Plans are sometimes Problems

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”      Proverbs 19:21 

Planning is Biblical, or it can be. One can rightfully plan to build a tower and count up the cost and assure he can finish it before he starts. One can plan a mission trip to start churches from one city to the next. One can plan to do many things and honor the Lord with those plans. That, however, does not mean the Lord is going to honor those plans. He might have different ones.

We are told in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God has plans for us. God has good plans for us. Now Romans also promises us that “God works all things together for good.” The fact and reality of life is that not all things are good, but faith teaches us God desires to do good in all things.

One of the biggest challenges to faith is when God’s plans seem to not be good to us and for us. Often we believe God’s plans are not good because they are different than our plans. We have planned. We have worked towards plans and God does something different. Our plans were good. They honored him. They were for his glory and for His Kingdom, but he had a different plan.

Faith is certainty in uncertainty. God is certain. Faith is not about trusting a plan. Faith is about following the very person of God. God has the right to change plans, cancel plans, and start new plans. This truth applies to us a follower of Christ, it also applies to the collection of believers – the Church.

Will you trust God even if he does not do what you thought was planned as you thought it was planned. Sometimes we love the plans of God more than the person of God. This is dangerous when those plans are not what we thought they were.

Here is the trick to trusting God. Trusting God’s plan means trusting God’s purpose. The only way we can trust the purpose a person has is to trust the person. If you want to trust God’s plans then grow in your trust in Him. You will only grow in your trust in God through obedience to God. When you do what He says, even when you are not sure why He said it, you will learn to trust the One that said it.

I am grateful for God’s purposes and plans for Fellowship Church, even when they are not exactly what I can see.

Finances: Plans, Promises, and Problems

Money (or the love of it), as the Bible teaches, is “the root of all types of evil.” Oddly enough money is not evil. Money is used for good and bad; our hearts that makes the difference.  Two people with different motivations can spend money on the same thing with one person acting righteously and the other sinfully.

Money is a huge spiritual issue. There are approximately 800 verses in the Bible about money. Jesus teaches 11 parables about money. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there your heart is also.”  Your desire for and use of money and material wealth is an accurate measure of your heart.  Where you are investing money is where you are investing your life.

Preconceived ideas become a problem in talking about money with Christians today. Some have heard and even believed the lies of the prosperity gospel. They have been told that if they give more, then they will get rich. Many (most) of the people who have believed this lie have felt its sting as they gave more than they could afford. Others have been taught heavy-handed legalistic approaches to percentages they must give. Far too many followers of Christ have simply not been taught anything that the Bible has to say about money.

Money matters to God because money matters to you. God wants you… ALL of you. Following Jesus will cost you everything. Not only does God want all of you, he demands all of you.  Following Jesus means “dying to self” and “living to Christ.” That death to self includes your finances. Jesus states that worldly materials are great measures of one’s heart. Where the treasure is, there the heart is also.

The heart matters.  Money follows.

1 Chronicles 29 is one of the places where we hear about the people of God giving above and beyond their normal (required by Law) giving toward the work of God.  In 1 Chronicles 29:6 the giving of the average family in their nation was described as “giving willingly.”

We teach giving to the Kingdom of God (the Church) as giving that comes from the heart. I teach tithing as a principle not a law. There is an inarguable pattern of giving in the Bible that never dips below 10% giving. The death and resurrection of Christ fulfilled, but did not abolish, the Law.  That means obedience in every area of life is no longer by Law; it is now by grace.  The principles, however, still apply.  The teachings about relationships, money, sexuality, etc., are still relevant. The ways of God toward which the law pointed are all still valid for our lives as God worshipers. Grace does not change the truth. Grace changes us.

When the people of Israel were called to give above and beyond their commanded taxes and tithes, they “offered willingly.” Why? They all wanted a place to worship together. They wanted a temple that would honor their God and offer their entire nation a place to come and go in worship of the Lord. They wanted other nations to see the worthiness of worship of their God. It was from their heart.

As you pray in the coming weeks and months about how Fellowship Church is going to move beyond where it is now to reach more people for Jesus, will you make this your prayer?  Ask the Lord to show you the value of what lies ahead. Ask God if He wants us to do these things? I know, without a doubt, that He does, and that is why I will give willingly. That is all I can ask of you.

