Posted by: bellissimanh | June 19, 2009

Exceedingly Abundantly More

Abundantly Exceedingly More

***Disclaimer*** The following book is what can happen as a result of staying away from your blog for too long. Once you finally get back to it, you suffer from diarrhea of the mouth (fingertips?) and you just can’t seem to shut up. My apologies for the length of this post. 

Those who know me well are aware of how I spent last weekend: fearful, anxious, uncertain. Yeah. Not fun.

Our search for a senior pastor had led us to a man I will affectionately refer to as “Pastor
Starburst” (courtesy of Jasmine). After hearing his first message, I was very happy with where our search had led us. He spoke the Word with authority and passion, and made no apologies for doctrines that are not always easily preached on. I was very impressed, to say the least.

My family got to spend some time with this pastor and his family that evening. It was a wonderful time of food, fun and fellowship. I could easily see this family as part of
Valley Christian Church. They were delightful, every one of them.

Through the week, many issues were discussed. Perhaps not surprisingly, the hot button topic was worship music. Someone asked the candidate what his preference was for worship music. He – honestly – replied that he preferred hymns to contemporary worship.

Don’t ask me how it happened, but the expression of his “preference” ended up as something completely different. People (including myself) were left with the impression that he intended to come into our fellowship, throw out contemporary worship, and even replace members of our worship team as he saw fit. Now, perhaps I should explain to you that blended worship (a mixture of contemporary worship and hymns – often contemporized) is a big part of who we are as a church. Due in part to that, our fellowship is made up of a wide range of ages, from children and young families right up through retired folk. It’s one of the things I love best about our church. Needless to say, I was upset – ok, panicked — at the thought that someone might come in and try to change that, and I was extremely disappointed, because other than this one issue, I loved this man (and his family).

I spent the weekend at a Women of Faith conference (something I’ll blog about in a separate post) with my heart in a chokehold for much of the weekend. Even after I spoke with one of my elders and he told me they had sat down, talked things out (much miscommunication and misunderstandings) and the elder board was comfortable moving forward with the vote on this candidate, I still struggled. Wrestled. Hung onto my pride and fear. In retrospect, I’m grateful that the Lord had me in that atmosphere for the weekend, surrounded by sisters in Christ and some of my closest friends. If I’d been home, I think I’d have gone crazy.
I awoke Sunday morning still not sure how the day would go, but confident that the Lord was in control and would work things out as He deemed best. In our Sunday School class, we’ve been studying Phillippians. Check out where we landed this week:

Php 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
Php 1:10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

Love… knowledge…. DISCERNMENT. That is so what we were needing as a fellowship that day! Tim said that as he was studying, he was led to James. He’d been wondering, “Lord, if this is what You have for us, why is it so hard? Why can’t everything fall into place nicely?” And he was reminded (from James) that testing of our faith leads us to maturity.

Jas 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
Jas 1:3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Jas 1:4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Don’t you love that? Sometimes difficulties are God ordained for the express purpose of growing our faith. Even good things… Godly things… His will being worked out in our lives… those are not always easy. Sometimes they come after struggles as it all gets worked out. Tim’s point spoke to questions I had wrestled with that weekend as well.

Then we traveled into the next couple of verses…

Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Jas 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
Jas 1:7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
Jas 1:8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Ok, God. Here it is. You have the power to speak to me right now, this hour, to impress upon my heart what You want from me. Vote yes? Vote no? I’m at a complete loss… but I want what YOU want, not what I want. Get my ego-centric self out of the way and ruin my pride. I need to hear from You today. Speak to me, Father. I’m listening, and I’m believing that You are going to move in me.

That was my prayer heading into our service. I came asking the Lord to provide me with answers, and trusting that He would give me a peace and show me what He expected of me.

Pastor “Starburst” no sooner began speaking then a flood of peace came over my troubled spirit. I thought it very strange that a man who had been the source (or maybe vehicle is a better word) of so much anxiety for me over the past several days could stand up on that platform and be an even stronger source of comfort. I couldn’t even really define it until later, but I think this is what it was: he was shepherding. I had a very good relationship with our previous pastor. I loved him and felt truly cared for and loved by him. It nearly broke my heart when the Lord called him elsewhere. Since he left, our fellowship has grown, both in numbers and spiritually, but there has been a missing piece. The Lord has been so good to us and He has provided us with godly men to preach the Word each week, and a board of elders who are incredibly in tune with the Spirit’s leading, but for me, there has still been a yearning for an experienced senior pastor who would shepherd the flock. The man standing before me this week assumed that role naturally, looked comfortable in it, and ministered to me deeply. He clarified a couple of things and then was able to set it all aside for us and focus our eyes on the Lord. “And now,” he said, “it’s time to worship.” And so it was.

I had wondered if I would be able to even truly worship with all the things swirling around in my head that morning. Not a problem.  It was as if that important decision were not even in play that day, and we worshiped in spirit and in truth, lifting our hearts together, Hymn lovers and contemporary worshippers alike, standing side by side, applauding the Lover of our souls in one accord with our voices. It was beautiful and powerful.

My bff Lisa and I sang a special in music this week. I had given her a CD with three songs on it and asked her to just pick one (I liked them all ). She chose Selah’s version of “There is a Fountain”. The harmonies were pretty and it was a nice choice for our voices together. Glory to God, I wasn’t even nervous, in spite of the fact that our pastoral candidate and his family are all classically trained musicians. We sang from our hearts of the love of our amazing Savior, who made a way for us through His shed blood, our own love for Him ringing through each word.

