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Hey, well, hi, central Pastor Cal here. I don't know how long it's been since you've heard me say this, but I love this. I love this church. There's so many things about this church that I love, and one of the things that I love about this church is that we have been incredibly blessed by God to have a deep, deep bench of gifted communicators who bring the word of God to us each week.
And I have a teaching team that these people sit on. They help me to communicate better. And uh, the reason this is relevant is today's message is gonna be brought. To you through, uh, a lady whose name is Kate Nazari. Now let me give you a little background on Kate. Kate came to Central in 2017. She became our Queen Creek student Pastor built a vibrant program among the students there.
We asked her if she would go to Tempe, do the same thing. She's doing that, and then we asked her if she would actually become the campus pastor on our Tempe campus. And Kate is the kind of person that we believe give an assignment to her and she's gonna get it done, and she's gonna do it really, really well.
Well, why that matters today is months ago when we were planning the Christmas series. We got to thinking about the story of Mary and how, what, what does it feel like when God comes to you as a woman and says, here's the plan. Would you, would you agree to this plan? And I thought it would be so much better to actually hear that perspective from a woman than hearing it from a man.
So I asked Kate again months ago, would she be willing to carry the weight of that this week? And she's agreed to it. So here's the deal. Church, uh, she's one of us, she's at home, but let's make sure that we make her feel welcome. So, To the pulpit at Central, our Tempe campus Pastor Kate Nazari. Thank you.
As Pastor Cal said, my name is Kate Nazari and I am the Tempe Campus Pastor. So special shout out to Tempe Campus. I love you guys. We are continuing today in our series. Would you believe, and today we're gonna wrestle with the question, would you believe, even if it seemed, IM. So this word impossible. Uh, I use it a lot in my life and I'm like, man, that's impossible.
I can't do that. That's impossible. But here's the thing. We use that word wrong most of the time. The word impossible means something that cannot happen. When I use the word impossible, most of the time I'm like, it's impractical. It's unlikely. I just don't want it to happen. Uh, but a lot of times too, this word impossible, we, we use it because we can't comprehend, uh, it happening in our lives.
We use the word impossible because like our brains can't possibly see this thing happening. Therefore, it's, IM. I remember in 1998 my dad had a cell phone, and you guys, it was so cool. It was like this big brick cell phone that had an antenna that you gotta pull out when you used it, and I just was like, I cannot wait.
Someday to be an adult and have a cell phone. It was gonna be my biggest moment. And if you had told little eight years old Katie Hansen, what was gonna, what a cell phone was gonna look like in 2022, that I'd be able to send messages on it. That I could surf the internet, whatever that was. If I could FaceTime, I could stream millions and millions of songs.
I could play video games. I would be like a cell phone. Could never do that. That would be, IM. All things are impossible until they become possible. Imagine trying to go back in time and explain cars like our cars, not the movie, uh, let alone electric cars to someone in 1850s. They would say that's impossible.
Or imagine trying to explain the chaos of the internet to someone in the 1980s. Like they would have no idea, uh, of what it could become and would most definitely say like, that seems really unsafe. You probably shouldn't be on the internet. But they would also be like, that is impossible. Everything is impossible until it.
And today we are gonna look at three different stories, um, just kind of briefly of how God invited people to believe and experience the possible. So, if you have Bibles with you, first we're gonna look at the story of Elizabeth and Zacharia from Luke one. Luke one describes Zacharia and Elizabeth as righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly.
But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and many scholars put them around the age of 60. Now Zacharia was a priest and one day his group is serving at the temple. Here's a layout of the temple for you, and you see Zacharia is chosen by law, which is like a drawing to go into the side, the temple of the Lord, and burn incense on the altar of incense in the holy place.
