I grew up Charismatic. My formative years in church were spent in a tongue-talkin’, pew hoppin’, Holy Ghost shoutin’, “if you don’t fall out, God hasn’t shown up” church. I was literally taught that denominations were without the truth and deader than a door nail…particularly Baptists. So imagine my surprise when the Lord paired me with a recovering Southern Baptist husband and sent us through several years of church searching. David and I have been in Wesleyan churches, in Methodist churches, Assemblies of God churches, and yes, Baptist churches. Yet, I have never, in all my years, been in any church like the Lord has formed here in obscure Albany, Georgia. Sherwood Baptist Church has broken through all my boxes and is continuing to astound me encounter with God by encounter with God.
This week, Sherwood hosted its annual Refresh conference. This is what we former Pentacostals know as revival. I had been told how good this conference was, and how life changing it would be, but I was unprepared for the last three days as I now realize I still had my “how can a Baptist revival be life changing?” glasses on. You see, I have been in a lot of conferences…a lot… I have seen a good many “revival” services… and many times, they were more hype than holy. I already know that this place is different. There is a reverence for the Lord, His Son, His Name, and His work. There is an upholding of truth. Instead of asking “how we can be more culturally relevant?”, our pastor asks, “how can we follow Jesus more closely and immediately in obedience?”. There is no contention with the world to be more entertaining or comfortable, as a matter of fact, many services are down right uncomfortable, but the draw is always there “Come and see”. There is a freedom of worship at Sherwood that is balanced and never out of order. Yet, there are times that the Holy Spirit descends in such a sweet way that people flock to the altar while the message is still in progress. No doubt this church is different. I just truly was not expecting multiple days of conferences at my amazing Baptist church to be attention grabbing and life changing. My subconscious has been programmed to lean toward the “dry and boring” Baptist label.
Refresh was POWERFUL. The Lord humbled me from the first session and hooked me in quickly. I literally mourned a little when I missed the second day because of needs in my primary responsibilities. The Holy Spirit was not only magnified and glorified in a magnificent way, but Jesus was the focus. It wasn’t Jesus + music stars or Jesus + great pyrotechnics or Jesus + great manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It was the still, small voice that we were listening for. The voice that can only be heard when you are quiet and desperate and humbly in need of a Savior. I simply cannot describe the beauty in words. We experienced the Lord in such a mighty way, but there was no rush of wind through the sanctuary or dancing in the aisles or tongues of fire on our heads (hmmm…maybe they should check the video before I say that :). I am not saying any of these things are wrong in themselves, but they are wrong when they become the focus… when they make or break the meeting. This was ONLY Jesus glorified through His called servants as we worshipped and fed on the Word.
As I said before, I missed the Tuesday services. This morning I was bummed as I went in. The things I had heard about Tuesday were incredible and I felt that I had missed out on what the Lord said. Yet as I sat in the first session this morning, I felt the Presence of the Lord descend into my heart as Ken Jenkins read out of II Kings. God got my attention with the passage that graces my senior yearbook as my favorite of all time… and just as if He was standing before me, I heard Him say “Listen. Pay attention, Candace. I am speaking to you.” I don’t know that I have ever felt that strongly before that the Lord was speaking to me through the mouth of a human on earth. And I needed it.
This month we are going to China. Up until now, this has all just been talking and dreaming and reading emails from my daughter so far away. Recently it has started to become reality and I went into this week completely and utterly overwhelmed. I mean, ya’ll (and some of you know), I feel like I am barely keeping together what is already on my plate… what in the world was I doing adding two children to the craziness? The enemy has been shouting loudly in my ear, “How can you think you can bring these two girls home and be any kind of good mom to 5 children?” “Do you really think this is all going work?” “What are you going to do when God leaves you flat on your face ashamed of your failure?” “Aren’t you already always feeling that you can’t do anything well because you have so much to do?” Words of rejection, failure, doubt, and fear are being continually thrown at me… those fiery darts of the wicked one. My shield of faith was drooping going into this week. I was crying out to the Lord to prepare me for the road ahead. I now see that our trip was strategically planned around this conference for just that reason. This week I realized that EVERY knee has to bow and EVERY tongue has to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…especially the enemy. This week I realized that when I say “Yes” to the Lord, everything that I need that has already been given to me at salvation is at my disposal as I stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. This week I realized that I will not go to China in my own power… I will not adopt 2 girls into our family in my own power… and I will not continue to walk in the plan that the Lord has for me in my own power. I am confident in this very thing that He who began a good work in me is MORE THAN ABLE to bring it to completion… I am MORE THAN A CONQUEROR through Him that loved me… and He is doing far MORE THAN I COULD EVER ASK OR THINK according to the power that works within me.
It’s time. It’s time to go to China. It’s time to complete this task that the Lord Himself has assigned to us. But most of all it is time to surrender. Jesus, I surrender to Your plan. There is no plan B. Wish I could offer You more, but all I’ve got is a whole lot of weakness. Glorify Your Name.