Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mourning with Sandy Hook

Like many of you, my heart is heavy today. One year ago, 26 people lost their lives. 20 of them, only first graders. Senseless. 

I've never been to Sandy Hook. Never met any of the parents that were affected by this tragedy. The grief of loosing a child is something that I know nothing of. Incomprehensible grief comes to mind, and would be an understatement to describe the loss that these families now move forward with. But somehow I feel a connection with them. Today, those first graders would be in the second grade. Today, one of my children is in the second grade. For that reason, this hits a little closer to home. 

Sandy Hook, I have no words that will remove your pain. I have nothing that can replace your children, your friends. But I offer you my prayers. I offer my tears. I pray, that by God's grace, He gives you the strength to move forward, to never forget. I pray that the Spirit of the living God would comfort you as you mourn, that He would intercede for you with groanings too deep for words. And I pray that Jesus comes soon:

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Sandy Hook, millions of people across the country with children are mourning with you...

Monday, November 25, 2013

The key to a completed checklist is... remember that the checklist is never complete. When all is said and done, there will still be more to say and do.

I'm not sure why, but I always feel better when I cross something off the list. But it seems that for every one thing I cross off the list, 5 new things are added. Kinda nuts to think that I'll ever get it all done! Hi, my name is Chris, and I am a chronic list-checker. 

How fickle are our hearts. Why do we feel a sense of significance when work is completed, but feel less than significant when we fail to complete our plans? Are we our tasks? Of course not, but the heart sure does try to convince us of that.

Psalms 139:14 provides a helpful reminder for me: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

We are of infinite worth to Him- so much that our infinite God, being full of infinite love, stepped into finite time to forever completing the work that we could never complete, forever freeing us from the judgement we deserve for our sins.

We are hopelessly lost and burdened with the debt of our sin, but thank God for the unmerited grace He shows us- He alone has forever completed the justifying work of paying the sin debt for all who place their trust in Jesus.

My prayer for you and for myself is that we would always experience this reality: We will be most satisfied in life not by what we do, but by resting in what Jesus has done for us. You will never complete all the work set before you. But God will complete the good work He begins in you.

Our greatest joy is not found on a completed checklist, but on a conquered cross.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chris Gray: Engineer, Pastor

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a guy who was doing some maintenance work on our building. He asked me what I did for a living, and I gave an answer that he had never heard someone give. I told him that I was an engineer…. and a pastor.

His face cracked a curious grin and gave away his thoughts immediately: “that’s an unusual combination.”

“Yes it is,” I smiled in reply. Yes it is.

This time last year, my answer would have been one-sided- I am an engineer. After all, that’s what I’ve spent the last 10 years doing, designing and leading all kinds of land development projects all over the Oklahoma City area and beyond. But along the way it became very clear to me that I would not always be an engineer. At least not in the land development field.

My Calling

Seven years ago I was a volunteer serving as a small groups leader in my church. One day, I was sitting around the table with one of my church’s associate pastors, strategizing about the next best way to help people join small groups and grow in their faith. As we were talking, he made a comment that I’ll never forget, that went something like this...

You know Chris, one day, God might call you to use your engineering abilities in a different way. Perhaps God is calling you, not to solve land development challenges, but spiritual ministry challenges so that more people could meet and follow Jesus.

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I knew they were true. I had about 10 years of ministry experience at that point in time, from leading a student ministry in college to leading small groups in my church. In all that experience, God was developing in me a growing passion to help people meet the Jesus of the bible and to help equip them to do every good work that God has called them to do.

In spite of my growing passion for Jesus and His Church, I had no clear indication at that time that God wanted me to go to seminary or to become a pastor right away. Instead, I found out, my assignment for the next seven years was to remain an engineer. Much could be said of that time, but suffice it to say, it was a time of refining, a time of developing, a time of waiting.


