The Family You Have and the Church You Want

Posted: September 12, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized

When a parent asks me how to get their kids to enjoy coming to church, I generally ask them why THEY like coming to church and don’t let the awkward silence and blank stares linger for too long.

I suspect most people like the IDEA of church; they’re just lest enthralled with actually going because:

  • The weather is nice
  • The weather is bad
  • It’s cold and my I forgot my coat at work
  • There was an extra cup of coffee in the carafe
  • Saturday night

I’ve battled this dilemma too, but I can assure you, you can overcome. Kids who love church generally grow up in families that love church, so the best thing you can do is prioritize and even grow to love it yourself. Here are a few ideas:

  • Calendar It. I put doctor appointments, anniversaries, birthdays, and oil changes on my calendar because they’re important, and yet regular time to tend to my soul and get aligned with God goes unscheduled. No wonder it’s so hit and miss! So right now, stop reading and create a create a recurring soul-care appointment at your local church every Sunday from 9:30 to 12:30. Don’t miss that appointment and watch how it affects every area of your buys life.
  • Kill the Consumer. Consumers sit in church and judge it on what they get out of it, complaining if it doesn’t feed them or meet their needs. Producer see excellent ministry as their sincere but imperfect gift to  the imperfect people who need to hear and respond to the loving invitation to follow Jesus. The difference between consumers and producers is regular service (at least 2x a month) at your imperfect local church. If your spiritually stuck, serve.
  • Make a Friend. “Church Community” has come to imply  living rooms with people smarter than me, sometimes in a cardigan with perfect children, asking you to share your deepest struggles or share your thoughts on obscure passages of scripture because it seems like Jesus told you to. Please reject that idea of community and seek out people you enjoy being with and then intentionally getting together to do things you enjoy, and practice having honest, authentic spiritual conversations about real things in your life and what God might say about those things.
  • Share your experiences, and encourage curiosity. When your teenagers and children ask questions about “God stuff” or “life stuff” that you have no idea how to answer, don’t fake it. Christianity is not about right answers, it’s about a man from Galilee and a promised to redeem a broken world through sacrificial love and set people free. That’s not neat and tidy, it’s messy and gruesome, and sometimes,”I’m just not sure” is the only answer that makes sense, and giving your kids (or co-workers) the freedom to explore and live in the tensions of life makes Jesus and the faith He calls us to alive, beautiful, and most of all… relatable. So when you don’t know the answer, tell a relevant story about what you’ve seen and experienced, work together to find an answer (Google and Bible Gateway are your friends) and talk candidly about what you find and what it means for your life today. A faith that isn’t buttoned down and neatly wrapped is exhilarating  in its freedom because it invites us to bring our best ideas and emotions and solutions to matters of ultimate important. Your kids won’t be shocked that you don’t know everything, but they’ll be eternally impacted by your demonstration of integrity in seeking truth and wrestling with hard questions.

But never make the mistake of equating going to church with knowing Jesus. Only Jesus is worthy of our lives best. Most often that will come to bear in the context of a local church, so take your kids to church and expose them to a Jesus who loved messy people in a way that confused and angered people but pleased God. But don’t every think that it’s the church’s job to introduce your family to Jesus. That’s your job, and the greatest predictor of which children will continue in their faith beyond high school are parents who take responsibility for their faith journey and that of their family.

Finally, a quick but necessary word about churches. I believe all churches have a sincere desire to honor God with their ministry, many of them however have long since stopped making an impact on the Kingdom for whatever reason. IF that is your Church, you have a difficult decision to make between 2 God honoring (and 1 not God honoring) options which should be considered with much prayer and wise counsel.

  1. Commit to your Church and give your entire self to helping your congregation become the church that Jesus loves deeply and gave his to make it the impactful, restorative, body He intended it to be.
  2. Go to your pastor with a spirit of deep humility and grace, and without the slightest hint of criticism or judgment, complete every commitment with excellence and ask to be released so you can  being your search for another church.
  3. For those who choose to remain where they are and use gossip, negativity, complaint, belligerence, and political maneuvering to curry favor and divide a congregation, Titus 3:9 clearly commands church leadership in such a case, ” As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” The KJV uses stronger language, saying to reject a divisive man. Taking an adversarial position against your church and its leadership positions you in an adversarial position to the purpose and character of God. Don’t do that.

Raising a family that loves and honors God well is hard work, but the pay off is eternal. My pastoral prayer is that God would bless you as you seek Him and lead your family with wisdom and grace. Learn to value the process, not some perfect church or outcome. Be vulnerable with your kids, and expect to feel a little bit (or a lot) out of your depth. You’ll be sowing the seeds that grow into a legacy of faith and love that all the powers of hell can neither overthrow or diminish.

God bless you as you become the Church of God that brings his love and redemption into a world in desperate need of it.

