It’s time I tell you all a story filled of God’s goodness-one that has had my emotions in every direction of excitement, anxiousness, and bursting out in tears.
Brace yourself, because this blog entry is about a journey that will most likely take more than 5 minutes to read.
About a month ago, I was flipping pages in my Bible when I stumbled and stopped upon a verse that said, “Arise, and go.” I immediately prayed for more clarification, because I had no idea where to go-where to even begin to go.. I flipped to another page and these words jumped off the page and came to life to me: “Arise, and go to the city.” Still unsure exactly what city God was talking about I drove downtown to my own city. I walked up and down the Main Street of my city, but found nothing. Stumped, I reached out to “Steadfastness” (referred to in a past entry as one of my mentors from college). She suggested that maybe God was leading me to a church called “City on a Hill”. There are many churches with this name around the world, but it definitely narrowed things down a bit further. During my time at a residential ministry-Mercy Multiplied-God had spoke through a Pastor who told me he saw this vision of me worshipping and praising God on top of a hill. I thought maybe this was it. I decided to google the name and see if there were any close by me and I stumbled upon one about 30 minutes away from me.
I clicked onto the website and listened to a random sermon. The sermon spoke to my core and I was immediately pulled towards this church. I clicked over to see who the Pastor was for the church and it just so happened to be one of my teachers from my high school years! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Intrigued further, I clicked to the about section and discovered that they had only just opened their doors mid-September. I decided, I needed to take a leap of faith and visit this church to see if this was where God was leading. Mind you-I put this off a week or two from stubbornness-but I did finally go.
Full of anxiety, I parked my car outside the doors. I would be walking into a church where I knew absolutely no one besides the Pastor who had been one of my teachers so many years ago. I may remember him, but what would be the chances of him remembering me? I calmed myself and gathered my composure to get out of my car. Did I mention I arrived 30 minutes early? Not awkward at all…
Upon walking inside, I was instantly greeted. I was handed a pamphlet about that day’s sermon and upcoming activities. I shared with him the short version of what led me there and he asked me if I would like a short tour since I arrived so early and I said sure. He briefly showed me the two children classrooms they already have and then walked me by the Sanctuary. I was instantly humbled when I saw what was happening inside the sanctuary. He informed me that they had a team that prays every Sunday before the service over the service. It was humbling to see so many praying to the Lord over everyone that would soon walk inside.
Of course, I then had to go to the restroom. Anxiety gets the best of me in new situations. He lightheartedly laughed and showed me where they were.
I looked at what the sermon was going to be about while I was in there and grunted to myself when I saw it was about tithes. Honestly, I kinda rolled my eyes. I didn’t understand why God would lead me here to hear this sermon when I already tithe. It would just be the same sermon I’ve already heard a thousand times. I must have misunderstood God’s direction surely…
I walked over to a woman who instantly greeted me as well. She wanted to hear about what brought me to their church so I shared with her the story. She was excited and we spoke for a few minutes. She introduced me to a few people and two different people asked me about my story. Word had traveled quickly of what had led me there and they wanted to know the details. I excitedly shared the details and then it was time to go into the sanctuary. I was invited to sit with a girl and her family. I accepted her invitation.
Worship was nothing short of God’s desire to be right in the room with us. I hadn’t felt that intimate with God during worship in awhile. I still remember the three main points of the sermon without even consulting my notes from a month ago. He used the acronym ATM and stressed that tithing isn’t just simply about giving 10% of our income (that’s the M in ATM). However, it’s even more-so about giving of our Abilities and Time (the A and T). We have so much we can do to serve one another, but often it gets hindered. Some of us even hide things such as singing and writing that could potentially be an amazing blessing upon someone. This sermon on Tithing wasn’t like any I had heard in the past and that alone was humbling in and of itself.
