When God Moves You to a Different Church

Have you ever seen a movie that began by dropping you right into the middle of the action?  Many times, after identifying the main characters and thoroughly thickening the plot, a date flashed across the screen. Suddenly, you were transported to a time before all the chaos began. Seeing how it all started gave you a clearer perspective of why the action unfolded like it did. The flashback gave you a frame of reference on which all else hung.

I began this Finding More series intentionally with what I believe to be the strongest foundation stone there is – the love of God. Internalizing how much we are loved must sink deeply into every fiber of our being before a pursuit of MORE can properly begin. Next, it’s good to know that no matter what we’ve done, we can be forgiven because of the overwhelming grace of Jesus. Yet, it’s friendship with the Holy Spirit that fuels our passion to continually want more and more of God.

With all that in mind, if this blog series was a movie, this would be the date flashing across the screen to help you understand my desire for MORE: 

2008

In 2008, Ron and I were serving in local jail ministries – him with the men and me with the ladies. It soon became obvious that folks without the Spirit living inside them don’t give a hoot about a list of do’s and don’ts. They didn’t care about the Steps to Becoming a Christian, or any kind of method for that matter. Providing pat answers, canned sermonettes, and isolated verses didn’t cause them to want anything we had to offer. 

I became frustrated and consumed with finding just the right message that would encourage them to want to become Christians. The more I studied, the more I learned who the Holy Spirit really is. I got so excited that I couldn’t wait to share what I was learning with the kids in our church family’s Children’s Ministry. The more we talked about the Spirit, the more I felt Him moving through me, helping me lead that ministry.

I didn’t realize it then, but the Holy Spirit had been using every drop of my past experiences to create in me a desire for something better – something more than I could have ever imagined. However, for things to get better they oftentimes have to get worse. 

While learning about the Holy Spirit excited me, it seemed that every new thing I learned strongly opposed my ingrained legalism. I had grown up picturing Jesus as a stern classroom teacher who wagged His finger at me when He said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15). We all know that breaking the rules makes a teacher extremely unhappy – and who likes the consequences of an unhappy teacher? The harder I tried to reconcile life in the Spirit with following all the rules, the more frustrated I became. 

It took laying aside ALL of my beliefs and deciding to read the entire New Testament through the eyes of an inmate before the Spirit grabbed me around the heart with John 5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  This was what those inmates needed! They needed to come to Jesus for life – and so did I.

I had known all the go-to verses to share the “Plan of Salvation”, I just didn’t know the Plan Giver. Paul’s words to the Galatians stung my soul: “I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3) I studied, read, and asked a thousand questions. I vetted my every belief and point of theology through the lens blown on and polished by the Holy Spirit. I trusted Him to give me a clear picture of the truth.

After six years of struggling, Ron and I both felt that our 35-year relationship with our church family was taking a turn. We talked with our church leaders about the frustration we felt, assuring them that we didn’t want to cause any kind of division. We decided to move slowly. We lived in a rural area, so our options were open in all directions. We knew that if moving us to another church was in God’s plan, He would simultaneously move both of our hearts to the same church if we patiently trusted Him. After a year of much praying and searching, we knew where we were meant to be. Leaving our church would be hard on many different levels: We still had family members there. Many of our dearest friends were there. Our children had been baptized and married there. Our grandchildren were baptized there. Ron had been a deacon, and I’d led the Children’s Ministry. But in our hearts and souls, we knew God was the One behind the move, and we’d learned the hard way not to argue with God. 

As I look back at our meeting with the preacher to tell him of our final decision, it makes me smile to remember his question. He already knew the answer, but he asked anyway, “You just want more, don’t you?” We did, but we knew we still had miles to go to find it. Then, he asked another kind-hearted question, “What do you want me to tell people when they ask me why you left?” We told him to say that we would always consider them family, but God was moving us.

After putting my past to rest, being reconciled with God, finding the Jesus I had missed, and listening more intently to the Holy Spirit, I now relate to Jesus differently. Instead of seeing Him as the stern teacher with the pointed finger, I see Him as my friend who loves me deeply. Because of His great love, I GLADLY obey His commands just because I love Him. In other words, SINCE I love Him, I WILL obey His commands. They no longer feel like a burden, but a delight. He has filled me with His Spirit so that I can have the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control I could never enjoy without Him. I stay amazed that He foresaw the coming of 2018 and cared enough to prepare my heart to withstand the many attacks of the enemy. God put a new song in my mouth. Lord, thank you for setting me free. Help me proclaim Your goodness!

