Saturday, September 10, 2011

Discussion with Pastor Jon Tyson at Barnes & Noble

RUMORS OF GOD: Experience the Kind of Faith You've Only Heard About
Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson
Thomas Nelson
Christian Life/Spiritual Growth
ISBN: 9781595553638

Gabe Lyons Bio:

Jon Tyson Bio:

Recently I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing "Rumors of God".  On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity of attending the book discussion at Barnes & Noble with Gabe Lyons and Jon Tyson.  This was actually my first time ever attending something of this nature.

Gabe Lyons interviewed Pastor Jon by asking him some questions such as his book, reflections on 9/11 and then there was a question and answer segment.  I am going to share what I took from this book discussion and what touched me personally.

One of the things that Gabe Lyons mentioned was that there have been people that have said that 9/11 was a judgment from God.  He asked Pastor Jon what his thoughts were on this and he disagreed with this assessment.  Pastor Jon simply responded that Jesus is about grace and not judgment.  He believes that the Muslim extremists were attacking the worst of America as we have the highest suicide, divorce rate and poor quality of life, etc...

Pastor Jon also spoke about there being a clarity of perspective, in that our heroes went from being famous athletes to policeman and fireman.  I do personally remember everyone coming together on 9/11; helping, volunteering and serving in any way they could.  It was actually quite beautiful, I just wish it had lasted.

Pastor Jon mentioned that one hundred years ago America's reputation was one of great citizens.  However, today, America's reputation is one of great consumers.  I thought this was very poignant and sadly true.

The topic then moved from 9/11 to discussions about the book.  Pastor Jon mentions that a poll was given to see others perceived Christians.  Sadly, people voted that Christians are anti-gay, judgmental, hypocritical and too political.  Also, there is no tolerance for anyone who is different.   As much as this troubles me, I have to admit, they are right in their assessment.

During the question and answer segment, I was able to ask Pastor Jon a question.  My question was along the lines of how can we truly be authentic Christians today in this city?  Whereby people are basically being hurt in churches and/or by religious people, etc... How can the stigma of Christians being judgmental and hypocritical change?  I, for one, am truly passionate about seeing this change. My prayer daily is that others around me would see Jesus in me.  I don't want to come across as hypocritical or judgmental, but of one who is authentic and real.  I desire that people in this city experience His love and presence in such a powerful and life transforming way.  I was glad to have had the opportunity to articulate this to Pastor Jon.

His response was equally challenging in that he said, be what you want to see.  He told me not to focus so much on what I'm doing as much as being that person to others around me.  He's right.  It all begins with us, looking within and asking the Lord to change our hearts to reflect His love and grace toward others around us; i.e., our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers.

Yesterday while walking to Port Authority, I passed three teenagers, a young man and two young ladies, sitting to my left on the stoop of a boarded up Broadway theater.  One of them jumped up as I passed and said she would dance for a dollar.  I kept walking and then felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to go back and give her three dollars.  I took a deep breath, turned around and walked back toward them, all the while thinking, I need to get home, I have so much to do, I have laundry and dinner to make.  But thankfully, the prompting of the Holy Spirit was much stronger... so I walked over to the girl that offered to dance for a dollar and handed her three.  She immediately thanked me and shared it with the other two.

I felt such a heaviness come over me, as I realized they bore a sign stating they were homeless.  So I asked if it would be ok to ask them a question and they all said sure.  I asked them why they were homeless.  The friendly girl who would dance for a dollar said that it's a long, long story.  The other two merely said they were traveling cross country.  My heart broke for them and I couldn't hide it.  I told them with tears in my eyes that I felt bad that they were homeless.  They all said, that was sweet of me and reached out to shake my hand.  They asked me my name and then introduced themselves.  I was so overwhelmed with emotion that unfortunately I don't remember their names.

The friendly girl finally said that she is homeless because she had to get away from her parents as they were crazy.  The other two just kept silent. The young man had a rat sitting and crawling on his head.  I looked into his eyes and saw such sadness.  The other girl was more hardened and quiet.  I just kept looking into each of their eyes and feeling such an overwhelming compassion for them.  Then I told them that I would pray for them and the friendly girl said that they'd pray for me too.  I thanked her and told her I could definitely use it.  They all chuckled... it was nice to see them smile.

I said goodbye to them and as I walked away I couldn't help feeling so sad.  I immediately started to speak to the Lord, telling Him how awful I felt that I couldn't do more for these young homeless teenagers.  There are homeless shelters throughout NYC but they are always full.  So that's why you see a lot of them on park benches, in the subway and living on the streets.  Homeless people actually feel safer on the streets than they do in homeless shelters.

But, there is something about seeing and speaking with homeless teenagers who ran away from home for whatever reasons.  I think no one should be homeless, but especially not vulnerable teenagers.  I am still not settled about this and am praying for these children and others who are in this same predicament.  I honestly wish I had the money to buy a building, take them all in and help them in some way.  It just seems tragic to me that these kids would have to live and survive on the streets.  It just doesn't seem right or fair to me. 

So there you have it...  

In conclusion, I want to take this opportunity and again thank BookSneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers for blessing me with this awesome book.  And Pastors Jon Tyson and Darren Whitehead for writing it.

If you are interested in reading this book, here are some links where you can order it:

Barnes & Noble:

Christian Book Distributors:

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