Question: How far can you walk into the woods?
No, this isn’t a challenge I’m laying down to you. It’s a riddle! You may have heard it before. The answer is tricky because of how simple and logical it is.
So, how far can you walk into the woods? The answer is “halfway.” The key is the word into. Once you reach the midway point of the woods and then continue your trek going the same direction, you are now technically on your way toward the outside of the woods. Get it?
My use of a wilderness-related riddle is obviously not random. We’ve been talking for several weeks now about the one we’ve found ourselves in today in our “Into the Unknown” sermon series. We’ve learned about God’s unwavering ability to grow and teach His people while He walks with them in the wilderness. (You can catch up on any past sermons by visiting our CityRise YouTube channel.) We are walking in a challenging wilderness today, but I hope you’ve been encouraged each week with something new—God has certainly been teaching me new things, more than I thought I’d learn when 2020 began only four months ago!
Part of the hope we can discover while going through a wilderness with God is that He trains us and instructs us. As challenging, as closed in, as unpredictable as it feels, God can grow us closer to Him, and He does that with new things. In Isaiah 43:19, God says to His people, the Israelites, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God proclaims these words of hope while His people have been exiled and are . . . in a wilderness. He’s not only promising He will be with them and guide them out, but He says He’s doing new things.
All of this is new to us, and how we dwell upon our circumstances can affect how we will be after the season ends. We’ve all asked recently, “When will we get back to normal?” Well, right before verse 19 above, God says to the Israelites, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (18). Does this mean we shouldn’t ever hold services in our sanctuaries again? Should we continue everything digitally from here on out? No. West U Baptist and Crosspoint Church-Bellaire are designed for in-person community and loving our neighbor in direct ways. But staying home has sure brought new methods and ways of thinking to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Houston and the world. How blind would we be to “not perceive it?”
We are going to talk about these new things, what we’ve learned, and what our next steps going forward will be at 6pm on Sunday night, May 3. Executive Pastor Kirby Follis and I will livestream a “State of the Church” address on our YouTube channel. Click this link to go to the premiere page and set yourself a reminder. You don’t want to miss this!
I’m looking forward to both Sunday morning’s message and Sunday evening for our “State of the Church” livestream. We’re still together church, whether we’re heading toward the halfway point or if we’re on our way out of the woods. Let’s hold onto the hope that God sees the breadth of this forest, the individual trees and obstacles, and what lies on the other side.