But God doesn’t call us to wait forever. About 6 months ago, I was welcomed on the team of a new church that is being planted here in Edmond, Oklahoma called Redemption Church ( Redemption Church, lead by pastor Jeff Lawrence, is a part of the Acts 29 Network ( which is a network of churches that plants churches that plant churches. I will serve as the Executive Pastor for the church, using my repurposed engineering abilities to develop and administer initiatives that help people grow to become authentic disciples of Jesus. To say that I am excited about this is a gross understatement!

The video below shares more details about our story. In it, you will hear my wife’s response, as well as hear from Jeff Lawrence about why he moved his family over 1,200 miles to come back home to plant and pastor this church.

In Transition

So, I am currently both an engineer and a pastor, but I know this ministry needs my undivided attention. I am grateful that my engineering profession allows me some flexibility in this transition, but I have a sense of urgency about the work God is calling me to do for the people of Edmond and the Oklahoma City area. Here's a post that Jeff wrote that explains this urgency:

It typically takes 3-5 years for new churches to get started, and it takes outside support during those years for the church to get to that point. While some of the outside support comes from other churches, the vast majority of financial support for church plants comes from individuals, like you. My family and I are incredibly grateful to those who have already stepped up to offer financial support to help us make this transition. We are asking you to consider partnering with us in one of three ways: 

  1. A monthly gift
  2. An annual gift
  3. A one-time donation
We know that people may already give to their church and to other missions. We simply want to make known how great the need is for more churches, right here in the Edmond/OKC metro area, and how like minded believers can partner for many people to experience redemption in Jesus.
We are so excited and hopeful for what God will do through launching Redemption Church as another outpost for the Gospel and the Great Commission, but can't do it without your help. It will literally take hundreds of people pitching in- great or small amounts- to make this church a reality.
Will you partner with us to make Redemption happen?


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pride, Performance, and ... Pennies...

I was cleaning out my wallet the other day and found some change had been placed in there. I don’t normally find change in my wallet so I was kinda surprised to find that in there. Then I remember that I had given my wallet to my wife earlier to go buy some food for the kids, and realized that she must have put it there after she paid the bill for our food. 
Ok- so big deal. I found change in my wallet- wow... 
Yes, not news breaking material here, but what struck me was the value of the change - 2 cents. 
As I’ve been reflecting over some conversations I have had the last several weeks, I’ve become uncomfortably aware that I’m often giving my opinion - my “2 cents” - to others on a lot of different things. Some of it may have been helpful, some maybe not so much. Either way, it wasn’t requested, I just gave it. 
Sorry for the confessional, but I know that I’m not the only one out there that has the same trouble of being overly generous with my 2 cents. I have a growing collection of suggestions and perspectives from some of my friends as well! :-) 
At first, people are pleasant about it. They smile and nod, and the conversation carries on. But the more our occasion and frequency in sharing our ideas, our polite company begins to show subtle signs of growing tired of all of our ideas. 
The issue isn’t the content of our ideas, suggestions, or perspectives. It’s the attitude and heart behind those opinions that reveal that something rotten has taken root in our hearts. 
Sometimes it’s just pride. We think we know what’s best! We have the best ideas, the best strategies, the best resources. In fact, our thoughts are so great, that we are completely unable to hear the ideas of others. We just plow ahead, not considering ideas together and objectively evaluating them. We are so impressed with ourselves and are totally convinced that this is the way, but totally blind to the fact that God has given wisdom to others as well, who have a lot more humility about them than us. I’m prone to struggle with this one... 
Other times it’s a performance issue. We are trying to impress someone else with US because WE are so GREAT and we want to make SURE that they know we’ve got it figured out! We figure if we impress them with our ideas, they will like us and give us the promotion or respect or whatever the outcome is that we are looking to achieve in our agenda. We care more about what other people think than anything else. Just another form of idolatry, repackaged for our world today. I struggle with this one too... 
The reality is we all do this at varying levels because it is a sin issue; it’s an idolatry issue. It’s a worship issue. 
Whether it is pride or performance, it still reveals that we are jealous for the approval and affections of others for ourselves and not for the approval and affection that we find in Jesus alone. We are never going to be good enough, smart enough, have good enough ideas, etc. to win the favor of God. Ultimately God's opinion of us is what matters most, and the only way we receive His favor is through accepting by faith the finished work that Jesus already did for us (see John 3:16). Once God opens the eyes of our heart to see this and the faith to rest in this, we realize that we can stop trying to earn an approval/favor from God that is utterly impossible to obtain. It is simply being granted to us through faith alone in Jesus alone. 
It's not to say that there isn't a time and place to share our ideas and perspective. It's more a matter of the heart. It's a realization that we don't have it all figured out, and we need to learn a little self control and practice some humility as we ask a couple questions:
  1. Is it truly helpful information?
  2. Is it really necessary to share?
Maybe you have other filter questions that work for you - I'm sure there are others that are more helpful. Whatever the filter, find some means of keeping your opinions and ideas soaked in humility and love. So what am I going to do with those two pennies I found in my wallet? I think I’ll keep them in my wallet as a reminder that I should be a little more prudent in my opinion philanthropy. If God prompts me to share my ideas, I want to make sure that when it is offered, it is done without the pursuit of pride and performance, but instead with humility and love.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nineveh: A difficult assignment

