January 1st. A Sunday. Great day to start the year! It was a little muggy and warm for winter and I had to change my wardrobe plan, but I was still happy to see the sunshine as I headed off to meet with the Son.
The sanctuary had a scattering of peeps as I walked in and glanced around, chatting with a few friends and welcoming the new year. The praise band began and soon we singing songs and phrases like “Our God is Able”, “All I need is just to rest in You”, “He goes before me and will not fail me” and “He knows my needs before I even ask.” As I sang, I offered up thanksgiving for all He had done in our family in 2016. We had a bunch of “firsts” and all were scary to begin but exciting to see grow. Taylor went to college. Nicholas began driving to high school. Benji expanded his role in both theatre and soccer. Jay was promoted at his job and was now traveling more internationally. And the Vineyard began… Amazing year!
Reflecting on the last year, God never once was late on a deadline (because HE made the timetable) and He provided every resource we needed to complete the task He assigned. He was faithful EVERY SINGLE TIME! As the songs were ending, I lifted my hands and said, “Yes, Lord…whatever comes this new year, I will trust.”
Then the sermon began. The overhead screen projected a picture of grapes with the words: Be Fruitful…John 15:1-8 (which is the basis of the Vineyard motto and key verse). I smirked to the heavens and whispered, “Nice one, God!” then settled in to “be pruned” by wisdom and instruction.
What did I discovered? God is a horrible businessman! Every method and contract, tactic and philosophy that a working man in the world today uses…God disregards. In fact, many times He does the complete opposite.
- God loves us. Period. This relationship is not based on our level of love or commitment to Him. His love does not fade or dwindle depending on our emotional status, success in life or others’ opinions of us. He is constant and solid, never faltering.
- He is committed no matter what the outcome or employee. From the moment time began, He made a covenant with us…the life and death of Jesus. We did not earn it, we did not have any say in the stipulations, and it is not contingent on our acceptance or opinion. He designed it, He established it and there is not an expiration date.
- His contracts are unconditional and one-sided. The covenant does not become void or invalid if we do not response within a time frame or if we let Him down with our empty promises of “when and if.” And He offers the contract without expectations. The abundant and amazing benefits (of how we respond and when we respond) are there waiting for us always, but the amount we receive is solely based on our acceptance of them and commitment to Him. Unconditional love is given EVERY time. It is up to us to humbly seek it.
As I listened to these bullet points, I began applying them to the Vineyard and my faith. For seven years I have been listening and praying, watching and waiting and this last year I have been walking (no…RUNNING) in blind faith. When God called me to step out and begin the Vineyard in October of 2015, there was $87 in the ministry bank account. NOT a great business beginner for such an adventure. I had no location, no staff, no resources and yet He decided, “Let’s go!” So resting on FTVM’s verse of John 15:5 “I am the Vine, you are the branch…apart from Me, you can do nothing”, I trusted and followed having no idea how it would happen. I had a plan in my head that He sweetly ignored and then implemented His own, totally backwards of how I would have done it. But when October 2016 came around, I stepped back in complete awe and amazement at the greatness and sensibility He had demonstrated….going against every business plan known to man. And now the Vineyard exists and ladies are coming through its doors weekly. Pure faith!
But as the new year begins and The Vineyard is now in existence, the reality begins too…the business side, the operational costs, the phone bills and the tasks of maintaining landscaping and lightbulbs. Not at all my cup of tea but still needed to be done. This area is WAY outside of my comfort zone and many times I have sat trembling in His throne room, telling Him my fears and frustrations, pleading for answers. And He does answer. Every time! Often not how I would have handled the situation, but still choosing to trust that He knows best. My dear mentor/friend Sylvia Bolling reminds me, “When God gave you this vision, He did not share with you the whole vision. So how do YOU know how to run His show when you don’t even know what all it entails or how He will grow it? Do with what you have now until God gives you more! Rest in Him. Wait for Him. Trust Him!”
As the Vine, He is the center of this life, this ministry, this faith relationship. He is in charge and decides when to nurture, when to prune and when to replant. This may involve plucking me out of my comfort zones and crowded pot, letting me dangle in limbo while He kicks off old soil to finally replant me for a new journey. That process is hard and scary and if being really honest, I feel like I’m flailing and failing in front of my family and friends. My pride gets squished and my control stripped. But then when He replants me, I am comforted by His authority and power. He provides all I need: food, water and light to grow stronger and healthier…equipped to begin the new task assigned. "Give us today our DAILY bread..."
Do I know what will happen next week? Next month? No. And that makes my stomach cramp and my mind race and I start to panic…and soon I am a complete mess. But I DO know that He is ever present, ever faithful and ever giving. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13) He is my “Rock and my Salvation; He is my fortress, and I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6) “He goes before me and will be with me; He will never leave me nor forsake me. I will not be afraid; I will not be discouraged!" (Deuteronomy 31:8)
John 15 reminds me to simply “be a branch”: to let go and let Him be in charge, to live my faith not as a checklist but rather as a way of life showcasing Him, and to let Him transform me in His time and way. He has never failed me before, so why would He now?
This year is a year to simply COMMIT…to follow Him without fear and to fully trust He will provide the resources to equip me to accomplish His task set before me!