"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" - Matthew 16:24

Today I'm reflecting on Matthew 16:24.  Too often we make too little of the Christian journey of discipleship (our following after Jesus).  Here we are reminded though that a call to follow after Jesus is conditional - we cannot simply take to the road.  We must first pick up our cross, and then follow after Jesus.

Jesus does not make a suggestion here.  He does say we should take up our cross, or we should consider taking up our cross, or we should go ahead and get started without our cross and later when we're more spiritual we can go ahead and pick up our cross.

No.  Jesus says that if we want to follow Him the first step is picking up our cross.

And why would a man carry a cross unless he was going to die?  The call to follow Jesus is a call to die.  The road before us is the same that laid before Jesus when He entered Jerusalem and saw the shadow of the cross looming before Him.  However, Jesus knew that the Father would do what He promised - raise Him to new life again through the power of His resurrection.  

When we pick up our cross and follow after Jesus we should expect no less.

We follow Jesus to Calvary where our worldly selves are crucified.  But we also follow Him to the place where He raises us to new life.

The cross before me, the world behind me;
The cross before me, the world behind me;
The cross before me, the world behind me;
No turning back, no turning back.
Starting tomorrow - Sunday - and ending on Good Friday, I'm going to begin a six-day reflective journey centered on the cross.

Each day I'm focusing on a portion of Scripture related to the cross and contemplating the depth of grace, redemption, renewal, and justification found at Calvary.  I'd love to have you follow along with me on this blog and take the journey with me.

"Finally Pilate handed Him over to be crucified.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle." - John 19:16-18

See from His head, His hands, His feet;
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

- Tim
This Easter season our church has launched a pretty massive marketing campaign called "Find It Here".  The campaign is designed to engage people in a multitude of ways - tangibly and through media outlets - with a simple, straightforward invitation to attend a church service (specifically Easter Sunday service) at FBC Cold Spring.

The state community of churches we belong to - the Kentucky Baptist Convention (www.kybaptist.org) - has put out 30-second TV and radio spots that will air in the several weeks leading up to Easter.  On the local-end of things, we distributed around 3,000 door-hanging bags to as many homes in the community surrounding our church.  Each bag contains both a Find It Here pamphlet and a half-page sheet with information on our Easter weekend events/services and an upcoming revival the week after Easter (which I just so happened to design - check it out below!).

I'm really interested to see how effective this campaign is.  In the past I've done a lot of neighborhood canvassing for Vacation Bible School, Sports Camps, and other children's activities, and only met with mild success.  However, this campaign has so many facets to it - the TV and radio spots, a strong online element, and then the local touch of door-to-door delivery (which always leads to at least a few one-on-one conversations in neighborhoods).

I hope we'll see much fruit over the next few weeks!
This is an article I wrote for youthministry.com earlier this year.

One of my biggest struggles lately has been coming to terms with my inability to birth passion within the lives of students.  Hard as I try, I just can’t seem to force passion on them.

Don't get me wrong.  I believe that in youth ministry part of our calling is to foster passion within the lives of young people - passion for God's fame, His glory, His kingdom coming, and their story within that Kingdom.  I think you could look at it as tending soil, if you're into agricultural metaphors.

The thing is though, you can water the ground all day long but if there's not a seed below the surface, nothing is going to grow there.  In the same way, if there are no seeds of Godly passion within a young man or woman's soul, our efforts to inspire them for the sake of the Gospel are, ultimately, in vain.

Even though I know this in my head, I still get heart-frustrated when faced with the spiritual apathy of so many young people, especially the ones who have been in church their whole lives and think that the whole thing is one giant cliché.

At the core of this struggle, there’s a fundamental truth I have to grasp:

I am not God.

Shocking, right?

In John 6:44 Jesus says "…no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..."  I just have to keep reminding myself that God is the One doing the real work in the lives of the students in our ministry.  I am, in a very real way, just there to work the soil of their lives.  And in the same way that gardening or farming takes time, patience, hard work, and a willingness to wait for the right season to see the harvest, God will, in His perfect timing, plant the seed and cause it to grow.

So here’s my encouragement to you.  Let’s keep working.  Let’s keep watering.  Let’s keep tilling the soil and getting down deep into the lives of young people and praying for the opportunity to witness God-planted seeds of passion take root and break through to the surface of their lives
.  And let's remember that when we are frustrated with the blank stares, the apathetic attitudes, and the compromising behavior, this simple truth: we are not God.
But He is.  And He can do anything.
Grayson after his first bath, rockin' the poof-hawk!
So I've been blogging for several years now and I'm excited to be posting on the new website here.  I can't think of a better way to start this new blog than by giving you a quick update on our 2-week-old son, Grayson!

Grayson came home a week ago today, and I have to say it has been the craziest, most surreal week of my life.  Trisha and I are adjusting to life with a baby fairly well, but the lack of sleep and the crazy-busyness kind of caught us off guard.  Trisha is doing well and recovering from her c-section well also.  She continues to amaze me - she's the strongest person I know, and I'm not just saying that.

Being a dad is so crazy.  People said before he was born that when he arrived it would change everything, and I'd say that's a pretty fair summation of parenthood so far - it DOES change EVERYTHING!

I'm looking forward to the next several weeks, months, and years as we watch our little one grow up, but I don't want to miss all the "right nows" along the way.  Tonight I held him in my hands and realized that the part of his life that I'll be able to actually HOLD HIM IN MY HANDS is short and I just thanked God for that moment, trying desperately to burn the memory into my mind.

I can't wait to update you more - Grayson is so cool and I'm sure his life will be full of great stories to share.