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Navigating Life's Transitions

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Time is filled with swift transition, isn't it? My life has recently been filled with several transitions: My wife and I have moved to a new city, taken on new jobs, we are first-time homeowners, and we are expecting a baby girl at the end of March. We all experience various transitions in life and this presents a crucial question for us, how do we navigate these transitions in a godly way? The truth is, we are not the only ones who have had to navigate life's transitions. The Bible is filled with people who faced times of transition. I’m reminded of Daniel and his three friends: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men were uprooted from their homes and led away as exiles to Babylon. They were forced to adhere to the Babylonian way of life but they never wavered in their allegiance to the King of King’s. I want you to notice three important lessons we learn from Daniel and his friends about Navigating Life's Transitions in a godly manner.

Resolve to Serve God Faithfully

Daniel and his three friends were resolved to serve God faithfully even if no one else would. We see Daniel's resolve in chapter 1 when he "made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank"Dan. 1:8. Whatever the reason was, Daniel wasn't going to defile himself and compromise his obedience to God. We see the same attitude with Daniel's friends in Daniel 3 as they refuse to bow down and worship the king's golden image he set up even when the king had threatened to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.

What about you? Have you resolved that as you make this transition in your life that you will serve God faithfully? That doesn't happen automatically! Are you giving God first place today so that you will be prepared to give Him first place when times of transition come? Your commitment and allegiance to God must drive every decision that you make so that you will be prepared for life’s transitions just like Daniel and his friends were.

Surround Yourself with God-Fearing Companions

When Daniel and his friends chose to remain true to God they were reminded that they were not in this fight alone. As they stood shoulder to shoulder there was a visual reminder that they had one another to draw encouragement and strength from. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to do this alone? God-fearing companions are a tremendous blessing as we wage war against our adversary.

What kind of companions do you surround yourself with? We need to be busy cultivating and building relationships with one another as fellow Christians. If there is anything we learn from the book of Daniel it is that God-fearing companions are a necessity as we live in this world. Let's work this week to develop and maintain our relationships with one another as children of God just like we see with Daniel and the early Christians in Acts (Acts 2:41-47).

Communicate With God

Prayer was a priority for Daniel as he navigated through his time of transition. We are told inDaniel 6:10 that despite the king's edict not to pray, Daniel went up to his house and "continued kneeling three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously."Notice that this wasn't anything new for Daniel! He had developed a habit of prayer, "as he had been doing previously." 

What is your prayer life like? How often do you pray? How meaningful are your prayers? Prayer is crucial to navigating life’s transitions. Prayer is a manifestation of our dependence upon God. Prayer provides perspective from a higher point of view and prayer reminds us of who is in control and that God will see us through whatever happens during our transitions.

If we will endeavor to give these three areas a priority in our lives just like Daniel and his friends did then we too will navigate life’s transitions in a godly way! I hope this will be helpful to you as you navigate through this week.

-Justin Berss

Good, Better, Best – Never Let it Rest

Friday, April 28, 2017

By Jerid Gunter (published in the Sterling Herald on 4.2.17)

My grandmother (“Mema”) used to tell us kids the encouraging phrase “Good, better, best - never let it rest ‘til your good gets better and your better gets best.” Pretty simple phrase, but it gets the point across: Don’t just settle where you are. Keep pushing yourself to the next level. While the phrase is simple, living up to it takes motivation and effort.

Self-motivation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some of us don’t spring out of bed the first time the alarm clock goes off, or the second or third time for that matter. Some of us may need continual reminders and continual coaching in how we can be better at what we’re doing, while others are more self-driven and put more pressure on themselves than anyone else ever could. Some may fall somewhere in between.

While we may fall in different categories of our self-motivation and effort, the expectations from our holy God are not different. It’s imperative we understand that we’re certainly different in the talents we have, but that we all have talents to use. We may think the difference in our talents are glaringly different, but the reality may be that the glaring difference is our levels of effort.

It’s so easy to grow complacent. As Christians, we may have the temptation to think, “Hey, I got baptized. I did the big thing God wanted me to do.” In reality, baptism is not the “big thing” God wants us to do, it’s the FIRST THING He wants us to do. It opens the door for a lifetime of opportunity to serve the Creator.

Let’s not forget that personal growth and church growth has always been an expectation from God. The lack of growth was a reason the Hebrew writer was having to compose his letter in Hebrews 5:12-14 “12 For though by this =me you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Did you catch that? The writer drives it home in verse 14 that those who are ready for solid food are those who are “trained by constant practice.” Looks like Mema’s saying holds true: “Good, better, best – never let it rest ‘til your good gets better and your better gets best.” Christian or not, we were not made to be complacent. If you’re not a Christian, know that God has a greater purpose for you than where you currently are in life. Christian, the race isn’t complete once you come out of the water – it’s just begun. 

Is it Easter or the First Day of the Week?

Friday, April 28, 2017

By Jerid Gunter (published in the Sterling Herald on 4.16.17)

If you’re visiting with us, we’re really glad you’re here. You may be here because you’re visiting family, or maybe because of the Easter holiday observed by most of the Christian-religious world. If you’re unfamiliar with our congregation here or the practices of the church Christ established in the Bible, you may be surprised we don’t have a special Easter service. We don’t observe/practice Ash Wednesday. We don’t even have a Christmas program or other special services around these holidays. Why is that? The answer may be simpler than you think.

