A Tribute to Jay Williams | “He Loved Jesus”

Jay Williams

(July 11, 1980 – June 30, 2012)

A Tragic End

Around 4:45 pm this afternoon Jay Williams died from injuries suffered from falling off a roof while at work, eleven days shy of his thirty-second birthday. That may have been the cause of my friend’s death. But, that will never be what I remember most about him.

It is during events like this that we are confronted with some of the most difficult questions of faith. We are consumed with our sorrow and pain. We are riddled with questions that may never be answered. We are shocked into the unchanging reality that the one who died, we will not see again… this side of eternity. And here in lies the hope of the disciple of Jesus. We do not mourn like those who have no hope, Paul told the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

God never promised that our lives on earth would be long and filled with every pleasure we could fill it with. What he promised was that we would never have to go through anything by ourselves. Taking advantage of all of the wonders and opportunities of life will never be a sin. We just can not expect those things to fill our hearts and satisfy out deepest longings. I never knew what that meant until I met Jay Williams. He taught me how to see the good in every situation and how to fill as many moments as possible with all that you have to offer.

I was praying for a different outcome. I wanted to see Jay again. I want Jay to be at the Chrysalis Journey Weekend in five weeks talking about serving God and helping others see their own potential. That’s what I want, but that is not the truth. Jay has walked THROUGH death’s door. That is what death is. It is a door we have to go through because Jesus has not come back and shut it for good. And, until Jesus comes back and makes everything right again we will have to deal with tragedies and losses like this.

But, do you know what I hate more than the fact that I will not see Jay again until I die or Jesus comes back? I hate the crazy things that people will say to try and make his family feel better. I want to clear some things up right here.

  • God did not need another angel. He has all the angels he needs.
  • It was not Jay’s time. Jay had an accident because that is what happens in a fallen world, and that accident cost him his life.
  • Jay is not looking over us. Jay is looking into the eyes of his Savior and is enjoying the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to him. Jay is better than he has ever been.
  • Jay would not choose to come back. This is the hardest of all. If Jay would choose anything, it would be for all of us who love him to be with him, where he is with Jesus.

I do not say any of this to hurt, but to remind us all of what, I believe, Jay would want us to remember. Our loss and grief is great because we loved him and we will miss him. But, if we see death as the end of everything rather than as the passage to everything we will deny ourselves the peace of knowing that he truly is in a better place.

The Life and Legacy of Jay Williams

There are three things that characterize Jay to me. I found all of these characteristics to be true as I worked with Jay during Chrysalis this past year.

1. He loved Jesus.

Man, did he love Jesus. He was not willing to lose sight of him. In everything that he did and said, Jay wanted to help others understand what he had come to know and love about Jesus.

Jay was not a religious person, but he had an undeniable faith. He was not trying to impress anybody, and yet, we were all impressed with him. His faith was rich and deep and true. He did everything he could to let you know that you were a child of God without making you feel like there was something wrong with you if you were not yet one. Jesus defined who he wanted to be.

I have to say that Jay was one of the most Christ-like men I have ever met.

2. Because he loved Jesus, He loved others.

In the time that I knew Jay (which was not long enough), he never met a stranger. He may have found you strange, but that never stopped him from talking with you and engaging you in conversation. I may have been the only one he did this to, but he had an awful tendency of not looking me in the eyes when we talked. I know he was not intimidated, I do not think Jay was scared of anything. I guess he was just a humble guy and did not want to make anybody else feel uncomfortable.

It always amazed me how he could talk people into doing or trying things they would not have done on their own. I remember him tying a tight-rope thing to a tree and the back of a truck and trying to teach a few people how to get on and off without hurting themselves. That was just his way. He did not believe that people could not do things. They just needed somebody to believe in them. So, there was Jay ready to believe. He believed in others because Jesus believed in him.

3. Because he loved others, he tried to help others see Jesus.

Everything Jay did and everything he was gave Jay an opportunity to be a light for Jesus. Jay was not a preacher or an evangelist, but everything he did reflected his faith in Jesus. That is what he wanted most of all, for people to know the one who had changed his life.

I do not expect any words of mine to capture all that Jay was. I just hope to remind myself of all that Jay was to me and how I am a better man having known him.

