United Church of God

Letter From Lewis VanAusdle - May 19, 2023

Letter From Lewis VanAusdle

May 19, 2023

Letter to the Congregations: 20th May 2023

Our Dear Brethren,

The individual pieces of the dry straw stuck my hands and knees as I continued to crawl. I could see nothing around me in any direction. The further I crawled the more lost I felt and the more my eyes began to water. It was the middle of the night and somehow I had found myself crawling through an unfamiliar pathway through bales of hay in an unlit barn in rural Washington. A thousand thoughts were going through my mind ... "Where are we going? Is it safe to be here? Are the bales of hay going to collapse around us, and how quickly can we escape if they did?" ... but I remained silent.

Since that time there have been moments when I've felt like I couldn't see the way ahead of me. Times when I was in the lead and others followed. Times when others were guiding me along. Times when I was by myself but still had to keep moving forward. In at least some of those situations I found myself feeling lost and like I had to endure on my own completely.

Before ascending up to the top of Mount Nebo to view the land he would not have the chance to inherit, Moses stood before the nation of Israel. He laid out the expectations that their God had for them as they continued forward. He laid out for them the choice between "life and good, death and evil" and reminded them of the blessings that would come with the choice of life. Moses also reminded the people that the ultimate key to their success was the fact that it was God who walked with them. "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Of course, then Moses looked over at Joshua who would soon be taking the reins of leadership. He pulled the relatively young man up in front of the crowd of people so everyone could see him. Joshua would especially need to remember who was really in the lead if he was to inspire God's people. Moses spoke directly to Joshua in front of the entire nation. "Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

At a certain point in my life I learned that I could pray to God and ask Him for courage and guidance. I still periodically have to relearn that lesson whenever I try to stand on my own or head in my own direction. The last ten days before Pentecost remind me of the times in my life when I've needed courage. Jesus had stayed with them and taught them for forty days before finally ascending to sit at the right hand of His Father. As they saw Him ascend, the men stood there silently watching as if they thought they would never see Christ again. God sent two angels to shake them out of this aimless gaze and remind them that He would in fact return. This was the push they needed to refocus themselves and prepare for the work ahead.

I was obviously fine after that night crawl through the dark barn, but do you ever find yourself standing in the dark, afraid to move forward, not knowing what is ahead and where you are to go? Do you ever find yourself thinking that you are alone on a long journey and suddenly it feels very dark around you? Do you need someone to pull you aside and remind you of the fact that it is your God who goes before you? Do we, as His people, understand that He is there for us at all times? Does this fact actually give us the courage we need to move onward and to grow? Or are we still standing in the darkness in silence thinking that we are on our own?

Our love is with you,

Lewis VanAusdle

Pastor, United Church of God

NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe