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Who Does God Say I Am?

The 2022 Belgrave Heights Easter Convention saw a marked increase in returning guests, a growing vibe among day and weekend visitors as ‘in person’ gatherings resumed after nearly three years of Covid disruptions and uncertainty. I am told the main hall seats a capacity of 1647, so attendees filling each session throughout the weekend, at around 800 to 1000, were a fantastic effort by all.

On Saturday morning 16 April, the New Life Australia team said thankyou to Bob Thomas for his faithful tenure as the editor for the news service. Friends and family shared a farewell cake in the foyer following the service. Thank you to those who gave thanks and thoughts to Bob for his contribution.

The BHC council has laid out a quality long-term vision for expansion and outreach growing at a steady momentum for site works and ministries. The renewed energy by organisers is telling a new story to generations of faithful supporters and lovers of God’s Word. Leaders shared their vision for the future with a new hope; for some, it has been twenty years of hard work in the making, with hours of time and prayers. Visitors were able to ‘take a tour’ of the new building works and see expanded plans for the facilities and ministry. It is good to pray for the leaders as they take on these new works; the underground developments we are told were the most extensive thus far and not without their challenges, commenced with careful engagements in the local community.

As I recall the origins of the Melbourne Keswick movement and read stories of the faithful who went before, it’s easy to forget that these heroes gave all their hearts and lives over many years of investment and saw God’s hand of grace as they trusted in Him to bring the momentum.

‘Momentum’ is a better and different word than ‘Vibe’, and I think I could suggest that there is a greater capacity for ‘momentum’ to carry a bigger vision than a ‘vibe’.

John Maxwell tells us that ‘momentum can carry the near weight of many times it’s own’. In that context, ‘momentum’ moves the water beneath the wave as well as everything in its path above the ripple and may grow or subside. Either way, there is an energy in its speed which has grown above the initial action.

Will F. Renshaw recently sent me some early manuscripts that shared the impact of a tourist region, bringing the crowds for weekend picnics. J.H Robinson, H.P Smith and others brought impacting messages on the value of living a holy life under God’s mighty hand and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He saw then that, ‘Christians who were not yet Christian’. Many of these and more; invested, planted, and seeded the Love and Lordship of Christ and His salvation message even into today’s generations. What a legacy!

As I joined the youth segments in the Green Shed on Easter Sunday and Monday, I was again inspired by God’s plan and purposes. How great the love of the Lord Jesus, who carried the greater weight of previous generations to have what we see today. What a momentum, prepared by His servants to be a part of His beautiful purpose.

In my employ, I work as a Chaplain and youth worker, so I get to appreciate meeting young people a lot, and I was very impressed with the faith and hunger of the youth at this year’s convention. The questions that lay in their hearts were thoughtful, inspiring and heart-wrenching, ‘all in one’.

Finding the right questions to ask and asking the right people isn’t easy. Children or youth at any age, whether 6 and 7 or 18 or 21, are sorting out what they believe, in their young lives amid a world of challenges and their own growing pains.

Questions like, ‘Where is God’s purposes in this complex world? Who am I, and who does God say I am? How do I know if God is speaking to me when there are so many other voices telling me who I am or bringing confusion and complexity?’

To all generations at the conference, let me say that God desires to take the weight in our momentum and charge it with His great and beautiful presence, making waves that go beyond your own capacity. In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus said at that time,

“I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.

“Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

One of the conference’s main speakers, David Robertson, joined the young people on Monday morning for a question-and-answer time, and he concurred with myself and others that God was certainly speaking and uniquely calling these young people.

It was so evident that we might be just skimming the surface of a great deluge and hunger among this generation, so I wonder if we are ready and prepared for it before other influences engulf their lives?

I ponder the right message for this generation and how it can be communicated? Maybe we are only scratching the surface lightly in knowing how much God wants to use us to convey the importance of being a great hero and role model? The heroes of faith in scripture were never perfect, but at some point, they were impacted by an extraordinary personal encounter with God throughout their lives.

An example is where God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, declaring ‘I am who I am’ has sent you, builds on the sense of personal identity of the God of generations. He says you are not only who you are because you are the ‘son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, but your entire life and person is made in the encounter and journey with your creator and maker. Exodus 3:12-15.

