Monday, December 28, 2009

The Essence of All Sin

I'm taking a little time over the next few days to meditate on the issue of pride versus humility. Self love / pride has long been a struggle in my life but has recently become more evident to me. I'm not sure if I've been more arrogant or if God is graciously making me more aware of my pride. It doesn't really matter.

The catalyst for my thinking is a book by C. J. Mahaney called "Humility, True Greatness". Here are some thoughts from the second chapter - "The Peril Of Pride".

Pride and inadequacy can coexist...

I've often wondered how I can find myself so proud when I feel so inadequate. I don't mean simply not as gifted or talented but also in the middle of sin. I used to think that my life was characterized by lust OR pride. I've come to learn that even in my darkest hours of sin pride can still be right there with me. It seems crazy doesn't it? It's a reminder that self love doesn't really make sense at all. It is beyond logic. I had a pastor that used to say that sin short circuits the brain. That's absolutely true with pride.

Do I hate pride the way God hates pride?

God actively opposes the proud. He detests the one with haughty eyes. He says he hates pride and arrogance. I'm not sure I hate my pride the way God does. I must. Here's what Jonathan Edwards says...

"What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived, poor worm am I when pride works."

Why does God take pride so seriously? Mahaney says that pride is contending against God for supremacy. That puts pride in a whole different light doesn't it? Do I really want to compete with God to receive the glory that is reserved for God and God alone?

Isa 42:8

8 "I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.

Today I'm asking God to give me incredible sensitivity to pride in my life. As soon as it raises it's ugly head I want see it and deal with it.

Today, may we be people who wage war against prideful thoughts and words...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Self Love - The greatest love of all?

I've always struggled with self love. In his song "obsession" Martin Smith admits, "I carry pride like a disease". That's me.

My pride comes out in so many ways. It comes out when I talk about myself and try to "one up" others. It comes out in my allowing others to serve me without lifting a finger to serve. It comes out when I compare myself with others. It comes out in meetings where I want my voice to be heard and people to be impressed with me. It comes out when I neglect prayer and act as if I can do life without God. I, I, I, me, me, me,.

In 2005 my friend Connie gave me a book. I know it was 2005 because in the front of the book it says, "Christmas 2005". The name of the book is "humility, true greatness". Yes, it's taken 4 years for me to pick it up. So why now?

The last couple of months I have felt this war with pride raging inside me. I don't want God to resist me, I want him to look on me and give me grace. This morning I read the 1st chapter. Here's my response.

I must repent. Repentance is God's way of bringing us back into intimacy and blessing with him. After every chapter I read I'm going to write a little about my pride and my journey to more fully embrace humility.

The next couple of weeks could be painful, but I long for God's gracious love and power in every facet of my life. With unrestrained pride experiencing God's grace is impossible.

So, here's a question, when people (my wife, kids, coworkers, friends) look at my life would they describe it as a life of humility?

May we be a people who clearly see God's holiness and our sinfulness. That's the beginning of true humility.

Friday, December 25, 2009

More than 7pd 8 oz baby Jesus

So I woke up this fine white Christmas morning thinking about how the celebration of the God child is connected with so much history from the Bible. I did a little looking around and compiled some of my favorite passages about God's loving covenant to his people. These promises were fulfilled in Jesus.

Promise made to Adam. (that was a long time ago)

Gen 2:15-17
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Promise to Abraham

Gen 22:15-18
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Promises made to the Children of Israel during the time of Moses.

Ex 24:7
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."

To King David

2 Sam 7:16
16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"

Prophesies through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah...

Isa 7:14-15
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.

Isa 9:2-5
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

Isa 55:3
3 Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

Jer 23:5-6
5 "The days are coming," declares the Lord,
"when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteousness.

Mic 5:2-5
2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times."
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be their peace.

What it means to us today...

Gal 4:3-7
3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

So, this Christmas, may we remember that the celebration of the 7pd 8 oz baby Jesus is a part of the grand story of God and yes, as followers of Jesus we are a part of that story. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Key Questions About Adult Leaders

When thinking about student ministry (or ministry in general) I'm always wondering about where to put time, money and energy. There are so many important things to do. In fact If I'm honest there's never an end of ways to spend time. There's always another student to hang out with, another parent to call or another talk to prepare.

