King Me

Israel seekingIn one of Moses’ final speeches Moses told the Israelites that when they entered the land a time would come where they would seek a king like all the nations around them. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) Moses then outlines what a godly king looks like and how he should behave.

About 300 years later, the time came. Israel faced oppressive military pressure from Philistia and the prophet Samuel’s sons were corrupt. (This didn’t stop Samuel trying to appoint them as successors.) No obvious unifying leadership was on the horizon. “So all the elders of Israel gathered together… They said to Samuel, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.

The problem here wasn’t that Israel wanted a king. The problem was that they never specified the type of king. Samuel then describes the character of the king he would appoint: someone ‘like the nations’. The tribal leaders willingly signed on for this leader. They could have said, but didn’t, “Uh uh, we want a king like Moses described. We want a godly king. We want a king who spends time each day studying the Torah.”

I suspect that we often underestimate our inner urge to tell God how to do his job. When desperation drives us to accept God’s will for our lives, we still attempt to negotiate our terms.

The tribal leaders had resisted giving up their power for centuries. Now, in the face of the system crashing down around them they decide a king is the answer. There’s no record that they wanted Samuel to seek God’s direction about appointing a king, or who to appoint as a king. Maybe it’s implied because Samuel was a prophet, but their words to Samuel were simply, “Give us a king.”

As I preached on this topic, Galatians 2:20 kept running through my head.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This sounds poetic and maybe you even here the melody of a popular christian song as you read it. The reality these words describe challenges our faith to the core. Our old selves don’t surrender without a fight.

We want what God offers, but we want it on our terms.

We want Christ’s church, but we want it to accommodate our preferences.

We want to do evangelism, but we want to do without getting uncomfortable.

We seek a king, but a we want a king that fits our definition.

May God forgive us. May God be gracious to us. May Christ reign within us.

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Life Throws Curve Balls

Moses seeking

Modern Western Civilization has gifted its citizens a vision of life. The model life consists of a series of smooth transitions from one milestone to the next. We progress through school, find our soulmate and at the right time start a family, launch a career that has us in a senior management by age 50, and then then retire comfortably to travel and spend time with grandchildren.

Thanks to this gift, many of us evaluate our lives and come away with a sense of failure. We don’t measure up.

We can’t measure up.

The gift is an optical illusion.

We often talk of life as a journey. More accurately, life is a series of journeys. These journeys seldom form a straight line. We don’t journey ‘as the bird flies’. Our journeys consist of obstacles, contours, and changes of direction. They’re erratic rather than linear.

Like Abraham, we often think of Moses as seeking a land. Like Abraham, he never possessed the land he spent so much time seeking.

But Moses’ life didn’t have a singular focus.

Bible students often divide Moses life into approximately 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and 40 years leading Israel. In the chart below I’ve divided his life into more stages based on the goal he pursued in each stage. Probably more stages could be added.

Moses Life chart 01

When you think of Moses, you may picture him at the burning bush, or before Pharaoh, or watching the Red Sea Part. You may picture Moses walking down Mt Sinai with the 10 Commandments, or smashing them over the golden calf. You might picture Moses as Charlton Heston, or as the cartoon Prince of Egypt. Most of us have an iconic image of Moses in our minds.

However, all those images capture Moses at a moment in time. Moses’ life resembles many of ours. There was no steady career/family/education curve toward success. Whatever our snapshot it doesn’t define his life as a whole. Moses never achieved what many would consider his life goal: entering the Promised Land. But Moses succeeded in reaching many of the intermediate goals he sought.

If your life doesn’t seem to be following the path you expect, toward the goals you’re seeking, don’t panic. Don’t compare your life to culture’s curve. Remember that Moses, the great man of God, continually change his life course and never reached his ultimate goal. It’s more likely that the problem is with your expectations than with you. Trust God and He’ll accompany you wherever your journey takes you.