 

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The Ripple Effect

Posted: May 14, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized

My grandfather was a Baptist Pastor who raised his 4 daughters, including my mother, in the Church.

*splash*
In high school, I made friends with a guy named Chris Coggins who attended my baseball games. After a decade of hard and fast living apart from Jesus, I came back to my faith and, unintentionally, to the church where Chris was was the youth pastor. Chris invested in my life, and when he resigned, the church hired me, and I stayed for over 10 years.
*splash*
After my 5 year old son wanted, in a very sincere, age appropriate way, Jesus’ forgiveness for fighting with his sister and not listening to his Kindergarten teacher, we talked about  the cross and how Christianity means following Jesus, not just a bunch of rules. When I baptized Jackson, I felt the legacy I was immersing him into – my grandfather, my mother, Chris Coggins, Sean Azzaro, and a million others whose names I don’t know and wouldn’t recognize.
*splash*
Someday, I pray Jackson has the honor of baptizing his own son… and neighbors, and coworkers… and a that those people will in turn baptize their friends and families for generations to come.
God has given each person the potential to make a splash, and each splash starts a ripple which makes waves long after the original splash has been forgotten. Everyone is part of someone else’s ripple – my grandfather, Chris Coggins – and we’re given the chance to make ripples of our own – Jackson, My neighbor, you…
It’s River City Church’s conviction that we exist to make waves Jesus’ name by doing the things that Jesus did – feed the hungry, encourage the hopeless, and love the lonely. As we’ve done so, we’ve grown, and there’s no sign of slowing down!
Having more people than space is a problem churches LOVE to have, but they are problems none the less. Churches without space stop growing, and churches that stop growing stop making ripples like Jesus did.
And so… a few weeks ago, River City officially began looking for a permanent ministry home. Launching something like this is always a tedious process. There are always things that could have been done differently, and this is certainly the first time for something like this in my story, but I wanted to give us a point to refer back to, and to answer a few questions to make sure we’re all on the same page.
  1. Our campaign to raise funds for the purchase and renovation of our new home his called The Ripple Effect, based on the idea that those of us who call River City home are part of someone else’s ripple, and that our mission is to always make new ripples and impact new lives in and for Jesus’ name.
  2. The search for a new home is being conducted by the church elders ( Gregg Greebon acting as point elder), a Real Estate Coordinator and team, and a Ripple Effect Coordinator and team. A formal Coordination Team introduction is coming soon, but I assure you that we couldn’t pay for the experience and expertise of the team God has assembled for this purpose.
  3. Based on the team’s conservative, well informed (no numbers out of hats) recommendations, our goal is to raise $150,000 before we move forward on any piece of property. The $150K would cover an approximated 20% down payment and any necessary renovation/construction costs.
  4. Because saying that “God is calling us” to something should never be done carelessly, we’re not quite ready to say God is calling us to pursue any particular place exclusively, even though we’ve been looking, and have seen some places we really like. For now, we feel God calling us to get ready for a move, we’re just waiting for Him to make clear where it is we’ll finally end up.
If you have any further questions at this time, feel free to contact Gregg Greebon at gregg.greebon [at] alconlabs [dot] com or email me at jpowers [at] rcnb [dot] org.
If you would like to donate to The Ripple Effect you can go to www.rcnb.org/giving and, after entering a gift amount, simply click the link that says “Please specify if NOT for General Funds” and enter the words “Ripple Effect” into the box.
Please pray for the elders and coordination team to have wisdom and grace as we look. Pray that God would provide the funds for this move in a way that makes His will abundantly clear and brings Him abundant glory.
Most of all, we ask that you recognize the ripples that have brought you where you are today, and that you would boldly, intentionally, live your life in such a way that makes a splashand sends ripples from this moment forward into eternity.

Back on the horse

Posted: February 3, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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This turned out to be failure weekend for my 21 day Bible reading and blogging habit. I just didn’t make time to do it. This is a well-rehearsed habit of mine, so I’m not really surprised.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s OK that I reinforced laziness instead of building discipline. I absolutely did a disservice to myself, and gained nothing valuable in return.

But more importantly:

  1. I didn’t lose my standing before God.
  2. I didn’t become less valuable to God.
  3. I didn’t jeopardize my salvation.
  4. I didn’t forfeit my role in Jesus’ ongoing mission and ministry through His Church.
  5. I didn’t forfeit an experience of his love, grace, and forgiveness.

This morning I asked for and accepted God’s forgiveness without having to spiritually kick myself, hate myself, or bore him with details of just how wretched I am. Since I didn’t have to hide that from God, I didn’t have to hide, make excuses, or justify myself to anyone else, either. My life clearly bears the marks of my failure and sin, and I am utterly incapable of delivering myself from those sins. I accept both without minimizing either.