I will miss you my friend, but the wait will not be long. I will see you soon enough.


The Lion of Judah Forgives Sinners

The Wrong Person in the Right Place

In Luke 7 Jesus is sitting and having dinner when an uninvited guest shows up and causes a stir. A woman of ill-repute shows up and begins to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and anoint them with an expensive perfume. It is one of those moments in Jesus’ life where I wish I was a fly on the wall. There is no way of knowing the murmurings that took place as she made her way to Jesus. The looks of shock, disgust and disdain from the host were plain to see. But, Jesus had a different look.

In this moment we get a glimpse of what it was like for a sinner to have the king of kings extend forgiveness.

One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. There is something ominous in that superlative. The vision of this ferocious beast, capable of destroying anything or anyone that gets in its way is awe inspiring. Movies like The Lion King and Aslan, from the Chronicles of Narnia serve as examples of the power of this animal. At the same time both of these examples demonstrate the tenderness of the king of beasts. There is a majestic quality to lions.

This is the irony of this moment. The Lion of Judah does not lash out at the sinner. Rather, Jesus allows her to do what she had set her mind and heart to do. He does not interfere, but rather illustrates to his host the reality of what is taking place. Worship and forgiveness; salvation and redemption; grace and justice; reconciliation and healing are all happening at the same time.

Only the chief of sinners can experience the king of kings. I think that is why Paul the apostle saw such powerful demonstrations of the Spirit in his ministry. He recognized that he was like this woman. He was like the great hymn describes, a wretch.

Jesus own words reveal what he saw.

44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47, ESV)

How much do you need to be forgiven for?

That is an interesting question. Have you ever considered that the connection between your love of and for Jesus is directly tied to how much you feel you need to be forgiven? The more we can feel the depth of our sin, the greater our love for the one who forgives. We are not supposed to wallow in our sin or beat ourselves up for our sin. What Jesus is reminding us of here is that the reality and weight of our sin should bring to our minds the reality and wonder of our salvation in Jesus.

The Sin of False Piety

The danger that was demonstrated by Simon, Jesus’ host, is that he actually thought that he was in the right by condemning this woman AND Jesus. Simon even questions Jesus genuineness by asking himself if Jesus is a prophet at all (Luke 7:39).

This is one of the more obvious examples of someone assuming that they understand God’s plan. This is a dangerous place to be. We are in no position to question God’s abilities or intentions. Simon should have known better. But, that would assume that he saw himself as this woman did. To know God is to humble yourself before him. To grow in grace and experience life altering forgiveness is to accept what we really are–sinners deserving of hell. Only then, when we have come face to face with ourselves, will we be able to accept who God wants to make us.

Jesus did not die to adopt spoiled children into the family of God. Jesus died to save children without a home, a family, or a name. We are sons and daughters of God because God brought us in, not because we deserved it. We do not deserve to be a part of the family of God. We never have. But, thanks be to God who is rich in mercy and abounding in grace toward us. I am so thankful that the Lion of Judah forgives because there is another lion, not as powerful, but just as dangerous who is seeking as well (1 Peter 5:8). And his intentions are not as noble.

Growing Pains, Pt. 4 | “Participation (Time)”

What Do You Value?

If looking at your checkbook will give you an idea of where and for what your money is being spent, what will determine where and for what you life is being spent? The simple truth, I believe, is that what we give to most is what, in the end, we value most. This is not a comment of judgment, but a reality. When I look at what I do with these few precious moments that I have been given in and on this world, I have to ask, “What good is coming of my being here?” When the time comes for all of us, and it will, when we will breath our last, will what we remember be memories of a life filled with years or years filled with life?

Being a Christian means that we have made a choice. Whether we understood it completely or not the choice was made. It was a choice to live by a certain code of morals, ethics and values. The choice was to change the way we were living our lives because we had met someone who had a better way. A vote of confidence in Jesus is a vote of no confidence in ourselves-that we cannot find the best way, let alone live that way on our own. I think that it is an injustice to new Christians not to explain this to them. If a plant is not growing or bearing fruit the assumption is that it must be dead. Continue reading Growing Pains, Pt. 4 | “Participation (Time)”