2016-06-30

Do you think it’s something about people who have great appetites and great intellect and great need for approval and need to be in the spotlight?

Well, there is something about alcohol....It’s not a daily struggle with me, but it could be. And what helps me is being real upfront.

That takes a lot of courage.

That or desperation. I mean, I don’t feel courageous when I share with my church what I struggle with. I just feel like if I don’t share it I can really screw it up.

How big is the temptation to allow yourself to more fully be a celebrity? I don’t think it would be such a bad thing to fully be the celebrity you are, and could be, because many people think you have a compelling message. There’s an argument to be made that more people should hear that message.

Well, I don’t seek a higher profile. I don’t think I try to avoid it. I’ve got two or three curves that run along the side of the road that I use to keep me balanced. One is that I really want to succeed at home first. I’ve got three great daughters and I’ve got a great wife. So if they feel I’m taking myself too seriously or if I’m taking on too many jobs I listen to that.

And then I want to succeed at the church. I want to be a good pastor. I think often about leaving the church, not in a spiritual fashion, but in resigning from that job and just writing. But I love the church in San Antonio. They’ve been so good to me for 16 years, and also I haven’t felt the Lord letting me do that. I feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do there.

Does the hold of the church itself kept you on a path of humility?

I think it does. The church is a huge reality check for me.

Why this book now?

All of my books come out of sermons, and this came from a lesson that covered two Sundays on why God’s glory matters. I started by telling the story about running into a friend in a hotel lobby back in 1998. And he’s the one who said that phrase, “It’s not about me.” We had five minutes to visit. A short conversation. I said, “What’s the biggest thing that’s happened to you since I saw you last?” He said, “I’ve learned something. It’s not about me and it’s not about now.” And that really resonated with me. I wrote in on my napkin, I stuck it in my notebook and I carried it around with me, and it became one of those little philosophies that helped me since I’m prone to be self-absorbed and think that everything has to work in my direction.

And so it began to impact me, and as I was doing this study on the word “glory” in the Bible--what God’s glory means and why it’s such a dominant theme--that seemed to be a way to characterize that truth. God’s glory is the big news of the Bible, and my desire is that it would be all about me, but really it’s all about God’s glory.

I do love the idea of it’s not about me, because there’s a letting-go quality and also a humility that is a relief. At the same time, there were times when I was reading the book when I felt you were describing a God who seemed very remote in the sense that it was sort of like, “Pull up your socks and too bad, baby.”

That is exactly the response that many people gave. After I presented that message to the church, people said, “That’s a fascinating thought,” and so I kept unpacking it. Later, two or three people wrote me letters. One of them specifically said, “I think it is all about me.” And this was a real good man in our church. And he was saying, “God loves me, and He cares for me and I’m the prodigal son and He sent His son to die for me.” What he was hearing me say was “If it’s all about God, then I’m just a puppet.”

That’s how I felt, honestly.

I tried to respond to that twofold. One: the most important illustration in the book is asking people to imagine themselves drowning in the ocean because their ship has gone down and the sky is dark and the ocean water is about to consume them and they’re running out of energy and the voice they want to hear most is the voice of the lifeboat pilot. What matters at that moment is his strength and his power and his ability. In other words, his glory. That’s what the word glory means--strength and power and ability—the attributes of God. The reason God wants his glory to be big is because that’s what the world according to the Bible means--a God who has a lifeboat big enough to save us. So to say, “It’s not about me” doesn’t mean that God isn’t concerned with me. Quite the opposite, because God is concerned about us. He wants his glory to be the big issue.