Baptism: Wading the Waters Together

My last post—The Power of Presence—was about the power of God’s presence with us and our presence with each other, and I want to share with you a beautiful moment from last week that illustrates again the gift of God’s presence through his people…

The story begins with AJ, who walked into the church where I work and said, “I want to know God.” As a pastor, I was more than happy to reply, “Well, brother, you’re in the right place!”

After a short conversation about Jesus the Christ and Scripture’s telling of who he is and what he did, AJ responded to God’s love, repented of his sin, and chose to follow Jesus. And just like that, the heavens exploded with joy (Luke 15:7, 10), as did AJ and I!

So last Thursday our small group of 10 folks—AJ’s first real experience with the Church—met at the beach for his baptism. The most important event of the evening was AJ’s baptism, but I could not help but be moved by the actions of the two other men in our small band of believers. Continue reading

The Power of Presence

I’ll never forget where I first learned about the power of presence. It was in a hospice care facility in east Texas where my sweet grandmother, Jo, was dying. My grandfather, her husband of 58 years, never left her bedside. He comforted her, supported her, and helped ready her for eternity with the simple power of his presence. And after she died, I was humbled and grateful to learn that my consistent presence had comforted, supported, and helped him in that terribly difficult time.

In Psalm 139 King David celebrates this kind of presence. Only he was not writing about a human companion, he was writing about a holy One. Continue reading

Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship (solution #2)

(This post is the 5th and final blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)


Making disciples is what the Church was made by God to do. In this series I explain why we aren’t doinRock Climbing The Southwest, USAg it well (Read it here)  and two things that stand in our way (read about them here—Roadblock #1: the Christian message that is too easy to be good, and Roadblock #2: we have traded acts for facts).

But there is hope! Blog #4 reminds us that the first solution is that  we must tell the full story!

Last but not least, here is Solution #2 for helping the Church do a better job of making true disciples of Jesus…

Solution #2 Reintroduce Rigor

If we want to be a church that effectively makes disciples of Jesus—people who actually value doing what God asks disciples to do and who actually live lives that impact the world around them—we must (must!) reintroduce and value rigor. Good old fashioned rigor.

Continue reading

Not Opposed to Effort: Solutions for Better Discipleship (solution #1)

(This post is the 4th blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)


In the first post of this series (Read it here) I argued that the American church’s misunderstanding of the phrase “grace is enough” causes us to miss out on what it truly means to be disciples of Jesus.

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for.

  • Roadblock #1: The church presents a Christian message that is too easy to be good. You can read about it here.
  • Roadblock #2: True discipleship is obstructed because we believe facts are the same as acts. Read more here.

Two Ways Forward counting

I once had a friend who quipped, “No solution, no problem!” It was his funny way of dismissing critics who had a knack for opining about what was wrong but never offered  ways to make things right. I’m always thankful for those who are bold enough to articulate the problem and propose creative solutions. I hope to do the same here. After all, what good is it to point out two major problems with the church’s view of discipleship if I will not wade into the murky waters of solutions?

Continue reading

Not Opposed to Effort: Two Roadblocks to Discipleship

sheep in the road

(This post is the 2nd in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today. Click here to read the first post.) 

In last week’s post (Read it here) I argued that our misunderstanding of the oft-used phrase “grace is enough” causes us to misrepresent the Christian life and miss out on what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.

We have a shallow view of grace and an incomplete definition of discipleship. In our addiction to “the easy life” we have eliminated the rigor of discipleship and simultaneously cheapened the grace God has given.

Dallas Willard’s phrase, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning,”[1] is good news. Though a life devoted to God in Christ is more difficult than we have often heard, it is also much better than we have often experienced.

To right the ship, we need to understand two roadblocks that prevent us, and others, from following Jesus into the life of discipleship we were created for. 

Roadblock #1: It’s Too Easy to Be Good

The “accept Jesus into your heart and you won’t go to hell when you die” approach to making disciples is too easy to be good. Let me explain.

Continue reading

Not Opposed to Effort: The Work of Discipleship

steel worker

Grace is not enough.

That sentence alone will send the reformed crowd into orbit, and it just might make the rest of you scramble for Bible verses that refute works-based righteousness.

But when I was recently asked to comment on Christian discipleship today, I could not help but think that grace is not enough.

Obviously the truth of that statement relies on one’s definitions of “grace” and “enough.” Continue reading

My First Baptism


Photo Credit: Jewels654 via CC

Actually, it was Zack’s first baptism. And I did the honors. For the first time.

For the last 4 months, a small crew of like-minded Christian fellas have been meeting at my house. It’s a typical church small group. Or community group. Or life group. Or whatever your church may call it. There are five members – Ross, Zack, John, Shane, and me. And each of us began attending the group for various, but similar reasons.

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We’re Not Very Good at Being the Church (The Second Thing I Learned in Egypt about Being a Christian)

Last week I posted the first lesson I learned about being a Christian while I was in Egypt. Believe it or not, it was this: Political Unrest is Good for the Church. (click here to read what I mean)  The second lesson I recently learned in Egypt about being a Christian is…

Lesson #2 – We’re not very good about being the Church


Photo by Benjamin Staudinger at CC

 It might seem a bit rude to say we, American Christians, are not very good at being the Church. But in some ways, it’s true – and I would much rather say (and hear) what is true than what sounds good.

In one of my classes last quarter I spent a lot of time reading, learning, and thinking about the differences between a missional church and an attractional church (I wrote a post about this for – read it here!), but while in Egypt this past month, I actually experienced the difference. Continue reading

Political Unrest is Good for the Church (What Egypt Taught Me about being a Christian)

I was recently in the Middle East for a vacation in Iraq.

Kidding. I was indeed in the Middle East, but it wasn’t Iraq, and nobody goes to the Middle East for vacation these days.

The truth is two weeks ago I traveled to Egypt with a friend who has been involved in mission work there since 2007. We served the poor in tiny, poverty-stricken villages in the Egyptian desert, and we discussed partnership opportunities with church leaders and in Cairo.

Like my first trip there years ago, it was an eye-opening and soul-convicting trip. Over the next few blog posts, I will share what I learned from that inspiring church in Egypt. What they taught me about the Christian life (without ever trying to) impacted my heart as much as the sights and sounds of a revolution-torn country impacted my senses. My hope is their lessons will stick with you as much as they have stuck with me.

Lesson #1 – Political Unrest is Good for the Church 

Tahrir Square - SierraGoddess

photo credit: SierraGoddess at CC

The first thing I learned from the church we visited in Egypt is that political unrest is good for the church. Continue reading

My Nine Year Old Mentor


Brad, the 50 year old leader of our group looked me in the eye and sternly said, “If I tell you to get on the bus, get on the bus.”

Ten minutes later his voice rose above the noise as he said, “Get all the Americans inside right now.” And the somewhat agitated crowd of locals were told to leave.

His instructions brought an end to the conversation a few travel-mates and I were trying to have outside. Our incomplete Arabic and the villager’s broken English made our exchanges difficult, and I’m certain they were offended by our refusal to follow them home for tea, but my desire to retreat to safety trumped my desire to honor their hospitality.

We were ushered inside the tiny ramshackle church turned makeshift vision and dental clinic as Brad repeated his command – “All Americans inside. Now.”

I was starting to get nervous. Continue reading