Life is full of surprises and challenges that we did not count on. Some are called "acts of God" because they are totally outside of our control. Others are the result our own decisions that have backfired. Others still come from the determined actions of someone else resulting in huge impact on our lives. And sometimes it's all of the above. Regardless of the source of change, you find yourself in the middle of a radical redirection of life.
On October 1st, 2006, Life Church, the church where I am now the lead pastor, was birthed. On that morning it was announced at the local church where I was serving, that we - Carol and I -would be planting a new church. Immediately after the service, a handful of people showed up unsolicited at our house with lunch from Subway. They, like everyone else, were assimilating the surprising news that this was happening and happening fast. It would be later referred to, like the historic Western New York snow storm, as the "October Surprise," which happened that very same month.
That afternoon, sitting on the floor of our living room, we prayed. Someone gave the first tithe. We selected someone else in the group to be the bookkeeper and handed the check to them. Carol and I made a commitment to not personally promote the church plant to individuals. We never at any time asked anyone to join us. They would have to contact us first. It was in God's hands, and He would have to make it happen. By Wednesday night, there were about thirty plus people who indicated interest by attending a meeting at our house. Then, Sunday, October 8th, we held our first service in a banquet hall and even more people showed up in attendance.
I have planted two churches. Neither one was planned. In fact, the idea of neither one had originated with me. However, I knew the Lord was speaking to me as I planted both. His hand was everywhere. His affirmation was obvious. In both cases, you might call it a strange and unusual turn of events. One man of God identified my journey by saying, "God stuck His foot out and you tripped over it."
I know I am not the only person on the planet that has had to walk through a tornado-like "turn of events" where your head is spinning, you are at times in shock, and your future is unknown.
But I learned some things. Would you like to hear them?
God loves me. That is the most awesome revelation that anyone can receive when life has made a sudden turn. I will never forget driving down the road one day in the middle of this wild ride and hearing a still, small but powerful voice. I pulled to the side of the road to listen more clearly. It was the voice of God with as much clarity as I had ever heard. It wasn't audible (I don't think!). But it was so real, it may as well have been. He said, "I love you." The impact was so deep and rich that He didn't have to say anything else. With the security and the assurance of that love, you can take on anything that comes your way.
God puts people in your life. Good people… People who are willing to get on the wild stallion with you and commit to the rodeo. Don't miss them. Don't overlook them. And don't take them for granted. They are there. You may have to develop trusting relationships, some of which are new and some that are in process but need to go deeper. I immediately chose seven people, both local and national, that I would voluntarily submit my life to, be fully transparent with, and receive counsel from. Those men are very special to me. They were the reason that we could build a strong foundation of trusting relationships. They are the reason that Life Church started on the right foot and with the right values. I owe them my life.
Own it! Take responsibility where you are responsible. Don't play the blame game. Don't start rumors. Don't twist the truth. As the dust clears, and your perspective can be adjusted, adjust it! Realize that you do not war against flesh and blood. Forgive who you need to forgive. Love who you need to love. And take care of your own failed actions, decisions, and mistakes. Getting back on track is in your hands. God has a plan. But there is no one else that will tap into that plan and see to it that you are in it but you. No one else is going to fix your life. Own it!
God can take plan "B" and turn it into plan "A." I don't understand this. I can't explain it. But it has happened all through history, is demonstrated throughout scripture, and has happened in my life numerous times. There is one set of visible, physical, circumstances that have occurred due to man's plans, decisions, or even manipulations. And for good measure, let's throw in the mix the devil's plans as well. Yet with a heart bent toward Him, the Lord can take all of those strategies and produce what He had in mind in the first place.
No one will say that King David's marriage to Bathsheba - including the murder of her husband and the adulterous relationship with which it began - was God's plan "A". Yet, even though David had other wives, God chose the womb of Bathsheba to carry on the lineage through which Mary (the mother of Jesus) would come through Solomon, and Joseph (her husband) through Nathan. Both lineages are spelled out in the New Testament, and lead you from Mary and Joseph back to Solomon and Nathan, two of the four sons of David by Bathsheba. The redemptive plan of God for the world (Jesus) came through the lineage of King David's plan "B." Somehow God turned it back into plan "A." Mind boggling, but true.
Don't let the turn of events in your life, no matter how radical, trap you into a dead end existence. Get your heart right before God. Own your part of the craziness. And find the path back to God's plan "A."
Our God is an awesome God. Don't think you are counted out, or your life is somehow over, just because things have turned upside down. By the miraculous and merciful work of God, and your willingness to walk in it, you are wondrously destined to land right side up.
And by the way, these last nine years have been the greatest years of ministry that we have ever had. Thanks especially to the original core team at Life Church who played a role in landing right side up!