Thursday, May 12, 2016

God's School Is Still In Session

I have mentioned that this year of City Reach is very different for us for a variety of reasons. I am writing today of a little taste of that difference.

We have always been radio buffs. We love radio. We love southern Gospel radio, inspirational radio, talk radio, news radio, kids programs and much more. Since Christian programming has been such a big part of our lives, we were familiar with at least some of the Los Angeles suburbs where various radio ministries were based.

Every day or once a week we heard names of far away California towns where the teaching or children programs were originating. Names like Pomona, Paradise, Fullerton, Sun Valley, Rancho Cucamonga and maybe a few more were familiar because of Christian radio. 

We were also aware of other LA communities and neighborhoods such as Hollywood, Venice, Compton, Watts, Burbank, Culver City, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Venice, Long Beach and Anaheim. Old time radio programs like The Jack Benny Show, Dragnet and then Harry Nile from the 70's took our imaginations right down on the streets of LA and put the landmarks in our minds so well that we recognized them when we saw them. You might say radio helped teach us some geography.

I have also spent considerable time pouring over maps of the LA area the last two yeas. All of the study and our radio education paid off recently. Over a period of several days in March we drove hundreds of miles and spent literally dozens of hours driving through cities and up and down city streets, talking to people, going to churches, praying and listening for the voice of God.

We went through many of the cities named above and several more looking for just the right location for City Reach. We drove and walked all over the actual city of Los Angeles as well. 

Why all the effort?

From the very beginning of our planning for City Reach I wanted Los Angeles to be part of it. We have prayed about it, I have talked about and I have written about it. I felt like it was very important to include churches from LA proper in the meeting but I could never get connected with any churches that shared our burden. 

I am not saying there are no churches there that share our burden, only that we had not made connection with any over the last two plus years. There is Bro. Deatherage in Bloomington and they are super folks but they are far away from the heart of the city where I really wanted to set up and have City Reach.

Therefore we determined to spend some time there in March visiting churches, meeting people, praying and searching. If we could meet some churches then perhaps we could have City Reach LA in May. We drove and drove and prayed and searched and drove some more. We visited several churches and we were very well received. In fact, I believe there may be an effective door of ministry in some of those places in the future because of our efforts to make connections.

But the churches that might have been willing to join with us had no property for a tent revival and had no access to property for tent revival. As in most big cities, empty property is hard to find but it is there. We could not connect the dots between willing churches and churches with access to a place to set the tent.

So we went to plan B. We started searching for open lots that we could rent, set up the tent, plan the meeting ourselves and then invite the churches we had connected with to join in with us. It was not the perfect plan but it seemed doable except for one thing. Nothing we tried to rent was available. 

We found a great location right in the middle of businesses and homes where a circus tent was set up one week. We called about that property, went to the office of the person in charge of it and filled out all the necessary paper work to try to rent it. There were several delays in the process but the deal ultimately fell through due to come upcoming construction projects that would block access.

We heard the door for City Reach Los Angeles slamming closed from many miles away. It was not going to work at this time. What do I do now with the time I kept available in May for City Reach LA? I had ideas, I had options, but I really wanted to find God's plan since I obviously did not have a clue. 

Then I remembered something. I had been presented an open door in a city far away from LA but I had not even explored it because I wanted to be in LA. Therefore it was very possible that the will of God might be right under my nose AND it was.

I am so glad I kept time open for LA rather than walking through the door in the other city. I am glad for four reasons.

If I had rushed away from Phoenix

1. I could have been setting up the tent in the Houston, Texas area just in time for historic storms, rain and flooding! No Thank you!

2. I would have missed the divine appointment to go on another week in Phoenix and to enjoy the blessings we saw there. That was a very special week in the whole City Reach experience and I hate to think I almost missed it!

3. I would have completely missed the opportunity to preach revival for Bethel Church and Pastor Johnson George. We would have not experienced the wonderful revival there and would have been cheated out of some lasting friendships.

4. I would have missed the leading of the Lord to set up in Atwater, California for City Reach and I would have overlooked the opportunity to be right in the center of God's will this week. We are there right now and this is certainly not Plan B!

You see, I had ideas of where I was supposed to be and I acted on those ideas, while staying sensitive to whatever else the Lord might have in mind. I kind of blindly stumbled into three tremendous weeks of previously unplanned revival and completely missed more rain than I ever want to see.

I thought I knew Plan A and Plan B and Plan C but I was completely wrong. I am perfectly willing to admit I was wrong and profoundly thankful that God led us to the Plan A that was in His perfect will all along. I am not ashamed to confess that God knows exactly what He is doing even when I am completely discombobulated!

You would think that after nearly 33 years of preaching nearly 20 years in full time pursuit of ministry that I would have already learned these lessons. Yes, you would think, but you would be wrong. I am going through a learning process during this peculiar year of City Reach and I am excited to be enrolled in God's school.

Thank God that He is still teaching and I am still learning.


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