Archives For discipleship

A friend sent me this link in an email with the subject line that read: “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”

Hilarious. I’m guessing the end result was not what this dog had in mind. Actually, I’m guessing the dog had very little in his mind at all. I imagine that Colt or Ranger or Montana (or whatever this dog’s name was) had one thought on his mind: “PLAY!” He saw a potential new friend running alongside the vehicle and wanted to join the game. So he jumped.

I don’t expect a lot of strategic planning from a dog, but I do expect more from myself. Still, I do things all the time that, once it is too late, I wish I hadn’t done at all. Have you ever been there? You grab hold of something only to feel regret later.

It happens every Thanksgiving. Turkey. Stuffing. Gravy. Pumpkin pie. Extra Cool Whip. [Sigh.] Regret. Nap. And then I do it again with leftovers.

Of course, eating too much once a year on a holiday is the easy stuff. We do things all the time that bring more pain and deeper regret into our lives.

The Bible warns us with questions like these: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28).

Most fail to realize that they are quoting the Bible when they say, “You’re playing with fire.” It’s a nice way of saying, “If you don’t stop what you are doing, you are about to bring some serious hurt into your life.”

Almost no one intends to bring pain into his life. We seek pleasure or escape or companionship or security. We think we are going to get something good, only to find out the thing we’ve chosen leads to something bad. That’s the problem with bad decisions: consequences. Our decisions matter. Even decisions we don’t realize that we are making.

I hear people all the time say, “This wasn’t something I planned; I didn’t mean to get into this mess.” Or, “I didn’t try to fall in love with him; it just happened.” Someone else might say, “I was going through a hard time, and this is what got me through it.”

Scripture warns us against this silliness: “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless” (Proverbs14:15).

These verses are meant to wake us up to the fact that we are making decisions all the time. We can act in wisdom and live in way that honors God, or we can be fools who grab hold of something that ultimately brings us pain.

Provebs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

This is the dangerous thing: sin is rarely obvious. In our minds, sin appears as a logical option, a reasonable risk, an enticing opportunity, a moment of pleasure. But that is the short-sighted view. In the long run, sin = death. Every single time. There is no escape.

“Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” These are God’s warnings to Cain in Genesis 4:7. Cain ignored the warning and suffered for it.

It makes me ask: Am I ignoring the warnings of God? Where is sin crouching at my door? Am I being ruled by sin? Or am I, through Christ, ruling over sin?

I will close with some reminders from the book of Romans:

…consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions…present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…Sin will have no dominion over you…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


As Thanksgiving nears, I was thinking about things I’m thankful for. The first thing that came to mind was the men that God has used to sharpen my life over the years. We are shaped by those around us, and I have been blessed with great relationships with great men. Scripture says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” I have been given much, and that privilege brings a weightiness to life that is a joy to carry.

A few observations as I surveyed the list of men:

  • Many people have a role to play in our lives–some big, some small but all are significant.
  • God uses different kinds of people in different times of life.
  • Dudes need other dudes to invest in them. Positive masculine influence is essential in the development of men. Iron sharpens iron.

At the end of this post, I included several questions for you to reflect on personally.

Homer Duane Lawrence
My Dad inhabits one of the coolest names possible and likes to fancy himself a rapper named HomerDee. He taught me what it means to laugh and to love and to live. From throwing footballs to bike rides to ski trips, he made growing up fun. I know of no man more faithful in doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. He taught me how to have a backbone and do what is best, even if nobody sees. He showed me that loving people means sacrifice. I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about my father.

Kenneth Lay
Pastor Lay was the pastor that prayed with me when I first trusted Jesus. He baptized me and welcomed me into Christ’s church. I was young, but I remember a gracious man who loved God and loved people.

John Lanata
John was a leader in our youth group. Lanata was a 5’8” inch cannonball of a man who lived like he was set on fire. He would shake your hand like a meat grinder and then slap you on the back with the force of mule kick. In my memory, he weighed 220 and ran 7 miles a day. He was an F.B.I agent. You heard that right – F-B-I. When I was 16, he told me I had what it took to be FBI too. I don’t know if he was just a dad with a slew of daughters looking for ways to escape a household of estrogen or not, but he invested in me and believed in me. Some days, I still want to be an FBI guy.

