"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." - Isaiah 41:10With everything that is going on in our personal lives, in our nation and world, and among us at church, it's so good to know that we can absolutely trust God to lead us into His future.
God leads us through His Word as we share it together with others who are also desperate enough to need Him.
It's time for us to deepen our study and reading of God's Word together. In my council report (reproduced here after the devotion below) I make reference to a specific Bible study that I am distributing to people at our church -- "Rightly Explaining the Word of Truth: A Bible Study on the Authority and Interpretation of Scripture." Copies are available from the church office.
In the meantime, here is a scriptural meditation from The Power of a Praying Woman that will be printed in the November issue of the Parish Pulse newsletter. It came from a church council member’s devotion at the October council meeting,
When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed---------
Read and Consider Numbers 11:10-17"I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone." (Numbers 11:17)Have you ever been asked to take on a job that you knew was much too big or too difficult for you, possibly one that did not involve any kind of tangible reward?
Perhaps it’s a volunteer position at a church or in your community, or you may have even found yourself in the position of raising someone else’s child.
The Israelites were wallowing in the darkness of bitterness, casting blame upon God and His chosen leader. Instead of choosing to see God’s hand in the moment, they blamed Moses and God for everything that disappointed them. As a result, their suffering was prolonged.
There is a crucial difference between the complaining that the Israelites did in the desert and the complaints Moses expressed: The people groused to one another, but Moses took his concerns to the only One who could do something about them – God.
As a result of Moses’ plea for help, God promised to send additional leaders who would help Moses carry the burden of the needs of the people.
Never hesitate to take your troubles to God when you are feeling overwhelmed; He has promised that you do not have to carry them alone.
God, I lift up to You the areas of my life that are overwhelming and burdensome. I have not come to You to complain, but rather to seek Your help. Where I have tried to handle everything in my own strength instead of depending on You, I ask Your forgiveness. I pray You will take each burden of my heart and enable me to rise above every challenging situation in my life. In Jesus’ name we pray.
What follows is from my report given at the council meeting when that devotion was shared. One good thing that times of stress can bring to us is a deepened dependence on God and His Word. Even stress in our church body can lead us to depend on God more. That can be a very good thing.
From Pastor’s Report to the church council, October 20, 2009I hope everyone will take time to study the Word of God together with others. As we learn the Word of God--centered in Jesus, proclaimed to sinners for salvation, and written in the Bible--as we learn the Word of God together God will be with us and we do not need to be afraid.
...Those of us who have been profoundly troubled by the ELCA’s churchwide assembly actions are continuing to work through our feelings and discern the path ahead. God’s Word is a light to our path – God’s Word shines especially and most clearly in Jesus. He is the Word of God—the Word of God alive and crucified and risen from the dead. It is in Jesus Christ that we know God most clearly, so whatever we do in relation to our church needs to be done in the spirit of Jesus’ love. I find myself closely allied with Lutheran CORE in terms of CORE’s teaching, including the brief summary of that teaching that we find in the “Common Confession” which you have already seen. I have recommended that our congregation adopt the Common Confession and join Lutheran CORE “as a sign of solidarity with the many who are dismayed at the ELCA’s move away from Biblical teachings.” I have not made any further recommendations. I hope we can stay together as a congregation as we learn and pray. At the time I made that recommendation, CORE was “a confessing and confessional movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, … seek[ing] reform of our church according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.” At CORE’s Convocation in September the CORE changed from the “COalition for REform” to the “COalition for REnewal” and voted to create “a free-standing synod for all faithful Lutherans” and to work with “other compatible churchly organizations leading toward a possible reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism.” I, and other ELCA pastors are working through what all this means. Some of us know right now what we ought to do. Others are weighing options. I am in the latter group. Personally, I am in a period of discernment. I am consulting other pastors who I trust in terms of their faithfulness to God’s Word in Jesus, in law and gospel, and in the Scriptures. I recommend that the congregation likewise take time for consideration. This does not mean doing nothing! Time for consideration means doing some homework, looking at options, and praying for one another in love. As a part of that consideration I would like the people of our church to use the Bible study guide “Rightly Explaining the Word of Truth: A Bible Study on the Authority and Interpretation of Scripture.” I will have copies of this available ... This was written and edited by pastors associated with Lutheran CORE in 2007, before the current kerfuffle. I plan to do this study myself, with as many people from our church as we can convince to do it. Others may choose to study it on their own or with their own groups.