Feb 6 2013

“find your joy”

Here is my contribution to kick off C!C’s Devotional Journal entitled “find your joy”:

I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

As the idea for this devotional journal began to take shape, I knew that I would need to “practice what I preach” and thus began asking myself: “Jason, where do you find your joy?” In response I decided to start a list and pay attention to when I found myself joyful at the little things in my days. My search became a catalogue of surprise joys, and seemed to deepen the saturation of enjoyment that these little moments brought. Allow me to share the highlights:

  • The “Daddy’s home” rush and outpouring of affection
  • Stealing kisses with “the wife of my youth” in the kitchen
  • Spontaneous laughter, five throats strong, at the dinner table . . . or the hallway . . . or the restaurant . . . or in the car . . . or . . .
  • Reading Ps. 16:9 > “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely,” and knowing that it is true in me.
  • Realizing that my back isn’t hurting
  • Realizing that my back is hurting but that it won’t hurt in heaven
  • Sudden moments of conviction reminding me that God has called me to such important tasks that I cannot succeed on my own . . . in order that He can succeed through me.
  • Watching family and friends learn to value and apply courage
  • Each new word that my kids learn which make me anticipate future conversations
  • Being pierced by the Word of God via fresh encouragement OR conviction from a passage as familiar as my “work jeans”
  • Finding the beauty in the dance of shepherding my wife AND being shepherded by her

Where do you find your joy?


Nov 9 2012

Hanging With The Wrong Crowd

Even though I don’t like it . . . I still have a tendency to judge people by appearances.  I like praying for people while I ride the bus, but sometimes I catch myself slipping into a “people watching” mode where I lump individuals into categories and ascribe labels that, if I did deep enough into my own heart, are laced with subtle prejudices.  For this, I must repent and surrender to God in search of a heart that’s more like Jesus — each time I see it in myself.

Recently while biking to work I passed an ominous looking bunch of high school students who eyed me as I cruised past.  I found myself thinking:

Yikes, what are those kids up to . . . probably nothing good.  Oh man, my kids are going to be that age one day . . . I wonder what my kids will be like . . . I hope they don’t hang out with the wrong crowd.

And though my feet kept pedaling, that’s where the Holy Spirit stopped my in my tracks:

“Wrong crowd”, huh?  What’s so wrong with them?  I made them and love them just as much as I made and love YOU and your family.  Who have you been reading and preaching about Jesus hanging out with?

Then it hit me (again) that Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd — most of the time.  I mean think about how often Jesus was criticized for going to parties with “sinners”, for reclining at the table with non-religious types who were apparently prone to overindulgence based on the fact that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

Jesus hung out with people who . . . get this . . . needed Jesus.  Even the most religious ones in the bunch were some of the worst influences on the people.  And Jesus hung out with them, taught them, and showed them a better way.  Lots of them never turned to Jesus’ way, but He still spent time with them in order to show them the Way.  And therein lies the major take-away from my bicycle-bible-lesson: Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd, but didn’t let it change Him.  Jesus was with them, but He was not like them.  And the vast majority of the time, the wrong crowd LIKED having Jesus around!

Maybe I should hang out with the wrong crowd more often.  Maybe I should desire for my kids to hang out with the wrong crowd . . . but with a foundation fixed on Jesus so as not to be moved from the Truth.  So for myself, my family, and my church, my prayer has become:

  • Lord, make us people that the “wrong crowd” likes to be around.
  • Lord, make us unafraid, pure-hearted, and motivated as we live with and love on the “wrong crowd.”
  • Lord, make us holy as You are holy, equipping us to hold out Your Light while holding onto Righteousness.

Oct 26 2012

Rejoicing Over Glorious Things

One of the verses from the sermon passage this week is Luke 13:17 > When [Jesus] said this, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Though the work is often long and hard — this work of being a disciple, husband, father, pastor in a world straining its back against the leadership of Jesus — I have seen Jesus do glorious things.  He constantly renews my heart and my strength to face each new day and each new task.  He fills my house with joyful laughter, and I see the way He loves and provides for my family.  He continues to build His church in C!C, strengthening His disciples and growing their influence.  He gives me hope for the day when He calls all of His people to our final home in heaven.  In that day we’ll step away from whatever work is left to be done and we’ll finally surrender all before the Author of our Salvation, the Glorious One.  And we will rejoice like we’ve never done before.

