Friday, July 27, 2007

Paul and Transition

As one chapter of my life wraps up this week I have been reflecting on the life of Paul. I think he knew a thing or two about transition. Paul stayed months, even years, in one place spending his life for the sake of the gospel, before moving on to the next place of ministry. No doubt it was difficult for him to follow the Lord’s calling after pouring so much into people he loved, and was loved by. But he faithfully obliged.

Like Paul, I have been privileged to have poured out my life to an incredible group of students and families these past 5 years. And, like his ministry, the church at Grapevine has constantly loved, encouraged, challenged, and affirmed Emily and I. In the process I have learned a great deal about myself, ministry, and what it means to truly follow Christ.

So it is only appropriate at this time that I borrow some of Paul’s words from Philippians 1 to express my gratitude and love to those who've made the past 5 years so very rich:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Thanks for the many sweet memories--I love you all deeply.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


This is my last week at Grapevine. I first came here as a naive and immature intern in the summer of 2002, and then joined the staff in January 2005. But it is time for a change. My new job as a junior high coach and math teacher in Arlington begins in two weeks, and I am very, very excited.
It's bittersweet though. Sunday we'll say goodbye to kids and family who've done nothing but love and challenge me the past 5 years. As I pack up my office, hang out with kids, and look back on all the Lord has taught me and brought me through, I can't help but feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by his faithfulness, and affirmed in this next step. More reflections to come....
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Rich in Christ Part 3: Rich Young Ruler Matthew 19:20 the rich young man says he has kept all the commands. Yet he still sensed something was missing. In these few words is revealed a great truth when it comes to following Christ and becoming rich in him.

This weekend we’ve talked a lot about looking for value in possessions or parties or relationships or how we look or dress. And we all know that those things leave us unsatisfied. Well here this guy, a good kid, well-rounded educated, religious kid is still lacking something. Being a good person, or going to church, or looking right on the outside, doesn’t make us rich in Christ. Those things simply cannot because Christ desires relationships, not religion.

The harshest words he spoke in scripture, the people he had the most problems with were the Pharisees, the overly religious people. The people who outwardly looked like they had it all together but who inwardly were nothing but walking tombs, empty.

In John 5:39-42 he tells people that you don’t find riches in memorizing scripture, or being smart, or looking good, or even coming to church. You can only receive true riches, true life, from ME.

That’s a hard lesson and it took me awhile to learn it--that just going to church and trying to be known as a good person still left me lacking. It wasn’t until I realized that Jesus was more concerned about me coming into a relationship with him. I tell the kids I work with in TX all the time that this world doesn’t need any more good people, or nice folks. This world needs Godly, Christ-like men and women to bring his love to people, to offer others the LIFE he has given them.

When the young man asks, "What do I still lack," Jesus' reply is this. "Go sell everything, give it all up, and come follow me. Jesus tells him to get rid of everything that keeps you from me. Quit holding on to the things that are safe and comfortable. You don’t need that stuff, it’s only going to distract you. Because if you want to be rich in me it’s going to cost you everything. All that you got.

And the really sad thing is he couldn’t let go of it. His outward unwillingness revealed the inner condition of his heart. The young man is grieved/distressed b/c he thought he was one easy step away from having it all. And I guess he was, but it was a big step. A COSTLY step.

Now here’s where I have to tell you something scary. Did you know this was the only example, the only person in scripture who we see come to Jesus and walk away empty handed. Everyone else who comes to Christ leaves different, leaves fulfilled and saved. But not this man.

I don’t know how to say this more plainly, but our STUFF gets in the way of us following Christ. Jesus said in verse 21, if you want to have treasure in heaven, if you want to truly be rich, then it’s going to cost you everything. And that’s hard for you and me to really wrap our minds around isn’t it. Because if you want to get specific, what does we it cost us to follow Christ? EVERYTHING. Friends, family, possession, comfort, time, ourselves, our desires, money, everything....
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rich in Christ Part 2: Jesus Redefines Wealth Luke 12, there is a rich man who tears down the barns he has (already rich) and makes plans to build bigger ones, as he prepares to be even richer. We tend to think if we can save enough, store enough, prepare enough then life will be easy. That’s what we’re looking for: to take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry.

But Jesus steps in and reminds us how foolish we are. No, no, no, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. He flips our plans upside down and says, "Guess what, you’re going to die, and you don’t get to choose when that is. And, you don’t really have anything. It’s on loan. It’s all going to end up at a rummage sale or in a landfill, being picked over by people who you probably wouldn’t want to smell."

The longer I live the more I realize that we’re completely selfish people. Jesus isn’t telling us here to be afraid of possessions, but warning us against becoming satisfied by them.