Now this was an incredible special moment for Zaria to be chosen to burn the aroma. Uh, in the temple, there were thousands and thousands of priests, probably around 20,000 priests that could have been chosen, and a priest would've only been chosen to do this once in their lifetime. So Zakiah is about to experience his once and a lifetime opportunity to go into the temple of the Lord to burn the aroma.
Let's pick up the story here in Luke one 11. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zakiah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with. Okay, pause for a moment. Like Zechariah, you know, knows these other priests that have probably gone into the temple and he's just like, yo, you guys, why didn't no one ever tell me that an angel appears when you get to go burn everything?
You know, like he'd probably be pretty bummed. No one had communicated to that to him. And here's the other thing. We're probably thinking in our head like these little delicate angels with wings that are childlike and innocent, you know, just like a little fluttering angel. Um, that is just cute looking down, uh, looking down at Zacharia with, again, I'm just imagining these little fluttery delicate wings.
but biblical descriptions of angels are freaky. Jonas Piper, uh, did this 3D animation of what an angel could look like, and according to Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation, um, it could look something like this and I don't know, but. I, I would probably scream if I saw that suddenly appear next to me, like I scream when I see a spider.
So, um, that would scare me. Uh, so it should be no surprise then that the first words out of the angel's mouth were, do not be afraid. Because I bet we could all relate to Zacharia a little bit in that moment of being a bit afraid if an angel appeared steadily before you. Let's keep reading here, verse 13.
But the angel said to him, do not be afraid. Zacharia, your prayers have been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bury you a son and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth for he will be great at the sight of the. Great in the sight of the Lord.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Even before he is born, he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go on before the Lord in the Spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Zacharia asked the angel, how can I be sure? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years, and the angels said to him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words, which will come true in their appointed time.
Would you believe the most impossible thing in your. . Even if an angel told you, even if you knew this incredible thing was coming from God through an angel, again, we saw a picture of the idea of what an angel could look like in all of its might and power. Would you believe, even if it seemed unbelievable, what is the most impossible thing God could do right now in your.
The thing that you have been like Zacharia and prayed about for years and years, the thing that one part of your heart knows that God could do, but the other part of your heart says it's never going to happen. We pray for years and years and we are passionate in our belief and how God can move, but it doesn't happen.
It leaves us discouraged. We give. We try to just move on from that prayer, that dream, that hope we decide it's impossible for this to happen for us. Is it physical healing for something going on? Is it a relationship being healed that you can't ever see being restored in your life? Is it a job that meets your emotional and uh, financial?
Are you praying for that unlikely person that you're like, they're never gonna come to know God? Are you praying for them to come to faith in day after day, year after year? It doesn't happen. And our hearts become like zacharia and we ask, how can we be sure this could even happen? It doesn't make sense.
It doesn't seem possible. And you see, I get zacharia actually a, a. About a year and a half ago, my husband and I were diagnosed with infertility, and over the past year, as we've met with specialists, we've learned it's highly unlikely for us to conceive naturally without medical treatment. It feels impossible, and if you've been through infertility, you get it.
It sucks. It's a balance between hope and realism every single month that just, maybe this time it'll. And the worst part about hoping for a baby when you're struggling with infertility is that you know, God can do it. God can provide miracles of pregnancy, and Zacharia would have known that as well. He would've known the stories of how God had provided for Abraham and Sarah, Rebecca, and Isaac.
He would've known how God had opened up the wounds of Leah and Rachel, and plenty of examples of how God has met couples in the midst of their desire to have a child and then provided in beautiful. That's no different than me right now. I have friends and coworkers who were told they would probably never, ever be able to naturally get pregnant, and then they did.
Miracle The impossible happened just not for me. I think that's why a lot of us can relate to Zacharia's response. We see the miracles happening around us, but just not for us, just not in our story, just not in our timeline, in our plans. The miracles happen for other people, just not for me. And as a priest and a righteous person, I have to believe that Zechariah had faith.