I came across this great set of songs of praise in Isaiah 12; they are hearty songs of rejoicing in light of a great deliverance:

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation .”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Amen.  Spend some time today remembering and rejoicing over some “glorious things” that Jesus has done for you.  Offer some hope-full praises for the glorious things that are yet to come.


Oct 19 2012

Getting Better At Looking Forward

I believe one of my deepest and profoundest callings as a man and as a father is to be a visionary.  I need to cultivate the ability to rise above the melee of my day to day and scan the landscape “up ahead”.  I need to have a sense of where I and my family are headed … and how that relates to where we want to be headed, where God desires us to be.  I need to scout out potential dangers and also look for life-giving oases, to help build each of us up in life, health and faith.

I had an idea as to one such oasis this past week in conjunction with Hannah’s first birthday.  I have hopes of starting a tradition to write a letter to each child on their birthday, recapping some highlights of the prior year of life and affirming my love and hopes for them.  I plan on saving these letters and will begin “delivering” them, one a year, starting with their 10th birthday.  Admittedly it would have been nice to think of this three years ago when Caleb turned one, but better late than never, right?

In an effort to maybe encourage and inspire some of you, and to kick off my new tradition, here’s my first letter. Shhhh, don’t tell Hannah.

Dearest Hannah,
Today is your 1 year birthday. One year of life with your snuggles. One year of life with giggles, your soft brown eyes, and your snot on my shoulder. For a while, my dear, we called you our little mouse, because you seemed so preciously small, quiet and observant. Now, you are everyday growing and showing us just how big your personality can be. And we love it. I love it.
I love you, and have loved you ever since we found out that God was giving us another child. We were surprised, and we were intimidated, but we knew that God had something special in store for you and our family. We knew this because the miracle of life is such a wonderful, mysterious blessing. And we knew you were going to be special because the Bible tells us that our Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children.
I have a few very special memories of your first few days on earth, now one year ago.
1) Standing in front of our hospital room window, with you bundled up in my arms – so small, so vulnerable, so practically perfect.  I looked down at you, prayed for wisdom, for protection, and for grace upon grace, and then it hit me … my nickname for you: peanut. My Peanut.
2) Your Gigi and Grandad drove up to Ottawa from Atlanta to be with our family during you birth and first week. I remember with particular joy when they came to the hospital to meet you for the first time, with your brother and sister in tow. My heart swelled to see you in the arms of MY parents … and also to see our entire family together for the first time.
3) That same hospital visit was your brother and sister’s first glimpse at their brand new sibling. Lillie was a little too young to be interested much beyond a kiss on the forehead before getting back to running around the lounge. Caleb on the other hand seemed awed by this little new addition and would often come by your side to watch you, ask questions, and give you little kisses on your hands. Ever since he’s been watching you, helping to take care of you, loving on you … and still likes kissing your hand.
The past year has been full of adventures and ups and downs as your mom and I have worked to find our “new normal” as a family of five.  God has again and again proven Himself faithful to guide, encourage and sustain all of us through every turn, every battleground, and every milestone.
I have found intense joy in seeing you grow, dear Hannah.  Walking at 11 months … your first words: “up” … your laughter … your eagerness to join in on what everyone else is doing … your uncanny ability to soften the heaets of strangers.  You are special and always will be.  Happy Birthday.

Love always,

Dad


Apr 13 2012

Even Easter can be … “poopie”

Disclaimer: slightly graphic content and straight-talk from a church planter.

Holidays are full of expectations, no doubt about that.  And in our over-marketed, media-saturated society, given that unmet expectations equal frustration, I wonder to what extent the Evil One preys on us through our holiday expectations.  Think back through some of the most recent handful of holidays and see if you know what I’m talking about: Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, New Year’s, Christmas.

Easter isn’t immune to the expectation quagmire.  And from a pastoral perspective, I feel that “church folk” stand to get the worst of it.  I certainly did.  Obviously Easter is kind of a big deal for a pastor.  As a church planter, I had to balance who was traveling, who we’re inviting, what rooms are available for renting at what times, who can play in the band, when can we set up, what will the celebration look like, etc.  I felt like we have an awesome plan.  I was totally stoked about some various friends who my family had invited to finally check our church out.  And along came Easter Sunday.

