• ReadThe Gospel Harbinger
    May 2021

    Rick's 'Ritins'

    Homecoming 2021


    The dust, as they say, has settled. The people have come and gone. But I certainly hope the spirit and enthusiasm of the day has not disappeared. The preaching, the singing, the worshipping, the fellowshipping, was all fantastic. Greg’s sermon was encouraging, challenging, and overall spot on for a day of celebration. (In case you missed it, or would like to see it again, you can access it on our Facebook page.) Dinelle’s concert of worship illustrated for us the true meaning of worship – to acknowledge the worth of God and Jesus Christ. John’s sermon was a fitting ending to a great day. He reminded us of some of the people and events from the past, but also challenged us not to live in the past, but to keep doing what we have done for a lot of years. 


    It seems to me the day was a perfect kick-off to the next phase of the history of the First Christian Church of Camp Point. The past is great – there have been a lot of great people and events in the past that have established a heritage that is worth remembering. But the church cannot afford to live in the past. We rejoice in the past, we celebrate the past, but we cannot live in the past. Christ challenged the church to keep our eyes on the future, to keep growing and maturing and searching for people who need to become part of his Kingdom. Homecoming reminded us to celebrate the past but keep looking forward. 


    What will our future be? I wonder what those who first met on April 24, 1835 in Pleasant View thought their future would be. Did they imagine their efforts at starting a church based on the foundation of Jesus Christ and his word would still be around 185 years later? Did they anticipate all the hundreds of people in the Camp Point area, and ultimately thousands around the world that would be influenced and changed by the gospel through their efforts? Or were they more concerned about having enough wood for the fire to keep them warm, or keeping their wagons from getting stuck in the mud, or keeping safe from Indian attacks? Or maybe all of the above. I don’t think any of us can answer the question.  


    However, I am convinced that their example is still a good one for us to follow in this regard: do what you believe God has called you to do, do it to the best of your ability, and do it with all that you have, and God will honor your efforts. We are to do what God has called us to do and leave the “results” with him. 


    As we look to the future, we believe that God has called us to try to reach at least 1% of the 11,000 people who live within a 10-mile radius of our church building. Can we do it? No, WE cannot do it in our own strength and wisdom. But we serve a God who is able to do it. The God whom we worshipped in song and sermon on Sunday is able to do that, and far more. The question is not, “Can it be done?” but rather, “Will we let God use us to get it done?” As Greg reminded us Sunday, it will take all of to deny ourselves, to lose ourselves, so people might find Jesus Christ. This is our real challenge – to become uncomfortable, to be willing to make changes, to deny our own preferences if necessary, so Christ and His Spirit can work in us and through us to reach out to those in our community who need to become part of the Body of Christ. 


    I am certain “going to church” in 1835 was not comfortable. At least not as comfortable as it is for us. But the reality is, Christ has never called us to “go to church.” He has called us to “be the church.” And there is a great difference. Going to church implies there is a time when we can go from “here” to “there.” When we are done being “there,” we leave the church behind. Unfortunately, there has been too much of that done through the years. On the other hand, being the church means you never go to it and then leave it. Wherever you are, the church is there.  Whatever you do is the church doing it. That is a much scarier thought, but more in line with what Jesus had in mind. After all, he did not say, “Go to the light,” He said, “You are the light.” Big difference.


    As we consider our future, we used a phrase in the anniversary theme: Forging Our Future. The reality is, we should see it as Forging His Future. After all, it is his church. Our task is to do what we believe he wants us to do, with all of our ability, with all that we have. Are we up to it?


    Are we all going to agree with every decision that is made? Are we all going to agree with every change that is recommended? I doubt it. But those are not the questions we need to be asking. What we need to ask is, “Are these decisions and changes going to help us seek and save the lost?”  After all, that is what Jesus said he came to do, and he challenges his followers to do the same. As we have heard numerous times, the message does not change, but the methods do – and must. Consider this: how would you like to have church exactly as they did in 1835? Not many of us would. We have changed many of the methods they used, but the essential message of Jesus Christ has not changed. 


    We are about to embark on a five-year plan to add over 100 people to this church within five years. We are developing strategies and steps to take to move us in that direction. It will happen as each of us is willing to say to Jesus, “This is your church, not mine. You died for the lost, not me. I’m yours, to be used as you see fit, to seek and to save the lost. I am all in. You have done your part, now help me to do mine. For your glory.”


