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So we all love movies where the hero overcomes the odds, scores the girl, defeats the bad guy, saves the day, right?  As of the start of the week ENDGAME has made $2.73 billion which means a lot of people have seen it including one fan, Agustin Alanis who has seen it 103 times.

It’s like there is something in our DNA that is drawn towards stories of ordinaryish people who rise up and become the hero and I think something in all of us that wonders if we were put in that position… if we were bit by the spider… if we found a droid with a secret message… if we were struck by lightning… that we would accept the challenge and be the hero.. am I right?

Well in the bible we meet about a moment just like this – a guy plucked out of obscurity, chosen by God to be king, who against all the odds defeats the bad guy and saves the day.

So Israel have this king, Saul, but he’s gone off the rails a bit and God has chosen a new guy to be king and sends Samuel, the prophet to go and anoint the new king.

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Now here begs the question… where do you find a new king?  There aren’t schools for kings, you cant go to a shop and select one off the shelf and you cant order one from the internet.  Perhaps you could do a show like the bachelor, where you give a rose to the candidates and end up living happily ever after with the king at the end…  or survivor “the tribe has spoken”…

God tells Samuel to go to visit a family in Bethlehem and that he has chosen one of his sons to be king.

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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.

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Going toe to toe with a giant is not a simple matter.  It takes guts to tackle the obstacles in our life.

The battle usually happens in our minds and hearts.  It expresses itself in our emotions and sense of security.

On that battlefield we can sometimes have questions and doubt.   Doubt can then make us feel like we’re not good enough, not faith filled enough, not blank enough.

However, doubt is NOT  always an indicator of your spiritual connectiveness to God.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  Ever.  No shame, no fear, no failing.  You are loved and accepted.

Just because you have questions God isn’t going to disown you. Doubt is not always rebellion. Sometimes it IS, but sometimes its not. God is not afraid of your doubts and questions.

Some questions or doubts we have in fact can be opportunities to strengthen our faith as we resolve the issues of our hearts.

Be intentional about resolving doubt.

 

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

 

I became a Christian when I was in my last year of high school.  One of the subjects that I was taking was Biology.  Which included an evolution component.

At that point I didn’t have a theological position on creation.  I’d just got saved.

Some of the material we were studying made me ask A LOT of questions.  Questions about the validity and accuracy of the Bible.   Questions therefore about the power of God.

So I asked God about it. I went right to the source.

Later that day I was reading in Hebrews: Hebrews 11: 3 “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

That was enough to answer it for me.

By faith I could trust what God said.  By faith I could trust that if God said it, I could believe it.

My faith was strengthened because doubt had led me to ask the questions.

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1 Sam 17:38-40 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. I cannot go in these, he said to Saul, because I am not used to them. So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

 

You have got to have your own faith.

You have got to have your own overcomingness.

You cant do things based on your pastors faith, or your youth pastors faith, or your mum and dads faith. Its got to fit for you.

You’ve got to have your own strategy and your own relationship with God and your own understanding of faith and who God is and who He has made you to be and called you to be. You can’t live off someone elses giftings or annointings.

You’ve got to know on the inside who God is and who He has called you to be and what He is doing in and through your life.

Saul’s armour didn’t fit David, so David took it off. Saul wasn’t even prepared to wear his own armour to fight Goliath!

It is YOUR faith that will bring the victory in YOUR life. That is why overcoming doubt is so important because it is YOUR faith that opens doors and breakthrough and sees the cool stuff God has planned done.

Part of wearing your own armour is reconciling that you are who you are. You are uniquely made. Uniquely gifted.

Sauls armour fit Saul. It wasn’t crafted to fit David.

To be successful in battle you have to have protection that fits you. Too bulky and you’re weighed down. Too small and you’re left exposed. David understood that he had to fight Goliath as DAVID, not as a wannabe Saul.

Today take off any amour that isnt crafted for you.  Replace it with your own faith and your own style and strategy?

 

How has God uniquely wired you for your life?

 

SHOP (3)

 

Attitude can make a pivotal difference when facing down a giant.