Make sure you hear me out: it was a great time.  For those who came, we loved on each other, gazed on Jesus, and enjoyed some great fellowship — I don’t at all mean to take away from that.  You see, there’s just this thing about expectations.  My friends didn’t come, I missed sharing the week with a number of our members who were away, there weren’t many new people, and generally it seemed like people didn’t treat the day like it was that big of a deal.

That last sentence was the thought that clued me into the issue of expectations.  On one hand, Easter is not that big of a deal because Jesus is just as risen and victorious every other day of the year, including Leap Day, so I wouldn’t want us to make a big deal about Easter for the wrong (empty rituals) reasons.  At the same time though, culture at-large sure makes a big deal about Easter, except without Jesus, so that makes me feel a certain responsibility to make much of the one who made Easter the most Victorious celebrationad infinitum.  So, these reflections simmered on “medium-high” heat in the back of my mind as we got home from the morning service.

As we disembark from the van, bathed in warm sunshine, ready to enjoy the rest of the special day . . . I enter the house to discover a massive, thick, putrid, milk-shake-consistency pile of dog poop in the dining room.  So I head back outside to help get the kids (and get away from the smell), and discover that Carrie is holding Hannah’s carseat with greenish poop dripping from the bottom … another diaper blow-out, awesome.  Later, Lillie has a near blow-out requiring some serious scrubbing, and Acuda makes another mess (this time on the carpet upstairs.)  Needless to say, this had become the “poopiest” Easter yet.

Well, then end of the story is this:  God is good.  As I stood outside scrubbing the car seat and vacuuming out the car (oh, guess I didn’t mention the spilled orange juice in the trunk), I found myself actually enjoying the tasks.  I was outside, the kids were playing with neighbors, and I was able to finish a few chores that I’d really been meaning to do.  Somewhere in the midst of all that I felt the Lord whisper, “Yep, even Easter can be ‘poopie.’  But I’m here; I’m with you; and my grace will always be sufficient.”

Amen to that.

 


Mar 2 2012

what I’m listening to

Music is a powerful influence.  I’ve heard it said that music is the only thing that can enter a persons soul without getting permission from the mind (or something like that, anyway.)  Regardless, music has a tremendous ability to illicit deep seated emotions and move us in profound ways.

An album that I’ve been particularly fond of and moved by lately is “The One You Need” by Shane and Shane .  Songs about Liberty, celebrating our freedom in Christ.  Songs proclaiming the sufficiency of God’s grace, even (or especially) in the midst of hard times.  The title track is a moving description of a father’s prayer over his daughter.  It’s totally worth looking up the music video.

Last night, we put in the album after our family dinner and turned it up.  After a good romp around the room to “Liberty” the upbeat opener, the second number, a melodious song entitled, “Your Love,” began to play.  The flowing tune and powerfully descriptive lyrics drew out some of the old ballerina in Carrie.  I stood holding our youngest and watched in awe as my beautiful bride graciously spun across the floor with my two older children captivated.  As the dancing continued, my heart continually grew fuller as I marveled at the goodness that the Lord has lavished on my family.  As Lillie twirled like her mom, I saw there, also in the deep parts of my heart, a yearning for my children to follow us in knowing the love of the Lord as much as they mimic our movements.

God’s love often comes in the form of rebuke, discipline, and conviction, of which I’ve had plenty.  And thankfully, His love also comes in the form of twirls, giggles, and tender moments that fill the heart.  I love my God, and I love my family.

I did manage to snag a few precious moments of the “show”, so I hope you enjoy a sliver of what I did.

Family Dance (click to view)


Jan 27 2012

Another Greeting

BillGreeting — [ click to view video ]

Hey gang!

Jason here with a quick post.

My parents threw a meet and greet for us so that a number of our friends and family members could come visit with us.  Many of these folks hadn’t see Caleb since he was a babe in arms, and none of them had met Lillie or Hannah.  With a slideshow of pictures from the past 5 years running in the background, it was an absolute treat to spend a few hours laughing and sharing about what God is doing among us.

During the festivities, my Uncle Bill (one of my dad’s brothers), took a time-out to record a greeting for C!C.  So if you haven’t already, click the link above . . .

Enjoy the message and enjoy the accent!

