Posted by Russ Jones On 7:56 PM
I haven't blogged in a while.  It isn't that I don't like it.  I just didn't feel like it.  It wasn't a symptom of something more sinister.  I didn't feel like I had a good reason to blog.  But today changed that.

For the last few days, I have been saying that we were going to make a big announcement at church.

But let me show you how we got here.

A few months ago, Duke Matlock of the founder of Invest Leadership Initiative and I set this date for him to come and speak at my church.   Duke is my personal coach, and I wanted him to come and inspire the people to pursue change like he has inspired me to.

A few weeks ago someone stopped by my office to share with FFWC an offering of $3,400 that is dedicated to replacing some carpet in our church.  Now does the carpet need replacing?  It's fire engine red and has been there since 1979.  Now before you get an image of this horribly stained thread bear carpet, it isn't.  It looks as good as the day they installed it.  I think it's the same carpet the Israelites used while in the desert.  Remember?  Nothing they had ever wore out.

A couple of weeks after that.  One of our sister churches (I'll give the name later as soon as I get clearance too) informed me that they were going to remodel their sanctuary and that they wanted to give us 170 of their beautiful church chairs!  THAT'S THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

 KEEP READING it gets better.

After I told the church leadership team about the chairs, they immediately said that we need to change the carpet.  Can you imagine their surprise when I told them that someone had donated $3,400 to that very project?

Immediately, an observer to the conversation pledged $1,000.  Since then another $1,000 pledge came in.

So all of these things begin to converge together.  I was starting to wonder what was going to happen today.

When I told everyone this morning what I just shared with you, the sanctuary erupted with praise unto Jesus.  There was no doubt in anyone's mind.  God is in this.

KEEP READING it gets better.

Duke called me Saturday evening and asked me, "Are we doing a fundraiser tomorrow?"  I told him no.  In my mind, we could do that in a couple of weeks.  I still wanted him to come and inspire people to embrace a culture of change that allows them to receive everything from God that He wants to give them and give everything to the people that need them.  I thought his message would simply be empowered by the excitement of the big announcement.

But there was a problem.  A few weeks ago when we prepared for today, we determined what we were going to do.  Duke couldn't remember what it was so he asked me.  For the life of me, I couldn't remember either.  When he arrived this morning, he had three messages to choose from and no clear direction from the Holy Spirit as to which one he should share.  I wasn't worried about it.  I've been there before, and the Holy Spirit always comes through.  So was it message #1, #2 or #3?  It was none of the above.

When Duke started sharing from his heart, story after story began to flow.  One revelation of faith began to reveal itself after another.  I'll be honest with you.  I've got to listen to that message again.  I can't remember every great thing that was said.  But I do remember this because my knees buckled when he said it.  The church can go no further if it thinks it has reached its full potential.  

Today wasn't about carpet and chairs.  It was about faith.  It was about reaching God's potential as a people.  That cannot happen unless we realize what we can reach as a follower of Jesus.  Duke wept.  I wept.  It was a beautiful day.

KEEP READING it gets better.

This week, 21 years ago I came to FFWC.  In those days it was named First Assembly of God.  Last year FFWC celebrated 65 years of history.  But 21 years ago I knew this church had never reached it's potential.  I knew that it's best days were yet to come. I knew that God had a good reason for my family and me to be here.  But as many prophets of old, I had reached the place where I was saying, "When God?  When?"

September 18th, 2016 - that's when!

Posted by Russ Jones On 4:09 PM
You didn't have to say AMEN so loud.
No this isn't a blog about every humiliating thing I have ever done.  That wouldn't be a blog that would be a book.

This is a story about my journey from crazy to calm.

I will admit that I am a reformed(ing)(ish) perfectionist.  But starting this journey wasn't easy for me.  It started with one question.  Why?

"Why?" is a question that can make you defensive.  Why did you do this?  Why did you do that?  So asking a perfectionist the "Why?" question can be a direct threat to their existence.  They might think that the wrong answer would suddenly make them vanish into thin air.  Drastic?  Maybe - but true none-the-less.

Most people think that perfectionists hate everyone.  Not true.  Perfectionists love people.  In fact, they may love them too much.  A perfectionist performs for the praises of others.  Without that praise, they will never feel, "perfect".  Praise gives them a sense of self-worth and value.