I've been convinced for a long time but some times I need to remind myself. More and more I'm remembering the importance of adult volunteers. They are the key to students not just learning about Jesus but experiencing Jesus. Ideally our leaders don't simply teach students information, they live out the life of Jesus in such a way that students see it and experience it first hand.

I long for our students to look at our leaders and sense their leader has been with Jesus.

So what does that have to do with how I spend time, money and energy? Some questions...

* How much time do I spend focusing on my adult leaders?

Sure, we all got into ministry to hang out and impact kids but if we're going to see life change on a broad scale it takes a lot of people. In a ministry of 30 or more students it seems the youth pastor should spend 50% of their relational time with adults. How much do I pray for my leaders? Do I know them well enough to get specific when I pray?

* Does my budget reflect caring for and developing adults?

I have to put my money where my mouth is. Is there money in my budget that is set aside to prepare and appreciate my adult leaders?

* Do my leaders feel loved or do they feel used?

It's so important to consistently and creatively communicate appreciation to our adults. Sometimes I should just call or text to let them know I appreciate them.

So, all you youth pastor type people out there. Take some time to pull back from your busy schedule and take a 30,000 foot gander. The most important things are not how many lights you have in your youth room or how amazing the video clip was in your talk last night. Take the time to simply prepare and love your leaders well. In the long run that will make the deepest and widest impact.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Strongest Man Competition

There is so much about me that wants to be strong but there's a problem.

I have no chance of being in the "world's strongest man" competition or playing any position in college football (or middle school football honestly). I don't spend much time in the weight room. OK, I don't spend any time in the weight room. Big muscles would be nice but they're probably not in my future.

Our world celebrates strength and many times that bleeds over into our spiritual leadership. Most of us feel we are expected to be strong and together. If there were a "strongest person competition" for spiritual people I often feel I should be in it and actually win!

Here's the problem. Most don't see themselves as weak and weakness is a non negotiable for spiritual leadership. We will not be effective in our leadership without weakness. Instead of showing ourselves as having it together we should live our lives and engage in conversation about our vulnerability, weakness and failure. That can be difficult when we feel people expect us to be superman. (or wonderwoman)

Someone may say, "if people see your weakness they may not respect you as a spiritual leader". Isn't the opposite true? Don't we live in a world and a culture that is crying out for leaders who are honest about their struggle? Not just their struggle of 10 years ago but maybe their struggle of 10 minutes ago? And isn't God's grace and power sufficient for our daily weakness and struggle? And isn't it more powerful to model for people the grace and compassion of Christ in the midst of our weakness instead our "having it all together" strength?

Embrace your weakness.

"For when I am weak, then I am strong" Paul

Paul actually says he delights in weakness. You see, when we accept and embrace our weakness that is when we run to Jesus who's strength is limitless.

A.W. Tozer puts it this way.

"If we are going to stand for Jesus, it is good for us to remember how strong he is and how weak we are. I tell you, I have talked to God more than I have talked to anyone else and my conferences with him have been longer than with anyone else."

How do we view ourselves? Are we weak enough to run to Jesus?

May we be people who display the grace and mercy of Jesus by being vulnerable and transparent. In your conversations look for opportunity to share struggle and failure and weakness.

1 Cor 2:3-5
3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday

My dad says thanksgiving is the best holiday. I agree with him. Thanksgiving is the unpretentious holiday. Easter has it's eggs, Easter bunny and candy. Christmas of course has 'Old Saint Nic and all the commercialism. Thanksgiving has well, you know what I'm saying. It's just not that showy.

This year we had one of our best Thanksgivings. It was very different than what I have experienced most of my life. We were with family, but it was a different kind of family. Sure, all of my immediate family was with us, but there were really no grandparents or cousins. You see, as important as blood family is there is another kind of family that is very crucial.

4 families came together to celebrate Thanksgiving at one of our friends houses in East Texas. It was beautiful to see the backgrounds, ages and perspectives collide for a couple of days. The Murrays have just adopted a little girl while the Roeces and ourselves are continuing to try to figure out how to parent teens. I was able to teach Bryan how to fish. It was truly amazing.

Sitting around the fire there was great discussion. Whether it was about the character of God or simply trying to figure out what makes each other tick, the diverse and heart felt perspective was always engaging.