Miss you guys, talk to you soon.


Jan 18 2012

little bit of everywhere

Hey friends.

I thought I’d just give a quick check in in regards to the Byers family travels on behalf of Celebration! Church.

Having been away from Ottawa a total of 4 weeks now, here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to.  We’ve been thoroughly blessed to tell the stories of how God as moved and is moving among us, and in so doing, we’ve been constantly reminded of you all.  We love you dearly!

Dec. 24/25 … Christmas with our families — a special time that we cherished being able to have.

Dec. 27 … Meeting in Cumming, GA with the Groover family, who we went to university with and who just finished a job at a church in South Carolina as family pastor.  We also met a family in that city who we had been in contact with in Ottawa; their son plays for a Junior hockey team in Ottawa, and hopes to connect with C!C.

Dec. 28 … Meeting with the Tyndall family in Suwanee, GA, who joined our support team after Carrie was the 2nd grade teacher of their daughter (who is now in high school!)

Dec. 29 … Meeting with the Thaxtons in Ackworth, GA.  This family is one of dearest and closest friends.  Sharing together and having our kids play together was wonderfully refueling, especially as we shared about C!C.

Dec. 31 – Jan. 6 … Week of Passion 2012 with Emily, David, Ryan and Andrew (and the ELFBC crew).  What a great time was had by all as we learned more about each other while exploring our callings and being fed by high caliber Christian teachers and leaders!

Jan. 8 … Preaching at Sweetwater Church, Lawrenceville, GA.  If you attended the C!C service on the 8th, you saw firsthand the sermon and the connection between these two likeminded churches.

Jan. 10 … Riggins family in Lawrenceville, GA.  This family has known us since before we were married, and Mike introduced us to the missions program that helped us get to Canada.  As well, he was our initial contact point to Eagle’s Landing First Baptist.  This family has been a wonderful supporter of C!C in lots of ways.

Jan. 11 … Anderson family in Marietta, GA.  This couple has been dear friends of ours since university, has faithfully supported us and has been right beside us whether on the frisbee field or prepping for the mission field.  They have huge hearts for the Lord, and after trying for a long time, are now expecting their first child!

Jan. 13 … Lunch with the Harrisons in Lawrenceville, GA.  This lovely couple owns their own business and faithfully support a number of missionaries all over the globe.  They currently attend a church of mostly college students and young adults and offered some interesting, encouraging perspectives on being the “older folks” in the church.  Then, we had dinner with the Pascuals in Stone Mountain, GA.  I served on a ministry team with Jonathan while in university, and shared a deep appreciation for missions and church planting.  Jonathan, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Roary just received news that they’re approved to adopt a set of 3yr old twins from Uganda!  In addition, in Atlanta, they’re working with a core group of believers to start a specialty coffee shop in conjunction with planting a new church . . . cool, huh!?!

Jan. 14 … Byers Open House.  My parents opened up there home for a drop in visitation time for friends and family.  Among the guests were a number of family members who had never met Lillie or Hannah!  It was such a blessing, not only to share our ministry and some of your stories, but also to see our children warm up to our extended relatives and enjoy the gift of family.

Jan. 15 … Lead the music worship at Sweetwater Church.  It is always a joy to serve with fellow believers and jointly commit our lives in obedience.  I am excited about the future plans of this modest group of Christians as they strive to move effectively reach others with the Gospel.

Jan. 15 – 17 … Camping in North Georgia Mountains.  Below zero temperatures didn’t stop my brother and I from braving the outdoors for a much needed break.  Camping, hiking, and fishing (including a yummy 18 inch trout) rounded out this special quality time with my brother whom I don’t get to spend much time with.  I was thankful for the time with him and especially for the time outdoors to pray and experience God is a fresh way.

And the adventures continue!

I’m signing off for now, but as I do, know that I’m praying for C!C and all my friends north AND south of the border.


Nov 1 2011

Growing in Grace

2Cor. 12:9 > “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (italics added)

Eph. 1:7-8 > “In him we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…” (italics added)

In a few short parenting moments last night, I turned a new corner in my understanding of grace.  What’s more, I’ve come to greater treasure the Lord for His lavish grace, and I’ve been convicted of how far I am from emulating Him as I ought.

