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I want to tell you a story about someone short.  I can identify.  I mean I have to say I’m real happy there are some new year 7s in here because me and Mikayla are no longer the shortest people here!

 

Anyway my story is about this short guy called Zacchaeus.

Now they say that good things come in small packages but that was so not true about Zacchaeus.  He was the chief tax collector in his area and made a living ripping people off.  People didn’t like him very much and defriended him on facebook and didn’t invite him to their parties or out to McDs for a frozen coke.

Anyway he heard that Jesus was in town and for some reason just kinda felt like he should go and see him.  Like everyone else in his town.

Now short people problems here.   No matter where he stood he couldn’t see.   And people wouldn’t move to make way for him.  So he ran ahead and climbed a tree beside so he could see Jesus.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.

 

Did you catch that.  Jesus was walking by the tree, looked up and called Zacchaeus by name.

In the crowd Jesus saw this short guy.  He picked him out.  He knew His name.

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open-book

I saw a Great White Throne and the One Enthroned. Nothing could stand before or against the Presence, nothing in Heaven, nothing on earth. And then I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there-before the Throne! And books were opened. Then another book was opened: the Book of Life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, by the way they had lived. Sea released its dead, Death and Hell turned in their dead. Each man and woman was judged by the way he or she had lived. Then Death and Hell were hurled into Lake Fire. This is the second death-Lake Fire. Anyone whose name was not found inscribed in the Book of Life was hurled into Lake Fire.  Revelation 20:11-15

Charles Spurgeon says: “We foresee from The Word, despite its obscurity, that strange and wonderful events will happen, such as are depicted by seals and scrolls, and warriors with avenging swords, and falling stars, and shrivelled sky, and a reeling earth, and I know not what beside; but when we have put all together and have been amazed at the visions that flit before us like visions in the night, we rejoice to learn at the end of them all, “All these things are ours, whatever they may be.”

Aka the bible says the end times will be weird and wonderful, supernatural and spiritual, earth shaking and great and terrible.

There are things I don’t understand about the end times and I confess I don’t really try to, I am quite happy for God to work it all out and I’ll just watch and see and be ready.

Things like the:

Times and weeks in Daniel

The horses and the trumpets

Pre, mid or post trib – everyone has an answer… but God knows for sure!

The seals and scrolls

The things with eyes and wheels and eyes on the wheels…

But what I DO know and DO stand upon is that:

God is God -my Lord, my King, my protector, my provider, my security, my Father, my saviour, my deliver.

1 Peter 1:5 says You have faith in God whose power will protect you until the last day.

In all seasons and all times we can trust him to be all we need and more.

 

In fact whatever happens and in whatever timeframe – i think these two Revelation verses are key to the end times – that we should make real in our lives right now and for every day we have left.

God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus.  Revelation 14:12

This means that God’s people must learn to endure and be faithful!  Revelation 3:10

Whatever happens and in whatever timeframe – the tribulation, the mark of the beast, the rapture, the signs and wonders in the heavens, the antichrist declaring himself, the two witnesses etc – we must learn to endure and be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is our role.  Our job.  To be obedient Christians.  To have faith in God.  To trust Him.

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I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. revelation 2: 2-5

This year as a church we’re looking at finding out who God has made us to be and how He has gifted us and how to get activated in using those gifts.

BUT before we get activated – and even if we’re on the journey of finding out who we are and what we’re called to – we need to have our own authentic real connected in love fired up passionate full on committed relationship with God.

It’s a what came first, the chicken or the egg?

It has to be real and it has to be our heart motivation to know and love Him and make Him known.

we may be uber talented but if we have no relationship with God we will not be serving His kingdom in a humble right manner.

Disclaimer: we’re all flawed and we’re all human and we’re all sinners but a consecrated committed disciple is different from a oh yeah whatever Christian.

But we want to be a person who embrace the call and purposes of God, who believe He is real and that He is the hope of the world

A person who pursue Him and find Him

A person who will dream and live and be marked for eternity, not just breathing and living but living with purpose and destiny

Determined to know Him

Determined to keep knowing Him

Determined to live to please Him

In the face of seemingly impossible odds God is up in heaven, not stressed at all. God is confident of His work in and through us.

Any ministry and service and adventure you have with God needs to come out of the overflow – out of the heart and core of who we are… otherwise its not sustainable.

Or pleasing in the sight of God.

First love: in revelation 2: 2-5 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The Ephesians were doing plenty of work and using their giftings. They were pursuing the call of God and active in their church and community.

But it wasn’t been done from a place of overflow in their lives. It wasn’t originating from love for God.

You see, God isn’t after our behaviour. He is after our heart.

Behaviour and change and transformation and obedience flows out of love from God and love towards, love for God.

Those that are in love with God and know His love for them respond with love.

You see the most important thing to realize in the world is that God loves you.

“God loves you simply because he has chosen to do so. He loves you when you don’t feel lovely. He loves you when no one else loves you. While we may theologically and intellectually understand the transaction, motivated by love, that took place at Calvary, the reality must reach our hearts in order to complete its course. We are loved. Let the words linger in our ears. We are loved.” ~ Max Lucado

Out of knowing that everything else will flow.

