I’m now in Day 100 of my yearly bible reading plan and I wish I had started a day earlier as today’s reading from Hebrews 11 would have been perfect to have read yesterday before I gave my input on what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ! This chapter in whole is about Faith in Action and gives plenty of examples of people from the Old Testament who lived their live in faith for God. The chapter starts out with a simple and easy to understand definition of faith:
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)
The people of the Old Testament had confidence not in themselves, but in the power of God to get them through situations that seemed impossible. From Abel to Moses, these figures demonstrated complete dedication and trust. If you get a chance read Hebrews 11 today, and then go back and spend some time reading about these figures and their stories.
To conclude this mini series of My So-Called (Christian) Life, I wanted to gear most of today back to the present and where things are now in my family’s walk with God. If you’ve read my last couple of posts I gave a general idea of how my faith has grown since I moved on from being a Catholic and why my faith now is so important to me. If it wasn’t for everything up until now that I explained, my life would be radically different. I don’t want to change the topic, but thanks to knowing that I’ve received the gift of salvation and that I have become ready and willing to serve God’s will, it has let my wife and I do some incredible things in our first couple of years in marriage. Mainly our adoption of Jackson. Adopting Jackson was done purely out of surrendering ourselves over to Jesus and accepting and listening to what he had planned for our lives. Never before in my life had I seen God come up with such a strong plan that he laid on our hearts. Adopting wasn’t our idea. We would have been fine on waiting until after we tried to have our own children first, but he knew there was an orphan in the world who needed a home and he selected us to be his parents. Without our faith, never would we have got ourselves in such a position to hear this call and pursue it. Our lives would now be radically different otherwise. (For more on our adoption of Jackson, read our Ukraine Adoption category of this blog.)
With that said, we find ourselves stepping out on faith once again in our lives. And much like the first go-around where God called us to adopt, He’s taking His time and is testing our patience on what he has planned next. Moving out to Indianapolis was like some of the heroes of the Old Testament who stepped out on faith, not knowing the outcome. We had every opportunity to stay in Ohio, but we felt pushed by God to move forward. Though his whispers were soft, we didn’t question and gave up everything we had in Ohio to start a new life here. I think without God in the picture we never would have moved. We were quit comfortable in Ohio and had great friends and family, and not to mention a great church. Granted, I have faith that God will connect us with new friends and a church, but it might be years before we know for sure why it had to be here. Though, one could say it was inevitable we would end up here, as this gives Lindsey a chance to be closer to her family.
So as we wait for our next step I have learned that we must just continue to march on with what we’ve learned from God’s word and start making a life here. I’ve been relatively quiet about our church hunt as I think it would be unfair to judge churches publicly here, which is why at least on my blog I have never specifically given the name of a church that we have attended. And that will continue until we are certain we have found our new church home. But to give a little bit of an update since we moved here at the end of February, we have tried five churches. We set out at first just trying the extreme opposite of what we were used to – which is what I’ll simply coin as a “bigger” church. At New Life we were used to a congregation where if you attended for a month or so, generally over time you would start to recognize the people around you. We like the size of a church to be not too big, but not too small. If a church is too small, you have to judge and make sure that it’s small because of the history, as I believe any church that is teaching Biblical truth will grow gradually on its own naturally. But if a church is too big, you have to wonder how many people use big congregations as way to “hide” amongst others. You can be “new” every week or be a long time attender and nobody would know the difference if a church family is too large.
The first two churches we visited were bigger than what we were used to. There was quirks we didn’t like about them though. You could definitely sense God was working in these churches, but we just didn’t feel comfortable.
The third church we visited is where we have spent the majority of our time since we’ve moved and looking back I guess we could summarize it as the best of the three options we first tried. The congregation wasn’t too much bigger than what we were comfortable with at NewLife and the worship was similar. The teaching was a lot different though, but I appreciated the amount of biblical reading mixed in with the sermon. All of the sermons we heard were very informative and full of information and details, but for our own tastes maybe lacked a bit of passion than what we were used to. Although, a lot of people were very friendly here and up until recently we couldn’t find any excuse as to why we shouldn’t keep going. We were even on the verge of stepping into a Life Group, which is one of our biggest priorities of any church we attend. However, as anxious as we have been to just get this church experience going we felt like God was nudging us to try a couple of more places. Thankfully he didn’t reveal some huge reason to us as to why this church was “wrong” for us, as that would have made me kind of feel bad about moving on. There’s nothing really wrong with this church, it is a great church and I can see without a doubt that God is working in it and doing great things, but something just didn’t feel right for us personally. As I’ve gone to learn, God can put these types of feelings in our mind, not because something is wrong, but because He just has a better idea in mind for that specific person who is following him. Thankfully though this church filled a void for a time allowing us to worship our God over the last couple of months and gave us some consistency. We also met some great people and were even invited over for dinner by a family who has a wonderful heart for ministry.
So the last couple of weeks we’ve tried a couple of different churches. One church was very small and just wasn’t for us, but I definitely “got” why the church existed but just isn’t what we need now based on our level of Christian maturity.
So that leaves us with a church we tried last week. In some ways this has been the most interesting find that we have come upon. I won’t give the name, but for starters this specific church is unique simply because of its location and story. A long time ago a developer who just so happened to be a Christian, wanted to build a housing development with a very comfortable feel to it. He wanted to give the development a small town feel with sidewalks, opened lawns and even a big hill to go sledding on in the winter. And because he was a Christian, of course he wanted to build a church right smack in the middle of it! It was built without a congregation at the time, but eventually found a church family. We tried this church last Sunday and it kind of felt like we were stepping into “Wisteria Lane” from Desperate Housewives! (No, I don’t watch the show) It kind of feels like a fairy tale with all of the houses surrounding the church. The church itself is beautiful and has something I have grown to miss –windows so you can see the beautiful neighborhood around you.
Well, as for our experience I will say this. I’ve been known to jinx myself in the past, but there was something very special about this church from the moment we stepped in that we had not felt since moving here. It was that unexplainable feeling that you get when you just know something is right. That feeling last Sunday was exciting! The people were friendly, you could tell they were a family, and we were immediately noticed and engaged in small talk from the moment we stepped in the church doors. (Way to go Welcome Team!) And apart from that, the Pastor’s sermon was very biblical based, mature sounding, and full of compassion (but not over the top).
At first I believe we were looking for New Life when we moved here. This church isn’t New Life, but if God intended New Life to be our home forever we would still be in Ohio. We need a church that can grow us even stronger in our faith and build upon all of the foundations that we were fortunate enough to lean and be a part of at New Life. So in time, I know we will find that perfect church family. This church shows promise though, enough promise that I can easily announce it here. I can’t wait to try a couple of more weeks. If it doesn’t work out, I think God has allowed us to have time to learn more patience though, and we will be eager and excited to keep looking if that is the case.
I wish I had more to say, but I don’t know what tomorrow holds yet. I’m grateful for my having Christ in my life and having an exciting opportunity to start a “New Life” of my own here in Indiana and look forward to wherever His will may lead. Thanks for reading and it is my sincere hope that this short story on my background and faith helps you become as eager as we are to live a life for Christ. I’m not sure which mountains God wants the Howell family to start moving, but as soon as He lets us know, you will be one of the first to hear. God Bless!