THE BLOG

29
Apr

Life is a Bus Ride

When I was a kid, I rode the bus home from school, and mine was always among the last stops the bus would make. I still remember those hot summer days, when the sun would beat down as we packed tightly into the bus. My legs would stick to the vinyl seats as beads of sweat ran down my forehead. The bus crowd would buzz with the typical after-school excitement over evening or weekend plans, but with each stop the bus would empty just a little bit more, making room for a cool, welcomed breeze. By the time we’d reach my stop, I could hear only the rumble of the bus engine and the squeak of its brakes. Early the next morning I would hop back on that bus, always one of the first to be picked up. And on the route to school, with each stop, the bus would fill again, the roar of my peers would return again, and the cycle would continue.

John 6:66 At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted Him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

After He had spoken on some controversial subjects, the Bible tell us that many were offended at Jesus and left. So He turns to the 12 and asks, “Do you want to go too?”

I love this passage because we clearly see that Jesus knew what most of us have yet to learn: very few people will remain with you throughout the whole journey—the bus makes stops, and people get off; not everyone will stay along for the whole ride, and they’re not supposed to.

As a leader are you making the mistake of assuming that everyone on your bus is supposed to stay with you throughout the entire journey? We need to accept that not everyone will be there for every stop we make. If someone is leaving your life, it’s because their season in your life is over, and you can’t make someone stay when it’s their time go. Our job is simply to love people, love them as they come, and love them as they go.

Conflict occurs when we try to preserve relationships that were never supposed to continue on the journey with us. Consider that when all those people left Jesus, He wasn’t sad about it. He knew that the few that did stay would be with Him for the entire journey.

I’ll break it down this way: Jesus went from thousands of followers, to 12, to 1 (John) by the time He hung on the cross. If people didn’t stay with Jesus throughout His entire journey, what makes you think that you’re going to keep every person that comes into your life with you?

Ask yourself, “What frustrations in my life are a result of me dragging people that should already be off the bus through my journey of life?” Once you can identify and let go of those frustrations, you’ll be able to just enjoy the ride.

Remember, when people get off the bus, it makes room for more to get on.

-Crystal Sparks

22
Apr

Under Construction!

We’ve all seen the sign in our morning commute or perhaps on the way to that important meeting: “Construction next 10 miles.” With all the expansion in the Dallas area, it seems that it’s becoming more and more common these days. The truth is, construction is annoying! But as annoying and inconvenient as construction is to all of us, we understand that construction is a necessary part of life. The fact that construction is taking place indicates that growth is taking place. Change is happening.  Change and growth are a good thing right?

 A few days ago, I was having my patience tested by a construction site on my commute to wherever I was headed that day. The normal stop and go traffic, hassle, and inconvenience of it all was wearing on my last nerve. It was in that moment I began to realize that we should all relate to the process of construction. In fact, we are all under construction! We are all changing on a regular basis. My wife swears she’s married to a different man every 5 years. The things that used to drive me crazy don’t even bother me anymore. I don’t care how perfect you may think you are, the hard reality of it all is, you aren’t perfect! In fact, if you are anything like me, you are far from perfect!

We all have things about ourselves we would like to change. I’m not talking about wanting to change your weight or grow more hair! I’m talking about the things in your character that you hate about yourself: the anger, the gossiping, the lying, the lust. You know – the things you don’t want anyone to ever, ever know about. We all have something. Yours may be different than mine or someone else’s, but there is something you know that is jacked up in your life!

I have some good news for you. The fact that you know there’s something that needs work; the fact that the thing that needs to be fixed in your life immediately came to mind as you read this should give you hope that it’s on it’s way out. It may take longer than you think it should, but God is in the process of fixing the thing you know needs to be fixed!

So many Christians live their entire life striving for perfection. If you are striving for perfection, I have good news for you…. Perfect isn’t the goal. If perfect was the goal we would all fail! You would be out before you even started!  The goal isn’t perfection; the goal is to surrender to God’s process.

I love what Paul says in Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

Essentially what Paul is saying is, “Jesus, who began the work in you, will finish the work in you!” I don’t know about any of you, but for me that’s good news! The weight comes off when I realize that perfection isn’t in me, but perfection is in Him.

So, if Jesus started it and He’s going to finish it, where do you fit in? Really the only thing you have to do is be willing to go through the process. Unfortunately that’s where the mess comes in. Process is one of the hardest and messiest things anyone can go through. It’s often difficult, extremely uncomfortable, and very inconvenient. Like real construction, life construction can be messy. But, I can tell you this, it is always worth it.

Rest in the fact that as long as you’re surrendered to the process, God is going to get you through the process.

-Pastor Bryan Sparks

14
Apr

What are you trying to say?

Christians are funny people. We speak a foreign language and we don’t even know it.

When I was 9 years old I had a friend whose parents were dedicated members of a local church.  One morning, while I was having breakfast with them, my friend’s mom looked at me and asked, “Crystal, have you ever been saved?”

I thought for a moment.  “Yes, actually, I was 6 years old, and I choked on a Jolly Rancher.  My dad gave me the Heimlich maneuver and saved me.”

I wasn’t raised in church, and when I first came into church 13 years ago, I spent most of my time smiling and nodding, not knowing what everyone was talking about.  Even now, I still have times that I don’t know what people are saying.  I was in a church service just the other day and had to google the lyrics of the song to figure out what it meant.

For example, before I started going to church, I never had someone call me on a Friday night and say, “Some friends and I are all going out; want to fellowship with us?”  It sounds silly to even think about someone using that term in their everyday vocabulary.  Although, some of you probably read that quote and didn’t even see what was wrong with it…. moving right along.

If you didn’t relate to the above quote, how about this:

When you are trying to tell someone why they should come to your church, you say things like, “We just come together and seek the face of God,” or, “Our church has a hunger for the deep things of God.”

The average person listening to this is thinking: “So you play hide-and-seek with God at your church? And why are you all so hungry….hungry for what? Why don’t you just go eat something?”

My point is this: Jesus was skilled at speaking in a language that everyone could understand.  That’s why He so often taught using parables.  If he was talking to farmers, he would tell them about a sower who went out to sow.  If he was talking to women, He would liken The Kingdom of God to a woman who lost a coin.  Jesus was an expert at breaking things down into words and phrases that his audience could easily relate to.

But I’m afraid today’s church has become an insulated group.  We speak in code words that we all understand, but outsiders have no idea what we are trying to say.  We don’t take into consideration how people outside of our group probably can’t relate to what we are saying. And the sad thing is that we can’t reach the people that we are called to reach if we are speaking in a language that is foreign to them.

Not too long ago, Bryan and I were at a church service, and the worship team was singing a very popular song.  I stopped singing the words for a moment and really, truly listened to what they were saying.  The lyrics, of course, were very pretty, but I realized they made no sense at all.  After the service I told Bryan about my observation, and we couldn’t stop laughing as we analyzed the outlandish words.  But how many songs like this do we sing in our churches week after week, without taking time to consider if it would make sense to the average person walking in off the street?

So, here is your homework: Go through your week and see how many times you use what I call “Christian-ese” in your day to day conversations, in the songs you sing, and the text messages you write.  You might be amazed at how many “Christian-ese” words and phrases you use.  My hope is that the more aware you are of this foreign language we’re all speaking, the better you will be at relating to non-speakers. And then the next time you talk with someone outside the church, you will be more sensitive to the best way to approach them.

-Crystal Sparks