Hello friends & family !
Some of you who receive this midweek email may not be aware of my recent decision to resign as Senior Pastor at Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church, and others of you weren’t present two Sundays ago when I made the announcement to the church. I want to tell you a little bit more about all that in this email. Thank you for your prayers, support, and understanding.
A statement I read today in an old book caught my attention as being a truth I’ve perhaps forgotten over the course of the past couple years or so.
The statement was made in the context of the story in Genesis where Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Do you remember the story ? It’s in Genesis 24. Eliezer took along ten camels (ten, think of it !) loaded down with treasure that belonged to Abraham as a demonstration to the hoped-for fiancée of Isaac’s ability to care for and love his new wife. Eliezer, the servant, prayed specifically for God’s guidance in the discovery of the young woman to be chosen. He met her – Rebekah – at a well where she demonstrated some positive character traits of her own by offering to draw water for Eliezer’s caravan (a lot of work for one young woman). When Rebekah came to understand the nature of Eliezer’s mission, and the tremendous outpouring of affection and commitment made by Isaac (as demonstrated by the gold and silver brought to her) she hurried to tell her family about this amazing man whom she had never seen but who had now impressed her so profoundly. Later, after having discussed the marriage proposal with her family, she began a long journey back to Isaac’s country to meet her new bridegroom.
M.R. DeHaan, in his book Adventures in Faith, likens Isaac to the Lord Jesus Christ, and Eliezer to the Holy Spirit who comes to tell people about the loving Bridegroom of our souls. We, like Rebekah, have responded to the divine messenger and are now making a journey to a land we’ve never before seen where we will met our never-before-seen Savior.
DeHaan writes : “She had never seen Isaac. She had never met Eliezer before. But … she is willing to take the evidence which she saw in the treasures revealed to her and in the authority of his word, and to go with him into a country which she had never before seen. Eliezer had come thoroughly prepared with ten camels supplied with treasures … and everything which was needful for the journey. All Rebekah had to do was listen to him, follow instructions, stay close by him, and do his bidding and his will. After all, the most carefree life is the Christian life. We can cast all our burdens upon Christ and depend upon the leading of the Holy Spirit to see us through to the end, for ‘he that has begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).’”
It’s that sentence about the Christian life being the most carefree life that caught my attention today. Not carefree in the sense that there are no cares. Certainly, there are loads of care in life … including chronic illness, family difficulties, financial pressures, and enormous losses. Some Christians in the world are suffering horrible personal loss today simply because they are Christians.
Not carefree in the sense that we have no responsibilities in life. Just the opposite – we are part of an ongoing, worldwide spiritual battle between good and evil. We should be engaged to the fullest in leading many people out of darkness into the light and love of God’s Son.
The Christian life is carefree in the sense that the Lord himself journeys with us through the Holy Spirit who along the way supplies us with the Lord’s treasure and tells us about all that awaits us when we get to the home the Lord has prepared for us. As we listen to him, follow his instructions, stay close by him, and do his will, we can cast our burdens upon him and know he will see us through to the end.
I can honestly say that my experience as a Christian has been that kind of “carefree” experience. I’ve certainly known my share of surprises and some suffering along the way – the loss of my biological mother early in life ; the loss of an infant baby ; the theft of all our belongings ; separation from home and family for a time ; the unexpected loss of the love of my life and my ministry partner. Yet, along the way, the Lord has poured out his treasures – comfort, heart-change, knowledge of eternal issues, friends, God’s family, hope, peace, laughter, the awesome forgiveness of sin, the assurance that heaven is my destination, and opportunities to serve this One I’ve never yet seen face to face.
The past twenty-nine years of my life (including the past fourteen at Emmanuel) have been part of a call God gave Diana and me together … going back all the way to January 1985 when it became clear that each of us was the missing piece of the other’s desire to serve the Lord fully in life. Now, with Diana gone, I’m not the same person I was when I came to Emmanuel in July 2000. It’s hard, after six years of caring for her and about 18 months of grief work and some depression just to “pick up where I left off.” I miss her involvement in our church. I recognize how many times, when I was trying to cast a vision for the church, that she was behind the scenes talking up that vision, getting people on board (especially other women), and praying ! She had a huge capacity for relationships and was, herself, a person of vision and faith.
There is within me now a need to discover the new call from God which is especially my calling – unique to who I am now. I don’t know specifically what that calling is yet, but I feel good about having had a part in planting a new church in Hermann – one that is vibrant and biblically literate and growing, one with a good future and which should attract a gifted shepherd to join Pastor Jeff in leading it to the next step.
