Today’s Thought

This morning I was reading out 1 Kings 6 and 7 and saw a couple things that really grabbed my heart and mind. I thought I would simply share what God is saying to me today and maybe it will speak to you too.

The first was as the temple was being built by Solomon God gave him a promise with an expectation. It is found in 1 Kings 6:11-13. Basically God tells Solomon that if he and the Israelites will do everything he has said and obey all his commands they will be blessed by his presence in that temple. I realized how many people still see a relationship with Christ like that. We must realize that God’s grace in Jesus Christ has changed the requirement of the Law in our life. It has not changed the Law, the Law has simply been fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ. Our righteousness is not our own. It is the righteousness of Christ. I am so grateful for such grace.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting with a new believer at our church. Their questions were awesome. We talked about all kinds of stuff. Their denominational background is very different than ours. They had been taught that God’s grace is administered through the Church. They were told they could not go to Christ on their own but only through the church. This person shared with me that at the age of 17, while going through the religious training of their old denomination, they had questioned that. They knew it was not quite right but did not know why. Now they do. Do not turn your faith in Christ into the Old Temple experience of works. The death and resurrection of Christ changed everything, let it change you too.

It was great for me to hear this morning, too. I need to realize that all my “getting it right” is not what God honors. God’s “getting me right” is what he honors. That thought really came alive with my next realization.

The first verse in 1 Kings 7 says that it took Solomon 13 years to build his palace. Well chapter 6 told us it took 7 to build the temple. The palace was almost twice as big as the temple, too. How much are our lives like Solomon’s? Here is a man that was given the ability to ask for anything from God and he asked for wisdom. God gave it to him. The odd thing is when you examine his life, he knew the wisdom, but was not devoted to it.

Solomon’s life is not one purely built on wisdom, it was a life that was able to speak wisdom. There is a difference. I think the difference is devotion. What are you devoted to? Was Solomon more devoted to God or to self? I mean he gave 7 years to the work of the Temple and did not even weigh the metals being used to make it beautiful. He gave much to that work. Yet, at the same time, he spent twice as long on his own dwelling place and built it twice as big.

It seems Solomon was really devoted to Solomon. This thought hit me. I can do all kinds of good things but that does not mean I am correctly devoted. I read an interesting blog yesterday from Steven Furtick about devotion that came to my mind as I pondered this. (It is short. You can read it here. http://www.stevenfurtick.com/uncategorized/they-devoted-themselves/.) The new believers in Acts were devoted to the right things. They did not expect others to be devoted to them as much as they devoted themselves.

Are you devoted? Are you surrendered over? Is you kingdom bigger or smaller than God’s in your life? Is your house bigger than God’s in your world? We can be devoted to too many things and basically not really be devoted to anything. Do you look at the things that are a part of devoted to the apostles’ teachings as more important or less important than the other things you do in life?

Many would say, “but look at the majesty of the temple Solomon built, how can you question his devotion?” We can give God a lot of stuff and never give him ourselves. We can have a lot of things in life, but does God have more from our life?

So basically God encouraged me with the truth of his grace and then challenged me with the truth about my devotion. That is a great morning with God. A word of encouragement and a word of correction. God used the His Word, His Spirit, other believers, and the activities of my everyday life to speak into my life. I thought sharing how God works and speak is my life in the regular day to day interaction might help you have some insight in how he intends to do that in your life too.

Amazing Moments

There are so many amazing moments in life. We miss too many of them. Too often we fail to see them for what they are when they are. We might realize some time later it was an amazing moment but in the midst of it we seem to miss it.

I believe this truth can be found in chapter one of Ecclesiastes. Which is, perhaps, the most depressing portion of the Bible. Basically it says that all is vanity and that life just keeps on rolling. The sun comes up and goes down. The rivers roll to the sea yet the sea is never full.

Many people read this and never get the rest of the book. That there is a time for everything under the sun. In the midst of it all being temporary, it is still worth doing. The problem is that we too often just see the water rolling toward the sea and forget to stop and enjoy the majesty of the trickling brook or the wonder of the waterfall. We can get focused on the fact that as the sun goes down it is just going to come back and forget to stand in awe of the sunset and sunrise.

