Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Journey from Confusion to Peace

Leslie Basham: Lore Ferguson was going to church—in fact, she was working at a church—but, in her heart, she knew that wasn't enough to be right with God.

Lore Ferguson Wilbert: I had a tearful conversation with my pastor, at that point, who was my boss, and I said, "You can fire me if you want, but this is where I am: I don't think God is good . . . and if He is good, He's not good to me. If He's not good to me, I don't want to serve a God like that."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Can you imagine hearing a recording of a sermon and then picking up and moving all the way across country because you're so desperate to know the truth that you heard in that message?

That is exactly what Lore Ferguson Wilbert did. Today we'll hear why she would take such a drastic step in her quest to know the truth of the gospel.

You know, in the Gospels, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a treasure hidden in a field. He described selling everything you have to buy that field. Lore's story is a reminder to all of us that we need Jesus more than we need anything else in this life.

So, anything that holds us back from knowing Him needs to be left behind, so we can make sure we have the treasure of knowing Him. For Lore, that meant quitting her job, leaving home, and traveling from New York state to Texas on a quest to genuinely know Jesus.

Your calling will probably have different specific details, but as you listen to today's story, ask yourself, "Do I truly know Jesus?" and, "Am I willing to give up everything and anything for the sake of the treasure of knowing Him?"

Now, let's listen to the story of Lore Ferguson Wilbert.

Lore: I was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and grew up in a large family. It seemed to be a really healthy family in some ways; but as I got older, I began to see patterns of un-health in our family.

Some of those things were things like an anti-establishment mentality—an anti-authority mentality . . . and that trickled its way into all areas of our lives.

For me, it became like a secretive, silent rebellion. I just went through life just being silently rebellious, and my heart was sinful. I didn't always work that out in public, so I seemed like I had it together, but I didn't at all.

When I was nineteen, my family moved to upstate New York. They moved to the middle of nowhere, and it was about seven hours from where I'd grown up. We began organic farming for about a year.

In that time frame, my younger brother was killed in a car accident, and my family just fell apart. My parents subsequently got divorced. It was a time in my life that was turbulent. It was difficult; I had no one to turn to.

I did not understand the gospel, and I didn't understand the value of the Word of God as . . . life. To me, it was just a far-off book of rules that didn't seem to apply to me in the midst of my entire life falling apart.

Someone invited me to a church, and I started going to that church. In that church I found for the first time what seemed to be a really healthy family. And it is a really healthy family, but there was an assumption that I understood the gospel.

I think that assumption is really easy to make in evangelical churches. We make it—I make it—all the time. We just assume someone understands the gospel, understands the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

But I didn't understand it. I didn't understand my sin, and I didn't understand the Bible as it applied to all of those things. So I went through life at this church. I went on staff at this church. I loved the people at this church and was loved by them so well. I was discipled by them. 

But I was discipled and loved, all without a very key piece in my heart being transformed by the gospel and by the Word of God. You can't do that for very long before all the wickedness starts to just show itself for what it really is.

I was twenty-nine, and at that point I had been really wrestling with sin, some theology, and really wrestling with the idea of church membership. I was wrestling with the idea of tithing, wrestling with the spiritual gifts. I felt like my understanding of them didn't line up with what I read in Scripture, and they certainly didn't line up with a God who I thought must be good. Even though I didn't feel His goodness, I knew, "If this many people are worshiping and loving Him, He must be good. I just don't know that I'll ever experience that goodness."

I was on staff and trying to wrestle through these issues. I was trying to do it, not really knowing where to turn or what to do. In the midst of that, those questions that seemed to be very theological questions, they very quickly peeled back the layers and revealed my heart—which was that I did not understand my sin, did not understand Christ's life. I did not understand the cross, and I did not understand grace at all. The Bible was just a rule book to me; it was not a book of life.

I had a tearful conversation with my pastor at that point, who was my boss, and I said, "You can fire me if you want, but this is where I am: I don't think God is good, and if He's good, He's not good to me. If He's not good to me, I don't want to serve a God like that."