I don’t want to minimize sin or its effect, but I also don’t want to minimize grace or its effect. In fact, I want the significance of my sin to maximize the significance of Grace. If my sin drives me to spiritual depression or somber expressions of contrition, then I must consider my failures greater that Jesus’ cross which is a gross misunderstanding of Biblical grace. That’s not humble or contrite, that’s colossally stupid and theologically heretical.

The scripture is plain, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Did you get that, if your sorrow kills your hope, joy, or immediate sense of God’s love and favor on your life… it’s not from God!!

Your awareness of sin should always drive you headlong into the gracious Presence of God. As you recognize your sin in God’s Presence, forgiveness abounds, regrets dissolve, and your feet are returned to the path of devotion to him (see Isaiah 6).

The simple message of our faith is that Jesus was punished for my sin, God was satisfied, and we reap the benefit for eternity. Jesus came precisely because we always stumble! My stumbles don’t surprise Him. He probably wonders why they still surprise me.

So when you inevitably stumble and fall – get up. Don’t make excuses or justifications. Let failure remind you of your desperate, unending, and insatiable need for God’s grace. Then, for God’s sake (literally, for His sake), stand still until you experience the reality that His stores of grace are far greater than your ability to exhaust it.

When your failures begin to drive you into the Divine Presence rather than away from it, you’ll have a new appreciation for God’s ability to cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose (that’s you!).

Is this a difficult message for you to live out? Why do we want to punish ourselves for wrong doing? How does God expect us to respond to our sin and the sin of others?

Creativity Conspiracy?

Posted: January 30, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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There’s a reason VanGogh didn’t paint a masterpiece every day, that Fitzgerald didn’t publish a ground breaking novel every year, and even great bands like U2 put out craptastic albums like Zooropa.

Being creative is REALLY difficult.

Today, I don’t seem to have a single thing to say. It’s not that I don’t want to be creative. Each successive moment staring at a blank screen from my overstuffed chair in my overstuffed corner of my local coffee shop hangout is excruciating.

I watched the late to class letter jackets flow by, separated from my world by headphone partitions.

I noticed the soccer moms hugging it out, chatting merrily and sincerely over rich latte and good scones.

I took in the salt and pepper goatee, sitting alone, covered by his well worn hoodie slowly turning pages in his well worn Bible.

I just wasn’t interested. None of their faces captured my imagination, none of their countenances made me wonder. So I opened up my YouVersion app to complete today’s Bible reading for my 21 day challenge (I pledged to read my Bible and write a blog post every day for 21 consecutive days). If worst came to worst, I could write about the passage, what it meant to me, why it was relevant, or why I wished I had read another passage instead. Surely the Holy Scripture (angel chorus) would inspire.

Alas… the daily devotional content for today instructed me to reflect back on the writings of the past week and sit quietly with God. Of course it did.

The whole world seemed to conspire against creativity today. Hum drum faces surrounded by unspectacular interactions filled the spaces between the unintended pauses in my daily rhythms. Creativity was hiding, demanding to be fought for and wrestled into being from the thin air.

I don’t suspect that today’s post will be the one that I recommend to new readers, or encourage my children to look at when they grow up. Today’s thought will (hopefully) not represent the pinnacle of my creative endeavor, but in an important way, today represents a milestone victory in this journey of mine. Today I did what I was supposed to, forces of conspiracy be damned!

Today, the most I could muster was going through the motions. I didn’t feel like writing, didn’t have anything to write about, but I wrote anyway. And 468 words later, going through the motions has paid off – not in a creative masterpiece, but in a triumph of mind over matter.

I’ll have to remember this moment when I don’t feel like praying or reading my Bible, or when every fiber of my being and every ounce of my intuition tells me that God isn’t real or isn’t listening. In those moments, I’ll do it anyway. I’ll start by going through the motions (Our Father, who is in Heaven…) and let the motions take me where they will.

Day 7: Fear, Faith, and Trust

Posted: January 29, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

Trust is the fabric that holds society together. We generally trust that most people aren’t going to break the law, and that when they do, they will be held accountable. When trust breaks down, the results – bank runs and stock market sell offs – are ugly.

In John 14, Jesus’ life and ministry had run its course. John depicts those last few moments, the dawning awareness that Jesus was saying goodbye, with raw, stunning honesty. Nestled among his final words to his friends was an invitation not just to have faith in him… but to trust him.

Brennan Manning’s powerful book Ruthless Trust unpacks the subtle but important difference between faith and trust. The Upper Room audience had an experience rooted faith in the person of Jesus, but they still didn’t trust Him. Thomas needed more information, Philip needed declarations of certainty. Panic was setting in, and in John 14:27, Jesus calls them beyond having faith in His peace – which they would have gathered as he napped out a raging storm and walked through an angry mob untouched – to trusting him enough to live out that peace, untroubled and unafraid. Troubled and fear-filled hearts are the evidence of a faith that hasn’t yet matured into trust.