I know that an important part of my next step is giving my family the attention and care it needs. I had never anticipated being the single parent of all our children, five of which are still between the ages of 10 and 20. This is a big piece of my immediate future, one I’m still learning a lot about. God will clarify other aspects of my next step, I feel sure. He’s asking me to trust him, and I’m sure he wants you to do the same. Hasn’t he shown us enough of his treasure that we should have the courage to trust him ?
My resignation as Senior Pastor at Emmanuel will take effect January 1, 2015, and the Elder Board of the church has accepted to let me serve as Interim Pastor, on a month-to-month basis, through the end of the school year (May 2015) or until the church finds a new Senior Pastor, whichever comes first. You can help in a number of ways :
1. Participate in the process our Nominating Committee has set in motion for the selection of church officers for 2015. A vibrant Elder Board and Steward Committee will be important to the church during the upcoming time of searching for, transitioning to, and welcoming a new Senior Pastor at Emmanuel. Please consider seriously and prayerfully the Nominating Committee’s request for your input into those nominations.
2. Please pray for vision for the church and its leadership. God has given us great vision in the past – a functional, attractive facility ; vibrant women’s ministry ; energetic, participatory worship on Sunday mornings ; outreach to young people and their families in Hermann. What’s the next step for ministry at Emmanuel ? How do we want to prioritize our spending ? What should be motivating our giving, our prayers, and our time ? Without a clearly articulated vision, we can probably muddle through, … but we will not be all God would delight for us to be in this community and beyond.
3. Stay connected. Sticky Groups, one-on-one discipleship, and Sunday worship are still key in everyone’s life. We will never lose the need for these basics, and when we start to feel like those are optional, we will encounter difficulties – difficulty resisting temptation, loss of passion, broken marriages and families. Without connection, without abiding in Christ, life will be far less joyful and far more care-filled. Some of you are overdue to be leaders of Sticky Groups and leaders of discipleship. Time is passing by, and the Day of the Lord is approaching. Let’s make the most of our time and use some of the treasure God has poured into our own lives on the earth.
Specifically, as concerns prayer, please join several others at noon on Tuesdays at the church to prayer for Emmanuel’s people and ministries. We don’t have a specific agenda or timeframe for that Tuesday noon prayer … and we don’t do a lot of talking about prayer needs. Mostly, we just pray. It has become a special group I look forward to being with weekly.
Another group I’m looking forward to is our 201 adult class which I’ll be teaching on Sunday mornings in November. If you would like to be part of that class, “Discovering Spiritual Maturity,” plan on joining me at 9:00 starting November 2. We will have a lot of fun, and I look forward to genuine discussion about ways for really growing spiritually.
This coming Sunday during worship we’ll discuss a little more about the notion of decision-making and discerning God’s will and plans for us. This will follow up some on Pastor Jeff’s sermon last Sunday about Gideon and the fleeces Gideon used to try to discern what God was telling him ! In my notes today, I found the following “Seven Pitfalls in Seeking God’s Will & Making Decisions.” I don’t remember where they came from, but I find them thought-provoking.
unwillingness to think (Deuteronomy 32:29)
unwillingness to think ahead (Deuteronomy 32:29)
unwillingness to take advice (Proverbs 12:15)
unwillingness to suspect ourselves (i.e., our motives, our methods)
unwillingness to discount personal charisma (We are attracted to people, movements, and ideas because of their human magnetism, not necessarily because of God’s leading. “Test everything. Hold on to what is good” – 1 Thess 5:21.)
unwillingess to wait (“Wait on the Lord” – Psalm 37:7.)
unwillingness to exercise faith.
a word about my weekend and family
We were able to get away last weekend to visit Billy for the first time since he began studies at the College of the Ozarks, near Branson. Billy is doing well, and is busy with studies, piano, two choirs, and serving banquets at the college’s restaurant and conference center. He saw George W. Bush there one day while serving tables. The former President was in town, apparently, to visit his friend who owns Bass Pro Shops. Samuel, Billy, Evan, and I played several hours of racquetball over the course of two days. (I thought I was going to die ! I knew I was out of shape ; racquetball may not have been the place to start !) We spent time with my mom, Velma, who treated us to delicious homecooked meals ; we visited the cemetery where my dad and other family members are buried (he would have been 82 years old on Sunday) ; we spent time with my uncle and aunt, two Taney County mainstays ; we had time with my niece Lisa, her husband and my 3-year-old grandnephew ; we visited the family “ranch” east of Branson ; we even saw Emma, Jason, and Hudson for a few hours Saturday morning, as they were making a second visit for a prospective ministry position at First Evangelical Free Church of Springfield, Missouri. Bob & Janet Scheibe, former members at Emmanuel from several years ago, were in church with us on the C of O campus Sunday morning. The morning sermon was from Matthew 14 – Jesus walking on water. Three words of encouragement Jesus spoke to His disciples : “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
See you Sunday !