He's such a tender man. His eyes filled with tears, and he said, "I want to give you a book." This still surprises me to this day that I wasn't fired, but he gave me The Reason for God by Tim Keller, and he said, "Just wrestle with some of the ideas in this book. We're not going to fire you. Just wrestle with this."

That same week, someone gave me a sermon by a guy named Matt Chandler (I had never heard of Matt before). It was called "Preaching the Gospel to the De-Churched." I listened to that sermon sixteen times that week!

I just kept listening and listening, and I thought, There's something in this message that I've never heard before. My heart was tender toward it, but it didn't see yet. My heart didn't see, "This is a message for me; the Lord is teaching me the gospel right now."

I still didn't have ears to hear. I had the desire, but I didn't have the ears, This really teaches me about God's sovereignty—how He always finishes what He starts, and He doesn't always do it in our time.

I think, sometimes, you can desire something and it can feel far from you for a long time. That's where I was at that point.

There began a very long, beautiful train of sovereign events. I look back now and I think, That's crazy that that happened! I flew down to Dallas to visit a friend who lived down there who was going through a hard time.

While I was there, I found out that Matt Chandler—this pastor, the teacher on that message—was the pastor of this megachurch down there. I heard about the church while I was down there, but didn't visit, and I flew back to New York at the end of that time.

I very clearly felt impressed by the Lord (and I've never felt this feeling before or since) to move to Texas. I said, "No way! I live in beautiful upstate New York. There's no way I'm going to move to Dallas!"

Two months later, I had quit my job, sold everything, packed my little car, and I drove to Dallas. I had no plan, no place to live, no job. I just knew, "I want what he has. I want that!" So, I got there, and I drove in right in time to get to (what we call) Group Connect, which is connecting people with groups.

So, there were like eight-hundred people in the room. All of the female groups were already closed, and so I couldn't get into any of them. As I was leaving, someone said, "Oh, you need to go to Jen Wilkin's women's Bible study."

I said, "I don't go to women's Bible studies. Women cry, and they gossip, and I'm not interested in that. I want some meat."

And they said, "Oh, it's not like that. It will change your life!" But it was closed, and there was no more room in it.

That night, I got an email from Jen, and she said, "Hey, I heard that you just moved here, and you just drove in. I want to tell you, there's a space for you." I showed up the first night. I'm a back-row-sitter and an introvert—I usually sit in the back.

I was in group number one, and the only open seat in group number one was in the very front row—front and center, right in front of Jen. So I was in the most uncomfortable place that I could possibly be!

I was sitting there, and Jen began to read from Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And the scales fell from my eyes. I felt absolutely like I could see for the first time in my life!

What I could see was that God is the Creator, and that He is wholly distinct from me. Nothing He does is dependent on me. Nothing He is, is dependent on me. He created . . . period . . . the heavens and the earth.

From there, my heart was transformed in an instant. In that moment I saw God in a way that I had just never seen Him before. Then He spent the next four months just revealing my sin, just peeling back . . .

That had never been a pleasant experience for me before. [In those times in the past] I felt found out; I felt exposed. These next four months, as I walked through Genesis with Jen Wilkin and that Bible study of four-hundred women, the Lord began to just reveal sin.

He began to reveal my heart in ways that had not been submitted to Him. There was some deep-seated anger at my family, deep-seated anger at my church. He just began to reveal the gospel in all of Scripture—which was the most amazing thing ever. 

He revealed the concept of Christ being in Genesis and Exodus. That blew my mind and continued to blow my mind. Really, the next four to five months was a really sweet, sweet time of being in the Word for hours every single day, and just learning that this Book held the words of life!

Those words were not just to save me, but they were to sustain me. Christ was in all of Scripture. He was writing His story from the very beginning, and He was loving me from the very beginning. It continues; it just continues to excite me and it makes me love Him in a way that I never knew that I could love Him.