I was raised in the Church, so the substance of my faith is clearly defined and articulated by the creeds and systems of orthodox Christianity. I know and believe that faith saves me (Ephesians 2:8-9), but I’m also discovering that it’s trust which enables me to enjoy my salvation. It’s trust which cuts fear and unrest out of my life. By faith I believe that the Omnipotent God whom I serve is able to keep and bless me. With the passing of time I am coming to trust, not just that he can…. but that He will!

As this simple, powerful trust takes root and grows in my soul, I increasingly find myself able to rest with him in the storms, confident that my God will keep me, and keep everything that I’ve trusted to Him.

Do you struggle with fear? What are you most afraid of, and how can you learn to trust God in that area?

Day 6: Momentum

Posted: January 28, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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Mass is substance. It has weight. It is matter. It’s tangible. Mass doesn’t have to be big or heavy or impressive, it just has to be.

Velocity is speed in a given direction. It is focused, measurable, and intentional.

Momentum is this force of almost unspeakable potential that happens when a mass of something starts moving in a given direction and picking up speed. As the mass first begins to move, momentum is almost imperceptibly small and dangerously fragile. With the passing of time and consistent pressure in a consistent direction, velocity increases and momentum grows so powerfully that the least impressive lumps of mass become unstoppable forces capable of unspeakable power.

Momentum is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a force to be nurtured, harnessed, and carefully cultivated in the interest of turning these ordinary lumps of life and flesh into projectiles of divine Presence and grace.

This habit of carving out time for the Lord each morning, and then intentionally responding to what I’ve read and embraced is starting to pick up speed. It’s not an easy habit, but it’s gaining momentum. I’m learning to let principles and God’s quiet leading from the scriptures attach to my stories and memories, hopes and ideas. God’s story is increasingly becoming my story.

Today I was encouraged, and I experienced the fruit of this discipline. Today it didn’t feel like work or drudgery, it simply felt like a thing that I do. As I opened my reading plan to engage with the scripture, I found myself slipping more easily into prayer for guidance and protection. As I read Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4 to meet anxiety with prayer, I was already in a frame of mind and spirit to say yes to that challenge.

The mass of my life is starting to move at the speed of divine engagement in the direction of personal spiritual transformation. The momentum may be barely perceptible to anyone who’s not me, but it’s real, and it’s growing. While my little quantity of spiritual momentum is real, it is still fragile and easily destroyed by a few lazy moments.

But I’m not worried, because I’m getting used to finding  God in the midst of my days. I’m a little less surprised when I find him already in the places I’ve been struggling to get to. My faith compels me to believe that God’s invested in my momentum, that it’s actually Him that’s moving me, and it’s Him that I’m moving toward.

So I rest comfortably and enjoy the ride.

What new habits are you building? Is your process getting easier? What difference are your new habits making in your days?  

Day 5: the words that destroy us

Posted: January 27, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… Philippians 2:5-6

In 1972, Social Psychologist Irving Janis coined the term “groupthink” to describe the sometimes positive, sometimes negative synergy that happens when a group locks in intellectually and begins to think with one mind. I’ve experienced something like this once or twice in my life, and you don’t forget that sense of being dialed in to something bigger. Groupthink may not always be a good thing, but it is certainly exhilarating.

Paul seems to refer to this kind of thing in his letter to the believers in Philippi. He references having the same mind “among yourselves” (plural, group), which “is yours” (singular, personal). As Christians, we each have access to the leadership and guidance of God’s Spirit individually and corporately.

This thing we tap into is the mind of Christ, which means we can expect predictable results… the more we connect to it, the more we’ll think with the same humility that Jesus had.  Jesus left the eternal immediacy of the Trinity to walk the dusty roads of Palestine, and calls us to the same – set aside our “right to be right”, willingly and intentionally prefer the good of the many over the good of the one. Even if the one is me.

Then there’s this quirky little section right after that…

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent… Philippians 2:14

I’m prone to grumble, and when I do, it’s usually because my every whim hasn’t been attended to. Grumbles and complaints don’t project the mind of Christ into my world. Grumbling makes me an enemy of good will and team work by prioritizing what I want/think/need/have been deprived of, over moving forward together.

Habit building is hard work. In addition to this 21 Day challenge, the Missus and I are getting healthy with the Daniel Plan. That means there’s a lot of saying “no” to what I want right now. Sometimes it make me viscerally angry.  Habit making and breaking hurts, which I why I need my connections to God and others to be as strong as possible. By undermining those connections, grumbling undermines my process and the grace I need most.

Today I’m going to try to capture those pre-grumble moments and look up rather than expressing my frustration or complaint. I’m going to remember why I wanted new habits in the first place, and ask God to give me strength to continue. Doing so acknowledges that God is the God of my habits. Controlling my grumbling is an act of submission and humility… and that is a very Jesus-like thing to do.

