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The Impossible Task, Part 5: This Appointment By God

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Perhaps my time as a vocational pastor wasn’t over quite yet. As I stood before this new congregation at Community Church of the Hills I gave my vision for the future. The vote on whether they would want me as their pastor followed. Would I continue in vocational ministry or have to sell life insurance like so many other former pastors have had to do? (Click here to start at part 1)

Closing the doors at Hope Chapel Hill Country was an act of faith. I didn’t know for sure that I would get hired at this new venue but things had gotten so desperate that I had to take the risk.

closed-forever

I was inspired by the Old Testament account of four lepers whose city had been under siege by their enemies for a long time. They were in the midst of a severe famine as well, so they reasoned, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of [our enemies] and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”¹

lepersBWI faced a similar dilemma: If I stayed where I was, the church would die. If I left everything to gamble if this other church wanted me, and it didn’t work, I die. Either way I die. I had nothing to lose. Seeing my flock dwindle from 15 to 12 to 10 told me the handwriting was on the wall.

Regardless of the outcome, I wasn’t going to quit. Nope. I was waiting to see what God would do and would continue until the money ran out, I died or Jesus returned. Or all three.

Every time I talked to my pastor from Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach, I would repeatedly say, “I’m not quitting.”

winston

As it turned out, the lepers went to their enemies’ camp and found it abandoned because the Lord had caused their enemies to flee for their lives. The lepers then plundered the camp.

The vote at Community Church of the Hills was taken and 98% voted yes. I was the new pastor. Our family now had a new church home. We were overjoyed!

me n george

It was God who did this. Out of the blue he opened up this opportunity. He created something out of nothing. Again.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright….²

The only thing I could take credit for was making a phone call (yet even then, he caused me to make it). It was all him. But why did Jesus take so long to do this? Why did he have me wait and waitlaz1 and wait? And wait.

Why does it seem that He is always late when we need him most?

When Jesus heard that his good friend Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days until Lazarus died. Why was Jesus late?  He explained that “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”³

Of course, Jesus ended up raising Lazarus from the dead.

tr-man-born-blindA man born blind from birth had to wait long into his adulthood until Jesus healed him. Why was Jesus so late? Jesus answered, “…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”º

Then there was the woman who was crippled by a spirit for eighteen years! Jesus laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.*

Oval_Crippled_woman

So why does it seem that Jesus is always late? I don’t know, except for the fact that when he acts, he is glorified, magnified and highly exalted. We get to realize yet again that God is good, and his timing is perfect.

Same with me: I can praise him ever more loudly. It was you, Jesus who did this! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

It’s been said that God is seldom early but never late.

Yet I had to reflect on the why. Why did God make me wait so long when his purpose was to have me plant a church? Why did I  not plant a church after all, but ended up taking over an existing, struggling one. Why did God bring me all the way from L. A. to do this? Were there not enough pastors in the Bible Belt?

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed….ª

why

I think he had to teach me a great lesson on trusting him.

He tested to see if I would still hope in him even when there was no evidence that anything was ever going to happen. He tested my heart. Was I willing to do all the work of the ministry—for his pleasure only? Would I be faithful? He didn’t call me to be successful, he called me to be faithful.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much….

Also, he tested to see if I still wanted to be a pastor. It was relatively easy at the big church where I previously worked. Had a secretary,  IT guy, janitors, everything. But what if he stripped all those conveniences  away? Would I still want to pastor?

Yes. Yes! YES!!!

Of course, his greatest desire was that I be humbled.

I’m challenged quite regularly with my pridefulness. I’m the most prideful of all humans ever in the history of the world! (See? There I go again.) I thought that because I was trained at the best church in the world, (Hope Chapel, Hermosa Beach), that people would just stream in because of my efforts, my rightly dividing the Word, my evangelism prowess. (See? “My, my, my.”)

NOT!

I had to completely, entirely, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, rely totally, utterly, unreservedly on Jesus.

With man this is impossible,                                                                   but with God all things are possible.

Strangely, just as all the doors in Dripping Springs were closed, every door in Johnson City seemed to be opening. New people are visiting, excited for something new to happen. On the day of the vote we had 65 people in attendance, to me, a megachurch. This was the largest gathering they’ve had in quite a while.

peoplke cch

It sure is funny how the sanctuary looks almost exactly like the one in Hope Chapel, Hermosa before they remodeled.