Jen Wilkin: We went to have coffee, and she told me her story. 

Leslie: This is Jen Wilkin.

Jen: I was blown away! I had no idea that she had sat there on a particular night and heard a particular message, and that that was her moment of clarity. I was teaching one verse, Genesis 1:1, and we took it one word at a time for almost an hour.

I think part of me wondered after that week, just as the teacher up front, I hope they come back next week." But, the Lord is so faithful to His Word, that there He was, working. The Holy Spirit moving as Lore sat out there.

I think Lore was in a really dry place, she was probably in a very cynical place with regard to the church. I know that feeling. I think we've all had times like that—whether as an unbeliever or even after we've come to faith—where we think, What is this all about? Why am I here?

It was not a message that was uniquely hopeful, but there was hope embedded in it—knowing who God is. I think it's a perfect example of a time where we were talking about the nature and character of God. That is what gives hope not, "who I am," but "who He is" and then to see yourself in relation to that. It's one of those things for me where you're like, "This really did what it is supposed to do!" I need to trust that and celebrate that.

Lore: Jen talks about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. How oftentimes women love Him with all their hearts and souls, but they don't love Him with their minds.

For me, the mind was . . . I tend to be a really analytical person. I like to think through things and wrestle through things, so the mind was really important to be captured by the goodness of God.

And through the study of the Bible, God captured my mind and has held it tightly. So, I just have a passion for that. I want to see women love the Lord with their minds. I want to see them be thoughtful—full of thought—when they come to the Word.

Jen has really modeled that for me, just even in walking with her for the past five years. She's taught me how to think biblically, how to think theologically, to love the Word—not just to study the Word. I think we can be really good at studying the Word, but she taught me to love it. "I've eaten Your Word" (see Jer. 15:16) that kind of concept.

That's the story of how He brought me to a saving knowledge of Him. I love that story because it reminds me that no one is too far from the gospel, and that the Word is necessary for life and godliness.

One of my favorite passages is from Ephesians 5, where Paul is speaking about Christ and the Church. I think, especially in a lot of complementarian churches, we tend to just read that passage through the lens of marriage. It is about marriage, but it's about a much bigger Marriage than just a husband and wife on earth. I love the local church because Christ loved the local church. I want to love the thing that Christ loves. Even though it was the local church that was hard for me to submit to for so many years, it's been the local church that has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Lauren Chandler: Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a precious woman. 

Leslie: This is Lauren Chandler. Her husband Matt is pastor of the Village Church.

Lauren: It has been an honor to get to see her obedience, up front. She is a woman who came to our church disillusioned by the Church, and I have seen her become one of the biggest proponents of living in and belonging to a group of believers, to be cared for by elders, to be cared for by a church, and then to also be a huge part of a church—so much so that now she's on staff at a church. This woman who was completely disillusioned, now she's serving as an active part of a church.

I've seen her, up close, walk obediently—even when it was really hard and it cost her a lot. But she was faithful, not because it was her duty but because she had been so moved by the love of the Lord, she couldn't go anywhere else!

Lore: It has been absolutely life-changing to submit to the men God has put over me—to honor them when I felt like they were challenging me or disclaiming me in some ways and to be prayed for and loved by them.

I think so often that we want to believe that someone else has it better: "Lore has it better, because she was at the Village Church for five years . . ." That's simply just not true. We all need to press ourselves into the leaders that God has set over us. Hebrews 13:17 says that we are to honor them because they keep watch over our souls.

I think it's a privilege and a blessing to be able to be knit into a local church—more than we can ever imagine. It's also a great mystery. That's what Paul says in Ephesians 5:32,  "This is a great mystery, but I am speakinging about Christ and the church" (NKJV).

I think a lot of times women tend to just want what's out there instead of what God has put right in front of them. And so I want to say, "Walk in that mystery." Walk in the beautiful mystery of Christ and the Church.