David was the youngest – remember overlooked when the great prophet Samuel came to anoint the next king – at left at home AGAIN to look after the sheep. His brothers go off to war to become heroes and he has to stay home, like a kid. This could of made him feel insecure and insignificant – esp when his dad tells him to go take some lunch to his brothers. Menial. Not very life changing or significant.

But even when his brother insults him David maintains an attitude of self confidence – or perhaps more so confidence in who he is and who he is called to be. His brother’s words were intended to make him doubt and retreat but David was not affected.

He had a different perspective of WHO HE WAS – He was God’s.

He had an attitude of faith and an identity secured in what God said about him.

 

To overcome self doubt we need to get a clear and accurate picture of who God says we are.

BELOVED.
CALLED.
CHOSEN.
EMPOWERED.
ETERNITY CHANGERS.
MEN AND WOMEN OF DESTINY.

To step out and be the person we are called to be and to do the things we are called to be we need to be people of FAITH – having faith in GOD – it is HIM who works in us – I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH.

In order to overcome the giants we face we must have an understanding of what God says about who we are. Read the rest of this entry »

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David fought the giant with faith and the Word of God.

Yes, he used stones but his primary weapon was his confidence in God’s Words.

This attitude and faith is evident when he gets an audience with the king.

1 Sam 17:32 – 37 David said to Saul, Let no-one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him. Saul replied, You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth. But David said to Saul, Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. Saul said to David, Go, and the LORD be with you.

To David, the Word of God was that God was always with him to deliver him and overcome.

God had delivered him from the bear and the lion and God would deliver him from the giant. There was no second guessing God. No but if. No doubt. David was unshakable in his faith in God. He had built up a history of seeing God at work in his life and a history of believing and trusting in God. He had a holy confidence because knew God was faithful.

In our lives we can look back at all that God has done beginning with the most significant and life changing : Jesus died on the cross to rescue us and save us.

In this reality and truth we can have faith that because of salvation that Jesus has defeated all the giants we face.

Jesus is the ultimate David.  The ultimate David who had faith in the Word of God and faced the giant and defeated him, not with stones but with faith and the cross.

Today our victory comes not in what we can do but in what Jesus has done.

Faith is in a person.  It is a WHO thing not a WHAT thing.

We can have faith in the promises and purposes of God because Jesus is the YES to God’s promises.

 

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killing giants

 

The battle of David and Goliath, though played out with a shepherd boy and a warrior is a great picture of the battle of fear vs doubt – with most of the victory happening NOT on the battlefield, but behind the scenes in the lead up to their face off.  It  is one of the greatest examples of how faith overcomes – how faith overcomes the giants in our lives – not just only of the physical great big stinking men type but how to overcome giants on the inside and giants of circumstance and difficulty.

Lets look at how the scenario began for David:

1 Sam 17:13 – 20 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. Now Jesse said to his son David, Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines. Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.

1 Sam 17:28-29 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle. Now what have I done? said David. Can’t I even speak?

In this series in the next few days we’ll explore ways that we can tackle the giants in our life with faith in the One who ultimately was like David on our behalf.

We all have seasons where the giants seem more real and more fierce.

Where the voice calling to us from across the valley seems to shout personal insults and mock our every breath.

It is in those moments that we need faith.  We  need to know, like David, who we are and more importantly, who our God is.

What will win the fight in  your life?

What giants do you face?

*** notes from church this morning – fantastic message by pastor peter on preparing your life for revival

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1 samuel 17
One huge giant held captive by fear
We have Goliaths in our land and the church has been kept paralysed by them
Fear of man / political correctness
Apathy / she’ll be right

We need some Davids to stand up in our nation to take on giants

1 samuel 17:31 let no mans heart fail

Move from just great sunday meetings but to a day by day encountering God and cumulating in celebrating on a sunday

David had preparation
Lions and bears

Public victory comes from private victory
Secret place victory equals public power

How did God train david:
1 training began at home
David anointed and then sent back out to the sheep

2 training involves close combat
See v35
Ephesians 6:12
Often our wrestle is against lies and insecurity

3 training gives a testimony
Revelation 13:11 their own testimony

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firstly, i have to say i have always wanted hair like the chick in Brave.  curls like that.  colour perhaps not as red but more dark red.  nice.