Sure we had great mesquite smoked turkey, ribs and brisket, but the food wasn't the star. It was the community. My friend Jackie says Americans don't really know what it means to live together in community. She would love for all of us to learn what it's like to live together, not like a monastery but like a mission. A place where people share what they have and reach out to others who are hurting no matter what their religious or spiritual background. I think she's on to something. Maybe we experienced a little piece of that that last few days.

Here's a little caution, community is almost never convenient or comfortable. When we are involved in each others lives it gets messy, time consuming and tiring. But consider the alternative. Aloneness is not God's design. Being one aa Jesus and the Father are one is his design.

So, happy Thanksgiving a little late. May we be people who set aside convenience for community. It's worth it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rick and Nancy

This morning I’m sitting at Rick and Nancy Beggs house with some strange memories. I remember sitting here having some wine trying to figure out life and what God was doing with the journey we were on. In fact as I sit here there is a flood of emotion that comes from a period of deep pain but great anticipation in my life.

In this room there has been lots of laughter and most likely some tears. I haven’t been here tons of times but the times I have been here have had tons of significance.

I really love Rick and Nancy. They're are the kind of people I would like to become. They’re gracious, hospitable, transparent and authentic. They love Jesus and love others really well. Although our paths only crossed for a few years they have left and continue to leave a mark on Julie and me.

Thank God for people like them. It’s once again a fresh reminder that God never intended for us to walk alone.

May God give us the grace to encounter people and be people that love others well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For some reason God seems to work in unusual ways on retreats. Many of you have had a camp or retreat experience where God seemed to be closer and more active than usual. Perhaps it's because we finally hit the "pause" button. You know, we take the time to jump off the rat wheel to take a deep breath, and then exhale. Last weekend at Sky Ranch would be one of those times for our high school ministry.

As soon as students arrived you could tell something cool was happening. It seemed there was a sense of anticipation and hope about what this weekend would bring. Soon after everyone arrived every adult and student found a quite place to ask God one simple question, "God, what do you want to do in me this weekend?"

We had simply been asking God to help us connect with Him and each other in a fresh way. He did. We are still hearing stories.

One issue that is damaging to community and "togetherness" is unforgiveness. One student shared that he has to work on forgiving his father who has essentially abandoned and rejected him. That's God sized stuff. Another student said she understood and embraced the gospel for first time. She is now a Jesus follower.

When you look at us as a group it would seem we don't really "fit" with each other. There is all kinds of economic, racial, interest, religious, etc. diversity, but God seems to be melting our hearts together. Over the weekend students prayed together, shared food together, played together, and worshiped together, connecting with God and connecting with each other.

Hitting the pause button is kind of important. I wonder how often God is working and speaking but we're moving too fast to sit and listen to Him and others.

May we be people who make space in our lives to be still. Will you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Exxon Man

The coolest thing just happened. I was at the Exxon station here in beautiful Flower Mound Texas after hanging out with some high school kids at Chick-F-La. Out of nowhere a truck driver walked up and started talking to me.

He drove one of those huge tanker trucks that delivers gas. I know he was an Exxon man because he was wearing a hard hat that said "Exxon". I'm smart that way.

He was just nice and cheery. Not in an artificial, annoying way but in an organic natural way. He asked me a couple of questions. "Are you on your way to work or just somewhere to relax?" (I had on my sweat pants) I said "oh, neither". Then he told me he didn't want to take up any of my time. He wasn't, I was pumping gas.

Then came the big question, "I have here a gospel tract, would it be ok if I gave it to you?" Now, honestly this isn't really my style at all. I like to build relationships with people and share my life in such a way that gives me opportunity to live out the gospel before them. Kind of a share the gospel at all times and if necessary use words approach.

My response to the Exxon man? "Absolutely" He then said this, "this may be the only opportunity today for you to hear that God loves you".

It made my day! I'm so thankful I ran into him. Some of you are hoping I meditate on the tract and finally got saved. I didn't, but it did remind me that we are to boldly live out and speak the gospel in every aspect of our lives. At church, the restaurant, our work place, our school, our sports team or club and yes even the Exxon station.

