Today’s WISEGUYS! devotional is the first message in a series called How to Recession Proof Your Inner World. I just wrapped up this series. Sorry for the delays in sending out the newsletter. I had a tough time getting it formatted, and figuring out how to handle, store, archive… all that stuff that I’m still learning.
You’ll notice, throughout this series, that I’m talking about Building On Grace, which is our church’s building fund. I decided to leave that material in the emailed messages.
Last thing… I intend to fast-track these emails for a few weeks to get you caught up! I just didn’t want to start at the end of a series.
I pray God uses these messages to strengthen your spirit and to “put the hit on spiritual ignorance!”
Thanks for reading!
- The Inner Mess Website (beta version) is up and running. Parts are still under construction, but you can check it out! This would be the website for my first book, HOW TO KEEP YOUR INNER MESS FROM TRASHING YOUR OUTER WORLD (Monarch Books, February 2009).
- Early copies of the book are available at the website! If you live in town, you’ll be able to pick up copies at church, hopefully, starting this weekend.
How to Recession Proof Your Inner World:
All You Can Hold
The engine that drives your Christianity is faith: Faith in God, faith in His promises, faith in His character. Your measure of faith determines the quality of your Christian life. It’s the key determinant.
And it’s that way for a church too. Our collective faith drives our collective expression of Christianity. You can tell, just by looking at a church, what the people there are expecting God to do.
It’s really important that every so often, we recalibrate our spiritual compasses, as a church, so that we can all be on the same page. So, every fall, I take a few weeks and talk about what God is doing and what we trust Him to do going forward. I want to do that today and for the next few weeks.
And, it’s extra-important because we are about to ask you to be a huge part of the biggest building project in our history.
By God’s grace:
We are going to launch a new venue at the Vineyard.
We are going to build a new building.
We are going to expand our ministries.
We are going to launch a capital campaign to do it.
And the timing couldn’t be stranger. We all see the news, the headlines. We all have friends who have lost their jobs or their businesses or their homes. Two years ago, our economy was flying high. Today, we’re doing everything we can to prevent the next great depression.
Isn’t God’s timing crazy?
So, for today, and the next few weeks, I want to speak on a highly relevant and timely topic:
How to Recession Proof Your Inner World.
I want God to embed a truth deep into your soul: that no matter what is happening in the world around you, God can still deliver blessing to the world within you. He can deliver peace, and joy, and prosperity that money can’t buy. He can deliver hope, and comfort that nothing can steal. God knows how to bless His children during an economic downturn, and I want to show you that from Scripture.
And if God is going to bless you, then your great task in life is to position your soul for that blessing. To position your inner life to experience the maximum grace that God has designed for you.
For our first Scripture passage, I’ve asked you to turn to a Bible story that I return to just about every single year.
All You Can Hold
2 Kings 4:1 “A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.’”
Setting: The time here is about 1,000 years before Christ. Elisha is the leading Bible teacher in all of ancient Israel. He operates a seminary—which is a training school for future pastors (the sons of the prophets). One of his students died, and his wife comes to Elisha in total desperation.
Problem: The problem is a debt she cannot pay. School loans, credit card debt, mortgage payment, car loan—it all crashes down on her. She is bankrupt. Not only that, but in those days, creditors had the power not only to foreclose on her home, but also to repossess even her two sons. She said that the creditor was coming to take her sons as slaves. So we could say that the problem is impending bankruptcy and impending slavery.
4:2 “So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.’”
A Solution: Elisha quickly turns to a solution: what do you have in your house? I believe that God brought you here today because He is calling you to a higher level of grace than ever before. He is calling you up. You thought you were on reserve status; God is activating you.
And when He does that it will always seem impossible. It will always feel like bankruptcy or slavery or even like death itself.
It is the same for our church. God is calling us up to a higher level of mission, and more passionate service for Him. But it feels unnerving, and frightening, and we can’t see how we can ever pay for it or even get it off the ground. But God always starts in the same place: What do you have in your house? That is, WHAT DO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW TO DEDICATE TO THE LORD? What is in your hands? What is in your power?
