Comfort in Transition

These next two weeks bring a lot of transition for my family. Today (Aug 16), LeAnn begins a full-time high school math teaching job at the Lied Center after 5 years of substitute teaching in the W-SR district. And next week, Maegan heads to college as a freshman – not to mention, Salem and Tsion head back to school as a high school freshman and a sixth grader.

Yep, life is about to be very different in the Bird House.

If you’ve ever moved, changed jobs, gotten divorced, lost a loved one, or started work on a degree, you’ve gone through transition. For most people, transition makes them feel uneasy, unsettled, nervous, and sometimes even alone.

A Biblical Guide Through Transition
In their (unfortunately out-of-print) book No Matter What, No Matter Where, Larry Libby and Steve Halliday share what they think is the perfect guide for times of transition: Psalm 139. This 4000-year-old poem was written by the famous Jewish warrior-king named David. David was very familiar with transition. He went from being an unknown shepherd boy to a beloved warrior to a hated outcast to an epic king. And as someone intimately familiar with transition, he wrote this prayerful song:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139: 1-2, 7-10)

I find three incredibly comforting thoughts from David’s poem.

1. God knows me
For some people, the thought that God knows their thoughts petrifies them. I, however, find comfort in the knowledge that an all-knowing, all-loving God knows me and my thoughts, including my worries in the midst of transition.

2. God is with me
There have been a handful of times in my life when I’ve felt incredibly alone. King David seemed to understand. “Sheol” in Hebrew was considered the place of the dead. This tells me that even when David felt like he was going through hell, he realized the truth of God’s constant presence. What a comforting thought to realize that despite how I have felt, I have never been alone!

3. God will guide me
David points out that no matter where he goes, God’s hand shall lead him. What a comfort to know that even if I don’t know what I’m doing in the middle of a transition, God already sees what is ahead and will guide me through even the toughest of moments.

Ultimately, as a Jesus-follower, I see these same three things reiterated in the last words of Jesus. The sinless Son of God, before He ascended to heaven, told His followers “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) May you realize that Jesus knows you, is with you, and if you will seek Him, will guide you through each of your transitions.

Transitions for Riverwood
While everything above is true in your personal transitions, it is also true for the transitions our church family is about to go through. I firmly believe that as we ratify a church constitution and install elders to lead our church family, God will not only be with us, but will truly guide us as we seek Him.

So be sure to read the News below, putting some important dates on your calendar.

Going Deeper with Perseverance

If you made it to this past Sunday’s Worship Gathering at Kohlmann Park – I’m so glad you were there! We had such gorgeous weather, Crossed did a fantastic job leading us in worship through song, we got to enjoy a picnic together, and best of all – we got to celebrate Eliana going public with her faith in Jesus through baptism. What a touching morning it was!

As part of the morning at Kohlmann Park, I finished up our Disciplined seriesby talking about the discipline of perseverance from James 1. I want to talk about perseverance just a little bit more by looking at 2 Timothy 2:3-6 with you. Here is that passage:

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” (2 Timothy 2:3-6 ESV)

This passage was written by the Apostle Paul to his protege, Timothy. Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus that Paul had planted, and in what is most likely Paul’s last letter written, he gives Timothy three illustrations – a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. And each illustration reminds Timothy he must stay focused and persevere in life and ministry.

Focused & Fair Athletes

perseverance2 350x196 - Going Deeper with PerseveranceThis past Sunday, while we were hanging out at Kohlmann Park, the Tour de France was coming to a close. For the first time ever, Geraint Thomas, age 32, of England took the yellow jersey with the overall lowest time. The official Tour de France write up on Thomas’ victory says he is “an example of perseverance and consistency.”

(However, I think the Tour has a better example of perseverance. As great as Thomas’ win was, check out the story of Lawson Craddock, who finished the Tour in last place. Talk about soldiering on!)

But if you ask the average American to name a Tour de France, his or her first answer is most likely Lance Armstrong. Lance first became famous by winning seven Tours consecutively from 1999 to 2005, then became infamous when it was discovered a month after his seventh win he had cheated by taking illegal substancesall those years.

Lance didn’t play by the rules. Rather than persevere, he tried to find a short cut.

