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.
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. I’m a former homeschooling mom and wife who was raised going tochurch.I lead our women’s ministry and make some pretty delicious communion bread.
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.”
Dr. 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 teenage 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: The Rivers Church @TheRiversPaducah
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.
I was in the cemetery at my grandmother’s resting place. This particular memorial park was an exclusively flat-stone only grounds, and each stone had a metal vase that you twisted out of the middle of the stone and turned over to display flowers. My aunt had tried to pull it out for Mother’s Day, but it was stuck. I was down on my hands and knees using a pocketknife trying to pry the vase free, it wasn’t budging! I look over and my daughter is on her knees with her hands folded. I asked what she is doing and she responded, “I’m praying that God will help you get the vase unstuck.” Frustrated and very sweaty, I was baffled because I was sure the good Lord had more important things on his plate than helping me turn a vase over…I mean, God doesn’t really work that way does he? When I returned to my car, I was blown away that at the very moment I was working, prying, and feeling defeated by a gravestone, my seven year old was praying.
Sometimes the things we perceive as strengths can become our most restrictive shackles to our faith. I think the ancient story of Adam and Eve plays out in us...you see, I was reminded in that moment and many others that I have chosen to feast on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Moreover, I have studied the Bible and with that understanding comes the “shackle” of trusting myself to define not only if something is good or evil, but if God is likely to act or not act in a given situation. I think there is too many times where my familiarity with God through the Bible allows me to arrogantly move without an element of trust—to serve before prayer, as if God already affirms what I have decided to do.
As I reflect on this type of “faith,” I think it is why I tend to accomplish only the things I am naturally good at doing, never venturing into the unknown, uncomfortable, or uncontrollable. Those ministry opportunities or missions are just too sizable for my skills…it would take more than what I have. I believe that true faith gives LIFE (like the other tree in the garden) and often moves beyond our knowledge, skills, and experience.
Products of a fallen and broken world, I think that all of us come to God with a shackled faith of some sort. And I must admit that I like my shackles because they provide me with a way of understanding faith and they allow me to know that I am growing in faith.
Whenever I ask the question, “Does God really work that way?” I am beginning to see that question as a growth question because it is a direct attack on my knowledge and experience. When I reread the scriptures asking the question, “What does the Bible really say about this?” I see this question as a challenge to my study and the past interpretations. And when I finally take an opportunity to trust God and lean on God, when I find myself on a plane to Africa, having dinner with a stranger, opening up a Bible study, or praying that God would intervene in our heroin crisis…I realize that God is in the process of breaking my shackles and setting me free to trust him more.
We all have shackles, and God calls us anyway. As I think about what it means to live an unshackled faith, I think about the New Creation described at the end of Revelation. I think about all of the brokenness we have, all of the obstacles that make us cry to God to increase our faith, relieve our doubts, and give us greater perseverance. But there is great day coming when our faith will become sight. John says that God will, “…dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Today we battle our shackles, but we learn to trust God, to believe God, and one day our hope is to be unshackled, face to face with God Almighty, Creator of the unbroken world!
Prayer: Creator God, call us to greater works and allow us the opportunity to trust in You more and more as that great day gets closer and closer. Our desire is to be set free from the shackles that hold us back. I pray that you reveal to me the limits of my faith so that I can identify my shackles and receive healing and wholeness from You. Come Lord Jesus, so that our faith can become sight and our brokenness can be fully restored. Lord God make all things new and that includes me, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Today I was listening to Christian radio after thinking about this text in Matthew regarding the “unforgivable sin” and the speaker, John McArthur, a well-known voice in Bible study said that rejection of Jesus is the unforgivable sin. That is to say, if someone rejects Christ as Savior, then his or her destiny is Hell. Now, this is representative of what his claim was, and it puzzled me and I’ll explain by having you read a passage of scripture that is JESUS’ own words in the Gospel.
