providence 1I’ve lost count over the years of how many asks and emails I’ve received about where I fully land in the debate of “Predestination (Calvinism) vs. Free-Will (Arminianism).” (If you want a grasp of the arguments of both camps, go HERE.)

This past weekend I was forced to deal with the debate fairly head-on due to the launch of a teaching-series through the book of Malachi entitled, “Going through the Motions.”  The second verse of Malachi reveals God declaring, ““I have loved Jacob, Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3). There’s no running away from that!

If you’re interested in hearing the sermon where I share my personal feelings regarding the blood-bath that comes from the “Predestination vs. Free-will” debate, as well as the “love/hate” issue in Malachi, but especially the breathtaking love of God for His people, please check out the sermon podcast. Just go HERE (Itunes) or HERE (Grace Community Church site) and listen to “Heartless” (6/29/14).

For what it’s worth, I thought I would take this opportunity to come out of the closet about where I fully land regarding my position in the debate. Below is a link to a 25-page position paper I wrote for a seminary study on the Providence of God taught by Dr. Bruce Ware in the Spring of 2000. In fact, when I have been asked or emailed about my full position in this debate over the years, I’ve answered by sending this paper (Meaning, if you are really that interested in knowing, you will have to work for it! :-) ).

I carefully re-read the paper recently and my position has not changed one iota in nearly 15 years. So if you’re interested, here you go. And more than answering curiosity on where I fall on this issue, perhaps this paper will serve to answer other questions you have on the topic also (see “Table of Contents” below). Or even better, perhaps it will serve to expand your vision of the greatness and glory of God in Christ. 

Grab some coffee (lots of coffee), your Bible, a pen and journal, and dig in.

The Providence of God by Jarrod Jones
Table of Contents
Providence and Natural Law:  Page 1
Providence and Human Freedom/Moral Responsiblity: Page 3
Providence and Conversion: Page 7
Providence and Election: Page 9
Providence and Evangelism/Missions: Page 16
Providence and Prayer:  Page 21

* Comments are closed on this post

father Sons want to capture their dad’s awe. Daughters want to capture their dad’s attention. John Elderidge, in his little booklet, You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs To Know, states it this way: “Little boys look to their dads to answer the question: ‘Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?’ Little girls look to their dads to answer the question: ‘Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?’ “

I believe those questions are answered through their dad’s Holy Kiss.

1) The Holy Kiss of Affection.

Hug your sons. Dote on your daughters. Hug your son long and tight. Cup his face in your hands and tell him he is a man and has what it takes. Give your son a literal holy kiss to his cheek and forehead. The Prodigal Son’s dad kissed him again and again and again (according to the original language)!

Also, dads, kiss your daughter. Stroke her face and tell her she’s lovely and worth fighting for. Scratch her back, rub her feet, hold her hand, hug her tight, and let her sit in your lap.

And do all the above whether they are six or forty-six.

2) The Holy Kiss of Captivation.

Your son is asking, “Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?” He’s asking this as he flips off the couch, shows you his drawing, runs down the track, gets cut from the team, shares his dirty secret, weeps after the break-up, hands you his acceptance letter, or mentions his promotion. Are you noticing (not grading)? Are you affirming with your undivided attention? Are you showing him he captivates you?

Your daughter is asking, “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?” She’s asking this as she prances about, sings and dances, arm-wrestles you, competes against her brothers, keeps climbing into your lap, performs in recitals, gets no invite to the prom, shows you her new clothes and pedicure, rambles on about her friends and boys, and struggles in her marriage. Are you paying attention? Are you showing that you are captivated by her?

3) The Holy Kiss of Availability.

I received a book years ago about practical ways to love my sons. One sentence read, “Take his calls…forever.” In other words, be available. And dads, that has to do with your son and/or daughter’s timetable, not yours. Jesus retreated to spend time with His Father early mornings, late at night, or all night. And His Father was always available.

So trust that the lawn will get mowed, the emails will get answered, the deadline will be met, and grace will come for sleep deprivation. Welcome your kids to interrupt your time, your work, your game, and your movie. Be available to them till kingdom come. And give them your holy kiss…forever.

tightrope2It’s tough enough to preach a sermon on “Money” to New Yorkers. But to stand before 2500+ people (and knowing it would be podcast to many more) and say, “I am saddened, frustrated, and disappointed in the overall giving of our Church. But I take the blame. It’s a failure in my leadership”? Well, that is outright horrifying. H.o.r.r.i.f.y.i.n.g. Yet God led me to do just that this past weekend.

