In the Middle of a Story

Everyone loves a God-story. One of my favourites is the mansion story*. You may have heard me share it on a recent ministry tour or on a teaching CD. Complete with prophetic dream, God-confirmation and a finale that turns out much better than imagined. It’s so much fun to tell… The hope of provision. The anticipation of what will come next. The frightful steps of faith. The wonder of fulfilment as red ferraris and swimming pools and tennis courts miraculously appear.

Unfinished Story

Our hearts thrill to hear what God did. His supernatural hand intervening in our humdrum circumstances. His faithfulness to do what he said. The freaky unfolding of a future scene entering the present. We love those stories because they give us hope for our own.

But there are other stories too. Us preachers don’t tell those ones so much. They are the stories that still long for resolution and whose plot-line hangs agonisingly in the air. Whose narratives are tangled in conflict and whose confusing twists test the deepest roots of our faith. They are the stories we don’t tell yet because we are still waiting for the ending.

While some stories end neatly and package seamlessly to be retold in books and sermons, the others stay closed and hidden at the bedside. Their plot doesn’t fit so easily into our fairytale desires or hollywood finales.

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This is What Happens When One Person Follows God’s Voice…

There was once a Chinese man who thought he heard from God. The conversation went something like this:

“Go to the Min-wun Taungdan mountain* and tell the people there about Jesus.”

“But God, there is no-one living on that mountain.”

Silence. Just the echo of a strange thought that probably came from God.

Or did it? How could he be sure? There were no people there, the Government said. No-one in that part of the world, the ethnographers said. We’ve already explored that region and it’s empty, the surveyors said.

But the man was fairly sure he’d heard from God. So he packed his bag and trekked to the mountain wondering all the way if what he heard really was from God.

11332830-footpath-on-the-rice-field-in-mountain-area-of-shan-state-myanmarAnd the outcome of this one man’s obedience to the voice from Heaven?

His colleague retells his story… That when he arrived, he found an unknown, undiscovered people. That they spoke an unheard-of language that he found himself suddenly able to speak fluently when he met them (and can still speak today). That there is now a flourishing church in that region. That hundreds came to know God because one man heard from God and did what he said. That miracles follow those who are willing to obey God’s voice and go to places that only God sees…
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Front Row Seats at the Best Show in Town

It’s better than the latest blockbuster, more entertaining than the most well-rehearsed performance.

Sitting in the front row watching the curtain open as God’s plan is revealed in the natural realm. Heaven shattering the barrier to earth. The invisible becoming visible. A spiritual truth bursts into flesh and bones, tangible, touchable Reality.

There’s nothing like it.

You’ve heard his words; you’ve seen a vision; you had a dream. You’ve tested those words that ignited hope and joy and you know they’re from heaven. You’ve waited and prayed and imagined what it would be like. You’ve stepped out in faith and watched as circumstances reverse. You’ve fought the doubt and wrestled with the anxiety; you’ve asked that terrifying question; Will it ever happen?

And one morning, days, months or years later when the grand playwright signals the fullness of time and calls for action, you watch as the greatest show on earth begins.

The Word of the Lord comes to pass.

theatre_stage_curtain

Unless God came good on his words, I was never going to live out my big missions adventure. At his call I had given up the thousands of dollars I had saved for my financial support for the two years I would be away. (This post tells the story). God had promised to provide, but it would be his way in his time. His words of assurance were blue-tacked in handwritten notes on the wall above my pillow.
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The Key to Hearing God’s Voice Clearly

It was early on in my God-conversations journey that I learnt the most important key to hearing God’s voice. It wasn’t about acquiring a certain skill, increasing my Bible knowledge or even about striving to live a moral life.

key to hearing God's voice

I was 21 years old, had recently re-committed my life to God and was experiencing something of a spiritual honeymoon. Worship had suddenly come alive for me and I’d been spending time with God just because I wanted to. It was during one that God spoke and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. I was walking on the path by my home, skipping on the inside and singing one of those old corny worship songs: “I’m yours, Lord everything I am; everything I’ve got. I’m yours Lord, try me now and see; see if I can be completely yours!”

As I sung the words; “See if I can be completely yours”, an uninvited sentence broke into my thoughts; “Give all your money away.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, hung my head in horror and turned back home. No more angelic song, no inward skipping; just a sledgehammer command that I couldn’t get out of my head.

I knew it was God. I just knew.

God, you have GOT to be kidding. I’ve saved hard the entire year – every spare cent in preparation for my big adventure. The Solomon Islands awaits. Wycliffe Bible Translators have accepted my application and the teams are excited to have a teacher come at last. It’s all planned! And now you’re telling me to give all my money away? 

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If God Gave out Awards, What would They Be For?

It’s awards season. There’s Grammys, Oscars, Baftas, AACTAs and Golden Globes (no, you don’t need to know what they all are)… The ceremonies are exclusive and lavish and replete with red carpets, glamourous celebs and hold-your-breath moments. It’s a time to honour those who have excelled in the fields of the arts.

This week I also received an award. And while there were no red carpets or gold statuettes (and my dress was mass produced, designed by no-one in particular), it was my special moment to be recognised as ‘Alumnus of the Year’ by the College who trained me back many years ago (thank you Harvest Bible College!)

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I also had the opportunity to give a short speech and while I was preparing what to say, I wondered how God saw the occasion… If God gave out awards, what would they be for?

We recognise what we see. Excellence, skill, talent. We reward on the basis of productivity and output and fruit. It’s good, but it’s not everything. Not even the most important thing.

The big difference is that God rewards what we don’t see. He watches what happens when nobody is there to take a photograph and applaud the speech.

He rewards openly what is done in secret (Matthew 6:4).
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