I believe Moses’ famous words in Deuteronomy 31 speak of his personal experience of walking with God through so many different stages of life.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Moses

Seeking a New World

Abraham seekingThis year my church adopted the annual theme “What Are You Seeking?” Now that it’s September, I’m finally getting around to preaching on the theme, and thus also blogging on the theme.

Over the next few months I’ll be looking at Biblical “seekers”. This cast of characters all share a restless spirit of discontent. In some instances these people demonstrate a ‘holy discontent’. In other cases we’ll look at examples of people reaching for forbidden fruit.

The urge to seek, to keep moving forward, seems built into the core of human nature. From the beginning of Biblical history we find Adam and Eve seeking, and reaching, for more than they had… even when they had everything.

Hebrews 11:9-10 describes Abraham, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Verses 15-16 expand this thought, “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.”

It appears to me that the author of Hebrews is attributing some specific thoughts to Abraham that he may not have had. Concepts of life after death steadily evolve throughout the Bible. The quest for a heavenly country seems to come from a time period well after Abraham. However, Abraham’s motivation to leave Ur and travel to Canaan certainly reflects a greater desire to pursue God than material comfort. This urge for fellowship with God is what Hebrews commends.

At first glance, Abraham was obsessed with finding a new land. He left all that was familiar and traveled thousands of miles seeking it. While he traveled up and down the land of Canaan and saw all there was to see, the promised land never belonged to Abraham.

On one level, Abraham spent his life window shopping.

Over time, while Abraham was seeking a new country, he stumbled upon a new world. He discovered God’s world: Yahweh’s reality. Once he caught a glimpse of God he was hooked. He traveled up and down Canaan, not seeking a land, but faithfully pursuing the God who had revealed himself to Abraham.

Christians face the temptation to conclude our pursuit of God the moment we’re saved. Many of us find ourselves wrestling with the question, “I sought and found God. Now what?”

I believe the answer is to keep seeking God. Seeking is built into the core of human nature. Even when we accept our need of God’s presence in our lives, our quest to continue to grow into his image never ends.

We’re not seeking a country. We long for God.

We seek for earth to reflect heaven: a New World.

We seek for our lives to reflect God.

Or do we?

I wonder how often we say that we’re seeking, when really we’re wishing. Just as Abraham lived in tents waiting for his arrival at the city of God, seeking requires movement. Seeking requires action. Seeking God demands that we follow Jesus, that we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit.

Wishing, on the other hand, requires only that we we dream.

Dreaming works best when we’re still. Don’t move. Don’t look. Just sit… and wish.

As you consider your past 7 days, were you a seeker, or a dreamer?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ~ Jesus

The Best of 2017

2017 was not a great year for me as a blogger. Honestly, I lost motivation and went long stretches without writing anything. Perhaps you noticed. Probably, you didn’t.

Nonetheless, some people somewhere read some of the articles I scratched out. Thus, I present to you:

best of the best awardThe Most Read New Articles of 2017.

1. God’s Not a Conservative.

I confess that I cheated a bit on this title. It’s a little click-bait-ish. I try not to feature articles on politics, but this one may step into the swamp a little. My main angst is that many people treat “conservatism” as a wonderful value. Sure, it seems safe, but I’m not sure that safe is a goal, and certainly not Godly. It doesn’t mean that there’s no place for a conservative outlook on life, but it’s not the answer to a universal utopia.

2. Can I Measure Spiritual Maturity

This post from August gathered more “views per month” than any other new post in 2018. Too many people confuse the path to spiritual maturity with longevity. Church leaders often presume that people who’ve been in church the longest are the most mature. It takes guts to say to a 30 year church veteran, “You haven’t matured. You’re still a spiritual infant.” This difficulty arises, in part, because most people don’t have a clear idea of what spiritual maturity looks like in the lives of others, or themselves.

The next three articles on the list feature guest authors who were part of the Summer Blog Tour “Faith Unshackled”. You can read the entire collection of articles HERE.