The scene was fairly routine as the night began to wind down.  Bed time.  Long day.  Everybody is tired.  As we round the final corner and head towards lights out, Caleb asks, “Dad, do we have time to read a book?”  Now, I don’t have anything against reading books, but sometimes I just want the bed-time-routine to be over.  So selfishly, I just want to say, “No.”  But the fact that there is time to read a book together with the fact that he asked so nicely, it’s really hard to decline.  So here’s what I said:

Well buddy, I’ll tell you what.  If you can go finish your milk and have a good attitude through your bathroom chores, we’ll check the time and maybe read a book.

Seems like a pretty good response, huh?  Well, allow me to let you in on what what going on in my heart.

As Caleb headed to get started on that list of contingencies, I grabbed the Bible story book knowing full well that “there would be time.”  While grabbing the book and considering its contents the Holy Spirit split me wide open:

Don’t kid yourself, Jason.  You are not showing your son grace.  You’re making him work for your “favour.”  You’re making the expression of your love and generosity dependent on him conforming his behaviour.  Do you want him to have a good attitude because it makes your life easier or because you want him to know and do the right thing?  Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way with His grace and you?

Wow.  I sure am glad that God’s grace — the lavish grace that is sufficient for all that I lack and the grace that is greater than all my sin — isn’t couched in a list of qualifications.  God offers His favour to me unmerited, undeserving as I am, though I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Jesus is the one who earned His grace . . . I get it just by my faith-filled association in Christ.  What a privilege.

Now back to parenting, I don’t think the answer is to spoil my kids.  God has given me a responsibility to teach them right and wrong and the consequences of their actions.  But what I don’t want to do is to teach them that they need to work for my affection.  I don’t want them to learn love as a works-based privilege.  I want to be stern in discipline, teaching them what is right and wrong.  And at the same time, I want to be able to show them that I love them like God loves: freely, without manipulation, without qualification.  They are mine, I love them . . . just like I am His and He loves me.

Caleb and Hannah

Caleb and Hannah


Oct 1 2011

Some of My Surrender

The tenor of this past week’s sermon application was that of surrender.  Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s news of her being chosen to be filled with the Spirit to bear the Messiah was one of surrender—sure, she had some logistical questions, but her heart was trusting, believing, desiring to see God’s work accomplished in her life.  On the heels of that message, I thought I’d candidly express a few personal reflections on surrender in my life currently.

When I think about the issue of surrender before the Lord, I think of related topics like faith in God’s plans over me, trust that He’ll get me through hard times, and hope in the big-picture-plan-of-God of which I know I’m just a part.  Some verses that encourage me in this are:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anythingJames 1:2-4

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

 

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Therefore, make every effort to confirm your calling and election.  For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ2Peter 1:5-11

As Christ followers, our journey on this earth is wrought with the need for faith, surrender, perseverance, and godly action based thereon.  Lately for me this calling has taken two primary forms which I must repeatedly put on the altar of surrender.

The first is the coming of Baby Byers #3.  As I’m sure any mom or dad can attest, parenting is a unique tool of God to expose areas that need refining in holiness.  Little else in life can simultaneously expose our self-centeredness, our lack of patience (esp. when tired), our shortsightedness, our lack of relying wholly on the Spirit, etc.  I often find myself struck by the mystery of how this raging battle can open us up to the painful refining fire of sanctification and at the same time fill us with such joy and pleasure at seeing what God is growing in these little lives.  I don’t know how having a third child (two in diapers) will affect things like my relationship with Carrie, my productivity at work, and numerous other things.  But one thing that I keep coming to . . . I KNOW that if I can remain surrendered in faith to the Lord, one way or another, “all these things will be added” to me.

The second big area of surrender is the work and fruit at C!C.  As Carrie and I await the approval of our renewed work permits, I am often faced with the difficulty of evaluating questions like: “What are the next steps for C!C?” “Where is the fruit of our labour?” “What would happen if You called us somewhere else?” I love being a part of C!C, and I have such an excitement and a desire to see God grow our community and ministry.  And so all I can do to answer some of the looming questions that don’t always have answers is offer them up to the Lord in surrender.  In faith I place my trust in the fact that He has promised good over me and over His church.  So I strive to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithfulHebrews 10:23.

What is an acute area of surrender for you?  Let us hold on, for He is faithful.