. They search for someone or something to make sense of their lives and they seek to find a path that will lead the way. Doors that they had thought were open were suddenly shut. Obstacles that they thought they had conquered suddenly reappear at greater heights and the faith and trust they once had in life suddenly dwindles to a little flame that is about to be blown out. People are lost, wondering in darkness trying to find some sort of way that will lead them in the direction of hope and light. What many do not know, or even forget is that there is light and there is hope in Jesus. God promises us that He has a plan for each of our lives and He promises that He will pave a path for us that will lead us to a place we could never possibly dream of or imagine.

Today’s message is called “Paving our Path” and the passage of Scripture is Isaiah 45″1-3:  “This is what the Lord says to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that the gates will not shut: I will go before you and I will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored up in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Isaiah was a prophet who’s purpose and role was to call the nation of Judah back to God and tell of God’s salvation through the Messiah. His role was to speak for God, confronting the people and their leaders with God’s commands and promises. Like most prophets, Isaiah spoke a difficult message to the people and told them that they needed to turn from their lives of sin and warned them of God’s judgments and punishment. Isaiah, who is considered to be the greatest prophet, ministered for sixty years and then was executed. The first half of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, contains harsh criticism, condemnation and judgment as he calls Judah, Israel and the surrounding nations to repent for their sins. Judgment has taken place and the havoc of the Babylonian empire resulted in a long bitter exile in Mesopotamia, an exile that was orchestrated by the Lord’s own hand.   The second half of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, are filled with consolation and hope as Isaiah unfolds God’s promise of future blessings through the Messiah.

The Lord called on Cyrus, the leader of the powerful Persian Empire, to resettle His people in their land and to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. Cyrus was God’s anointed instrument chosen to bring the Babylonians to their knees. God knew that Cyrus would allow His city, Jerusalem, to rebuild, and he knew that Cyrus would set the exiles free without expecting anything in return. The night Cyrus marched his army into the empty channel to free all that were held captive, God went before Cyrus and left the gates of Babylon open. The Lord went before him, giving entrance to the cities he besieged. The Lord also blessed Cyrus with treasures, which had been hidden in secret places. God foreknew Cyrus, He called him by name. Even though the true God was unknown to Cyrus, the exact fulfillment of these prophesies, had shown Cyrus that Jehovah was the only true God. God paved a path for Cyrus. He paved a path so that He would know that there was only one true God. A God that would level the mountains, cut through bars of iron and break through gates of bronze so that Israel would prosper.

Now take a moment and ask yourselves this question. Do you think that God did this to show off? Do you think God was saying,” Hey look what I can do…I can open doors, level mountains, and cut gates of bronze. Do you think He was saying, WOW, look how strong and powerful I am.” No, God does not need to impress anyone or to look good. God did this and God continues to do this because He wants us, He wants you and me to know how much He loves us and how much he cherishes us. He wants us to know that He would perform miracles, create pathways, open opportunities, just so that we would know that He is God. He is a God capable of anything and a God that calls us by name because He has a divine plan for each and every one of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has a plan for us, a plan that will not harm us but prosper us and will give us hope and a future. Look at Abraham’s life in Genesis 12 and how God called Abraham to leave his home and friends to travel to a new land where God promised to build a great nation from Abraham’s family. Abraham’s faith in God allowed him to trust in the plans that God had for him and to leave a place of comfort and security so that he would not miss God’s plans for his life. As Abraham stepped out of his complacency, trusting that God would lead him on the path that He had paved for him, we are also called to do the same.

For most of my life I was in control of what I was doing and where I was going. If I saw something I wanted, I worked hard and I made sure that I got it. When I was hurt or in pain, I did what I needed to do to survive and I kept pressing on getting from point A to point Z without any help or support. Letting people into my life only meant that I was going to experience more pain and lead me to more disappointment. I did not know how to trust, to have faith and I did not believe. I did not believe that God had a purpose for me going through what I went through in life and I did not believe that He would go before me and do whatever He needed to do to get me to a place where I would find peace and rest. You see, I did not know that if I journeyed through my challenges and let God be God, I would get to point B, C, D, E, or F. In fact, I did not even know there was anything in between A-Z because for so many years I did not allow myself to journey there. But once I did, once I realized the promise and power of God, once I realized how much grace, favor and love He has for me, I started journeying through my pains, wounds and disappointments. And through that, I have experienced God and in ways I could never had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle letting Him lead the way when I am in the midst of chaos, but when I do not allow Him to go before me, to fight for me, to level the mountains, cut through the bars of iron, break down the gates of bronze, I miss out on seeing the treasures and riches He has stored up for me.

God wants to meet each one of us in our darkness and it is then that He unleashes and exposes the treasures He has hidden for us. It is there that we will be challenged by the defenses we have constructed in our lives and it is there where we will begin to experience God in deeper, more intimate ways. All the defenses we have used to keep ourselves safe and to protect us from danger, are the same defenses we use in our relationship with God and on doing so, it withholds Him from reaching us at the depths of our souls. As a body of believers, we are called to stand firm in knowing who we are in Christ and to lead people; the lost, broken, the wounded people, to the healing touch of Christ. We are to be witnesses. We are to be humble servants of Christ and lead people from the path of darkness into the path of light. We are to lead them to Jesus. God then will stop at nothing to lead them onto the path that He paved for them, the path that He desires for them and the path where they will find Jesus as their rock and their foundation.

How many of you can say that you at one point in your life have thought, “There has to be more to life than this? There has to be more to life than what I am experiencing?” If you have, I would say that your thought process is accurate. There is more to life than what we are experiencing but it can only be filled by Christ. My challenge to you is this. Let go and let God. What I mean is let God lead your way. Let God guide your path because He will not do anything to harm you. He has blessings, riches, and treasures for you, hidden in secret places that He wants to pour out onto you. He wants to lavish you with His love and He wants you to know that He stands before you and will stop at nothing to give you all that you need, all that you desire and all that you deserve. Isaiah 45 tells us that He will go before us, shut the doors that should not be open, level the mountains that are keeping us and blocking us from walking in the path that He desires us to go and that He will stop at nothing because He has called us by name. He has called you, me and everyone in here by name. He wants us to know that we are loved and that we are worth fighting for.

Things might look scary and things may not go according to our time frame, but God will not disappoint you. He will not lead you to a place and then leave you hanging out there to fend for yourself. He promises to stand beside us and He promises to fight for us. My question for you today is, “are you willing?” Are you willing to surrender yourself at the foot of the cross so that God could lead you to a place where He desires you to be? Are you willing to drop the soil and the sand that you are holding onto, as John in the story of Crete did, and let God open the gates for you to go and see the beautiful gifts He has waiting for you? Or are you going to hold on tight to everything that you have, everything that you have ever known, and be unwilling to let go, journeying through life not trusting God and His promises?

Search your hearts, step outside of your comfort zone and trust that God will lead you. Trust as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, as He was face down before God, crying out to Him with blood and sweat dripping from His face. Jesus knew that as Satan was tempting Him and as His flesh was trembling with fear and pain, Jesus knew that God was with Him. He knew that God’s will was to be done and not His own and He knew that through His pain, suffering and feeling defeated, that God was going before Him, as He does with us, leveling the mountains, directing Him and guiding Him unto the path God had paved out for Him. It may not be easy, in fact, it probably will not be easy, but trust that God will not harm you and will lead you to a place that is breath taking, beautiful, and glorious. He will lead you to your Crete.