It’s been about 6 months now.
About 6 months ago, the rug was yanked out from under me and my family and our world blew up in our faces. We had moved to Nashville in October of 2017 for me to pastor a church here. Upon our arrival and surveying the life of the church, it became apparent that new vision was needed, new life and a fresh, deep breath of air had to happen.
So about 6 months in, I cast a vision for the elders and the church to relocate and replant the church. The vision was not received well and, for the next few months, the elders and I debated it and prayed about it. In the end, they voted unanimously to relocate and replant the church. We announced it to the body and set a tentative date for moving.
And that’s when things blew up.
I didn’t see it coming. I should have. I mean, I had spent almost my entire adult life seeing and anticipating danger and reacting to it. But I didn’t see this one coming. One by one, the members of the church either just quietly stopped communicating or announced to me that they were leaving and would not go along to be part of the re-plant. I was shocked. I felt like I had been gutted and left bleeding on the floor.
There are many details to the story that will go unshared but suffice it to say, it was excruciatingly painful for me and my family. There were some that remained but very few, not enough to have a core team for a new plant. The elders met with me to inform me that they were giving me a severance and then they too walked away.
The last 6 months have been excruciating for my family. I cannot count the tears, the angry prayers, the sleepless nights. Praise God for those who have continued to love us and support us during this time. Praise God for a godly counselor who has helped us work through the emotional devastation that has come from this.
But now, I find myself at a crossroads. And, for the first time in my life, I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what to do. I knew, for 16 years, what I was doing and going to do as a police officer and I had a plan. I knew as a business owner what I was doing and going to do. I knew as a pastor and church planter what I was going to do and I believed with every fiber of my being the vision that God had placed before me.
But now I don’t know.
Being in the unknown is not comfortable for me. The lack of confidence I feel is unlike anything I’ve ever known and has and is impacting every aspect of my life. The unknown is uncomfortable. We are a people who want to know.
But we really don’t know, do we? We have our plans and our dreams. Sometimes those plans come through and sometimes our dreams come true. But sometimes they don’t. Maybe this is you right now. Maybe you’re like me and you’re standing at a crossroads and you don’t know where to go or what to do. If you’re like me in this, I want to offer you some comfort. At least, these are two things that have comforted me. One of the things about confessions and creeds of the Church is that, like Scripture, they answer many questions for us.
The Heidelberg Catechism begins,
“What is thy only comfort in life or death?”
The answer: “That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation; and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”
What unspeakable comfort this brings to me! I am not my own but belong to my Saviour Jesus Christ. Not only do I belong to Him but He is faithful and He has, by His blood, justified me and restored me to a right relationship with God the Father. He has defeated the power of Satan and will preserve me unto eternal life and indeed, makes me willing and ready to live unto Him!
What comfort and joy and hope this gives those who are in Christ!
The second thing I want to point out that has brought me comfort is from the prophet Hosea. Hosea 6:1 reads,
“”Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.””
Right about now you may be thinking, ‘How is it comforting to know that God has torn me and struck me down?’ I have thought the very same thing my friend! Why has God allowed this to happen? Couldn’t He have stopped all this pain? Why didn’t He stop it?
Truth is I don’t know why. I don’t know why God allowed this to happen to us, why He didn’t stop it. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know why God allowed to happen to you what happened and I don’t know why He didn’t stop it.
But what I do know is that, if we will turn to Him in faith, He will heal. If we turn to Him, He will bind us up. This is His promise to us; that He will not turn away from those who seek Him. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have pain and discomfort. It doesn’t mean that He’s going to help me find a job and another purpose. But what it does mean for me and for you is this:
He will heal. He has promised.
Let us, together, turn to our only comfort in life and death; that we belong body and soul to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come for you.” (John 14:18)
I’ve been preaching through Exodus for a bit now. We came to a text this last week that has become profoundly meaningful to me right now with some things going on in our life.
A quick story about how we ended up in Exodus. Several months ago, I was finishing up a series in Ephesians and began to pray, “Lord, where do you want us to go next? What do you want to say to your people next?” He took me to Exodus and said, “Here.” And so here we are, working through the story of God’s redemption of his people.
But what has become apparent to me is that, although he is speaking to his people through the book of Exodus, he has a lot to say to me as well. So this last week, we ended chapter 13. The people of Israel had just come up out of slavery and have begun their trek through the wilderness. And the interesting thing that I noticed right away (Exodus 13:17-18a) is that God took them the long way.
Why would he do that? I mean, haven’t they been through enough? 430 years of slavery wasn’t enough that now they have to take the long way?! What’s up with that?
One of the things I had to see from this is that sometimes the long way is the only way.
Sometimes God has to take us the long way so that we learn to depend on him.
I said that to my congregation this last Sunday and it’s only just now that he is showing me how very much this applies to me as well. See, my family and I are in the long way right now. It’s been a really hard few years for us; failed church plants and jobs and pain and anger and all kinds of crap.
But I know that God is faithful. I don’t always understand it or like it and I guess I’m not supposed to all the time. He’s God and because he is, that means he gets to decide. He gets to decide what is best for me. He gets to decide what it is that we need to go through so that we can be made into the image of his Son. I have to keep reminding myself that Jesus took the long way also. He could have saved his people another way. He could have found another way to offer salvation. But he chose the long way of humility and service and pain.
There’s a lesson there for me. Maybe for you too.
Maybe we need to realize that there’s more to life than getting from point A to point B. Because what’s the good if we get to point B but along the way we’ve lost our souls? We need to see and trust that God’s wisdom is best and maybe, just maybe, we should trust him.
There are three things drawn from Exodus 13:17-22 that we saw this last Sunday in worship. I want to share them with you in hopes that someone who reads this needs to be encouraged like I do right now. Go get your Bible and read Exodus 13:17-22. As you do, I want you to notice three things.
1. God is always guiding his people. Even when the way is long or we don’t understand, trust in his sovereign hand. He is always guiding his people.
2. God is always faithful to his people. Joseph believed the promises of God to his ancestor Abraham that one day his people would be free. So Joseph believed that God is faithful. Maybe you need some Joseph faith today. He who called you is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Hold on to his faithfulness.
3. God is always present with his people. The Israelites had a pillar of cloud and fire to know that God was always there. We have something even better. We have the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). Also, go back to the top of this article and read the verse at the top. God is always present with his people.
Jesus has come and has gone before us. He promised his Spirit would live in us and with us forever. He will not leave us alone.
You need to hold on to that on the long way to freedom.
Soli Deo Gloria!