Updated: Nov 10, 2020
At some point our faith in Jesus will cost us something. Are we willing to obey God to the degree that it costs us our reputation? Our livelihood? Our lives? This is the final post of a 10 part series. You can find Part 9 here, or start from the beginning here. Thank you for joining us on this journey!
Obedience is costly sometimes.
Ironically, just 6 weeks after AnnMarie came back to life, our church began to collapse, from the inside out.
Interesting timing, huh?
The main people that caused the trouble were, ironically, the same people who struggled to receive the miracles and healing work that God was doing in our church. They became experts at secret meetings. We were sharing the Good News of Christ's finished work, and yet, we couldn't figure out why people wouldn't want it.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is telling a parable about a great wedding celebration that a King prepares for his Son. (The King is God, Jesus is the Son.) In the parable, those who were invited to the wedding didn't want to come (The Jews). So the King tells his servants to invite EVERYONE (The Gentiles) even the homeless, the poor and destitute.
"For many are called (invited and summoned), but few are chosen," Jesus said in verse 14.
The Greek word for "chosen" in this phrase is "eklektos" which means "chosen by God, His elect." It is found 23 times in the New Testament.
Jesus is saying here, that even though ALL are invited and given his great gift of salvation, few will actually embrace it.
Few will choose to believe the Truth.
Few will choose to become His chosen.
The Pharisees did not like what Jesus said, because literally, right afterward:
v. 15 Then the Pharisees went and consulted and plotted together how they might entangle Jesus in His talk.
Apparently, secret meetings have been around for a LONG time.
And for every secret meeting that we knew about in our church, it had the same leader.
We affectionately dubbed him, the Captain of the Secret Meetings.
The puppet master.
The one stirring up all the strife.
Instead of believing and saying how awesome it was to see God working in the lives of others, he became the voice of the dissenters. Of those who would not believe in God's love. Of those who just needed to look for something to be mad about.
But I honestly think this man, just like Saul, before he became Paul, believed he was doing the church a great service.
This man's family had known us for quite a few years, before we had received this new revelation of God's love and grace for healing, and the power of the Holy Spirit. What is that old saying?
Familiarity breeds contempt.
A few years prior they had led the church to buy Jason a truck. Fast forward to 2015, and this same family led the charge to split our church down the middle.
I guess they couldn't buy our influence anymore.
We were following God, not man. Because the traditions of men make void the Word of God (Mark 7:13).
Our attempts at reconciliation were met with contempt. Many of our words and actions became a gross misunderstanding.
They saw our actions as offensive; we saw their actions equally offensive.
It's amazing how the enemy, the prince of the power of the air, loves to twist words and cause offenses.
Or, perhaps, people have already made up their mind (with the help of a Pharisee), and they have chosen to believe the lies they hear about you. Some even go so far as to look for ways to discredit you and destroy you.
Do you see this happening in a broad scope in our culture today?
Bitter roots grow up to defile many (Hebrews 12).
We were labeled heretics. We were shunned in public places. The local paper published a letter to the Editor about my husband that was completely false and slanderous. He told them so, but they printed it anyway.
We still can't figure out why people were so mad at us. The people whom we thought were our friends, betrayed us.
Why would they not want the Good News of Jesus? Why did they keep looking for things to get mad at us about?
We were so naive.
They went so far as to break into Jason's computer and take pictures of the confidential conversations that he and I had.
My only comfort was in reading the Gospels. Jesus wasn't exactly Mr. Popular either.
Right before our church "died," the Holy Spirit gave me Matthew 16:18.
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
At the time, I thought he was saying our little church wouldn't die. That we would not only survive but we would thrive and blossom and people would receive the truth of God's Word and believe in Jesus' finished work.
But that's not what happened. That's what I prayed for, and I believe it is God's will that His church survive.
But our church died.
It took me years to get over that death. That monster of a failure. I was incredibly disappointed and discouraged.
Oh, how the enemy loves to distract us and cause our hearts to be offended....even toward God!
Within a few months, we had to shut everything down. We sold all the church property, paid off the entire church debt, and gave away what money was left. They said Jason (who was accountable to the financial committee) was bad at managing money.
So they all left and started their own church, borrowing $500,000 to remodel and signing a $300,000 lease.
Are you getting this?
At this point, it wasn't about what made sense, or who was right or wrong. They knew they were wrong. It was all about shaming Jason and I.
Jesus said "You will know them by their fruit."
Personal failure is bad enough, but a public failure is...humiliating.
As I was trying to grapple with everything that had happened, I drove up to the church one night after the kids were in bed. Me and Jesus had it out. I cried and screamed and yelled at him, right there in the parking lot.
"You promised me! You promised me that the gates of hell would not prevail against us!"
God spoke almost audibly to me:
"You're done. Your work is finished here."
I was so offended. Angry with God. He didn't fix this for me.
Soon after, in His precious, gentle way, He confirmed that "audible" word He gave me through reading one of Paul's stories to my children from their children's Bible.
Which goes to show you, you don't have to be a Bible scholar to hear from the Lord. (Remember, the Pharisees were the so-called Bible experts of their day!)
I even took a picture of it so I would remember.
In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were in Iconium, and apparently they were causing quite a ruckus, because it says in verse 1 that a "great multitude of both the Jews and the Greeks believed." But then in verse 2, it was the unbelieving Jews that stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the believers.
v. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
So when Paul heard about a "violent attempt on their life" they fled to Lystra.
Then, in Lystra, the same thing happened! Paul and Barnabas preach the gospel, God confirms His truth with signs and wonders, and people are saved and healed. The unbelieving Jews from Iconium and Antioch actually FOLLOWED Paul to Lystra with intent to kill him, and they did!