3. Less Dogma – More Doing by Ryan Lassiter

4. Faith Unshackled: A Case Study by Ginger Moore

5. Your Shackles Have Names by John Dobbs

6. Why Self-Control is Deceptive

We all have a self-control problem because we all have a sin problem. Ultimately, sin occurs when self-control fails. Since the Bible repeatedly instructs Christians to exhibit self-control, we often experience guilt when we read those passages. We can all think of times when we’ve lost self-control and reading these passages amplifies our sense personal inadequacy. But what if “self-control” doesn’t mean what we think it does….?

7. Gentleness: Good or Bad?

Each family has its own set of virtues that the parents want to pass on to their children. Some might emphasise politeness, others might emphasise independence. God also gives his children lists of virtues for us to incorporate into our lives. Sometimes these virtues are at odds with our cultural values. How about gentleness? Is it an effeminate trait, or something we should work toward becoming?

Where’s God in My Family?

I’m no expert on parenting.

So it’s a good thing this post isn’t about parenting.

Rather, I want to address the question, “What makes a Christian family different from another family?

The primary distinctive of a Christian family (this may be any combination of husband, wife, children, siblings…) is that we’re all working toward clearly expressed shared goals. In theory, before we get to career goals, academic goals, or financial goals, we all share the goal of loving God and living for Him. We all share the goal of giving the Holy Spirit full rein in our lives.

GOAL 1: Make God’s Love a Priority

Christian families have a goal of incorporating God’s love into their family life. 1 John 4 (starting with v7) has a long description of God’s love. In fact, v16 states succinctly that “God is love.” So are we a loving family? Not just between ourselves, but do we encourage each other to love our neighbours? Do we encourage each other to love our enemies? Do we encourage each other to meet our neighbours? Not just because it’s polite, but because we’re all working to be like God.

A Christian family understands that love is more than just a feeling: it’s a decision and a commitment. One of Jesus’ most radical teachings is found in Luke 6 where he tells us to “love our enemies”. I suspect that when we read this we most often think of the Russians, or the Democrats, or the Muslims, or the Republicans… But sometimes the person who hates us, curses us, or mistreats us is closer to home. Sometimes they’re in our home. Because sometimes when we live in close proximity to each other, things are said and done that hurt.

But a family with God at its centre will continue to love and want what’s best for each other. It will work to restore an environment of security and intimacy.

GOAL 2: Pass on Your Faith

In Ephesians 6:4 the apostle Paul gives this direction to parents. He says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

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According to Paul, there’s a balance between guiding children into a relationship with God, and turning them away from God because we shove our faith down their throats. If you’re a parent you could go to Barnes and Noble right now and probably buy 15 different books of parenting tactics sure to raise a happier & healthier child. So I’m not going to tell us specific techniques. Rather, Scripture gives us goals, and whatever approaches we choose, we need to walk this path between exasperation and ambivalence.

I recently came across an article titled “40 Lessons We Sought To Teach Our Children”. It’s a list compiled by Dennis and Barbara Rainey who head up a major marriage and family ministry named Family Life. Now 40 is a lot of lessons, but I love the intentionality.

  • Most families want their kids to be polite. But Christian families want their children to love their neighbours.
  • Most families want to manage their money well. Christian families want to use our money to bring glory to God.
  • Most families want their kids to do well in school. Christian families also want their kids to learn about God, and to know God.
  • Most families reward good grades in school. Christian families also recognize biblical literacy as important.
  • Most families recognize the value of spending time together. Godly families recognize the value of spending time together with God.

REFLECTION

Where is God in Your Family? I know families that go on mission trips together rather than vacations. They still spend time together, but they get to live out their faith in tangible ways at the same time. Maybe that’s not feasible, but are there other opportunities to serve others together as a family?

