Friday, January 20, 2017

The Sideways Church

There is a little country church tucked in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.  The congregation isn’t very large, but they are loyal and believed for their flock to grow.   

One day while no one was in the building the church burned totally to the ground.  It appeared that all their dreams and the vision for the church had gone up in smoke, leaving them no way to come back from such a devastating tragedy. 

People of the community loved that tiny church and reached out to those who attended.  Shortly after the incident the surrounding families and businesses gathered to clean up the rubble, and the charcoaled skeleton of the building that was bulldozed. 

Standing in faith that God wasn’t done with them, they decided to rebuild with a bigger structure in mind that included a basement for the youth.  Hiring a man to dig the basement the excavation plans began for the new foundation. 

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What Vision Plan? 

Everyone in the church was so excited how God brought the small community nestled in the hills together.  News of the event spread throughout the nation and touched the hearts of the big cities everywhere.  People wanted to get involved and it wasn’t long before the contributions came pouring in for them to carry out the vision God had given them. 

While construction was underway Bible studies were held in the homes of the elders each Sunday, and the church had already started to outnumber their existing fellowship.  God had shown them tremendous favor financially and added to the church before they ever stepped into the new building. 

Several weeks had gone by when the committee members decided that they should meet at the land site and see how the work was progressing.  When they arrived they found that the basement was already completed, but there was a big problem.  Someone had neglected to follow the vision plans of the church.

The design and layout was to turn the original position of the church in the opposite direction.  With the land boundaries being narrow the new design would allow them to add on as the church grew.  Plus they could have a larger parking area that was handicapped accessible meeting all the updated building codes.  However, that didn’t happen.  

The excavator had positioned the basement sideways instead of front to back.  He remembered how the old church was positioned and just made the new one the same way disregarding the new plans. 

Rather than go through all the work of starting over, the committee decided to leave the new church sideways.  The plans for a larger building had failed because someone didn’t follow the master plans and no one checked on the vision of the church daily.  How could they, there were no written plans! 

One Year Later 

It was a Wednesday morning at Cardio Rehab that my husband had heard about this miracle building that God had rained upon with favor.  The brother of one of the members shared the story sparking our interest to visit this wonder God had lavished with abundant blessings. 

The harsh winter months went by and come summer we were able to travel to join the congregation in a service one Sunday morning.   I was so excited to hear about what God had done on this forgotten hill in the Smokies, and knew it would be a great story to share on Daily Favor.  This was God in action and I couldn’t wait to see what He had done for this part of the Body of Christ. 

We had driven for hours and knew we were near our destination, but where was it?  Getting lost in all those hills we stopped by a local business and they directed us to where we needed to go.  Nearing the street where we had to turn there was a big sign boasting the church’s location.  From what we read our anticipation grew, but was almost quashed when we arrived at the drive to turn into the parking lot of the church. 

Yes, indeed there was a new building but there wasn’t much sign of life around it.  The lawn was overgrown and unkempt.  As for the parking lot, it was non-existent and people parked willy-nilly … anywhere they wanted.  The whole thing looked in disarray like it had been practically abandoned.  Even the old sign was disheveled and not up to date. 

Stepping into the foyer no one was there to greet us, but when we entered the sanctuary the handful of people turned around to say hello.  For the next hour it felt uncomfortable, like we were in group therapy and no one wanted to participate. 

Following the service we were given a “home” tour with the friend’s brother taking my husband in one direction and his senior son whisking me off to the prized kitchen area thinking that’s what I’d like to see. Oh if he only knew that the kitchen is merely a place to collect food already prepared for me by hubby!   

Making our way to the basement that was “for” the kids, I was escorted in and out of the three small classrooms that opened into the enormous kitchen/dining room. 

There was no nursery or adult classes … they would be held in the rather narrow sanctuary as usual. In other words, they weren’t expecting more people on Sundays, but used the facilities for birthdays or parties.  Having a few celebrations for members wasn’t the issue, but why not add a few more events to the schedule including the community who helped them rebuild?

The Forgotten Vision
 

When our tour was finished I felt compelled to ask what happened to all the people who donated to the church.  Why weren’t any of them coming and what happened to the pastor?  An older woman said, “We’re way back in the woods … no one wants to come here.” 

Looking around the new construction I asked where their vision board for the church was located.  They didn’t have one, and the pastor left because the congregation was satisfied to use the building as a glorified living room and kitchen for their own families.   

My heart was saddened to hear this, when in fact the place where we stopped to get directions was a widely known family campground.  There were all sorts of water sports like skiing, canoeing or fishing, along with music events and cook-offs.  It’s a great place to bring the entire family, and is always filled with kids of all ages year round. 

The campground was so popular that they recently began holding Sunday services for their visitors from all over the country.  When inquiring about the services we learned that,  

“Oh, we aren’t a religious campground, but have pastors come in to hold services free of charge.  They’re packed!  People kept asking about a church in the area so we gave them what they wanted. They even do communion once in a while.” 