Life is busy. Life rolls on. The world does not stop just because you do and because of that we can get consumed with keeping up instead of living it up. I think followers of Christ ought to be living it up. We should be the people enjoying this life the most. We have the promise of not only life but life to its fullest. We have been set free from the drudgery of the next day and given the freedom to be amazed in this one.

But are you taking the time to do it?

A life to the fullest is probably not as full. A life to the fullest is not one slam-full of junk and stuff and commitments that never end. Life to the fullest is not filled by us but filled by God. A life filled by God is completely full, but with totally different things – or – maybe some of the same things but with a totally different perspective of them.

So, here are some amazing moments recently in the life of Kirk Jones…
1. Hearing my son Daniel pray a precious prayer of faith accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord while lying on a cot with me while on his first mission trip…Priceless!
2. Hearing my daughter Melanie tell me about forgiveness and that God cleans us inside and out because we learned it in a lesson in a life group in our home by cleaning out a cup while praying.
3. Seeing my daughter Kara sing songs to worship the Lord all out although she does not fully get them.
4. Sitting with my family in the midst of a busy restaurant and realizing how precious that one moment is.
5. Staying up late regularly talking about God and the work of his Kingdom with my awesome wife, just like we did when I was in seminary and it was all just theory. The cool thing is for us to still have the same heart and passion and drive. And realizing God had renewed it in me. And that he used her to help do it.
6. Watching my son take a soccer ball in the gut and do his best to shake it off and celebrate that the goal scored was because of his sacrifice.
7. Baptizing 8 people on Easter Sunday in a church that is only 7 years old and has two services in its own building and is growing. Realizing that one’s life work is not really your life’s work, but the work of Christ in your life and not regretting one sacrifice you ever made for it.
8. Sitting with a church member who has had a problem with you or something you did and seeing forgiveness and openness and love that only Christ can give in unity.
9. Sitting in a meeting with your staff and disagreeing and agreeing and remembering back to when you were doing it alone. A great argument for Jesus is worth the battle to fight for the right way and the cause of Christ and it’s a blessing to have great men to serve the Lord with.
10. Sitting with my girls playing barbies and not having a clue what you are supposed to do with them and them not caring one bit because you are sitting there.

Amazing moments happen all the time. Are you seeing them? Do you get it?

Don’t get your life full…get full of life.

The People Path Problem

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Understanding the reality of this passage is not as easy as being able to memorize it and quote it. It flies in the face of everything our world says spiritually. Our culture is one of wide-road thought. As our culture is more diverse there is a push for pluralism. It is often cloaked in the terminology of tolerance. True tolerance is to allow another to hold their belief without prejudice against them even though you disagree with them. Pluralism is to take every belief and make it no different than other beliefs.

I always find it interesting when someone tells me that Jesus is simply only one way to God out of many. The reason that is interesting to me is that is not true – according to Jesus. It is not tolerant to say all beliefs are equal because that disrespects every belief. That is not tolerance – that is weakness.

I think that is why our world is crying out for someone to speak truth. It is a recent change in our culture. People would rather disagree with you than hear you say nothing. I love seeing this cultural change. It is not yet what is coming across the airwaves on Oprah, the View, or other such shows, but is something growing in the younger generations. They do not want to hear a weak acceptance of everything. They would rather tell you that you are wrong and risk the wrong path than to hear the lie that all paths are the same. Why? They know better than that. If all paths are all the same then they would all be the same. It is illogical to say that God made many paths the same path.

This belief has for too long infected the church in America. Few people who are evangelical believe the many path theology, but they live like they do. This is seen in some wrong thoughts and beliefs about where the wide road leads. Too seldom are we willing to say that without Christ you perish, but without Christ you perish. We too seldom want to be the people who say there is only one gate, but there is only one gate. I believe this is the main reason why America is the only nation in the world where Christianity is on the decline. It is why over 70% of American churches are plataued or declining.

This is how it has infected us. We like to say things like “I am just helping people along their path to God.” I was in a meeting the other day and heard someone use the term “pre-Christian.” We like to think that people all want what is right and if we do what is right in front of them they will get there on their own.