May we have a whimsical, bold and gentle delivery of the gospel today, whether we wear a hard hat or not. Will we?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Loving Much

I am a follower of Jesus which means much of my life is struggling to understand and live out what it means to love him with all my heart, soul and mind. When that happens I love those around me well. That may sound weird to those of you who don't follow him, but it really is the essence of Christianity, a love relationship with God.

This morning I'm struck by the story of the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus with her tears and continually shows affection by kissing his feet. Luke tells us she was "a woman of the city" which seems to indicate she was a known prostitute.

Jesus was dining in the home of one of the religious leaders of the day. You can imagine how tense it was when the whore came to the dinner and began to show great affection for Jesus. It seems he should have stopped her, but he didn't.

Here's what strikes me. Jesus says "her sins which are many are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little , loves little". I long to love much and well. I want to love Jesus well, my wife well, my kids well and everyone with whom I come in contact well.

I want to "love much".

So the question is this; how do I see my sin? Am I forgiven little or much? If I embrace the truth that my sin is much and in need of great forgiveness perhaps my love for Jesus will be great. If I neglect to see the depth of my sin perhaps I'll miss the truth that forgiveness is a very big deal.

This morning I'm taking a fresh look at my sin, not sin of 10 years ago but my sin of yesterday. As I do that my sins seem to be many, pride, lust, selfishness, control, lack of faith...

God has and continues to grant me great forgiveness. May I never miss the greatness of God's forgiveness. I long to "love much".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Life feels a little more difficult than it should

Sometimes life feels a little more difficult than it should.

Even as I say that my application runs to doing more or being more. It runs to a performance driven solution. Sure, there are things I should do; prayer has not been as foundational as it should be. Running to God and begging for help has to be first on my agenda.

From car problems to Julie being frustrated, to my staff being upset, it seems like life is a little harder than it should be. This morning there are a couple ways I want to center myself on truth. In a lot of ways I’m like a boat being tossed around. Emotionally I’m kind of all over the place.

Times like these are good. It causes me to lean into Jesus a little more than I normally would. That’s a great thing.

Here’s what I’m trying to think about…

1. God is great God is good

He is in charge of all things and he loves me. There’s nothing that comes to me that isn’t first filtered through his hands. That’s a good thing.

2. Prayer is essential

I need God’s help. Apart from him I can’t do anything.

3. I must remember what is true

Many times my heart wants to believe lies. "I'm not good enough" or "I'm a failure" or "No one really loves me" are thoughts that slip into my mind. The truth is God is good enough, he is my sufficiency and he is crazy about me. That is what is true

So, gaining true perspective is key for me today. It’s good to refocus thinking. Thank God for days that feel a little difficult.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Many of you have seen or heard of the "I am Second" campaign. If you haven't you should check it out at It takes people who are famous and / or just normal and lets them tell the story of why God is first in their life and why they are "second". It's well done and I'm sure God is using it to bring many to himself.

However, this morning I'm struggling with not what it means to be second, but what it means to be last. I'm reading, meditating and studying the gospels this year in my personal worship time. Over the last couple of days in my readings, Jesus has been talking about sacrifice and if you want to be first you must be the servant of all. Jesus says he didn't come to "be served but to serve and to give his life".

I have a huge problem with all of this, my bent is not to serve but to be served. I love it when people take care of me. I don't like to sacrifice and be last. I don't even like waiting in lines. But Jesus clearly says "many who are first will be last, and the last first".

So how in the world do I reconcile my natural desire for supremacy with the clear teachings of Jesus? Who I am and what he teaches seems to be separated by this uncrossable canyon.

One option is to try harder. That's right, today as I go on my merry way I'll just decide that I'm going to be more intentional about serving others. I'll be more disciplined in my thought process and I'll stop thinking of myself more highly than I should.

Sure, that may be part of the answer but my experience has been that my effort always results into sliding back into the same selfish patterns. Here's what's really cool about the teachings of Jesus. If he teaches something he automatically provides the ability live it out.

Paul says there's a mystery, it's Christ in us. Jesus does in us what we cannot do ourselves. So this morning, by God's grace, I'm starting a "I Am Last" campaign." You won't see me on any billboards (although that would be kind of cool). Here's what I'm going to do in response to what God has been teaching me the last couple of days.