Day 4: The Hope behind Habit Work

Posted: January 26, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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Today was a long day.

When you cut down to the core of my being, I’m what you’d probably call a hyperactive introvert. I’m not one to hide in a corner and blend into the wall. In a room I’m generally moving from one person or small group of people to another.

Crowds and highly relational, interactive times drain my batteries. I love them, but the leave me needing a nap. Today I preached twice and led an informationally intense business meeting after each,  before wrangling the kids at lunch with some old friends. It was an awesome day, and I’m exhausted.

So I had all but justified moving straight out of my glorious moments of snooze  into the rest of my evening without completing day four of my 21 day reading and writing challenge (I outlined the challenge in my post from day 1).  “It’s Sunday”, I said. “No one will notice”, I told myself.

But I knew.

And if I’m doing this for the  accolades, or for you, or for someone else, it’s a dead enterprise before it started so who cares whether I complete another day.

But in those moments before I took this challenge I had come to terms with the fact that parts of my life just flat needed to be disciplined out. The only thing between who I am and who I want to be is the willingness to do an uncomfortable thing for a minute, to do what I didn’t want to do so I could become who I wanted to be. That’s what discipline is about: choosing what’s best over what’s easy.

I am grateful that I finally believe that I’m deeply and irrevocably loved by God, whether I open his word not. I’m truly not doing this project out of duty or obligation. I am free from all of that (see day 2).  I discipline myself to get in his word every day (even when I don’t want to in this particular moment) because more often than not, I find him waiting to encourage or challenge me, and I desperately need that.

And as I rolled over and opened my reading plan to Psalm 30, and committed to share my experience with you like this, I found the reminder of what God does with my broken, scatterbrained, hyperactive, poorly habited heart. He turns it beautiful, and makes it wonderful.

My father loves me very much, and He loves you too.

Here’s hoping you find the courage, strength, joy and perseverance to press through what’s difficult into the promised land of what’s good!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:4

Day 3: The Spiritual Wisdom of “Heads or Tails”

Posted: January 25, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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I have a trick when the wife and I can’t pull the trigger on a decision. We call one option heads, and the other one tails.

And then we flip…

But before I look at how the coin lands, I ask the missus what she wants the coin to say. Turns out, it always turns out the way she wants. Crazy, huh?

I think we prefer the idea of randomness because we distrust the human element in choosing wisely, so we flip. As the coin falls, clarity descends. While the coin is turning we’re not contemplating trade offs, measuring unintended consequences, or accounting for opportunity costs. In that moment, we know what we want, what we need, and what is best. We just need permission to trust ourselves.

Today was Day 3 in my “Love Renovation” reading plan (You can take the 21 Day Bible reading challenge with me). The assigned chapter (Romans 12) was broken down into 3 subheadings. Since I’m not smart enough to focus on three things at once, and the point of this exercise is to be impacted deeply, not just to read a passage, I had to choose.

I wanted to choose section one because it seemed really spiritual, so I felt a little guilty about passing it up. Section 2 would have made a great sermon, maybe even a series, so I wanted to choose that. Section 3 was simple, not flashy, and uncomfortable in its personal challenge. All three passages were from the Bible, so there really wasn’t a bad choice in the lot. But I had to choose one at the expense of the others… so I flipped a coin.

I pathologically distrust the little hunches that nudge me this way or that in life. I distrust them because I distrust myself. But when I come to the scripture, I come with the faith that God speaks, which means the little nudges aren’t about me at all. So if I focus on one section over another, or get stuck on one verse for a day, I don’t feel guilty about not doing more but trust that God is in it. I simply trust… and follow.

I try to remove myself from the selection process (heads or tails) by practicing the spiritual discipline of listening with my heart. God created my heart in his image, and it understands him if I will stop and listen. So when you sit down with a scripture, and something unusual or unspiritual or unsettling grabs you and won’t let you go, receive that moment as an invitation from God. Sit with him and enjoy that moment of loving connection with the God who loves you.

Day 2: Freedom, Discipline, & I do what I want

Posted: January 24, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1

It’s an easy statement to gloss over and apply to our theology like a foil sticker to a children’s book. The promise of freedom for all as a love gift from Jesus is quite a boon.

But if I’m so free, then why don’t I feel like it?

why am I still depressed…

why can’t I get free from pornography…

why are my relationships such a mess?

And the counsel from well meaning but misinformed friends in the faith doesn’t always make things better:

spend more time in prayer… 

read your Bible more often…

go to a small group/bible study/prayer service/healing service…

just have more faith… 

Why does Christian freedom always seem to involve something else for me to do –  21 Day reading challenge, for instance?

Because baseball, of course.

My favorite part of my 2 year college baseball career was the fall inter-squad season where we played the same people each day. That repeated exposure revealed everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, including mine.

