‘How do I know what God wants me to do?’ Have you ever asked that question?

Sometimes the decision God wants us to make is obvious, but discerning his will is by no means always straight-forward. And that’s despite the gifts he’s given us as guides – including his holy scriptures containing the lived example of Jesus, the wisdom of fellow Christians and the 24-hour, seven-day helpline of prayer.

Of course, for these godly guides to be of the greatest help, we have to draw on them frequently – not just when that big, agonising decision confronts us. That would be the equivalent of consulting the manual only when an appliance malfunctions. And, of course, none of us has ever done that, have we?

While editing The Lutheran is a task that more than one editor has said is good for your prayer life, I know I could do much, much better when it comes to constantly talking with God and seeking his wisdom. I’ve certainly been guilty of waiting until the challenge becomes overwhelming before asking him what I should do and calling out for his help.

It’s also important to remember that, unlike the Israelites of old, we don’t need a go-between to talk with God. While we have the Bible, that doesn’t replace a personal relationship with him.

It’s like any close relationship – including a marriage or a treasured friendship. The more you talk with one another and, more importantly, the more you listen to one another, the more you take notice of how the other person speaks and behaves, the more you will be in tune with one another’s needs, hopes and desires. The more you spend time in one another’s company, the better you’ll know and understand the other person’s will – for you and for your relationship.

God certainly wants us to know him better and be closer to him. He longs to hold our hands and lead us when we have questions, need to make choices and are challenged by conundrums.

In the following pages, I pray that you’ll be challenged and encouraged by stories from our Lutheran family about discerning the will of God. There are miss-steps as well as immense blessings in the journeys the writers share. As usual, we are also privileged to share good news from around our LCANZ, along with our regular columns, resources and devotional materials. And, for our print subscribers, you’ll find a bonus free copy of Border Crossings from LCA International Mission inside (digital subscribers can head to https://lcamission.org.au and find a digital copy under the Resources tab).

God bless your reading,


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Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand

Sometimes, there are little words or phrases in the Bible that unfold the wonderful mystery of God’s gracious hand at work in our world and in our lives. There is a phrase like that in the Easter story.

In the resurrection account in Luke’s Gospel, we learn of two disciples walking to Emmaus. We are told specifically that Emmaus is ‘11 kilometres from Jerusalem’, but there doesn’t seem to be any explanation as to why that piece of information is relevant or significant. It is only when the Risen Lord reveals his real identity to these two disciples, that we discover the reason for highlighting the distance.

The scriptures tell us in Luke 24, ‘That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.’

What is ‘that same hour’? If you remember the words of the well-loved hymn ‘Abide with me’, which is based on this Emmaus story, then you will remember ‘fast falls the eventide’. It is evening time!

The Emmaus story begins with another kind of darkness. The two disciples felt hopeless, lost and in a dark place because their Lord had suffered and died on the cross. But they had heard rumours that the Lord had been seen alive. As they wondered, ‘What did all this mean?’ they met a stranger who walked with them along the 11 kilometres from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The disciples stopped for the meal with this ‘stranger’ – who we know is our Risen Lord Jesus – and they stopped because it was getting dark.

When he reveals his identity to them, they are filled with joy, then the two immediately return to Jerusalem in the dark of night. This was 2000 years ago when there were no streetlights, no paved roads, no mobile phones with a light to switch on. They went 11 kilometres in the dark with all the hazards that would have been well known to them.

What motivated them to undertake such a perilous journey? It was the good news. These two disciples are the first to hear from the Lord himself, the gospel of the forgiveness of sin that we have through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was what popular writer J.R.R. Tolkien describes as the good turning point in the story of Jesus, and, therefore, the good turning point of all human history.

We are told that the Lord said to them, ‘“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’

Then these two disciples travelled back the 11 kilometres from Emmaus to Jerusalem with a new purpose, full of hope and forever changed by this good news. They travelled this journey to share with the other disciples the good news of what they had experienced of the word and promise of the Risen Lord. As you join with sisters and brothers in Christ for this year’s Easter celebrations, may our Lord fill you with hope and joy to travel into whatever is ahead for you.

I once had a poster with the words, ‘If you really believed that Jesus rose from the dead, maybe you might want to shout it’. I pray that you have passion to boldly declare with Christian sisters and brothers of every time and place that wonderful Easter proclamation, ‘The Lord is risen indeed’. I pray together we would eagerly share with any who will listen, all that the Lord has made known for us.

Christ is risen!


(As a footnote to this meditation, I would like to express my personal thanksgiving for the many people who contributed to my recent installation service. God bless you.)

Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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by Linda Macqueen

Why don’t you say something?

Ever asked that question of God? Ever stood at a crossroads, waiting desperately for God to flip the coin for you? Ever begged him to write a message in the sky or, better still, send you a personally addressed letter outlining what you should do?

