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BREAKING FREE FROM NORMALCY
By PERRY NOBLE
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.
Copyright © 2012 NewSpring Church
All right reserved.
Chapter One SHOWING UP AT THE DANCE
When I was in middle school, I attended every single dance our school had.
Michael Jackson's Thriller album was at the top of the charts, and a new form of dancing called break dancing had come into vogue. Almost everyone under the age of eighteen thought they should at least give it a shot (which for many people was a really bad idea).
On the night of a dance I would get my parents to drive me to the school early, and I was usually among the last ones to leave. I tell you seriously, I didn't miss a single one.
Yet in spite of all of the dances I attended, I never actually danced. Ever.
I talked about dancing. I thought about dancing. I watched other people dancing. Quite a few times I almost had the courage to walk onto the dance floor and try dancing.
But I didn't. I was one of those guys who was always at the dance but never actually danced.
When I take an honest look at my own life and the lives of the people around me, I have to wonder: are we doing the same thing when it comes to following Christ? Maybe we think about doing something radical for God. Maybe we even dream that one day we'll be more than we are today. But we end up merely standing against the wall, never experiencing the rhythm of God's grace. We don't embrace His promise of a life that is beyond our imagination.
When I read the Gospels, I am consistently amazed by the words of Jesus. When it comes to the kind of life He wants us to live, He made some pretty amazing promises:
All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief 's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.
If you have faith and don't doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, "May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea," and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. God has promised us an abundant life, not a dull one. He said we would do greater things than He did, which is pretty remarkable when we consider that He walked on water, healed a blind guy using mud pies, and fed more than five thousand people with just a little boy's "Happy Meal."
Keep in mind that Jesus also said if we have faith, we can move mountains instead of spending our days feeling crushed by them (see 1 Corinthians 13:2).
Take a second to participate with me in an experiment.
Choose a number in your head—any number you want. Go!
What number did you pick? Nearly every time I do this experiment with people, they tell me a number in the ballpark of one to one hundred.
Why would we pick a number between one and one hundred when we have the option of choosing any number in the world? Why would we not pick 1,284,383?
For many of us, it's a simple and sad answer: we've been programmed to focus on the small and the manageable. We do the same thing with spiritual matters. We focus on what's normal when God has promised He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).
We all want our lives to count, to matter—and the good news is that God wants that for each one of us as well. The beginning of unleashing the life God wants for us is understanding that there is so much more in store for us than what we are currently experiencing.
Most of us haven't grasped the reality that the resurrected Son of God is dwelling inside us, and therefore we think too small when it comes to the potential God has placed within us. But if we refuse to believe God has something greater in store for us, our chances of becoming unleashed and moving beyond normal are slim to none.
If our view of God is small and manageable—and normal—then we will have a small view of what He wants to do in and through us. But if the opposite is true—if we really grasp that God's plan for us is so much bigger and so much more powerful than anything we can imagine—then we will begin to realize the truth in what the apostle Paul promises in Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
God has called each one of us to embrace life, not merely to endure it. He wants us to have overwhelming victory (see Romans 8:37), to conquer sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15:57), to not get tired of doing the right thing (see Galatians 6:9), and to make a difference rather than make excuses (see Acts 22:16).
But before we can start living this way, we have to understand two very important truths.
TRUTH #1: Unleashing your life begins where you are right now.
No matter where you are in life—no matter what you're doing now, what you've done in the past, or what has happened to you—you can begin immediately to take steps toward unleashing the life God has for you. You can start becoming the person God wants you to be rather than feel as if life always gets the best of you.
As we read about Jesus in the Gospels, one thing is clear: He always meets people where they are and then brings them to where they need to be. He never dives into someone's life and immediately starts making religious demands.
When He called Peter, James, and John to follow Him, He didn't give them a list of things they needed to start doing and things they needed to stop doing. He simply invited them to lay down their nets and follow Him. When He called Matthew, a tax collector, to follow Him, He didn't lecture him on the evils of taxation and then tell him he needed a career change. He simply said, "Follow Me," and Matthew responded to the call.
Yes, our actions and habits change after we start following Christ, but that's not the starting point. It's as Jesus walks with us that He shows us who He is and what He wants.
In this book we'll be examining the life of a biblical hero named David. When we read the story of David, it's easy to focus on all the things he accomplished: his epic battle with Goliath, his incredible rise to the throne, his strategic plan for enlarging the borders of Israel. But in doing so, we often miss one of the most important pieces of his journey: the way he arrived on the scene in the first place.
Let's take a look at the first time David appears in the Bible:
The Lord said to Samuel, "You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king."
But Samuel asked, "How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me."
"Take a heifer with you," the Lord replied, "and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me."
So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. "What's wrong?" they asked. "Do you come in peace?"
"Yes," Samuel replied. "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.
When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Surely this is the Lord's anointed!"
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "This is not the one the Lord has chosen." Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, "Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen." In the same way all seven of Jesse's sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." Then Samuel asked, "Are these all the sons you have?"
"There is still the youngest," Jesse replied. "But he's out in the fields watching the sheep and goats."
"Send for him at once," Samuel said. "We will not sit down to eat until he arrives."
So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.
And the Lord said, "This is the one; anoint him."
So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
1 SAMUEL 16:1-13
The point I find especially intriguing about this story is that David wasn't out looking to do something great. He woke up one morning, and everything was normal. But in the span of one day, the entire course of his life changed.
