Dear Emmanuel Family,
Like some of you, I’m trying to get through my reading of the Bible in a year. What’s left for you ? For me, what’s left are half of Jeremiah, all of Ezekiel, Daniel, and a couple of the minor prophets. Boy, did I ever leave some of the hard stuff for last !
Jeremiah’s stories and prophecies can sometimes kind of get you down ! I’m eager to return to the Psalms and the Gospels ! But here’s a verse that jumped out at me this morning and made me think of you and of myself :
God says, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord.” (Jeremiah 24:7).
I prayed for you and for the entire Emmanuel church family along the lines of this verse : “Lord, give us a heart to know You !” I find it refreshing that God gives such a heart. We can pray this for ourselves and for others.
In this time of transition at Emmanuel, there are going to be some bumps, some worries, and some changes along the way. It can actually be, I think, a good opportunity to examine who we really are. Along with identifying all the positives at Emmanuel (which are fairly easily to recognize), we will have an opportunity to address what some of our needs and shortcomings are. There will be opportunity to re-set vision for the future. As we do so, we will also be better able to identify the man who will serve as the next Senior Pastor. For all of this, however, we will need hearts that know and love the Lord ! Would you pray that simple prayer with me ?
Other helps …
… God’s Guidance
Another help to me this week, as I’ve been considering Emmanuel’s future and my own future, has been reading Elisabeth Elliot’s book, God’s Guidance : Finding His Will for Your Life. In that book, she asks what one thing she can do today that will help move her towards a decision she needs to make further down the line. Here’s exactly how she puts it :
I like to picture the Lord handing me a platter at the beginning of each new day. On it are the things he has chosen as best for me, and my prayer for daily bread is answered. My part is to receive whatever he gives. Guidance for a decision that need not be final until next Wednesday may require one small move or commitment today. I accept that and act on it without haggling with God because he has not yet granted me all the information I’m itching for. Perhaps patience is his gift of bread for today, or quietness, or the gift of uncertainty, that I may rest in his love, confident that when the time is ripe, the guidance will be clear.
I really like that idea of “one small move or commitment today.” If I’m uncertain about some future decision, what is the “one small move” God is saying I can make today that will set me up to be ready for the bigger decision down the road ?
What’s the “one small move” you can make today that will help Emmanuel toward our decision of calling a new Senior Pastor ? … and toward being a stronger church and lighthouse to our community in the future ?
… Concert of Prayer
I was personally strengthened by (and received considerable positive feedback from) our Concert of Prayer last Sunday morning. In particular, I was moved by the few who joined me over the course of the morning in prayers of confession. I sensed that those few people were ones who were truly freed up, then, to pray with power and energy ! Why is confession so hard for us ? Yet, it’s necessary, … and commanded by the Lord. Confessing our sins to one another helps remind us that we’re human (!) – most of the time others share struggles similar to ours. God’s grace can be communicated through that person you share your confession with. It was a reminder to me of how powerfully the Lord could use us – individually and as a church – if we would keep honest and short accounts of our sins. We’ll have another Concert of Prayer on the first Sunday of the New Year, January 4.
Pride is a sin I’m frequently aware of in my own life and, yes, even in our church. The temptation to pride is both subtle and powerful. John Wesley said, “All pride is idolatry.” Wow ! Do we need to begin by confessing our misplaced belief that through our own efforts we can make something happen for the Lord ? On the contrary, it’s only through our humility and brokenness – death to self – that God will work !
I’ve been listening to a song today called “Good-Bye To Me.” (This is a Christian version, sung by Damaris Carbaugh. I think Willie Nelson also has a song by this title, but it’s probably about something other than death to self and living for Christ !) The words go something like this :
Sometimes it’s hard to understand the reasons why — isn’t there some way I can save a piece of me ?
Isn’t there somehow you can take this cup from me ?
Lord, I hear you whispering that this is how it has to be,
But, my God, it’s awfully hard to say goodbye to me.
Hold me close as I say goodbye to me ;
Let my heart know that you are all I need.
I’ll stay right here on my knees
Until I have the strength to say goodbye to me.
‘Cause I’m tired of living somewhere in between my love for you and my love for me.
So take whatever’s left of me – I sacrifice it, Lord, to Thee.
Coming Up at Emmanuel
Men’s Study & Fellowship : Our new men’s Sunday night group will meet this Sunday at the church from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. I’m really excited about this group and the potential it has to meet needs among our Emmanuel men. I hope you’ll come, as Pastor Jeff and his team lead us in some fellowship (i.e., pizza), prayer, and an informal study in 1 John 1:1-4. Come get in on the ground floor of this new group !
Staff Meeting : All ministry leaders are asked to be present at our Staff meeting, this coming Monday, December 8, at 6 pm at the church. There will be important information shared on the upcoming pastoral search process and other ministry initiatives for the spring. We will need your presence at the meeting.
Congregational Meetings : December 14, and January 4, after worship. On December 14th, we will vote on the 2015 church budget. A copy of the proposed budget is available now at the back of the auditorium at church.
Christmas Eve Open House : On the 24th, the church will be open from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm for warm worship and time to visit and fellowship. We will worship together at 10:30, 1:00, and 4:30, through the reading of Scripture, including the Book of Ruth and selected Christmas passages. We need some volunteer readers ! Would you be willing to sign up at the back of the church auditorium ? Anyone of any age who reads well is welcome ! Also, we will need volunteers to bring Christmas cookies that day ! Thank you !
Volunteer Appreciation Sunday : On January 4, following the congregational meeting, we will have a catered meal at the church (you won’t have to bring anything, for a change !), and Jeff and I will lead the church family in a time of recognition, thanksgiving, and appreciation for everyone who has served at Emmanuel in 2013. I especially hope you’ll be present for this uplifting time.
See you this Sunday. We will begin our Advent series in the Book of Ruth – “A Christmas Love Story.” On the dark background of the Book of Judges, God writes a tremendous love story. Events in the Book of Ruth take place in Bethlehem and foreshadow the coming of the one who is our Redeemer. Your appreciation for God’s love will grow tremendously through the time we’ll spend in this book. And, you and your family will better understand the reason we have for celebrating this season of the year. This Sunday : “Ruth’s Decision,” from Ruth chapter 1.
See you then !