Hey there Eastwood Family,
It has been a whirlwind since we last saw you! At times we have felt like we are swatting at logistical horseflies. Things to do in every direction. God is good and we are making real progress.
Our top priority has been to leave FBC Woodbridge in a way that honors Jesus and sets the church up for success in its immediate interim transition. Our church family here in Virginia took the news of our move harder than I was expecting. We want to be sure to shepherd these dear brothers and sisters well in our final days.
As I think back over the past 4 to 5 months there is a recurring question that I have been asked. “Why?” When I was first contacted by the Eastwood search committee I was asked “Why would you come to Haughton, LA?” When I told my church here I was leaving, the same question was asked, “Why?” “Have we done something wrong?” To be honest, there have been moments in between where I have asked myself the same general question.
It would be easy to answer that Louisiana is home or we are going to be closer to family, but … those would not be the
truest answers. The best answer that I could honestly offer is that Jesus said “come”. God is directing the Kirby family to Eastwood Baptist church for His glory and the further fulfillment of the Great Commission. God said so … that is essentially my answer.
God has placed Matthew 14:22–33 on my heart these past weeks. It is a familiar passage of Scripture. Jesus has just fed 5,000+ people with a two–piece fish combo meal and had enough to fill 12 baskets in leftovers. The people were excited. I would have been excited too. Free food. Intriguing teaching. Let’s not forget the miracles. They wanted to make Him King immediately. (John 6:15).
Jesus knew that what they wanted was a material savior, not a spiritual one. They wanted earthly bread, not the bread of life. Jesus being made earthly King wasn’t about Jesus, but rather what they could get from Jesus. I would imagine His disciples were affected by this as well. It is easy to be Jesus‘ followers when there is plenty of food to eat and the crowds are in love with you. It doesn’t require faith to follow Jesus when everything is going smoothly. Jesus knew that his followers were riding high on emotions, but that rough waters would be ahead. He knew the persecution and violence that would await them for being His disciples. They needed more training.
Jesus dismissed the crowds and immediately made them get into a boat and go ahead of Him on the sea, while He stayed behind to pray. As Jesus knew, the disciples encountered violent storms on the water. They were tired, afraid, cold, and confused. At that moment Jesus comes to them in the storms on the water. They had to think they were hallucinating. They thought they were seeing a ghost. What else could it be? Humans don’t walk on water.
In that storm, Jesus utters some of the greatest words ever spoken. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27). Think about this, Jesus just commanded these terrified men to NOT be afraid. To take COURAGE. That doesn’t make sense. This was the perfect time to be afraid. They are in the midst of a deadly storm and a ghost is on the water. He is asking them to do something seemingly impossible. Yet, the three words sandwiched between those two commands are the key. How could they possibly not be afraid … not because of them or their circumstances … but because of who He is. Jesus tells them it is possible because “it is I”. That phrase in the original language is ego eimi. It simply means … I AM. WOW! Did you catch that? Jesus uses the name God used for himself in the Old Testament when He so often delivered His people. Amid the storms, during the confusion, Jesus shows up and says, “Have no fear, the I AM is here!” “I am the one who made the water, wind, and the storms. Get your eyes off of the circumstances and put them on me.”
A GOD–SIZED REQUEST
That isn’t even the most amazing part. Peter dares to ask Jesus a ludicrous request. “Can I come to you?” Jesus responds, “COME”. Now, there is so much more to this story to unpack that I don’t have time for now, but this is the portion of this account that is lodged in my heart and mind. It is in essence the answer to all the “Why?” questions I keep getting.
Jesus said “COME” … so I am hopping over the side of the boat and going. Notice Jesus didn’t calm the storms, wind, and waves first. When Jesus says come, the best thing we can do is respond immediately and trust Him no matter the circumstances. It may not make sense to us. It may not make sense to others, but the safest and best place to be is where the Lord calls us. It requires faith. That is what Jesus was teaching Peter, His disciples … you and me. Jesus is calling Eastwood and certainly my family onto the waters. He is calling my family to pack up, leave a wonderful faith family, and head to a new place. The best thing we can do is respond immediately in obedience.
While we may not know every step that lies ahead on the journey, He has already made us all some wonderful promises that He will be with us and He is going to work all things together for good. (Matthew 28:20, Romans 8:28). The best and safest place any of us could be is walking and looking to Jesus!
Make no mistake, we are pumped to respond to this call. We are excited to be there with you all in the coming weeks. God has called me to serve His people; to serve the local body of Christ with the Word of God and love. We know what awaits us is life–long friendships, exciting gospel growth, fruitful ministry partnership with an amazing staff team, … all for the glory of God. God is up to something that is for sure. Whatever he perceives, He is also participating in. God is in this!
Church family, we cannot thank you enough for your prayers, encouragements, and offers to help. It has been such a blessing. I have truly seen Christ at work in the people of Eastwood. It is a true family. Know that we are consistently praying for you as well. We have an enemy that hates what God is doing. He is relentless in his pursuit to disrupt and kill.
He is always scheming and prowling. (1 Peter 5:8). I pray that our God would crush any attack of the enemy on His church and His people.
We have exciting and mighty work ahead of us to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus in Haughton, Bossier City, Louisiana, United States, and the world. This is our mandate. (Acts 1:8). I pray that we will have just enough faith to trust Jesus in the God–sized effort and hop over the side of the boat and get going. (Matthew 28:16–20). Can’t wait to see you!
Senior Pastor – firstname.lastname@example.org