Every week that church’s congregation was gathering less than two miles down the road!  The forgotten vision the pastor had was for outreach ministry … and it was already there.  When they abandoned the vision plan the favor of God stopped. 

What Happens Without a Vision Plan? 

In my best southern written accent, “Now don’t ya’ll be beat’n on this here church.”  We’ve all left our life vision somewhere down the road; some for a short time others forever!  Looking back on that situation it reminded me of how many times I’ve gotten sidetracked or went “sideways” like that church. 

When there is a clear vision it’s easy to stay the course causing our dreams to become a reality. Our convictions, ideas and action become substance and something we can grasp.

On the other side or “sideway” view, the vision is blurred and the odds of it even happening are non-existent.  People lose focus and then wonder what they should have done or changed along the journey that would make things turn out differently. 

Having a God ordained vision or life path gives us direction, we become encouraged and passionate about what we do.  Following a vision makes us feel significant and like we matter. There is a process and purpose in what we do, and why we do it.
 

The Bible tells us that God’s people need direction from the Lord, and when we lose that vision it’s easy to get lost in life’s fulfillment of purpose.  It literally means that when there is nothing godly in our life vision we get blinded by worldly things, and ultimately the good plans (as in Jeremiah 29:11) God had in store for us perish … they die never to be established.  

Some use this passage incorrectly when it comes to having a vision or plan for their life directing it toward children, but it’s actually for all children of God regardless of age. 

“Where there is no vision (no revelation of God and His word), the people are unrestrained; but happy and blessed (favored) is he who keeps the law (of God).  A servant will not be corrected by words alone; for though he understands, he will not respond (nor pay attention).”  (Proverbs 29:18-19 AMP) 

I like how clear The Message Bible puts this:  

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed (with favor).  It takes more than talk to keep workers in line;  mere words go in one ear and out the other.” 
 (Proverbs 29:18-19 MSG) 

In other words, we must have a plan, blueprint, something tangible that will help us stay focused on the prize – goal for our life.  So what would Jesus do in this situation?  Go to the Father in prayer and get the action plan! 

Write the Vision 

How many times have you as a parent or friend gone to the Lord in prayer seeking wisdom, guidance and direction on how to help a loved one when they had lost their way?  More than you can count I would guess.   

The prophet Habakkuk had done the same thing when it came to how the Israelites lost touch with God and His plan for their lives.  Frankly he just about had it with them and was totally frustrated in what he should do.  In prayer he cried out to the Lord asking when He was going to do something.  Habakkuk didn’t get the answer he expected. 

When the Lord answered the prophet’s complaint He told him to “Look around you because you’re not going to believe what I’m about to do.” 
 
Their conversation continues as they fellowship through prayer with Habakkuk responding back and forth during his inquiry.  It was then God gave him a direct order to follow so that no one would doubt the plan He was about to set in motion. 

“And the Lord answered me and said,
Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets
that everyone who passes may (be able to) read
(it easily and quickly) as he hastens by. 

For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens
to the end (fulfillment); it will not deceive or disappoint.
Though it tarry, wait (earnestly) for it, because it will surely come;
it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. 

 Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him,
 but the (rigidly) just and the (uncompromisingly) righteous man
shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.”
(Habakkuk 2:2-4 AMPC) 

The obedient prophet finished out his prayer in repentance, praise and hope for what was to come. 

“O Lord, I have heard the report of You and was afraid.
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
 in the midst of the years make (Yourself) known!
  In wrath (earnestly) remember love, pity, and (your) mercy
 (unmerited favor).” (Habakkuk 3:2 AMPC) 

The vision for those in that day wasn’t a good one because they turned sideways from the truth.  What Habakkuk wrote was a reminder of what would come to those who abort God’s plan and vision of restoration.   

Praise the Lord the plan of God was carried out around sixty-six years later, and favor was restored to those who believed.  That day came when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead conquering unrighteousness, making it possible for the family of God to be reunited through salvation. 
 

Organized for Favor and Success
You may ask, “What does vision have to do with organization, favor or success?”  Glad you asked – everything.  Without a goal to focus on, how do you know when you’ve arrived or achieved it?
Staying focused on an actual vision plan helps relieve stress, encourages faith, strengthens our ability to endure and gives life purpose.   There are three parts to remaining organized so you move forward in the overall vision.
Organization Requires Focus:
1 – Spiritually: Daily stay connected to God.
2 – Mentally: Daily remind yourself of the vision.
3 – Physically: Daily separate yourself from non-vision plans.
It was well over twenty years ago when I first “caught” what vision meant concerning the favor of God.  I thrived on learning everything I could about how God operates through vision (direction for His children in spreading the gospel message) soaking in every drop of wisdom.  Immediately I took action on how I would “stay at it” and not chuck the plan, even when I didn’t understand it or if it seemed to be taking too long to manifest. 
This is what I did.
 