“Get ahead and this guy will chase a curve ball every time…”

“Miss with a change up and he’ll hit it to China…”

I was absolutely free to throw whatever I want, whenever I wanted. But that freedom didn’t mean that every choice was equally wise. My job was to leverage my freedom in such a way that I presented my strength to their weakness as often as possible. The repeated exposure was a key part of that, because it provided the context for me to know what those relative strengths and weaknesses were.  

I don’t read the Bible every day to earn or keep Jesus’ love or make him do what I want. I read my bible and engage in other spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, community, giving, service, and all the rest) so that I can better understand what God is like, what I am like, and how to bring those two things together for maximum good in my life and the world I live in.

I am free at all times to not read my Bible, and it never affects Jesus’ love for me or my salvation. It only affects whether or not I experience that love deeply in my real life.Jesus didn’t live and die to buy the right for me to do a quiet time or some other religious duty. He came so I could KNOW God intimately, be free from the burden of earning God’s acceptance, and experience a love that overwhelms everything else in this world.

We are free to give our lives to anything we want. Let’s use our freedom to be free, to reach for the highest expression of life. Let’s pursue those things make us feel alive, effective, loved, celebrated, and part of something significant.

You are free. Embrace it. Experience it. Live it.

Have you ever felt like a slave to religious duty? How can you break free from that and live free?

It’s a grey-cold morning, and the day’s high temperature came and went before the sun hit the horizon. Warm covers, a cold house, and the glaring absence of that fresh-brewed coffee smell made that left side roll out of bed a formidable one. My 21 Day Challenge at YouVersion.com started today, but had I not universally broadcast my intentions, I might have slept in (stupid internets!).  

In the 30 short, shuffling steps between the edge of my bed and the dawning consciousness of my Keurig coffee maker, I realized that habits are hard to establish or break because excuses practically make themselves…

  • That extra episode of Grey’s Anatomy last night wiped me out. I’d better sleep in.
  • One more hour would probably catch me up totally. That’s the responsible thing to do.
  • Knocking around the kitchen will wake the kids. I’ll be a good father and go back to bed. For the children.
  • It’s too quiet without the kids awake! Since I’d just fall asleep anyway, why not go back to bed?

The crazy thing about life among the fallen is our chronic short-term memory. Rock solid convictions we fall asleep with some how dissolve with sleep. We passionately and sincerely want things to be different, but we resist taking steps to get there for lots of contradictory, ultimately unsatisfying reasons.

And so we lead lives far short of what we want – and were lovingly created – to experience. 

Today , for once, I ignored my excuses and sat down to read Day One of the “Love Renovation” plan. I read about how Jesus made reckless, fierce love the sole metric of our connection to Father, and I remembered why this is the man I want to follow and be like.

You probably saw something different, or you may have been a victim of the beckoning voices of slumber. You’ll get no judgment from me. I’ve been there before and history would indicate I’ll be there again. But today I learned a few things to help me overcome those pesky and persuasive voices that sabotage my habits:

  1. Start your day at night – When I wake up is most directly affected by when I go to bed. By a long shot. So look at your bed time routine as the first important step in your morning habits.
  2. Be Positive – If you go to sleep mumbling resentfully about your new habit, Resentment will gladly continue the conversation when you wake. Go to bed thinking of all the good things your habit will bring.
  3. Choose who you listen to – Everyone has voices in your head. Effective people just know which ones to listen to. Excuses will scream at you, the Truth will whisper, but you get to choose.

Day One of this 21 day challenge was mostly about breaking the inertia of old habits, and learning that my excuses only control me if I allow them to. Here’s looking forward to day 2. How about you?

What did you discover about the scripture or yourself on day 1?

21 Day Challenge – will you take it?

Posted: January 22, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized
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It takes 21 days to build or break a new habit – for better or worse, good habits or bad. 

  • Give in to fear for 21 days… it’s a habit.
  • Justify your behavior for 21 days… it’s a habit.
  • Eat junk food for 21 days… it’s a habit.
  • Sooth your frustration by overspending for 21 days… it’s a habit.

Those bad habits that we wake up to find indelibly engraved on our lives began with simple repetition. The bad news is that most habits can’t just be broken, they need to be replaced. The good news is that you’re just 21 days away…

  • Replace fear with prayer for 21 days… it’s a habit (Philippians 4:6-8)
  • Replace justification with personal responsibility for 21 days… it’s a habit (Matthew 5:23-24)
  • Replace overeating with a family stroll in the evening for 21 days… it’s a habit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • Replace overspending with community for 21 days… it’s a habit (Hebrews 10:24-25)

So how are your habits? Are they bringing you closer to God and others, or are they keeping you from experiencing the best of both?

If you’re like me and could stand a little bit of habit replacement, I’d like to invite you to take the 21 day Bible Reading challenge with me. You can click on the link above to read about the official contest, but for our purposes, it’s really simple.

