Transforming lives, transforming the city (Isaiah 61:1-4)


It’s a great vision that the prophet Ezekiel had. He had visions were God would open his eyes to see things of the spirit and he saw the temple of God being rebuilt in the last days in the vision he had, and out of the temple there was a big beautiful river that was flowing and I love the story and in the story of the vision he had the angel actually walks him into the river to actually get wet in it. It’s an amazing story of how God has a special type of water, that is living water and I’m going to start in verse 6.

“Then he led me back to the bank of the river and when I arrived there I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river and he said to me: This water flows towards the Eastern region and goes down to Arabah where it enters the sea. When it empties into the sea the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh. So where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore from Engedi to Eneglaim. There will be places for spreading nets, the fish will be of many kinds, like the fish of the great sea, but the swamps and marshes will not become fresh. They will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river, their leaves will not wither nor will their fruit fail ever. Every month they will bear because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

Now, that’s the river I want to swim in, believe me. I’ve swam in some pretty disgusting rivers and this is the kind of river want to swim in. A river of living water, and we believe that that’s what the Church and Jesus Christ were meant to be. It’s meant to be a living institution, a living organism and out of this group of people the Holy Spirit of God flows out into the world around and brings life wherever it goes, and touches the dead places and makes them live again. We believe in a God that does that, we’ve seen that, and experienced it.

The Bible says that there are some leaders who rule on the basis of the fact that they were elected to rule, there’s others who lead because they’ve inherited, maybe they were prince something and they were the son of king whoever, but Jesus rules not on the basis of his lineage or of any political process but Jesus is a king who rules on the basis of the fact that He has what the Bible says is “an indestructible life”. He has a life you can’t destroy. Imagine a ruler who you kill him and the next day, there he is again. You just can’t get rid of this guy! Jesus rules on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.

He said that when He was here. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me, though he dies he will live again and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die”, because Jesus’ life is contagious. And we’ve seen that in this church and I want to talk about that today.

The fact that when people touch the life of Christ, He transforms them and He takes their dead, broken, messy, rotten life and He makes it brand new, and he gives them a new hope and a new outlook on life, a new heart and new emotions, and we believe that God doesn’t do that only in Spanish, he does that in any language that He is invited to move in. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

It’s almost like he’d get a kick out of it: Have you ever noticed that whenever God wants to call a special pursuit, to do a special task, like Moses or something like that. He never picks a normal couple and say “look, I want you to have a baby”. For some reason he always looks and picks that one couple that can’t have kids. He says: “I want to pick this lady who’s 90 years old, who can’t have kids and I want her to have a kid and that’s going to be the Isaac that I will use to bless the world. He doesn’t pick any person, He has to pick a virgin, the virgin Mary and says I’m going to make her pregnant miraculously. ‘Cause he wants to show us something. He’s the God of life. He delights in making barren women have babies. He gets a kick out of it and I almost get a feeling that He has fun, it’s a hobby of his. To find deserts and make them bloom, to find dead places and make them come to life because after that happens he says “Look what I did”. “Look what I can do”, and it’s a symbol of what he does in our lives and in our emotions, because we have dead places in us, and we have spirits that in our sins and our rebellion are dead.

We dress up nice, we put on a good front but there’s brokenness inside. We believe in a God who picks up the broken pieces and can make us live again.

Let’s turn to the book of Isaias just back a couple of books. Something about the life of God, if you look at a living thing it’s always moving usually in some way. Life is often painful, growing pains, it’s sometimes awkward, it’s sometimes chaotic, it’s sometimes unpredictable and complex, it’s never dull, and that’s what church should be like. It should never be dull. Jesus should be there to make us live again and to make us know that He’s there to make every day brand new.