It is not true. The path of life and the path of destruction are two completely different paths. People are not on a path to God, they are on a path of destruction. The two paths have many intersections but never run parallel. We are the intersections. There are no such thing as pre-Christians. People who are dead in their transgression are dead. Our world is not headed toward God. They are headed away from him.

You must be willing to speak the truth of Christ. We must speak up and declare here is the path you really need. Here is the gate that will change your life and there is no other gate. We must not allow the lies of the world around us to shape our actions. We too often say we believe one thing and live like we believe another.

What will you do this week to call someone to the path to life and the gate of Christ? You are not a direction sign along the good path they are already on. You are person on a mission causing the path of life to intersect the path of destruction. Do not take the call lightly. Realize that we as Christians in America have for too long weakened our response to the world by saying we believe one thing but not really living like we do.

The world around you wants (and needs ) to hear the truth whether they agree or not. There is no need to beat their head in the gate, but do not lower the truth of the gate to make them feel better about their path. They need someone to speak the truth in love. Do you love them enough to speak the truth?

By the way, if you are not on the Jesus path having entered through the Jesus gate, I hope you will take this call to the followers of Jesus as a letter of love to you, too. I love you enough to not lower what I believe to make you feel good about what you believe. I truly believe that without Jesus as your Savior and Lord you will die and go to hell. I love you enough to tell you that whether you agree with me or not. I respect your right to disagree, but I will not put your right to disagree above my call to tell you the truth. We can tolerate each other’s beliefs but we can not make them the same or then neither of us would really have any beliefs.

From Response to Results

Well, yesterday we learned that our responses are not controlled by the reports we hear. Our responses are up to us. As Moses was leading the people of Israel the majority always chose the least difficult path instead of God’s will. (This is actually a very common theme throughout the Bible about the people of God.) But there were a few men who chose God’s will, but they had to wait 40 years in the desert to lead the people of God to claim the promises of God.

The interesting thing about 40 years later is that the report had changed very little. The giants had not disappeared and the land was still plentiful. Once again the report showed some issues. They had to cross a river and not be defeated in the process – that was very difficult for armies before man made bridges. An army crossing a river is like sitting ducks. They had to attack a large city (Jericho) with tall walls and a capable army. The city was the kind that was completely impossible to defeat.

So, God had the people do some completely irrational things. He tried and tested their faith. He put out the challenge, “will you follow me?” The cool thing is – that behind the leadership of Joshua and Caleb – the people of God did. They did just as God commanded them. They walked across the river on dry land and then went to Jericho and marched around it and blew their horns for six days. Then they marched and the priests blew the trumpet and the people yelled. (I am not sure what you think but that sounds like a perfectly rational plan to make walls fall down to me.)

God did just what he said. The walls fell and Jericho was defeated. It is an amazing thing to see what happens when God’s people do what God says. God does great things when his people are willing to do great things. God does his will when we do his will. God could do it without us. God did not need them to march for 7 days or blow their trumpets or yell to bring the walls down. The people of God needed to do those things. God did his work in that manner, not because he needed it, but because his people needed it.

Take a walk with me around Jericho. Look at the huge fortifications and the strong military of the city. See that which could never be overcome by the band of warriors standing around you – at least not without God causing it. Look over at Joshua – a man – that has declared that no matter what happens he and his household will serve the Lord. Look around at the people standing around you armed with trumpets. What do you see?

I see something that makes no sense. Either Joshua has lost his mind in the desert or God is about to do something like I have never seen before. I have a response that is my decision. The report is that I am to march around the city and that I am to blow my horn. The last day I am to wait till the trumpets sound and the yell – yell – that is all.

I have a decision. Do I simply shuffle around the city in the masses because I was told to or do I march like I believe in what God is doing? Do I simply let out a small sound from my trumpet or do I blow the walls down all by myself? ? Do I mouth the words of a yell or do I let out a yell of conviction that starts deep in my gut and soul?

Sure there is apprehension in such a calling and such a task. The report is definitely got some things that are not in our favor, but who I am marching for…who am I trumpeting to… and who really will hear my yell? Is it just something I am doing before the city of Jericho and the people standing beside me? Or is it all for God? Is every step I take in the march a step of worshipful faith? Is every blow on my trumpet a joyful noise to the ears of the Almighty God? Is my yell a full volume praise of the Living God that is capable of doing exactly what he said?