We will teach directly about money. You will be challenged about your treasures and your heart. This challenge, however, will not be about buildings for Fellowship Church. The challenge is about the health of your soul. I pray that this heart and intention is heard and seen in every way that I speak and lead.

I believe that we will have everything that God intends for us to have to move BEYOND. I believe the majority of you will give willingly. Why do I believe that? Because I believe that we desire to do whatever it takes to “bring real life in Christ to Ascension Parish and beyond.” Out of that passion we will give willingly.

Remember…The heart matters.  Money follows.

I end with this.  As we discuss these truths, many of you will find yourself in a place where you cannot be obedient in giving because you have already been disobedient in spending. You are in such debt that you do not have the ability to be generous. If that is the case for you, please email me at kjones@fellowshipchurch.cc and I will help you get connected to some people and some teachings that will help you head down the right road spiritually so you can live more financially faithful.

 

Up to Date or Out of Date

In Ecclesiastes we are told a truth can both give hope and bring gravity to a situation.  “There is a time for everything.”  There are times in life to do new things.  There are times to do old things.  I also believe there are times to renew things.

The BEYOND Update we passed out yesterday at church is such a time.  For some of you it is new.  For others it is a renewal.  I hope that you will join us in prayer about what God would desire us to do as we move BEYOND.

Today, I want to give you a Biblical thought on how to respond to an update.  This update is positive.  Has everything worked out as we had planned or thought it would?  No.  Has it worked out as God planned?  Yes.  Has God done things that were beyond what we could even ask or imagine, like give us a property for one of our campuses?  Yes.  God is faithful!

Jehosaphat gets a not so favorable update in 2 Chronicles.  His response, however, is one I think we should learn from.  Not that what we are sharing is negative, but because Jehosaphat sets a good example of how to respond to an update.

He set his face to the Lord.  He prayed.  He asked God to do what only God could do.  He asked what He should do.  He repented of his wrongs and his own selfishness and sin.  He called the people to do the same.  And God was gracious and intervened on their behalf and delivered them from their enemies.

Will you join me in fasting each Tuesday between now and Easter to ask God to do more than we could ask or imagine? Will you  pray for 5 people by name and commit yourself to being faithful to share the Gospel with them?  Will you find your place to serve at Fellowship?  God made each member a laborer.  Find your labor and serve the Lord faithfully with us.

The end of 2 Chronicles 20 gives us a dire warning about not finishing well though.  Jehosaphat humbled himself before the Lord, but he did not remain there.  He did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord.  I am not asking you to join me for one  particular day to give a particular amount.  I am not asking you to join me for one year.  I am not asking you to join me in seeing everything happen as we think it will.  I am asking you to join me on a journey BEYOND where we follow God – and wherever he leads we will faithfully go.

Responding to an update means responding to the Lord.  Whether the update is good or bad, God is in control of what lies ahead just as he was of what lies behind.

Are you in?

Our House in the Middle of the Street

God is always building.

The day that Simon Peter confessed that he believed Jesus was the Christ.  Jesus promised that he would “build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.”

Jesus said he was going to build.  Why do we act surprised when he does what he said he would do?

The issue about the building of the Church is that we experience it both personally and corporately.  God is always building…IN us and THROUGH us.  Too often in faith we simply desire God to do a great work in us or we really want God to do a great work through us, but God is doing both.

Truth is we will never experience the fullness of what God desires to do in us if we are not available for God to work through us.  AND we will never know the great satisfaction and joy of God working through us if we are not available for him to work in us.

Life is best lived in the intersection of God working in us and through us.

A life lived in this intersection is one of risk and reward.  There are some key realities in life we must be willing to embrace if we are going to experience this life as God designed it best.

You must trust God is building you.  So, bring you! You might not consider yourself worth bringing, but you are.  Ephesians 2 calls you “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”  Today, you fully are ready to do what God desires you to do today.

You must trust God is building us.  So, bring them. By us, I mean the Church.  The Church is an “us and them” reality.  There are those of us in Christ and those who are not in Christ.  The difference is eternity.  It matters.  (It is not, however, “us vs. them.”  It is more like “us for them.”)  So bring them.  We, who are the Church today, are simply them who were brought to Him.  Someone brought you to Jesus and Jesus to you.  Now, go do the same.

You must trust God is building His Church.  So, bring Jesus. God is not building your church.  God is not building my Church.  He is building His Church.  Quit blaming the church for your unfaithfulness.  God is building His Church. When you say you are not participating in church because of the Church you are deciding Jesus is incompetent and untrustworthy.  You have to get over yourself and trust God to do what you don’t see.