The question of guidance, of discerning God’s will for our lives, is one of the most frustrating and confusing that confronts us as Christians. Why are our earnest desires to know God’s will so often met with stony silence?

Before we talk about God’s apparent silence, let’s consider all the times when we remain silent. All the times we don’t actively seek God’s guidance.

If a decision is easy, is one we are happy to make, or is one in which we have nothing to lose, we’re usually happy to leave God out of it.

And when we’re faced with temptation, the last person we usually want to consult is God.

So, with many everyday questions, it is not God who is silent – but us.

Generally, we’re only concerned with seeking God’s guidance when we’re faced with decisions we’d prefer to file in the ‘too hard’ basket: those with lifelong ramifications, those which could make us look foolish or blow up in our face if we make the wrong choice, and those where it appears we can’t win either way.

In those instances, we turn to God and implore, ‘What do I do?’, expecting him to deliver an instant sky-written response to release us from responsibility.

When we do this, we’re treating God like a cosmic Santa Claus who delivers the goods as soon as we turn on the pleading whine. And we’re treating his guidance like a possession – something he owes us.

Now don’t get this wrong. God is not backward in coming forward with guidance. God loves to guide us. In fact, he’d love it if we allowed him to guide us all the time. But so often we treat guidance like we treat the kitchen tap. We expect to turn it on when we feel thirsty and get an instant thirst-quencher; the rest of the time it just sits there unnoticed.

Guidance is not a possession to be sought every once in a while. God’s idea of guidance is not that of a tap, but a mountain stream that constantly showers us with living water. He wants us to be refreshed by it, to frolic in it so that we know nothing else but his will.

The trouble is, we restrict God to guiding us only when we decide it’s good for us. All the other times God is saying something. He’s saying, ‘I love you. I want to talk to you. I want you to talk to me. I want you to experience the very best I have to give. I want you to know my will for you every moment, every day.’

It’s just a pity that we’re so busy searching for instant answers that we fail to hear his voice.

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by James Winderlich

Throughout our lives, God places us in many different relationships and roles. They are never just one thing. In some cases, they are not one thing forever.

Identifying and valuing our various life settings requires discernment. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognise them. At other times it can be difficult to appreciate them. We can even be tempted to believe that we deserve better, but God places us exactly where he wants us to be. Discernment leads us towards seeing, valuing and enacting our God-given roles.

Our roles can include being a follower of Jesus and a member of a Christian community, being someone’s daughter, son, or parent. It can include being a marriage partner, or an unmarried person. It can include being employed, or unemployed. Our life settings are where God places us to bear witness to him and to lovingly serve our neighbours. Vocations are what we do in those settings to witness and care. All of our roles and vocations have purpose irrespective of the status people give them. They are gifts from God.

As followers of Jesus one role is common to all of us. Living in faith and by faith is our shared life setting. That is why being part of a worshipping Christian community is so important.

Discerning the role that God calls us to begins with God’s word. As we read the scriptures, the Holy Spirit opens us up to recognise and appreciate where God places us and what God asks of us.

Role discernment also involves our lives together in Christian communities where our sense of internal calling is challenged and refined by Christian sisters and brothers. It is in community that we hear God’s word together, and are then able to help each other recognise and value our various callings.

Discernment also includes prayer. When we pray, we ask God for guidance, to provide what we need to witness and serve, and to thank God for the gift of our various life settings.

While Australian Lutheran College (ALC) focuses on the formation of pastors, teachers and church workers, we also support our students to give attention to their full range of callings. ALC also offers a learning program of intentional discernment called Discover. Discover helps people to recognise where God places them, and where God might be calling them to be.

Pastor James Winderlich is Australian Lutheran College Principal.

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by Lisa McIntosh

When Tom Krahling was about 12 or 13, he began to wonder whether God wanted him to become a pastor. So, he spoke to his parish pastor about it and received some surprising advice.

‘He told me to be like Jonah, to run away and that if God wanted me to do it, he’d send a big fish to swallow me up and spit me out’, Tom, pictured above right, says. ‘I went and asked some other pastors and other mentors and they thought that advice wasn’t bad, and so throughout high school, I spent my academics preparing to be an engineer and I spent my Sundays growing in the faith and preparing in that way.

‘At the end of the day, it comes down to the theology of vocation. What has God given me to do? How can I use those gifts to serve others?

‘I thought I would pursue engineering, and I worked at it as if working for the Lord. But when the opportunity came up at church to grow or to get experience, I would go for that as well.’

The sense he was meant to be a pastor didn’t leave Tom, despite putting his energies into engineering studies. And so, with COVID ramping up in 2020, he decided to take leave from university and ‘test the waters’ by enrolling in the Discover program at Australian Lutheran College (ALC) from the second semester. Now 21, he has since completed three semesters of Discover and has applied to enter pastoral ministry study.

