As my working hours at the college were dwindling I came to sense that a transition was coming again and that the Father would lead us out once more to trust Him entirely for our provision. I also began to once more feel a lack of desire to remain where God had temporarily placed me as a college instructor, desiring rather to be occupied in teaching the word of God to the saints. On February 20th, 2003 a Christian brother from California e-mailed me to make known an opportunity to manage a retreat center on a ranch he owns. He had a vision for it being used as a spiritual training center and he felt that the Lord might be calling me to be instrumental in raising up a work there.
My very first thought when I heard of this offer was that the Lord had led me to pray for the past ten years that He would raise up a people in Middle Georgia for the praise of His glory, and that this ranch being in California would be taking me away from seeing this body raised up. Yet the Father had never given me a timetable for raising up this people, and I considered that it was possible that He might be leading us to California for a time. This seemed all the more possible because my wife had only seven weeks prior flown out to California to spend time with a close friend, and all she had talked about since her return was wanting to move to California.
The timing of this offer was just right for me to be able to give notice at the college that I would not be returning, and to finish out teaching the present quarter. Also, our lease would be up at the end of April, and this brother in California shared that his current caretaker for the property would be leaving in May. As I was convinced that a transition was coming, and I felt released in my spirit from the college, I gave my notice that I would not be returning to teach the next session. I shared with my wife that whether God took us to California or not, I was convinced that I would be doing something different by the time my birthday rolled around on May 7th. My college duties ended on March 19th, and at this time we were still unsettled about California being our destination, not having heard a final confirmation from the Christian brother I had spoken with.
As a family we began to pray in earnest that God would show us His will. Tony, Kristin, Josiah and I began seeking God daily for direction. On March 25th we still had heard nothing definite regarding the move to California, and feeling like we were in a state of limbo, we gathered together and prayed that the Father would direct us. The ranch had sounded like a wonderful opportunity, for it would bring my wife close to her friend in California, and the location was very scenic. It was located right next to Yosemite National Park, being surrounded on three sides by national forest. It had a view of the Sierra Nevada mountains and a lake stocked with bass and perch. Yet with all of this natural attraction, we sincerely prayed that if this were not the Lord’s will for us at the time that the door would be shut. We voiced our heart’s desire to the Father that we would rather be in the middle of a desert with Him, than to be in a paradise without Him.
The very next morning the answer came. The brother who owned the ranch e-mailed me to tell me that the situation had changed and that some things had been mis-communicated to him. The caretaker that he thought was moving, actually had intentions to stay on, and he felt that he could not ask him to leave. This left us in a bit of a quandary, because I had left my employer in anticipation of God moving us to participate in a new work somewhere, and now we had no door open before us.
A week passed with our family being in the situation of not knowing what God was calling us to, and as we were now in the first week of April I felt led to call my family to a day of prayer and fasting. This was the first time our children had fasted, and it was a good experience for them. We gathered several times during the day to pray and to ask the Father to give us some direction.
No direction came that day, but two days later, as I was sitting at the table with my daughter, I told her that I felt led to visit a non-denominational church whose members had a year previously come out of a Mennonite congregation. My daughter was quite surprised at this, for we had been outside of any organized group of believers for the past three years.
During our three year time of wilderness wanderings we missed the fellowship of the saints very much, and on several occasions we sought to return to fellowship with some group of believers. On each occasion, however, the Spirit let us know immediately that this was not His will for us. In a way, I felt like Samuel when the seven sons of Jesse were passing in front of him. Some of the churches we thought of visiting looked impressive, but when we considered them we heard the Lord say,
I Samuel 16:7
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”
At each church that we considered associating with, the Lord would say, “I have not chosen this one either.” I must admit that in suggesting that we visit this recently formed body of believers, part of me anticipated hearing the Lord say these words once again. However, the Spirit never spoke these words to me, and I found a growing excitement within me that God was about to fulfill that which He had me pray for since 1993. I had a great hope that God would at this time raise up a people for His praise, and that this newly formed body of believers were to be the ones He would begin this work through.
I had similar hopes at the last two churches we had been a part of, but my hopes were unmet when both bodies failed to walk forward in faith when God asked them to do so. They had been daunted by the giants in the land, and the strongholds and walled cities to be conquered. I continued to look for a people who would not turn back from the challenges and obstacles before them, and over the course of the next few weeks I had many reasons for my hope to be reborn that I might see such a people raised up soon.
