Derek’s Message: How Do You Seek God’s Guidance?

When I was asked to write a few devotional paragraphs for the FPC newsletter, the topic that I felt most strongly in my heart was guidance. Guidance is probably on my mind because I have been praying that God would guide me concerning the possibility of accepting a call to your congregation. But most importantly, what exactly is God guiding us or calling us to do in the rest of our lives?

Guidance is a very Biblical theme. It involves God’s love for us, God’s desire for us, prayer, listening, our own free will, and maybe most essential, God’s providence (which I have heard best described as God providing for us).

Abraham certainly relied on God’s guidance, in more ways than one. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus praying for guidance in Gethsemane. The entire book of Numbers reminds us that God is our guide (admittedly, it’s not the most compelling read). In the scriptures God and Jesus are frequently referred to as shepherds for humanity. A shepherd, if nothing else, most assuredly provides guidance and safety for the flock. In Psalm 32 we are reminded that God will instruct us and teach us the way we should go, that God will counsel us with God’s eye upon us. In the Old Testament there are nine separate Hebrew terms for guidance, and in the New Testament scriptures there are three Greek terms.

Guidance is seemingly everywhere in the Bible, but there still remains a problem. Guidance from God can be a difficult thing to feel and to interpret. It can be difficult to understand. If you are like me you have never heard God’s voice spoken out loud to you. I do not have clear dreams of knowing what God is guiding me to do. But perhaps you have felt God’s guidance in some other way. Perhaps you have had that stirring deep in your heart, and known that God was somehow speaking to you. Perhaps you have gained wisdom from a friend, and known that God was leading you or guiding you through that person.

Guidance sometimes seems hard to come by in our world. How do we seek out God’s guidance in our lives today? I spend a significant amount of time praying for guidance, and subsequently giving thanks for guidance. When we pray, do we spend as much time listening as we do appealing? May we be reminded that if we don’t always know what God may be guiding us to do, whatever we do should be done in the interest of loving the people and the world around us.

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  • Affirmations of Faith

    On the last Sunday of October, ‘Mission Sunday,’ many of you helped us pack more than two hundred bags for a local school food distribution program.  Those bags of food went out to local schoolchildren, who live in food insecure settings, to keep their bellies full. The food we provided has the potential to ensure the schoolchildren are more successful in life and in their education.  In worship we sometimes use the phrase ‘Affirmation of Faith’ and then repeat a longstanding confession of the church, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Brief Statement of Faith. I value reciting these affirmations, because they remind us of the core values we hold as Christians. But as I was thinking about this over the last few months, I believe that such mission work to the community around us is an even deeper affirmation of our faith by acknowledging Jesus’ call upon our lives, and then living out that ministry.

    I want to share information with you this month about another ministry which I believe is an affirmation of our faith. You have heard us talk about it quite a bit but may not know the details. For years now the Deacon’s Fund at First Presbyterian Church has provided financial assistance to those in our community facing immediate financial need that impacts their ability to live a healthy and productive life.

    There are social services around town, which provide supportive and meaningful resources, but there can be qualifications and restrictions associated with the access of those services. The Deacon’s Fund strives to offer judgment-free ministry to those who are facing financial challenges in life and helps people access these services.

    Barbara Troisi and Beth MacDonald are currently our two Deacon’s Fund facilitators.  They spend time each month looking at applications for assistance, and then distribute funds, which may involve multiple phone calls, trips to the store for Smith’s gift cards (useful for food or fuel), and various other tasks.  Prior to Beth and Barbara, other wonderful people contributed their efforts to this ministry: Linda Roberts, Tina Purintun, Kelly Rhea, Terry Brennand, Barbara Lutz (I am sure I have left a name or two off, please forgive me). Pam Riffe also makes contributions and supports people applying for these funds in her role as our office administrator.

    These are some of the ‘saints’ of the church. These are angels among us – superheroes, one might say – who make time in their lives to help others.

    The Deacon’s Fund recently received a large contribution from a couple in our community.  They are not part of our church, but they learned of our efforts to help local people through some friends who are church members.  They made this contribution to help those who are struggling to find sustainable and affordable housing. They wanted to make a significant contribution to help with housing issues and knew that First Presbyterian Church would be a wonderful avenue for those efforts. I am thankful for everyone who makes contributions to the Deacon’s Fund, small or large (most offerings to this ministry come in $10, $20, or $100 increments). Over the decades these dollars have helped hundreds of people in our community in moments of great need. This is truly part of the mission of the church, and one of the callings Jesus has placed upon us.

    Beth MacDonald is transitioning out of her role as a Deacon’s Fund facilitator at the end of the year (she will be plenty busy helping to organize and lead the Westminster Bell Choir). Thank you, Beth, for your efforts. This means we are looking for a new Deacon’s Fund coordinator to work alongside Barbara Troisi. If any of you would like to help, please let me know. If you have questions about this ministry, please talk to Beth, Barbara, or me. Beth has set up a nice spreadsheet to help keep track of funds received and funds dispersed. You don’t need to be a financial expert or math whiz to fill this role, only to have a caring heart.

    The ministry efforts of Mission Sunday and through the Deacon’s Fund are two of the wonderful aspects of First Presbyterian Church. Our calling as a faith community is certainly to worship and praise the Lord, but also to share the good news and make helpful, life-affirming contributions to the community and world around us. I pray that our ministry together continues to be vigorous.

    May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

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