This is why Paul says in his letter to Timothy that an athlete must play by the rules. Likewise, the soldier must stay focused on his mission, and the farmer must focus on his crop if he is going to enjoy the fruit of his harvest. Each of these people in their specific occupation or hobby, must apply perseverance.

For you to enjoy the fruit of a relationship with Jesus, you must stay focused on the gospeland your spiritual growth, trusting God to do what only He can do within you to make you more like Jesus. And this type of focus requires perseverance.

So don’t look for spiritual short cuts. Instead, look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.

Should You Be Baptized?

by Erin Bird,

If you follow Jesus, but haven’t been baptized yet, here are four reasons why I think you should get “dunked” :

Should you be baptized blank 350x196 - Should You Be Baptized?1. God expects it.
If you read Romans 6:2-4, you see that Paul (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) assumes that if you follow Jesus, you’ve been baptized. He sees baptism as full identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. (We see this same expectation of baptism in the Great Commission.)

While there are some church denominations who say you aren’t “saved” or truly forgiven of your sins until you are baptized, I personally believe that according to Ephesians 2:8-9 our salvation is ONLY the work of God. Baptism simply reveals outwardly the inward work God has already done and is doing in us through the gospel.

So God expects us to “go public” with our relationship with Him through Jesus through the sacrament of baptism.

2. Jesus did it.
The four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus highlight different stories and teachings, giving us a well-rounded view of Jesus’ life and theology. But there are only a handful of stories that all four gospel accounts share. The most well-known is the death & resurrection of Jesus (no surprise there). But another one is His baptism!

Jesus did not need “saved” since He was the sinless Son of God. Yet he was baptized by his cousin John to launch the public aspect of his ministry. It is after this point that Jesus recruited disciples and began to travel around the Palestinian region proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

If we are to “live like Jesus lived,” then we should also go public via baptism as well.

3. You need it.
No, you don’t “need” baptism in order to be “saved” or to prove anything to God. Getting baptized doesn’t make you any spiritually cleaner, nor does it gain you super-saint status.

But it does help you put a “stake” down in your spiritual journey. We are all on a spiritual journey, and as we walk this path through life, occasionally we need some markers, some “stakes”, we put down on our path to remind us of where we’ve been, where we are going, and who we belong to. Just like the “for better or worse” part of wedding vows, baptism is a moment when you say to yourself and others, “I follow Jesus, and will follow Him no matter what the future holds.”

4. We need it.
Baptism is an incredibly beautiful moment in your spiritual journey. But it isn’t JUST for you. By being baptized during our Worship Gathering, you are helping your church family worship God through your story and your decision to publicly declare your faith in Jesus.

So I encourage you to be baptized – the glorify God, to obey Him, to help you in your spiritual journey, and to encourage the faith of others.

If you haven’t been baptized as a follower of Jesus, simply send me an email, or shoot me a text letting me know your decision and I’ll follow up with you.

Going Deeper With Sacrifice

I heard a GREAT quote this past week about sacrifice:

“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will be the sacrifice.”

I couldn’t find who to attribute that quote to, but it is spot on. Just as a gold medalist has to sacrifice time, sweat, money, and comfort in order to get what she wants, a Jesus-follower might need to sacrifice food, time, pleasure, and more in order to get what he wants in a relationship with God through Christ.

Going Deeper with Sacrifice Blank 350x196 - Going Deeper With SacrificeAnd so this week, I want to do something a little different here in the News & Notes. I want you to do three things:

#1. I want you to look at the Parable of the Hidden Treasure again (the same parable we looked at this past Sunday), but I want you to sacrifice fifteen minutes to watch the parable be told as if it was a modern story. You can find the short film here.

#2. Once the film is done, I want you to take a couple of minutes to ask yourself, “What do I really want in my relationship with God? And what am I willing to sacrifice to get there?” If you need to, write down your answer.

#3. Then I want you to take a minute to pray, asking God to give you the courage and strength to sacrifice whatever it is He asked you to give up in response to step 2 above.

So enjoy the film. And may you take a small step toward Christlikeness as you make the decision to sacrifice something this week, month, year, or for life.