On April 6th, 2003 we visited this body of believers who were meeting in a warehouse that belonged to a roofing company. The location was very rural. We were invited home to share lunch with a family from this church, and as I spoke to them the man shared some incredible stories of trust in God. Here was a man sharing with me that he had cast all over onto God in a time of trial and he had seen God deliver him in a spectacular manner. He had been tried in the fire, and had faced the loss of all he owned. He had chosen to lean upon God alone to deliver him, and God had been faithful. How my heart was encouraged as I listened. I had been yearning to find a people with a real, practical faith, and I was hearing of just such a faith. Hours went by like minutes as I listened to this brother share of his own tests and of his determination to demonstrate faith before God.
It was the practice of this body to have the men take turns bringing a devotion each Sunday, and I was further encouraged by what I heard. The young men were included in this time of sharing, and I heard some wonderful messages coming from young hearts that yearned to experience a vital walk with God. I was impressed with the messages of faith I was hearing, and the very evident sincerity of these young men.
On April 14th I had a growing sense that the Lord was going to move us to be a part of this fellowship. It was about a 35 minute drive to the warehouse where they met, and all of the church members lived a distance from us. Our lease was to end on our home in two weeks, and I felt confident that the Lord would move us, but I had no idea where He would move us.
As a family, we were continuing daily in prayer, asking the Father to reveal His will. On April 14th the Spirit spoke to me and said, “You are asking me to manifest My direction and provision for you, but you have only one foot in the water. You have quit your job, and this is putting the first foot in the water. The second foot is giving your notice to your landlord that you will be moving.”
I thought about this some, and it seemed reasonable to me that God would ask such a thing, for He often asks us to do that which is unreasonable in the natural. I once more called my family together and shared what the Lord had spoken to me about giving our notice on our lease. I sensed some reservation in them, and this led me to doubt. I returned to prayer and asked God to confirm His will. Just three days earlier a book had arrived in the mail that I had not ordered, neither was I expecting it. The book was called Rees Howells – Intercessor, and a Christian brother had felt impressed to order a copy to be sent to me. I sensed the Spirit leading me to pick up the book and begin reading where I had left off. The next chapter was titled Standing in the Queue. It was all the confirmation I needed.
The chapter contained a wonderful testimony of God calling Rees Howells and his wife to a new work as missionaries to Africa. It detailed God’s dealing with this English couple as He required that they step out in faith to follow His direction. He said He would take them to Africa when they did not have money to even take a train to London. They were led to buy tickets to take them as far as they could go, which was only 20 miles. The next connection they needed to make would be on a train that would arrive in a couple hours. Rees had no money for the tickets, and the time was close for the train to board, when God spoke to him and said, “Have you not preached that a word from Me is as good as coin? What would you do if you had the money in your pocket right now?” Rees answered, “I would go get in that ticket line so that I could purchase my tickets.” God then replied, “Then go get in the line.”
There were about twelve people in front of him in the queue, and the devil started to come against him. The devil said, “You are just like those Israelites who had Egypt’s armies behind them and the Red Sea in front. You are going to get to the front of the line and have to step out because you have no money.” Rees answered, “You are wrong, because God has said that I am going through.” When it got to where there were only two people in line in front of Rees, a friend, who had followed them to the station to see them off, suddenly walked up and said he could stay no longer for he had to go open his shop, and he put 30 shillings in Rees’ hand. Rees used this money to purchase tickets to London, and the Lord then opened up many other sources of provision as other friends began coming up and giving them financial gifts.
I called my family back together and read this chapter to them. God was asking me to put both of my feet in the water, which was similar to what He did when He asked Rees Howells to go get in the line to purchase tickets. I asked my family if any of them now doubted this was the Lord’s will for us. They all said that they no longer doubted.
Rees Howells shared that this experience of standing in the queue to buy a ticket was something he was glad he was not deprived of, for it brought him a great confidence of being in the will of the Lord when he saw the Lord’s provision come suddenly and miraculously. I told my family that the Lord would also use His deliverance and provision in our lives to give us confidence of His way before us, letting us know that we were in His will.
I called our landlord and he answered right away. I asked if I could come over to speak to him and he told me to come right on over. I left, asking my family to pray for favor, since I wasn’t giving a full month’s notice and we would be needing our full deposit back. My time with our landlord was very good and we ended in prayer. He had no problem with the late notice and said he would get us our deposit back as soon as possible. So both feet were placed in the water and I began looking for the Lord to show His provision and make His plan known to us.
This excerpt is from the book Evidence of Things Unseen.
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