 

but secondly, brave is something i would like to be. 

or rather i think i am, sometimes.

is that a contradiction?

 

or rather perhaps, my request is that i am more aware of Him, who makes me brave, who is within me, who rises up on the inside and fills me with fearlessness…

there are times when i face my giants and i am aware of His presence and hope

that carries me

sustains me

emboldens me

 

there are times when i am riding a storm and i am aware of His presence and hope and grace

giving me peace

despite the waves and the wind swirling around me

 

there are times when i am curled in a foetal position, ear plugs in, aware of His presence and hope and grace and comfort

holding me

singing over me

 

bravery isn’t found in the quiet space or the sunny day

it is found in the midst of opposition and pain

on the darkest days filled with thunder

on the days when you scream out loud, or silently

brave can be meeting new people, trying new things, climbing new heights (or jumping off them!)

it is found on the days when you have to make difficult decisions and have difficult conversations

it is in tackling evil and indifference, it is in standing up for the weak and rising up for justice

it is in sacrifice and unsureness, trust and wisdom

 

it comes from having a history with God, seeing Him stand at His word, fulfilling His promises

it comes from wrestling bears and lions, staring giants in the eye, rudder to the storm

 

bravery comes from not knowing what to do next, but stepping out anyway

it comes from knowing that if God spoke it, He shall accomplish it

and that He uses vessels like you and me, ordinary people, to do extraordinary things

 

be brave

stand up

speak out

rise

pray

rejoice

be brave

 

The chasm between talking about something & doing something about that thing is only bridged by a willingness to forsake comfort & ease. Our fundamental unwillingness to have our own plans, schedules, or balanced lives interrupted or inconvenienced is what limits us. ~ Christine Caine

 

 

 

 

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***** notes from my preach this morning @ The River

The word of the Lord came to Jonah ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. 

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’

Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’

He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’

This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’

‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.’ Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:1-17

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Running From God

First lets all get on the same page here, we are all JONAH.  We’ve shared his thoughts and we’ve made similar decisions.  We’ve run from God, we’ve gotten angry at Him and we’ve chosen our own way. 

He’s said one thing and we’ve done the opposite.

He’s said go and we’ve said no.

He’s said stop and we’ve put our fingers in our ears.

He has set the standard and we’ve compromised lower.

Let me tell you one thing I’ve learned, in my brief life, I may not understand WHY God is saying something, but He is God and I am not. His go has all of His eternal wisdom and insight behind it. His no has all of His eternal wisdom and insight behind it. God sees the big picture.

We may not have hopped on a boat to tarnish… but we all have our different escape routes…

But the good news is though Jonah ran from God, God never left Jonah

In a good way you can never escape the presence of God.

He loves you too greatly.  His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

If you are saved, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, He will never let you go.  You may run for the hills and rebel and live in complete opposite to His ways, but He is your Father.  He doesn’t unadopt His kids. 

Now there is a lot of conjecture about whether it was it a fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah ? To me it doesn’t matter as it was in the right place at the right time. God provides a way where there seems none.

The whale was God’s rescue mission to save Jonah… Imagine the slush and the filth and the acid and the dead fish!   The whale is like the worst worst worst case scenario you could be in.  Now we know the end of the story, we know Jonah gets spat out and lands back on the beach… but Jonah has no idea of this.  Any moment could be his last breath. 

God has personal holiness programme.  Our happiness is on His agenda too, God does want you to experience joy and peace and hope and life – but in within the boundaries He, our loving Father sets.  He is at work shaping us to make us more like Jesus. Because He knows that is good for us, our best life.  But we, even as Christians, forgiven, given a new life, transformed have this part within us that runs after things that will never satisfy, that are hurtful, that will only end in brokenness and heartbreak. And that includes trying harder. You know, everyone has their own distinctive running style. I saw a photo of my brother, who had done really well in a half marathon and I was “oh my goodness! He runs just like dad”! They have this arm thing they do that means I could spot dad from the finish line a couple of hundred metres away. We all run our own way. For some of us running from God involves getting into wild living, drugs, alcohol, partying, or into wrong relationships, serial dating, or into climbing the corporate ladder or blatant disobedience. Anything to fill the void. But sometimes running includes looking like a good church person on the outside but there is something not connected on the inside. I read this great quote last night:

Why do people persist in their self-destructive behaviour, ignoring the blatant fact that what they’ve been doing for many years hasn’t solved their problems? They think that they need to do it even more fervently or frequently, as if they were doing the right thing but simply had to try even harder.”

