At the start of the year when I said yes to being the youth pastor here there were 3 things that scared me….
- Driving the van
- Feeding 30+ people at camp or on a Friday night
- Camping over at church during Ascend….
I can now tick off 3 things and say DONE… and really they were only half scary… except driving the van.
In my first week Dean took me for a test drive and I was like oh my word. This is big. It takes a ladder for me to just hop up to drive, just kidding… I confess, I also have a bit of a record with things with wheels and accidents.
Had part of my finger amputated after a tricycle accident.
Broke my leg in 4 places after a bicycle accident.
Flipped a motorized go cart over a ditch.
Wrote of my parents 4 wheel drive when I was 17….
Got hit by an 84 year old lady driver and had car written off.
So yeah… I didn’t want to add CHURCH VAN to my list of driving “adventures”….
But I have a confession to make.
2 weeks ago I crashed the van.
It had been “one of those mornings” and anyway long story short when I got to church as I was parking I “clipped” Grace’s bumper and wheel. Man did it make a horrendous noise. There is nothing like the crunch of metal against metal to make the heart stop! The kids were like ooooooh (thanks kids) and I uncharacteristically burst into tears. The whole ugly cry thing. The worst thing was that the van and Grace’s car were stuck together at the wheel part and until Grace moved her car forward we were stuck there, in the middle of the driveway, on a Sunday morning. Aka everyone was going to see it and see me. So as my calm husband began to sort things out I slunk into church and made my tearful confession to Peter . I’ve crashed the van! He came out to look as I continued to sob on Annikas shoulder. Tony then was like, “Claire, have you had a look at this?” I was like no, I don’t need to look, the sound told me everything! I imagined the side had caved in and that well… yes. He took me by the hand and took me round the side, where Peter was looking bemused. Let’s just say my tears tried to stop as I looked at a small dent and a black line. Yes we were stuck on Grace’s wheel, but once she moved, it was all okay. No major crisis. No cave ins. No write offs.
Now this story isn’t just for confessions sake…
It was one of those moments where God spoke clearly. “this is about perspective” He said. Yip. My perspective was that i had munted the van and that it was all bad. The fact was that there was a small dent and a black line. It wasn’t until I went around and looked for myself that I saw the extent of the “damage”.
How many times are we doing that with life and with God?
That’s the worst thing that could happen. It’s all hopeless. I might as well give up. Nothing will ever change. I could never do that. That is too hard. It’s impossible.
But God says it’s just a matter of perspective. He turns all things around for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is the God of hope. The world was created at His command. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Nothing is impossible with God.
We find Ezekiel having a perspective reframing experience in Ezekiel 37.
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. 2 He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. 3 Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
4 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! 6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
- Awakened People Are Positioned
Look where Ezekiel was positioned – in the middle of a valley full of dry bones
What does your perspective say about where you are today? Do you feel like you are standing in a valley of dry bones? Do you feel like it is all too hard and that there is no hope? You are positioned for a miracle, a resurrection.
Walk around the van – and see what God sees and says.
God says you are positioned for such a time as this. He has called you to be light in the darkness. He has called you to preach the good news to the brokenhearted and the hurting, the sick and the lost. So He will on purpose place you with those who are broken, hurting, sick and lost.
Your valley of dry bones might be your workplace. Your school. Your family. The Spirit of the Lord positioned Ezekiel on purpose in that valley. You are positioned on purpose in your world.
This year I met a 52 woman who had never, ever thought about spiritual things. Ever. I was not the first Christian she had met, but I was the first who got to be open with her about what being a Christian is and to demonstrate for real how real and amazing God is. Positioned.
When I worked for Firth Concrete Company all my team mates were ex youth group girls… who had walked away from God and into relationships and emptiness. Positioned.
On the street outreach team last year I ended up knocking on the door of a teacher at my kids school, who had just had her car broken into the night before, who I prayed for, and who is now my daughters class teacher. Positioned. Each year we pray for our kids classes, the teacher they will have, the friends they will make, the families their friends come from. Because we believe God positions them.
Through convoluted facebook connections I ended up having a conversation with Evangeline’s ballet teacher that resulted in her returning to church and being so on fire for God that its inspiring. Positioned.
We need to be awakened to our positioning – that you are not in any part of your world by accident. God puts you there on purpose with a purpose.
We have to change our perspective and wake up on the inside to the reality of destiny. When we wake up and become aware of destiny we are then awakened to SEE
We also need to be positioned with God. Personal revival happens when we awaken to how amazing He is, when live in awe of God and have a hunger that drives us to cultivate a personal relationship with God. When we make history with God, He makes history through us.
Do everything you can to establish a secret history with Jesus. Banning Liebscher
Position yourself to be awakened daily on the inside. This world needs revival, but revival doesn’t happen to someone else or somewhere else it has to happen right here, in my heart and in your heart.
Acts 4:13 says of Peter and John when they were on trial for healing a paralysed man that “the members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. “
Peter and John had positioned themselves with Jesus, they had been with Jesus. What a challenge for all of us – can people tell we have been with Jesus?
2 Awakened People See
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry NIV
The Spirit of the Lord led Ezekiel back and forth amongst the bones and it says “he saw”
Are we seeing? Are our eyes open to really see what is going on in our life, in people’s lives?
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Leonard Ravenhill says “I want to see the glory of God invade this generation.” – we want the reality of the Kingdom of God to be evident here on earth – because that’s where the captives are set free, the brokenhearted mended, the sick healed, the blind see, the lost saved.
If we look around and see we see a broken world falling apart in so many places. We see lives that are looking for love in all the wrong places.
