by Chris Jones
I’m aware that this type of article costs people friends. We become particularly sensitive when people talk about our financial and related lifestyle decisions. I challenge those with an open mind to read to the end, and hear what God might be saying through this. Asking your forgiveness in advance, I just couldn’t find a way to keep this brief.
Have you ever heard someone say that the love of money is the root of all evil? What does that mean? How is it even possible? If you’re not aware, it’s from the Bible. 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Reading the direct translation in the Interlinear version is particularly sobering to me.
Some scoff at this notion, quipping that they don’t love money, only the things it can do for them. The sad reality of their deception is witnessed in a very public pursuit of empty possessions. For some, it’s a controlling desire to elevate their apparent social status, at any cost. For others, it’s a compulsion to surround themselves with every modern comfort and convenience, seemingly unaware that lasting happiness can’t be found under that rock.
Have we missed it?
Even if this isn’t our conscious attitude, how can the church of America not confess that we represent a culture that spends a far disproportionate amount of our time and financial resources on selfish pursuits, relative to our calling? It yields a dynamic in which our habits as consumers testify to a lack of dedication to our faith. What is our reaction to hearing Matthew 6:19-21, where it says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
In our pursuit of “more”, do we horde Kingdom resources, storing them in the many luxuries that serve little purpose other than accessorizing an existence wasted on personal interests? Meanwhile, we criticize our government and other social institutions that struggle to fill the void left by our disobedience and ineffective stewardship. You’re right! The System is broken! Yet, we place the wrong systems at the center of any discussion. Remember, God established a storehouse to meet all needs. Still, if the method for supplying His plan is plagued by unfaithful participants and careless stewards, the demand for provision will forever remain unsatisfied.
So…what’s the potential strength of the storehouse?
The image of cattle on a thousand hills doesn’t touch the vastness of those resources in our modern context.
Let’s consider statistics from 2013 year-end. For example, did you know that there were a little more than 317 million people living in America at that time? They represented roughly 122 million households. Since the United States Census Bureau provides data that helps us estimate a 2013 average household income of roughly $68,000, we can calculate that American households collectively earned almost $8.3 trillion in that period. If the 83% of Americans who identify themselves as Christians contributed a standard 10% to God’s storehouse, something like $689 billion could have been contributed in that year alone.
Let’s not get crazy though.
Taking a more conservative approach, consider this article. In it, Mike Holmes walks his readers into seeing how tithes could generate an additional $165 billion dollars above current giving, just from those who already at least partially participate in this model. If my math is correct, according to the statistics Holmes provides, that’s a surplus of three times everything that was tithed during the prior period. For those who I may have just lost, let me say, “that’s a lot!”
Then…what’s the potential global impact of a well-funded storehouse?
Since we don’t see numbers like this on a daily basis, it’s difficult to accurately gauge the potential impact of that increase in giving. For some perspective, consider the most recent estimate that just $30 billion dollars a year could solve the world’s hunger problems. Other sites place similar estimates on remedying the world’s literacy, water and sanitation needs (all totaling only $27 billion a year, according to www.generouschurch.com).
Sadly we’ve grown somewhat def and blind to major worldwide needs like these. Consider, then, this example, a current lightning rod for conservative christianity’s criticism of society’s attempts to solve the problems the church leaves unattended.
A recent Washington Post article estimated that Planned Parenthood’s total annual funding is somewhere just short of $1.2 billion. This includes government and private donations, fees, service charges and other fundraising efforts. While Planned Parenthood provides some needed, low-cost health services to a reported 1.2 million women (650,000 who might otherwise be left without that help), many Christians justifiably believe those benefits aren’t worth the hundreds of thousands of abortions also executed at Planned Parenthood and their affiliated providers every year.
There’s pretty clear irony, however, in the fact that many people who argue for the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood, are simultaneously and willingly (albeit, unwittingly) participating in the “defunding” of the one institution God established as the solution to this and the rest of the world’s failing attempts to provide any answers to otherwise impossible dilemmas.
Faith In Action
What might happen if we took this charge seriously, understanding it as a mandate rather than a suggestion? What if a fully-equipped church engaged these issues, on a level of people serving people? What if our desire for a better car, more living space, increased comforts and all the other carrots the world might dangle before us, were sacrificed in the interest of seeing the Kingdom of God advancing, in love and service towards humanity?
