The Celebration (We Have a God Who Loves Surprises!)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
God is full of surprises, isn’t he? Can you think of any examples from your own life? My favorite God “surprise” story comes from 2004, when I stopped running from God and finally surrendered my life to him. As I’ve told many people over the past 15 years, the “surprise” comes from the fact that God chose to find me in the very place I went to run away from him! I was in San Francisco at the time, living a life of blatant sin and willful disobedience. God was not a word uttered among my friends (unless it was to take his name in vain), and yet I could sense his irresistible love tugging at my heart.
Back in 1997 I packed my little Honda Civic hatchback and headed out west to California, the “promised land” filled with open-minded people who would “accept” me for who I was (or who I thought I was). I was leaving those small-minded, bigoted Midwestern folk in the rear view mirror forever, and thought I could leave God there too. I’m so thankful my rebellion was no match for the love of Jesus! He not only pursued me; he also placed his hedge or protection over me, sparing me the fate of overdoses, suicide, and disease that took the lives of many I knew.
Then, at the beginning of 2004, my partner of four and a half years ended our relationship; I thought my life was over, but through the emotional agony of that separation I was finally able to see God’s everlasting love for me. I knew what I needed to do, falling on my knees to repent of my sins and ask Jesus to once again be Lord and Savior of my life. When word got out to my friends I’d become a Christian, it was like an atomic bomb went off, and I quickly found myself the target of intense hostility and at times outright hatred.
At the time I didn’t know a single other Christian in San Francisco, and felt I might buckle and collapse under this intense pressure, so I did the only thing I knew to do - like David I cried out to God to be my deliverer and salvation. I didn’t have to wait long for God to answer - through the most unlikely of circumstances he led me to a solid, Bible-believing church with several members who had a similar story to mine, an amazing community group that became my second family and a place where I would experience incredible spiritual growth, and a place I would call home filled with other single Christian men living in the city. I eventually got involved with a street evangelism ministry and got to share the good news about Jesus in my old neighborhood, as well as an evangelistic Bible study that went into the SRO hotels in the seedy Tenderloin district. Who would have thought - in one of the most notorious “godless” cities in America I was finding new life in Christ!!!
Max Lucado has a great devotional called “The Celebration” that also talks about our God who loves surprises, writing: “God love surprises. He appears in the strangest of places and does the strangest of things. He arches rainbows in the midst of thunderclouds. And he calls people by name in a cemetery.” He then talks about Mary Magdalene - a very surprised woman on that easter morning! She went to the tomb expecting to to visit the site of a dead corpse and instead found a living Savior - can you imagine what she must have felt?!?
A day of even bigger surprises is coming - that day when we finally meet our Savior face to face. Max says this: But the celebration planned for the future will be a lot bigger. More graves will open. Many more names will be called. Many more knees will bow. And many more seekers will celebrate. And then he asks this important question:
I plan to make sure my name is on the guest list. How about you?
Do you want to enjoy that great surprise someday? There’s only one way - follow Jesus. It’s easy to assume everyone reading this blog has already made that decision; have you? If not, make today the day - let’s all enjoy the greatest surprise we’ll ever know together!