God is very clear on where your value comes from.
This is super important. Listen to this.
God is very clear on where your value comes from.
When I was in high school, my family and another family used to do fairly regular hiking and camping excursions. My best friend and I enjoyed walking fast which meant we were going to be out in front of the pack, and since we had an abundance of energy, and they didn’t want us clipping their heels for miles and miles, our parents were cool with letting us ‘lead’ these excursions.
On one trip we got a little ahead of ourselves and stopped noticing the blaze marks on the trail, and after a little while the trail became narrow, overgrown, and eventually it went away altogether and we found ourselves all bunched up at the edge of a cliff at what was obviously a deer trail. There seemed to be a trail for a while, but as we pressed on without checking, it became clear that the trail ended in, well, a very definite end.
As it turns out, God doesn’t always work through clearly marked pathways and wide open trails. I know that’s a real shocker, but it’s true. There are some people out there who call themselves ministers who act like life should always be pleasant, you shouldn’t have any problems, and God only has tangible blessings in store for you. If you haven’t read my previous post -Build Where No One Has- then you should probably click the link and read that first. It will pop up in a different window for you. I’ll wait…
Since God had been speaking this message to us to go and lay a foundation where no one had before, and since we had been praying and letting Him know that we were intentionally seeking Him out and willing to go on an adventure, He began his process of laying out a breadcrumb trail for us that went over the course of several months. I’ll throw a little disclaimer in here, too: God speaks to His children in a number of ways, we were not given a single, prophetic voice, there wasn’t a final ‘aha’ moment, nor was there a fear that He wasn’t going to lead us somewhere new to serve Him. It was one step at a time.
In November, so 3 months after I determined that I was going to be leaving our then current location, I received a phone call from a friend. This isn’t just a random friend, and while we do need to talk more often, he and I are very much alike in many ways, we were roommates in college, had most of our classes together and were in each other’s weddings. So, we were pretty close, and my friend calls me to tell me a story. Here it is:
“Hey Ben, there’s this guy at our school (where he works) and he’s kind of known for walking up to people and telling them that he has a ‘word from God’ at seemingly random times. Now, he’s never said anything to me, and I’ve never quite known how to take him, but today he started walking up to me when school let out. I figured it must be my ‘turn’ to hear form God, and so I was ready to take whatever he said with a large grain of salt.”
Well this man proceeds to tell my friend some very personal information about ministry that he is doing and opens up Ito some information that only my friend and 1-2 other people in Honduras would know anything about. That’s pretty impressive. He also has a message about another friend of ours from college (it was intensely personal, so I didn’t even ask.) And then he said this, “And you have a friend named Ben who is looking for a job. Tell him that God has need of him in North Carolina.” and that was it. No other details, no other information. Just a “get to North Carolina.” No when, no where, nothing else. First Breadcrumb.
It was wonderful to have a lead, because up until that point, I had been interviewing all over the place, and I was being very intentional about where I was looking, and was asking a lot of deep questions of my contacts and interviewers because I didn’t have it in me to be in a toxic or unhealthy environment again. The number of legitimate options was simply overwhelming, but most of them didn’t answer this call to lay a new foundation.
So, I ran through my short list of friends in North Carolina or Eastern Tennessee and praying very specifically about what this might mean. So, I called a friend in Tennessee, filled him in on everything and told him that God seemed to be calling us into church planting again, or possibly even missions. He thought about it and prayed and then told me to contact a friend of his in central North Carolina who had his finger on the pulse of church planting in the area. Next Breadcrumb.
So, I reach out to this friend, he has an awesome name, but I didn’t know him at all. Getting a hold of ministers can be tricky sometimes, and having spoken on the phone with my fair share of cold-calling ministry teams, touring children’s choirs and wandering preachers, I had a pretty good idea of what my phone call or email was going to sound like to this guy who didn’t know me from Adam.
So, I approached with a cautious ease, let him know I was on his schedule, and told him that my friend had sent me and to feel free to contact him to verify if he wanted to. Well, about a week or so later we finally had a chance to talk. After laying out our situation, my potentially prophetic phone call, and the message that God had laid on my heart about laying a new foundation, he promptly said, “Well I don’t really know about anything in this area, and I agree that you need to get out of where you are as soon as possible, but let me put you in contact with another friend of mine further east.”
So, this was now our fourth breadcrumb. This was becoming funny. So, I call this next minister, talked to his office manager and set up a time to talk. Again, about a week goes by until he is available to talk. So, we have a nice long conversation, I lay everything out and he offers to pray over me and my family. He has seen this hurt before and he sees the timing of my call. In about 6 weeks, in the new year, his church is going to be hosting a church planters assessment center with a major, nationwide church planting agency. “You need to be here,” he tells me. And he put me in contact with the appropriate people. We now have a calling to come to North Carolina. The fifth, big breadcrumb.
So, by the time all the communication is done, we have two weeks to take on the massive task of cramming what should have been 13 weeks worth of reading and prep work. But we are so confident that this is precisely what God has called us to that we pay the large fee, that most people usually get a church to support them with, completely out of pocket, make our reservations and plan our trip south.