Isaiah 61. “Jesus said that this was His ministry. Jesus stood up and read this verse out of the Old Testament to talk about who He is and what He’s meant to do. And so this reflects in many ways our mission as a church as Lion of Juda and what we are about here and what we want to be about in everything we do. Starts by saying “the spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated, they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

Jesus came and the first thing He said when He read this text was “the spirit of the sovereign lord is upon me”. We believe that the spirit of God is absolutely essential to the changes that can happen. I remember the first time that I went to a church that believes in the moving of the spirit of God, I was raised in a very traditional and quiet church and I value that, it was a great background, I appreciated my upbringing but then I went to a kind of crazy church, sort of like the one we have here and I went in there and everyone was like singing and jumping around and crying and doing all kinds of weird things and I remember sitting forward and looking at them thinking “how have I ended up in such a crazy place?”. But I also found myself thinking that I’d never felt anything quite like that. And I’ve seen that here, that we often allow time for prayer where people come up and they weep and they unburden their hearts before the Lord and in that there’s incredible healing, more than years of therapy can do sometimes. I have nothing against therapy, we have all kinds of psyche-makers in our church, that’s great, they should keep doing that, we need psychologists, thank God. I know I need one sometimes. But what really makes a person healthy we believe at the core of it is the Holy Spirit of God.

There’s a verse that says, when the people of Israel were trying to rebuild the temple, a prophet came to them and said: “It’s not by might nor by power but it’s by my spirit, says the Lord”. Now it doesn’t mean that they had to sit around and pray, “God, we pray that you build this temple. We’re going to lay hands on these rocks and the temple will build itself.” It wasn’t like that. They had to work, but they had to know that their own efforts meant nothing apart from the life of God unleashed to power their efforts and to help them to build and it’s like that in the rebuilding of lives as well.

See, we believe that people’s lives are broken because of sin in this world, in all kinds of different ways. Now in some neighborhoods that brokenness is a lot more obvious. I lead a group on Saturdays for men in recovery from addictions. They take drugs and drink alcohol, their lives have been terribly broken and I’ve seen God put “Humpty Dumpty back together again, like no king’s horses and no king’s men can”, if you know the rhyme. But I’ve seen God put people back together again, and He does that, but it’s not by therapy necessarily, it’s by the spirit of God and then there needs to be different kinds of therapy to help people build and to work with what God is doing.

So we’re not saying that God replaces these things but the spirit is more important than anything else. In this church we believe in education. We have a whole educational resource center, a whole third floor. But we don’t believe education’s really going to change anybody. A lot of educated people are just rotten. Some of the greatest horrible dictators in the world are PhD’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with PhD’s, we like PhD’s but it means nothing if a person’s heart is broken. We believe in the spirit to be there to help change a person. We believe that God can make a difference in the city of Boston, in the society and the government, well, we believe in that. But we believe we need to get off our chairs and do things to make a difference. But we believe that our efforts aren’t ultimately going to change anything. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord”, it’s not by therapy or psychology but “by My spirit” it’s not by my own intelligence, it’s not by political actions, not by economic development, it’s by the power of the Holy spirit of God fuelling us that we’re transformed and change and then we go out and change the world.

What do you think? Guess what, it’s a lot of fun like that. Because I find it’s really hard to do things on our own strength. It’s really hard. I’ve tried and I continue to try both ways and I found it’s a lot more easy and it’s a lot more fun and I would use the Christian word joyful to do with the Holy Spirit of God. Because where the spirit is, there is life just like we read. There’s a sense of freedom, there’s a sense of Him doing and I’m just working together with Him. He changes people. He takes that man in the hospital who is in a comma, who looked like he was already six feet under and the next week He has him laughing and cracking jokes and walking around the hospital. That’s the God we believe in.

So we believe in a God who rebuilds life by the power of His Holy Spirit. Now out of that spiritual transformation, then all kinds of things are born. Then comes progress itself with education, with progress, and then political and social change. We believe in all that but we believe the source of it is the Holy Spirit. Because He is the one who gives life. That’s what Jesus said. He said “The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor.”

Now we’ll talk a little about the rebuilding that happens in people’s life. If you look with me at verse 1 again, it says “to preach good news to the poor” and I think part of that is sometimes we need to become poor to really experience God’s blessing in our life. ‘Cause we think: “I can take care of my things on my own. I’m a perfectly intelligent person, thank you very much. I’ve got along pretty well! The person sleeping at the street’s corner, maybe he needs Jesus but I don’t really. We need to recognize that we are as broken as anybody. Inside there’s emotional brokenness, there’s pride that keeps us separate from God. And so in that we need to be put back together too.

In Toy Story, the story of that guy who thinks he’s a superhero, Buzz Lightyear. He thinks he’s a superhero so he jumps off from the staircase and… what happens? He ends up a broken toy at the bottom of the staircase. We think we’re supermen and so we try to jump and then we get broken. And you know that’s not a bad thing, ‘cause when we’re broken we realize that there’s a God that can put us back together again. And I’d much rather be put back together again by God than to walk around thinking I’m all that and know that I am not.