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah did not do as God had commanded him and fled from the presence of the Lord. Jonah was a prophet; he was one who spoke for God. God created him and called him to do a certain work. Jonah’s job was to share the message God gives, to whomever Got commands it to be given to.

God had given Jonah an assignment: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” We will learn later in the book of Jonah that Jonah did not want to be on this assignment. He did not want to do anything that might cause the Ninevites to repent and be saved. He did not want them to hear the warning of God, lest they humble themselves and repent of their sin and receive mercy from God.

God has created each of us according to His plans and purposes. When we choose to go our own way, we sin against God. Sometimes it is an identity issue that we struggle with; we are envious of another’s life, of their prestige, or of their calling and we wrongly try to be like them and live their life. Other times it’s just the difficulty of our work and the current circumstances of life that lead our wayward hearts to turn away from the work that God has called us to, and pursue other more attractive opportunities, more money, or more power.


  1. What is the work that God is calling you to do in this season of life? When answering, don’t think in terms of vocation, but instead think of assignments (ie: there’s a broken relationship in my life and I know God wants me to reconcile it).
  2. Prayerfully consider why you are resistant to doing this work.
  3. When Jonah rebelled from the work God called him to, there were consequences that not only affected him, but those around him. How has your resistance to this assignment impacted your heart towards God and others?
  4. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to help you identify the sin that you need to turn from, and the resolve and help of the Holy Spirit to do so.

Share your answers to these questions with someone from church and encourage and pray for one another that you each may complete the assignments that God has called you to do.
What else did you take away from this passage?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

I see lost people

Listening to a message on Luke 15 about  the lost coin and the prodigal son, a very keen observation was made by the speaker: 

lost things don't know that they are lost; lost people don't know their lost. 

While the prodigal son parable is very much about the lost son who ran away and came home to the compassionate father, it is also very much about the outwardly obedient son who stayed home, yet who was inwardly lost. The younger son saw his sin and repented both inwardly and outwardly. And the father showed compassion on his lost son and received him, for the son knew he had sinned but also knew that the father was gracious to forgive those who repent.  The older son, though he did all the right things outwardly, was blind to his own sin and his equal need for the Father's compassion. 

The link above has a clip from the movie The Sixth Sense. It is one of the most sobering scenes I have ever seen. Dead people don't know they're dead. Lost people don't know they're lost. And if lost people don't know they are lost, they will most assuredly not seek to be found. 

Follower of Jesus: God is light, and he placed his light in you, not to be hidden, but to be shared wherever He has placed you. We are ambassadors for Christ, 24/7, 365 days a year, for as many days that God gives us. 

