God Is In The Transition.

Editor’s Note: This is the text of a sermon for the good people of Kaleo Covenant Church on August 14th, 2016. I didn’t intend for it to be a blog post, but a few people on Facebook might be encouraged by it, so here we go.

 

We’re in the middle of August.

Labor Day is just two weeks away. The summer is flying by, and then comes September, where we’re gonna hit it hard. But even though we’re not in school YET, we can kind of see the signs. There are back to school commercials on TV, football training camp is starting up, the days are starting to get shorter and shorter. We’re in what are often called The Dog Days of Summer, where most of the cool summertime activities or trips have already been taken, but it’s not time for a full-on ramp up into the fall. We’re in an in-between space.

A transition.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably sick of transitions. If you’re like me, you tend to greet any transition with the same sentiment — let’s get it on already, geez, this is taking forever!

Now, because I’m a large black guy who has been conditioned his whole life to be as non-threatening as possible, I tend not to lash out when I get frustrated (well, unless I’m behind the wheel, then all bets are off). No, when I get really sick and tired of waiting for something, my default response is not to lash out, but preoccupy myself with something entertaining to pass the time. I keep my phone in my hand, and as soon as something happens that I don’t like or as soon as I encounter something even mildly unpleasant, my first thought is, “what new games or apps have I downloaded recently? or what’s new to read on my favorite website?”

And unfortunately, this impatience with transition even extends to my spiritual life. When I’m in a time frame where I feel like I’m waiting to hear from God or I’m waiting to see God move in a particular area or I’m waiting for a specific answer to prayer, then I tend to ignore God. I tend to put him on the back burner. Not intentionally, but more like, “okay God, well I’ll check in with you as soon as I get the sign I’m looking for, and until then, I’ll be on my XBOX, mmmmkaythxbai, later gator.”

But one of the things I’m learning right now is that checking out during transitions is a mistake. Mindlessly preoccupying ourselves with trivialities while we wait in a hold pattern for God… that is a mistake.

And here’s why… God is in the transition.

Say it with me.

God is in the transition.

kaleo snip

Now here at Kaleo Covenant, we’re in a transition, aren’t we? Not only are we in the dog days of August, but Kaleo has officially been recognized as a member church, which is great, it’s exciting, and I’m sure there are events and things that you all have planned to jump start the work that God wants to do in this community, maybe there’s a fall kickoff event around the corner. But right now, Pastor Troy is still on Sabbatical, (which is why I’m here preaching). The kids still aren’t in school yet. You still haven’t started doing That Thing You’re Planning To Do Once Things Calm Down A Little And You Can Get Into A Regular Routine.

And so you might be tempted to just sort of run out the clock, just sort of bide your time until it’s time to get things started up. Maybe there are shows you want to binge watch, or fun activities you want to get into just to kill some time.

But those things might be misleading you from where God wants you to be.

And let me be clear… I’m not saying not to binge watch. Some of my favorite shows I can only watch 3 or 4 episodes at a time, because they’re that good. But my point is that if we’re doing those things just to kill time until it’s time to start the real work of ministry or the real work of developing a spiritual life or whatever we’re waiting to do… well, killing time is a mistake. Because, as the quote says, life is what happens to us while we’re busy making plans. God cares about the things that happen in the between spaces.

 

God is in the transition.

ancient philippi

Ancient Philippi.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. There are so many great life lessons in the book of Philippians. But one of the things I realized this week is that I’ve missed some of the context of Paul’s letter because I didn’t know much about the story of the church of Philippi. But Philippi was founded as a church in transition. And today we’re going to take a quick overview of the history of that church’s founding, and see what lessons we can learn from those who were involved.
Since I’m constrained by time, I don’t have time to really go through the whole book of Philippians, so when you’re done here, I want you to really sit down and read through the whole thing in one sitting. There’s so much good stuff in there, and a lot of it you’ve probably heard before, but when you know the story of how the church in Philippi started, it makes a LOT more sense.
And so if you have your Bibles, turn with me to Acts 16. We’re going to look at some key highlights in the story…

 

 The Philippian Origin Story

Here are highlights from Acts 16 — the story of the church in Philippi.
  • Paul meets Lydia after “expecting to find a place of prayer.” (v13)
  • Lydia and her household are baptized; Paul & co decide to receive Lydia’s offer of hospitality (v15)
  • While on the way to prayer, Paul cast out demon from a fortune-telling slave girl (v18)
  • Because their source of income was compromised, the girl’s owners bring Paul & Silas up on charges, and they’re beaten, then arrested (v.19-23)

 

Side note — now this is just my opinion, but I think it’s interesting that the slave girl’s owners had no problem with her proclaiming the truth about God’s servants having the source of salvation. It’s only when Paul and company chose to set this girl free and their whole economic model was threatened, that they got mad. I think it’s important to have a good witness in the public square, and in many cases, Christian leaders can do a great job collaborating with businesses and public officials, but if your gospel never threatens the likelihood of the people who are doing the exploiting, then you might not be preaching the whole gospel. Anyway, that’s just a little side note, let me get back to the text.

