Inspired by the Holy Spirit
Written by: Teresa Criswell
"And how shall they preach, unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!"
~ Romans 10:15 NKJV ~
Need clarity? Direction?
You have no idea how much I needed both. For over six months I felt this indescribable disconnect from the local fellowship of where I was. The word that I kept 'hearing in my spirit' was 'OUTREACH' - the tool for the Gospel to be the most effective is outreach by reaching out with God's loving compassion.
Why the disconnect?
You may be assuming the most frequent reason why people leave; offense, right?
No. Actually, the Lord has pierced my heart to never leave a fellowship of any sort because of offense. He has shown me that offense is not a gift from Him to receive, so if it is not a gift, then I can choose not to receive it. All in all, that reason - called 'offense' - can be crossed off the list in regards to the disconnection I had been experiencing.
Hmmmmm, maybe it was not liking how things were done?
No, actually it was just the opposite, things were good.
Showed up on Sundays, greeted, got to love on people, blessed by corporate worship flowing in the Spirit, a good word from the pastor, loved my family in Christ...but still an undefined, imaginary wall that seemed to be in the way.
The best way to describe it all...I'm going to use the classic cliche...'going through the motions.' Yes, 'going through the motions'. Until one prayer and one action changed it all...my prayer went something like this..."Lord, am I running away being led by my feelings? Do I need to persevere and stay with this local fellowship?" "What will my pastors think?" Of course, when I asked that question, I was reminded that I am not here to be driven by pleasing man, but to be driven by pleasing God and in turn people will take pleasure in what is done, no matter the result.
I was finally praying more specifically, something like this, "Lord, show me where to go, confirm in me what I need to know and then in that knowing from You, I know I am led with Your Wisdom and Understanding to know what to do, how to do it and where to go."
A few days later, a beautiful Sunday afternoon on January 30, 2011. It was a beautiful 80 degrees and all I wanted to do was take my Sunday nap. I was imagining myself gracefully and in slow motion flying through the air onto my fluffy bed resting my head upon the pillow, closing my eyes and allowing the afternoon to slip away, that is when I heard a sweet voice, "Mom, let's go for a walk." When I responded in a whiny, grudging voice, "O, not now, I'm soooo tired." Looking back on that moment I was acting like a spoiled adult. Immediately upon my grudging reply, I was immediately convicted, "Go and go now, make a memory bank moment with your gift, your daughter." So, of course, I said, "Honey, let's go, but we better go now before my laziness tries to take over." She smiled so big, ran upstairs to get her running shoes on, ran back downstairs and in her 'ta-da' move, there she was with her arms extended to the ceiling, standing with her legs apart as she posed with laughter. I laughed with her and we were on our way out the door. As we stepped outside with purpose we breathed in that crisp air and started on our walk.
Divine Appointment: Now on our way back is the miracle in the making that only God could perform. As we turned around and were a few houses away from our house, we saw one of "Little T's" friends outside standing in the front yard with a huge smile on her face. Her excitement was contagious as I asked, "Hi Isabella, what are ya doin'?" With excitement, she said, "I'm waiting for my pastors! We're having a whole bunch of people from church come to our house." That is when I saw a black SUV pull up and witnessed Isabella so kindly greet her pastors as they embraced her with so much love. I almost walked away to go towards the house when I was led to stay to meet the pastor and his wife. As we introduced ourselves, we were invited with a great welcome to come inside, and as they invited us in, Rachel, Isabella's mom came out and confirmed the invitation, in which we went home, changed and came right back. As we came back to their house, we were so excited by the 'buzz' in the atmosphere driven by people who love the Lord and one another.
After some fellowship time, the pastor had everyone come together, he led in prayer and cast the vision that God had given to him and his beautiful wife. I stood there with my heart in my throat when I heard the name of the church was none other than, Reach Church and their heart from God is wrapped so beautifully in this motto, "Reach up in worship, reach in for purpose and reach out in love." The testimony of God over their lives in their journey as they were led by the Lord to Austin pierced my heart with confirmation. As the pastor spoke, I said to myself, "Why does he look familiar?" That is when I realized I saw him on tv over the weekend advertising for the 'grand opening' for Reach Church. I was blessed to find out as he spoke more of both he and his wife's reliance on the Lord through fervent prayer and fasting. The excitement had to be contained for a moment because I wanted to be sure I wasn't being led by my emotion.