There are literally millions upon millions of people, who though they are physically alive today, are spiritually dead and don't even know it. The Father loves the lost, and will do whatever is necessary to find that which is lost. And we who have been reborn also have the will and compassion of the Father in our hearts. 

Let us eagerly and diligently do all that we can to seek the lost, and let us also persist in prayer for the lost to see their lostness, so that we can point them to the Father who not only found us, but also wants to find them.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

So... What did you think of the service?

"I thought it was good."

Long pause.

"Yep. Me too."

More often than not, this is usually how our conversation goes on the way home from church. Sometime we'll talk about some of the main points, but rarely do we get past the listening comprehension phase of talking about a sermon.

Of course there are those days when the pastor brought a really strong word, or maybe the topic had our attention. After those messages, we have little trouble moving past the facts of the message and taking it to another level as we talk about our feelings, how we felt when he talked about x. But is this how we should be responding each week? Should our response and motivation to reflect on what we heard be conditional to how well we "liked" the message?

Let me offer to you that the answer to those questions is no. Yes, some days we are more in tune with the Spirit, and have no trouble feasting on the message for the rest of the week. But more often than not, this will not be the case. Most of the time, we have to do some work.

We have to move past the reciting of facts that are delivered to us. We need to let the facts sink into our hearts and minds so that our feelings about reflecting on those facts begins to surface.

As we process our feelings, we return to the scriptures and make sure we are correctly understanding what we heard. Then we form conclusions, identifying where our understanding needs correction. Those conclusions should then be shared with other believers to help us make sure we are not making mistakes in our thinking. We also invite others to learn how to encourage us and celebrate how God is at work in our hearts. And finally, we move to identifying what our next steps are for us to apply the preaching of God's word to our lives.

Yes, this is hard. Yes, this requires some effort and work. But the fruit of asking some hard questions of our hearts in light of hearing the preaching of God's word will become evident. We will no longer be mere hearers of the word, but doers.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22-25 ESV)

Facts: What was discussed?

Feelings: How did I feel about those facts?

Conclusions: What did I learn about God? and myself?

Community: Are my conclusions correct? What do I need to hear from other believers about this?

Next steps: What will I do about it today? This week?

Make it a point today to work through these questions and consider what you heard from the preaching of God's word. Let's move past, "what did you think?" to "what are you going to do about it?"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Big questions

What big questions do you need to ask yourself?

Maybe you've been avoiding them because you don't want to deal with the emotions that are there. Or maybe you avoid the big questions because its easier to live in the shallows and you don't wan to deal with the deep.

Regardless of the reasons, I would commend to you to making time each week to reflect and ask yourself some key, big, deep questions.

These aren't for everyone, but I've come up with a short list of big questions that work for me- they help me refocus, recharge, and remember what is most important.

What is my struggle?
What is my joy?
What is my fear?
What do I now see?
What sin am I still clinging on to?
What do I need to repent of?
What shame do I need to let go of?
What kindness do I need to thank God for?
To whom do I need to show kindness to today?
What things in this season of my life do I need to daily and continually be in prayer for? (Identify and then pray for these)
What big prayer do I need to pray today? (Identify and then pray)
Today's reminder
Next step

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Worshipful Awareness

Most churches start their services with the singing of several songs and hymns to God. While this isn't the only way to order a service, I do think that singing to God at the beginning is helpful to prepare our hearts to receive instruction from the Lord through the preaching of His word.

We know that the worship part of the service should stir up our greatest affections, and should be the overflow of our walk with God. Unfortunately though, our hearts have a way of wandering. When our hearts are hardened, we become spiritually numb to the words we sing, and rob ourselves of the joy of seeing God for all that He is, seeing His holiness, and most of all seeing how sinful we are in light of how holy He is.