There are so many virtues listed throughout Scripture it can appear overwhelming. There’s the Fruit of the Spirit, The 10 Commandments. The Beatitudes, Spiritual Armour. And they’re just the lists… I suggest you start with one. What’s one Godly attribute your family needs to work on? Write it down, stick it on the fridge, and discuss ways you can grow in that area. You can do this if you have kids, if it’s just you and your spouse, or if you live alone. Pick one, and start there.

kindness 01

It’s my prayer that if we’re asked, “Where’s God in My Family?” that it’s a simple question to answer. Not one that requires us to go scrounging through trashcans looking for evidence.

(Click HERE for some resources to incorporate kindness into your family life.)

Case Study 2: Killing Locusts

The final article in our Summer Blog Tour is written by Scott Johnson as he describes what it means for his church transition from a sedentary faith to an Unshackled Faith. I hope this story encourages you that transformation is possible. God still works when we take the risk to live with our Faith Unshackled.

Faith Unshackled 01

Change is terrifying. Whether its work, school, marriage, or grocery store layouts, change is never fun. When our congregation at Crosspointe Church of Christ faced the fact that we were a hospice church, a church on life support, and we had to move. Fast. Over 10 years our attendance had decreased by two-thirds.

Through a long, agonizing series of events, we begin to seek God’s direction. Where did He want us to move next? We had several congregational meetings that only gave us confirmation that things were bad. We either had to seek out a resurrection or pull the plug. There were no other options. Change had to come.

We had less than a month before we had a final meeting with the entire church to reveal what was next. Taking the church off life support was not an option. So we were relaunching. We were moving to a new mission. I was asked to craft it. I was hopeless. So I sat down to write.

I remember sitting at my kitchen table one night. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t pray. I was beyond frustrated and angry. As I watched the laptop cursor blink, as I stared into the white screen, I gave up. I quit. I stopped. I walked out.

pexels silhoutte night sky-LoRez

I went out onto the back porch and looked at the sky and begin talking to God. I told Him how tired I was. I told Him how discouraged and angry I had become. I told Him that I was sick of it. I told him I quit. And then I told Him that if He had any ideas, I’d love to know them.

And then I hit a watershed moment in my life. I said, “God, you’ve got to show up or Crosspointe isn’t going to make it. She’s your body. You created her. You know what you have in store for us. We give up. I give up. Please, give me your vision.”

I stood there in the silence for a while. And then it happened. God put something into my heart and brain that ignited a fire in my bones.

He brought this Scripture to mind:

“I will restore to you the year that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25a, ESV)

What God brought forth that night has completely re-forged Crosspointe. Sunday we had our first progress meeting since the relaunch one year ago. In that year I’ve seen our members step out in ways I never dreamed possible. I’ve seen more generosity, kindness, and boldness than I ever thought we’d muster. You can follow what this has looked like in the daily life of Crosspointe on my blog https://oldesoultheology.com/.

The years eaten away by the destroyer…have slowly begun to be restored.

Why?   How?

Faith.

God’s people at Crosspointe had the audacity to trust in the God who breathed out the stars… and step out onto the waves. We’re not there yet, but exercising our faith has grown it exponentially.

“We’re trusting, Lord. We know you’ll deliver us. We believe, but help our unbelief.”

Wherever you find yourself in your walk with God, ask the question: What is holding me back from completely trusting Him? What’s my obstacle? And then pray…and kick it right down. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

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Scott JohnsonScott has been on both sides of the fence: life without Jesus and life with Jesus. He wouldn’t go back for anything. As a former drug addict, he has a passion for sharing Jesus with the world. He graduated from Ohio Valley University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Texts. He has been in full-time ministry since 2007 and served two churches in that time. Scott is the Senior Minister at Crosspointe Church of Christ in Franklin, Ohio. He resides in Middletown, Ohio with his wife and their two children. He loves to play guitar, drink coffee, help people, and enjoy his family.