Afterwards, I spoke with the Pastor briefly who actually remembered me from all those years ago. There was Growth Track One of lunch with the Pastor if we wanted to take that first step into becoming part of the church. I had thought about it, but I also thought back to my church I already called home. Calvary Baptist Church was my home and my comfort. I write the cards for anniversaries and birthdays there and the last thing I wanted to do was go to a different church. In the past before Calvary, I had church hopped around so much do to offense and emotions and that was the last thing I wanted to do now. I had finally discovered a firm true foundation in God’s Word at Calvary. Though a silly lighthearted example, I was choosing to stay in my comfortable box instead of the best God was leading me to…just as my friends cat chooses to lay in this box:
I’m comfortable at Calvary, God. You surely wouldn’t lead me out of my comfort zone. Surely not..
I went back to my normal routine and back to Calvary. It was around Christmas time so I started receiving gifts from my brothers and sisters in Christ at Calvary. This only made my box more comfortable and made me want to leave it even less. Friends there that had never truly reached out to hang with me before-were suddenly wanting to hang out. Excited and dismissing City on a Hill as just a fluke I made my box more comfortable. A journal I received from the Pastor’s daughter titled, “Trust in the Lord” was given to me for Christmas and deep down I knew what that meant for me personally but stubbornly I didn’t want to leave Calvary.
If it had not been for Calvary, I honestly would have never gone through a residential program called Mercy Multiplied and I truly wouldn’t be here today. I just know deep down I would have taken my own life if it hadn’t been for my brothers and sisters at Calvary. So stubbornly, I just tidied my box up and kept on with my life. God had ultimately saved my life through the people of Calvary so surely He wouldn’t lead me away from there?
Just last week my friend who I referred to as “Encouragement” a few blogs ago reached out to me. She informed me that she felt God was leading her out of her church back to a church to be a worship leader with the word “city” in it. If I had been drinking water as she told me this I honestly probably would have spit it everywhere when she said this. I immediately informed her again about City on the Hill God had been leading me to. Long story short, we decided we would both “Arise, and go to the city” this past Sunday.
That morning before going I stumbled upon this and shared it with “Encouragement” to be an encouragement to us both:
Little did I know-God would remind me of this by saying the exact same words out of the Pastor’s mouth during his sermon at City on a Hill.
As soon as I made the decision to go to City on a Hill, a friend from Calvary reached out to me and asked if I wanted to hang out after church on Sunday. Torn once again, I didn’t know what to do. I told her we could hang out after the church I was visiting and she agreed.
I arrived at City on a Hill again Sunday full of nerves. This time I was only 15 minutes early though. I was instantly greeted once again at the doors and handed a pamphlet about 21 days of prayer and fasting. I slipped it into my Bible cover and headed to the restroom. Ever since I decided to return to City on a Hill I had been praying for confirmation in God’s leading and I prayed again before the service. I found a seat away from everyone (but not in the back) so that I could fill out a connection card before the service began. I didn’t get to fill it out the first time because the service had already started when I found out about them.
I had only written down my name when the worship leader approached me. She excitedly came up and wanted to know what had brought me to City on a Hill. I told her the short story and she was instantly excited wanting to add me on Facebook. Already having had written my name I just showed her and she found me rather quickly. She then had to rush off to get ready for worship. Little did she know that my friend at another church was being tugged at her heart strings to become a worship leader herself. To all the worship leaders out there—the worship leader is the one who intentionally approached and greeted me on my second visit to City on a Hill. You can make a difference-you do make a difference.
On the bottom of the card I put my prayer request that I was feeling led to leave my comfort zone and possibly transition to this church-mind you I wrote this BEFORE the sermon.
The sermon was about praying outside of our box. Do you follow Jesus or are you asking Jesus to follow you? Are you asking Jesus to bless your box-your work, family, and church-or asking Him if He’s leading you outside of your box? The sermon was focused on the story in Genesis where Abram prayed and was led to go to the land God promised. He didn’t know what land that was just as initially I didn’t know what city God meant. He had to make so many sacrifices leaving everything he knew to what God was promising.
Are you settling for good instead of going after God’s best for you?! Sometimes it’s not about good and bad, but good and best.
