by Chris Jones
I’ve been thinking about this post a lot lately. It’s a timely thought, with everything that’s happening at the moment.
Originally posted 09-10-2013
Right of Way
There are few things that really drive me nuts. Chief among them is people with poor driving etiquette. What are they trying to prove anyway (riding on bumpers, laying on their horns, not yielding the right of way)? People seem to be at their most inconsiderate of others when they’re in their cars. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have to deal with people on a personal level. Each of us is surrounded by our own steel cage, removed from more intimate, physical contact. It’s as if we have a certain agenda and nothing else matters, nothing else exists.
Changing lanes has become a test of wills. If you signal your intent, shouldn’t people adjust their speed to accommodate? It seems the rules may have changed. Who decided this? Now, if you see someone attempting to change lanes, standard protocol is to ride the bumper of the car in front of you, leaving no room to merge.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV) says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
We could easily apply this same analogy to people coming to faith in God. What will this world ever know of Jesus, if Christians can’t master the principle of making room for others? Do we need to learn to yield to those around us, “valuing others above ourselves”? How might we need to adjust our pace to allow them to merge into our lane? It seems we’d rather point out all the ways their lives are incompatible with our flow. Does any of that really matter? If we receive the slightest signal that someone wants to come over, shouldn’t we make their transition an easy one?
In their introduction to Christ, is it more important that we win an initial battle of right vs. wrong, or that we welcome them into that same tender and compassionate spirit that gives us grace that we don’t deserve? It wasn’t anything about our preparedness or any pace of life that we achieved that allowed us to merge into His grace. Thank God for those who allowed us to limp along, even being delayed as they helped us get up to speed. Be watchful, patient and full of grace. Step outside the steel cage of any religious spirit that keeps you from seeing people as people. Yield your right of way to make room for them to merge into God’s grace. Be patient as they limp along. Bring them up to speed with love and understanding. Allow people to travel in our lane, the one that inevitably will lead them to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
by Chris Jones
I love God. I love math. I love that He loves me, and probably loves math too. So, I want to share this as a “Throwback Thursday”, here on WordPress.
Originally posted 06-30-2015
Prepare For Multiplication
Have you ever heard someone say that God is a God of multiplication? It’s a fair assessment. Throughout the Bible we see examples in which it proves to be true. Think about His promise to Abraham. Genesis 22:17 records God telling him, “I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore…” We also have examples like Matthew 15, where Jesus miraculously multiplies a boy’s small lunch to feed a crowd of thousands. Clearly, there’s precedence.
It’s important to know, however, that we represent no small part of the equation. If multiplication is the product of two or more variables, we must take caution to understand that each of us is in the position to limit the degree to which God can bring increase to our situation.
Imagine, for instance, that we brought nothing to the table. The product of that function would be exactly zero. It seems to ring true too. I can’t remember God ever coming through in a significant way in my life, in any situation where I was being unfaithful to what He was asking of me. It seems there’s also a consequence in always only bringing the minimum. Certainly, anything God allows to be released in our lives is good. Given the choice, however, I think anyone would prefer the maximum good, over the minimum. It provides proper encouragement to always bring your best, willing to yield it in service to God.
It’s fair to say, then, that multiplication doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the moment that obedience and preparation meet His timing and provision. It’s all according to His formula, but you’re a key factor.
by Chris Jones
If I could zero in on a particular audience for this post, I’d say it’s for my Christian friends. Specifically, it’s for those who consider themselves to be “Evangelical”. More precisely, I’m thinking of those who are praying for something we generally refer to as “revival”; an awakening of our spirits, a movement towards repentance, resulting in deeper fellowship with God, spilling into and filling every corner of our lives. Do I have your attention?
In recent months, I’ve experienced a growing sense that the awakening we’re pursuing will not only be characterized, but catalyzed by two things: “compassion” and “generosity”. Although the two might be easily summed by saying “charity” or “love”, I think it’s important to see their progression. A thought or image triggers our compassion, hopefully moving us towards acts of generosity. My concern is in wondering what obstacles stand in the way of us, as a body, walking these out in practical, everyday applications.
As much as we want to believe that we’re compassionate and generous people, do our lives yield enough evidence to provide proof? Are we able to allow our generosity to take us to a place where our lives might become less comfortable?
At the risk of stirring the negative emotions and political opinions many have assigned to them, consider the following scenarios. Think about the college kid somewhere in the middle of America, asking for help with his mounting student debt. In a different town, there’s a single mother asking for a bump in pay to help spread her little income over many expenses. Broken families ask for protection from those they see as their oppressors. While one might feel justified in criticizing the notion that a system of government should intervene on their behalf, what other solution exists in the absence of the manifest compassion and generosity of their local communities? How might the compassion and generosity of God’s people change these seemingly unsolvable situations?
Is it really a surprise that revival doesn’t come to America, when much of the evidence seems to reveal our real dysfunction? Of all the requests we could make of God, have we failed to take firm hold of the basic tools He has already given us? What if our pursuit of revival began with earnest prayers to grow in the fruit He has promised us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5)? I believe this is the answer to all of the above.