  1. Login to www.bible.com (create an account if you don’t already have one) and download the YouVersion app to your phone.
  2. Choose a Bible reading program that’s at least 21 days long (I chose to do the “Love Renovation” plan, but you don’t have to) that piques your interest (NOTE: it’s more important to find one you’ll enjoy than one that someone else is doing).
  3. In the comments section, let everyone know that you’re in and what plan you selected.

Personally, I’ve been trying to build a habit of writing consistently, so in addition to my reading, I”m going to blog my thoughts about the whole process, and I’d love to know that you’ll be keeping up. I won’t always write specifically about my plan so that it’s relevant to everyone, but more about the process and experience of the habit building process. I’d love to hear how your process is coming along too.

What habits are you replacing? What are you finding in scripture? What’s difficult about reading every day? When do you want to quit? When do you experience a break through? You get the idea. 

So I look forward to taking this journey with you, beginning with day 1 tomorrow. I suspect we’ll have tough moments where we want to quit, and I suspect we’ll see God do some pretty cool things along the way. 

UPDATE: Flood Relief

Posted: May 26, 2015 by powersnat in Uncategorized

 Hey River City,

First I want to say THANK YOU for the overwhelming outpouring of love and support for ourfriends in Wimberley and San Marcos. Many of you have been eager to help out, and I wanted to briefly outline our approach to this tragedy so you will know what to expect.

First, Billy Carroll is going to be River City’s point person for all relief effort. Billy and his family lost their home in the 2010 flood, and his experience uniquely qualifies him to discern and address the needs of the families affected by this flood. Billy’s current focus is on building a list of River City people who want to help be a part of our relief effort. To get your name on our list, or if you have any questions about our efforts, contact Billy at billypcarroll@gmail.com. 

Second, our connections in Hays county are telling us that the immediate influx of people and resources is overwhelming to the point of adding to the chaos rather than relieving it. In a week or so, the attention of the media and the masses will have diminished, but the opportunity to meet needs will remain. My hope is that during this time, the people of River City wil step in to provide “phase 2” relief. If you feel called to assist in the clean up efforts immediately, please feel free to contact the Hays county Sherrif’s offfice for directions, knowing that there will be a coordinated River City effort in the weeks to come. 

Finally, we are currently seeking out a local (in Wimberly or San Marcos) organization, preferrably a Church, to support. Our ultimate goal in meeting physical needs is to point people to The One who can meet all of their needs. We will do our best to support an organization that will not only help people rebuild their homes, but will be able to provide ongoing support and encouragement for generations to come.

Thank you again for your eagerness to demonstrate the love of Christ to people desperately in need of it. If you have any questions, please contact Billy at billypcarroll@gmail.com. Until then, please continue to pray. Thank you again for your faithfulness. May God bless you, as you seek to serve Him!
Grace & Peace

Jason

Lead Pastor – River City Church

  

 

Small Group Questions
September 14, 2014

  1. Pastor Jason quoted a DJ who said, You have to treat marriage like a verb . Most people treat marriage like a noun.”” What’s the difference in viewing marriage as a verb, rather than a noun?
    1. How did that analogy make you think about instances in your own marriage?
    2. If you are single, how can that understanding help you prepare for a healthy marriage, should that be in your future?
  1. Describe the roles and responsibilities of leadership and how they affect the marriage relationship?
    1. Why do some people reject the idea that leadership in marriage is the man’s responsibility?
    2. How would you respond to them? If you’re not married how can you practice preparing for your role in marriage today?
  1. Read Ephesians 5: 21-33. How are the roles outlined for women and men different?
    1. Do you believe one role is better or more important than the other, or that the scripture treats women as inferior? Explain.
  1. What’s the difference between a covenant and a contract?
    1. Read Jeremiah 31:3 and discuss how that promise from God enables us to approach marriage as a covenant, rather than a contract.
    2. If you aren’t married what do the ideas of covenant and contract mean for your relationships?
  1. The biblical mandate for men is to take responsibility for their family. How can a man take responsibility for his family and at the same time honor and allow his wife’s strengths to develop and shine?
  1. On a 1 to 10 scale, rate your current level of spiritual health and vitality.
    1. How closely is that number related to your time in the word and prayer?
    2. Why are spiritual disciplines so important for your ability to manage your responsibility (as a man or a woman) well?
    3. What do you need to do to grow in that area? What obstacles will you face, and how will you overcome them?
  1. What changes do you need to make in your marriage this week? How can you guarantee that you will begin to make those changes?
  1. Whose marriage do you look at as an example of a healthy, thriving marriage that you would like to emulate? What questions would you like to ask them about how to build and sustain a healthy marriage? Schedule a time this week to have a conversation with that person about marriage issues.
  1. Why is continued dating so important to a healthy marriage? What date will you and your spouse go on this week?

Big week at church…be there!