Instead of running FROM God we need to RUN to God.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you.” Jonah 2

 

 

So how do we stop running?

1. STOP: Like Jonah we’ve got to stop – and acknowledge that we’re running. We’ve got to put our hand up and get real. This is an open invitation. You might be 3 steps out the door, 3 miles down the road, 3 days in the belly of a whale. But the invitation is there. Our God is compassionate and merciful.

Let me tell you, you are never too far away from God. Jonah was in the belly of a whale. He had run as far as you could away from the will of God. He was a prophet – his job was to hear from God and he stuck his fingers in his ears and rebelled.

 

2. IDENTIFY: Jonah was identified by lot as the cause of the massive storm. And then he gave answer to the sailors questions. What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’ They asked. Jonah answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) Just as Jonah identified what the problem was, we identify the running behaviour and contributing factors. Identify what it is standing in the way of your obedience. Then kill it.

Is there rebellion in our life? Disobedience? Are we living more into the shadows than in the light? Are we skipping church? Are we avoiding certain people? Ie caller id

But again more importantly, identify what God says about you – you’re His beloved child, He has a plan and a purpose for you, His mercies never fail, nothing can separate us from His love.

 

3. CHANGE: We’ve got to change that behaviour, repent, make a lifestyle change, make relational changes, do whatever needs to be done to get back on the right road. The sailors asked Jonah what they should do. Now, most of us will not have such a drastic response such as “toss me in the sea” but we may have to make some radical changes to realign ourselves with the purposes and will of God.

And let me tell you, its worth it. Its worth it to walk with God, it’s worth it to follow His ways, its worth it to be in relationship with Him. Somewhere along the way we’ve dumbed God down to an lifestyle optional extra – full cream, extra sugar and Jesus please. But wow, we can have relationship with God! Jesus died on the cross to set us free from guilt and open the door to supernatural reality and connection with the amazing creator of the universe! That’s like winning every jackpot of every lotto in every country every day of the week plus infinity plus one.

From what I have learned in life if I put anything up on a scale vs God – God wins every time.

Who knows what we might be missing by running from what could very well be God’s means of steering us towards the most magnificent outcome of our lives.  Priscilla Shirer

When GOD Ran

In Luke 15 Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger son asks his father to give him his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance. Once received, the son promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living. When the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son finds himself in dire circumstances. He takes a job feeding pigs. He is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness, decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy. The father who had been watching and waiting, receives his son back with open arms of compassion. He is overjoyed by the return of his lost son! Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a giant feast in celebration.

So the younger son goes off, parties it up, looses it all. So he decides, at his lowest, the whale belly moment so to speak, that he will return home. He stops running and identifies what the problem is and makes a change to put things right with his father.

He leaves the pig pen and begins the journey home. One step at a time. Bracing himself for whatever he would receive when he got home. He left in style, he arrives, in sty.

But watch what happens when he comes in sight. His Father is there, watching from afar. He is keeping a lookout for his son. He hasn’t given up. While the son was a long way off, his father saw him coming. And he ran.

Now we think, that’s nice. The father ran.

But put it in a cultural context here. Middle Eastern men didn’t run. Especially middle aged Middle Eastern men. Ever. It was undignified. Unacceptable. But this father ran.

It says so much about the love the father felt for his son. Extravagant lavish love, so much so that he ran, he forgot about his social standing and social rules and expressed with his whole self how glad he was his son was home.

He saw his son, was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. He bear hugs him. Everything he does speaks love.

Remember, the son left in style, but arrived back weary, dirty. He is malnourished. Probably ill looking. Smelling of pigs. Smelling of sweat. He hasn’t probably washed in at least a week, and I’m being generous. He would have slept on the ground. No morning hygiene routine. No toothpaste! He has walked from wherever to here. His feet would reek and you might not even be able to tell what colour his skin is by the ground in layers of dirt.