 

  • While in jail, Paul and Silas experience this miraculous earthquake that broke the prison doors and loosed their chains (v. 25-28)
  • As a result, the jailer, desperate to know this miracle-working God, begs to be baptized, then invites Paul to his house for a festive meal (29-34)
  • The next day, Paul and Silas, indignant because of how they were treated, demand that high-ranking local officials escort them from jail to their original destination — to Lydia’s house, where several others believers had gathered (v. 35-40)
What an incredible story, right? But think about how different this story could’ve been, if Paul and Silas and company had just tried to kill time and not rock the boat. Remember that this whole leg of the journey started when they were prevented from entering into Asia. That means that everything that happened in Philippi happened while they were waiting to get to their original destination.
If you look at a map, you can see what I mean (shout out to CCEL.org for providing this map):
 CNM19-Pauls2ndJourney
It says in verse 6 that the Holy Spirit prevented them from entering Asia after they passed through Phrygia and Galatia. Now, we don’t know exactly how the Holy Spirit communicated that to them. We don’t know if Paul and his companions just suddenly felt a strong urging to stop, or if there were atmospheric conditions that were preventing them, and they felt the Holy Spirit was speaking through the weather, or there was a roadblock, or what.
Now had that been me, I might’ve just tried to wait it out. I might’ve said, “okay, well let’s just make camp and then see if the Holy Spirit will allow us to go in tomorrow… or the next day.” You see what I’m saying? I mean, imagine if you felt that God called you to go to California to do a service project, but on the way I-5 was shut down. Would you pray about it, and then decide to go instead to Idaho, or Utah, or Nevada? Paul and his crew ended up in a place completely different from where they sent out to go, all because they kept listening. God was with them after they left the last place, and before they got to the next place.
 …
God was in the transition.
Now, think about their first encounter with Lydia. Paul was Jewish, which meant that he was used to synagogues where men and women were segregated in prayer. In this place, there were only women. Paul and Silas could’ve said to themselves, “well, this isn’t a real synagogue, so we might as wait until we find one.” But they didn’t! They engaged with the woman that they found, and that woman ended up being the de facto leader of the church in Philippi.
Now think for a moment about those women who had gathered by the river to pray. They didn’t wait for the men to join them, they took it upon themselves to seek the face of God in their own context, in their own way. And God met them there! He didn’t say, “well, you’re not a real synagogue, so I won’t be with you.” On the contrary, God rewarded them for their faithfulness by sending someone who would be a source of pastoral care and encouragement! They weren’t even a “real” church yet! Why would God do this?
Because God was in the transition.

 This week, I’ve been going through my own transition time. A few of you follow me on Facebook so you saw this, but on Monday, I had a job interview for a position in Seattle. If I get the job, Holly and I will be moving to Seattle.

And I felt great about the interview! I felt like I connected really well, I had good answers to all the questions, I was able to project a vision for how I felt I could prosper in the role. And I was told I would hear back “in a couple of days.”

Well, I’ve spent the last week wondering what’s going to happen! I’ve been waiting to hear back about this job, knowing that if I get it, I’m going to have to make a huge jump and move to an unfamiliar place, but if I don’t, that means I have to reset, recalibrate, and trust God for what’s next. It’s a hard place to sit in!

But the lessons that I’ve absorbed from the years of reading Philippians… those lessons didn’t just spring up out of thin air. Those lessons came from a man who knew what it was like to be faithful in the middle of life transitions.

Consider Philippians 2 — it’s all about emulating Christ’s humility. Paul needed that humility when he was unjustly railroaded by venal government officials who were motivated more by money than for justice. He never bellowed out, “don’t you know who I am???” (Well, okay, he sort of did in Acts 16:37, but only after it was all over.) But for real… it took a lot of humility to keep allowing himself to be delayed, diverted, and dejected. But God kept showing up, so Paul was committed.

Consider Philippians 3 — it’s all about not putting our confidence in fleshly appearances or cultural markers that, in the end, have no eternal significance. Paul knew that if anyone would have reason to brag about his heritage or credential, it would be him — the most Jewish of Jews. And yet, he understand that, compared to knowing Christ, it was all worthless.

Consider Philippians 4 — it’s all about living in steadfast unity through identifying with Christ. He told his folks to keep rejoicing, keep thinking about good things, keep praying, keep receiving God’s peace, even when it exceeds our capacity to understand what’s going on. Even the flagship verse that people love to quote — Philippians 4:13 — he says it in the context of knowing how to have a lot, and also how to have a little. He’s not saying “I can do anything! Look at me, I can do all these incredible exploits!” He’s saying, “hey, since I’m sold out to God, I’m down for whatever. I can be rich, I can be poor. I can do either one.”


So my question for you is simple:
Where is God in your transition?
Man-Praying
  • Where are the ways where you can join God already at work?

 

  • Are there roadblocks you’re experiencing that you can choose to interpret as the Holy Spirit leading you in another direction?

 

  • Are there people who are persecuting you that God wants to use for His glory and your benefit?

 

  • What are the situations where God is building up your humility or your ability to endure?

 

  • Are there situations in your life where God wants you to take a stand even though it might come at great personal, financial, or professional risk?

 

  • What are you waiting for, and how can God meet you there?

The good news is simple. God is in the transitions. If you’re waiting for the next thing, then while you wait, watch. While you wait, listen. While you wait, engage.

Amazing things can happen in a transition when God is in it.

And God is always in it.

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