When you face the calls and command of God, you will feel apprehension, but the decision you have is how you face it. At Fellowship Church we have some people that are facing some apprehension, but the cool thing for me to see is that they are still marching. A few shuffled at first, but the people of God are marching. Some have blown their trumpets with great gusto and some have let out a small sound of praise. But they are still marching.

Starting this Sunday as we change our Life Groups and as we have our last week of one service it is time for every one of us to decide what our response will be. I believe this. I believe that the trumpets will be blown loudly. And that the yell will be one of loud praise and belief in the Living God.

Why do I believe that? I believe that because every week when I preach I see the faces of God’s people. I see faces of people who believe in the greatness of God and want to see him change lives. Every life that is changed in our church is welcomed with shouts of joy, praise, and tears of faith. It is an amazing thing to see. I have learned this week exactly the magnitude of the change I am leading. Other pastors stand with mouths gaped wide open when I tell them about the response and the willingness of the people I have the privilege of pastoring.

Why? Because the people I pastor want to see a city conquered by Christ. They realize the promise land is better than the desert and that the work of God is greater than the work of man and they want it. They don’t just want to observe it, they want to be right in the middle of it. They don’t want to stand at the distance and listen to the trumpets, they want to blow one.

So I believe over the next month I am going to have the privilege of leading a band of river-crossing, trumpet-blaring, faith-marching, and praise-yelling warriors that are fully read to take Prairieville for Christ. And that fires me up. Thank you for such a privilege and get ready to roll because God is about to blow down the walls and change this city.

Defining Report and Response

A report is meant to tell the facts about a situation or topic. Reports some times include our interpretations or thoughts about what we have seen. Reports are necessary in life. We need to hear the truth – or at least one person’s perspective of it – to be informed in life.

A response is one’s personal reaction to the facts or to a report. Responses are not actually caused by reports. Responses are caused by the heart, spirit, and mind of the responder. Reports affect responses, but responses do not affect reports.

Check out the how response is important when it comes to a report. Read Numbers 13:27-31. This story is about 12 spies that were sent into the Promised Land for 40 days to check it out before the Nation of Israel was to go in and conquer the land God had promised to them. The twelve spies came out with the same report, but there were 2 responses.

Ten of the spies chose to speak fear. They had seen the giants in the land. They knew there were obstacles and they declared they could not be overcome. They actually began to lead the people toward stoning Moses and Aaron in anger because they had led them to their ruin. They decided because of the report to respond in defeat. Defeat was not the fact of the situation it was their choice in response to the situation.

Caleb and Joshua, however, had a different response. They had the same report. They saw the giants. They were well aware of the obstacles. Their response was different. Caleb said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” His response was not caused by the report. He was well aware of the facts. He knew what was to come. He knew a battle had to be waged and that it would not be easy, but that did not control his response.

Caleb did not respond to the report…He responded to God. He did not look at the facts and see defeat. He looked at the facts and saw God. He looked at the challenge and saw victory because his response was not about the report it was about the Victor.

Today you may be facing some giants or obstacles. Maybe you are being asked to lead a change that has some issues. (Say like being a life group leader or member at Fellowship Church – just a wild shot in the dark for an example.) The report is true. There are obstacles. There are issues that must be faced. There are things that will be difficult.

Now…the report is in…the facts are known…and you have a decision to make…will you respond to the giants…or will your respond to God?

The report does not control your response. If victory is what you expect? If God doing a mighty work is what you are looking for? Then you must decide today to stand up say we will overcome. Claim the milk and honey not the giants. Speak the promises of God not the problems of logistics.

As leaders and as followers we must decide to control our responses. If we respond in fear and speak obstacles and facts, we will experience defeat. If we respond in faith and speak obstacles and facts, we will experience victory.

The report did not change…the response did.