The reason why I was such a perfectionist was because of my own self-worth or lack thereof.  I loved hearing people praise me!  However, I chose skills that didn't allow for any mistakes.  If you play the violin, don't play a sour note.  If you play the piano, don't hit the wrong cord.  If you are going to teach, don't get your information incorrect.  If you are going to speak, don't bore them.  Get the picture?  Standards were high and the price tag for perfectionism was too high.

Early in my career, I served in a church that played to my perfectionism.  If I didn't perform I would be unemployed.  I burned out and quit.  Oddly enough, they were firing me at the same time.

My next job was completely different.  The pastor didn't expect me to be perfect, he expected me to do my best.  He forgave mistakes and encouraged me regardless.  What a concept!

But the moment that I realized what perfectionism really was, I chose to change.  You see, perfectionism isn't a mental disorder, even though it might make you crazy.  It's a false idol.  I gave my performance more attention than God.  It was my form of salvation.  If I performed "good enough" God would be pleased with me.  If people were pleased with me, then God would have to be pleased with me because He wanted me to please people.  Yup!  Twisted. 

It was a string of personal failures that finally caused me to collapse and give up.  It was in that moment that God informed me that He still loved me and thought the world of me.  I thought to myself, "I have failed!"  Not in His eyes.  Oh sure I made some mistakes but nothing that would derail God's plan for my life.  When I realized and accepted that, everything changed.  

Excellence no longer became my holy grail.  A relationship with Jesus that gave Him permission to love me did.  

Things that use to bother me didn't. 
People that use to drive me crazy didn't. 
Personal flaws don't devalue me anymore. 
Failures no longer defeat me. 

Sure there were a lot of people who wondered what happened?  A few even distance themselves from me because they couldn't understand it.  But the vast majority were very happy with the new me.  Now that isn't to say I don't have my relapses.  But I have learned to see them for what they are, and apologize very quickly.  That doesn't mean I don't set high goals and standards.  I just refuse to worship them. 

Posted by Russ Jones On 4:44 PM
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.  But how do you do that?

You see, for most of my life, I just ate the lemons.  I didn't know how to make lemonade.  So here is my recipe.

#1 - Admit you have a lemon.
- Denial never makes a lemon sweet.  If life has knocked you down a notch or two - admit it.  Some people might find this disturbing, but be transparent.  In the long run, you will surround yourself with people who will help you.

#2 - Don't ignore the lemon.
- Ever let a lemon rot?  It is disgusting and it stinks!  Ignoring the obvious only delays and complicates your lemonade later.

#3 - Do not give the lemon to someone else.
- Blaming someone else for your own problems doesn't solve anything.  If you try, do not be surprised if they return your lemons at a high rate of speed.

#4 - Find someone who has sipped their lemonade.
- If you don't know what to do, find someone who does.  There are people who have been where you are.  Ask for their help.

#5 - Don't gulp.
- "I need to hurry up and get this over with." No, you don't!  Being impatient with this process will force you to do it again.  Sipping a glass is acceptable.  But do you really want to drink a whole gallon?

#6 - No cheating.
Lemonade is made of water, lemon juice, and sugar.  Using anything to "hide" this reality only leads you to live in denial.  See #1.

#6 - Share your recipe.
- True, the ingredients are the same.  But how you did it will be unique.

Short story.  One day my friend and I went to a local restaurant.  I ordered water with lime, he ordered a lemonade.  It was exceptionally busy that day and our waitress brought two glasses of water with lemon.  I was about to correct the order when he waved me off and thanked the waitress for her service.

Then he took my lemon, squeezed it into his water along with his lemon - reached across the table and grabbed some sugar packets and poured them in.


When the waitress returned I asked for a bowl of lemons.

Posted by Russ Jones On 10:52 AM

There are a lot of articles out there that answer the question, Why?

But I couldn’t find any that answer the question, How? 

So here are a few suggestions that you might want to consider. 

#1 - Go with someone you know.
It’s nice to have a tour guide.  But if you don’t have anyone to attend church with - go anyway.  The rest of this blog will help you. 

