I love the slow pace of the new year – its time to rest, chillax, stop collaborate and listen… which for me means binge watching west wing, sleep ins and reading lots.

To kick the year off I read Shawn Bolz Translating God, which if you’re interested in knowing God more and making Him known more is well worth the read.

In Translating God he talks about connecting with Brian Welch, guitarist of Korn, who is a born again Christian and seeing God at work in and through his life.  Korn for those who don’t know, is a heavy heavy heavy metal band.  Its lyrics and concerts are not pretty.   Think drugs, sex rock and roll and then multiply that by 10 and you’re maybe getting a clear picture.  After getting saved Brian stepped away from Korn, realising that it perhaps wasn’t the best environment to walk with God and live free.  After about 10 years though he felt led by God to rejoin the band and now at concerts has a team of prophetic people scout around the audience handing out VIP backstage passes to meet with him.  These fan meet and greets however aren’t just about signing autographs or having selfies with Brian, they’re gospel presentations and supernatural encounters that see people saved and set free.  Heavy metal fans who went for a concert and met their Saviour.

I wouldn’t call Brian ordinary, but God chooses to use ordinary people to extraordinary things.  I love how God loves to use the unexpected to do amazing things.

Think about some of the main players in the Bible.

Moses – Hebrew baby, hidden away despite a death order for all male babies, then adopted by the Egyptian princess, raised in the palace who then discovers his heritage, murders an eyptian and flees to the backside of the desert where he becomes a shepherd for his father in law.  God then uses him to deliver the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and to lead them to the promised land.

David – a man after God’s heart, who commits adultery and then has the womans husband murdered

Peter – a fisherman who often speaks before he thinks, who denys Jesus 3 times, even after Jesus told him he would

Mary was an unwed mother.

Jonah ran away from God.

Elijah was depressed and suicidal.

Jacob was a liar and a cheat.

Paul, who wrote at least ½ of the New Testament, orchestrated the genocide of Christians in the early church.

 

God has proved time and time again that He moves in unexpected ways through unexpected people, yet when it comes to our own lives we often want God to colour inside the lines, to be a cosmic genie granting our wishes and moving in predictable safe ways.

 

Think about some of the key moments in the Bible:

Walking around the walls of Jericho in silence until the 7th day was an unexpected battle plan.

Splitting the Red Sea was an unexpected escape route for the people of Israel as they fled from Egypt.

From the prison to the palace was an unexpected progression for Joseph.

Boy chosen to defeat a giant was an unexpected choice and a massive risk!

An elderly couple who have been barren have a promised son is outside the laws of nature.

The first preacher of the new church was an uneducated fisherman who just over a month ago had publically denied even knowing Jesus was an unexpected leadership promotion.

Being born as a human child to a virgin teenage girl, who then wed a carpenter and grew up in obsecurity, becoming a capenter himself, revealed as the Son of God who then was arrested and executed on the cross – our Saviour Jesus Christ, whose death seemed like defeat but was the greatest victory as it was the punishment for our sins and the price paid to rescue and redeem us, and was not the final say as Jesus didn’t stay dead but rose to life!

 

This morning at the start of the year I want to challenge us to say yes to the unexpected and to equip us with some keys to empower us to thrive when the unexpected comes our way.

 

 

 

Nothing is Unexpected to God.

 

One of the things I love about God is that nothing takes Him by surprize.  We will face the unplanned and the unexpected this year, but we’re loved by a Saviour who knows no surprises.

Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

Luke 12:7 says that God knows the number of hairs on our head which means He is paying attention to even the tiniest detail of our lives!

 

God is never surprised. To be surprised you have to be uncertain about what is coming. You have to not know things. God never not knows about the future or about anything. He is never uncertain about what is coming.

We can know this for at least two reasons. One is that the Bible shows that knowing the future, even the future of human decisions, is part of what it means to be God. And the other is that the Bible shows that God knows the future because he plans the future.

Sometimes  you just have to yell PLOT TWIST and then carry on in full assurance that God is the author of our life and that your plot twist did not shock Him.

God is all powerful and when we find ourselves facing a giant, or blocked by the red sea, or up against walls we can be confident that God is able and that nothing is impossible to Him.   We often box Him in and place our human limitations on God who has no limits.