What a coincidence that all this transpired after my decision to put my family first and after starting a prayer newsletter.

But what about that anti-California bias? Would it happen in Johnson City, too? Well, the great-great grandfather of one of the elders in our church founded Johnson City. You can’t get more Texan than that. He even came over with his tractor and shredded (mowed) our acreage! The second elder invited me over to see his gun collection. That’s Texas bonding. The third elder had me over for a lunch of venison sausage.

elders edit

Another member also had a great-great grandfather who founded a city, the city of Hye, right next to our town.

95% of the congregation lives in Johnson City…and they don’t hate me! Not one negative word has been said about my Golden State origins. This is all too good to be true. And with a church property on ten acres…that is completely paid for?

CCH Color Banner2

I’m sure glad I didn’t quit and even happier that God didn’t either.

I still haven’t finished my book, “Disappointment With God.” Yet.

And my darn hip still really hurts—right at “Jacob’s Socket.”

tozerIt is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. —A. W. Tozer

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Scripture references: ¹2 Kings 7; ²Psalm 112: 4; ³John 11:4;          °John 9; *Luke 13; ªRoman 4:18; ♦Luke 16:10
Photo credits: “Closed Forever”: http://smallbiztrends.com 

 

19 Comments

  1. Pastor Steve, I am rejoicing with you! I hope God brings me to Texas on business so I can come worship with you some Sunday.

  2. Praise God!!!

  3. God sent you to us, Pastor Steve. Never doubt how much you are accepted and appreciated!

  4. Hey Steve. What’s the difference between selling insurance and selling salvation?

    Insurance is real and useful. 😉

  5. Congrats Steve!

    Are you going to seek out the 2% and try to convert them (pardon the pun)?

  6. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28



    This long and drawn out saga of faith through trial after trial after trial is an incredible testimony to the sovereignty of God “in all things for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose.”

    Your five part testimony is a remarkable lesson and a great encouragement for all those who are presently “waiting upon the Lord” for discernment and provision. Patience, trust and peace in the waiting period, while things seemingly fall apart all around you, is a test from God all on its own.

    I agree with you, Steve, as I have been is similar situations: the hardest thing the Lord asks His people to do is to…WAIT! It is not an easy thing when those whose faith is in God are called upon to lean on God, to be still in God and to wait for God while life SEEMINGLY passes by without God – and at times for a LONG time.

    Your story is proof positive that God is faithful to His promises for those who are His. He is a loving Father. It is we who are apt to fall into the trap of certain degrees of anxiety during the waiting period trying to discern whether or not the Lord’s silence is a sign that our petitions are a no-go and that you are seemingly left to your own.

    I was there a decade ago. Not a pleasant experience, yet, through it all, after God’s answer via His will and provision became crystal clear, I was and remain SO grateful that He allowed me to go through such a long time of trial and waiting. The heavy trial was, in the long run, a blessing for without it, I would not have grown in my faith and my ability to trust Him in all things following since then. I remember thinking, “Man, if God can see me through this, He can see me through anything!”

    

God’s word is true:

”Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

    Kim and I are so pleased for you, brother, and we praise God with and for you. That does not mean we stop praying. Life goes on. Other things remain in the balance but God’s ever present reminder that He has His people’s best interest at heart should be of greater comfort than ever before and we press on in faith for our good and for His glory. 



    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. We are greatly encouraged by your testimony and are looking forward to what God has in store for you, your family and the ministry in which He has called you to serve in.

    

Praise the Lord!

    

Paul

  7. Steve,
    A wonderful testimony– God is great indeed! Blessings to you and your congregation.

    Part of what you wrote raised a question in my mind. When you listed your 3 priorities, you put family ahead of church. It seems to me Matthew 10:37 makes the case for putting the church ahead of even family. Thoughts?

    Thank you

    • Thanks Curtis.

      I love Jesus more than my family, yes. And to prove it, I want to care for those who mean the most to me. It’s very easy for me to do the work of the ministry and neglect the primary one.

      I hope that helps.

  8. Steve~

    I really enjoyed your blog. I’m so happy you are at CCOTH. I love the church and leadership team. Give my best to Bill, Joe and Dan and the church family. Let me know any way I can be of assistance. Look forward to getting together.

    Steve Smothers

    PS- I’m helping plant a new church in San Marcos. We have our 1st service this Sunday, October 4-appreciate y’alls prayers!

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