How many of you have a cell phone? Cool. Well I’m not much older than you all, but I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 21. I’ve got junior high kids in TX that have them and I’m like, you don’t need that. Anyways, so what normally happens. We get one, we text, we love it, then one comes out with a color screen. Ooohhh, I gotta get that one. Then a phone with a camera. Then that’s no longer cool. Then one that plays music. Then one that does your homework. Then one that drives your car, washes your dog, votes in the next election, pretty soon cell phones take over the world! Ok, not really. But do you see what I’m getting at, really what Jesus is getting at?

I think he’s pointing out to us that we’re never satisfied. We aren’t. And you know why? OPTIONS. We love options. We can go to a burger place and get nachos. Go to a Mexican food place and get burgers. Go to a Chinese place and get chicken fingers. 200 channels on TV. Don’t wanna dig through my cd’s, BAM, 6000 songs on my iPod. XM radio, more options.

We’re obsessed with having options. And the thing is, all these options are killing us. They are absolutely killing us. They cloud our lives, they trouble our hearts, bring anxiety to our souls. Like the rich man in the parable said: WHAT SHALL I DO?

And so what happens is, we can’t even enjoy what we have, because we’re always looking down the road to what is next. Next semester, next year, even next week. If only I could afford this, if only she would go out with me, if only I looked like this, if only…and our lives are empty and without depth and gratitude because of it. We can’t live in the future or waiting for what’s next b/c we miss out on the blessings of life here and now with Christ.

Anybody here ever feel like that? Feel burdened, exhausted by playing games in the world? By worrying, having anxiety bearing down on your soul?

Fortunately there’s hope, there’s an answer that Jesus gives. He tells us there is no connection between our stuff and really deep life. He knows what we need. He does and he will provide. What does he want us to do? Seek first his kingdom. Seek him first, stop being weighed down by all these options, we can rest from being burdened by anxieties, b/c He is our best option. If we pursue Christ, like a hidden treasure, if we chase after him, then not he’ll take care of the rest of this. He will.

He’s our treasure, he will satisfy our needs. He is what makes us rich. All these options, all these possessions that we store up, they’re going to end up at a rummage sale, or at the dump. They will. But Jesus beckons us to store up a purse, to seek a treasure that won’t fade away, that can’t be taken from us. He calls us to seek first His Kingdom, to pursue HIM as our treasure. And he says when we do that, not only will he provide for our needs, but our hearts will find peace and rest and abundance in him.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rich in Christ Part I: Solomon

Segment of Part 1 from a retreat I did for some super cool high school kids in east Tennessee a few months back. Enjoy.
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Solomon spent his life pursuing wealth, power, possessions, and women. Extravagant palaces, huge kingdom, 700 wives, everything to the greatest extremes--and he found it all meaningless. Quite possibly one of the riches and wealthiest guys in history, and he says it himself, “I missed it, I missed out on the real treasure.”

In Proverbs 2 Solomon shares with us what that “one thing” is we’re all looking for; he points out our treasure.

It’s the Lord, it’s a connection, an understanding of who he is and what he does for you. Scripture says God is more precious than valuable stones or anything else. Granddaddy Solomon is pleading with us to listen to his advice. There’s no value in the riches this world offers: power, possessions, prosperity.

Notice the verbs here he uses in chapter 2 to describe our quest: “accept, store up, turn, apply, call out, cry aloud, search, look for.” This idea of searching for him like silver or like a hidden treasure, it’s an unoccupied pursuit. He’s the hidden treasure, the ONE THING that is worth searching for, worth pursuing. And if anyone knows this, it’s Solomon.

There lived a great missionary/explorer in the mid 1800’s named David Livingstone. He was Scottish and very poor, but first European to see Victoria Falls and the headwaters of the Nile River. Livingstone spent his whole life telling the people of Africa about God, venturing into the deepest jungles. A man who knew well the one thing worth pursuing, he did so with everything he had, for everyone he ever met.

There’s a point in his ministry in Africa when some people back home wanted to come visit him to see the work he’s been doing and witness firsthand the amazing things he’d written about. So they sent word and asked him, “Have you found a good, smooth road to where you are?”

And David Livingstone writes back to them, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.

So I wanna close tonight with this question: what would you pursue if there was no road at all? Would it be the Lord?
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Greatest Tragedy

“I am convinced the Christian faith is the most attractive and desirable option one can discover—a pearl of great wisdom. Further, Jesus Christ is the most attractive and desirable person to ever walk the face of the earth.
The greatest tragedy of all time is that His attractiveness, beauty, and grace is obscured by the cobwebs of religion.”
- John Miller, long time minister of the Gospel

These words convicted me this week in view of a world around me full of lost souls. How guilty am I of letting my “religion” too often shield hurting people from experiencing the splendor of Christ. How often have I wasted opportunities to display the wonderful love of the Savior because of a petty hang-up. How many times do I get in the way instead of stepping aside for Jesus to take center stage.

This week, as I seek to allow the attractiveness of Christ shine in my life uninhibited, I am thankful for a God who is patient with me.
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