Isn’t it true that the contrast of our joy, peace, patience and self control, against the world’s despair, should move our hearts with compassion to see people restored? What role might more love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness play in motivating us to meet the needs of our neighbors, in generosity, with the resources of God’s Kingdom? What real, lasting revival might be sparked if we stopped just praying for it, and committed ourselves to living for it?
by Chris Jones
Last week in church, there was a strong message encouraging us to tell stories of the prayers God has answered in our lives. They are evidence of God’s provision in our lives. Instead of just celebrating them in the moment, let us see them as monuments that tell others about the greatness of the God we serve. No matter the impact in our lives, whether big or small, the stories of these miracles represent our unwavering faith in God. This is the story of one of our little miracles.
Our Promise To God
As most young married couples do, many of my wife’s and my early conversations involved our desire to have a family. Unfortunately, when we decided to pursue that dream, our efforts didn’t go as one might plan. The initial result was three miscarriages in one year. Doctor visits and confusion ensued. Despite every attempt to find a cause, it alluded us.
I clearly remember several of my conversations with God during this time. The frustration I felt as a husband unable to supply my wife’s deepest desire, overwhelmed me. Why does God allow His children to endure such hardship? I was reminded of the instance in John 9, when Jesus indicated that some obstacles are in place so God’s power may be demonstrated in our lives.
My wife and I decided to make a very specific request. We prayed that God would lead the doctors to find something they previously overlooked. Further, we prayed that the remedy be something simple, like taking one little pill. We committed to making that our request. I promised that, if He would answer our prayer, we’d be sure to share the story of our miracle with everyone.
We probably shouldn’t have been surprised to get a call from the doctor in the following days. They requested an appointment, telling us they discovered something from an old test. It was found that my wife had a condition that caused her blood to clot at an abnormally high rate. That clotting kept the fetus from receiving an adequate blood supply, resulting in miscarriage. The remedy: one baby aspirin a day.
We were blown away. If you’ve been through miscarriages, you know we felt like we were given a second chance at life. In reality, we were given a chance at two precious little lives. From the moment she began taking one baby aspirin a day, she didn’t have any more miscarriages. She had two flawless pregnancies and deliveries. The Bible says, “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT) You can be sure they do.
My Encouragement to You
I encourage you to share your story. Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can feature it in a post on Witness Runner, like I did with JB and baby Charlotte. You never know what a story can do.
by Chris Jones
I realized I was in the middle of making a huge mistake by not taking my son’s money. Actually, my awareness was mostly peaked by the hole my wife’s eyes were burning into me. She saw it before I did. My son was growing into the man I pray he will be, and I was standing in his way.
Working in the finance industry, I make every attempt to raise my sons with a good sense of value and proper money management. Similarly, being a Christian, I try to take advantage of each chance to build a strong sense of charity into their daily habits. Every month, they learn exactly what amount of their allowance to set aside as tithe to their youth ministry, and how to make wise decisions with what the have left. So, when my eleven-year-old handed me five dollars, saying, “Dad, I want you to take this and spend it on something just for you,” the finance guy in me immediately thought, “Buddy, I don’t want you to just give your money away. You need to learn the value of your hard work, earning your allowance.”
Some piece of that “logic” was even coming out of my mouth when my wife’s wide eyes signaled the error I was making. For as much as I talk to them about the importance of having and the blessings that follow a generous spirit, I was in the process of blocking one of them from that experience becoming real in his life. Humbling myself, I took five, hard-earned dollars from the hand of this young man who just seconds before, had walked into my kitchen as a little boy.
Should I really be surprised, then, that the very next day, God delivered two blessings He was preparing for my son? First, a new soccer jersey came in that tracking notifications said would take another two weeks to arrive. Later, we found “THE” soccer cleats he wanted, for about half the price he expected. Certainly, such occurrences could easily be dismissed as coincidence. Thankfully, this eleven-year-old boy rightly identified them as God’s providence and encouragement to grow in charity. Meanwhile, his father was thanking God for leading us both through a lesson in giving.
by Chris Jones
I captured these clips from Sunday morning recordings of my pastor James Cheshier. He was my Pastor from the time I was born until maybe 10th grade, when he retired. I remember him fondly. These recordings immediately take me to memories of a great man who I admire for his leadership and truly uncompromising Christ-like example. These memories make me consider and reconsider what I might do in 2016 and throughout life to stand apart from this world, as a positive example of the difference Jesus makes in my life.
by Chris Jones
I had the great honor of standing in for our Pastor this past Sunday morning. My message was from Nehemiah, challenging us to consider how we represent God, as the body of Christ. I hope it encourages you today.
by Chris Jones
When did “correction” become a dirty word? It seems many people receive correction as a major offense. “How dare anyone tell me what to do!” I imagine this has something to do with the holier-than-thou attitude many of us have endured in the process of receiving correction. None-the-less, it’s good to be brought into correct understanding, correct conduct, a correct path.
There was a word given at Calvary Assembly of God a few on Sundays ago, that compared God’s ways to the path of a hurricane. It partly talked about God’s power being destined to fall in our area, as a storm would make landfall. In addition, it referred to the importance of aligning ourselves with God’s plan, coming into His path. Obviously, if we’re currently somewhere outside or on the fringe of where He intends us to live, some correction is necessary.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
Be willing to come under godly correction, and to be tender in encouraging others in the way they should go. Hear and respond to the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Lay down pride and selfish ambition, for the sake of seeing God’s will accomplished in and through your life. Value those who are willing to help you make your path correct.
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.