So anyway I want to talk a little about the possibility of becoming poor saying “I need God, I do not have all that I think I have. I need spiritual transformation in my life.” Then He talks about the 3 steps of it. “He sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Another version of this has a release from darkness for the blind, in fact I think it could be either way. You’ve been in a cell so long, so dark, that you forget what the outside world looks like. So it could be like that.

So 3 steps: healing broken hearts, breaking chains and opening eyes. We’ve seen this happen and I’ve become rather addicted to seeing God do these things in people’s lives. He takes the broken hearts. Now who among us doesn’t have a broken heart in one way or another? A person who should’ve loved you and didn’t, a person who should’ve loved you and hurt you, certain disappointments, we’re Buzz Lightyear at the bottom of the staircase. We’re broken hearts. Jesus, I came to heal those broken hearts. Sometimes in five, ten, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes of crying and prayer before the presence of God, I don’t know how He does it, but He just heals broken hearts. He can go to the root of the problem. Because the root of the problem is not necessarily the disappointment that we’ve had. The root of the problem is separation from the God who loves us.

He comes and He tells you: “I’m your Father, I love you”, and there’s something so healing in that. When we hear those words and we feel Him looking into our eyes we know He means it, and there’s healing. God heals broken hearts.

And he breaks chains. He sets captives free. I know people, as I was saying, I’m with this group of guys all in recovery from different types of addiction, one of them just got out of jail a couple of weeks ago. I think there’s nowhere I’d rather be ‘cause they’re sitting there with open hearts saying: “I’m so thankful for the fact that God has set me free”. There’s something so scary when you just don’t want to drink, when you have to have a drink. The monkey on the back story. If you heard me tell it, forgive me, I’m going to tell it again, I love this story.

Have you ever heard “I’ve got a monkey on my back”. It’s used sometimes by people that mean to say that they’ve got to feed a drug addiction, the habit , they have to have it. I’ve got a monkey on my back. The story comes from the fact that you start with a cute little monkey on your shoulder, he’s a cute little guy, he’s sort of your pet, he’s on your shoulder. You give him little food every now and then, you give him a little banana. He smiles at you, he’s your little monkey friend, he’s your pet. But then the monkey grows, little by little, the more you feed him or her, if you want a girl monkey, we’re very progressive now… It becomes bigger and the next thing you know it starts to hug your neck. How nice, my monkey is hugging my neck. That’s so cute! And then one day you say: “Monkey, I don’t want to give you a banana today, and the monkey just tightens that grip a little bit and says: “No, give me a banana now”, and then suddenly you realize that the monkey used to be your pet but now you’re the monkey’s pet, and now you have to give the monkey something to eat because there’s no other choice. Suddenly he’s in control of you. You’re not in control of him anymore. It’s a very scary thing, it’s a very scary thing!

Monkey on your back. Jesus came to say “I came to set the captives free”. I came to kill that monkey for you. I can give you a new life so that you’re in control. There’s no habit, there’s no compulsion. Now, maybe it’s not drugs or alcohol, maybe it’s something else, but there’s no compulsion that has to control you any more. You can be free, but you don’t have to be a slave to sin. You have to be a slave to your compulsions, to your neurosis, to the habits that we fall into, the things we do to medicate our pain. You don’t have to do it anymore, you can face it because I’m here to set you free. I love the way Jesus does that.

This is not just poetic language, folks. It is real and we see it here and that’s part of why I love being in this church, of why God calls me here, ‘cause I love watching it close and personal. I’ve got the front row seat to the greatest show in town. Front row seat, wow… what God can do on a person!

Number three: “He opens the eyes of the blind, he says too, to release from darkness for the prisoners”.

I had this experience, as I was raised religious. I was raised in sort of a Christian church, in a Catholic church, and I believed in God but when someone actually suggested that I pray to receive Jesus in my heart, my Lord and Savior. I believe in this anyway, you know, I from this background, I believe in this, I read rosaries, I’ll try it. What do I have to lose? Little did I know. What could possibly go wrong? So I prayed that prayer and the next thing I know is that I started feeling kind of different. I started feeling like “I’ll go outside and I’m going along and I’m looking at the sky and the trees and they all look different”, you know. I didn’t even need drugs to do that, it just looks different. I realized I read the Bible and it’s like there’s different things in there and it makes sense to me now. I pray and there’s a feeling that I’m doing just doing some magical ritual but I’m talking to someone who hears me. It’s an amazing feeling. You’re talking and you know that there’s someone listening. That’s amazing! I started having that feeling and it was like my eyes were opened.

