Friday, 2 July 2010

Transitioning Through Life

All living things must transition. A transition is a journey of change. While there are some predictable phases of change in the different types of transitions we all go through, there are just some things that life throws at you that are unpredictable. How we handle these unforeseeable changes depends upon our character and those unchangeable things we build our lives on.

"When I was young" wrote the Psalmist. He wrote this Psalm as an old man to look back over the years of transitions his life had undergone. Growing older is a series of transitions that are somewhat predictable. "Now I am old", the same Psalmist wrote. He could look back over the years and reminisce about how had changed, but he notes what did not change throughout all the years of his own transitioning: For the Lord upholds his...He never forsakes them...The Lord will not abandon...The Lord helps ...(Psalm 37). Throughout the Royal Psalmist's life of continual and dramatic changes, he knew that God was unchanging.

It seems that not only is God there in the midst and moment of change, He is ultimately the Change-Agent. He knows what events, people, circumstances, responsibilities, trials, losses, wins, comforts, or distresses, will affect the most glorious chnages in us. We may not respond immediately to these factors in the most God-glorifying fashion (God only knows how many people He has bestowed success upon as a heart-trial) but we know that most unlike us, this Unchanging God is genuinely patient. Looking back over his life, the warrior-psalmist could wisely advise, "Be patient..." As parents we pray for wayward children who are not handling the transition from childhood to adulthood well. Be patient in prayer and love. As friends we pray for those who once loved and served God and delighted in being a regular worshiper among His Bride, the church, but have had unsurrendered rooms in the house of their cluttered hearts exposed through God's maturing trials. We patiently pray and wait.

As a church we have been through some transitions. I am the third pastor of our church since its birth in 1987. Today, our church has transitioned from a gathering of friends and family to a gathering of people previously unknown to each other. We have transitioned from what my esteemed colleague, Bob McKay, calls "a family model" of church (where everybody knows everybody) to "a pastoral model" (where everybody doesn't know everybody else in the church but they probably do know the pastor). There is of course a couple of foreseeable transitions ahead for our church. As the Lord continues to be pleased to add to our church, we will have to transition from "a pastoral model" to "a leadership model" where the care for those in our church is shared among a variety of leaders. This of course is already beginning to happen. Several times this week I had contact with people in our church who said that they had already had another leader in our church drop in to see them or give them a call. Mark and Wendy are excelling in their new role of Pastoral Team coordinators. Our Home Group leaders are similarly coordinating the care of those in their groups. In particular, Lynne has undertaken a number of initiatives with her group that are bearing much fruit. Geoff and Carolyn are holding regular lunches to help build fellowship and introduce new comers to their group. These are signs of a transitioning church.

Transitioning is not the only change though. Our walk with Christ does not begin with a transition, rather it begins with a translation. We are translated (a sudden and immediate change) from death into life, from darkness into light. This translation is followed by a journey of transitions. It is often easier to identify whether a person has experienced a spiritual translation because their life is obviously undergoing spiritual transitions. We have seen this over and over in our church. People come for the first time. Something keeps them coming back. God does a work in their life. They realise they need a Saviour. Their heart calls out to the God they now know is calling out to them. An Ephesians 2 Translation takes place. God's grace to grow is mediated to them through the preaching of God's Word in the midst of the assembled church. Bad habits begin to drop off. Coarse language is replaced with careful language. Bitterness is replaced by forgiveness. Doubts are exchanged for faith. Selfishness is diminished as care for others strangely softens their hearts. Money becomes a means a worship. Yelling becomes singing. Things unspoken become things confessed. Relationships strained become marriages strengthened. These are some of the ways that God's grace caused the translated believer to transition into greater Christlikeness.

"Delight yourself in the Lord..." promised the Shepherd Psalmist, throughout a life of transitions, is the one way that guarantees the best kind of transitioning a person or church can make. While our circumstances, bodies, relationships and situations may change, if we delight ourselves in the LordHe will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). By doing this, David reminds us, that God takes a personal interest in ordering our steps ("The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, when he delights in his way..."Psalm 37:23). No matter what situation you find yourself in now, you can invite Christ to help you transition into a "delightful" life. This may mean forgetting about your past mistakes and failures and hurts and disappointments and recognising that God can order your steps - by transitioning - your life into what will give Him the most glory and you the most satisfaction.
Dear God, help me to let go of the past.
Give me the grace to change.
I want to transition well.
May I be a part of the kind of transition that You want for our church.
Lead me. Grow me. Fill me. Use me.
I need You.
Amen.

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