Saturday, March 31, 2007

The First Is Our Last

Meagan is home from college for the weekend -- she wants to be at church for our last Sunday. Her best friend Andrea came with her. Tomorrow will be special. Sandy is singing with three other ladies, and a going away reception is planned for 5:30. It will be an emotional day, to say the least.

Our children are excited about our new adventure -- all of them look forward to coming out to Bozeman for a visit. Josh talks about our move the most. He knows how God has wired my heart and is particularly happy for us. He and I are looking forward to driving the U-Haul to Montana -- we are part gypsy.

Sandy and I fly to Montana on Monday to meet with other church planters from around the state. We are going to pick the brains of these pioneers and talk about how we can partner together. We will also be looking for an apartment or condo to rent. The weather forecast for Monday is snow! We plan on moving out west in July (it should be done snowing by then).

Sandy and I are incredibly grateful that our church gave us a six month severance package -- that will take a lot of the financial pressure off. We have no other source of income until I am able to talk to some partners about support. It is going to be an interesting journey! We are abandoned to God's grace and provision.

Tomorrow's message will be from John's gospel, chapter seventeen. In that passage -- Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and for all future believers. The main theme of his prayer was "being one . . . just as he and his Father are one." I look forward to the illustration I will use to drive the point home -- I believe that it will open everyone's eyes, and help us see the possibilities God offers to a united people.

Monday, March 26, 2007

April 1

Over the last six months there have been three different occasions when people have told Sandy and me stories of how God had called them, or someone they knew, to Bozeman, Montana to start a church. None of them went. Since we visited Bozeman we came up with many reasons for not going ourselves. We never found comfort in any of them.

Next Sunday I deliver my last message as the Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church. In a few weeks we will be moving to Bozeman to begin planting churches. In the Treasure State, nine out of ten people have never been associated with a church of any kind. We believe Bozeman is a key to changing that statistic. A strong church there could reach many other towns and cities in Montana.

We are grateful for the time spent in Columbus. A lot was accomplished in a fairly short time. We experienced God's favor in countless ways. Nearly everything is hard about leaving the River City: the people, the beautiful facilities, the weather, and the security. But we know that we have fulfilled God's purposes for us here; God has released us to go.

For a couple who love the outdoors -- backpacking, camping, kayaking, cycling -- going to Bozeman isn't the worst assignment in the world! From the ministry perspective we are setting out on a rough-and-tumble adventure. We will be starting from scratch. As it stands right now, our combined income will be zero dollars, and as some would say, zero sense! The most appealing part to me will be watching God provide as only He can.

Like the apostle Paul, my heart says, "I do not want to build upon another man's work." So we are headed west with a vision and a plan. We are confident that God will birth a church and that He is going to do exceeding abundantly above what we could ask or think.

We also know that many we must leave will pray for us unceasingly. We know that soon others will be called; they'll pick up our trail and join us. This adventurous call to follow God has been going on since Pentecost. It's the way it has always been. It's the way it will always be. It's the way God advances His kingdom.

April fool's day . . . It reminds me of the words of the martyred missionary, Jim Elliot: "He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose."

Things Unscheduled

I had to make an unscheduled trip to Maine last week. On Thursday my siblings and I met with my mother’s surgeon. A couple of weeks ago a mass was discovered growing between Mom's pancreas and liver.

At the hospital a nurse squeezed all five of us -- plus mom and dad -- into a tiny examination room. Soon the doctor entered and we listened intently as he gave a lengthy and thorough explanation of my mother's prognosis. The tumor would have to be removed during a very complicated 4-5 hour surgery.

The doctor told us we were lucky -- the tumor was discovered by "chance".

Mom's view of the discovery is completely opposite. She believes God made sure her cancer was found -- before it got out of control. Her faith in God assumes that He is at work in her situation. She is a prayer warrior -- a prayer warrior confident in God’s Providence.

It has posed a theological problem for some that God's people could believe in Divine Providence and prayer. Some would say to believe in Divine Providence and prayer are contradictory beliefs. They conclude, “What will happen will happen. Why pray?”

Question.

Is it a great leap of faith for my mother (or any believer) to believe that what may appear as a “chance” happening is really Divine Providence? Is it contradictory for those who never know exactly what is going on -- to prevail upon the Providence of the One who knows exactly what is going on?

Mom has chosen Providence. I like her chances . . .