Ken Surritte
Ken was a youth pastor who showed me what it was to invest relationally as a shepherd. He loved kids. At 3 A.M in the morning, he still loved kids. He let us do stupid stuff like have Nerf gun fights in the church late at night when things tend to spontaneously break. He let students learn to lead in ministry, even though it got messy (figuratively and literally). Ken let me get my first taste of using my gifts to serve Jesus in the local church.

Kim Bearden
Kim was my youth minister and the first guy to hire me for a ministry job (which he paid for out of his own pocket). Kim made hard decisions to buck tradition in order to create the best ministry for reaching and teaching students. I learned from Kim about spending time with the Lord, telling my friends about Jesus, and listening to the preaching of the Word as though it was the key to life.

Terral Bearden (For those that were wondering…yes, they are brothers)
Terral looked like Grizzly Adams, filled his own bullets with powder, and ate things like bear and elk. He didn’t shoot deer from a stand positioned 25 yards from a corn feeder either; he trekked up snow covered mountains and picked them off at great distances. We once shot 96 prairie dogs in about 90 minutes, and I’m still proud of the fact that I got three with a single bullet. He pastored a small church that paid him very little. He often installed carpet to make ends meet. I had the honor of living in his basement and serving his church as youth minister for two summers during college. I got to see how he loved his wife and his kids. My time with him marked me so much that I asked him to be the minister at my wedding.

Louie Giglio
Louie taught me how to worship. In my college years, 1000+ sudents would gather on Monday nights to experience passionate worship and great teaching. Louie repeatedly told us that if we could only make a part of the event, we should come to the worship rather than the talk. As a pre-med student studying long hours in the library, I would run from the library for the worship time and then, often before Louie preached, return to the library. Worship was the most important part of the night because Louie was not the focus, God was.

Tommy Nelson
I first got to know Tommy via cassette tape sermons that his church mailed every other week in packets of two. I listened to more than 500 sermons on tape. After college, I invested a year in Tommy’s “Young Guns” discipleship program, which met each morning at 6 AM. We started Day 1 in Genesis 1:1 and went verse-by-verse as far as we could go each day. Tommy had memorized the entire New Testament. On drives in his car, we would play “stump the preacher”: we’d read a verse, and he’d quote the verse before and after it from memory. His teaching through the Song of Solomon changed my dating and marriage. Lessons from Tommy about life, theology and ministry continue to direct my steps.

John Hannah
Dr. Hannah helped me laugh deeply and think deeply, usually at the same time. We’d sing a hymn before each class, and he’d intro the song with “here’s a horrible little ditty with awful theology, let’s sing it with all our hearts.” He would rub his hand through his unkempt hair and offer humble wisdom like: “the best of us are only right eighty percent of the time.” His willingness to keep things real in a class of uptight seminarians was a salve for my soul. He taught me that the Reformed doctrines of depravity and grace give us the freedom to laugh and the confidence to rest in God’s sovereignty. He introduced me to John Owen, Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans.

Bob Pyne
Before I ever met Dr. Pyne, a close friend told me, “If you were ever a professor, you would be like Bob Pyne.” Bob taught me how to think. He demonstrated fairness and honesty and balance in theology. I graded for Bob at the seminary, and was given the privilege of teaching for him when he was gone. We co-taught a class on Science and Theology in Kiev, Ukraine. When we were there, we filled large jugs of water and tied them to a pole so that we could lift weights in our dorm room (and on the last day or our trip discovered that the school had a legit weight room that we could have used). Bob helped me to see God’s love for the poor, the handicapped, the suffering and the overlooked of this world.