Put Me in Remembrance … Remind Me 

There’s going to come a time when everyone will be judged on how they spent their time, carried out the plan of God and stayed focused on His vision for our lives.  Jesus will even say, 

“Put Me in remembrance (remind Me of your merits); let us plead and argue together.  Set forth your case, that you may be justified (proved right).”
(Isaiah 43:26 AMPC) 

“Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted.” (NKJV) 

In order to remind myself to stay focused on the ultimate vision plan I have this “mini” vision posted on my computer to see every day.  To help you better prepare for that day before the Lord, I want to share something an evangelist spoke back in the late 90’s. 

Whenever you start to do something, remind yourself by asking, “Why am I doing this?” using these four checkpoints.
1 - Is this God’s plan? (Does it incorporate the overall vision?)
2 - Will it win souls? (Does it carry out the commission?)
3 - Will it help the body of Christ? (Does it offer a needed provision?)
4 - How is what I’m doing getting me closer to my goal? (Can I still see the vision?)
If you can’t answer yes to them all, rethink why you are doing it.  Don’t move forward until all points check – “Yes” for the vision, dream, plan you have in mind.
 
Vision Success Requires a Plan
Sometimes we get caught up in the thrill of doing a project or carrying through with a dream and forget the reason we did it in the first place.  There are other times when we think God wants us to do something when in fact that “vision” or dream plan is for someone else.

 
King David went off sideways in wanting to build a temple for the Lord, but God made this vision clear that his plans weren’t exactly His plans.   David wanted to alter what God wanted so he could get the credit. 

Although it was a good thing to do and would honor God, it wasn’t the plan He had for David.  God’s plan was for David to foot the bill and make a way for his son Solomon to build it.  Why?  It wasn’t the right timing.   

David had money and power to do anything he wanted and could have done it, but it wouldn’t have counted for eternity.  We want the work we do for Christ to matter, and part of that requires us to take action after we’ve spent time in prayer. 

So let’s take a look at that plan of action for visionary favor. 

This Week’s Challenge:
Write the Vision
 
Following the direction God has given so many times in scripture we’re going to do the same using Habakkuk as our guide. 

What did Habakkuk do?  He had an active relationship with God through daily prayer, and he waited to hear what God thought before he did anything.  When he got the answer, he obeyed through action. (Study the book of Habakkuk … it’s only three chapters!) 

He Prayed 

He Waited 

He Acted 

In this week’s challenge our active part will be to physically write the vision and plan God has placed in our hearts to carry out in our lifetime here on earth. 

Remember favor starts in prayer.  No matter where you look in the Bible when you see God’s hand of favor extended, it began with fellowship through prayer.  Keep in mind, God will not partner with your vision unless it is part of His plan.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

1 – Physically write the vision and plan God put in your heart backing it up with scripture.   

2 – Prayerfully use daily think tanks with God to stay focused  

3 – Display the vision in plain sight to help you keep focused and for all to see when they enter or leave a specific area.  Make it big! 

4 – Have at least one person in your corner for support and it doesn’t have to be family.  In fact, a friend or church leader would be better. 

5 – Dream big start small.  Don’t despise small beginnings. 

“Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin …”
(Zechariah 4:10a NLT) 

In America on the day of this post January 20th, 2017, Mr. Trump officially becomes the 45th President of the United States, and he fully realizes he can’t take action without a plan.  It doesn’t matter who you are, how famous a person or what great deeds you have done, if it’s not God’s plan for your life, no matter how good it may seem, it is all for nothing. 

It’s been a few years since we visited that church in the hills, and I hope to return one day finding that they have written the vision of God for all to see and are following it with joy.  Now that would be a great story!
 
As for now, I’m going to focus on the vision God has for my life so I can continually walk in His favor.  What about you? 

Stay organized and focused spiritually, physically and mentally.

Pray – Wait – Act 

“When I called, You (God) answered me; You greatly emboldened me (gave strength, courage and confidence to do this).”
(Psalm 138:3 NIV) 

Follow God’s vision and you’ll live your dream in His favor! 

“If You are pleased with me (God), teach me Your ways so I may know You and continue to find favor with You (for the vision not to turn sideways).  (Exodus 33:13a NIV)
 

 
You Are My Vision by Rend Collective (with Lyrics)
 
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Until next time, actively work God’s vision and receive His favor! 

“I give favor to build My Kingdom.”
Jesus Christ 

*Unless noted, the names in articles are changed to protect the individual(s) privacy. 

Note: Emphasis is given in some scriptures to show clarity or understanding and is not to take away from the inspirited Word of God.

When used, the words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.

Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

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Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision Daily Favor Blog
 
by Andy Stanley
 
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Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy. 
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Gateway Bible.
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