Yet his father looks beyond that and sees his son and cant get close enough to him. He kisses the dirt. He kisses the stinky son.

Oh and then the son remembers his speech. The one that he has rehearsed in his head with every step closer to home.

Father, I’ve messed up, I’m no longer worthy to be your son…” midspeech his dad stops him.

Worthy? Worthy? Stop right there!

We have 2 kids, Caleb aged 11 and Evangeline aged 7. They’re great kids. But there is never a time we’d disown them. As soon as they were “there” inside me, they were mine and I was their mum. We share blood and dna that can never be extracted. Sure we’d like them to be good kids and grow into great adults and live a life pleasing to God and us but the reality is, they’re our kids. They’re McLean’s whether they like it or not.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says “for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Being a child of God is not based on our performance but upon what Jesus did on the cross.

My worthiness isn’t based on anything I can earn or do. I have nothing to boast about apart from the grace and mercy of God, demonstrated in Jesus upon the cross, that while I was still rebellious and running away, Jesus died for me to rescue me.

We are all that son. We are all like Jonah. We have run away from God. We have ignored Him and rebelled against Him. But the invitation of God is to come home. And there He is, watching from afar, filled with compassion, ready to run.

For me that moment happened 20 years go. On Wednesday I celebrated 20 years as a Christian.

I grew up in what could be called a semi religious home.  my mum took us to the catholic church.  i made my first communion and confirmation.  my dad stayed at home and cooked amazing roast lunches.  i DID really want to know God though and there are several experiences that i know have shaped my faith, expression and relationship with God from childhood but church was boring and irrelevant. In saying that I follow the new pope on twitter and he says some awesome stuff about Jesus!

In early teens though I decided that God must not be real, as He didn’t seem to be “there” – so I figured I would live my life without the “hassle” of thinking about Him and “His laws” (very catholic way of thinking) and so did that.  i chose to live my own life my own way.

Our family moved quite a bit and when I was 15 we moved from Gore (the 5th place I’d lived already)… where I went from a 300 student co-ed school to Blenheim, where I had to go to a 1000+ all girls school!  Talk about freak out!  It was major culture shock!  one of my new friends then casually asked me during classics class if i would like to go to  youth group with her.  I went along with her one night for one reason and one reason only.  There were boys there!  Great reason for going to youth group eh lol!

Anyway on that first night someone PRAYED and I KNEW God was REAL and I knew I wanted to know Him. i had seen people pray my whole life when i went to church with mum – and this was like it was real, and that he was really talking to a real God, that i could know, not far away, but near and personal, and not grumpy and angry, but loving and filled with grace.

so i went along to easter camp and i think for the first time heard clearly about who Jesus is and why he died on the cross and that you could have peace with God, peace on the inside.

i went forward when they asked if anyone would like to give their lives to God and had what can only be called a supernatural experience.  i felt God.  i felt a warmth and a heat that couldnt be explained by the room i was in.  i felt happy and peace.  i felt loved.  i knew that i had crossed a line, that 10 minutes before i was not a christian but then all of a sudden i was. 

God loves you. Just as He ran towards me, He runs towards you.

 

 

 

Running WITH God: Perspective

Jonah ran because had a different perspective from God. When God called Jonah to preach to Ninevah Jonah disagreed with God’s perspective.

A bit of background: NINEVEH was the famous capital of ancient Assyria in seventh century BC, a economic and trade hub for the Assyrian empire. Its ruins can be found in modern day iraq. It was also famous in the ancient world because it was a centre for the worship of Ishtar (Astarte) the fertility goddess. The Assyrians brought many scientific, philosophical and practical advances to humanity including many inventions that we take for granted today. Everyday most of us lock our doors when we leave the house, locks and keys were invented in Assyria. They also invented a system that kept time and ascribed 360 degrees to a circle. They are given credit for inventing paved roads, the first postal system, the first use of iron, the first libraries, the first plumbing, flush toilets and aqueducts.

Jonah saw Nineveh as a barbaric terrorist state – the Assyrians were their worst enemy – but God looked at Nineveh and marked them for repentance and salvation.