I think that it is becoming aware of how holy that God is that enables us to see how unholy we are, apart from the finished work of Jesus for us. When we are able to see our sin as God sees it, we agree with Him that it is in fact sin and that something must be done about it.

The good news is that in Jesus, something has already been done about our sin. For us who place our trust in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and the perfect life of Christ is now imputed to us, making us pure and holy before God. Apart from Him, we are done, totally lost, and fully deserving God's wrath for our sin that we continually commit against Him and others. But God has declared that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because he paid the debt we could not pay and gave us new life. It is through Christ that we find fulfillment, purpose, joy, our identity, and most of all, life.

It is the awareness of his holiness that leads us to repentance, but it is awareness of our adoption as sons and daughters of God through the cross of Jesus that leads us to life and joy!

It is my prayer that our hearts would not be hardened and that God would cause us to constantly remain spiritually aware of these realities, so that we would continue in repentance, and grow in our affection for the ultimate Father who has adopted us as His own.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I love the one who tells me the truth

It's great to listen to others singing our praises. We love to hear all the good things that people say about us. Makes us feel good, right? Boosts our all important self esteem!

But that's not what we seek when we see the doctor, is it? When we see the doctor, we want him to tell us the truth, right? Not, "hey, so good to see you! Your health is great!", when really he knows that you have cancer.

There are few who deserve our deepest affections than those who tell us the truth.

When we know the truth, we know what to do. If we are diagnosed with cancer, we then will focus on getting treatment so we can be made well. But if we don't know the truth, we will continue in ignorance thinking that everything is fine, and never seek the cure that we think we don't need.

Yes I know. Bad news is unpleasant, and hearing it will probably make me unhappy. But my happiness is not the most important thing. Knowing the truth and responding to it is far more important than my temporary discomfort and pain of discovering I had believed a lie but now know the truth.

In the end, I am thankful and praising God for the one who tells me the truth, who calls out my sin, who causes me to seek repentance and seek forgiveness from the only One who can ultimately forgive the debtor. Yes, this person I thank and love profusely, because they have shown me my sin and caused me to return to Jesus where I find the only grace sufficient to save me from myself.

I'll say it again, because we will need to remember it the next time someone tells us the truth about us: There are few who deserve our deepest affections than those who tell us the truth.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lead well

How would you define the culture of your office, your church, or the team you serve with? Is it a fun place to work? Do you like the people you work with? How about problems versus solutions- are the people you work with driven to find solutions or do they campout and critique the evidence of the problem? Do they dream about what's possible? Do they get excited about what could be? Do they celebrate when their coworkers succeed?

These questions and many like them will reveal if healthy leadership is present within your team or office. It is because of good leadership that people learn to discover solutions to problems, find satisfaction in their work, persevere through difficult assignments, and enjoy working with the people on their team.

In small teams, the leader has direct access to the team, and they to him. The leader can develop relationships, help them grow in weaknesses, develop them as leaders themselves.

Large organizations with multiple layers of management and leadership are different. Someone with 100 people under their care cannot foster a leader/learner relationship with each person. Not only is it impossible, but to attempt to do so discredits the authenticity of their attempt while stunting the growth of the people he leads.

If you want to lead your people well, lead your leaders well. Leaders who are led well will lead well.  

The leaders within the organization are the culture shapers. They are intimately familiar with the issues and concerns of the people. If the leaders don't have vision and drive and and desire to improve, to create, do do the impossible, if they don't enjoy what they do, then neither will their team.

A leader can only lead as high as the leadership he reports to. If the leadership above him is strong and leading him well, then he will rise to that level of leadership with his team. If the leadership above him is poor, then the leader will either resign his will to lead, or more likely, he will simply leave and go to a place that has a higher level of leadership.

If you are frustrated with the culture of your organization, then start leading your leaders well. Leaders who are led well will lead their leaders well. And as the leader goes, so does the culture.

The right leadership at the wrong level is the wrong leadership for all levels. If you want to lead your people well, lead your leaders well.