Posted: June 18, 2014 by powersnat in Uncategorized

Hey River City,

June is almost over. Half the year has come and gone. Summer, uniquely, has a way of distracting me from pursuing my life’s big picture. This morning, I turned off the radio in my car and remembered back to what I wanted 2014 to be about. I had gone off track in a few of those things, but by being intentoinal about remembering what’s important, I could make the necessary course corrections and get back on track. I hope you’ll take time this week to make sure you’re focusing on what’s important to you, not just reacting to what’s most urgent or screaming the loudest. Specifically consider how you can invest the last 6 months of 2014 in things that will outlast you and be your contribution to posterity.

A few things you need for this week:

Pastor Sean Azzaro – my mentor and spiritual father who set the RCNB wheels in motion years ago – will be our speaking guest this Sunday. I want Sean to see and know 1st hand what what God is doing here, so I hope you will do anything in your power not to miss this Sunday. I know you’ll be blessed, and I assure you that he and I will be as well.

•Our montly Meet & Eat Potluck Backpack Program lunch is this Sunday after our 11:00 service. Bring a dish to share, and any non-perishable, individually wrapped food items to Church and plan to stay for a short while at the end. We’ve already given away over 250 bags of food to hungry kids in NB, and the need doesn’t diminish during the summer. We’re not just talking about following Jesus, we’re actually doing it!

•Please keep the two VBS teams in your prayers as they finish an amazing week of ministry. Over 90 people have participate din one of our two Backyard VBS, and the feedback has been universally positive. As the week winds down, we’ll be giving kids an opportunity to give their life to Christ in exchange for His. Please pray that God will move!
It’s your passion and enthusiasm for what God is doing here that God uses to make an impact far beyond the walls of our church. If you have a story to tell, or if you find yourself in a situation where you need help, please don’t wait another minute to contact me by responding to this email. I look forward to hearing from lots of you! Until then…

Grace & Peace
Jason

Places I go…

Posted: February 5, 2014 by Jason Powers in Uncategorized

Place is important. I don’t give much thought to place, but it’s an inescapable component of my life and yours, and most important, it’s an inescapable component of our lives – with each other and with God.

I grew up in and around churches. The year I was in 5th grade, one year before I was “legally” allowed, I went to my first youth summer camp at a place in the Texas Hill Country called Alto Frio Baptist Encampment. The camp  (at the time) consisted of an open air steeple chased roof which sat on a limestone embankment 25 feet above the Frio River.

Although much of what I experienced that week at camp lie dormant for the better part of 2 decades, that place left an imprint that remains largely unspoiled even today.

I remember one evening in particular with a deep sensory clarity. It was Thursday night after the evening service time. The group of 25 students from the church I came with were enjoying our last evening together, set to return home the next morning. Students from all over south Texas mingled with new friends, shed sleep-deprived, emotionally charged tears over new loves and a whole cache of as yet unprocessed spiritual and relational experiences. There was a low-grade hum hovering over the place, heightened by the sound of rushing water that was more discerned than heard.

Successive crowds of afternoon swimmers had created a stepping bridge across the water to the forbidden land on the opposite bank, which we were repeatedly warned (threatened?) not to cross.

So I crossed it.

The moon that night was too large for the sky. The light, steady breeze carried a concotion of teen angst, spiritual longing, and the blooming wild Texas grasses. A rustling quiet settled over that moment and the synergy of the experience ushered in an experience  of God more real and visceral than any before it, and few since.

Just this week, I met my good friend John at the local coffee shop where I spend a few mornings each week to hammer out the summer ministry calendar, which included plans to attend Summer Camp at Alto Frio. I could feel the energy of that living memory. The place that had become a vibrant character in my ongoing God-story ran through every word we spoke.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Alto Frio, but there are a thousand other significant places in my story: my house, the cigar shop where I hammer out the details of a message, the school where my son is learning and socializing, the quirky little school building where my church meets to worship and grow together. Those are the places that make up my story today, but I don’t recognize their significance as often or as deeply as I did that night in the forbidden field.

I suspect a big part of the reason my faith ebbs and flows comes from my infrequent practice of connecting the places where my moments take shape with the immediacy of God’s Presence. It’s not that the moon is less bright or the breeze less sweet, it’s that I’ve forgotten that God is everywhere – in that forbidden place across the river, in my living room with my girls vying for the limited real estate of my lap, and in the well-worn room where I worship each week.

The unfathomable mystery of both the Christmas story and the impending Easter season is that an eternal and Omnipresent God changed history by entering space and time. God came to our place. He is still in all the places I go, waiting to be discovered or recognized, willing to turn common places, into Holy ground.

My prayer for you today is that you’ll recognize the places that you go, the place where you are at… right here, right now… as the staging ground for a Holy moment. May your experience and understanding of God in this place wake you up to the movement of God in the story that He’s invited you into.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Genesis 28:16