Zechariah believed in the power of what God could do, just not for him. How often do we believe in trust in God's miracles? We believe in trust that God leads us, that he guides us, that he's with us. We say these things in church or when we talk about God with our family and friends, we say that God is good and God is for you and He's not out to get you.
But do we really believe that internally in our souls, when things do not go the way we plan and. When things don't happen in our timeframe, when we don't, uh, see God moving in the way we want, do we believe that God is for you? That what God has done in the past, anyone, to anyone, anywhere, at any time He can do for you here now.
Do we truly believe in our soul that the same God that parted the Red Sea, that raised Jesus from the dead could answer your prayers right here, right now, today, that he has given us the Holy Spirit to speak to us, to be with us at all times. Do we not believe that God could not move in our lives that same way today?
Or do we make excuses that we are too small? That we think that what we're praying about doesn't matter to God because God is too big and that he would never see us in that way, that he would never wanna answer that little prayer we're asking when. Instead, God has sent his son Jesus to be personal to each and every one of us.
Last week, pastor Cow said, God uses waiting to develop and define our charact. God uses waiting to develop and define our character. Too often we give up. We give in to the discouragement when our prayers are not answered in our timeframe, in the way we desire, and at the end of the day we say, God just won't show up that way for me, when instead God is using the waiting to develop and define our charact.
He's saying, don't give up. I have never once given up on you. Would you believe the most impossible things in your life for yourself, even if God told you, God invites us into the impossible. Zacharia and Elizabeth are not the only two who have experienced God moving in their life in unexpected ways.
Let's flip our Bibles now to Matthew one 18 and take a look at the birth of Jesus. From the lens of Joseph Matthew one opens up with the family tree of Jesus and all the incredible people that lived, that came into Jesus life before that, before Jesus life. Uh, and we gotta know where he comes from. So I'm gonna start reading here in Matthew one.
This is how the birth of Jesus and Messiah came about. His mother, Mary, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Now we don't get a ton of insight in the Bible. Um, in the relationship between Joseph and Mary, they were pledged to be married. So they were in that, um, they were betroth. And for some context there were actually kind of three stages that led up to marriage in this time. So first there was engagement, and this could happen, uh, when the bride and groom were like very young, and it was oftentimes arranged by their.
Second, there would be the patrol, though this made the previous engagement official and binding, and during that time, the couple were actually known as husband and wife and, uh, during a patrol though, it could only be broken by divorce, and it typically lasted about a year. Finally, the third step was marriage.
This took place after the wedding and after that one year of being betrothed. So Joseph and Mary would've been in that middle stage during that petrol time, and Joseph would've been within his right to divorce her. He could have humiliated her, have her indiscretions known far and wide, and instead being a just man that was faithful to the law, he decided to divorce her quiet.
This shows us the incredible kindness that Joseph would've shown towards Mary. Let's keep reading here, verse 20. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to his son, and you are, you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. The virgin will conceive and give birth to his son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God with us.
So the a, the author Matthew here is making a direct reference to Isaiah seven 14 that says, therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to his son and will call him a man. You well. So God introduces himself to us through. Manuel, which means God with us. Now, Jesus birth to a virgin woman represents an impossible thing to us, but to the Jewish people, it represents a prophecy being fulfilled of the promised Messiah To come verse th verse 24, when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, but he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son and he gave him the.
Jesus. We see these two contrasting storylines here. We've got Zacharia and Elizabeth, and then Mary and Joseph. Zacharia and Elizabeth were older. They had been waiting for years and years, and their plans had never happened the way they expected. They didn't think their prayers could ever be answered.
They didn't understand how this could ever happen. They limited how God could move in their lives based on the timeframe that made sense to. . Then we have Mary and Joseph. On the other hand, they're really young and their plans are hijacked by God in completely unbelievable ways. They probably felt like they weren't ready yet.
And if you're a student in this room, maybe you feel that way at different times as well. You've been like, I'm too young. I'm not ready for this yet. You can't imagine how things are happening in your life that didn't go according to your. and you limit yourself for how God could work in your life because you're not ready.