If this blog series was a movie, it might end, as most movies do, with all of us sailing lazily into the sunset toward even more of God’s love, Jesus’ grace, and the Holy Spirit’s friendship. However, please know that the waters flowing toward MORE are rarely calm, but they always lead us to the very best places – eventually. 

*******************

Though the journey never ends, next week we will celebrate all we’ve learned together and push away from the Finding More dock. Thank you for being a part of the journey. Until next week … Happy Tuesday! 

Posted in
a dandelion with text beside it saying “WHEN GODF MOVES YOU TO A DIFFERENT CHURCH”

The Good Life

By Donna Jackson | September 20, 2022 |

My grandparents lived in my college town long before I became a student. They made sure that I knew their house was my home. Even though they’ve gone on to their new eternal home, being back in that town still feels like home.   Wandering from street to street wakes up sweet memories. Traveling just a…

When An Alligator Is Under Your Armpit

By Donna Jackson | September 13, 2022 |

Nine months ago, our daughter and son-in-law welcomed a five-year-old little boy from Taiwan into our tribe. He wears a perfect smile most of the time, and his eyes light up when he sees a new face. He welcomes everyone into his heart immediately. No one is allowed to be a stranger in his world…

Going Back to Kindergarten

By Donna Jackson | September 6, 2022

Year after year, a reserved spot on my fifth-grade classroom wall displayed the same laminated poster. On it were the simple, yet profound words of Robert Fulghum titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Maybe you also remember seeing the same popular poster somewhere in your life.  After fulfilling my duty to laboriously…

We Interrupt This Program for a Special Announcement

By Donna Jackson | August 30, 2022

At 1:11 pm yesterday, our seventh grandchild arrived kicking and screaming. While I might have had time to string together a few paragraphs to craft a blog, I was much too excited to focus. I did, however, use my time to notice the goings and comings of those around me. Many young mothers wheeled by…

BREAD!

By Donna Jackson | August 23, 2022

Between church services Sunday morning I took a few minutes to do one of my favorite things – people watching. I observed men, women, and children of all ages, colors, sizes, and classes. Some men wore wrinkled sport shirts, others spiffy sport coats; some had donned long pants, others wore shorts; a few shiny wing…

Subtle Obedience

By Donna Jackson | August 16, 2022

What hints help you identify someone as a fellow believer? What causes you to inquire about someone’s faith? Are you drawn more toward people who do great public things for God or to those who work quietly behind the scenes? How might others recognize YOU as a believer? These are the questions I wrestle with;…

What Teachers Need From You

By Donna Jackson | August 9, 2022

As a first-year teacher, I soaked up every tidbit of advice my veteran cohorts floated my way. Some of it worked well for me, some of it didn’t fit my teaching style. I especially needed to hear how those master teachers conducted their parent conferences. Thankfully, I sat in on many meetings with a teacher…

Slip Sliding Away

By Donna Jackson | August 2, 2022

Maybe they just don’t see where you’re coming from. Or, maybe you’re looking at it all wrong. Maybe you’re both looking at things from totally different perspectives – from opposite ends of the spectrum. You intended to bless. They felt cursed. You see one side and they see the other. Whatever caused the rift, you’re…

One Team

By Donna Jackson | July 26, 2022

What seems like decades ago, (Oh, wait, it was decades ago.) I coached my daughter’s softball team for several seasons. I learned early on that it helped to keep a hit sheet, among other things, for each opponent. Knowing where each of their girls usually hit the ball allowed me to move my girls into…

God Was Not Surprised

By Donna Jackson | July 19, 2022

I learned the hard way that being negative can have adverse effects.  Maybe I should clarify that a smidge. My BLOOD TYPE is A negative, and apparently in 1959 hospitals could not type blood as well as they do now. After becoming anemic at age 2, I received a blood transfusion that introduced positive Rh factors…