I was thinking in the movie Matrix, the first one, you know when that guy Neo that comes to the end and he kind of sees like all the people are made of numbers and the bullets stop and I love that scene, that’s a great scene. Jesus can open our eyes so that we can see what the world is really about. To see that what we can see and touch isn’t all there is. There’s a spiritual world and that world is more real in many ways than the world we feel, and see and touch. And we constantly move in that spiritual world. Jesus can open your eyes to see that but most of all He opens your eyes to see Him. That’s the best thing.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if this friend of mine who was in the comma, I thought I wonder what’s the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes and what it looked like. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if his wife of 50 years was sitting next to him. You open your eyes and after the blurring has faded there she is. Well, that’s what it’s like to become a Christian. You open your eyes and there’s a God that’s always been there and you never knew it, sitting by your bedside. I’ve always been here. I’ve been waiting for you to see.

I love that hymn: “Amazing grace how sweet the sounds that saved a wretched like me, I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” That’s real, it’s a very real experience and there for anyone who asks Jesus to open your eyes, that’s part of God remaking people, but this remaking, this process of becoming new is a battle. Something you’ll hear us talk a lot about here at Lion of Juda, is spiritual warfare.

How many people now here probably believe, probably you don’t. We believe that the world is not a neutral place. We believe that there is bad stuff in this world that there’s human sinfulness but we also believe that there’s spiritual evil in this world and that we are in a context of spiritual warfare and if we are not aware of it we can be victims to it. We believe in that.

Sometimes here, we look very chic and very progressive, you know. We have degrees from nice colleges, our kids go to colleges, and do well and speak of their graduation and all kinds of fun things but sometimes we do believe in God and angels, and Satan and demons and that is real. That is real stuff. We believe that there’s a spiritual battle going on and that there’s an enemy that doesn’t want people to be put back together again. That’s why we emphasize spiritual warfare a lot here.

There’s a verse that says; “There is an enemy who has comes to steal, kill and destroy” and Jesus says “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. You see, there’s an enemy who wants to steal what God would want to give you, who wants to destroy what God would want to make you to be, and ultimately he wants to kill you. But Jesus says: “But I’ve come that you might have life and have it abundantly” to undo what Satan has done and to make you all over again. So that we believe there’s a spiritual warfare going on.

Here’s how I look at it: the Bible says that as human beings we are created in the image of God, that means that we’re like human pictures of God. God is meant to shine through us. Who He is, His personality, His attributes is all meant to be reflected in your eyes and in your face and the way you live and the things you do. And Satan, because he hates God he wants to destroy the picture of God. If sort of like there’s a painting of someone you hate and you to spray paint into the face because you hate that person. So Satan wants to degrade, humiliate and deface the image of God that each one of us bears.

So when you pass by someone who’s sleeping on the street, that is satanic. That is Satan trying to degrade a person that is meant to reflect the image of God. So it’s a spiritual warfare. I’d like you to look with me at verse 2, that says:

“To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God”. See, this is a warfare issue. “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”. See in the history of Israel if you had a problem, if you went into debt; in our country you go into debt to a credit card, right?, which is bad enough, right? In that country if you went into debt you could sell your land in order to pay off your debt. Ultimately you could sell yourself into slavery to pay off your debt.

But God ordained that every 50 years there was to be what is called a Year of Jubilee when everything that you’d lost because of your own dumb decisions, and all your debts, and if you were into slavery you were to be set free and any lands you’d lost were to be returned to you on the Year of Jubilee. I think they never practiced this… did they ever actually practice this law? I don’t think so, because once people had stuff they didn’t want to give it back. Well you know that’s how it works in the spirit as well.

Satan has taken things away from us because we have given it away to him by our own corrupt decision, by our own selfishness. We’ve given ourselves away to Satan, and guess what? He doesn’t want to give it back. And so Jesus needs to buy it back by His own blood. He paid the penalty for our sin and then He forces Satan to give up what doesn’t legitimately belong to him any more.