It turned out to be A LOT of work. And going into the CPAC, we still had no idea what to expect (like, really, 0% of what we were doing) but that was okay. We were thrilled to finally have direction after 6 months of waiting. And what happens next is the subject of two separate posts.
Here are some awesome church planting organizations and a few articles. If you’re thinking about entering into the realm of church planting, start here:
Have you ever started something brand new? There’s a lot of work that begins that process. There are resources to gather, people to inform, learning to do…the list goes on and on. That’s the road that God started laying on my heart in the Summer of 2016. You see, my wife and I had been working with a church for about 7 years at that point and it was in deep and desperate need of revitalization. If you’ve never looked into what is required for church revitalization, it’s a long, difficult process At the best, people are inspired, a vision is grasped and a new community emerges from the old. Beauty springs from ashes. At the worst, the doors close, the body disperses, and hearts are broken.
We wound up somewhere in between, but much closer toward the latter than the former. Visions were cast and disparaged in the same day, frustrations were building, betrayals were taking place, woven in lies through the congregation by a single staff member. The enemy was having a heyday with us. Leadership balked at every step, kowtowed to fear and essential conversations were refused. That’s about as deep as I want to get into it, but suffice it to say, it was unhealthy & bad. This post isn’t about them, or meant to point fingers. It was simply the reality at the time. The church still exists, I pray she advances almost daily.
In the midst of that hurt and hopelessness, God began to persistently whisper something to my heart and He would not stop. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” Over and over again. “Go build. Lay a foundation where no one has.” He put this singular message on repeat in my head. I knew the context, and I was coming to the end of my fight where I was. I knew the context. I really did. I knew it, those words were Paul’s and they were missionary words. But my mind and heart were still clinging to our current location. I don’t give up. I can be stubborn to a fault. I’m not noisy, but I’m tenacious, and I only had one finger left clinging to that ledge.
I was ready to fall into something different. And God rescued us from ourselves.
My wife and I had engaged in a conversation where she was trying to hype me back up and letting me know that she was ready to fight and keep pressing, but that next day, the other shoe dropped. Decisions were pressed and forced. They were not handled well, and I was caught off guard. In my heart, I quit that day. In my head, I knew the timing was terrible for my departure, so I dug that final finger into the cliff face for a 6 month press. My wife and I began to pray a new prayer. “Lord, we are ready, we know you are calling us out. We are ready for an adventure.”
That’s a scary prayer, but it was also a prayer of freedom.
To say it was rough was a massive understatement. But God kept whispering into my heart. “Go build,” “Lay a new foundation,” and “Lay one where no one has.” He was putting direction into our future, guiding us toward something different, something new, something that would utilize our passions, the vision He had placed on our hearts, and open us up to true, intentional multi-ethnic ministry.
So, for 6 months I began internally saying goodbye to people I had spent the better part of a decade with, served alongside of and still held a deep love for. I knew I was leaving, being called out, and I needed these last months to know that I wasn’t running away. Even in that time I knew that God had something for me to learn. And He taught me in that painful, desert place. They were tough lessons. They were internally focused, and there was a lot of discussion about my doubts and fears. The hurts would be handled later…
For now, there was something coming, something new. Looking back, there was a lot more I should have done in regards to soul care, in seeking counsel. I did seek people out, people I respected, people who knew our situation, and the godly counsel I received from every side was. “Yes. Leave. Leave quickly. Don’t make yourself a martyr. You are meant for more than this.” and so the call out was confirmed over and over again. It was just a matter of where. I knew the when. And then God started laying bread crumbs out in front of us…but that’s another post.
If you are a minister struggling where you are, this is not a confirmation for you to leave where you are. God may have a very different course and plan for you than He has for me and my family. Odds are, He probably does. But if you are suffering harm, if you are being hurt, then you need to begin having those tough conversations with people who have the luxury of outside eyes. Seek God-honoring counsel. And understand your family comes first. If harm is coming to them, then you fight for your family. I did my best to protect mine, but I know that’s not always possible.
I have the advantage of time right now. This struggle was 18 months ago as of the date of this writing. A lot of healing has taken place. Relationships have been restored. God has spoken beauty into our ashes, and He’s still moving, changing, healing. I’m no where near done. But I am where that foundation will be laid, and there’s a lot of good that has come from our movement in Him.
If you’re still reading. Seek Him in your pain. Seek Him in your hurt. He is faithful. He does see you. He knows what you’re struggling with in His Name and for His bride. He may steel your reserve, telling you to stay and outlive & outlast those whose hearts are no longer Gospel-centered and who simply want their own way. He may call you to the furthest reaches of the earth. I certainly don’t know. But know that He knows. You are loved. Your hurts are known, and He wants to carry them for you. You are loved, you precious child of the King. You are loved, and if you are loved by Him, then you are certainly worthwhile and worth more than you understand.
Be at peace in Him.
Do you hear what I hear?
Probably. It’s something we choose to do.
We need to make sure we follow up with love.
Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.
We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?
But we do it every day.
We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.
This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us. There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.
Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.
Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.
Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.
But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.
If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.
If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.
Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.
Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.