Nov 28 2014

Struck Down Like Milkweed

When I was a boy growing up in Georgia, I LOVED playing in the woods. Actually, who am I kidding? I still love playing in the woods. So I guess a better start would be . . . when playing in the Georgia backwoods as a boy, my favourite activity was to pretend that I was some sort of hero on epic adventures, climbing trees, leaping over ditches, hopping across creeks, and vanquishing foes with tree-branch swords. My favourite enemy to cross swords with was a milk-weed. These tall, relatively thick-trunked weeds had a hollow center and could be sliced through completely with a well placed strike and a good “blade.” Truth be told, I was always surprised by how easily the mild-weed would break away — it was a great confidence builder for a young warrior. At times, I would find entire groves and lay waste on my quest for victory and justice.

The image of the would-be strength of milk-weed stalk giving away under a calculated blow often comes to mind when the Lord uses a surprisingly small truth to cut to the heart of me. For all my would-be strength, composure, and expectations for my walk with God, sometimes a quick flick of the Holy Spirit slices me right through, exposing my core, convicting of sin, raising questions, revealing direction. Recently this happened with John 6:12.

The context is the Apostle John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. John records Jesus giving instruction to His disciples after everyone had eaten, and I’m convinced that we are meant to see more importance in Christ’s words than merely preparing leftovers for the next day. I think Jesus is revealing a facet of His compassion for people and the nature of His mission. Here’s the verse:

“When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”

Now I don’t want to go overboard in trying to interpret something from this text that isn’t there, but as I read that verse, I thought of Christ’s compassion (Matt. 9:35-38), and the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). I felt convicted over my tendency to do the “easy” things and not necessarily value making sure “nothing is lost”. The reality is that there are many attitudes, important tasks, missed opportunities, and potential rewards that fall through the cracks of my life and faith, my focus and maturity. But deep down, I don’t want this to be the case. I want to fill in those cracks.

Reading John 6:12 over and over again, because it seemed like God was trying to get my attention, eventually led me to a simple yet profound prayer:

God make me, and make C!C, faithful to go and gather! Let none be lost!

Would you join me in that prayer? Coming out of a major sermon series on sharing our faith AND the focus on the persecuted church, would you ask God to cut down the milk-weed grove of your own plans and burden you for His harvest “so that nothing will be lost”? We are not responsible for saving the entire world, but we are responsible for faithfully presenting the Gospel as we have opportunity. Jesus doesn’t ask for more than we can give; He just asks us to give our best.

Who will you challenge to take a step of faith? Who will go out of your way to encourage? How will you prepare yourself to give an answer for the hope that you have?

Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

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.

Oct 26 2011

A Thing for Shepherds

I had a great time at !group last night.  Though we’re not a big group, and I’m not sure that Denny’s knows exactly what to think about us, it just feels good to be together.  And it feels even better to talk about things that matter – things that matter to God and things that matter to the group.

In the midst of discussing the text for this week (Luke 2:8-21 … you can check it out yourself and listen to the sermon online!), we noticed something sort of amusing, unique and special:  God seems to have a “soft spot” for shepherds.

As we noted how striking it is that the Heavenly Host would deliver the Divine Birth Announcement to a bunch of shepherds, we realized that shepherds often pop up as having a prominent role in salvation history.  Here are some examples that we discovered:

  • Cain and Abel: Abel tended sheep, and his sacrifice was accepted
  • Shepherd/Nomad was the “profession” of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the patriarchs
  • When Joseph was in charge in Egypt, Israel immigrated as a nation of shepherds, introducing the dynamic that would lead to them flourishing and eventually being expelled as per God’s plans
  • King David was a shepherd boy, and that period of life greatly informed his view of God
  • Psalm 23 relays that “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . .”
  • In John 10:7-18, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, explaining how He knows, loves, and provides for His sheep
  • Jesus tells Peter in John 21:17, to “Feed My sheep.”

See?  God seems to really like shepherds!  As I meditated on this fascinating theme, one of the ways I felt that this is significant is that it reflects the Perfect Paradox that we spoke of this past Sunday.  Jesus is Perfectly Powerful, and He is Perfectly Humble.  Historically shepherds are looked down on and seen as extreme “blue-collar” labour.  Yet their job is one of significance and power.  The shepherd often holds the power of life and death over the sheep.  The shepherd leads them to food and water; the shepherd keeps them together; the shepherd protects against attacks; the shepherd loves the sheep.

So what’s the application for us?

Well in light of the truth of Isaiah 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned each one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all,” here is what I believe to be some application.  God is calling us to be enlisted shepherds.  He has mustered a spiritual family of shepherds to lead people to the Good Shepherd.  The flock is scattered, malnourished, deceived.  We’ve been given the Power of God in the Truth of Jesus.  And we’ve been given the Call of Humility in the vocation of shepherding.

Take some time to look around your world and find where you can practice some shepherd-skills.  Remember that the flock is on the move and the enemy on the prowl, looking for someone to devour.  We can’t shepherd while napping in the shade, we’ve got to be purposeful and proactive.  How will you respond?

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. Matthew 18:11-13