We’ve lost things, we’ve lost dreams, we’ve lost families, we’ve lost health, we’ve lost all kinds of things and God is in the business of taking it back and giving it back to you. It’s a spiritual warfare. This is a battle and it’s a serious thing. The good news is God wins.

Have you ever seen the movie, most of you probably have, “The Lord of the Rings”, I think it was the second one where there is this king who’s like kind of possessed, like he’s sitting there on this throne and all wierded out and Gandalf, the man with a big beard comes with a staff and he’s scaring the king with his staff and he’s pointing the staff right at his face and the king basically is delivered of some evil spirit that’s been put into him. His normal color returns, his light in his eyes comes back, he becomes himself again. That’s an excellent picture of how God wants to take people back for His kingdom. And that’s a real thing too. We believe that really happens. And so then comes the good part.

And I want you to read with me together starting in verse 2, it says: “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor”.

What if people called you? God says, some will be called if you believe in Him you’ll be an oak of righteousness. What are the areas of grief in your life? The things that you’ve lost, that cost years. God says “I want to heal that grief and I want to give you a comfort that no human could possibly give you”. It talks about a crown of beauty. He wants to put a crown on your head and make you feel like a king and to walk with a new sense of beauty. God is about beautifying people and making them over again, taking the ugliness that Satan wanted to put and make that person to reflect the beauty that originally meant to reflect.

That’s not mean that we’re all going to become some movie star like Harrison Ford or some movie star, it doesn’t mean that we’ll become Harrison Ford or whoever you want to think of. It means that who you are is going to reflect God’s beauty.

One of the guys in the group, he’s in a wheelchair and if you meet Ismael, ask Ismael his story. It’s a great story. He sits right up here, because he takes my seat on a regular basis, so I know. He’s a great guy and I knew him when he was in the streets and believe me he did not look like he looks now. And now you look at him and he’s just got this glow, when he’s feeling good, he’s feeling happy and I could swear I see a crown on his head sometimes. I feel like a million bucks, he’s got this sense of newness.

Well, you know it’s not just for people that were addicted to things, that’s for all of us. God says I want to put a crown on your head and I want you to know that you’re the son of the king, you’re the daughter of a king. You see, people’ve told us all kinds of things, they said you’ll never amount to anything, you’re a loser, you’re a rejected. God says: “No, you are my precious child. You’re the son of a king.”

I think that image of being an oak of righteousness, how people walk around with heaviness. Have you seen that when you’re depressed you walk with your shoulders down a bit. I tend to do that. God says: “You’re going to stand tall some day”, because you’re going to feel solid, you’re not going to be shaking by every wind, you’re going to be firmly planted. And I love what it says at the end here: “… they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor”.

One person that’s had the life changed is a better sermon that a thousand messages that could be preached from here. One person who’s had the life changed is better than a Billy Graham sermon, or a Luis Palau sermon. It’s a way of declaring that God is real, just look at what He’s done for me. Now that’s part of why I love the ministry. I love watching that. I love getting a front row seat and just simply watching what God is going to do in people’s life.

Now, it’s not done overnight. This rebuilding process takes a long time. You know that unfortunately it never fully ends. We’re all in construction, under construction. But you can see big changes. You can see God put people back together again and here’s the punch line for me today and this is something I want to close with: this last part and there’s three sections to it. So hang with me just for a couple of more minutes.

Verse 4, it says: “… they will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations”. You see, broken people break cities. Sinful people make sinful cities. Corrupt people make corrupt places and organizations. God puts back people together again. He heals them so that they, in turn can rebuild the places where they live and move and have all their activities. God wants people who are whole to rebuild a broken city and a hurt world.

So that’s something I want to close with today and divided that in three different things, so just hang with me: “They will rebuild the ancient ruins”, coming back to the foundations. We did an activity at the state house a couple of months ago and we were all struck there by a certain attitude in the state house that we could see in the politicians and different people. There was a sense of pride. There was a sense of ‘we’re in power here’, ‘we’re in control here’.

You know what Jesus said to King Pontius Pilate?