1. Repent - this isn't a very popular word today, but it's God's way of ushering us back into deeper intimacy with him. Self centeredness is sin. My only response can be to agree with him that I'm disobedience and ask for forgiveness.

2. Ask for Grace - To be last it's going to require the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit.

3. Look for opportunity - I want to look for opportunities this week to serve others, secretly. Are there ways I can serve those around me without them knowing I did it? Sometimes by serving we still end up with selfishness, and yes, I'm that screwed up. Secret service may deal a death blow to my flesh. Who is going to praise me for being such a great servant if only Jesus and I know who is doing it?

So, over the next couple of days if you think about me pray for me and I will you. What would happen if followers of Jesus everywhere followed his example of washing the feet of those around us? It would bring him great glory.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Grants are moving to Dallas part 2

After Julie and I returned home from our "first date" with Irving Bible Church we knew we had to decide whether or not to go through the interview process. There were so many things to think and pray about. Do I really feel like I should leave NNYM? I really have a heart to love and serve youth pastors and their ministries. What about our kids, Austin is a senior. Could we move and him not graduate from Northview? There was a lot to pray about.

After thinking, praying and getting a lot of council we decided to go through the interview. A couple of weeks later Austin and I flew to Dallas for the weekend to be interviewed. The more I went through the process the more I fell in love with the church and the job they were creating. 2 days later the church offered me the position of student ministries pastor.

The job is a directional leadership position. The student ministry pastor would lead a team but also be involved in the lives of middle school and high school students. Another great thing about the church is they wanted me to continue my ministry to youth pastors and other churches.

Again, we went through a few days of seeking council, praying and thinking. For our family we never make decisions in a vacuum. Everyone we spoke with felt it was a difficult but right move for us. Julie and I joyfully accepted the position. I began commuting to Dallas on November 1. It's now the middle of January.

Julie, Zachary and Lauren are living with me in a great apartment in Flower Mound, Texas. The church has graciously provided the apartment for the next 3 months. I continue to be amazed at the love this church is showing us.

Transition is difficult, but in this case we believe it to be God's calling on our lives. The difficult thing is that when God moves Julie and me it impacts our children, family and friends. Andrew is continuing at GCSU and Austin is living with some good friends. Lauren and Zach are having their world rocked as they have moved to Texas. My hope and prayer is that this time will result in each of us leaning into Jesus.

In 2001 when we moved to Atlanta to take the position at Perimeter church it was obvious God was working on our lives. We have loved our time in Atlanta. As we continue our journey here in Dallas we hope we don't lose touch with so many friends in Atlanta.

Life really is an adventure for the Grants. It's full of suprises, some are easy but many are difficult. Our lives are in his hands and that's a good thing.

So far it seems the position for me is a great fit. We're excited about God's heart for each of us in the next months.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Short Sunsets

Before the sun came up yesterday we left 13040 Carriage Park Lane for the last time. So much has happened since we moved to Atlanta in 2001. Andrew (my oldest son) was 12, now he's almost 20, Julie and I both turned 40, we taught 3 boys how to drive (I have no idea how many wrecks we've had) and developed hundreds of friendships, a few of those friendships we'll have the rest of our lives. We loved our time there.

When I was walking through our home I was remembering all the laughter, playing, fighting, wrestling, hugging, farting, burping, crying and many other things that took place. It was where we as a family grew up. Lauren was 6, now she's 13. She went from a little girl to a soon to be woman. Zach, Austin and Andrew have become men...we'll almost. Just like a really cool sunset you want to last longer than it does, a phase of our life is over.

Last night 4 of us had dinner together in Flower Mound, Texas. My oldest boys are not living with us anymore, they are continuing their lives in Georgia. It's kind of like I'm beginning a new phase of fathering to my kids. Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful for God's grace through the last 2o years of being a father, but as I've reflected, there are a few things I really want to do different or better the last few years I have with Lauren and Zach. Here's a sampling...

Encourage more and criticize less.

I'm not sure my kids comprehend how proud I am of them. Sometimes I have a tendency to see the glass half empty. Someone told me it takes 15 encouraging comments to balance out 1 critical comment. I have a lot of words to use to balance things out.

Love Julie better.

One of the best ways to love my kids is to love my wife. They need to see me laying down my life for Julie. I need to learn how to serve her so much better. I'm passionately in love with Julie, I want to show her better.