Still stuck in my stubbornness after all the confirmation God was already giving me I just continued to listen. He went on to say- what if Abram has never listened? What if Moses hadn’t? What if Noah hadn’t? Peter? Esther? David? Paul? Maybe following Jesus isn’t just about us… but what might OTHERS be missing out on if we don’t follow Jesus dropping our nets immediately?
Floored by this message I knew I had to go to lunch with the Pastor afterwards because it just so happened I had come back again on a Sunday where they were back on Growth track 1 that I had missed out on the first time. I went into the room and chose to sit at the third table that had two girls there so far my age or younger. I was informed the one actually lives in the same city I do, and the other lives right in the area I grew up in-a coincidence-I think not!
I won’t go into details of all those that sat at my table but let me tell you-God is doing a mighty work and bringing people from every walk to this church! I will tell you that the guy who ended sitting next to me shared a story about how he had been to state prison and if it hand not been for a prison ministry led by people from City on a Hill-he would have most likely never turned his life around. The reason his story in particular striked me is because in college a guy at church randomly approached me and said he saw this vision of me walking down a dark hallway up to a cage/cell and letting this dog out and hugging him. I’ve always wondered if this meant some kind of prison ministry-I don’t think it was a coincidence that he sat next to me Sunday. Already convinced, God just continued to confirm His leading through that growth track in what the church was all about-beliefs and core values. Every last bit that was said. What sealed it for me was when the Pastor humbly informed everyone where he stood on marriage-how no matter how much the methods may change with technology-the message never will even when our society’s message does. He stands on what God’s Word says about any issue including marriage. I won’t tell you what that is unless you ask or just read the Bible yourself. The answers are all there.
This wasn’t the end though. I hung out with my friend from Calvary after and I will be honest that it was awkward mainly because I didn’t want to tell her God was leading me to another church. Forgive me, friend, for the awkwardness!
Soon after, we went to Calvary’s night service. I was nervous I would feel uncertain again after the sermon, but it ended up being about following Jesus no matter the sacrifice. This was only more confirmation to what I already knew in my Spirit. He quoted the verse in Matthew that says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He noted that unless we follow Jesus no matter the sacrifice, we won’t become fishers of men. More confirmation. Afterwards, I asked the Pastor’s wife if she wouldn’t mind if I could speak with her and the Pastor. She said yes, and so I waited around. She had handed me a late Christmas gift which I didn’t want to open more-so because I could just see me bursting into tears. While standing there she told me she had a new address for me to add to the list for the cards I write. I smiled slightly as she sent it to me not knowing what I was about to inform her with.
Eventually, everyone had left the building and it was literally just them and I. We sat down at a table and I spilled a shorter version of the story of God’s leading. Expecting friction of questions like, “Are you sure” and so forth I received the opposite. The Pastor said he wanted me to follow where I believed the Lord was leading me even if that was outside of Calvary. Humbled, I reminded them that I do the cards for the church and that I would finish that out first before officially transitioning. I still plan to visit Calvary too, because they are still like a second family to me.
As I got into my car and they pulled away, I instantly started bawling. I shouted out, “God, I don’t want to leave! Why are you calling me to leave? Why me? I don’t want to! I don’t want to!” Honestly, thinking back now, I’m on the verge of tears again. I was able to compose myself enough to leave the parking lot but I wasn’t a block down the road before more tears started to flow. You see…I’m always praying that God will give me a godly sorrow, because pride gets the best of me way too much at times. He was answering that prayer as I reflected on hidden gems through the day that God revealed to me. He was in every single detail. I opened up my present and there was another journal- “For God so loved the world…” and guess what?! There were hills pictures all over the journal. Here is a picture of both journals:
God is soo good. Soo good. Never doubt His goodness. If you sense in your spirit God leading you outside of your comfort zone, take a step out in faith. I promise you…you will not be disappointed. God may break you in the process-but it is SO WORTH IT. God is good…all the time.