Whether we like it or not, our faith is on trial. What defense do we have if the example of our lives doesn’t match the instructions in God’s Word? The profit Malachi not only tells us about God’s storehouse system, but warns of it’s broken components when he writes,
Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, “What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?” You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. “If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:8-12)
Root Of All Evil?
So, can there be truth in the belief that the love of money is the root of “all kinds of evil”? Perhaps understanding this reality requires a shift in perspective. Instead of seeing it as a direct personal cause and effect, it may be more accurate to recognize how our disobedience to this simple instruction allows the many evils that persist across a broader spectrum than just that of our personal experiences.
No further evidence is needed, to prove that Kingdom objectives will never be fulfilled through political persuasion. There’s no criticism to be more deservedly placed than that for our lack of obedience. If we’re responsible for representing the love of God to the people of this world, our greatest potential for breakthrough just might be found when the use of our dollars makes sense.
So, I’d love to hear the thoughts this triggers in you. Be sure to leave a comment below, or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation.
by Chris Jones
There’s an image we should all get in our heads. Picture a knight, a Marine, a firefighter, a S.W.A.T. team member, anyone who wears a certain armor into battle. Now, picture that person not wearing their armor, but dragging it around until the very moment they’re faced with conflict. It’s a ridiculous image, for sure. Not only would they be ill-prepared for confrontation, but it would certainly be an exhausting task to drag that gear around.
Don’t we realize that this is how the majority of us live as Christians? Not only have we been given a task, but we’ve been given armor for the battle.
Ephesians 6:10-18 says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Don’t be deceived into thinking your weekly visit to church is equipping you effectively enough. Stop making your only prayer habit be a distressed plea in your moment of need. It’s exhausting, living a half-committed life, dragging the armor around for when you think you need it. In that moment, it may already be too late. Prepare yourself for anything the enemy might send your way, by putting on the whole armor, and doing it daily.
God help us have this image. Help us see if we’re not prepared for the road ahead. Help us, Holy Spirit, to live lives that testify to the importance of being equipped. Thank you for the trials that reveal your goodness, protection and ability to sustain your children through the battle. Have mercy on us in the moments when we lack preparedness. Lead us to rely on the tools and the armor you’ve provided, having faith that your ways are perfect.
by Chris Jones
What can anyone really do? With all the problems we face, are we really capable of doing anything to bring change? Try as we might through political pressure, human manipulation, blood sweat and tears, sheer will of the human spirit or the financial resources of an entire planet, it seems few strategies are capable of really changing the trajectory of humanity.
As overwhelming as the task might seem, it’s undeniably God’s plan that we play a part in turning the world to Him. It’s natural, then, to excuse our lack of action by questioning our limitations. It’s natural. However, if we’re always only doing what comes naturally, we’ll forever miss what God is doing supernaturally.
God’s ability to intervene on our behalf is beautifully illustrated in 2 Kings 6:15-17. It says, “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
There’s much to which God has called us as children, as friends, as servants, as warriors. Many times our feelings of inadequacy prevail, and we withdraw from the battle, forgetting that we serve a God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Eph 3:20)
Holy Spirit, fill us with boldness. Remind us to call on your power, to sustain us and take us through the battles of this life. Help us to be aggressive for your Kingdom. Open our eyes to the armies that surround us, to those who stand before us and behind us, as we charge into this world, knowing that the battle is yours.
by Chris Jones
If there’s a verse I’ve heard a million times, it’s probably II Chronicles 7:14. It’s the one that says, “…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
It sounds easy, right? Is it possible that the answer to all of our issues is just a prayer away?
If I’m reading this correctly, humility is also a significant part of the restoration process. Unfortunately, humility isn’t a natural component of our lives. I know I miss this, so many times. Even in doing what I believe to be right, I tend to get so focused on my call and perceived responsibilities that I take too much on myself. Rarely, in those moments, do I stop to remember that there’s really nothing I can do in my own power. My only success lies in turning to The One who holds all things in His hands, and has the power to make things right.
The problem? I ignore one command, designed to stop me in my tracks, bringing me into alignment with His plan, “humble yourself”. The process of our country (our cities, our neighborhoods, our families) being healed, begins with us choosing a lifestyle of humility, not just knowing that we’re not able, but understanding that fact so completely that we live our lives on our knees.
