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Uprooted (Part 2)

Part of the Planting Roots journey is about resources.  Specifically, God's resources and our relationship to them.  For much of my personal planting roots journey, which began when I was saved at age 11 and started in earnest when Jennifer and I were expecting our daughter Lauren, my relationship with God's resources has been in total disarray. 
 
Ask my Mom or wife: I can be a bit stuff-obsessed.  When I wanted something as a little boy, I would execute a three-to-four month campaign of wearing my parents down.  Like a siege army, I would deplete their resolve until I had secured the object of my desire.  I would like to say that this has not been the story of my life, but I would be lying.  Compounding matters, I have always been a planner and saver with money. I know how to earn it, save it and amass it.  Thriftiness is typically a virtue. However, I had a relationship with my money and stuff, and as a result it strained my relationship with the One who gave me the money and stuff.  You know WHO I mean. 
 
In my mid-twenties when I began to seek my Savior in relationship, Jennifer and I were involved with a terrific group of Christian friends in a weekly (sometimes daily) small group.  During this time our group -- all of us recent college grads and newlyweds -- decided to take an obedience challenge.  We decided to take on Proverbs 3:9-10.  Money was something I was good at.  Surely I could at least be obedient though giving to the church I attended. 
 
I told Aaron last week that I am reluctant to give people my testimony about tithing, because I think they will get the wrong idea.  He told me I didn't have a choice.  As the story goes on you will understand what I mean. 
As I said, I thought I was pretty good with money and I had sufficient income that making my tithe would be an easy first step in obeying God more fully.  Jennifer and I started with a decision to tithe, but we ended up where we should have started...with prayer.  Our decision was to give the full tithe (old testament style). For those not yet following, that meant the first tenth of every dollar we made, would now go to Bandera Road Community Church.  Our next step was to make a budget, which we had not had to this point in our marriage.  It was at this point I discovered my relationship with stuff was preventing me from growing in the relationship with the One whose resources I spent on the stuff.  Jennifer and I had two new car payments, a mortgage, and a new baby.  What we didn't have was ten percent of our income to pay a tithe.   
 
It was at this point we regrouped and circled back to where we should have started in the first place: prayer.  From our budgeting, we knew that we could give three percent, but we wanted to give ten percent.  We agreed that all that we had belonged to God.  So, it occurred to us that if we wanted to serve Him with what is already His, perhaps we should just ask Him for an assist. (Matt 21:22)
 
That month we gave three percent.  After more prayer and a harder look at our budget, we cut out some luxuries and found that God had provided enough in our budget to not only tithe, but cover all of the obligations which we made before we considered financial obedience. By the second month of the challenge we paid our full tithe. I had not yet read Malachi 3:10 (read it now), but I am convinced this was God's answer to our obedience. Also, this is where things took a turn for the weird.  That month I received a check in the mail from my Military Travel Credit Card reimbursing me for multiple overpayments I had made during overseas travel. Apparently, I benefited from the exchange rate and my math had been conservative.  Here is the thing though -- the reimbursement was unexpected and more than the amount I tithed by roughly ten percent.  I know...makes the hair on your neck stand up. 
 
Needless to say, I kept tithing. I will admit this hasn't happened every month since we started tithing.  Though unexpected money has shown up at critical times of need since then.  But more than that, out of our tithing God put us on the path of stewardship and budgeting that allowed us to pay off our car debt and build a rainy day fund.  Through steady obedience in this small way, God has shown us that we cannot out-give Him.  The best part has been that He has matured us on the subject of resources.  I know now that God does not want me to be dogmatic about some percentage; He wants 100 percent.  It is His.  He wants us to experience the joy of being generous as He is generous. What is funny is that He is so generous that He allows us to give away His stuff! (2 Cor. 8)
 
Having tested and seen that God is good in the area of resources and money, Jennifer and I resolved to set a dollar amount to give to our local Church.  We felt this is important for two reasons.  First, God faithfully allows me a paycheck twice a month; I should acknowledge His generosity.  Second, I believe it is important to give at the place where you are serving and being served.  Since I have five members in my family, I require a lot of service, so this turns out to be a real bargain for me. 
 
