Empty Places Filled With God

New Adventures

 

Anne and I are currently embarking into a new season of life and we find it insightful to reflect back to previous transitions. We connect the dots, gaining continuity to our storyline. The “in-between” times are the key, what one author calls the “hard work of the middle.” These will often feel like empty places, because to our perception, they are. There is no “auto pilot” switch or workaround to bring closure. The “process” is the “process” and the journey of discovery into a deeper union with Christ is the reward. Thankfully, the empty places are filled with God.

 

Endings can run deep in the soul, obscuring future vision. We need to gain the high ground of the new adventure as we journey through the stages of transition. There’s an ending, a time of emptiness, and a new beginning. There are four aspects to the endings.

 

  • Disengagement – when your world begins to move.
  • Disidentification – when you are not sure who you are anymore.
  • Disenchantment – the turbulent realization that things are not okay. Internal or external world, or both.
  • Disorientation – the culmination of the previous three, a feeling of confusion.

 

There’s an entire blog about these stages, HERE .

 

Reflections

 

In our first ministry assignment, we served on staff of a large church for 10 years. I emerged into my teaching and counseling gifts during this season, and sincerely thought I would be there for the duration of my career. But suddenly, we were shifted into another place. We were assigned to become senior pastors of a small struggling church. This was a rough transition as it was lacking any sense of promotion. It was not increasing my comfort levels or standard of living. But I learned the most important lesson of all – just love the people well. Here too, I believed we would serve for decades. But after 10 years, another transition ensued.

 

We felt the Lord leading us to relocate from Upstate New York, to the Midwest. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City. We joined the staff in 2007, culminating with our resignation this year, 2024. Actually, our entire family over the years, was on full time staff at IHOPKC. If you tally up the tours of duty for myself, Anne, and our three children, it amounts to 65 years. I would say that our family made an investment.

 

Heart Alignment

 

Quite honestly, I had been praying and seeking God for the past 2 years, about what else He might have for us in ministry. The messaging at IHOPKC was no longer aligning with my heart. There was a major emphasis on “end times” and a foundational aspect of the ministry culture is the “prophetic history” which guided its formation. Supernatural signs and wonders, prophetic proclamations, were regularly rehearsed; it was the curriculum that we all sat under. In the beginning years of my tenure at IHOPKC, this was not a major issue, but as I changed so did my perception.

 

We were also desirous of a more balanced menu of pastoral topics to encourage the staff and local congregation. From our perspective the urgency of the end times mission was not making ample room for the pastoral care of the flock.

 

In addition, Anne and I embrace a Reformed eschatology, which made us obvious outliers.

 

Tsunami of Grief

 

In October of 2023, a story emerged about the founder of IHOPKC. If you haven’t followed this story, that’s okay. You may not want to. If you are aware, then you can relate to the tsunami of grief and disappointment experienced by current and former staff members and the global community.

The “ending” of IHOPKC as we knew it, has left thousands disenchanted and disoriented.

 

One staffer’s testimony: The values, teaching, and prophetic words are in our hearts and in this organization at the molecular level. Not that there hasn’t been truth… God has done good things because He is incredibly generous. But… we have been under a master manipulator and if we don’t sort out truth from fiction, how can the worship be pure?…So when I say these things I say them with the weight of my own grief and knowing the cost of leaving because like many, I thought I’d be here my whole life.

 

We too, weighed the cost of leaving, and found the cost of staying to be much greater. It’s true that no organization is perfect, because it’s filled with fallible human beings. It’s also true that we need to prayerfully steward our lives and make healthy choices when entangled in a toxic culture.

 

Blank Pages

 

I was writing in my journal recently about the ending of my 17 year career at IHOPKC, and what my next steps would be. This illustration came to mind: Imagine the day of the big exam; not multiple choice or true/false, but mainly essay. It behooves one to put content down on the pages. When nothing is formulating in your mind to write, it’s panic mode. I experienced this dreaded emotion. Beyond some ministry travel dates over the next few months, I have zero field of view for life beyond – it’s a blank page. I heard this encouragement from the Holy Spirit:

 

It may look blank to your eyes but the Storywriter has already written there.

 

There IS a high ground and I’m on my way there now.

 

Empty places filled with God.

 

Glorify Your Name

 

Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. Jn. 12:27-28 Jesus clearly knew His calling. His human pilgrimage was ending; transition was looming. Suffering and death awaited Him. He endured the cross for the joy He could see ahead – our redemption. Heb. 12:2 I was struck by this thought:

 

There are seasons when my soul is troubled for a purpose.

 

The trouble can be a part of God’s design, His sovereign plan.  Walking with Christ most certainly involves picking up our cross and following Him. Yes, His yoke is easy and burden is light. But that word “light” is relative. For example, Paul uses the same Greek word to describe his “light” afflictions.

 

Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable. 2 Cor. 4:16-18 (AMP)

 

(For a deeper dive into Paul’s “light” afflictions: 2 Cor. 11:24-26)

 

Carried Away Captive

 

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters, that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. Jer. 29:5-7

 

Some transitions can feel like a hostage situation. I’ve been carried away captive. The mixture is tough to decipher at times. Is this God, me, imperfect others, the devil? However we arrive, there are choices to be made in captivity. We must build, plant, reproduce, seek peace. God put a timeline on the process – 70 years. Even when the promised return was begun, only 50,000 made the trip back to Israel while 80,000 remained in Babylon (Iraq). They built a new community in captivity and they prospered, because:

 

Empty places are filled with God.

 

 

Gratitude

 

Gratitude is that item of spiritual apparel that doesn’t clash with anything. It just “goes” with everything. As we have experienced waves of grief, disappointment, and perplexity in this transition, and in previous ones, we have learned to be authentic and real in our emotions while at the same time keeping our focus on He who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Heb. 13:8 Jesus has never, nor will He ever, cease to be the Good Shepherd of our souls. Jn. 10:11

 

So I can be thankful today for my 17 years of service at the house of prayer in Kansas City. It has been a privilege to lead small groups, teach classes, counsel couples, and build relationships with precious people. I was entrusted with a leadership position, for which I am grateful. Jesus was, and is, the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul. 1 Pet. 2:25

 

Being thankful will always reinforce the empty places, to be filled with God.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Empty Places Filled With God

  1. The lyrics to a song that I have sung many times as I have been in a very unchartered ministry has these words: “I don’t about tomorrow; I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine for its skies may turn to gray, I don’t worry over the future, for I know what Jesus said. And today I’ll walk beside Him, For He Knows what is ahead. I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand”. I am a firm believer that when God closes a door, we need to look for the new door that He has opened.

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