Monday, April 25, 2011

Time For a Course Correction

I lose my focus at times, and when I do, God is faithful to remind me and bring me back into line. Frankly, I've been off course for a while and it's time for correction. I've spent way too much time concerned about how the church is growing and what to do about it. I've concentrated too much on how my wife and I are going to afford life when she finally retires. I've spent way too much time thinking about how things are going to work out.
Doesn't everybody? Perhaps none of the items I've just described surprise anyone. Perhaps others will read these words with the thought "That's what I've been doing. What's wrong with planning for the future?"
Nothing is wrong with planning for the future. The question is whose plans we are following.
The thing I've known, forgotten, and needed to be reminded again is that God is in charge of all plans. It's not my place to be concerned with how things work out. It's my place to follow the Lord first and let Him tell me how He is going to work it out.
But God is not going to tell me everything at once. He will tell me enough for today, and I must take care of today. The most important matter before me is not how life will work out. The most important matter is my relationship with God. "The Lord knows you have need of these things."
May God help me to trust Him first, seek Him first, and let Him tell me where I can follow Him. It's not my plans that matter. It's His.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Hard Expensive Lesson

Our epic adventure with the "new people" is over. After an extensive investigation, we learned the recent "converts" had more to be concerned about than "baggage." They are professional thieves.
People of this kind make a living off the generosity of churches. We had taken them in with the intent of truly helping them and seeing their lives turned around. For their part, they intended to take the church for every penny they could get, and frankly, they succeeded fairly well. The combined total in cash, food and merchandise exceeded $1000.00 within one month.
The scam operates the same all over. A couple arrives in town and either shows up at church or calls. Either way, a plea is made for money for a variety of excuses: The car broke down. We're trying to get home to see our dying mother/father/sister/brother. We are out of gas. We are out of food. We need a motel room. We had a fire. etc., etc.
If the couple is successful, they may convince enough churches to have a different church making contributions each week. Once the couple is found out, they simply move to another town and start over.
In the case of the particular couple in our church, they simply became too greedy too quickly and that raised enough suspicion to begin an investigation. Greed is always their undoing. They never know when enough is enough.
This has been a touch and expensive experience for our church, but we simply have to learn when to say "no." This is a fair warning to all churches. Be very careful about how you help people. Have a plan in place for those times when people come calling for a handout. Trust me, they will. Have a plan and follow it faithfully. Don't jeopardize your church by unwise sympathy and careless procedures. Don't give money to strangers no matter how real they may seem to be. Confine your help to your own people, those who belong to your church those who faithfully attend, and those you know personally. In the long run, you'll be glad you did.