The best part about this is that God wants you to bring the tithe into the storehouse.  He wants you to fill up the storehouse, so that there will be plenty to feed His Kingdom.  This means giving is wide open.  When you give, ask yourself, "Is this for my glory or God's glory?" If the answer is that you are giving for God's glory, then sign the check.  If you are worried that it felt too good to do something nice for another person with the money God gave you (i.e. you think you might be glorifying yourself)... STOP WORRYING!!!  Think how much more God is smiling that you gave to a person in need so He could be glorified. 
 
I believe in giving to my local church, but if given the choice of dropping it in the offering box or meeting the need of another person who is hurting.  I choose the person every time.  Seldom do I have to make a choice between the two. God has made a way to do both.
 
If you are new at Element or a Military person who will likely move in three years, you may ask, "What stake do I have in the building program?"  Perhaps none.  Perhaps everything.  As a nomadic Christian, my roots have been planted in the community that I have found at many churches.  In Christ's eyes, we are one body of believers. It is no different for me to give to build a building in Santa Maria or Timbuktu, so long as it houses a body of believers who exalt Jesus Christ. 
 
As Jennifer and I transitioned from California to Maryland, God allowed us a wonderful gift of generosity.  Without a Church home, He allowed us to give our full tithe to serve people whom we know and love.  We even got to give a few months to a building fund for a group of believers whom we love, but may never get to worship with again. 
 
As you give from the resources that God blesses you with, you get to experience your Father in Heaven in one of the best ways.  You get to feel His generosity.  Someday when we experience the full measure of His lavish generosity, it will seem strange to us that we ever held back, when all we had to do to know Him was give. 
 

Planting Roots - Chapter 4 - Something New


Thank you, Element! We are currently around $1,150,000.00 in commitments to Planting Roots over the next three years! Your Generosity is simply amazing!

If you haven't had a chance to Commit yet, you can still do so online at: http://www.elementroots.org/journey/commitment-card

 

Uprooted

It has been about seven months since the Air Force uprooted Jennifer, the girls and me from our comfortable plot in Santa Maria.  I suppose enough time has passed that many of you are new to Element and may not know me.  Well to you I say, welcome.  You are truly blessed and I hope you find Element the community of loving Christ followers that I knew when I worshiped at that strange used car lot between Orcutt and the airport. 
 
Just a quick introduction (or reintroduction for some of you with sketchy memories), my name is Jonathan and I was blessed to serve at Element as an elder while stationed at Vandenberg AFB.  It is a job that I never expected God would entrust to me and that I took very seriously... although those of you who know me will raise an eyebrow since I am not the most serious person.
 
Though Jennifer and I have been worshiping at a new church here in Maryland, our hearts are still in many ways with our beloved family at Element.  So much so, that we are sharing your journey of Planting Roots. Each morning before I head to work in D.C., Jennifer and I have a couple's devotion and review the daily exercise in our Journey Guide. 
 
Earlier this week in one of our regular conversations, I asked Aaron if Element was experiencing an influx of new folks corresponding with the summer military move cycle.  He informed me that there were new military families among other new people who have joined the worship since I left in April.  Our conversation then turned to how new folks might respond to a church entering a building campaign.  More specifically, how folks like the military families who will move in 3 years fit in to a roots-planting movement. 
 
I laughed at Aaron a bit, because I know that this puts him in a position that he is uncomfortable with.  He fears that he and the church will be perceived as being after your money and that's all.   First, let me reassure you, as a person who attended several church business meetings, if Element and Aaron Carlberg were after your money, they are not very good at getting it. So your wallet is safe.  Second, as a person whose job and life have only allowed me to plant shallow roots in this world, all I can offer you is my testimony on root planting and resources.
 
Jesus found me when I was 11 years old at a Fundamental Baptist summer camp.  There I professed that Jesus is Lord and I believed that God raised Him from the dead. (Rom 10:9).  It wasn't until I was married with a kid on the way that I got serious about knowing my Savior.  Living in San Antonio, Texas I submitted to a more mature Christian in discipleship and realized that God wanted me to know Him intimately. Really it wasn't me seeking as much as it was Jesus sending people into my life who pointed me to Him. 
 
