BY JEFF SHEARIER
Imagine the prophet Habakkuk, watching change happening right before his eyes. He can see the campfires of the approaching Babylonian army on the hillsides around Jerusalem. He chooses to have a word or two with God.
His first word with God is one that questions God. Does God see what is happening? Why does it seem that God is letting the Babylonians win—over against the people whom the LORD has said are precious in His sight? What is God’s plan to work His good even in this mess?
The LORD answers Habakkuk. By the way, it’s good to note that when God answers Habakkuk, He doesn’t say, “Who are you to question me?” It’s okay to ask God questions—serious questions. I recall the advice the pastor who supervised my internship told me: It’s good to ask questions…just don’t stop asking them until you find yourself at the foot of the cross.”
In a way, the LORD takes Habakkuk to the foot of the cross in Habakkuk 2. The LORD assures Habakkuk that He has a plan for a future time, but not a plan that can’t be known. As that plan unfolds, the one who trusts in the LORD—the one who believes His promises—will live. John would say it later, “…will have life in His (Jesus’) name.” Trust Me, the LORD says. I have a plan.
While the retirement of a pastor is really not comparable to the Babylonians camped on the hillsides, Habakkuk’s question—or ones like his question—might be on your mind right now. What is the LORD up to? Does He know what we need? These initial questions are inward-looking, but other questions like, “What is the LORD wanting us to do next,” might also be on your heart. The LORD’s answer is the same as the one to Habakkuk: Trust Me, I have a plan. In fact, the LORD already has Bethlehem’s next pastor in His sight.
Like Habakkuk, we live trusting the LORD as we walk through the unfolding of His plan.
There is a process the church—our church and the churches of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—follows. As you become more familiar with that process, you might wonder how it can possibly work. The process seems counter-intuitive to the way that the business world looks for leaders. The “call process” has yielded pastors and other church workers that have been blessings to the churches they served for a couple of centuries. The process and those involved in it trust the Holy Spirit to lead. Remember the LORD’s promise to Habakkuk: Trust Me, I have a plan.
That process began in earnest on January 21, when some of Bethlehem’s leaders and members met. We began by asking what the strengths of ministry at Bethlehem are—and also confronting the weaknesses—to seek what the opportunities lie ahead as we seek both the pastor and direction for the Lord’s work in this place. That discussion gave us an opportunity to remember Samuel’s words from 1 Samuel 7: “Up to here the LORD has helped us.”
The next step will be the selection and election of the Call Committee. This step will be taken in March at a Voters’ Meeting. If you have questions about this, please speak with Heather Cammack or Pastor Jeff. The days ahead might be a bit unsettling and they will be exciting as Bethlehem waits to see whom the LORD has in mind. Please keep all of this in prayer. Remember the LORD’s promise: Trust Me. I have a plan.
Joy in the journey,
Pastor Jeff Shearier