We see people who have only felt rejection or had to earn love in all the wrong places. We see people who have no idea who they are and what they are doing on this planet. We see people who have no hope and feel like giving up, or who cut themselves or drown themselves in drugs and alcohol and sex and work and success and money and shopping because it’s the only way to process their pain. We see broken families. We see one night stands. We see depression and suicide robbing a generation.
But sometimes we just don’t see. It becomes so commonplace. It becomes the norm. It is just the way of the world. It is just how people live. We see someone and think they have it all together, that they’re okay but the reality may be very different. Do we see?
We need our hearts awakened to the needs of the people around us for the gospel.
In John 4 Jesus says You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”
Jesus says we need to wake up and look around. I believe He isn’t telling us to just look around and see the mess, the dry bones, the brokenness, the sin but to wake up and look around at what He will do, to wake up and look with vision. The harvest is ripe He says. It’s ready, the time is now!
We have got to wake up on the inside and see with supernatural eyes, have a supernatural perspective of the power and passion of God for the Lost because they are going to hell and we who are called to proclaim the good news of how they can be saved and rescued are having a nana nap and are too freaked out by what we see with our natural eyes.
3 Awakened People Have Faith
Ezekiel was aked: Can these dry bones live? What a faith challenge!
Jeremiah 32:27 says I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
Luke 1:37 says For nothing is impossible with God.
Can these dry bones live? You can bet your bottom dollar yes they can and yes they will.
We’ve talked about the dry bones being a lost generation needing the gospel but what else are the dry bones in your life?
Are you living in crisis mode?
Is your marriage falling apart?
Have your kids run off the rails?
Are you barely holding on?
Are you facing insurmountable odds?
Is there impossibilities in your life?
Have you lost hope?
Can those dry bones live?
Do you really believe in change? That God is for you, that nothing is impossible for Him?
What does your perspective say about your situation?
What is bigger – your faith or your fear?
When you’re facing a faith challenge there are 3 things you can do to recharge your faith:
- Remind yourself of the promises of God…. what has God promised YOU. Read over prophetic words. Read over Bible verses that God has highlighted to you. What is the Word of God to you for NOW? When I was sick with all the side effects and consequences of having severe allergies God’s promise to me was UNTIL… until the blind man was healed he was blind. Until the paralysed man was healed he could not walk. Until the leper was healed he had leprosy. Until Lazarus was raised from the dead, he was dead. Until Jesus healed me completely I had severe chronic food allergies. Until was my word from God, my promise from God that one day I would live in the zone that happens after until. Until then, I would hold on and praise God because He is faithful to every promise He makes.
- Remind yourself of the nature and character of God. Wasnt the series we did last term amazing – looking at the names of God – because His name is His heart, his character. We can expect God to act like He says He will. You find out the heart of God by reading His Words, the Bible. Read accounts of His faithfulness and power and let that awaken faith in you because God is the same today, yesterday and will be tomorrow.
- Worship no matter what. I confess I’m totally in love with Bethel’s facebook page at the moment. They have stunning quotes combined with stunning imagry – makes my visually wired heart happy. One this week caught my eye, yes I shared it… “worship is when we say The storm came and I never moved.” Storms will come. When Tony was made redundant for the 2nd time a number of years ago I remember that natural sinking feeling you get when you get hear such news. I lay on the couch and put on a cd and let the worship songs remind my heart of who God is, His promises to me and His faithfulness to everything that He is. Worship reminds us of the truths we can easily forget when we become dry or find ourselves standing in the middle of a life hurricane. Worship reframes our perspective. It is walking around the van.
4 Awakened People Act
So Ezekiel was positioned by God in the valley. He saw the need and the problem and he stirred up his faith. The next obvious step is action.
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. 8 Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”
10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. Ezekiel 37
- Take spiritual action
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
We have to let Heavens strategy guide our Earthly activity and get on the same page with God. Like marching around Jericho, like stepping out of the boat onto the water, like facing off against a giant, like sending the worship team at the head of the army God has a unique way of doing things – He has the power but He uses us to demonstrate His reality and goodness.
When we say YES He steps in and moves. The walls fell AFTER they walked around the city. Peter walked on water AFTER he stepped out of the boat. David defeated Goliath AFTER he stepped in the ring to fight, Jehoshaphat won the battle AFTER worshipping God.
The valley of dry bones became a roaring army AFTER Ezekiel prophesied.
What is your action step? What is God calling you to do? And what will be your AFTER moment?
- Use your words
Francis of Assissai once said “preach at all times, and if necessary use words.” Great quote. But on some level i’m like “slap” – we need to use our words! Our words uncover the reason why we have hope and peace, why we are different. Our words reveal the source of our joy and purpose.
Did you know that non Christians can see something different about you? They can feel the difference? They can see Jesus and feel Jesus but they just don’t know what it is. I was so thankful to do my course this year as a wake me up moment for my own personal passion for evangelism because I got so many blatant comments about how they could sense something very different, very grounded, very peaceful about me. I know that is Jesus. I know that comes from God’s work in my life. But my words and testimony revealed that to them.
Corrie Ten Boom said “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”
This is why we need to be awakened on the inside… so that our actions and words flow out of that overflow of Jesus’s work in and through you.
We are just the jars of clay to show the unsurpassing power of God.
This morning the challenge is to be awake on the inside to how God has positioned you, to be awake to the need around you, to be awake to the possibility by faith and to be awakened to take the next step, to act.
You may identify yourself as being like Ezekiel, in the middle of a situation that looks impossible. God is with you and in that situation.
You may be feeling that your life is more like the bones itself. Dry, broken, desperate. God is also with you and in that situation.
In a moment we’re going to play a clip that wraps some visuals around this prophetic chapter – set to a song called Come Alive by Lauren Diagle.
The first verse reads like this:
But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah
Today we invite the Holy Spirit to come and breathe upon our lives, whether we are prophet or dry bones we need the power and presence of God in and to and through us.