In the New Testament, Paul spoke of his own calling in God, did not call on flesh and blood for his vocational decision, nor the heritage of his parents, traditions, or opinions alone, but first upon the very Word of God spoken into his life. Paul shared in Galatians 1:11-16 saying,

“But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood…”

As I listen to young people who are struggling to know who they are, I often see that they may consult with their peers and social media rather than the God of the universe.

It is such a privilege to be able to share with young people how the God of this universe wants them to know that their lives are known and matter. Every hair on their head is numbered, every fingerprint unique, each snowflake profound and each child born was foremostly born from God’s mind and sprung forth from His lips. From the beginning of time, God in Christ tells us who we are because He spoke us into being; whether we were to be born a boy or girl, this too was in His plan. Eph 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, John 17:24, Col 1:16.

When Jesus spoke to Simon Peter, this encounter tested the veracity of His new identity; Jesus said, ‘Peter, who do you say that I am?’ Children today who have faith-filled families and traditions see the outward forms and legacies of positive lives but need to know that the social world of God’s Church on earth is a place where they encounter God in person. While a program is often required, settling for social without a ‘pressing into God for more’ can leave us missing that encounter, in that generation. Matt 16:15, Luke 9:20, Mark 8:29.

I could count three of the youth in my group of twelve who had a strong sense that God had spoken to them at a young age, not unlike my own journey in God at age eight. One does not need to know everything about God to be known by God, for it is not a knowledge of God built on data or content but it’s by the Spirit testifying within ours that one has this holy assurance. There is a reward in God when we come to Him, and He is not selective; He says, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden’, and ‘blessed are you, Simon Peter, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you’.

Unfortunately, there is a constant barrage of voices in the world that desire to hinder your children from coming to Christ and block them from encountering their maker. Of course, we know that sin is the cause, but technology, films, and all forms of media have accelerated the pipeline of ‘refuse’ to our lounge rooms and personal lives.

These unmanaged instruments are most pervasive at discipling and grooming a generation. Tools like this in our world are aiming to bring drift and distraction away from a life of following Christ. And despite all this, it is fascinating how each generation finds its way when faced with its own journey in God. To your credit and God’s, I believe that your young people are indeed listening and searching, watching carefully.

We could see them asking hard questions, and perhaps also, due to the good work of the youth leadership team over this weekend who were leading and praying.

David Robertson’s visit to the youth on the Monday morning session, brought his own profound humour to register a younger audience’s hunger and made some excellent observations about the cultural drift in our world. David elaborated on these observations in more depth throughout the main conference, called out a number of false structural beliefs within our society in the defining of heroes.

One key point he shared, was in regard to the growing mindset in our culture today that says, ‘quite loosely’ that ‘everyone in the world is a child of God’ or ‘child of humanity’ and that some mystical heavenly god will work it all out for us, ‘in the end’. According to this false tenet, we all call each other ‘bro’ and ‘sister’.

But, rather, as David shared that ‘our adoption under God only kicks in after we are saved into the family of God’, in ‘Christ Jesus’. This is the genuine family of God, where we get to call one another, one in Christ Jesus.

So, our identity is formed not by a mutual empathy of struggle with humanity, (though it may be a temporal experience, it is not in any way a type of salvation).

Rather, Christ’s salvation is for a genuine eternal family. He shed His blood for us and purchased our salvation, forevermore.

So also, it is that same ‘Jesus’, who is leading us by His Spirit and declaring who we are in His family; adopted children, sons, and daughters of God, and who lets us cry, ‘Abba! Father’. Romans 8:14-25.

It is my view that it will not be enough for God’s Church to assume that their children will slip into a true knowledge of their personhood and identity in the family of God, without an ongoing and abiding assurance of their place in God’s Heart. And this will be through a faith encounter with their God, as well as the loving witness of God’s family in His Church and truth.

David focused on the teaching, “Asking, Seeking and Knocking at Christ’s door” And I add, is a decisive action which prepares our hearts for God’s transformative work and Lordship encounters. Young people who can see this identity in God’s family will build genuine and generational identity, witness, and momentum.

– Written by Douglas McDonald, for New Life Aus, 27 April 2022