#2 - Don’t worry about the details.
- I don’t know the words to the songs.  
     They don’t expect you to know the words.
-I don’t know where to sit. 
      Unless a seat is “Reserved” you can sit anywhere. 
- I didn’t bring any money to give.  
      They didn’t expect you to put anything in the offering.  
- I don’t know when to stand up or sit down.  
      Just do what everyone else does.  Usually someone on the platform will give you instructions.  
- They want to give me stuff!  (Like a coffee cup)  What do I do? 
      Take it, they are being nice to you! 
- What about my children? 
      Ask questions!  Usually they will tell you that information up front, but remember, it’s Easter.  They staff might be a bit overwhelmed.  Ask as many questions as you like. 
- How do I dress?
      Business casual is a good middle of the road choice.  Jeans and a clean t-shirt will do too. 

#3 - Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Usually churches have directional signage telling you where key areas are, like the bathroom.  But if you get lost - ask for directions.  They don’t mind, really! 

#4 - Remember this isn’t a concert. 
The singers are probably not professionals.  The audio / visual experience could be a bit more polished.  The decor may even be dated.  Good churches know this and are working on it.  Cut them some slack.  You’ll have a better time if you do. 

#5 - Remember, they do care. 
Just like everyday life, people have bad days.  You might meet someone at church who is having one of those days.  Do not assume that everyone in church is cranky.  There are people there who care about you very, very much.  Give them a chance. 

Posted by Russ Jones On 5:19 PM
Are you tired of living in fear?  Are you finished letting the news stations toy with your emotions?  Are you sick of living in hopelessness?  

Well you're not alone.  I've had enough and I am sure you are too. (Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this blog)  So let's get to it. 

#1 Sync up with the Word of God
You should read the Bible everyday.  However, that is not what I am talking about.  Get some key Bible verses for your life and remember them.  Here are a few you might use. 

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Isaiah 54:17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed

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.

#2 Hack your brain 
Your brain cannot tell time.  That is why you look at a clock.  Your brain doesn't know what it should worry about.  So take control.  Distract it with something else.  Instead of watching the news, read a book.  Instead of listening to a negative person, go for a walk.  When you find yourself being embraced by fear, stop and see what you were doing before you felt that way.   Then take a step of faith and do something different.  

#3 Up load some faith into your heart
Have faith in yourself.  That isn't some kind of success talk.  I know for a fact that you cannot believe what God can do through you until you believe that you can do it.  Don't let hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness defeat you.  Speak life over YOU! 

#3 Have some conference calls
Connect with people who think like you want to think.  Look around, they are there.  People of faith.  You hear them and may even think to yourself, "I want to be more like them."  Be their friend and let their friendship change you. 

Maybe you know of some other ideas that will help you live by faith.  Put them in the comments below.  I might use them in the future.  

Hey!  Go check out the next new thing I am doing, blog  

Posted by Russ Jones On 1:01 PM
Yesterday we watched in horror as another gunman opened fire at a community college campus in Oregon.

Yesterday we watched as a President touted his utopian stance on how we need to remove guns from society.

Yesterday we learned that the gunman specifically targeted Christians to kill in cold blood.

Yesterday we tried to understand it all and again we are left with more questions than answers.

However, from what the media and authorities have released I believe that we know more than most would like to admit.

We see the picture of a man who is desperate and disillusioned with life.  He is obsessed with death and suicide.  But then there is this one caveat that caught my attention.  His disdain for organized religion.

Now I am the first to tell you that I don't like organized religion anymore than anyone else.  Religion, by definition is man reaching up to God.  I don't know about you, but I read the story about the tower of Babel - that didn't work out so well did it?  Christianity by definition God reaching down to man through His Son - Jesus.   I prefer the that.

In a world that has decided to shun Jesus, His church (which isn't organized religion by the way).  In a world that has decided that you can do whatever you like without suffering the consequences.  In a world that has no moral boundaries or basic respect for human life.  You've got to ask the question.  "What is going to happen next?"  Well, we just found out and we will keep discovering this again and again.

But here is the question that is weighing in on my heart?  Did this young man ever have an encounter with a real follower of Jesus?  Did he ever experience a real church that showed him love, acceptance and forgiveness?  Oh you might say that these things don't exist.  You couldn't be more wrong.  There are millions of followers and thousands of churches who stand ready to represent Christ.  Their focus isn't their organized religion - their focus in on Christ and people.  Broken, needy people.

