Friday, June 19, 2015

There Is None Righteous . . .

We’ve just experienced another senseless killing, this time in Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, it’s not the first, and it won’t be the last. Some blame this shooting on race and others bemoan the ease of obtaining a gun in the United States. We’ll always have some tool available for the taking of a person’s life, so it’s not about the weapon of choice. I’m not even going to try to deal with that.

Racial issues are another story. At the root of racial issues is hatred. So it’s not simply about race. It’s about something deep within man. I would call it the evil that exists within all of us. One of the themes we keep hearing from parents of those who are committing these crimes is that he/she was a good boy/girl. They seem to refuse to believe that their child could commit such a crime.

Guess what? Every teacher or worker with children who also deals with parents has heard this same line many times over. When a child gets in trouble at school or on the bus, a parent may say, “My child just wouldn’t do that!” So, let’s face it. The Bible has it right. When the Bible says, “There is none righteous, no not one,” (Romans 3:10) it’s something to which we should pay attention. When Paul writes in Romans that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) we should learn that, at the core of all of us, there is an evil that drives us to anger and hatred. The tools are multitude: cars, baseball bats, knives, razor blades, bombs, and guns—to name a few.

How do we deal with such evil? On a grand scale, we go to war. Our nation has fought in a few, and we are currently engaged in a war with ISIS and terrorism. We can bomb until we run out of bombs, but that won’t end it. On a lesser scale, we pass laws, rules, and regulations, put people in jail, or execute them. But they just keep coming.

Many will have issues with what I am about to write. So be it. But for me, the only answer that I find acceptable is to embrace the teachings of Christ. We need a moral code that works and I believe the one Jesus teaches works. When asked what the two most important commandments were he chose to sum all of the commandments up in just two. Love God and love others. Can anyone deny that if we all did that, we’d solve this problem of hatred and killing?

There’s a problem, though. I can’t do that. I can’t keep them because there is already anger and hatred in my heart. I’m flawed. Big time! I sometimes get angry when someone cuts me off. My grown children can attest to the fact that I certainly expressed anger more than once when they were growing up. How in the world did Jesus expect us to keep those two commandments? By a changed heart. What I can’t do the Spirit of God can do in me.

Not everyone who says they are Christians behave as one. But those that truly follow Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle are most likely to demonstrate that by loving God and loving others. I’m praying that many will find their hope in Jesus and follow his commands to love God and love others. It’s the only hope for hatred and violence in our world. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Are We There Yet? Not Quite.

I think I could write a book on the nuts and bolts of church planting, and I haven’t even planted a church yet. It’s not as simple as a lot of people think. For me, it began with mission trips that were used by the Holy Spirit as he poked tenderly at my heart. Then there was the burden for a couple of communities that God placed on my heart. Finally, the day came when I knew my Heavenly Father was calling me to be a church planter.

The process from that point forward seems to take a lot of time. First, there was the sharing of my call to church planting with state denominational people who have responsibility for coordinating church plants and planters in our state. Then there were the forms and surveys that I needed to take to gain denominational approval. Finally, there was the interview process to determine if my wife and I would be approved as church planters. From the time I originally answered God’s call on my life to that point I continued to serve as pastor of a great church and burned up about five months of time. At my age (I’m 63 years-old) time goes by quickly, but it seems like a long time when I look back at it.

Then there was the announcement to my church family, followed by my resignation a few weeks later. We used that time to try to prepare documents to use in enlisting supporting partners for our new church plant, and I developed a “plant plan.” We made several trips to East Alton, Illinois to expand on early vision tours, and also looked for a place to live. When we couldn’t find a place to rent God showed us a house and we were able to purchase it. In the meantime we were trying to locate free boxes to use for packing up our goods.

We closed on the house three weeks ago and began the process of moving. In all the moves I have made in ministry I have been fortunate to have churches who paid for professional movers or who sent people to help us pack. On the other end, the church to which we were called willingly labored to help us unpack.

Not so with this move. Because we are planting a church that, as of yet, doesn’t exist, we had help in loading the truck, but no church family on the other end to help us unload. Thankfully, family came to the rescue. They not only worked to clean and paint our new home, but they helped us unload.

We are in our new house and you’d think we are ready to plant our new church. We are—and we aren’t. After we unloaded the truck we went back to load to vans and a utility trailer. This week we rented another truck to move the rest of our belongings. It took four vanloads, two utility trailer loads, and two truckloads to get all of our possessions moved.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m not. God has provided miracles for us all along the church planting journey to date. I’m just saying: it takes a lot more time to get there than you might think. We originally thought we would be moving around the first of the year. Then the goal moved to April and the first interest group meeting May 1. Now it’s June and we’re still in the moving process. But I know that soon we will begin the actual process of planting a new church. I’m still just as excited as when God first called me to this new ministry.

Maybe the title of the book should be The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting Before You Even Get There.

Join us in prayer as we continue to make this journey.