Security instead of insecurity

Peace instead of fear and worry

Hope instead of hopelessness

Righteousness by love instead of compromise

Vision instead of disorientation

You are loved. Loved.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 john 3:1

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:20


the more i think about this the more i am blown away and left in awe.


Esp when you consider WHO is knocking…


Jesus.  King of Glory.  Creator of the Universe.  Lord of Lords.  Alpha and OMega.

This is how John saw Him when He appeared to him on the isaland of Patmos…

12I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.  Revelation 1:12- 18


Paul says this about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


Ephesians 1:19-23 is an awesome passage about Jesus’ power and reign.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


John 1 goes big picture.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  John 1:1-5


So does Paul in Colossians 1 – a favourite passage of mine!

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Colossians 1:15-22

Daniel sees Jesus as all powerful and as Coming King in Daniel 7.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

Isaiah also sees Jesus.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7


Jesus is the sinless holy righteous perfect man.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  1 Peter 1:18-19

Get the picture?

Yet He stands at the door and knocks.

and if we open the door to Him, He will come in and eat with us.

fellowship with us.  hang with us. commune with us.  be with us.

i am humbled and in awe.

how could i not want to throw that door open and fling wide the door of my life?

continually been blown away by this today:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:12-13

i am a child of God.

i am His child.

He is my Father.

not born of flesh but born by His choice and His will.

i belong to Him.

i am just so amazed at this afresh.  He is my Father – He gave me the right to become His child.  simplicity. reality.  this is my family, my standing.

i enjoy His love, protection, provision, care.

i am aware He is with me, always, has a plan for my life, transforms me, challenges me, convicts me, encourages me, loves me.

its simple.  yet we can make it so complicated.

and sometimes we forget that.  sometimes we get entangled in life and sin and we forget that God makes us His child.

you know, it continues to amaze me and humble me and leave me in awe that God says;

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me…. Revelation 3:20

how personal is that.

i long for God to come in.  i open the door to His love and grace.  i open the door to relationship.  i open the door to walk with Him.  not to obey ritual or to wear the badge that i’m a christian, but to know Him and be known.

He is the creator of the universe, breathing out stars, seeing all that is unseen and uncomprehenable.  how wonderous are His ways and His works.

and i get to call Him Father.  not just God Almighty.  but Father.

knock knock, whos there? Jesus… Jesus who?

i know that seems like a joke, but i dont mean it irreverently…

Revelation 3 says that Jesus is knocking at the door and that if we open to him he will come in and eat with us, dine with us, fellowship with us, relate with us, hang with us.

but often we’re there, with a closed door, calling Jesus who? through the latch hole, holding Jesus at arm lengths, keeping him out of our lives.

we make our choices to put ourselves first, not God and his ways.

yet if we opened the door, Jesus would come and live (not in our hearts in a cliche!) in our lives and wow how awesome is that!

it is awesome for eternity (after death) but awesome for this lifetime even more so. to know God. to walk with God. to be friends with God. to be acceptable to God. to be new and forgiven and clean and holy and pure. to worship God. to be his child. to be known by God. to be his disciple. to be a real christian.

all it takes is for us to open up to God and to say YES to him and his ways. to keep the door open. every door.

“Paul tells you that you desire to be clothed, but it is necessary that you be stripped before you can put on Christ. Allow Him to strip your self-love of every covering so that you might receive the white robe washed in the blood of the Lamb. You need only His purity.” Fenelon (100 days in the secret place by gene edwards)

isaiah tells us that our righteousness is as dirty rags (isaiah 64:6) (used tampons is a really graphic way of puttnig it…) and in the light of fashion and clothing it is a good picture. our righteousness, our good works, our best trys and efforts are ugly dirty ragged clothing, instead of hte beautiful white robes of christ that he gives us by grace and by faith and such.

we want to wear His clothes, but we want to retain our own fashion sense too… despite what it really is…. we want to hold onto our lifestyle choices… our pride… our unforgiveness… our efforts… our ideologies… our intereptations of the bible… our way of dealing with people… our bias’… our comfort sins… our plans…

its an emporers new clothse syndrome really – we think our clothes are glorious and stunning, whereas God sees clearly.

we need to be humble and allow God to change and transform us. our works and efforts dont impress God… our humility and faith and surrendering “does”.

isaiah 61:1010 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Revelation 3:17-19

Trials and refinement don’t sit well in our 21st century western way of thinking. We have our microwaves, popcorn makers, dvds, im, mysky etc etc etc… but the work of God takes a lifetime and there are seasons that take time. The work of God is precious and good and right. God is working a miracle in our lives. In my life. I AM a miracle. I am a demonstration and ambassador for him. 

The message of Jesus has never been a happy happy joy joy promise.  He does promise abundant life, but that life is characterized by a life of surrender and relationship with God.  This promise comes with the outworking and demonstration of our faith, shaped by trials and obedience.  Jesus calls us to walk a narrow road, to take up our cross, to put Him first above all others, including and especially ourselves.