Henry Blackaby teaches a great principle in Experiencing God.  “God is always at work around us.  We must join Him in it.”  God will never join you in your work, you must join Him in His.  That work is IN you and THROUGH you.

Are you in?

TWO MORE THINGS:
1.  Fellowship folks – this Sunday is HUGE!  We are giving out very important information about moving forward to have space and capacity to reach BEYOND where we are now in impacting Ascension Parish with the Gospel.  You will not want to miss Sunday.
2. Our House in the Middle of the Street Part Two will post tomorrow.  It is a small view of what this looks like in the Jones’ home.  The home of our Lead Pastor Kirk Jones and his family.

#ipromise Devotion 2.12.2016

ipromise

This Week’s #ipromise Principle- God’s promise to finish what He started is a promise to live, not a position to attain.

Today’s #ipromise Principle- Finish with others…don’t be “finished” with them.

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

Have you ever wanted to be finished with someone? I have- with this guy.

IMG_0213

Asa James is attractive, robust, and full of leadership skills, which is a nice way to say he is cute, chubby and bossy- a hazardous combination for any three year old boy. To be clear, I didn’t want to give up on Asa per se, but I wanted to give up on one aspect of his parenting- potty training. He is our third child, and is full of typical third child gusto, which led us to believe that he would be our easiest trainee yet. After all, we have successfully potty trained two kids and have the added bonus of being potty trained ourselves. Nothing could be easier, right?

Except Not. I will spare you the gruesome details, but suffice it to say that we endured months of changing sheets, bribery, toting 9-14 extra pairs of clothes at all times, bribery, steam cleaning carpets, bribery, purchasing “urine-b-gone,” bribery, washing car seats, and asking restaurant employees the dreaded question: “Excuse me, but do you have a mop we can use?” (Did I mention bribery?) We were ready to be finished. We were ready to let our child enter adulthood without being potty trained. I mean, how necessary is it…really?

For the record, Asa was ready to be finished too. He fought us, wrestled with us, defied us, and even tried to bribe us. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth all around. We felt defeated.

But finally, in the face of this frustration, our better instincts kicked in, and Kerri and I realized that we couldn’t let this one slide. We couldn’t give up on Asa James, because we love Asa James. In fact, we love him so much that we were willing to finish the hard work with him, even when he was finished with us. We fought the good fight, and we stand before you today as the exhausted parents of three potty trained kids. (Insert Applause)

I tell you this story because we all have someone in our life with whom we are ready to be finished. Maybe they have hurt us. Maybe they don’t return our texts or calls. Maybe they have sinned against us and left our hearts bleeding. Maybe they have rejected us for a different crowd. Loving people hurts sometimes.

Try as we might, we cannot control the choices others make. What we can control is how we are going to respond when faced with these hurts. Because the truth is, just as Kerri and I didn’t really have the option of being finished with Asa’s potty training, as followers of Jesus we don’t really have the option of being finished with others- even the hard cases. If you find yourself living in this tension today, consider God’s Word to us in Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4…

God’s Word through Paul has a ring of reality to it, doesn’t it? “If possible…as far as it depends on you…live at peace with everyone.” Let me interpret this for you- Do whatever it takes to fight for peace. Don’t simply settle into the peace that comes easy in certain relationships. Do what you have to do to keep yourself in a peaceful posture toward everyone, all the way to the finish.

Of course, we recognize that sometimes, relationships break down because of others’ choices, and the “if possible” of Romans 12:18 seems quite impossible. That’s where God’s Word through Peter serves as a constant, piercing reminder- “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Genuine love- the kind of steadfast love that God has extended toward us through Jesus- is the only fuel that can keep us from being finished. We can trust God’s Word here because we have lived it; God’s love has “covered” the “multitude” of our sins, and those who have experienced that love, we are now challenged to pass it on in a way that “covers” others too.

Practically, if you find that someone else seems finished with you, here’s what you can do- Fight for peace in your own heart. Ask God to put you in a posture of deep, 1 Peter 4:8-level love toward that person. Be ready for restoration if the opportunity ever does come. And where you grow weary and discouraged (because you will), be reminded of the love that is yours in Jesus Christ, the love that has covered all your sin and will never be finished with you.