Faith: The Engine of God’s Creative Redemption

Faith Unshackled 01

Incarnation and Imitation

The incarnation revealed what is possible when a human moves in God’s will, and by God’s power. In Jesus, God acted, but also demonstrated what human action in the name of God looks like. “For I have set you an example, “Jesus says, “that you also should do as I have done to you”. Yes, this line’s context (John 13:15) is somewhat particular to his servant gesture of foot-washing, but the following discourse makes clear that this practice is barely the tip of the iceberg. Everything Jesus does and says is a demonstration of God’s work and will in the world, and the disciples are being invited to share in that way of being in the world. The point of the incarnation is to say, “This is what happens when divine action/being meets human action/being.”

Moments later, Jesus expresses to his disciples that they have perceived God’s will as revealed through Jesus’s words and actions, and have even had their status before God changed because of it: “The servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Jesus is revealing God’s will and work, and then inviting them to join into that same will and work, becoming fruitful by honoring his command to “love one another as I have loved you.” God is at work among humanity in the human form of Jesus, so that humanity might be able to learn how to work on behalf of God in the world.

What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

This is all well and good as a bunch of theological talk, but is still missing a critical piece: faith. This all occurs in its context in a crisis moment, and the disciples will forget their loyalty to Jesus before we can scarcely turn the page on the conversation. However, before their abandonment, we get a preview of what will come to pass after the resurrection. It is yet to be tested by the crucible, but we get a taste of the faith that will be solidified when the disciples witness his defeat of death. In John 16:30 we read the climatic confession, “we believe that you came from God”. That curiously-worded affirmation of faith is more central to John’s gospel than is easily recognized.

“We believe that you came from God” sounds like a basic thing to affirm about Jesus, but for John’s gospel it is the critical point. Everything up until chapter 12 has been constructed to demonstrate that Jesus is in fact the one sent from God. It’s a theme hiding in plain sight, captured in language like being “from God” or “from heaven”, or in Jesus’s talk about being “sent”. The fascinating turn of the fourth gospel is that it takes this basic affirmation of Jesus’s origin and uses it to launch the mission of the disciples. Just as the father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends his disciples (20:21), and when they are doing the will of God, they have access to the same divine power that Jesus put on display. What’s the connection between what Jesus did and what the sent disciples will do? Their faith.

In coming to believe that Jesus is from God, the disciples also come to believe his invitation to share in his divinely originating power and mission. They too become “from God” because now they are “from Jesus”. John tipped his hand early on that this was God’s work in Jesus: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) In the wake of the resurrection, the disciples can truly become brothers of Jesus, sharing the same Father and God (20:17).

Sent

The Victory of Faith

There’s an old church song, “Faith is the Victory” which draws its language from 1 John 5:4-5, “…this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The song implies that the victory is one that we, Christ’s disciples win over our enemies. However, the greater truth is that it is Jesus who becomes victorious over his enemies because of our faith. See, we may not have noticed the connection between this text (1 John 5) and John 16:33, where Jesus says to his disciples: “Take courage; I have conquered the world!”. Notice how the announcement is peculiarly located—Jesus proclaims his victory before the events of either the cross or the empty tomb. What has happened at this point that evokes this claim? It is the confession of faith from the disciples—this constitutes Jesus’s victory over the world!

Now that they believe—or perhaps better, now that they are coming to believe—Jesus has won a foothold in the world. God’s work will continue. The gospel embodied in him will be embodied in his disciples who now participate in his mission. Jesus, the Sent One, will become the sender, and the faith of his disciples will become a gateway for the power of God to work goodness in the world.

Our faith is much more powerful than we know. It is not just a vehicle for our comfort or empowerment. It is a vehicle for divine action. It is the connection point at which God’s people become partners by God’s Spirit, agents of God’s creative agenda in the world. Faith is the engine translating God’s will into human action and the restoration of God’s creation.