I have a friend named Barbara who has 3 kids. She's does't really know it but she's a great mom. She said one time that the most important time she spends for her kids is in prayer. I want to be much more consistent in going to God on their behalf. I can't change their hearts but God can and will.


Zach loves to go fishing, so do I. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get on the lake with Zach. Lauren loves to shop, I don't, but I'm just as committed to learning.

I'm kind of sad the last few years went so fast. Some times we want time to stand still, but it never does. Even though I'm sad I'm excited about the next few years. We have no right or ability to hold on to our life, it keeps moving, growing and changing. Our life belongs to God and he wants us to use the short time we have offering it to him and others, especially those closest to us.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Indulge or Deny?

I was just thinking about how my life is so different than how Jesus describes a person who follows him. He says if anyone is going to follow him he must deny himself. I'm not very good at denying myself, in fact, if I'm really honest I do a lot better at indulging myself.

Sure, there are things I would do and experience if not for my relationship with Jesus but typically my thought process is about what makes me happy and comfortable. I think about how I can get people to like me more and how I might impress them. The problem is that there is very little about me that's impressive, so it's hard work getting people's attention.

Here's what's ironic. The true way to fulfillment is through denial. Indulgence in anything except Jesus results in always wanting more. It's an empty feeling that can never be filled. Now, denying ourselves and indulging in Jesus is what satisfies us and leaves us thirsty for more of Jesus.. at the same time. It honors him when we drink and drink and drink of him.

So, today I'm asking God to give me the grace to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him. There is silly saying I hate but maybe it's true. Jesus / Others / You. I can't believe I just said that but today I'm going to think about it.

Have a great day of denial and indulgence!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Grants are moving to Dallas part 1

I heard somewhere that "life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long". There is a real sense that life is an exciting journey. It is filled with anticipation, fear, joy, disappointment and pain. There are all kinds of other words I could use but...

For the Grants this journey has taken unexpected turns in the last 2 years or so. From a confusing and unexpected exit from Perimeter Church to now making a move west. I heard somewhere else, "go west young man". I am a young man so that's exactly what we are doing, heading west to Texas. This is a little bit of our story.

Julie and I are so thankful for our short time with the National Network. It gave us an opportunity to lean into Jesus in ways we never have. I have relationships with people that have made me a better person and pastor. I learned so much and hope student ministry in the southeast is stronger as a result.

Last September it felt like God was perhaps doing a little something different with our highway. Julie and I felt like it might be impossible financially to stick with the National Network. When we sat down to think and pray she said somethings that was full of wisdom. Now, you may not know this but Julie is much more than a trophy wife, she is a woman that hears from God and prays. And when she prays God seems to answer in powerful ways.

During our conversation Julie asked if perhaps God was doing something different in our lives. She knew I loved the National Network but thought we should be willing to look at what God had next. At that point we decided we should be open to see if God had another opportunity for us. We were not looking to do something different but felt it would be a good idea to "put our antennae up" and listen to God.

Now, for some reason I feel the need to explain what I mean by "listen to God", but I'm going to resist the temptation. God speaks to me in many ways, his Word, circumstances, other people etc. I'm not resisting very well am I? Anyway, I'm not sure I've ever "gotten a word from the Lord". I just try to listen, and obey as best I can my with my imperfect ears.

2 days after Julie and my "antennae" discussion I received an interesting phone call. Brain Ward is the middle school pastor at Irving Bible Church in the Dallas, Texas area. After 10 seconds on the phone Brian literally said, "I want to you to come be my boss". They were in the process of developing a new oversight / directional leadership position for their student ministry. Now this alone would not demand a move to Dallas, but it sure got my attention.

The next day I was on the phone with the executive pastor. After a 30 minute discussion he and I decided together that Julie and I should fly to Dallas for a "first date" type gathering.

So many thoughts were running through my mind. Can I still lead a youth ministry? Is this church a fit for us? Do I really want to live somewhere there are no hills? What about our kids?

All we knew to do was go meet with this church with an open heart and open ears. Isn't that what God desires, for us to have hearts that are willing to do whatever he wants even if it's hard and doesn't make a ton of sense?

That is exactly what we did. I'll tell tell the rest of the story in the next couple of days.