God is Gracious

Redefining good.

That has certainly be a theme for our lives the past few years.  Allowing God to crush our definitions of “good” and replace them with Himself.  Life is often hard and confusing.  But this good God has continued to impress His goodness upon our hearts most heavily in our darkest and scariest moments.

In His goodness, God has shown us His grace more clearly.  Unmerited favor, benevolence, compassion, mercy, and beauty…not dependent on my goodness, but upon His.  

This good and gracious God owes me nothing.  Yet He chooses, in His grace, to give me life and salvation.  To bestow on me gifts and provide for my needs.  And to also bring tough stuff into my life in order to conform me into the likeness of His Son.

This is grace.

And the past few years have been constant reminders of it.

Which is why we chose to name our newest little man Jack Nathanael.  God’s gracious gift.

Jack ("God is gracious") Nathanael ("Given of God") Johnson - born June 24, 2014

Jack (“God is gracious”) Nathanael (“Given of God”) Johnson – born June 24, 2014

God proved His graciousness through my pregnancy (giving me a healthy, full-term baby that we prayed for), though my labor and delivery (turning a breech baby just in the nick of time and thus trading a scheduled c-section for a quick and natural birth), and through this little joy boy’s life.   All gracious gifts.  None of which I was (or am) entitled to or deserve.

And just like our Tobias’s name was a timely reminder for us of God’s goodness, our Jack-Jack came at the perfect time to be a consistent reminder to trust our gracious God.  And he is one pretty INCREDIBLE gift.

Toby ("God is good") and Jack ("God is gracious")

Toby (“God is good”) and Jack (“God is gracious”)

My husband has been a youth and young adult pastor for the past 9 years.  We’ve loved the ministry that God called us to and really pictured ourselves doing it for the long haul.  However, about 2 years ago, God graciously began redirecting our hearts.  Though Adam still felt passionately about youth ministry, he began desiring to do more shepherding, equipping, and leading within the Church as a whole.  As he took on more responsibility at our church (preaching, vision-casting, equipping leaders, etc.), God continued to allow him to hone his skills and gift set for His glory.

In the past 2 years, we’ve seen and experienced some of our highest highs in ministry, and I’ve also had to watch my husband walk through very dark lows.  Still, in each circumstance, we can look back now and see how God was using it ALL to graciously refine, humble, and guide us.  Showing us where our idols reside and what we were adulterously placing our confidence in rather than Him.  Gently digging up our sin while graciously also confirming His call on our lives.  Leading and shepherding us and promising to give us our hearts’ desires…all the while making our hearts simply desire more of Himself.

For the past 6+ years, we’ve lived in a parsonage owned by the church.  In March our heating system broke, which also drew attention to the several other major problems with the house.  The church was faced with a decision of whether to invest the large amount of money required to fix it, or ask us to move out.  It was obvious and completely understandable that the wisest decision would be for us to find housing elsewhere so we began our search.  The problems with our house, however, forced us to have more of an urgency in trying to figure out if God was calling us to stay here…or asking us to move on to another ministry.  Because there is no heat in the house, we knew that our Pennsylvania weather would only allow us to remain in the house comfortably until maybe October.  As we sought the Lord and prayed diligently, the Lord confirmed to Adam that He was calling him out of youth ministry and into a different type of leadership position.  He wanted to minister to families, disciple men, equip leaders, preach God’s Word, and continue to cast vision and trouble shoot in order to build a gospel-centered church.

At first we really believed that God would allow Adam to do that here where we were already ministering.  We had, over the years, developed a deep love for our church, the people that made it up, and the community at large.  We didn’t want to leave.  This had become our home, the place we grew a family, and the ministry we had built our life around.

Shortly before Jack was born, however, it became more apparent that our time at this church was coming to a close.  Our philosophies of ministry were beginning to not always match up and our church’s leadership’s vision for a family/discipleship pastor did not fit Adam’s gift set.  We realized that Adam’s longevity here would only be as a youth pastor…and he couldn’t continue at the pace he had been going doing the preaching and other pastoring responsibilities on top of that.  Like Paul and Barnabas, Adam felt confident that it would be healthiest for us and for the church if we parted ways.  It stung and downright hurt.  We didn’t want that to be God’s answer.  And it’s still painful for us.  But we’re also seeing so much of God’s grace in the process as He works on our weak, wandering hearts and opens our eyes to His hand in all of it.

In July, Adam announced to the church that we would be leaving.  And though it didn’t make sense to others, or to us for that matter, we knew that God was calling us to trust and step out in faith.  We were being asked to walk away even though we didn’t know where He would be taking us next.  It was scary, and yet by God’s grace we felt so much peace.  Adam’s last day on staff at MGBC was September 26…and even at that point we still didn’t know for sure where we would be going.

On the other side of the state, however, a recent church plant that was being led by lay leaders began praying for a pastor…right around the same time that Adam was honing his skills, desiring a different position, and praying for guidance in his next steps.  The Penn Valley Church‘s Bux-Mont campus was looking for a man to lead them and equip them.  They wanted someone who was relational and a natural gatherer of people.  Someone who was gifted at communicating the Word and passionate about centering everything around the gospel.

Without even really knowing what we were getting into, Adam sent a resume out to Bux-Mont.  They began pursuing Adam and we cautiously walked through doors as God opened them.  The more we learned about the church and it’s leadership and vision, the more our hearts were stirred and the potential of ministry there was more and more exciting to us.  We had always talked about potentially doing church planting some day and this one truly felt like a perfect fit for Adam.  There are so many sweet details that I wish I could include that God used as blazingly obvious confirmation that this was where He was leading us.

Adam candidated there on September 14th and the congregation and elder boards voted unanimously to extend a call to Adam to become their lead pastor over the weekend of September 21st – the same weekend as our last Sunday at MGBC.  After talking through logistics, Adam accepted the position on September 27th – one day after his last official day on staff here.

God, in His goodness and grace, had provided for us again.  And like any good adventure story, He did it right in the nick of time.

With deep sadness, we’ve turned a page on our ministry at Martinsburg GBC.  But with joy and excitement, we await how these coming chapters at Penn Valley Bux-Mont will read.  And we can’t stop thanking the Author, who also happens to be the true good and gracious Hero of our story.  He is faithful.

“Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to YOUR name be given glory on account of your GRACIOUS love and faithfulness.”

– Psalm 115:1

Our family sporting the T-shirts given to us at our last youth meeting at MGBC

Our family sporting the T-shirts given to us at our last Wednesday night at MGBC

“Once pardoned and forgiven, we must travel the daily journey of life under a deep conviction that we are ‘unprofitable servants.’  At our best we only do our duty, and have nothing to boast of.  And even when we do our duty, it is not by our own power and might that we do it, but by the strength which is given to us from God.  Claim upon God we have none.  Right to expect anything from God we have none.  Worthiness to deserve anything from God we have none.  All that we have we have received.  All that we are we owe to God’s sovereign, distinguishing GRACE.”

– J.C. Ryle

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say,

We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

– Luke 17:10

Photo made for our farewell party at "Synergy" Youth Group

Photo made for our farewell party at “Synergy” Youth Group

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4 responses

  1. So proud of you for being willing to seek the Lord and have the faith to follow His lead. Very excited about how this new “job” will impact eternity!!! Praying for God to continue to bless your marriage and protect it too! Praying for wisdom as you raise your 3 little men to be mighty men of God!

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