And Zacharia and Elizabeth Limited, limited how God could work in their life because he said the time had passed. Everyone's story is somewhere in between these two extremes. We're too old for something. We're too young for something. Neither one probably feels like a blessing. Neither one feels like the right time, and it feels like we're running into limitations of either side of the timing not being right in our lives.
We give these excuses of not being ready because the time has passed or I'm not there yet. Uh, for excuses of why God has not moved in our lives. We make things sound harder, more impossible than we can imagine. We play this bad mental game where we limit ourselves, we give ourselves excuses, and then we limit God.
God won't answer this prayer because it's too selfish. God won't heal this person because that's too big. God won't help me find this lost item because that's too small to pray. We limit how God will move in our lives because we don't think it's. Would you believe without limits of when or how, even if it seemed impossible for God to move that way, God invites us into the impossible.
Finally, let's finish out our time today by looking at the story of Mary back in Luke 1 26. Earlier in this chapter is we is when we read how Zaria and Elizabeth had experienced God inviting them into the impossible of conceiving a child even in their age. Verse 26 says this, in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a Virgin pledge to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of.
The Virgin's name was Mary, and the angel went to her and said, greetings, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled out his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be, but the angel said to her, do not be afraid. Mary, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to his son and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his Father David, and he'll reign over Jacob's descendants forever. His kingdom will never end. How will this be? Mary asked the angel since I am a virgin. So in verse 29, we see that Mary is described as being greatly troubled at the angels.
This shows her humility. This shows her amazement at being the one invited into this incredible and frightening experience with God. If you remember when we looked at the story of Zacharia and Elizabeth Zacharia said in Luke one 18, how can I be sure this happens? And we can contrast that here with Mary who asks in verse 34, how will this.
Zacharia asked, how can this be? Will Mary asked, how will this be? Zacharia asked, in disbelief will Mary asked in belief verse 35, that angel answered, the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So the holy one to be will be born called the son of. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
For no word from God will ever fail. I'm the Lord servant Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled. And then the angel left her when we read through these Christmas stories. My heart just goes out for Mary with passion for her story. She's this young woman that's about to be married, to start her life in her future, and God completely changes it the shame.
That she could have experienced being an unmarried woman being pregnant, but the belief that she must have had in God and in that angel that spoke to her, that she was about to experience all of this for his glory alone. Mary had no one to look up to in this situation. Never before and never since has got invited a woman into this imposs.
Mary had to step into an invitation of faith of doing the unprecedented. Any act of faith that we do for the first time will feel impossible. It's unprecedented. It hasn't happened before. So we move forward only in faith when we say yes for the first time. Too often we say something can't happen because it happen, because it hasn't happened.
We say something can't happen because it hasn't happened to us. We don't believe it could happen because we haven't seen it happen, but that's what the heart of faith is all about. Hebrews 11, one says, now faith is confidence in what we hope for, in assurance of what we do not see. Faith is needed for what we cannot.
For what we cannot touch. It's something we sense that is inviting us into trusting. It's something we clinging to as it drives our actions, our choices, our decisions. Faith changes who we are. It becomes who we are When we choose to have faith in something greater than ourselves, faith defines us who we are.
Can you believe what God says even if you haven't experienced. The essence of faith is believing the unprecedented, believing the impossible, believing what has not yet come to pass. The E S V translation of Luke 1 37 says, for nothing will be impossible with God, nothing will be impossible with God. And that's the same promise that stands for us.
God invites us into the ipo. Impossible. God invites us into the, IM. It's important to recognize that the step into the impossible isn't forced on us. And I think of Mary because a lot of times I think we see this wrong. What if her response had been different when the angel spoke to her? If instead of asking, how will this happen, what if she had responded with why?
