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.

Jul 13 2012

A Future Not Our Own

This poem was passed along to me by Emily Crawley . . . a fantastic young lady at C!C.  The poem is by Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador – assassinated while celebrating mass in the cancer hospital where he lived.

 

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.

 

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession bring perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives include everything.

 

This is what we are about; we plant seeds that one day will grow.

We water the seeds already planted knowing they hold a future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

 

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.

This enables us to do something and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.


May 25 2012

Pausing to Pray

The university that I attended (Berry College) is pretty old — founded in 1902.  Back then it wasn’t uncommon for colleges and universities to adopt a school hymn or psalm.  The school being uniquely situated on the largest campus in the world in the foothills of the Appalachians in northwest Georgia, the setting gives extra relevance to Berry’s Psalm:

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Lately, I have found myself leaning towards despair when trying to wade through the tasks and responsibilities in front of me.  I so deeply desire to be the right kind of worshipper, husband, father, pastor, friend, and disciple-maker that God wants me to be.  Yet sometimes the task just feels insurmountable, and failure seems inevitable.

In these moments, there’s a still, small voice that whispers from the corners of my soul: “Jason, this isn’t freedom.  Come to me.”

I’d like to say that I always listen . . . but I don’t.  Often I forge ahead on my own power, destined to run out of steam at some point.  Other times, though, I resist my flesh’s impulse to just “work harder” and I pause to pray.

The wonder in this is that pausing to reflect, meditate, and talk to my Lord in heaven doesn’t practically accomplish anything on my to-do list.  And yet, the “peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7) begins to accompany my heart and mind as I turn over the tasks, the responsibilities, and the implications of whether I do a good job or not.  In those moments, I’m amazed that I can ever NOT make time to pray and turn over my heart, my task list, and my time over to Jesus.

What’s more is that consistently, days where I spend such time pausing to pray, I seem to get more accomplished . . . and with a much better attitude — to the worship and glory of God.

Will you write down the above Psalm somewhere that you’ll see it regularly, and will you make time to pause and pray?


Apr 13 2012

Post-Easter “c!weekly” post

Wading into the post-Easter week for me has had its share of hazards.  There are the daily hurdles of dirty diapers and household chores.  There are speed bumps of unanticipated stresses and complications.  There’s that background drum of outstanding to-dos that can prove ever-so distracting.  And sometimes there is the poignant pang of sharing someone’s intense personal hurt.

Coming off the sermon on the parable of the different kinds of soil (Luke 8:4-15), I’ve found myself often seeing the “hazards” as testing grounds as to the condition of the soil in my heart.  How do I react when “my time” is infringed upon?  How am I affected when I don’t get to do what “I want” to do?  How do I deal with stress?  Where do I spend my time, energy, resources?  What truth and hope do I have to share with those who need some?  Basically, what are the fruits of the “tough moments” in my day-to-day?

I’ll offer that as I look at my life, the biggest determining factor in my producing “meaningful fruit” is whether I’ve been sowing the proper seed.  If I don’t make sure that the seed of the Word of Truth has access to my heart, IT DOESN’T MUCH MATTER WHAT THE CONDITION OF THE SOIL OF MY HEART IS.  No seed equals no budding plants equals no fruit.  I wonder if we don’t frequently lament the choices that we make (or don’t make), thinking that we “should have known better.”  But little do we admonish ourselves for not sowing the seed that would produce the righteousness that our souls desire as a part of our grace driven effort.

Though we sow all sorts of “truth” into our lives through music, television, the internet and the like, the seed that we NEED sprinkled over our hearts and minds is the Word of God, the Bible.  Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will grow the Word in our lives.  I’ll close by simply scattering some relevant “seeds” to encourage you as you go:

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. . . . When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  (John 14:26; 16:13)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  (Colossians 2:6-8)

 


Mar 23 2012

Cusp

Bottled up, I’d call the way
Your Spirit feels inside me,
Effective outlet held at bay
By forces yet unseen.

Not that pain is what I feel,
Not worried discontent,
No dampened eyes, no staggered reel,
No doubts malevolent.

Bottled up, like darkened clouds
The storm as yet to break.
Like the wait between flash and loud,
Thunder’s mighty quake.

I long to see the Spirit move
For Majesty revealed.
How I wish the Bride would swoon
At the Grace with which we’re sealed.

Bottled up, this Kingdom come
Unloose the cork, Oh Grace.
I yearn to advance amidst Your throng
In the light of Your glorious face.


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.