He said: “You would have no power but that which is given to you by my Father from up high”. We come back to foundations when we, as a church, declare to the city that there is a God and you’re not it. When we declare that Jesus is Lord of the city of Boston, He’s the rightful king and He’s come to take what belongs to Him. He’s taken back my life and now He’s coming back to take this place. So a person who now believes in Jesus, can help Jesus built this foundation of the city.

Step 2, it says that these people will then “… restore the places long devastated”. Taking some liberty here but I would see the places that are devastated here, as devastated homes and neighborhoods. I love in this church when people come, who maybe they’ve never been in church before, maybe they’ve been living together, we’ve had couples who’ve been living together for 10 or 15 year, they have their kids, they’ve never got married and they come and they become Christians and they accept Jesus and say: “Hey, what don’t we get married?” “Maybe we should get married, maybe we should organize our home life and commit to one another” and so suddenly their home becomes a place of stability.

How many people’s homes are really happy places, of order and stability? There’re so many homes here where people don’t want to go back there. They’re happier on the street with their friends. God wants homes that are refuges for his people, and he can put homes back together again with people that are put back together again. And then he can put neighborhoods back together again. We have people here who have made great differences in their neighborhoods.

One particular story I’m going to share of one lady where her neighborhood was a main drug point, lots of drug dealing, the kids couldn’t play out in the streets. So she fasted and prayed that God would change her neighborhood. Well, one night she woke up to the sound of sirens and SWAT teams descending on the building next door. She felt a little guilty, she said “I feel bad that those guys had to go to jail but maybe they need prison ministry for a while”. But God cleaned up that neighborhood and then some people who were into that stuff have become Christians due to her influence too. This one lady who loves Jesus has made a difference in a devastated place in the city of Boston.

And then there’s the final step: “…. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations”. You see redeemed, restored people go back into the city itself, the schools, into their universities, into their businesses, into their government agencies, into their police departments, into all the different parts of what makes a city and they make it new because a person who has the life of God in him spreads that life into places where there’s dark and brokenness. And we, as people who find Jesus, how he brings us back to life and heals us, then we go and He changes everything we touch.

Have you ever met people like that? When they come into a room everything seems to change. It’s like the lights go on when they come in. I want to be a person like that. I want to be a person that when I’m in the elevator where I used to live, the people know that there’s something different in here. And I hope it’s not because I’m weird or anything but because of the spirit of God that lives us. I want to be that when you’re working in a factory and you show up to work everybody says “Something’s different about him”. In your office, the business decisions you make are based on a certain integrity that show that you’re different from other people. In your school, in your classroom that we should be different, we should shine.

Jesus said that He is the light of the world and He said that we also in Him have a lamp that we’re to let shine and to not cover it up. So that’s our mission, transformed people who transform cities. Renewed people who renew the whole city. And believe me, that is an adventure. That’s something to be part of, ‘cause I know that there’s a God that’s alive and He changed me and He can change the city I live in. So I invite you to join with that vision that we are here at Lion of Juda. God is about conquering, about bringing His kingdom and bringing the life wherever that river flows.

But it’s an invitation for us to be part of this adventure. And God’s got a purpose for you, in your own way, in your own style, in your own culture, and it’s not going to be like mine and it’s not going to be like Roberto’s. You’re going to be yourself. I’ve learned a long time ago that I can’t try to copy somebody else. I need to be me. “Got to be me” whatever that song says.

In your own way God can transform you and remake you and use you as an agent of transformation in this city. And here we are part of that. We invite you to jump in. I’ll invite you to sing a song I really like, that says: “Give thanks with a grateful heart”, there’s one verse of that song that says “… and now that the poor say I am rich, let the weak say I am strong because of what the Lord has done for me.”

Well there’s another verse that I heard in another church in Connecticut that says “…. And now let the bounds say I am free, let the blind say I can see, because of what the Lord has done for me”. God can do this, He can change you.

Let’s read the end of this chapter, after verse 4. I want you to read this because this is the result of all this. Starting in verse 5, it says: “… aliens will shepherd your flocks”. Now who’s the alien the Latino or the gringo, I’m not sure who the alien is but “aliens will shepherd your flocks, foreigners will work your fields and vineyards and you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God, you will feed on the wealth of nations and in their riches, you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance, and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and ever lasting joy will be theirs. For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate the robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendents will be known among the nations, their offspring among the people, all who see them will acknowledge they are a people the Lord has blessed” and here’s where the prophet just goes nuts “I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations”.