This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. – Isaiah 43:16-21 (The Message)
As a former resident of the Arkansas Ozark’s and New England now living in the barren Texas Panhandle, I find it difficult to get into this fall season. Looking out my window today I can’t help but concentrate on the absence of colorful leaves dropping from towering trees, rushing streams, and impressive mountains. What I do have out my back door is miles of flat grasslands flourishing with huge rabbits, an occasional fox, various birds, and some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets this world has to offer. Never mind all of that, it’s not what I see today out my back window that captures my thoughts, but it is the absence of the things I once enjoyed living in my former states. I haven’t returned to New England in over a year now and it has been many years since my Ozark days, so I think it’s time I start expecting a different view out my window. As it has been with my geographical location, so it had been with my spiritual locale. My spiritual eyes see what is before me, yet my mind continued to look upon what I had left behind. Has this ever been an issue for you?
A few years ago I served as pastor of a church that I believed was moving forward with a God given vision that I knew had not yet been fulfilled. For several years I invested everything I had to keep that church alive and relevant. I had every intention of seeing the fulfillment of my God-given vision inside that church. I was so determined to succeed that I couldn’t fully understand what the Holy Spirit was saying as He began telling me that my vision wasn’t tied to that address. (My first thought was; “Great! We must be getting a new building!”) There were many issues with that church that I won’t get into here, yet I continued with the same love that God placed in my heart in the beginning in spite of those issues.
God will always do things in His own way because He always knows what is best. Surely God knew it was best to keep me in the dark until the right time because He did not allow me to know in advance that my assignment in that church had ended. In fact, I didn’t know it was over until I was in the middle of my final sermon that I had titled Building Monuments. I can still feel the emotion that welled up inside of me as I spoke what would be my last sermon as pastor of that church. It was like a veil was suddenly lifted and revealed Gods plan, leaving me wondering what the future would hold. Several months later, I went back over the last few sermons that God had given me for that church and realized that, even though I was taken by surprise, the Holy Spirit had been slowly making preparations for that final Sunday.
In the coming months I began to search with a heavy heart for new doors of ministry. I found it very difficult to cope with the burning desire to fulfill the vision for ministry God had instilled in me. In fact, my entire family felt broken and alone. Still unable or unwilling to break the connection, I continued to link the fulfillment of my total vision with the hopes I had for that particular church. Just as I feel today as I look out my back door and can only see what is missing, I could only see the absence of what I left behind spiritually. Thankfully God eventually opened my eyes to see this was all part of His plan. After a season of rest and restoration and time spent supporting other ministries and speaking in various churches, the Holy Spirit sharpened my vision so that I can see Gods plan ahead. This is what the Holy Spirit tried to show me in advance; it is the Vision itself that holds the beauty, not the ordinary details or geographical location where the vision is fulfilled. God gives the vision but man likes to connect personal details to it. As Isaiah 43 (The Message) says; “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.”
My family is in the process of packing for a move to Oregon where we will pastor a church in the Mt Hood area. As we walked across that property a few weeks ago, the Holy Spirit began to reveal the plans that He has for that region. It was obvious to Cindy and I that this is the same vision that God had given us so long ago. Everything we had previously experienced has led up to this moment. The time has come indeed to “Forget about what’s happened’ and to stop reliving “old history.” We are ready for the new! Same vision but different location. Remember the Glory Cloud?
We face a lot of challenges in this new assignment, and I cannot allow myself to resist change. One big change is that we will no longer be working as Ordained Ministers through our own Del Rio Ministries. Cindy and I have joined a solid organization with thousands of members globally, and over one hundred years of experience spreading the Gospel. We will be working under the supervision of our long time friends and Pastors, Greg and Joan Hood, directors of the Pacific Region in Hawaii, and other great leaders. I have no doubt that this was Gods plan several years ago, yet not completely revealed until now. With all the obstacles facing the Church and ministers today, being a part of a group who can offer support, prayers, and leadership, is vital to success.
If you are in a place of change like I have detailed in this writing, I want to encourage you to hang on to the calling of your heart. Maybe your last location was pleasant like the one I have described here, or maybe it was a disaster. Whichever it was, it is time to stop looking back. God is more interested in fulfilling your vision than he is the geographic details that you have connected to your vision. Allow your eyes to focus on your vision, no matter where you are or what circumstance you are in. Wherever God leads you, your vision goes with you. Seek Him, and He will walk you through it!