My heart ached at the thought of it. God couldn’t possibly be calling us to leave our church of 17 years. All our friends were there. We did a lot of life together – Bible studies, mission trips, Sunday School. We held each other up during seasons of devastating loss – parents, babies, divorce, illness. We celebrated graduations and weddings of our children. This was the only church family we had ever known since we moved here. It was our community.
One Sunday, we found ourselves visiting a different church. It was something we did on occasion with no expectation of finding a new place to worship. We were immediately impressed by the size and organization of this church. But it was the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit during worship that touched me profoundly. We felt drawn to go back.
The idea of attending this church was exciting but I felt very conflicted. I didn’t want to chase after the shiny, flashy things of this world, even if that shiny thing was a church. Not wanting to make an impulsive decision, we attended services at both churches for months. We prayed fervently and asked God for wisdom and discernment. Each week, I repeatedly asked God to close the door if He did not want us to leave.
It was a strange and confusing time. We didn’t know anyone at this new church. Yet, every time we went to worship there, it felt like home.
When the time came, we both knew.
How do we tell our friends? God led us to our old church and we accepted Christ there. Many have encouraged us and have been an integral part of our spiritual journey. Would they be disappointed with us? The thought of hurting any of them was heartrending.
When it was time to share our news, one of the young girls in the small group I helped lead had a very mature response. Through her sweet tears she said, “I am very sad but I want you to follow God.”
In Exodus 33, God tells Moses that He is going to send an angel to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. He was keeping His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The catch is He is not going with them because they had sinned against Him by worshipping a golden calf. But Moses’ response to God is simple, “If You are not going, we are not going.”
“If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” ~ Exodus 33:15
What if God gave us the same offer today? You can have your promised land. Everything you’ve ever dreamed about – the ideal job, the perfect spouse, well-behaved children, a house out of the pages of a magazine, even deep friendships, but He will not be with you.
Would we choose His Presence over the promises of this world?
I wish I could definitively say that I have always prayed and asked for God’s guidance with every decision I’ve made, no matter how big or small. Most times, I make a decision and then ask God to bless it.
I often forget that He has wonderful plans for us, beyond our greatest imagination.
What if we were willing to follow Him, no matter what He asks us to surrender?
On our last Sunday at church, I knew the good-byes would be hard. Glancing around at the many kind faces, I could barely mouth the words to Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Follow You”.
Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you
Open our hands and release the one thing we are firmly holding onto.
Only then can we grasp the extraordinary blessings He has divinely planned for us.
Only then can we freely follow Him to our promised land.
Ultimately, true intimacy with God is only found in the pursuit of His Presence.
What are you doing to pursue Him these days?
Latest posts by Mei L. Au (see all)
- The Pursuit of His Presence – Are we willing to pursue him no matter the cost? - March 21, 2017
- Watershed Moments of Our Lives - November 22, 2016
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One of the hardest decisions of our married life centered around leaving a church. I see now, from the rear view mirror, that it was the right thing to do, but Oh, so hard at the time.
These words about guidance and following the God who leads are so good for my heart!
Michele, we can stay too long in a church or an area of ministry. It gets comfortable and we don’t want to change. Or we think that the church or area of ministry would fall apart without us! Lord, help us! I am trying to be more deliberate and intentional in my decisions whether outcome seems positive or negative. I tend to jump ahead of God in the decisions that “seem” good rather than just saying yes. I have learned that just because it is good, does not mean it’s God’s will for us.
Mei This is a beautiful reminder for us to pursue His presence. I love the Exodus Bible verse. It is one of my favorites. I actually used it this week in a piece I’m writing.
Thank you, Diane. This is one of my favorite verses too!
Perfect timing Mei! Work is changing dramatically, every day I am trusting God will open the way before me as I walk forward. I want to be where He wants me.
Life just works out so much better when we listen for His guidance, doesn’t it? So often, I jump ahead of God and asks Him to bless my decisions.
My dear Mei, I always look forward to your words of encouragement. It is difficult to move when we’ve set our roots so deep. You were wise to follow His lead. I’ve met people who’ve chosen differently and they’re disappointed. Better to be a Moses than a Saul (remember this king cared more what the people thought than his God). Thanks for the encouragement. You’re a treasure. Chris
Thank you so much, Chris, for your kind words! I told several friends I don’t want to get to Heaven, look into the face of Jesus and He says to me: “I told you to go and you didn’t. Look what I had in store for you if only you had trusted me.” I know some people were disappointed and was upsetting but I would rather listen to the voice of God and the voice of man. Thanks for YOUR words of encouragement!
Amen! Church “politics” can be so difficult because the church IS family. You made a good choice. I learned in the Army better to make the harder “right” than the easier “wrong.”
Thank you Mei for this beautiful reminder that anything apart from the Lord’s leading is vanity of vanities. Mei, would you pray for my husband and I as we have been church visitors for so long now after our church that felt like home moved too far away and eventually was absorbed by another church. We have been a long journey and I long to be home again. Our church was a bible teaching, verse by verse, through the bible church. The love of Christ was so apparent because of the transformation that was taking place by the hearing of God’s word. We long for that again. No fancy themes or flashing strobes or big screens, just simple people, worshiping in worth and truth. Oh how I long to be home again. Thank you Mei.
Mei I meant to say, worshiping in spirit and truth.
Oh, Kelly, I totally get wanting to be part of a church that feels like home. I pray God will lead you to a church community that feels like home to you.
Oh, all the feelings of the past fourteen months, after having left our church [of 20 years] and friends and ministry … due to a move … I. Will. Follow. How long ago did this happen Mei?
We started going to the new church at the end of August and continued to go to both churches every Sunday until early January. So we’ve only been officially part of the new church since mid-January. It was very hard at first because we didn’t know anyone in the new church and it is much bigger. In a way, it would have been a little easier to change churches because of we moved out of town. People tend to understand that decision better.:(
I find solace in reading about Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas and they went their separate ways. God used that disagreement to spread the gospel twice as fast. If left to our own devices, we get comfortable where we are and we stay there until He calls us home or Jesus comes! Sometimes, God will use circumstances to make us move…it’s not easy but we follow…thank you for dropping by, sweet friend!
Oh Diane, I hear your sensitive heart.
God has me on a journey this year, learning to be present in His Presence, so I totally get that you must go where He is as there is nothing that compares to the Holy Awe of being in His Presence. it is there that we are equipped for ALL He has called us to.
May you know God’s blessing, grace and favour upon your lives as you seek more of His Holy Presence, in Jesus wonderful name, amen.
My love dear friend.
It’s easy to stay comfortable and its exciting to find something new. But when the two roads collide and we have to put a stake in the road and be obedient to follow Jesus’ leading, that isn’t easy.God uses the words from those unexpected to give us the most grace. Faith is tested and stretched. We bounce back and continue our journey were He leads. Well done good and faithful follower.