Matthew 12:31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
This is puzzling to me because Jesus actually contradicts the notion that those who reject Christ cannot be forgiven…and seems to place more emphasis on a more abstract notion of “blasphemy” or rejection of the Holy Spirit over and above His own treatment. So, if you are scratching your head, then you are in good company because I think this goes against the Evangelical notion that those who believe in the Lord will be saved and those who “believeth not” will be condemned. And this is why context is so important…in any scripture study that we can do! You might notice that our text begins with the word, “Therefore” and so as Mike Cope used to preach, when we see therefore we should stop and ask, “What is that there for?” So, leading up Jesus’ teaching on the unforgivable sin was this…
Matthew 12:22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
When the Pharisees heard it they decided that this could not be the work of the Holy Spirit but the work of the prince of demons. This is a striking judgment…one that is motivated by their need for power and control, enticed by their religious superiority, walled in from any experience of the divine that was outside their theological boundaries. The question that was raised by the people who saw the miracle was asking if Jesus was the Messiah or Son of David…and the Pharisees do not speak against Jesus, but against the power, or empowering force, that makes the miracle possible. Jesus sees into their thoughts and motivations, and provides a lecture correcting their terrible logic and even worse understanding of the spiritual world. Then comes the hammer…
Jesus essentially says, “It is one thing to question who I am and to make claims about my validity…but when you question the very working of God, that being the Holy Spirit, and judge God’s action to be something else, you make an eternal mistake.” It makes you wonder who would have that type of arrogance? Who would place themselves as judge over the actions of God? Well, the Pharisees would…that’s who and that is why Jesus speaks so harshly to them. You see, the unforgivable sin is not the one time rejection of Jesus, because as long as there is breath in our lungs, we can choose to come to Christ. Speaking against Christ was not the issue here, but the issue was making oneself the judge over the Son of God’s action, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The thing that is clear to me is that the unforgivable sin is not something that the faithless commit…because they are ignorant. I’m not suggesting they don’t sin, I’m simply suggesting that the Bible and Jesus do not argue that the lost, or those outside of Christ, act in a way that is beyond the forgiveness of God. Therefore I must also conclude that God forgives many of the sins that some of our more conservative thinkers might see as a challenge to the church's purity. So, who does? Well, whether it is this passage or the warnings in the book of Hebrews and elsewhere, it is the religious person whose righteousness is prized over the Lord God to the point that they become the judge of whether or not God is acting or working in a particular case…those are the ones most at risk of committing the unforgivable sin.
It seems that those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and in Christ Jesus should be able to see God at work as discern it correctly. And yes, sometimes we miss it due to distraction or apathy or a myriad of other reasons. But that is not the same as a blatant condemnation of something God is doing among us that doesn’t fit our theology or our experience of religion. Let’s be cautious not to misrepresent the one who has been given as a gift to us empowering the work of God in our time, in our world.
I am currently finishing up a series on the seven signs in the Gospel of John. When I read the Gospel stories, it seems to be packed full of miraculous healing. Jesus would touch someone, or someone would touch Jesus, or Jesus would just say the word and something would happen. Usually the narrative will point to a person’s faith in believing that Jesus could heal…and he would act.
This morning I read through Luke 7:1-10 and it is a story of a Roman officer who begs Jesus to come heal his slave. The Roman was well-loved in the Jewish community and so some elders of the synagogue come to ask Jesus to help this man. Jesus never touches the man or even enters the house of the Roman officer…here’s the text:
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
Jesus’ response to this man’s faith and understanding of Jesus’ relationships and work really caught my attention. Jesus says, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” What did this guy get right?
First of all, he viewed his role as an “official” as one of service. Which might be why he valued his own slaves and why he understood the chain of command. Second, the Roman man realized that he was not worthy to welcome Jesus because Jesus’ rank was far above his. Third, what do we even do with the fact that this man felt absolutely unworthy to even meet Jesus…isn’t that just self-hatred or some sort of false humility? The Last aspect of this text is that the Roman understood Jesus’ power to command his soldiers of healing and help.