This means that we can put our hope in God.  We can put our trust in Him.  He is the God who never fails.   He is the God that promises to complete the good work He has begun in us and that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his children who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.

 

If you had asked me 5 years ago where I would be in 2019 I don’t know if my answer would be that I am starting my 5th year as HKC youth pastor.  For those that don’t know my story, at the end of 2014 our awesome youth pastor resigned to pursue new adventures and despite advertising and exploring options there were no suitable candidates, so my Pastor asked if I would step in for a few months as acting youth pastor, to bridge the gap until someone permanent was found.  Now I fully expected the permanent position to be filled quickly, because doesn’t everyone want to be a youth pastor or in ministry was totally how my brain is wired…. But about 2 weeks into the role I felt like I had been sideswiped by God and at the end of the 2 months had a very tearful conversation with my pastor about how I was breaching my contract to step in and them step out because I didn’t want them to find someone else, I had fallen in love with the youth and youth ministry and every aspect of it.  My pastor laughed and said that he expected this conversation after about 3 weeks – he could of told me and I wouldn’t have cried, embarrassing lol! And here I am, still, 5 years later.  One thing that really encouraged me at the start of being youth pastor, okay and every week since then! Was that on the day that I said yes to being acting youth pastor I was sitting in a meeting beside the guest speakers wife.  At the end of the service she turned to me and said “before the foundation of the world God had ordained this moment for you to be youth pastor.”

Becoming youth pastor was an unexpected shift for me but was planned by God and knowing that gave me faith every step of the way that God knew what He was doing!  It gave me faith that when stuff hit the fan that God had a way through and that my response to whatever going on needed to be to trust Him and seek Him for His solutions.

 

 

 

GOD PREPARES US FOR THE UNEXPECTED

 

I often think about some of the behind the scenes and between the line things that happen in the Bible.

 

Like can you imagine the conversation between Mary and Joseph when she told him she was pregnant, and he’s not the father.

Hey Joe, Hey Mary

So I’ve got some news…

Yeah, what’s up?

Now don’t freak out, but I’m going to have a baby…

What!  Who was it?  Who is the

Wait wait…. It’s Gods.  God is the Father.

No seriously, who is it, I’ll rip his head off.

No Joe, listen.  An angel came and told me that I am going to be pregnant and that my son will be the son of God.

Argh!!!!!!!! Door slam.

 

I often wonder what has gone on in their lives before the moment they appear on the pages of our Bible and the pages of history to prepare them for their God appointement moment.  Joseph goes home and is thinking about quietly breaking off his engagement with Mary when he has a dream and an angel tells him that yes Mary is going to be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah and that Joseph is called to be his step dad.

What an unexpected plot twist for this young carpenter, this young ordinary couple, who loved God and said yes to His purposes.  There was something in Joseph that had prepared his heart to hear God and say yes to the unexpected and an internal strength to face the accusations and the drama that was probably going to surround their family for their whole life.

 

God is at work in you right now to prepare you for everything that you will face.  You are positioned for breakthrough and victory.   God is planting within you strength and character and wisdom and resources to navigate every season.    You are prepared to be the parent you need to be, the spouse you need to be, the employer and employee, the friend, the whatever you need to be.  Sometimes it feels like we are way out of our depth but as we fix our eyes on Jesus we will be like Peter and walk on water, and the times we feel that water level rise over our head to drown us we can be secure that as Jesus didn’t let Peter drown He will grab ahold of us too.

We have the advantage of being able to look at the people in the Bible, and people in history who have done great things for God and can point out the ways that God was at work and preparing them.  We can turn the page and see the outcome and how they overcame.

 

But when the Israelites fled from the Egyptian and arrived at the shores of the Red Sea they literally, literally thought they were going to die.  Then we turn the page and see God split the sea for them to walk on dry land.

When David walks into the valley to face Goliath we have known the story since we were kids and know that in our day david vs goliath is a catch phrase of the small guy beating the big guy.   But did the Israelites have that confidence as they watched this teenager stride out onto the field with his sling shot to face the well armoured, well weaponed giant?  I think in this case David had the vision to see the invisible, Goliath may come against him with sword and spear but David had the might and power of Almighty God with Him and defeat was impossible.

