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09Nov '15

Pastor JP: Transition Brings Faith, Opportunity

November 9, 2015

“How are things going at your church, JP? I’ve heard there have been a lot of changes.”

Yep, you’ve heard correctly. We’ve been going through a time of change and transition. How are things at your church?”

“JP, how are you holding up through all the changes?”

Thanks so much for asking. It’s been hard at times. I’m trusting in Jesus. How are you holding up?”

“JP, what’s going to happen with ________________?”

That’s a good question. Thank you for caring about our church. I’m not sure. We’re seeking the Lord’s will and praying for wisdom. Please pray along with me.”

From the move into a new facility to saying goodbye to staff members to seeking new staff members, it has been a season of change for ABC. On top of that, I know that many of you are going through your own set of changes and transitions that range from a new baby to a new job and everything in between.

I have a love/hate relationship with change. On one hand, I hate change. I like routine. I like consistency. I like familiarity. If you look at pictures of me through the years, my hairstyle has changed very little, except I just have less of it to work with now. My sense of fashion has changed very little in terms of colors and styles. I still go for darker tones (for the slimming effect!) and I was wearing plaid long before before plaid became so hipster!

On the other hand, I love change. And that’s usually when looking back in hindsight, which is always 20/20 right? Change brings excitement and renewed energy. Change creates opportunity for creativity. Change allows new people to step in and step up with new ideas that yields new results. Change may be hard when you go through it, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day.

I believe we are turning the corner with all the changes that have been happening. This doesn’t mean the changes have totally ceased as change is always happening around us. The one constant about change is that change is constant. But at some point, we go from saying, “We’re in transition,” to accepting the changes and saying, “We’re moving forward!” I believe that point has come, and we have much to celebrate.

First and foremost, I celebrate the unchanging faithfulness of God. Change is always an opportunity to deepen our trust in God. There have been many moments during this past year when I was brought to my knees in humble dependence upon God. And He has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. At a recent elders meeting, Ken Collins shared this excerpt from a devotion that had touched his heart:

The delight that the sailor feels when, having been tossed about on the waves, he steps again upon the solid shore is the satisfaction of a Christian when, in all the changes of this distressing life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—‘I the LORD do not change.’ The stability that the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a solid hold is like that which the Christian’s hope provides him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change.’”

Second, I celebrate the resilience of our church family. You have been amazing. I see people bouncing back from all the changes with renewed focus, energy, and commitment. I see people stepping up and stepping into new roles. I see people loving, serving, praying, and simply doing life together with others.

Finally, I celebrate the direction that God is taking us in. This does not mean I know exactly what the destination will look like, because I don’t. But what I do celebrate is that God is the One who is leading us. He is moving within our midst and moving us to where He wants us to be, and perhaps more importantly, what He wants us to be. What has remained unchanged in my 10 years at ABC is the firm belief that God is in this. Whatever highs and lows, changes and transitions, we go through as a church, God is in this.

To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)

23Oct '15

Change: Always a Constant

October 23, 2015

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NASB).

These are familiar verses to many, popularized by Pete Seeger in the late 1950’s in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (“To everything there is a season”). For me, the passage resonates on many levels. The autumn air has brought with it first frosts and brilliant foliage colors. Recently, my beloved hit a milestone birthday – honestly, any time we can mark another birthday is cause for celebration!

Our church family moved into its current facility after years of being mobile, beginning in Vienna, then migrating out to Centreville and now in Chantilly. Our children’s ministry director and family pursued their calling in Costa Rica. College students we have known for years left to pursue missions overseas. And our associate pastor and his family took the initiative to plant a new community church. All this has made me pause and reflect on what God is doing in my own life. What will the next chapter or season look like?

Change is the only true constant. Our responses and attitudes toward the winds of change is all that we can control. That’s what I’ve heard through 20-plus years of my career. It’s a good perspective to have in all aspects of life.

I’m used to change. I’m used to uprooting every two or three years. Growing up I learned that “home” was not the structure, but where my family resided. In my profession where I may spend half the time on the road, I have learned to limit my material belongings to a carry-on and personal bag. So I never expected that the church-planting project that was the impetus for such excitement and spiritual growth in me would become a fond memory.

Back then we were challenged to daily walk by faith as we never knew what lay around the corner or who God would bring to our community, and how He would weave this tapestry of multi-ethnicity. We didn’t know what the final picture would look like. We only imagined it would be beautiful and wonderful, a micro-portrayal of heaven’s glory. I suppose all that is no different today. I still walk by faith daily and I still can’t forecast how my day will go or whom I will run into.

But I somehow managed to plant roots without realizing it. When did I become the tree firmly planted by the streams? Really, the more important question is this: am I one who yields her fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither, and in whatever I do, am prospering? (Psalm 1:3, NASB)

At Ambassador (yeah, I’m one of the few who still associates the ABC acronym as “American Born Chinese” as well as hangs onto good old NASB) we’ve been pruned a few times. We have gone through significant leadership shifts. In those days, the song that played in my head went more like this: “Should I stay or should I go?” In case you’re wondering, that’s circa 1982 by The Clash. Well, I’m still plugged in. The fruit has been sweet. Perhaps not what I would have pictured, but then, I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). I’m merely the clay and not the Master Potter.

Today, I’m at a cross roads again. It’s natural and I ask if it is time to continue letting my roots deepen, or is it time to be pruned and grafted elsewhere?.  I still don’t know how I will answer that question but I am encouraged by the prophet, Jeremiah.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water. That extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NASB).

Meanwhile Phil Wickham’s “This is Amazing Grace” is playing in the background. “Who brings our chaos back into order? Who makes the orphan a son and daughter? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.”  Who, indeed?

He has made everything appropriate in its time, who set eternity in our hearts although we may not yet understand the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NASB)