A Testimony of 8 Years

Now that I’m finally on the other side of a major transition, I’d like to briefly describe it. The transition I’m about to describe is the reason I haven’t written much in a while. We decided to take a hiatus from certain activities until the dust settled.

This is going to have alot of “I” and “Me” and “We” in it. Not at all to try to make everything about us, but just wanting to describe the testimony from our vantage point as we ultimately remember Who is in charge and Who is sovereign.

On to the story…

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When I was serving as a worship pastor in Ohio, I attended a promise keeper’s rally in Columbus. This was about 8 years ago now. It was the only one I had ever attended; I haven’t attended one since (for no particular reason). But I do remember how amazing the worship was and how strong the Spirit moved. The Katina’s did what I consider the most God-reflecting music set I’ve ever seen or heard by a “major Christian artist.” And then a speaker got up to speak.

This speaker – and I couldn’t tell you his name, though I remember his face and his voice, which I shall not describe here – this speaker was the man through which I felt the call to pastor. Not just lead music, but pastor – get in peoples’ lives, declare the Word, under-shepherd the flock – pastor! This speaker weaved music into his message in a way that I had never seen before; it was as if God was telling me that music would be a part of who I was, not a limitation.

I sat down with my pastor at the time and shared my heart. Over the years that followed in Ohio, I was given plenty of chances to “train” in the pastorate. Sermons, weddings, funerals, hospital visits. I was able to attend deacon’s meetings, stewardship meetings, etc. It was a time in which I felt I was obviously being prepared to enter the senior pastoral ministry.

In 2009, God did something we didn’t expect. He pulled us out of that situation. I honestly expected to remain in Ohio for years, if not my career. But His ways are not ours. We were presented with an opportunity to go to Florida, and felt very strongly in our Spirit that this opportunity was afforded to us from above. Isaiah 55.

We spent just over 3 years in Florida. It was a very music-heavy position, when compared to my position on Ohio. I honestly at many points questioned whether I had really been called back at the promise keeper’s rally or not. I think the world of those folks in Florida. They were delightful people – they really were! My impact there was smaller than I was hoping for, at least in my field of vision. My job was music moreso than pastoring, even though I tried to figure out the balance between the two for the duration of my tenure there. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t free to pursue my passion on a scale that I would’ve wished for – getting in the lives of people. I didn’t understand why God suddenly and seemingly put me on the sideline of where I thought I was going. Isaiah 55 again. In hindsight, we were learning lessons. We were just learning different lessons, in a different way.

In and around January of 2012, Sarah and I began fervently praying about where God was leading, and why did we seem tasked to be musicians when we felt called to be something different. We began asking people outside of our local church to pray with us in this regards.

We talked to a number of church planters, at the advice of some of those people. This would’ve been in the early spring of 2012. One church planter in particular seemed desperate for us to be a part of a work in the northern part of the country. We were invited to come up and look at possible locations for a church. We thought that was a possibility, but God made it pretty obvious that it wasn’t what he wanted.

Over the summer, I found a small group of pastors who began praying for me and giving me counsel from time to time – one in Ohio, one in Tennessee, two in Alabama, and one in Kentucky. These were in addition to the pastors in my family (both sides). These folks weren’t holding copies of a resume and trying to find something for me – they were just supporting with their encouragement and their kindness and their prayers.

Time continued to march on. The rift in my personal spirit became more pronounced. I felt like a person who speaks English in the middle of another country. I was a worship pastor, and doing my best to be one, but I also felt like I wasn’t in “my world” anymore. My soul and my life yearned to migrate towards what I felt God was calling me to do – to love on people as their pastor without a dual commitment that would prevent me from doing so (for example, being a music minister, and the hours required to be one).

We had much advice from many folks. Tears were shed, prayers were said, counsel was sought, scripture was read (oh, I just rhymed!).

Fast forward to October. I was contacted by a church in Robertsdale, Alabama of all places.

You see, I thought for sure the Lord would call us back up north – to a place where snow falls in abundance, and people speak funny. Where many people have never attended a church, unlike the south, when most Christians simply hops to or starts another church when someone upsets them. We loved it up there, and 2 of our children were born in Cinci. The north needs churches badly. Surely the Lord would bring us back, right? Isaiah 55.

