“Let it be the one desire of my heart, to be as my master; to do, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (john wesley)
I wrote a blog a while back called, beyond the walls (http://echochristblog.com/2013/12/26/beyond-the-walls-2/). It wasn’t meant to be anything special but it got a great response. In fact, it is still my most viewed blog to this day. I was simply sharing a desire that God was placing on my heart to see biblical community in my area.
The attempt was to check out the local churches in my area and see what, if anything was happening as far as community is concerned within the churches. It would be easy to take a look at me and think I am a ‘fault finder’ with churches and trust me, sometimes I ask myself that. I think a lot of it comes from seeing how churches are done in comparison to what I read about in seminary. Often, what my textbooks and professors told me “not to do” was exactly the things that were happening.
The issue I was and continue to face is this reality that I am a complete introvert and as such, I tend to avoid crowds. That led me to staying away from church for a while. With the winter months here and the fact I was no longer attending the Journey Church, I found myself wishing I was back there. So every Saturday evening I had a pep talk with myself, convincing myself of the need to go to church. Sunday morning came around and bam! I always found a reason NOT TO GO.
A few weeks back, I checked out out Life Fellowship Church, A Foursquare denominational church, located only about fifteen minutes away from where I reside. I thought it was “ok.” Just not exactly what I was looking for. I skipped church the next week and then last Sunday (03/02/14) I returned to Life Fellowship.
Just so every one of us is on the same page; allow me to share my thoughts with you leading up to that church service. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about direction. That’s not anything new to me either. In the journey of life, we are all heading somewhere and I am one of those kinds of people who really like knowing where I am going.
While I admit that my life isn’t where I expect it to be, I like to exercise some control. First and foremost, I want to know what I should be doing and not sitting around doing nothing. I want to be in a church and serve the church. I want to shepherd people and love them.
When I think about my life though, I tend to think about the negatives alongside the positives. Yes, I’ve served in the church for a number of years. Yes, I have a degree and yes I actually have a job that I don’t hate for the first time in many years.
Then I think about the struggles I face. I think about the fact that yes, I face opposition from within the body of Christ. I think, probably too much about the other believers out there who have taken their stand against me. That is the by-product of living in a fallen world. I have sinned and continue to and the principles of those sins affect others. Sometimes, it affects others in way of judgment and slander against you; sometimes it affects others through hurt and mistrust.
It’s not easy to face opposition, regardless of whether or not the opposition comes from the enemy or those who claim to believe and follow Christ but accuse and condemn you. They pay no attention to Scriptures that call for unity, and to not slander or say anything that does not bring encouragement.
The sad reality is that we are fallen and live with the cancer of sin, which is slowly eroding our lives away. The sin does nothing good and while the grace of God covers our sins, its effects live on.
So, here I am, sitting all alone in church, when the pastor calls everyone up to take communion. I go to the front, get a piece of bread and juice and return to my seat. Silently I sit while the remainder of the church gathers their communion, and I simply begin to pray. It felt good to be in the presence of the Almighty again.
As I was praying, I felt the Lord say to me, “I am drawing you closer.” I was blown away because I knew it was the voice of God. I knew his voice and I knew he was speaking to me. Those words meant more to me than anything because I feel such distance most of the time. I feel like I let God down with my lack of prayer and devotional life style. I feel like I’ve allowed other things to become idols in my life and God has to play second.
I continued to sit there in silence when I heard him speak again, “Let it go.” The dreaded words I needed to hear from a loving Father. I need to let it go-everything-the hurt that I have caused and the hurt that has come my way. I have to let go of my plans and my hope to be a pastor of a church. I have to let go of my desire to plan out sermon series. I have to let go of my plans for community groups and allow God to be God in my life. I need to let go of my frustrations with everything that is wrong with my life and realize that God is on the throne and God is in control.
I need to let go of my false sense of insecurity and know that Jesus is holding me through the storms of life I am facing. I need to let go of the hope I place in financial status and know that God holds tomorrow.
So if I could change one thing about myself it would be everything.
The other day, I was sitting down at a men’s breakfast, held by Abundant Life Church in Lebanon, NH. While I am sitting there, a fellow believer, Steven, is giving his testimony. During his testimony, he begins to talk about the hurt that has been caused him by various churches. I realized again, I was here by divine appointment. God wanted me there, to hear this man, who continues to struggle with sin and life but is pressing onwards to the goal set before him.
Isn’t that what we are called to do? We are called to let go and let God take over our lives, completely. We are called to surrender everything, not just what we desire. As we journey with Christ and in Christ, we still face the effects of sin. As we continue to struggle with sin though, we often find ourselves picking up old habits or even new bad habits along the way. We pick up insecurities and addictions. God calls us, through the power of His Spirit, to break away from those things.
Paul understood this when he penned these words, “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” (Rom. 7:18) Paul knew his sinful nature was the cause for everything he lacked. His pain, his problems, his hurts and everything he lost was a direct result of the sinful nature that worked in him and against him. Satan’s goal is always to take away from us what God gives to us.
I can NEVER say I am not blessed by God. God has already given me (along with every other believer) EVERY spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). If I am not being blessed, it is only because the enemy is coming against me attempting to take something away that doesn’t belong to him.
I can NEVER say I am in need because God gives me everything I need. (Phil 4:19) If I find myself in need, it is only because the thief has come to take something away from me. God, in his love, has already given provided the need, on the basis of His grace.
My one hope, my one desire, is to be more like Jesus, with every passing day of my life. I feel so distant, like a stranger. I feel like a prodigal son, who desires to return home but I have to create an argument, based on logic, to find a way to return back.
It’s crazy when we feel so distant that we find our Father dismissing our excuses, and welcoming us with open arms. It’s crazy to think that we think we have to lower our standards and try to find our place in the kingdom as servants when our Father always returns us to our rightful places as sons and daughters.
I want everything in me and everything about me, to reflect Jesus living through me. I want to be a child again, imitating the Father who loves me and pours out his grace towards me (Eph. 5:1) I want to be more forgiving, more understanding, more open, more gracious, more loving and to be more encouraging. I want less of me and more of Christ.
Abundant Life Church of God. (http://www.abundantlifenh.org/)
Life Fellowship Church