It is easy to underestimate our faith. I often perceive mine to be quite a weak thing—apparently much smaller than even a mustard seed. But in the hands of Jesus, even our broken faith creates enormous possibilities, and becomes a tool in God’s mission.

sound-waves 01a(If you would like to walk through a study of the “Sent” theme in John, consider the following texts in their context: 1:12-13, 3:2, 3:13, 3:17, 3:31-34, 4:34, 5:23-24, 5:36-38, 6:33, 6:46, 6:57, 7:27-29, 8:14-16, 8:23-26, 8:42, 9:4, 9:29-33, 10:36, 11:27, 12:44-45, 13:3, 14:24, 15:21, 16:27-30, 17:8, 18:36-37, 19:9, 20:21. This list is not exhaustive, and perhaps the better approach is to simply take a highlighter to a fresh copy of the gospel and mark each time the theme shows up. I assure you, you will not have to travel long between occurrences! I would love to say that the theme is plainly stated in literally every chapter of John, but alas, chapter 2 only yields 2:9, which I hold to be playful language on the theme—but I’ll let you decide for yourself.)

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Steven Hovater: Four kids. One wife. Seventeen hobbies. A coach’s whistle. Lots of thoughts about God and food. The spiritual gift of volume. Blogs at stevenhovater.com, and preaches in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Faith Unshackled: A Case Study

My husband, Mike walked down Maiden Alley toward the Ohio River with his young friend.  As he walked with his arm around twelve-year old DeShawn he asked, “DeShawn, when Jesus was on trial, Pilate kept asking if he was a King?  Jesus told him, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’, but finally admitted he is the King.  That’s what I’m going to ask you.  Do you believe Jesus is the King?”  DeShawn answered, “Yes, Mr. Mike. I do.”  They continued to walk down to the bank of the Ohio River.  About 40 people from The Rivers Church followed them.  

Mike and DeShawn stood right at the edge of the river and Mike asked the young man if he was ready for Jesus to be King of his life? This is a kid that only a year and a half before was so rude and disrespectful that he would often be sent home from our Tuesday night outreach ministry and here he stood in the Ohio River ready to put on Christ.  DeShawn came up out of that water to applause and tears from a church family that is a glimpse of what heaven is going to look like.   

Walking to the River Baptism

The Rivers Church began on Sunday, December 18th at 10:02 a.m. at Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah, Kentucky, a half block from where the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers converge.  From its outset, it has been our goal to be racially integrated, ethnically diverse, and outreach focused.  Nones, Dones, and the next generation are our targets.  Our ministry team spent time praying, talking, studying, and then praying some more about the vision for a church that could open doors for all people to hear the gospel in a post Christian culture.  

Why 10:02 a.m.?  Our gathering time is based on Luke 10:2- “…The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers.”  At The Rivers Church, we’ve based our lives on the truth of the gospel — we know that the gospel is the best message in town that everyone needs to hear but Christians have made it harder and harder for people to hear the message because we’ve often lost our focus.  We are convinced that if we go to where the people are, like Jesus said, and if we love them and love each other, then the gospel will do the rest.   

Only God could have assembled the ministry team at The Rivers Church.  This is what we’ve got- My husband Mike Moore is a trial attorney and was an elder for 5 years at an old established wealthy church. He also is a fantastic preacher. (I know I’m a little biased.)   

Tyrell Grant is a former rap producer drug dealer who became a Christian and quickly decided he wanted to be an evangelist.  He went to school and got a preaching degree.  His wife, Marquita is a preacher’s kid with an early childhood degree who leads our children’s ministry.   

Cornelius Edwards is a wonderfully gifted worship minister.  Before he joined our work he traveled from his home base in Atlanta all over the country to lead worship at special events. Check out his music on iTunes and YouTube.  His wife Soyini has an awesome voice as well and was willing to leave her job at CNN because she believed in this vision of what church could be. She has an innate sense as to what people need and ministers to many already!   

Lyle Sinkey is a former meth addict who is an outdoorsman and preacher.   He just finished up a contract with Duck Commander where he was a videographer.  He and his wife Kelly joined our team to minister in the areas of addiction recovery and marriage.   

Finally, there’s me, Ginger.  I’m a former homeschooling mom and wife who was raised going to church.   I lead our women’s ministry and make some pretty delicious communion bread. 