One of the key ways that we can know God is through fellowship with other believers (1 John 1-2).   At my small group Bible study in Texas, I first experienced Christ's love for believers, which is lived out through His Church.  I hope you all are able to experience authentic community in the way I did; praying for one another, serving one another, laughing and crying with one another.  So much is revealed about Christ's love in this setting.  1 John 2:3 tells us that we are known to be His servants if we keep His Commandments.  In verse 10, John goes on to tell us that keeping His commandments means loving your brothers. 
 
On a personal note, I am convinced that within Christ-centered community, God Himself is present.  I know this because when you have to say goodbye to a true loving community of believers, it is painful.  In the summer of 2010, Jennifer and I had to do just that. 
 
After three months of wandering, we moved to Santa Maria and found Element.  It was there that God taught me my next lesson: His Church is bigger than I thought.  God is loving, and as Jennifer and I yielded to Him and trusted Him, He led us to a community of deep loving relationship at Element.  After being at Element for a month or so, I met with Eric Djafroodi and Aaron (separately) and told them I would like to serve in a small group ministry.  My honest desire was to serve God at Element.  God turned the tables on me.  Over the course of three and a half years, He gave us a home of worship, grew our understanding of Him, gave us a new family of believers, and ultimately we received tenfold the service that we gave. 
 
My journey with Christ has shaped my perspective of planting roots.  God's kingdom is vast and His Church is global.  Though in my heart I desire to be with you at Element, Christ has shown me at least twice that He will give me real community wherever His Church is.  God wants to be known by His children.  Community is a key means by which believers can know God.  No matter how far you wander from home or the Church family you love, seek God and fellowship -- wherever you are -- with others who seek God (Phil 3:10).  He will be known and you will find that your roots are deeply planted in fertile soil. 
 

Planting Roots, Is it Over?

Sunday morning was officially that last of our Sunday morning messages going through Planting Roots, but is it over? The answer is, no. The truth is Planting Roots is just beginning. Our five-week passage was the introduction to a three-year journey that will see Element have a permanent home.
 
Even as we look at it today, it is very hard to visualize. We have blank dirt, half of a parking lot, a whole lot of spunk and determination, but none of those is what makes Planting Roots a reality…that is Jesus. We wanted Planting Roots to do FOUR things at Element.
 

1) We wanted it all to glorify God by its focus, its implementation, and its ultimate results. Everything God does is for His glory, so everything we do should be for His glory as well. If God was and is not glorified, we missed the point.
 
2) We wanted all of Element to grow closer to Jesus by going through personal and corporate Planting Roots journeys, that all of Element would know Jesus in a deeper way than they have in the past. We want all of our lives to be lovingly submitted to Jesus by understanding Him better. This means He has the right to examine every part of our lives throughout the process.
 
3) We wanted to unify, for everyone, Element’s vision for the future. Our hope is that, as a result of this journey, we will all understand and support the vision God has given us for the future. Ideally, whenever someone new comes to Element, anyone who has been through the journey would be able to explain where Element has been and where we are headed.
 
4) It was to gather us around a to raise enough funds to build our permanent home because Element needs one. We prayed through the entire process that God would move people through the Planting Roots Journey in such a way that we all take it to heart and participate. Only by understanding God's call, His grace, and our great blessing will this become a reality.

 
Last Sunday, those of you who attended our one service literally brought tears to my eyes as you came forward and filled out commitment cards to realize these purposes. It is a great pleasure for my wife and I to serve and worship Jesus with you.
 
If you missed last Sunday, or haven’t made a decision yet about what God wants to do through you in Planting Roots, you can still fill out a commitment card this Sunday. We even made an online version for you if you like those better.  Planting Roots isn’t over, it has just begun, I think we will all be amazed at what God does over the next three years when it actually IS over.
 

Watch all Three Planting Roots Journey Videos

Here is all three chapters of our Planting Roots Videos:





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