In his second semester at ALC, Tom moved onto campus at North Adelaide – a move that helped crystalise his decision to pursue pastoral ministry. ‘It became pretty clear that this is what I wanted to be doing’, Tom says. ‘And the study confirmed that more and more.’

The two-part Discover program features academic study and personal formation, including a ministry placement. Tom’s placement was at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide, helping out with the youth group and livestreaming services there.

His own experience shows that the so-called ‘aha’ moment of discernment is ‘often a lot more mundane than people expect’. ‘Over the years I’d had an interest, I’d had encouragement from people, but the final moment was just that last person who said, “You know Tom, I think you should become a pastor”’, he says. ‘And she was not the first person to say this. She was maybe the 100th person – pastors and mentors and friends confirming the inner call, and that’s really what made me sure.

‘There is more than one good thing that you can do in life, and I felt like God was saying, “Tom, you can be an engineer and do good and I will work through you in that; you can be a pastor and do good and I’ll work through that. I’m giving this choice to you”. I chose to study to be an engineer, and he said, “Good choice, but try again”.’

Contact Australian Lutheran College at enquiries@alc.edu.au to learn more about Discover

Knitting together past and future: the new ALC – see page 27

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by Jonathan Krause

‘Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore’ (Jonah 2:10 MSG).

It started when the gearstick fell off my hotted-up Ford Falcon.

Then came the letter from the tax office saying that I was to be audited.

It ended with me leading a chapel service for 600 young people with a message entitled ‘Vomit’.

Along the way, I learned that my stubbornness was no match for God’s directness when he wanted me to discern his will.

You know how it is when you start out as a young family. You’re still in the relatively early days of your working life, so your salary is low. Young children to care for mean there’s only a single wage. Money is tight, so your house is modest, and your car is second, third or even fourth-hand. At least that’s how it was when I was at that stage of life.

Our car was an old Ford Falcon, with a great big motor you could hear grumbling two suburbs away. Bright yellow because it used to be a taxi.

Of course, having been a taxi it had done way more kilometres than what the salesman said, and so needed repairs every week or so. Still, it was a surprise when the gearstick broke off as I hunted for reverse. I tried a pair of pliers on the bit still sticking out to change gears, but I knew a hefty bill awaited me.

Meanwhile, the tax office decided the $3.50 I had claimed in deductions was worthy of an audit.

I was broke. Anxious. Desperate.

Then, two things happened.

A big charity called up and offered me a job on double my current salary – plus a brand-new shiny car. My prayers were answered! (Even though I hadn’t been bold enough to pray such a thing.) God is good!

Then, I received another phone call. This time it was a Lutheran school in Queensland. They invited me to come and be their chaplain for six months, while their current chaplain went on long service leave. All I needed to do was move my family from Melbourne, be a chaplain on top of my existing job and have no extra money to get us out of the hole we were in.

What to do?

The smart answer was obvious.

The charity job would sort out all my human problems straightaway. The chaplaincy job would shift me a million miles out of my comfort zone – I had no theological training and just two months of training as a teacher before I realised it was way too hard. And it would double my stress. And my big yellow Falcon would still be broken.

Nevertheless, as a good Lutheran boy, I thought I had better pray.

I was clever though. I did the Gideon thing and gave God a test that I was sure he would fail, meaning I could in good conscience go to the big-paying job with the lovely new car.

I prayed: ‘God, if you want me to be a chaplain, sort out my tax.’

You and I both know that no-one can beat the tax office, so I started planning what colour my shiny new car would be.

I prayed that prayer in the morning.

When I came home from work that afternoon, I opened the letterbox. There, I saw a letter from the tax office. Opened it. No audit. No problem – and a cheque big enough to fix the Falcon!

So, a week later I packed the car with the family and whatever possessions would fit inside and drove three days to Queensland.

That’s where the vomit comes in.

No, not out the window from car sickness … but because I felt like Jonah. I’d resisted God’s will for me, yet God had other plans.

While Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale, I spent three days in the belly of a Falcon. Then we both got vomited up on a beach, where God could use us to share his good news, in places we neither planned nor wanted to be.

So, of course, my first chapel devotion had to be called, simply, ‘Vomit’.

Each day of those six months in Queensland as a chaplain was a challenge. I was pushed way beyond anything I could humanly do. In truth, probably the school was too – I had hair down to my waist, delivered the Year 10 Christian Studies sex education class using the Meatloaf song ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, and taught marketing principles to Year 12 students as we discussed effective evangelism.

Still, we know God uses the least likely and most under-qualified to do his work. All you and I are called to do is plant the seeds and marvel as God does the growing.