Finish well, friends. Love is worth the fight.

#ipromise devotional 2/11/16 – The investment that truly matters

ipromise

This week’s #ipromise principle: God’s promise to finish what he started is a promise to live not a position to attain.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. [Colossians 4:5-6]

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
[Ephesians 5:15-17]

Every one of us has the same amount of time. What amount of your time is wasted, spent, or invested? God’s call is for your investment. I once heard this statement that stuck to my soul.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Because we have been given limited time, wisdom calls for us to evaluate our lives and rid them of the unimportant. We should not pay with time for things that should not be done at all.

While some things should not be done at all, there are things that must be done but are not the most important (like mowing the yard). When the least important dominate someone’s mind, they receive more attention than that which is truly important. Mowing the yard needs to be done but should not receive your best energy and attention.
[Eric Geiger]

I fall into this trap at times, and I bet you do too.

Things that matter the most can never be sacrificed at the altar of the things that matter the least.

So don’t waste, or spend- but invest. Invest in what matters. And what is it that matters?

Eternity.

Put your time into discipling your family over taking on extra work.
Put your time into serving the church over serving yourself.
Put your time into living out God’s mission and meeting needs of others over your own needs.

Kingdom Invested time is the only time yielding a return that lasts forever.

God, redeem our time. May we make the best of it as we consider You to be THE BEST.

#ipromise devotion 2/10/2016

Today’s #ipromise principle: Faithfulness in giving is not found through percentages. Percentages are found in faithful giving.

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. (Deuteronomy 8:17-19 ESV)

Suppose God gives you a child. You may now be thinking, “I’m not married.” Or maybe you think, “I can’t have children.” Or, “I’m not even old enough to have children.” Kudos to the later for reading this devotion. Nonetheless, imagine God gives you a child. Along with that child comes all of the smiles, tears, experiences, achievements, disappointments and, most of all, love. As a follower of Jesus, would you imagine that God wants you to honor Him with a percentage of your parenting? Maybe you could go to church and pray 1/7 of the week and then devote the rest to entertainment, sports, labor, education, sleep, and eating. Could you be so pious as to devote 1/2 of your week to Godly pursuits?

 As Christian parents hopefully realize and strive to live out, honoring God with your child means devoting 100% of your efforts to God. That doesn’t mean church 7 days a week. That means that you demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in your sports, entertainment, labor, and education. It means that you take rest seriously. It means that you honor God with whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do (1 Cor. 10:31). Yes, some percentage of your parenting will be directly spent in church, Bible studies, prayer, and even mission efforts. But that is just a portion of the 100% faithfulness that gives glory to God.

Now, as this pertains to money – it’s no different. Too many Christians have carelessly or intentionally bought into a false dichotomy of God’s money and my money. It is all God’s money (Hag. 2:8). He has given it to you in order that you might demonstrate your faithfulness. You might say, “But this is my money. I earned it. I worked for it. I used my talents to obtain it.” Again, like becoming a parent, there is a physical achievement that is necessary – but that certainly doesn’t make you the creator of life. God equips us with talents, opportunities, and health to earn a living. We work in the sphere of grace that God provides to obtain money to glorify God. When that circle of grace and worship response is broken, we commit idolatry.

Like the parent who has been given a child, the steward of money should not give 100% to the church. But you should also not give 10% to the church and “keep 90% for myself.” It’s all God’s money. So, in whatever you eat with that money, drink with that money, or whatever you do with that money, do it all for the glory of God. Of course this will result in some percentage – a percentage that will likely grow, to your own astonishment, over the course of Christian maturity – which is given directly to your local church for Jesus’ larger kingdom work. This kingdom giving is commanded in Scripture and is beneficial to the advancement of the gospel and the glorification of Jesus’ name throughout the earth. But that percentage is not the indicator of your financial faithfulness. 100%. That’s what God wants. He doesn’t need it; He gave it to you in the first place. He wants you to understand the goodness of His ways and His decrees. He wants you to live free from the love of money so that you might love Him supremely. God wants to see what you will do with the gracious gift you have been given.

 What will you do?

  • Have you considered how you are using 100% of your finances to honor God?
  • On what expenses do you currently spend money that does not honor God’s commands of who we should be?
  • How much money will you give back to the church to advance the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ throughout the world?

Faithfulness in giving is not found through percentages. Percentages are found in thoughtful, worshipful, faithful giving.