Start with what you have. Start there. It’s not your job to create miracles. That’s God’s job. Your job is to take your ordinary little jar of oil—which is TOTALLY INSUFFICIENT, and let the Lord multiply it!
I’m telling you that God has solutions for NCR, and they start with us employing what we have right now in new ways, and letting God create an exponential multiplication of what Neighborhood Church has right now.
Let me pause here and talk about our church for a few minutes.
God has always had His hand of blessing on our church. We’re so grateful for the generations that have gone before us. Now it’s our turn to build on their foundation and to lay a foundation for future generations.
In the last six years, our church has grown by over 1,000 people.
We have witnessed over 1,000 professions of faith.
That’s what we have right now. That’s what we can offer God right now.
What do you have in your house? “Just a little oil…”
4:3 “Then he said, ‘Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few.’”
An Urgent Command, Elisha’s language here is really urgent and passionate. He uses exaggerated language: from EVERYWHERE; from ALL your neighbors; EMPTY vessels; do not gather just a few.
This is God’s URGENT command to us at Neighborhood Church right now. People all around us need Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. There is no freedom. There is no deep healing, or total satisfaction for your heart. There is no heaven, just a Christless condemnation from the justice of God for all eternity.
People need Jesus desperately, and our job is to CREATE THE SPACE for them. That means PHYSICAL space, like chairs and nurseries and parking lots. That means RELATIONAL space, so that when you bring a friend to this church, that friend can forge deep and lasting friendships— both with Christ, and with us. That’s why our iGroups are so important, and why we are working to make them the backbone of our church.
God is urgent that we go everywhere, and do everything we can to embrace the people He wants to send us. And my job is to keep transferring that urgency to you. To never let you be complacent or comfortable with the easy way.
So Elisha tells this woman to gather every empty vessel she possibly can. That is the command; then comes a promise.
4:4 “And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”
An INCREDIBLE Promise—Elisha promises this woman that she can take her little vial of oil and fill every single vessel she gathers with that valuable oil. Now, if you’re just looking at laws of nature and physics, this is impossible. If you’re judging by past experience, this is impossible. A small flask of olive oil simply cannot fill a large collection of different sized vessels. It is impossible, and that is just the point, “Because what is IMPOSSIBLE with us is always POSSIBLE with God.” (Luke 18:27)
An IMPLIED Question—so this raises the question, based simply on this audacious, and incredible promise, if you are in this woman’s shoes, HOW MANY VESSELS WILL YOU GET?
Imagine yourself knocking on your neighbors’ doors and making a ridiculous request: Hi. I’m your neighbor down the block. May I borrow all your pots and pans? Do you have any those really big pots that you make spaghetti in? How many? May I borrow all of them please; I’ll bring them back, I promise. Why? Uh, well, I have this pint of oil, and God’s going to multiply it till it turns into all I can hold.
So, I ask you again, how many vessels would you get? How far down the street would you go? How urgent would you be to provide God with CAPACITY so that HE COULD FILL IT?
An IMPLICATION for our church—I am telling you right now that this is THE QUESTION God is asking Neighborhood Church right now. We are at a crossroads. God has thrown down a challenge: HOW MANY VESSELS WILL YOU GIVE ME TO FILL? How many seats? How many parking places? How many iGroups? How many services? What quality of architecture, and print media, and worship services do you consider worthy of Me? God is asking us HOW MUCH WE WILL TRUST HIM FOR. How big is our faith?
I am absolutely convinced that God will fill up all the space we give Him, as long as we keep our hearts warm toward Jesus, and tender toward lost people.
And one reason I’m convinced is because He’s done it over and over: FACTS:
Our new and improved kid’s auditorium is full and overflowing every service, every week.
Our junior high room is full and overflowing every week.
Our senior high room can’t hold all the students who come on big events.
Our Celebrate Recovery ministry, women’s Bible study, and Awana clubs—spread out and take over the whole building.
We have minimal weddings because we need the auditorium for Saturday services…
Whatever we give God He fills, and He fills it every time we give it to Him. That’s why we have multiple services, and multiple venues: (8 worship opportunities every weekend) but that gets incredibly complex and wearisome for our leadership staff and workers— it’s super-inefficient. And it’s burning us out; and it’s burning me out.