As Christians we may experience seasons of great joy and freedom, and likewise seasons when God seems very far away and that our spiritual life resembles the Sahara Desert.  There is a bigger picture involved.

“In all your journey as a believer, you will have two categories of spiritual experiences. One is tender, delightful and loving. The other can be quite obscure, dry, dark and desolate. God gives us this first one to gain us; he gives us the second to purify us.

First He deals with you as if you were only a child. Then he begins to deal with you as though you were a strong man. In the first there is a great deal of your Christian experience tied to that which you can sense outwardly. But the other category of Christian experience calls for a believer to no longer mind the outward senses. Rather he must know warfare against his own passions, and attain to a will that is in complete agreement and concert with the Lord…. This is the proper occupation of us all.

Dry spells are the instrument of God, for your good. Yes, it is true in such times, your five senses have been deprived and all outward progress of outward piety ends. Know this; In such times you are either going to leave off prayer and perhaps even a large part of your Christian walk, or you will be drive to a comfort which has nothing to do with the outward sense.” Molinos from 100 Days In The Secret Place (by Gene Edwards)

In these dry places we learn to persevere and to draw near to God regardless of how we feel and what we sense. In this time God is still at work, even more so I would think, as He develops strength of character and hunger for Him. We learn to pray in new ways, to seek after God and to in that action to hold onto our faith and beliefs. We may even find our beliefs and faith changing as things that are built on works and feelings and comfortability fall away. We may discover that we do know in our deepest parts that God does love me and knows me and forgives me – despite all our failings and unworthiness. In a dry spell the greatest watering and growth can occur. 

Even if we know nothing else we can have hope in WHO God Is.   God is God, the God of mercy and compassion, love and peace, grace and hope, Jehovah our Provider, Jehovah our Healer, Jehovah our Breakthrough.  He is the same today, yesterday and will be tomorrow. He will never leave or depart us, never abandon us. Our names are written on the palm of his hand, and there are nail scars to reinforce the point.

The dry place is not a time to give up. It is a time to hold on. It is a time to not let go of those “disciplines” that we practice. By the way those disciplines we do, bible reading and prayer and going to church must be actions of relationship or they become ritual. They must be actions of love and discovering who God is and what he does rather than form and just doing. We must read the bible to discover the author and creator – to know The Word, not just the words. 

Revelation 3 warns us to have fresh love for God.  Rules and rituals are no substitute for really knowing God and having the friendship available.

Knowing who God is will help immeasurably in the storm and the fire. Isaiah 43:1-2 promises that when we walk in the flood we will not be overwhelmed and when we walk through the fire we will not be burnt.  Jesus told us that in this life we will have troubles but that we can take heart and be confident that He has overcome the world.  Knowing what God says and promises for those situations brings hope and faith. It causes trust to rise in our hearts.  This is why knowing the Word is so vital. It strengthens us for the hard road, and refreshes us in the dry place. It teaches us who God is. 

Refining and shaping occurs so that we are more like Jesus in heart and character. This is so we are more effective in service for God. I do believe we are all cracked pots containing the great treasure of God, himself, the Holy Spirit, who works through us and in us and that our brokenness only serves to demonstrate how great and graceful and compassionate God is.

 2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God does not change.  He does not leave us.  He does not forsake us.  But He does allow us to be transformed and refined.  He has a bigger picture and no quick fixes.  God doesn’t use band aids but gets to the heart of the matter.  

Finally, take great hope from the Word of God that promises that when we are dying of thirst (spiritually) “He will come to their rescue.  He will make rivers flow on mountain peaks and send streams to fill the valleys.  Dry and barren lands will flow with springs and become a lake.” (Isaiah 41:17-18 CEV)  Don’t give up.  Keep praying.  Keep reading The Word.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

“Paul tells you that you desire to be clothed, but it is necessary that you be stripped before you can put on Christ. Allow Him to strip your self-love of every covering so that you might receive the white robe washed in the blood of the Lamb. You need only His purity.” Fenelon (100 days in the secret place by gene edwards)

isaiah tells us that our righteousness is as dirty rags (isaiah 64:6) (used tampons is a really graphic way of puttnig it…) and in the light of fashion and clothing it is a good picture. our righteousness, our good works, our best trys and efforts are ugly dirty ragged clothing, instead of hte beautiful white robes of christ that he gives us by grace and by faith and such.

we want to wear His clothes, but we want to retain our own fashion sense too… despite what it really is…. we want to hold onto our lifestyle choices… our pride… our unforgiveness… our efforts… our ideologies… our intereptations of the bible… our way of dealing with people… our bias’… our comfort sins… our plans…

its an emporers new clothes syndrome really – we think our clothes are glorious and stunning, whereas God sees clearly.

we need to be humble and allow God to change and transform us. our works and efforts dont impress God… our humility and faith and surrendering “does”.

isaiah 61:10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” REvelation 3:17-19

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