It’s a difficult process for some, giving up control, admitting our weakness. It’s ironic but true, that our greatest advances for the Kingdom of God will happen in the moments that we stop trying, confess our complete lack of ability, and turn the fight over to God. Humility is the Key.
by Chris Jones
There’s something about “Revival” that peaks one’s excitement, among Christians anyways. The word itself speaks to new strength and fresh life. For some it means radical change. For others, it simply inspires memories of spiritually-charged services. For me, the atmosphere that revival creates, just makes things easier. Worship is easier. My Bible study time is easier. Loving like Christ, is easier. In a season of revival, it seem like much of my spiritual life can be placed on cruise control. It’s so easy to serve God when you’re on that kind of mountain top.
Sunday morning at Calvary, Paula shared a word about revival. It was an urgent message. She talked about God beginning to shake up His church. It conveyed a much more “around-the-corner” than “down-the-road” type of expectation. Immediately, I thought about the many plans God has put on my heart. In “revival mode”, all those things will become automatic.
Quickly, God spoke two words to me: “Preparation” and “Catalyst”.
Many of us can immediately name one or several missions or visions God has put on our heart. So, what are we waiting for? Instead of waiting for God to pave the way, what might happen if we start today? I believe God is calling His people into action. I believe the plans he placed within us will not only prepare us for the coming revival, but trigger the events that will bring that revival, leading to greater spiritual growth and strength in our lives.
So, what’s your role in preparing the way for the coming revival? Is God calling you to get your house in order? Are there some habits you need to break? Are there some habits you need to create? Is there a new season of leadership God is calling you to, concerning your family or community? Do you need to step up the support you are to your church? Whatever the calling, in whatever way He is awakening the spirit within you, don’t wait another moment. Start pursuing revival in your life, today!
by Chris Jones
2 Timothy 4:1-2 says, “I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” (NLT)
I had quite the morning, yesterday. Admittedly, I was a little late arriving to my desk. Before 9 a.m., I already ministered to three individuals, all by asking the simple question, “how are you today?” Then, I listened and shared encouragement from God’s Word.
BE READY! God’s timing is far less a mystery when we begin to realize that the answer to the question of “when” is “all the time”.
What if each of us allowed that switch to be flipped in our lives? ARE YOU READY? In an instant, millions of people could be activated to go into the world, READY to preach the gospel to all mankind.
Our error would be in thinking this looks like millions of people on their “soapboxes”, pounding their Bibles. To the contrary, it looks like millions of believers READY to ask the question, “how are you today?” It’s the sound of our silence, as we’re READY to listen. It’s the peace of God, as we’re READY to share encouragement from His Word (assuming we’re equipping ourselves with it).
We pray for revival. I believe it will come when we’re READY.
by Chris Jones
What sense does it make that anyone should want to become weak? It certainly isn’t a quality that’s valued in this world. Especially among men, weakness is seen as a handicap. It’s ironic, then, that weakness may be the key to your freedom.
There’s strong symbolism in seeing our sin as chains. In John 8:31-34, Jesus said that sin enslaves us. Whether trapped by willful participation or as victim to a generational curse, the deepest longing of our heart is freedom from that bondage.
For some, however, prayers might seem to be a fruitless endeavor. Always asking and waiting for someone or something to come break them, we fail to recognize the link we are in those chains. Is it possible that prideful unwillingness to welcome help inhibits our breakthrough? Are we fearful of the judgement we might face if our shortcomings are exposed? Can it be that we’re comfortable, “at home” with our addictions? Are we holding on too tightly?
If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, becoming weak is the beginning of freedom. Allow yourself to be broken; your pride, your will, your plans, your thoughts in exchange for His. Let go of those things you hold more closely than His Word, His promises. Pick up the Armor of God (Ephesians 6). Allow His Fruit (Galatians 5) to grow in your life.
Your freedom is not in your ability to remain strong. It’s found in your willingness to become weak.
In every season, God speaks a word to sustain you. God is not bound in the same limits of time and place as we are. He can release His word from a different time, season, location or context to be deposited in your life at any moment He likes. Our role is to position our hearts in humility before Him, so His grace can lead us!