We have told God what we trust Him for by building this building. And He has been faithful to fill it.
Now He’s asking, what we will trust Him for in the future. How many vessels will we give Him to fill?
A cost involved. But there is a cost involved just as there was for this woman. What is that cost? Here she is on the verge of bankruptcy, in a severe economic downturn.
Can God deliver a blessing into that situation? And what is more important, the economy outside or the economy inside; the environment or the “invironment?”
So how big is our faith?
Before I answer that question, let me ask you a more fundamental question: what is it worth to you personally to see Neighborhood Church reach the next 1,000 people for Jesus? Is that valuable to you? What cost would you be willing to pay? I’m not just talking about money—though that is part of it.
We’ve reached this first 1,000 by just squeezing the most out of present resources, now what about the next 1000. We have the acreage: it’s sitting right out there, covered with trees. Did God give it to us to save the trees or to save everlasting souls?
I’m talking about you putting up with personal discomfort for the sake of lost people that God wants to send us. I’m talking about you and me deferring our preferences, and our comforts, so that we might better meet the needs of others. I’m talking about all of us putting our “retirement” on hold, and realizing that if you are a Christian, you are automatically a FULL TIME EMPLOYEE OF GOD, and acting like it. How much of a cost are you willing to pay?
It’s a real question that faces NCR right now. Because we can either go forward, or sink backwards. God never allows a church to just stay put. What is the cost? This woman illustrates three key costs:
You have to be willing to do stuff you’ve never done before. Asking neighbors for pots and pans was totally out of her comfort zone.
It is a simple fact of life that when a church, or a Christian, or a family, or a business wants to move to another level of achievement for God, you have to be willing to do stuff you’ve never done before. Business as usual has to change. It will feel awkward. It will feel embarrassing. It will seem like standing on the brink of an abyss and staring failure in the face. So be it.
Souls are at stake! Eternity is at stake! The reputation of God is at stake.
We can either stay in the comfortable territory we’re familiar with, or venture forth into uncomfortable territory where none of us has a clue. It’s nerve-wracking to talk about Jesus to a lost person. It’s scary to sign construction contracts
Whether it’s gathering vessels for oil, or changing your life, or growing our church, moving forward is uncomfortable. I say, let’s go forward! And if we strike out, at least let’s go down swinging for the bleachers.
You have to do the leg work. Just as this woman and her sons, the leg work was gathering the vessels. For us as a church, it is gathering seats and groups of people.
It takes flesh and blood people doing a whole lot of behind the scenes preparation and work.
God will not bless this project unless our hearts are right toward Him. God blesses humble hearts. God blesses risk-taking hearts. God blesses faith-filled hearts. And God blesses Bible-filled, prayer-filled spirits.
You live on clarity, not certainty. So, Elisha tells a grieving widow and her grieving sons to do what sounds impossible and ridiculous. Then, picture Elisha walking away, and the woman and her sons left all alone.
They start talking. “Did you hear what I thought I heard? Vessels? Pour it out from our flask?” They consider alternatives. They analyze the risks. The possibilities of failure and success. They count the cost. They analyze this project from every conceivable angle. It could work. It might work, but we’re not totally certain. At this point, they have no CERTAINTY that God will come through for them.
But they do have something else: CLARITY. They understand exactly what they are going to do. TRUST IS NOT ABOUT ACHIEVING CERTAINTY; IT’S ABOUT ACHIEVING CLARITY AND ACTING ANYWAY. They might have had all kinds of doubts and questions and fears, but they gathered their vessels anyway. They were clear on what to do.
And in your life, and in our church, after all the discussion, and planning, and analysis, and debate is over, we may NOT BE CERTAIN that our plan will work, but we are CLEAR on the plan so we take clear aim and pull the trigger.
We are moving forward on many different fronts, and while we’re not TOTALLY CERTAIN what the outcomes will be, at least we are CLEAR on our direction. Faith doesn’t mean eliminating your fears or doubts or risk. Faith means taking clear steps in spite of your fears and doubts and risk. And that is part of the cost for our church.
4:5 “So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out.”
4:6 “Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased.”