It's interesting to note that David wasn't doing the pursuing here; it's the Lord who was seeking out David. God knew that David's life was filled with tremendous potential—David just needed to be unleashed from taking care of sheep so he could transition to leading a nation of people.
After the encounter with God's prophet Samuel, David quickly realized that God had more in store for him than his ordinary circumstances seemed to imply. I imagine from that point on he began watching for the opportunities placed in front of him, although there was no way he could have dreamed all that God had in store.
The Lord was seeking to unleash David so he could do greater things than he ever could have imagined. The same is true for us.
I know what you are thinking: Okay, Perry, if an old man who claims to be a prophet comes to my house, tells me he's from God, and pours oil over my head, then I'll accept that my life is supposed to be something different from what it is. (Just my opinion—if that does happen, you might want to call the police.)
That sounds far-fetched, I know, but I believe the Lord has made His plans for us even more obvious than He did for David.
Let's take a look at one of the most powerful yet often unexplored verses in the Bible:
The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son.
God has made Himself evident to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian (meaning you understand that sin separates you from God and only Jesus could make the payment to reconcile that relationship), then these things are true about you: (1) God has revealed Himself to you in the living, breathing form of Jesus; (2) He now lives in you; and (3) He really does desire greater things for your life.
Having an unleashed life is completely possible—right now, today. You don't have to get in position for it; God is ready to meet you right where you are.
Are you ready?
TRUTH #2: unleashing your life begins by understanding that God wants great things for his children.
I absolutely adore my daughter, Charisse. I used to be a really tough guy who enjoyed movies about car chases and things getting blown up. Now I'm pretty much content to sit on the couch with Charisse, watching the drama of Disney princesses and the adventures of Strawberry Shortcake unfold on our screen.
The Bible is clear that I'm far from being the perfect father (see Matthew 7:9-11), and that is so true. For instance, I have to admit there are times I've lied to my daughter. If you're a parent, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Charisse says she wants to play, but I've been playing all afternoon. And I am so tired. So I say, "I can't right now, baby. I have to go to the bathroom."
Truth be told, I don't have to go to the bathroom at all. It's just the only place where I can sit down to have a little peace and quiet. That is, until I see Charisse's tiny fingers waving at me under the door. "Daddy, are you done yet? Can we play?"
And so, because I love her, I gather up a little more energy and head back to the living room for another tea party or a game of hide-and-seek. I may not be a perfect parent, but I definitely want good things for my daughter. I want her to know how much her daddy loves her.
I once told a friend there is nothing in the world I wouldn't do to hear my little girl laugh. I'm not talking about a giggle or a polite chuckle. I'm talking about the true belly laugh of a child—the kind that can come only as a result of pure joy flowing out of her.
My friend then posed to me one of the most life-changing questions I've ever been asked. "Perry," he said, "if that's how you feel about your daughter and you are what the Bible calls an imperfect father, then why would you ever think your heavenly Father would want anything less for you than for joy to overflow from your heart?"
He was right. God wants to hear us laugh. God is not after our begrudging submission. He is after our joy.
Earlier in this chapter we saw how David arrived on the scene and how God's calling transformed his life from normal to extraordinary. Now let's fast-forward to the end of David's life and note how he never lost sight of the great things God had done for him. Here are some of his last words:
David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly:
"O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.
"O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!"
1 CHRONICLES 29:10-13
In this passage David was preparing the people of Israel to give toward the building of the Temple. What's striking to me is that David didn't sound like he was doing a big fund-raising campaign here. Instead, the text is full of David's amazement at how great and awesome God is. David never forgot who he was or where God had brought him from, and he never lost sight of who God is.
The unleashing of our lives begins when we refuse to believe it's too late for us, when we reject the idea that we're too damaged for God to do anything with, when we stop being obsessed with ourselves. Instead, we must become obsessed with how great God is and how great His plans are for our lives.
The power of unleashing doesn't come when we ask, "What can I do?" The answer to that question always amounts to something that will eventually pass away. The better question is "Who is the Lord, and what does He want to do through me?"
Who are you, Lord?
The apostle Paul (formerly Saul) was another guy who got a pretty direct call to live an unleashed life. He was on his way to persecute Christians when Jesus Himself met him and knocked him flat on the ground. We see this life-changing encounter in Acts 9:3-6:
As [Saul] was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
"Who are you, lord?" Saul asked.
And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
Paul went on to accomplish amazing things for God—including writing most of the books of the New Testament—and it all began when Jesus met him exactly where he was. Paul responded by asking the question all of us should ask: "Who are you, Lord?" That is essential, because we will never do what He wants us to do until we understand who He is.
Unleashing our lives is not about convincing God how great our plans are but rather about understanding that we can live the life God has planned for us—right now. It begins when we grasp that God is greater than we give Him credit for. He is after our joy, and ultimately He wants even greater things for us than we do.
God had great plans for David that day when He pulled him out of the sheep pen, and He had great plans for Saul when He knocked him flat on his back. He has great plans for us, as well. Once we see who He is, we will find it far easier to surrender to what He says.
Once we've shown up at the dance, we have a choice to make: are we going to stand against the wall, watching other people bust moves, or are we going to get out there on the dance floor ourselves?
Excerpted from UNLEASH! by PERRY NOBLE Copyright © 2012 by NewSpring Church. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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