Paul was stoned, drug outside the city, and left for dead. Then, in verse 20:
v. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
The disciples, his friends, gathered around him, and WHAT happened?
They said, (I'm paraphrasing) "Not today devil!" (Insert sassy finger snap) "God's not done with our friend!" So they laid hands on him and healed him, that's what happened! They knew this was not Paul's day to die! (I think we could all use some friends like that, now, couldn't we?)
Then Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe. They went to the next town.
Jesus told his disciples, "if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that home or town." (Matthew 10:14)
"You're work is finished here. It's time to go to the next town."
It took me and Jason a while to get on the same page. I don't claim to know what it's like to experience war, nor do I equate my experience with a soldier's. Nor do I know what it's like to get a divorce, or experience the death of a child. But it was a considerable, significant loss. It felt like PTSD. Significant betrayal of those closest to us, who's bitterness spread to over hundred people. People whom we had prayed for, hoped for, and grieved with during their own trials. People we loved, but did not love us back.
We were both ready to leave town right away. I was tired of seeing all our former friends at Wal-Mart.
Then I chickened out. We had family close. We had land. We had just built our house. We had a great set-up there.
I doubted the voice of God.
And I doubted His love.
So we stayed.
Years go by, and I'm miserable. Because I know I should have obeyed and I didn't.
Consequently, we weren't seeing the kind of miracles we had seen before. My youngest daughter was even sick with croup, and we had to take her to the ER three times because she couldn't breathe. Years prior, I prayed only one time over my oldest daughter, who had croup, and she could breathe instantly.
Disobedience is miserable.
Unbelief is a killer.
I changed my mind. I had to GO. I couldn' t stand being out of the will of God.
So now, two years later, I was ready to go but Jason wasn't. He was pursuing a new, incredible business opportunity.
Having money is pretty awesome, I can't deny it. But it doesn't heal your soul.
Finally, 4 years later, God gets our attention. Jason and our son Will went to a
Men's Advance at Charis Bible College. Jason heard from God that it was time to move to Colorado and attend Charis Bible College.
Meanwhile, back at home...
"GO," He said again.
Oh, that word.
He led me to Mark 10:29-30.
29 So Jesus answered and said,“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life."
I knew, based on the last time He told me to "Go," that this would not be easy.
It did not make sense.
It would not be popular.
It would take a lot of faith.
I don't want to be a poor pastor again, I told God.
What about our house? Our land? It costs a lot of money to live in Colorado. Are we just supposed to leave all of this too?
He arrested me in the middle of the night. I awoke around 3 a.m. I knew from experience that God was trying to get my attention.
"Go to YouTube and watch Charis Bible College."
Then first message that popped up was from a man named Jeremy Pearsons. I had never heard Jeremy preach before, and I knew that he rarely spoke at Charis.
He shared his story of stepping out into his own ministry. He was sharing how it was a leap of faith to leave the comfortable for the unknown. To leave a paycheck for a promise.
God said to me so vividly, through Pastor Jeremy, "You're not leaving it. You're sowing it."
My face hit the floor. I bawled for probably an hour. It was a tough decision, but I knew God was telling us to move.
We were actually cursed at, lied about, and ridiculed when we left. Our attempt at buying a home in Colorado was intentionally blocked by our employer, who was angry that we were leaving.
Whoever leaves houses, lands, mothers, brothers, for my sake...will receive one hundred fold...with persecutions.
We have been through some incredibly stressful events in our marriage. Life has not been easy. But the one thing I do know...God is always right, and he is always right on time.
And when we try to do it on our own, we always screw things up.
He knows the future, not us.
We now have a new start. We have a new perspective. We now have a lot of the Holy-Ghost praying, raise Paul from the dead, kind of friends that aren't afraid of man.
He has finally revealed (or better yet, I was finally ready to listen!) what he really meant in that scripture, Matthew 16:18, where the gates of hell will not prevail against us. He wasn't playing a cruel joke by making me think our church would survive this.
He was actually giving me a word of encouragement. He knew what was coming, and He wanted me to see the big picture.
He was saying, on THIS rock. The rock represented Peter's revelation of God... 'YOU ARE the CHRIST! The Son of the Living God!'
We have that same revelation. Christ. By His stripes we are HEALED. He is LOVE. He is Good and Kind, and has already PAID for your healing.
It is finished.
Upon this rock of revelation, Jesus will build His Church.
The word church here, in the original Greek language, is ekklesia. This refers to "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly."
Notice the first two letters in the words ekklesia, for church, and eklektos, for chosen.
His church is not a building. His church is a gathering of the called out ones.
His Church should STAND OUT.
His Church, His disciples, the ones that will go out and spread the news, will be built on the revelation of Christ and Who He Is. What He did. His finished work.
His work is finished. FINITO!
So it's not about our work. Or "works."
And He was telling me through this word, ekklesia, that we are called out. We were not meant to stay in one little town that didn't believe. We were called to "GO."
Are we to choose a life of comfort and ease, when there is a world out there that is dying to know Him?
I'm not talking about leaving the country. I'm talking about leaving your front yard.
People are HUNGRY for the truth of God's Word.
Will you tell them? Will you tell your family members? Will you tell your neighbors?
How many people have you personally led to Christ?
And you've been a Christian how long?
Are you really a Christian?
His face, Jesus' face, was marred beyond human recognition, for YOU. He was so shredded up, he did not even look human.
He did this for you and me. He did this for THEM.
The question is, will you "GO?"
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