I cannot be an armchair quarterback and "guess" what went right or wrong with this young mans life. I can however say, that Jesus loved him and undoubtedly, more than once, reached out to him.  I know that Jesus offering him hope and life.  But the sounds of the godless world beating in his head drowned out the hope with their anti-religion, anti-Jesus banter.  He tried to fit into a world that was never going to let him "fit in".  Frustration and despair became his heart which found the most horrible way to express itself.

Our prayers are with and for the people of Roseburg, Oregon.  That they will not allow this young man to shape the rest of their lives.  But they too will find hope in this horrible time.  My prayer is for the followers of Jesus and the churches of that area - that they will have a clear and concise message to their community and even the world.  Hope isn't lost.
Posted by Russ Jones On 4:42 PM
This blog entry has no winners. 

It doesn't offer a bright spot or happy ending.  

A Pastor takes his own life - again.  

According to CNN.Money John Gibson, a pastor and seminary professor in New Orleans, took his own life in light of the fact that he apparently had an account on the Ashley Madison website.  If you don't know what Ashely Madison is, it is a website that offers you the discreet ability to have an affair.  Their marketing slogan is, "Life is short, have an affair".   They promised two things.  1) You can have an affair with someone and 2) we will keep your information secure.  They failed on the second one when the data from 37 million accounts were revealed on the internet for anyone to find.  John Gibson was one of them.  

What happened?  I really don't know.  I would like to point out though that he only had an account.  There is no suggestion that he actually went through with any kind of affair.  However, an old saying of my grandmothers I think will put things in perspective.  "Curiosity killed the cat."  The fact that he was there, was more than he could stand - why?  

Pastors and followers of Christ alike are suppose to live a standard that is higher than this worlds.  When one's sins are exposed for the whole world to see, it is crushing to put it mildly.  John's wife Christi said, "What we know about him is that he poured his life into other people, and he offered grace and mercy and forgiveness to everyone else, but somehow he couldn't extend that to himself."
She goes on to say that, "It wasn't so bad that we wouldn't have forgiven it,..."

So why such drastic action?  Shame.  He was so ashamed of himself he couldn't forgive himself.   Shame is a powerful emotion that usually results from depression and anxiety.  It doesn't allow you to look people in the eye.  It doesn't allow you to have a close relationship with those you love.  It's existence serves as a constant reminder that you are a failure.  That everything you stand for and believe in is a lie.  Those whom you have had the privilege of knowing and helping will look at you and think, "Wow, what a joke.  How could I have been taken in by such a jerk."  

Now before you start writing me nasty e-mails read on.  This is what shame leads you to think.  It distorts your reality and leaves you in the worst possible light possible.  I am sure that the people who loved John would have forgiven him and accepted him.  Sure there were going to be repercussions, but it didn't mean rejection.  

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  Practice real and public forgiveness for others to see.  Let the world see you forgive others and they will beat a path to your door to be forgiven.  But Russ, I can't forgive people! Yes and No.  

No you cannot forgive people of their sins.  Only Jesus can do that.  We will get to that in a minute.  

Yes, you can release people from the knowledge that you will see them through their eyes of shame for the rest of all time. True biblical forgiveness means to release people from their offenses.  That means, once you forgive them,the next time you see each other - your relationship is in no way effected by the knowledge of their offense.  Now before you go all haywire on me and tell me you can't do that - yes you can.  Jesus did it.  But Russ, He was the Son of God?  True, but that's only half of the story.  Jesus, the Son of man, was on a cross when He forgave you of your sins.  JESUS DOESN'T LOOK AT YOU THROUGH YOUR EYES OF SHAME.  

People who forgive others have a ministry that helps others discover the forgiveness, mercy and grace of Jesus.  John apparently forgot what I am telling you.  I don't know why but I wish I knew him.  I would have been happy to have reminded Him and helped him discover this all over again.  If you will forgive others, others will come to ask how they can be forgiven too.  Don't be surprised if it is people who could or should know better.  Shame is an awful emotion that can cloud the mind and heart.  Here is the key phrase that you can say that will make all the difference.  "I don't see you the way you see yourself." 

A word about Ashley Madison.  The whole idea, like many ideas on the internet, is stupid.  Run away from stupid.