In Galatians 4, Paul corrects the Galatian brethren for seemingly going back to the ways they were once accustomed to living. In verses 10 & 11 of this chapter Paul says, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”

What was Paul’s issue with them? We observe days and months, don’t we? On this very bulletin, we’ve indicated what month, day, and year it is. Would this upset the inspired apostle? Not hardly. In scripture we have a clearly designated day of every week in which every local church is to gather – “the first day of the week” – Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Let’s not overlook that Paul was named in Acts 20:7 observing a specific day of the week and he’s the one who penned 1 Corinthians, denoting that specific “first day.” So, if Paul rebuked the Galatians for recognizing what day of the week it was, he’d be a hypocrite. I don’t think that was the case.

The problem it seems Paul is addressing is the observance of designated days from the Jews’ past religious history. It’s possible they were putting an emphasis on particular days of the year they would have observed as Jews, but were no longer called to do as Christians. Later in the letter (Gala/ans 6:12-16 especially), Paul indicated that the pressures of Judaizers (Jewish Christians still trying to bind Jewish law on all people) were not in step with how a Christian should practice their faith.

While it may be Easter to the rest of the world, there’s no indication from scripture for us to observe a particular day on the calendar for the resurrection of Christ. The same goes for Christmas. We have no direction given to observe a particular day for the birth of Christ. These are man-appointed days, not God- appointed. For us to put a religious regulation or expectation to observe them would be sinful.

Now, is that to say the birth or resurrection of Christ isn’t important? Absolutely not! Both are miraculous events that have direct impact on why we’re here today to worship our God! It’s because of Jesus and His life, death, burial, and resurrection that we’ll be here EVERY “first day of the week” and any other given opportunity to worship, study, and remember our Lord. That’s a God-given direction (Heb. 10:23-25). 

What More Could God Do: To Show His Love?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Becoming a father has taught me many lessons, even though my daughter is only a year old. A few simple lessons I’ve learned so far:

1.Naps are great opportunities for parents to actually get things done without interruption.
2.If you don’t want your toddler to get into something, create a barricade.
3.Food from Momma & Daddy’s plate seems far more appealing than any baby food.

While these are just a few fun lessons, by far the greatest lesson I’m continually learning is the depth of a father’s love. By no means am I discounting the love between a husband and wife. It’s an immensely deep love, which is experienced and expressed in different ways and I’m still learning in that relationship too. However, looking at love from the vantage point of a father to a child is incredible, and even more so when we consider and compare the love God (the ultimate Father) has for mankind.

We all have a beginning as pure, innocent children who have no concept of sin whatsoever. It’s why Christ uses children as an example to His disciples in Matthew 18:1-6. However, as we grow older it doesn’t take long for Satan to make his influence felt – an influence that we all succumb to inevitably (Romans 3:23). Sin enters the picture for each one of us, and while God hasn’t gone anywhere, we’ve gone away from God. This is the most devastating situation we could find ourselves in.

The blame is squarely on us. However, while God didn’t do anything to force us to sin and turn away from Him, He has done everything to show His desire for us to come back to Him. As a father would do anything to see his child succeed, God has done the same for us. John 3:16 is a popular passage for a reason. It tells the love of a Father who wants to adopt (or save) lost children. Think about the message of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God did the one thing as a Father that I couldn’t do: He gave up His only Son so that He might save others and allow them the opportunity to become His children, which includes you and me.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 8:14-17, “14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

As any fair father does, our heavenly Father has similar expectations and rewards for all of His children. We are expected to suffer with Christ (to whatever extent that may be), and if we do so, we will be heirs of God with Christ. God gave of Himself in the most painstaking of ways in order to show us how deep His love is for us. He loves us all so much that He not only wants to be our God, He wants to be our Father.

A Day to Always Remember

Friday, February 17, 2017

by Jerid Gunter (originally published in Sterling Herald on September 11, 2016)

How many days of the year are important to you? We mark and remember specific days of the year, noting the time passed since certain momentous occasions. Some anniversaries are joyous, such as a wedding anniversary or a birthday, and some are sorrowful, such as the passing of a loved one or a national tragedy.

We mark these days in various ways. With wedding anniversaries and birthdays, we may be blessed to receive cards and gifts, surrounded by the people we love. With more somber and sorrowful anniversaries, we may erect memorials, wear pins or ribbons, and sadly recount the events of that particular day. In both happiness and sorrow, we remember and we set these days apart from others.

Today, September 11, 2016, we remember the 15th anniversary of what is simply known as “9/11.” We know what happened that day. Four different planes were hijacked and crashed: two in the World Trade Center, one in the Pentagon, and one in the fields of Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died in those attacks and thousands more were injured. Wikipedia notes that more firefighters and police officers were killed that day than any other in the history of America. We remember this day with great sorrow.

While we remember September 11th every year, there’s another horrific event we remember today. No, it wasn’t a death toll of nearly 3,000, but it was the death of One perfectly innocent in order to potentially spare a spiritual death toll in the billions (John 3:16). Many will continue to ignore or even mock this memorial, just as the people who mocked the One as He writhed in excruciating pain (Matt. 27:27-31). We come together today and every first day of the week to remember the death of Christ. The Lord’s memorial is simply displayed in the form of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, with His command to “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Every time we can gather and memorialize our Lord, it’s an important day. It’s a memorial we can’t afford to forget. Our lives depend on it (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Never forget.

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