That passage says that Christ presents us without blemish—He presents us holy and blameless—which means that until He presents us, we are blemished, we are broken, we are spotted. We are all of those things. And so, we are going to feel the angst of what it means to be in our local churches and feeling the brokenness of that.

But Christ will present us and He will wash us with the water of the Word, and that's a good place to be! So, I would say, embrace the mystery—the beautiful mystery—the beautiful broken mystery of the local church.

One of my favorite quotes (this is from D. A. Carson; he was talking about a group of people, and he says): "The first generation loved the gospel; the second generation assumed the gospel, and so the third generation hated the gospel."

I think a lot of us fall in that assumption of the gospel, in a lot of ways. That's where I fell. I still fall there, sometimes. I just start to assume the gospel in a way that it doesn't apply to my sin, it doesn't make me wrestle with my sin.

I want the gospel to change my life every single day, and that means I need to have an understanding of my sin. I need to know I'm absolutely powerless to save myself. I cannot wrestle with my sin and win. I can't do it.

By the power of God, I cannot do it. That's a good thing. That's the grace of God, that we cannot do that on our own. Christ came, and He lived a sinless life. That just continually excites me and makes me love Him. 

He came into our world and lived a sinless life in the midst of so much brokenness . . . because I can't do that. I want to do that, but I can't do that. He lived a sinless life, and then he took on our sin, died on the cross, and paid the debt that we owed because of our brokenness.

We could not come to Christ, come to God [because of our brokenness]. And then He rose again! And then—I love this part of the gospel—He sits at the right hand of God. That means that He has gone like this [she wipes her hands against each other with a clap, signifying a task completed] and has sat down and said, "I've finished it. It's done!"

I love that, because so often I feel so unfinished and so undone. He's saying, "Hey, it's okay. I've got this. I've finished it. It's done."

I think that's what the gospel is. I'm continually learning what the gospel is, and there are aspects of that that are weak in me that need to be strengthened, and theological points that Lord is always kind of tweaking.

That's part of eating "meat" instead of "milk." That's the truth of the gospel.

Nancy: Wow. What a story of the power of the gospel to transform a life! Lore Ferguson Wilbert reminds all of us that we are all dead in our sins, and we need to be raised to new life through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, perhaps you've learned a lot about God without ever coming to have true faith in Christ. Maybe you relate to Lore's story, and you want the kind of genuine change that she experienced.

If you'd like to know God personally, and better understand what Jesus has done for you, if the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart today, we'd like to send you some free information to help you in this spiritual journey.

Please give us a call and ask for the information at no charge, with no obligation. You can call us a 1–800–569–5959. 

Oh Lord, how I want to pray right now for every person who's been listening to this story. I pray that for those who have never experienced genuine, saving faith, You will move in their hearts by the power of Your Spirit; that they will be drawn irresistibly to you, called by Your Spirit; that they will come to repentance and faith, and to know Jesus in a personal and true way. And I pray that each of us who has experienced saving faith will be amazed all over again by the wonder that You would have chosen to save us. We're so, so grateful! We pray it in Jesus' name, with thanksgiving, amen.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Rosaria Butterfield approaches some of today's most controversial topics with a unique perspective. She used to self-identify as a lesbian, but now gets her identity in Christ. She'll weigh in on transgender bathroom controversies and other pressing topics, but primarily will point you to Jesus.

Rosaria Butterfield:
A biblical, sexual moral ethic is actually at the center of the gospel, not its margins. Many people are just waking up to that.

This is just a kind of old philosophical truth that I knew back before I knew the Lord. If you change the language, you change the logic. So if you decide, "No, we are not all male and female image-bearers of a holy God, with a soul that will last forever, but instead, some of us are gay and some of us are straight, and some of us are trans and some of us are. . ." If you do that, that's seems on the one hand very charitable, but what it actually does is, it supplants God's truth for our life with our feelings.

And our feelings are, more often than not, rooted in how original sin has distorted us. Every day we have to deal with that—how original sin has distorted us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us.

Leslie: Hear from Rosaria, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

 

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