Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Eleven

  Daniel and I believe that God sent us to Freeport to deliver His message, and we did.  It wasn't a pleasant message to deliver.  Nobody wants to bring a word of warning about God's judgment.  Hey, the Bible says "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news", right?  The news God had us bring wasn't all that "good", but then neither was Jeremiah's.  From what I recall, that rather depressed prophet wrote an entire book (Lamentations) about how sad he was to be the one to deliver God's message of promised woe to the children of Israel.

  Now you might say,  "Um, you're kinda setting yourselves up high with this whole prophet business, aren't you?"

  No, I don't think so.  See, I don't think titles mean that much.  What is a prophet, really?  Someone who brings what God is saying to someone else.  Who does God need for that role?  As a well known prophet has said, "He just needs someone who's foolish enough to believe Him".  In the Old Testament, God used a jackass, so I don't think that calling ourselves the ones God used in this situation, is setting ourselves up all that high.  We aren't perfect people, but we do have a staunch belief in the incredibly beautiful Holiness of God and in His desire to make His church holy.

  You might also say, "So, you think the reason God took you to Freeport and had you buy a home that you might lose, and had you and your family go through all that hell was just so you could deliver a message???"

Stoning of Stephen by
  Yes, yes I do.  Messages really matter to God.  I mean, there was Stephen who got stoned for his message.  John the Baptist got beheaded for his message.   And this one time, God even sent His Son...oh wait, you probably know that story.  When you think what happened to us in light of these guys from the New Testament, we don't really have it that bad.

 In January, God had given Daniel James 1 to memorize.  It starts out:
     " Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..."

  Here's one thing I know and appreciate about God:   He doesn't waste nothin'!  So all this stuff that these men did, it's going to be like Joseph, getting betrayed by his brothers.  Joseph ended up saying, "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."  That is what Daniel and I believe about our own situation.  Yeah, it sucked.  It wasn't cool to go through.  We are still suffering from the consequences of what those men did.  But somewhere here in the midst of the mess, God is going to show up and then it's going to be...awesome.  Because God is awesome.

  A few days after Daniel's meeting with the elders, we got a call from Chase.  We would be receiving our vacation pay after all.  Oh good.  We wouldn't have to report Crossway to the Labor Board.

  I wish I could say that the meeting with the elders solved everything.  I can't.  We still don't know whether Crossway will count all the unreceived receipts as our income or not.  It didn't solve the financial challenge of trying to feed our children and make our mortgage payment after being fired on the spot.  And dear old Ned was still making trouble. 

  Yes, I'm afraid Ned connected with several of Daniel's vendors.  He now had access to Daniel's email addresses, and wrote to several of the people who Daniel had established solid business relationships with over the months and/or years.  He told them they wouldn't be doing business with "Daniel Morrison" any longer, that Daniel had been fired from Ned's organization, accused Daniel of trying to steal from the church through these vendors, and that all future communications should be relayed to Ned, himself.  Unused to such brash and unprofessional interactions, some of these vendors found a way to connect with Daniel personally to find out from him what was going on.  It was frustrating to have the lying shoved in to our business world as well.  As appropriate, Daniel apologized for Ned, apologized that these vendors had been involved at all, and explained what had happened.  Ugh. 
A Stranger Came to Town by:
  One of the hardest parts about this whole business was the "good people" who stood by while everything went down.  I've mentioned before that Crossway has many wonderful folks who attend and know nothing about "the man behind the curtain".  But I am referring more to the people who actually met us while we were there.  The ones we seemed to connect with in one way or another, but who turned their backs and refused to "see" when it became clear that the church was on one side and had put us on the other.  Truth is, it just never sounds good to have been fired from a church.  I mean, how much of a reprobate must you be, right?

  It's possible that some of these people we thought we had made connections with, went to Pastor Gavin.  If so, they likely swallowed his explanation whole.  (Hey, the man is incredibly likable--even experiencing his lying firsthand, I still find myself wanting to believe he means what he says.)  Or maybe, like George Washington discovered when he first came to take over his army, they just "weren't willing to cut across old relationships" for the strangers in town.

  In contrast, our dear friends Abe and Stephanie, were having a hard time with what had happened.  Stephanie was still volunteering weekly in the Crossway office.  She and Abe had missed the Sunday after we had been fired.  But when she went into the office on Monday morning, she asked if anything had been said in service about "Daniel Morrison getting fired".

  The secretary looked at her with some surprise.  "No, nothing was said."

  "Why not?" Stephanie asked.  "I mean, we tithe at this church.  My husband and I feel that hirings and firings matter and that the church body should be kept informed about it when it happens."

  The secretary shrugged.  "Oh, well.  No one really knew them, anyway," she said.

 Good Pastor Jonas, a man with an obvious passion for the unsaved, was one of the few who extended a sincere welcome when we first arrived.  We ran into him at our friend Nick's wedding.

  "How's it going?" he asked Daniel.

  "I'm in the middle of the worst work experience I've ever had in my life," Daniel replied.

  Pastor Jonas looked surprised.  "Oh?" he asked.  "We'll have to get together and talk about it."

  We heard nothing more from him, but after being fired, we did end up seeing him again, at Eastside church.  He was visiting, for he and the pastor of Eastside would work together when they could.  Pastor Jonas "saw" Daniel, gave him a tight nod, and then would not acknowledge him or speak to either of us for the duration of the time we were all together there at the service.

  For our friend Harry, this interaction, or lack of it, on the part of Pastor Jonas was especially hard.

  "I'm having a hard time with it," Harry confessed.  "I've always kind of admired Pastor Jonas.  But I asked him about Crossway and how they 'seemed to be getting rid of a few people'.  Pastor Jonas told me, 'Yeah, we've had to let people go who were not able to get on board with where God's going and now the church is healthier than it's ever been'.  And I don't buy it.  I know you guys.  I've hung out with you and I've gotten to know your hearts.  I'm just having a really hard time with this."

  Ironically, (since Crossway was now "healthier than it had ever been") it was just a day or so later that we got a message from Stephanie.

  "Daniel and Christina.  You guys need to go online and google 'Pastor Chase Bowler' and the 'Freeport Standard Newspaper'."

  We did as she said, and our jaws dropped.

  The headline read:  "Freeport Pastor Accused of Felony Sex Abuse".

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Twelve:

 To be continued...unless mentioned, all names have been changed except my husband's and my own.  I write for healing and for others wounded on similar journeys.

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