I’m sure you can literally hear my sweat in the sermon podcast.  I felt like I needed sponging off after every service. In fact, before our seven weekend services began Saturday night, I awoke from a nightmare about this around 2:00am Saturday, and barely slept again.  To truly know why this was a huge deal, you have to hear the sermon to get the full context. (Go HERE to listen or watch the sermon podcast).

How did I know this was of God? How did I come to the place of knowing that if I didn’t share my heart I would be disobedient?As I journaled about it this morning, I wanted to share it with you.

Early last week, I just happened to be reading Hebrews 13 in my devotional time with the Lord.  Hebrews 13:5-7 NLT jolted me! It was about, you guessed it, MONEY. Coincidence? No such thing in God’s agenda. The Hebrew author quotes an Old Testament passage in those verses: Psalm 118:6 (but the context that gripped me is verses 7-9 that follow it!). I found great encouragement and confirmation to move forward in what the Lord was leading me to share.

Then, Saturday morning hit. I began doubting. I started second-guessing, especially after that nightmare!  The easy path was to preach what I had planned weeks ago and trust the Lord with the rest. But was that really what the Lord wanted? So I took my Bible again and went outside to sit before the Lord, and pray, and listen. “Lord, are you sure? Is this of you? Please speak to me. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I just want to be sure this is of you.”

I opened my Bible back to Hebrews 13:5-7. Keep in mind the context of that passage is about money. Out of that text I noticed another Old Testament passage quoted by the Hebrew’s author that I had missed all week: Deuterononmy 31:6-8.  Specifically, it was verse 8 that brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

In that moment, all doubts, all second-guessing, evaporated. After wiping tears, and sitting there for a while just praising and worshiping the Lord for speaking so clearly to my heart, I walked in and said to Christie: “Babe, I know that I know that I know now that what I’m sharing this weekend must be shared. If I do not share it, I will be disobedient.  But pray for me HOW I share it!”) :-) .

Now, it is Monday morning. Do I feel naked, raw, vulnerable? Yes. Have I received some negative responses (with more to come, I’m sure)? Yes.

But more so, the response of many of the leadership and people of Grace has been overwhelming in encouragement to me personally. In fact, after the final service, a precious servant on our staff came backstage in tears and hugged me. Also, after I prayed to end the final service, I walked off the stage and basically into the arms, smiles, support, and love of our Washingtonville campus worship team waiting right behind the curtain for me. Wow. I get choked up even now thinking about that. And this was after they had to cut a song due to my long-windedness!

But even more so, there has been an overwhelming response by Grace family and friends to the call and challenge to honor the Lord first from their income through tithes and offerings*.  All along, this has not been about me (though this post kind of is, I know). This is about how worthy Jesus is of our first and best financially, and how one cannot lose to give toward that which cannot be stopped–God’s church. THIS was what God wanted our people (and maybe you?) to hear, but especially obey. Will you?

Personally speaking, I sit on this side of the weekend with joy that I obeyed. It was a landmark weekend for me personally, spiritually, and as a pastor and leader.  I feel God’s pleasure. I have spent the morning in gratitude, worship, and joy before Him, His speaking to me, and giving grace to speak tough words through me. Oh, His pleasure…. My friend, there is nothing greater. I want this for you so much.

Where is God leading you to do one of the toughest things you have ever done? Don’t be afraid before it. And no matter what happens after it, don’t be discouraged. He goes before you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, especially when it comes to your money (Hebrews 13:5-7).

* If you are interested to know more about Grace’s “Don’t Waste Your Internet 500,” go HERE.

Storm_cloudsI once heard it said, “Don’t tell your God how big your crisis is, tell your crisis how big your God is.” 

In Scripture, you will often find the Psalmist going through a crisis of the soul.  He cries out“I will go to the altar of my God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you…O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4). That’s the Psalmist praising His God in his crisis. His focus is steadfast on God, not the crisis.

Think of a seesaw: If you are focused on your crisis your fear will go up and your praise will go down. If you are focused on Jesus your praise will go up and your fear will go down.

Perhaps Jesus and no crisis is best of all. Or, perhaps that’s overrated. It’s usually the crisis that makes Jesus sweeter to us. Having Jesus and no crisis brings certain joy. But having Jesus in crisis brings exceeding joy.

So let the praises ring.

God set down His saw

April 15, 2014

the_cross___jesus_bloody_feet“ ‘Up you go!’ They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear, and can scarcely breathe.

But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.

His Father! He must face his Father like this!

From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.

‘Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing extortion, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, I loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?’

The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.

‘Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!’

But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply. Two eternal hearts tear—their intimate friendship shaken to the depths.

The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.

God set down his saw.”

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief…. Isaiah 53:10

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

(Book excerpt taken from When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson-Tada)