Shepherding on the Tough Trails of Life and Faith

Jesus is our Great Shepherd. All earthly shepherds (pastors) are people he has chosen to lead, care for, tend to, and feed his flock, but it is always his flock. The flock must learn to hear the voice of the Great Shepherd and follow it. Pastors have to encourage and help their sheep to learn to hear that voice and follow it in faith. The flock must also learn to hear the Great Shepherd through the voice of the local shepherd that God has anointed and appointed.

During times of change and conviction this is most difficult. The enemy yells loud and whispers quietly in the ear of both the sheep and the shepherd. It during these times that wolves in lamb’s clothing are most dangerous. It is on the path from one pasture to the next – while the sheep are spread out – that they are the most vulnerable. Fear on such a path is not a lack of faith, it is just life. People must learn to walk in the valley of the shadow of death in faith, but they will never learn that while being fat and happy on a nice sunny green field.

So here are some thoughts and tips for shepherds while they lead down the rocky paths of life and faith.

1. Make sure the path is God’s direction and not yours. Once you know that, don’t change direction.
2. Sheep need the presence of the shepherd on such paths. Get in the midst of your flock. If you are untouchable and unreachable you leave them alone and vulnerable to attack. Speak in love, but always speak truth. Don’t tell them lies about the path ahead to keep them going. Just be there.
3. Remember your people are ultimately following the Great Shepherd not you. So you must follow the Great Shepherd and quit trying to convince people that you are. If they want to follow the Great Shepherd and you are following the Great Shepherd they will follow you. If they choose to not follow the Great Shepherd and therefore not follow you, that is really between them and the Great Shepherd.
4. Some of the sheep on your field are not in your flock. Unfortunately in American Christianity there is a growing number of flockless sheep. These are sheep that roam from field to field but never truly join a flock. They stay with a shepherd as long as the shepherd does what they want, then they leave and find another field. There commitment is to the field not to the flock. You have to let them leave. These sheep will not even take the time to hear and listen to why you are going to a new field or down this path. They will never make flock decisions – they are too selfish. These sheep simply rob the flock of the nourishment it needs from its field and shepherd anyway. Do not leave your flock to chase down such sheep. Their path is more dangerous than the one you are already on.
5. People voicing fear is a good thing. When your people get to the point that they speak things that seem to you as irrational or far-out “what-ifs” and “what abouts” they are simply speaking their fears. When a sheep “baas” in fear it is letting the shepherd know where it is. That sheep is simply saying I am right here, it is not saying it is leaving, it is asking are you still here. That “baa” is the greatest compliment a sheep can give its shepherd. That person is saying “I am afraid but I am still following you.” That is the greatest honor a sheep can give its shepherd. I follow you in spite of fear.
6. Don’t listen to the enemy. If you lose your way on the trail the flock is doomed. The enemy will try to cause you to be discouraged, dismayed, and disillusioned. You must not and can not listen. You know where the new pasture is and you know the trail – or at least you know the Great Shepherd that blazed it. Follow him!
7. Go get your sheep that lose their step. Some sheep will legitimately get distracted by a side trail or obstacle. Leave the flock for a moment and go get them. Remember they are precious to the Great Shepherd and they should be precious to you. These sheep often lose their way because they have their head up or down and are thinking and looking. One day they will probably be lead sheep because they cared enough to check out the trail while on the journey. Don’t discount that. They will learn along the way, too.
8. Remember some sheep are smart and bold. Unlike a normal shepherd, pastors lead some people that are quite capable of fighting in their own right. Maybe they are less sheep and are under-shepherds or sheep dogs. Let them fight with you and for you. You need them. This is not a one man battle.

So all this to say these things. Go with the Great Shepherd no matter where he says go. Lead his people. Love his people. Get in harm’s way for them. Fight the battles. Take on the wolves. Fight the enemy. The battle is not against flesh and blood so put away yourself and put on the full armor of God. Go to the shadows and dark places on the trail and fight like your life depends on it –because theirs does. Fight in your fears. Fight through your tears. Fight on your knees. Fight with the Word of God. Stay on the offensive. The fight is worth it because the vision (the new field) is worth it because the flock is worth it because the Great Shepherd is worth it.

Fight…Fight…Fight! Sheep will always follow a shepherd like that because although he is not the Great Shepherd he looks a lot like him.