Rivers Church ministry team

The Rivers Church is a group of believers that are trying to live with our faith unshackled.  Only Cornelius is a paid staff member.  Soyini recently started her own business.  Lyle and Kelly are raising their support like U.S. missionaries.  Mike maintains a full law practice and I’m his office manager.  Tyrell and Marquita run a daycare and Tyrell is also a blogger/tech guy.   

We don’t have a building and it is our intention to never have one.  Our rent at the theatre annually is the equivalent of one month’s utility bills at our former church.  We’re trying to keep it simple.  We use Mike’s Law office for small group Bible studies offered to the community.  Tyrell and Marquita lead a small group in their home weekly.  We have an outreach ministry that ministers to low income at risk children that meets at a shelter at the park.  All of our gatherings are intergenerational.  Families serve together.  We’ve worshipped at the Farmer’s Market pavilion and will have worship this fall right at the river.    

Martin Luther King Jr. said this in Letter From Birmingham Jail, “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.  Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”    

Mr. King spoke truth in 1963 and it is even more true in 2017.  Young people don’t care what you know about Jesus until they see how you love like Jesus.  My teenaged daughters invited their seventeen year old friend to worship with us.  When worship was over, I asked her what she thought.  Her answer let me know that we are headed in the right direction.  She said with lots of excitement, “I love this!  At the end, I just felt like I needed to go around the room and hug everyone. You can feel the love.”   

I think we’re on the right path. 


Follow us on Social Media Contacts at:   

Facebook.com/TheRiversPaducah

Instagram: theriverschurch  

Website: www.theriverschurch.org 


Ginger Moore is a 47 year old reluctant church planter, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary.  She’s the mom of a 17 year old daughter and an 18 year old daughter who are so proud and excited to be a part of the work.  Her theme verse for the year has been 2 Timothy 2:13- “When we are faithless, he is faithful for he can not deny himself.”  God has been so very good and faithful as we have planted this church and he has brought the increase.

Gentleness: Good or Bad?

My daughter is about to complete her first year of gymnastics. Her coaches emphasise strength and discipline, but also grace, control and poise. When she correctly walks from one end of the beam to the other there’s a beauty and a gentleness to her movements. The final performance belies the falls, the awkwardness of failed handstands, and the hours of practice and conditioning.

gymnastThen there are the boys. From my observation, boys gymnastics training is quite different from the girls’. They are in continual motion. They fling themselves around apparatus with total abandon. The coaches I watch do a fantastic job of channeling the aggression and energy into exercises where it seems the boys almost don’t notice they’re training rather than playing.

At some point, the boys will learn grace, control and poise, but not today. Their routines emphasise strength and power rather than gentleness and beauty.

This dichotomy poses challenges for churches.

Jesus describes himself as gentle and humble in Matthew 11:29,

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Later, the apostle, Paul, would tell Christians in a church he knew well that Gentleness was a mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But who wants to be gentle? Who starts out in life saying, “I hope my legacy is one of gentleness.“?

I suspect most of us like people to be gentle toward us. We don’t appreciate anger, harsh criticism, or violence directed at us. But that doesn’t mean we aspire to gentleness ourselves. We want to climb mountains, overcome challenges, fling our bodies around with reckless abandon, and play sports to win.

How can churches hope to attract competitive, adventurous men and women if God’s goal is make them gentle?

Thankfully, this list of spiritual fruit isn’t exhaustive. The apostle Peter writing to a different audience includes a similar list.

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

This list seems to replace gentleness with perseverance. That seems like a trait all those gymnasts need, and all Christians need also.

Before you start thinking that I want to take Gentleness out of the Bible, let me assure you that’s not the case. For those of us who go through life hurling ourselves at obstacles always playing to win, then we need to know that God values gentleness.

Accomplishments are great. Achieving goals is admirable. But not at all costs. Gentleness reminds us of the humanity of those around us. It reminds us to care for others. Gentleness reminds us that we don’t win when we destroy someone else in the process.