A Genuine Miracle—imagine the weirdness when they shut the door. Okay, it’s crunch time. We’ve made the plans, we’ve paid the price, and we’ve gathered the vessels. Here we go. It had to feel like riding a roller coaster, and taking that slow, clickety ride to the top before the first drop. She takes her flask of oil, and pours. And sure enough, the oil just keeps coming.
“Bring me another vessel,” she shouts! Gallons and gallons of oil. Barrels and barrels. It was a miracle.
You are the miracle of NCR. You are the oil that God has poured into this vessel. And week after week God keeps pouring more. And I believe He wants to pour more and more people into our church. But then comes . . .
A potential regret, “And she said to her son, ‘bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘there is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased.” Question: how would you feel at that moment? I know how I would feel? I would be kicking myself for not getting more vessels. I would be kicking myself for not being more urgent and passionate about it. God wanted to give me ALL THE BLESSING I COULD HOLD, and I wasn’t as passionate as I could be to hold more. The oil ceased.
For our purposes, we could paraphrase, “the evangelism ceased.” The church outreach ceased. The growth ceased. Why? Because they stopped gathering vessels. THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE NO REGRETS IS TO GATHER ALL THE VESSELS YOU CAN.
A limit on grace: Question 1: what was the limiting factor on the amount of oil they could receive from God? Answer: the number of vessels they gathered.
Question 2: what was the limit on that? Answer: their faith.
If you could be there scanning the room when they closed the door and started to pour out the oil, you would see how much faith they had. Their faith was expressed by the capacity they created for grace. So it is with your life, and our church. How much room will we give God to fill? That is the question that haunts me, because the only limits are created by small faith; your small faith, my small faith.
The economy is not a limit. The Bible is full of people who experienced blessing—emotional, physical, and financial blessing—in terrible situations. God’s blessing not limited by a bad economy.
Timing is important, but timing isn’t everything. If we waited for a perfect time to do anything, we’d never do nothin’.
God wants to bless you. God wants to pour into you. God wants to give you more than you can imagine. But it takes FAITH to contain the blessing of God. WHAT IS YOUR CAPACITY?
I’ve been a pastor for 30 years; I know, hard to believe. I started when I was four, right? Explain this mystery; I’ve seen it in every church:
Our church has capacity for 400 or so people in a worship service. Yet we have 1,600 to 1,700 adults in worship not counting kids, each week.
What keeps all of you from showing up at the same time? Capacity…faith…God…human nature.
We had 2 services last Easter at the convention center, about 1500 per service. Why didn’t we have one service with 200 people and the other with 2,800 people? Nobody coordinated this. It just happened.
I believe that this happens because God fills our faith. Our capacity depends on our faith.
The size of our faith sets the limits. Next week, we will look at how to increase the size of your faith so you can increase your capacity for grace.
Church, let’s increase our capacity! Let’s not settle for what we have now. Let’s make room for more people, more souls, more families, more singles, more students, more young adults, more kids, and more seniors. Let’s not allow the oil to cease in our lifetimes.
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”
Amazing grace: One last observation. This was not just grace, it was amazing grace. Grace would simply supply the need. “Go sell the oil and pay your debt.” That would be grace—an undeserved kindness of God.
But God didn’t just give her enough oil to pay her debt; he gave her a surplus to endow her family for the future: “you and your sons live on the rest (the surplus).”
Amazing grace—a facility that offers:
1,200 seat auditorium (smaller than Redding Convention Center)
300 Seat chapel
100 seat Cafe
Up to 30,000 feet Children’s ministry space
That would be amazing grace–and I’m asking you to be a part.
She got what she needed, and she got more too—Amazing grace. She got money—God sometimes works that way, but not always. If he doesn’t give us money, he’ll give us what money can’t buy. Either way, we can’t lose. Paul prayed for people that their souls would prosper.
And that’s my prayer for you in this crazy economy: that you would build a recession-proof spirit; and that you would enjoy a profound inner prosperity that money can’t buy.
Over these coming weeks, I want to show you how.
© 2008 Bill Giovannetti. All Rights Reserved. Permission gladly given for free copying and distribution with this notice intact. http://www.ncredding.com