And if you don’t/won’t/can’t hear his call or discern his will for you, then make sure you watch out for your tax return … and be very careful when you’re changing gears!

Currently Australian Lutheran World Service’s Community Action Manager, Jonathan Krause has discerned God’s will for his life as a teaching, and fiction and sociology student, a writer of greeting card poems and devotion books, and various other roles in print communications, and in fundraising and marketing – oh, and of course, as a college chaplain.

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What is the most effective and most faithful way to discern God’s will for our lives? We asked Audrey*, who serves with Wycliffe Bible Translators in partnership with LCA International Mission, to share her journey. 

Taking steps of faith

For me, discerning God’s will has been a step-by-step process. It has involved regularly being still before God, seeking him and being in his word, talking things through with trusted Christians and taking steps of faith without knowing the whole picture.

I moved to Asia at the beginning of 2020 to serve in Bible translation – but I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to go! The seed had been planted during short-term mission trips after high school. However, it wasn’t until I quit my job to study at Bible college that I started to see where God may be leading me. God provided different opportunities for me to test the waters in Bible translation and, as my counsellor reminded me, ‘God often guides a moving ship’.

During a mission trip in my first year at Bible college, I sensed that this was it – Bible translation was how I could serve. And so, I began the next steps to prepare. It wasn’t easy though, and was often costly, as I ended up doing five years of study and had to change the country I was hoping to serve in as that door closed along the way.

After testing some more options, I found a sense of peace about which country I would serve in and headed there full of excitement and nervous anticipation! The first few weeks were intense as I met team members, set up a home with strangers and started language school. But I had such a deep peace that this was where God wanted me.

However, just two months later I was on a plane back to Australia due to COVID restrictions, which is where I remain two years later.

Naturally, I am disappointed and have more questions than answers. I don’t doubt God was leading me, but it hasn’t turned out how I had hoped and that’s hard. In these times, I have learnt more about what it means to surrender and lament – ‘to take my complaints, anger, sufferings, frustrations and heartaches to God’. I have also had to rely on the body of Christ – people who walk alongside me, listen and gently encourage, and not just quote Bible verses to try to make me feel better!

I’m trusting that at some point, I will see how God has used this experience for my good and that of his kingdom. Sometimes it’s more about the deep transformative work he wants to do in us – rather than through us.

Even if we walk where we sense God is leading us, that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing. Obedience doesn’t guarantee success as the world sees it. We are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful, and to love God from the heart as our first priority, out of which obedience flows.

*Not her real name

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by Libby Krahling

The LCANZ Churchwide Simultaneous Art Exhibition is back for 2022! Following the success of last year’s ‘Living Water’ exhibition, LCA Visual Arts is holding its second annual exhibition series on the theme, ‘Free Indeed’, in August.

The idea behind the simultaneous exhibition is to encourage congregations, schools and aged-care facilities to hold art exhibitions in their local communities as a way of sharing the gospel. The LCA Visual Arts committee (pictured) helps by producing resources and publicity for all exhibitions.


In 2021, 15 exhibitions were held all around Australia, with artists ranging in age from four to 90-plus. This was an amazing effort, considering the challenges of COVID. Two exhibitions had to ‘shift’ online, and several others were cancelled or delayed. In South Australia, exhibitions were also registered with SALA, the South Australian Living Artists program, which publicises art exhibitions in local communities. This was a great outreach to the wider community.

Highlights from the 2021 exhibitions included excellent student work from Lutheran schools including Lakeside Lutheran College, Pakenham, in Victoria. There were some great collaborations between schools and local congregations, including Living Waters Lutheran College and Rockingham Mandurah congregation in Western Australia.

St Petri Nuriootpa in South Australia hosted an exhibition of work from more than 100 artists, ranging from students at Redeemer Lutheran Early Childhood Centre to residents of the Barossa Village Residency, and many local artists.


Artists in the exhibition shared their joy of expressing their faith through their work, and for many it was a relief to create something positive in a stressful time. Complete beginners took part, as did successful emerging and professional artists, and everyone in between.


So, the call is out for LCANZ artists and their communities to get involved in this year’s simultaneous exhibition! The theme is based on John 8:36, ‘If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed’ and exhibitions will be held in August. A resource pack with a devotion, Bible verses to explore, tips for getting started and other useful ideas is available. If you are interested in participating, please register your interest via the LCA Visual Arts website (http://visualarts.lca.org.au) or by emailing libby.krahling@lca.org.au

Libby Krahling is LCA Visual Arts Chair and exhibition organiser.


LCA Visual Arts is establishing a register of visual and textile artists, designers, craftspeople and architects who have an interest in liturgical art and design and who are willing to accept commissions from congregations or other LCANZ bodies. To apply to join the register, go to http://visualarts.lca.org.au

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