Audacious-showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.
I don’t know much about a man named Dutch Sheets but he told a story that has resonated with me about the heart of God. Dutch’s father was a pastor and at a young age, Dutch gave his heart to God. However, when Dutch was 17, his father shattered his entire family. He had an affair with the church secretary, left his family, and married her. Dutch was angry with God and turned to alcohol and drugs. His lowest moment was when his mother, as she was sobbing in his arms, said she didn’t want to live. Bitterness and hatred filled his heart. But God is not like us. He didn’t grow bitter toward Dutch or hate him. He came after him.
Two years later at a bar named The Boars Head, God found him, while he was listening to a rock band, and was stoned out of his mind. Dutch says God asked him, “What are you doing here?”
(“Intimate Friendship with God”-Dutch Sheets)
I loved what Dutch said back to God. He said, “What are YOU doing here?”
Who would think God would lower Himself to meet a stoned person in a sin-filled, stinky bar?
Anyone who walks with the real God of heaven would enthusiastically say, “I would!”
God said something so tender to Dutch in that moment. He said, “I have come for you.” That’s our God. He comes after us, or nobody would ever come to Him.
Dutch was immediately sober and got up and left the bar. It was the beginning of his healing.
God will go to crazy lengths to make Himself known and draw people to Himself. He longs for all people to come to repentance.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
2 Peter 3:9
God does not want anyone to be destroyed.
That’s His heart. In the story of the Prodigal Son, we see the father who represents God. He looks for his son daily and when he sees him, he does something an older, Jewish man would never — ever do; he runs. For a Middle Eastern man to run in the first century would have forced him to tuck his tunic in his belt and show his legs. That was both humiliating and shameful. Yet, Jesus Himself told this story. He was making it clear that the father was putting aside his dignity for his child.
In that culture if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles, when he returned home the whole community would meet him and perform something called, kezazah. They would break a large pot in front of him and yell, “You are now cut off from your people!” It meant total rejection from the community.
No wonder the father looked for him daily.
I believe he was determined to meet him before anyone else could reject him or hurt him. That may be why he ran with all his might. No matter how horrible that young man might have looked coming back to town, the father recognized his boy and he took off running. No one was going to get to him first.
The father’s love controlled his heart; not his justice.
He was willing to suffer shame and humiliation to get to his son, in order to cover his son’s shame and humiliation.
The deeper I study the words of Jesus, I am amazed at how He spent His time (through stories) trying to tell the world the length God would go to convince us of His love. It is otherworldly and beyond our comprehension.
All this takes me to a place that has blown my mind. As I studied 1 Samuel 5, I read about the Philistines god, Dagon. The Philistines had gone to battle against Israel and they were terrified because Israel brought the ark of God out to go before them. The Philistines had heard of Israel’s God and they feared Him greatly.
However, the Israelites were not devoted to God, they were using Him as a good luck charm when they needed him.
God doesn’t let us operate that way as His children.
He let them be defeated and the Philistines captured the Ark. They thought their god was stronger than the God of Israel because of the defeat. They had no idea that God had orchestrated the whole thing for His own purposes (different blog for a different day).
They put the Ark of God in the temple with their god, Dagon. In the morning, their god had fallen down in front of the Ark of God. They propped him back up. The next morning, he was on his face again but his head and arms were broken off.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
Israel was far away from God and He let them be defeated, but it didn’t stop God from showing Himself to a heathen nation.
He uses unlikely ways to reveal Himself and His glory to a world He loves. He loves every single nation. No matter who they are, how opposed to Him they are, or how far away from Him they are.
God will go to bars to meet people. He will go to crack houses. He will speak in dreams. He will use false gods to get people’s attention. His creativity is astounding and perfect. We often miss Him because we don’t expect Him to show up the way He does. We expect Him to be “Godlike” and scary. He can easily be missed when He shows up as a baby sleeping in a feeding trough or as an insignificant carpenter in a town where no one important lives.
As I studied Dagon, I found out he was the god of the entire Assyrian Empire, which included the Philistines and the Ninevites. Dagon was a fish-god. He had the hands and head of a man and the torso of a fish.
God sent Jonah to speak to the Ninevites. He said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2).
God loved Nineveh. They were a city of at least 120,000 people. God said that they didn’t know their right hand from their left and He felt pity for them. He wanted His prophet to go warn them that He would have to bring judgement on them if they did not repent.
They didn’t know who God was so God, in His mercy, sent a prophet so He could tell them.
Jonah ran from God by getting on a ship and the sea went crazy. The men on the ship cast lots to see who was responsible and the lot fell to Jonah (God has His ways of calling us out when we be tryin’ to hide). They knew he was running from God, but they asked him who he was.
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
God let Jonah say out loud exactly who His God was before Jonah told them they would have to throw him into the sea. The men tried to row back to land but the sea got wilder. In desperation, they threw him into the sea. God showed them He was indeed the One who “made the sea and dry land.” How? The sea instantly grew calm as soon as Jonah was out of the boat. Jonah was not where God told him to go, yet God did a miracle in his disobedience.
The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
Jonah was so far outside God’s will yet God saved an entire ship full of men. NOTHING stops our God. We aren’t big enough to stop Him. Somehow, He takes what the whole world is doing at this moment and uses all of it to bring the world where He intends to take it. Oh, how we would rest if we only understood these things.
The book of Jonah goes on to say, “The LORD provided a HUGE FISH to swallow Jonah.”
That takes us back to Nineveh. God knew the Ninevites thought their fish-god was the real God. Can anyone imagine the shock and awe when a huge fish came ashore and spit out a man…alive. Not just a man, but a man with a message from God. No one will convince me that was random. Jonah undoubtably had everyone’s attention.
On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”
Jonah preached a one sentence sermon and this happened.
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
Who but our God could take a disobedient and hateful prophet, a raging storm, and a huge fish, to save everybody he encountered on his unwilling journey?
The lengths God will go to in order to reach all of us. He has never changed and He never will. His love draws us and as we turn toward Him, He runs toward us.
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away!
Won’t He do it?