Jesus’ response to this man is not one of correction or comfort, but one that recognizes the faith of the Roman. Jesus is not a buddy or a friend in this text, he is the commanding Lord of Heaven’s goodness. And interestingly enough, it is a Roman who gets that truth and not the group of God’s people who seem to take God’s presence and Jesus’ power for granted. And that is my takeaway from this text, that I often fall to the temptation to think that Jesus is my servant, doing what I need; instead of Jesus is my Lord, and I serve Him.
I think the healing stories set me and us up to think that Jesus just went around healing everybody and that Jesus should always heal sick people in our lives. I mean, it’s in the Bible, we read them, and we make a link straight into the modern cases of cancer, childhood diseases, and horrific accidents that happen…among other stories. We want Jesus to heal. Yet, the Gospels claim that Jesus healing individuals are not the big picture, but signposts that allow us to see the big picture. In every story, by pointing out the faith a person has in Jesus, the stories open the window to the Kingdom of God and they allow us to peer at the King Jesus. This slave was healed, a son was healed, a lame man walks, a blind man sees, a woman stops bleeding, a boy is raised from the dead, and man is raised from the dead, demons are sent away; but don’t miss the point.
The point is that in a world where evil and death seem to slowly take the life out of us, Jesus turns it upside-down. The healing in each story points to the healing of the world. And to die in Jesus Christ, to make him Lord and to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is to be healed. Death has no hold on us, for we are held by the one who overcame the grave. Evil has not power in our lives, because we believe and live in faith that God is not only free of evil, but is working to free the world of evil. God is bigger than the biggest evils. So, continue to pray for healing, and pray even harder for those who are dying and suffering. But remember that for those who believe, Jesus’ ultimate healing is in his return, so don’t forget to pray for that as well.
Suffering is deeply personal, and so often when things are going well for us there is little evaluation or reflection as to why we are succeeding. However, when a time of suffering comes, there seems to be exhaustive evaluation and reflection. The major question is “WHY?” Why is this happening to me? Why would God allow this to happen? Why do some people seem to escape suffering while others seem to escape success?
Often, the place we turn in the midst of suffering is the book of Job, and that is a good place to turn. Yet, in the book there is a central problem that gets played out as Job talks to his “friends.” You see, suffering is most naturally connected to sin and wickedness, thus suffering is viewed as divine punishment for evil behaviors and attitudes. Eliphaz takes Job to task after he asserts in defense from Zophar, “How can your empty cliches comfort me? All you explanations are lies!”
22:4 Is it because you’re so pious that he accuses you
and brings judgment against you?
5 No, it’s because of your wickedness!
There’s no limit to your sins.
Eliphaz then provides a list of possible wrongs Job might have done or thought. Yet, readers of the book know that Job’s questions about the wicked prospering and his questions of WHY seem to be justified. Whereas, the explanations of the friends rely on the notion of God’s retribution, which is very much in question in the story of Job.
Ultimately, Job receives an audience with God, who does not reveal sins and wickedness in Job’s life, but responds to Job by showing the vast gulf set between God’s wisdom and that of any person…including Job and his friends. God asks WHY…but his questions have no explanations because they are higher, greater, and more complex than human knowledge and experience.
So Job, even though he is confused about the “WHY” of his suffering, he concedes to God and even says it: “Who can teach a lesson to God?” (21:22) Job could not fully understand his deeply personal and awfully terrible experience, but in the midst of it he did two things: First, he did not think God had forgotten him or turned his back on him, and second, Job continually complained and turned to God who Job knew could actually change the situation. It is so easy in the midst of suffering or pain to feel alone, forgotten, and unworthy…but that was not Job’s condition. Job asked WHY…but he asked it of God and to God. The “friends” in the story play the part of annoyances and distractions, they represent the conventional or cultural wisdom of the times and we as readers want them to go away (or at least stop talking).
God does eventually act and restores the life of Job. We should not, however, think that everything is then all right and Job never thought about his suffering again. He lost everything including children and career. While he regains more family, different family, and rebuilds his career; it was not the same people and the same life. Thus, suffering changed Job and unfortunately the text ends before we see the outcome of Job’s suffering in his new life.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.