But for those who would turn Christians into delicate flowers of civility and gentleness, God also reminds us that His Spirit gives us strength to persevere when circumstances conspire against us. Gentleness by itself doesn’t reflect the wholeness of God.

The challenge for our churches and individual Christians is to reveal the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives through both our gentleness and our strength. And knowing when each is needed requires divine wisdom from the Holy Spirit also.

Whatever our natural inclination God encourages to unshackle our faith and expand our character as he transforms us from who we’ve been to who we can become.

Why Self-Control is Deceptive

In Titus 2:1-14 Paul writes to tell his apprentice, Titus, how to go about establishing new churches in Crete. In this particular passage he lists specific instructions for training four different demographic groups within the church.Consider for a moment which virtue would you most emphasise to young Christians in fledgling churches?

Paul tells Titus four times to teach these different groups self-control.  Older men, be self-controlled. Older women urge younger women to practice self-control. Young men, be self-controlled.

If only telling someone to be self-controlled brought the desired results. I think we all know it’s not that simple.

Let’s remember where this topic comes from… This series on Faith Unshackled spent two weeks looking at things we believe. Then over the last two weeks we looked at things God wants his people to be doing. Those things are important, but they don’t amount to much if they don’t change who we become.

While churches often refuse to fellowship with other churches over beliefs and practices I’ve never heard a congregation criticised  because the church doesn’t exhibit God’s patience or self control. Yet one of the great consequences of the cross is that is that God transforms us into his image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [unshackled faith] And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

What we believe, and what we practice are important, because they influence who we become. But don’t lose sight that God is working in our lives, not only helping us to do or think better, but to become like Him. We shouldn’t set goals to adjust who we’re becoming if we’re unwilling to change what we believe, what we practice, and how we let God work in our lives.

Bringing this specifically back to self-control…I do want to make a couple of points about Titus 2.

  1. The key verse in this passage is v12. Verse 12 splits neatly into two halves. The first is what to avoid. The second tells what to become. Throughout this passage, Paul’s primary concern isn’t whether or not you had donuts for breakfast. (Although that may well be a secondary application.) Rather, when Paul talks about self-control, his focus is upon sin.

    Say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. Resisting the temptation of sin is important. It takes self-control because sin is attractive.

  1. Is Paul then saying then that teaching self-control means that he expects perfection from everyone? I don’t think so. It’s the grace of God that teaches us to say No….. It’s the grace of God that’s working in our lives to mold us into the image of God. So here’s how I understand this whole thing to be working…

self control 01

The pictures above show a couple of common perceptions about self-control. Many of us get fooled by the word “self” in self-control.  We take all the responsibility upon ourselves. But that’s not God’s use of the term.

When God talks of self-control, He encourages us to let the Holy Spirit control us. As we think about the person God wants us to become, it’s not just coincidence that Paul includes self-control in his list of the Fruit of the Spirit over in Galatians 5:23.

When we face temptations, rather than struggling with that temptation ourselves, God wants us to pray, to trust Him, to ask Him to take control of our lives and guide our choices. When we take the virtue ‘self-control’ too literally we deny God a place in our lives.

Christian self-control means knowing when to concede greater control of our life to God.

Finally, self-control involves more than avoiding sin. Godly self-control will also motivate us to live in a manner that brings him glory. Self-control means loving my neighbour more than my television. Self-control helps me attend worship services regularly and invest in the lives of other believers. Self-control helps me listen when my impulse is to react. Because self-control means knowing when to concede greater control of my life to God.

One author I read summarised this perspective with this comment. Self-control is not only about the discipline to stop doing things that destroy us, but also about the discipline to do the things that build us up. When we develop a healthy discipline to engage in the spiritual practices, we speed up our growth rate.

As Paul told Titus, regardless of our age or gender, we all need self-control to recognise our need for God’s Spirit to empower us as we put aside sin and live within the kingdom of heaven. This is a crucial step in our journey toward spiritual maturity.