But here I was, talking to a church in Robertsdale – mere minutes from my original hometown. In the south, where it is hot in the winter and mosquitos carry off small children in the summer. The 4 seasons are 1. hot, 2. still hot, 3. Christmas, and 4. about to get hot again. Where there are many churches, and many churches being started, sometimes because the churches that exist just can’t get along. And guess what.

On December 30, following a process in which God was in from beginning to end, Bethel Baptist Church of Robertsdale, Alabama recognized that God was calling us to be their senior pastor by a vote of the membership. Given the confirmation afforded to us by the vote and the inward confirmation of the Holy Spirit, we accepted this calling the same day and agreed to become the Pastor of this church.

So tomorrow, February 10, is my 2nd Sunday as pastor of the church and my first opportunity to preach in the morning service (we had a concert last week!). It has been a blessing and a blast so far, and these are wonderful people that we are just blessed to be able to serve and serve with. I look forward to growing with them and seeing my family grow with them.

Hindsight reveals God’s moving so much clearer than present-sight or foresight. He doesn’t promise a taxi ride to our destination. Sometimes it is a long process, filled with questions and struggles and tears. But now, at the end of one part of our journey and only at the beginning of the next part of it, we are filled with joy at his sovereignty, which has afforded us this season to reflect on it as we begin the new work at Bethel.

More tears will come again, and struggles, and questions, but also joy, and happiness, and reward.

None of us are even close to perfect, but consider the encouragement of Paul in the 3rd chapter of the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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The basis of our belief – Part 1 – Nathanael’s Condition

Have you ever had God do something wonderful and amazing in your life? An answer to prayer? An unexpected blessing? Has he given you comfort during your grief? Has he protected you during your storms? Has he provided to you when provision was needed?

God has answered many prayers for us. I could go on and on about the prayers God has answered. We have a prayer in our life right now we are emphatically praying that God will answer. Perhaps one of the bigger “requests” we have ever made known to God. The fact is, God knows what is best for us. His perfect plan exceeds our best plan, as I’ve mentioned before. Whether or whether not we understand His ways, they are greater than our ways.

Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In the first chapter of John, Jesus Christ begins the calling of the disciples. I stopped at the calling of Nathanael near the end of the chapter, in verses 45-51:

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

As Nathanael is not mentioned by name in the other Gospels, scholars have mostly landed that this is in fact the disciple Bartholomew.  Jesus refers to him as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” This is in contrast to the first “Israel,” that is, Jacob, who was indeed deceitful (Genesis 27:35-36). Jesus here is commenting that Nathanael is ready to consider whether or not Jesus is the Christ, and is operating without duplicity or deceit, motive or agenda.

Are we ready to consider whether or not He is Lord? Specifically, Lord of our lives? We have to come to a place in which we are able to make this determination. We cannot acknowledge Jesus as Lord while still maintaining citizenship in the world. James 4:3 says, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Dual citizenship cannot occur within the kingdom of Heaven. For example, concerning finances, Christ himself says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

A commitment for and a live lived for Christ should not and cannot be simultaneously committed to things contrary to the kingdom (what we refer to exhaustively as “the world”). It is not a convenient lifestyle. It is “all in.” We can know about Christ, and even believe He exists, all without having a personal walk and intimacy with Him.

So, what does your life look like? Is it a life lived in acknowledgment that a “big guy” might exist out there in heaven for you to tip your hat to every now and then, or is it lived as a full-fledged act of worship to God, whom has orchestrated your life from the very beginning?

I’m respectful that my friends believe there is a God, but I’m also obliged to tell them that such a simple belief statement isn’t enough. Read on…

It’s either a complete yes, or a complete no. I think “halfway” answers are even worse – maybe this is what is being talked about to the church of Laodicea in the 15th chapter of Revelation (v 15-16):

“’I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Live for Him! Completely! Without keeping any of “you” to yourself!

-Pastor Harvey – Part 2 coming soon – “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”