    Will you accept the challenge?


    Thanks for reading,


    Rick

    1. ReadThe Gospel Harbinger
      April 2021 Newsletter

      Can the church learn from the government?

      This might seem like an unusual title for an article in a church newsletter. You may be asking yourself, “How in the world can the church learn from the government?” Some might suggest that the church follow the government’s practice of printing money whenever they need it. That might solve most churches financial needs, but at best it would only be temporary, and then the loss would be worse than any gain that might be experienced. After all, printing money is illegal for anyone but the government. The church might lose any credibility it may have in a community if its leaders are in jail for counterfeiting. 


      Let me offer a different way the church can learn from the government with no fear of going to jail. Now, I must preface this with a caveat; I saw this information on the Internet, so I cannot guarantee its trustworthiness. But if true, what an example for churches. I read recently that the $1.9 trillion bill recently passed by congress will cost each American citizen about $14,000. In return for that “gift,” each citizen then received $1,400 from the government. That means the government tithed the “gift” you gave to them. You gave the gift, and the government tithed it right back to you. 


      Okay, I can hear some of you groaning, “Here we go, another lesson on tithing. Doesn’t he know tithing was part of the Law in the Old Testament, and we are no longer under the Law?” Yes, I am quite aware that tithing was part of the Law of the Old Testament (see, for example, Leviticus 27:30-33) and that we are no longer under the Law. However, did you know that tithing actually predated the Law? The first reference to tithing in the Bible is Genesis 14:17-20. This is the story of Abram returning from battle after rescuing Lot from those who captured him. Abram encountered Melchizedek, the priest of the God Most High, and paid to him a tenth of everything.


      The second mention of tithing is found in Genesis 28:18-22. This is the story of Jacob and his vision of the ladder and angels. Jacob promises that if God would be with him on his journey and return him home again, then of everything God gave to him, he would return a full tenth to God. I wonder where Jacob ever got the idea of giving a tithe to God. It certainly did not come from Moses and the Law.


      It is true that the New Testament does not command Christians to tithe. However, the writer of Hebrews (chapter 7) makes an interesting argument. The Levites received the tithes from the Jewish people. Yet the Levites (while still in the loins of Abram) themselves tithed to Melchizedek. And now, we follow and serve Jesus, who is greater that Melchizedek. His argument is this: if Melchizedek (the great) received tithes from the Levites, then doesn’t Jesus, (the greater), deserve more from his priests (Christians)?  Maybe the government is not such a great example after all!


      Let me try to sum up the New Testament teaching on Christians and giving:

      ·        2 Corinthians 8:12. If you don’t have it, God does not expect you to give it. If you do have it, God expects you to give some back to him.

      ·        1 Corinthians 16:2. As God prospers you, lay aside an amount you have determined to give. Whatever you decide to give (amount or percentage) is between you and God. Just be faithful in giving it when he provides it to you.

      ·        2 Corinthians 8:7. Grow in the grace of giving. Wherever you are in your journey on giving, allow God to increase your faith and the amount you give. For some, tithing may be an intermediary goal to set, and grow toward that goal. For others, tithing may be the jumping off point to the next level of giving. 


      I remember hearing a sermon illustration years ago. An older widow was in the habit of giving to God much and often. In fact, her giving often was more than the wealthier folk in the church. One day someone asked her how she could give so much, when her income was so little. Her response was, “God shovels it to me and I shovel it right back to Him. I guess His shovel is much bigger than mine.”


      What do you plan on doing with your stimulus check? Can you at least follow the government’s example to tithe it? You may have a project at church you have wanted to give to but haven’t had any extra money. Or maybe you know some missionaries you have wanted to support. Or perhaps there is some other charitable organization you have wanted to support for some time but have not been able to. Or just maybe, this may be God’s way of letting you be more generous than you have ever been able to be before. Then again, this may be God’s way of enabling you to catch up on some bills and other expenses that the pandemic has brought your way. For whatever reason, God has used our government to provide you with funds you were not expecting. Give thanks to God, and if possible, give a little extra to God, and rejoice in His faithfulness.


      Thanks for reading,


      Rick

      1. Two of these plates showed up at the church this week. I think they are beautiful! Does anyone know when they were made and for what possible event?