About five minutes into the service, the Lord heaped confirmation after confirmation upon me. One of the first things that happened was that the pastor quoted Ray Steadman. Now Ray Steadman is one of my “go-to” guys when I’m studying. I love reading over his sermons. Have you ever heard of him? Neither has anyone else I know. That’s why it was so amazing to me that the pastor quoted him. Coincidence or confirmation?

The pastor also made reference to the verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He mentioned that it literally means “cease striving”. Just the day before at the conference they had used that same scripture. I had leaned over and said to Lisa, “cease striving”, knowing it was what I needed to do. Coincidence or confirmation?

In John 13 (the passage he was preaching from), after He washes the disciples’ feet, Peter is full of questions. Jesus answers him with, “”What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” The pastor brought it right into today. There are times that we don’t understand what God is doing, but one day we will, whether it’s on this side of heaven or the other. I thought to myself, “Once I’m there, it won’t even matter anymore.” No sooner had I thought the words than they came from the pastor’s lips word for word. I kid you not. 

He said a couple of other things that I have always said myself as well… that pride is at the root of all sin. I truly believe that every sin can be traced back to pride. I’ve said it many times. The fact that he included the same sentiment in his message that morning was striking to me. There was more too, but it probably wouldn’t be nearly as exciting for you as it was for me.  Suffice it to say, it was more than enough for me to know that the Lord was assuring me that it was His will for me to vote affirmatively for this man.

I had said to Joel the day before, “I just wish he would say something positive about something I’m involved in.” Since most of the discussion had centered around music and drama, and those are the two ministries that are within my realm of responsibilities, I was feeling that I had been scrutinized closely and found sadly wanting. I shared with Joel that I didn’t want to begin a relationship with a new pastor feeling as if I were being criticized and not encouraged by him. In the middle of the message, that pastor looked right at me, smiled and mentioned that some of the songs that morning fit perfectly with his sermon. I just smiled and cried. He went on to quote the lyrics to the duet that Lisa and I had sung:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath its flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

I thanked the Lord through my tears for being so gracious to give me the encouragement and confirmation I needed to make this very important decision. I thought it was nice that he referred back to the song we had sung. It wasn’t until after the service that Pastor “Starburst” let me know that he had those lyrics TYPED in his notes. He’d had no idea we were going to sing that song. We didn’t know ourselves until Thursday. I had given Lisa a CD with three songs on it, and asked her to pick one… that happened to be the one she picked… or that the Lord picked.  It was just one more gentle nudge from the Lord.

We voted, nearly unanimously, to offer the position to our candidate. He and his family have returned to their home and we’re still waiting to hear from him as to how the Lord is leading him and his family. It’s a huge decision for them. We’re praying for God to shower them with wisdom, discernment and a clear understanding of His will for their lives.

Can I tell you that I have finally found peace with this. I’m not sitting on pins and needles waiting for a decision. I’m trusting the Lord completely. I’m resting my full weight upon Him and relaxing in His embrace. Whether this particular pastor is the one He has called to our fellowship or not, I’m confident that the Lord has our best interests at heart and is working on our behalf to bring what is best for our church. I’m sitting in the lap of His sovereignty and loving the security that is found there. Regardless of what the next couple of weeks holds for Valley Christian Church, I am rejoicing in the Savior who delights to reveal Himself to His children. I’m thoroughly enjoying the God of my salvation who is big enough to hold all things together, yet tender and intimate enough to hold me in His arms and speak to me. And above all this, He is faithful to His Word. He will ALWAYS be faithyful to His Word.

Jesus, You are everything I’m not, and everything that I hope to be
Jesus, You are the Maker of my heart
Finish what You started in me.

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Responses

  1. It’s nice to hear from you again! This is a very touching post. Many of the things you wrote about, have touched me as well. We went through a big battle on music in our church. I had to be taught again, that what I want in worship isn’t what’s important – It’s the fact that we continue to worship. As you said, pride plays such a big part in so many ways. I’m so happy for the blessing you received at your service!

  2. I know exactly what you mean about writing a long post when you’ve been away for awhile. I do the same thing! It’s funny. It was interesting reading how God worked in so many small details so you could see Him working in your situation. I love that.

  3. Welcome back! You have been sorely missed. I love how when we seek Him, His answers, His favour, we always find HIm. What a mighty God we serve!
    Blessings ~ Lisa

  4. Heather,

    What a wonderful glimpse into your heart and into what God is doing in your church!! Thank you for sharing that with us. I think we all struggle with time where it is just HARD and we need to trust God yet we want our own way. I know that I do. Going through that now with my mom’s illness.

    I know what you mean about long posts. It is so hard sometimes to shorten them. One of the things that I learned and am trying to implement at the recent “A Woman Inspired Conference”
    is to make my posts no more than 5 paragraphs. The speaker that told us that said that people look at a long post and think they don’t have time to read it all. I know that I have been guilty of going to someone’s blog and their post is umpteen paragraphs and I just pass it by. It is very hard to keep posts short yet include everything that you feel needs to be in there!!

    Thanks again for sharing your heart. Glad to see you back!!


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