 

I love what David says  “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and [b]struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”

 

The lion and the bear prepared David for the giant.    I like that David recognised the preparation of God throughout these experiences – he acknowledged that God was at work to complete every good work in his life and that these experiences had purpose.

Right now God is at work in your life to prepare you for the next thing.  Every difficulty is an opportunity to learn wisdom and faith.  Every test is preparation for a testimony.  Every mess is part of the message.

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie Ten Boom

Christine Caine says what you store up in the silence will come back to you in the storm.

 

Imagine if David had gone oh my goodness it’s a lion and this is so bad and its eating my sheep and that’s it, I quit!  Or wow, I’ve never battled a giant before, this just cant be done, get me out of here!

His attitude was if God is for me, who can be against me.  I do all things through God who gives me strength.   Nothing is impossible for God.

He had a holy confidence which realised that what faced Him was impossible but that God is greater and that God never fails.

Our attitude and mindset during challenges often makes the difference between it being something that grows us or something that discourages us.

Thomas A. Edison said Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.  I think the same can be said of preparation.  Preparation is dressed in overalls stained with blood, sweat and tears.  It comes with discipline and healthy habits and commitment.   It comes with surrender to God’s ways and character development.

Preparation may look like a backwards step, or even that you’re not moving.

Have you ever watched a movie and been amazed at the transformation of an actor?  I know things like that fascinate me and I am a geek so often will look up stuff about the behind the scenes information about movies and actors.

Natalie Portman trained with a New York City Ballet dancer for up to eight hours a day, six days a week, for over a year ahead of the shooting the film.

For those who have Netflix, and like a scary movie, Sandra Bullock in The Bird Box, which if you’re on social media of any form you would have seen a tonne of memes about, actually wore a real blindfold for most of the filming even though the director offered her one with cutout for eyes because she wanted the experience to be authentic.

On the same theme, Jamie Foxx played Ray Charles, blind pianoist for the movie Ray, and he agreed to wear prosthetic eyelids glued over his eyes to mimic Ray Charles’ blindness.  Sometimes he would be blind for 14 hours a day.  It caused the actor to have panic attacks during the early weeks of shooting and crew members would sometimes leave him on set, forgetting he couldn’t see. In addition, Foxx, who went on to win Oscar gold for the performance, learned to play all of the piano parts in the film.

In the Star Wars prequels Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson spent so many hours training with their lightsabres for the highly coordinated battles that they had to actually slow down the footage because they were too good and too fast that it seemed unbelievable.

Here’s a geeky thing for you:  when Star Wars – The Phantom Menace was released in 1999 2.2 million employees in the US skipped word to see the movie.  This unauthorized absence was estimated to have cost the US economy $293million!

We see the finished product and enjoy the entertainment but behind the scenes someone has spent hours preparing for that role.

 

 

I remember driving down union rd, 8 months pregnant with Evangeline, having a bit of a vent at God about how other people were getting opportunities to live their dream and get out there and preach and well, here was I. Pregnant.  As I was ranting I clearly heard God speak “Claire,  I made you a woman”.  My response, well obviously.  God said it again, Claire I made you a woman and in that moment He must of graciously given me the understanding of what He was saying – that I was created to be a wife, a mother and none of this was unexpected to God.  I wanted to go from A to Z the shortest fastest way possible to live the dream but God knew what letters of the alphabet he wanted to use and that He knew the road I was on.   I would not be the woman of God, or perhaps even youth pastor, without living the life I have lived and the seasons of preparation and pruning that God has taken me through.

You might feel like you’re in hiding or that God has misplaced your address but be assured that God is at work right now in your life.  Embrace this season of preparation and be prepared for the unexpected.

When the unexpected door opens to an opportunity that you feel might be like walking on water know that if God has called you then He will empower you and has been equipping you for this very moment.

 

SAY YES TO THE UNEXPECTED

 

So confident in the reality that there are no surprises for God and that He is the author of our lives, preparing us for every situation and opportunity we need to be people that say YES to the unexpected.

We were never called to live predictable lives that are naturally possible. We are called to pursue a supernatural journey of faith

God plans unexpected needs to arise at inconvenient times in our lives to invite us to trust and depend on him.

I love the calling of the disciples, firstly because again God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and because then Jesus said to them COME FOLLOW ME they left their boats, their desks, their security, to embark on the adventure of following Jesus.