Just as in Hosea 1 it says about the people of Israel – In the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”, they will be called “children of the living God”. Hosea 1:10

In a way Jonah looked at Nineveh and said THEY ARE NOT MY PEOPLE.  That’s not my calling!  They are not my target demographic!  I don’t relate to them!  I have nothing in common with them!  I am not going to THEM!

No darkness is too dark for God to shine His light in.

God calls things differently than you call them because He sees things differently than you see them.

Are you seeing your situation the way God does?

What is God’s perspective on your past? Do you see yourself the same way?

What does God say about your workplace? You are positioned there to be salt and light

When you’re screaming hopeless can you hear the heartbeat of God declaring hope?

What is God saying about your family? What strategy has He given you to repair your marriage?

Who or what is your Ninevah?

Will you let your perspective line up with Gods… and then what will you do about that?

Recalibrating . . . My eyes to His vision, my ears to His speaking, my heart to His heart’s beating.

 

 

So what do you do when God calls you and everything within you screams RUN in the opposite direction?

1. STOP. I saw a funny picture the other day on facebook, and I’m not sure if its true or not, in my vast experience of facing off against wild bears in the wild, but it was of a guy playing dead on the ground when a big brown bear is sniffing around him. Like I said, no experience bear hunting, so I googled. And yes. If faced with a bear in the wild, apart from all the obvious things like STAY AWAY, you should lie facedown, to protect all your vital parts and protecting your neck with your hands laced behind the neck. Apparently the bear will think you’re not fresh and walk away. There you go, you learned something. But, segway here, when faced with the freak out moments from God we should stop.

Stop and breathe.

Stop and remember who God is. Big. Powerful. Creative.

Stop and remember who we are. Called by God. Children of God. Anointed by God. Appointed by God.

Stop and remember His promises and that He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

 

2. IDENTIFY. Indentify what it is that is freaking you out. Fight the fear and respond with faith.

“Instead of hiding from the world or being overwhelmed by the evil of it, we need to strengthen our spiritual cores and trust in the power of the spirit at work in us.” Christine Caine

My dad is a runner. He would run marathons all the time. He would take every Wednesday afternoon off, and run. For fun. He explained to me what the phrase hitting the wall meant after one run. You get to a certain milage and then boom. You feel like you’re going to puke. Or die. Or both. Your legs hurt. Your arms hurt. Your neck hurts. You want to give up. At that moment you could choose to pull out of the race… or keep going. You know you just have to push through a little bit more and then boom, second wind. I asked him what would get him through the wall? His reply was very insightful. “I did what I knew I could do. Run. One step at a time. And I knew the end wasn’t far away.” He identified what he could do and what the purpose of each step was.

You are in a race. I sometimes have jillian Michaels, from the biggest loser, as my life coach on my shoulder. “unless you faint, puke or die, then keep going!”

I love what lois said last week Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is. My God is the one who said “peace” and the storm stopped. My God is the one who made the wind and the water in the first place! When David faced off against Goliath he couldn’t believe that no one had stood up to this measly teeny tiny giant up till then. David said in 1 Samuel 17:45 “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” Identify God’s perspective. Change. Change the behaviour from flight to fight. Step out in faith. Step out of the boat. Pick up your slingshot. Face towards Nineveh. If God has called you to slay giants He will make you a giant killer. Trust God. Trust God. Trust God. Brennan Manning says “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.” Let this be your identity. Let this inspire you to run with God. God’s perspective of you is that you are His child. That means you carry the mission of a child of God and the authority of a child of God. Greater is HE in you than he that is in the world.

 

3. CHANGE. Here are 3 questions we can ask ourselves – questions to propel us into change and action.

#1 – What is the next step we need to take in order to stay in step with the vision the Lord has given us?

#2 – Are there any obvious problems that we are trying to deny that simply need to be dealt with?  (There are some things you cannot “pray away!”)

#3 – What if you truly began to believe and live like you were created, positioned, empowered called by God to?

Let’s stand.

 

 

Wherever you are today, God loves you. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. He invites you to run with Him. He invites us to stop running and to say Yes to Him.

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