Or like, Zechariah, how could this happen? What if she had responded in disbelief? Instead, she stepped into the invitation. She didn't know how it would happen, but she knew God could. We might not know how something will happen in our lives, but we know that God can make it happen, and that step into the impossible isn't forced onto us.
The step into faith, into the unprecedented is often so. If it's the right thing, it feels like it should be easy. It feels like it should just work out. It should just be simple. If it's the right thing. How far in faith would you go before you say, I'm out, I'm out. This is too hard. This isn't what I signed up for.
This isn't what I thought it was gonna be. This is taking too long. I'm out. I'm out. So, Our steps of faith are messy and hard. They are tiring and we want to give up believing. We battle this internal logic of like, this is impossible, but this internal drive in our heart that says, God makes all things possible.
What are you afraid of doing that God is inviting you to do? And no, this isn't a challenge for the person sitting next to you. This is a challenge for. What are you afraid of doing that God is inviting you to do? It's time to start stepping up and stepping into the impossible things in your life. To stop limiting God, to stop limiting ourselves because we can't see it happening.
I could never change my living situation, even though it's so unhealthy and I need to find a new place to live. I can never make. Friends, even though you know that those people around you are leading you down the wrong path, I could never break up with my boyfriend or girlfriend because I can't imagine being that lonely.
It's too scary. I could never forgive that person that has hurt me so bad. If you knew what they did, I could never forgive them. I could never quit that unhealthy job because I need the money and I'm too scared to see what would happen. God is inviting you to take that first. That first act in faith that even though you might not know how it's going to work out, God says, I've got you.
I've got this. I'm with you. Maybe God's not challenging you to make changes in your life relationally, but it's time to take a more active step in your faith and use those gifts and skills that God has blessed you with to bless his kingdom. I could never serve at church because I'm way too busy and I don't have time.
I could never join a community group because there's no way I could ever be open or vulnerable or honest with people if they knew how messy my life was. I could never go on that global trip. I could never invite that neighbor, friend, grandchild, coworker to church. This Christmas feels. It feels like there's no way that they could say yes.
They've never stepped foot in a church before. They hate church. They have no interest in learning about God, and the reasons go on and on and on about why this person would never come to church. God invites us into the impossible. It's impossible for that person to come to faith until they do. It's impossible for you to have your finances in.
Until you do, it's impossible for you to serve in children's ministries until you do. It's impossible for you to have healthy relationships with your family until you do. It's impossible for me to have a baby until someday I do. I'm sitting in this impossible right now. I'm sitting in this of what my family and my future is going to look like.
There are a lot of days I feel like I'm. In this season of waiting, I'm scared. I'm sad. I'm lonely. I feel like I failed. I feel like it is impossible, but I am hoping and I have faith, and I believe that even if our story turns out different than what we have planned and hoped for, it's the story that God has planned for my life that in the waiting for our future.
God is shaping and defining my character. God is shaping and defining my marriage. God is shaping and defining my prayers, my faith, as I've learned to surrender and trust God in ways I never would have ever imagined a year and a half ago. I'm stepping into that invitation of the unprecedented impossible things in my life.
The things that are hopes and dreams where I don't question how God can do something, but instead trust and believe that he will. That's the faith Mary and Joseph represented for us in their lives. That's the faith Zechariah missed out on having with God, faith and belief that God is moving and doing things that we would never.
What is the most impossible thing God could do right now in your life? The impossible is always sitting there, always limiting us. It's time for us to step into the impossible situations in our lives and step out in faith that God is calling us to more in this life than what we can imagine. All things are impossible until they become possible.
Until you say, I. I believe nothing would be impossible with God. Will you pray with me? Heaven. Father, we come before you and we know we have those impossible prayers that we just don't even know how they could be answered. But we know you can and we know you will. So Lord, we surrender those things to you.
We ask for your Holy Spirit to move, to change, to transform us for your name, to be glorified in all things. We love you and pray this in Jesus'. Amen.