I went home that night with a knowing. I had great temptation to walk away from my local fellowship and not let anyone know. I tried to justify within myself, "Hey, once I start not coming for a couple of weeks, they'll get the 'hint' that I'm not returning."
How rude, right?
Well, thank the Lord my justification was interrupted by loving conviction on behalf of my pastors. I heard, "You came in with honor and you will leave with honor." Five days later at about 2:00 pm I text my pastors to see if we could meet right away. They responded immediately and four hours later they were in my home at our dining room table as we were able to share our hearts with one another and I let them know that I felt a release to leave. They prayed with me and were saddened and disappointed but at the same time were blessed that they had clarity and released a blessing over me as my former pastor said, "Teresa, we pray God's blessing over you as you will be a blessing wherever you go." They are such wonderful pastors who have hearts of worship towards our Awesome God. They prayed with me and encouraged me in the midst of their hurt and they left. Now, just because I no longer go to the same building to meet with them, does not mean that our relationship in Christ is over...we are connected by the Spirit of God and I am so grateful to know such beautiful people who love their God.
Well, anyways, I know this has become a longer story than I anticipated, but I wanted to take you on the 'scenic' route, versus the shortcut.
Now to the destination. On Sunday, February 6, 2011, "Little T" and I visited Reach Church and were welcomed with the Love of God's embrace. O, how wonderful. This incredible connection with family in Christ that I had been longing for was sealed in that moment. The message from the pastor, a right now, applicable word to walk in the ways of God, declaring His glorious works in the midst of tough times was spoken. I wanted to stand up and cheer for my Lord, my Triumphant Victor, my Teacher and my King of kings. I am continually being blessed and impressed by the family in Christ at Reach Church.
O my goodness, the bonus...it is when I picked up my daughter from class when I heard the first words out of her mouth, "Mom, this is the best church ever!" I was shocked...the reason? Well, right before we came in, she did not want to go to a new fellowship because she was going to miss where we had been fellowshipping. My prayer was that God would confirm in her heart, what He had already confirmed in mine. He did so much more than that inside of her!She was beyond excited, she was ready to evangelize. The teachers that day, so beautifully led by The Spirit of God as a ballroom dance, pulled the gift of outreach out of my daughter. You have no idea, "Little T" spoke to me for about 20 minutes of what she learned, what she received and what she was going to do with what she had received. She told me how the kids welcomed her as she had met some of them the previous week at Ivan and Rachel's home. She was amazed by the participation of all the children, she emphasized, "even the 6th graders" were praising God during worship mom." You have no idea how much this blessed my heart as an earthly mother, as I know more than anything this blessed The Father God's heart!
Finally, I have to say the bonus, bonus was finding out that Pastor Chris is a retired high ranking U.S. Marine and a former high school wrestler. Why is this so significant? Well, I'm glad you asked. We have been praying for our son to be impressed by God in a way we could never imagine. His pondering desire has been to become a U.S. Marine and he is currently a Senior in high school, a wrestler whose goal is to qualify for state. I am not going to speculate or assume how God is going to work, however, it is pretty exciting as our son has not stepped into a church on a regular basis in a few years. He is a good young man, yet, there is so much more to be received in the great destiny that is to be had by the spirit of God, beyond our son's power, might and vivid imaginations.
More than anything, as I close, I praise God for Who He is; The Great I Am. I praise God for how much more I have learned from Him, yet still it is only a 'speck' of the eternal things that must be learned from Him. As I heard so powerfully, yet simply a few years ago, "The more I learn who God is, the more I learn I know nothing at all." God is awesome...He is more than good ALL the time, He is Awesome in every dimension of time, beyond what we could ever hope, ask, imagine or dream.
I am so grateful for the vision that Pastors Chris and Melissa have received from the Lord following His leading as they lead others by "reaching up in worship, reaching in for God's purpose and reaching out in love" to the glorious throne of God. Let us run, run and run some more, not holding back to our Greatest Reward; the King of kings and the Lord of lords.