Jeff Bingham
Dr. Bingham was a tall man with a small head that rested on broad shoulders from which protruded long arms that culminiated in skinny fingers. God created Dr. Bingham to be a professor. Even though he insisted, I struggled dropping the “Dr.” from his name. I can’t do it in writing as a type this notation. I never use the word notation either, but I feel like I must when speaking of Dr. Bingham. I purposely took more classes from him in seminary than anyone else. His “Life and Worship in the Early Church” was my favorite course. Classes in Church History, History of Doctrine, Augustine, Barth, and more were foundational for me. He was first reader on my Masters Thesis, which I turned in a day late because I wanted to get it right. His passion for the the Word of God expressed theologically still lights my path.

Mike Monroe
My father-in-law, Mike, is a master of one-liner wit delivered at unexpected moments. He is steady-as-they-come no matter what happens in the course of a day. Mike has taught me a lot about relationships lived without pressure or guilt. He’s a fair-minded man, who treats people well. He’s an open-handed man, who gives freely. I’m grateful for the ways he loves his daughter and loves his grandchildren.

Neil Tomba & David Fletcher
Neil and David offered me a job at the church I was attending while in seminary. Then, they offered me more responsibility to lead on the team just a few months later. These men invested finances, time, energy and relationship in my development. They trusted me, challenged me, and encouraged me as a young pastor and friend. Under their watch, I grew as a preacher, leader and servant during our years together.

Brian McCurry
Brian is a faithful friend and partner in the gospel. McCurry is a “get ‘er done” servant-leader who loves Jesus. He was a great teammate, whose strengths often made up for my weaknesses. Brian makes disciples of Jesus and may be the best small group leader I know. He was willing to do what was right in a tough time at great personal sacrifice. That is true character.

Yancey Arrington, Jason Ganze, Craig Hasselbach, Scott James, Andy Kerckhoff, & Mitch Kramer
Six friends that began as an accountability group meeting Wednesdays at 11pm at a dock on the Brazos River near Baylor University. These guys are my “Fandango” guys, named after the movie and the time capsule we once buried and returned to dig up up ten years later. We still get together each year to share laughs and life. I won’t take time here to tell you about them individually, but I cannot imagine a group of higher quality men with whom I could walk through life. These guys have my back, no matter what. My wife has full permission to call these men if I ever stop loving Jesus, loving her, or loving our kids. Three pastors, a social entrepreneur, a junior high school teacher, and a dentist who will be pall bearers at my funeral, unless they beat me to the finish line.  [You can read more about how to develop friendships like this here.]

What men or women have influenced you? How can you express your gratitude to them this week? Who is God calling you to pour your life and influence into this year?



November 11, 2011 — 1 Comment

If we knew up front everything Jesus meant when he said “follow me,” we probably would have run away.

Imagine, for example, if Jesus had spelled everything out to Peter when he offered the “How to Become My Disciple” sales pitch: “Peter, here’s what I have in mind for you. You can follow me, and all of this will come true: I will accuse you of being Satan; I will announce your failures in advance to all your colleagues; I will ask you to stay awake with me during sleepless nights of blood-producing work; I will have a team member confront your ineptitude and record it for all to see as a part of your permanent public record; eventually I will ask you to give up your life in excruciating death to demonstrate your loyalty to our mission. So, Peter, how about it? Are you in?” If I’m Peter, I’m politely declining and throwing my nets into the water on the other side of the boat.

But Jesus doesn’t spell it all out for us. He just says, “Follow me.” If this were a job offer, it would feel more than a little vague. But Peter, and many more, followed Jesus anyway.

In theological terms, we speak of irresistible grace as God’s call on us and His influence in our hearts to make us something new. We choose to follow Jesus, but we would not do so unless God reached into our hearts and got to work. I think we need irresistible grace because irresistible trials do not exist. I can easily resist a trial or test. These are difficult struggles, and I avoid them whenever I can. Trials are to be endured when necessary, but never sought out. People that seek out trials are usually in need of medication.

When especially tough trials come my way, it can feel like Jesus didn’t adhere to industry standards or best practices for honesty in recruitment.  In these moments, I think, “Jesus, this is not the plan that I thought we had worked out together.” But I’m growing to see it differently.

An Open-Ended Commitment

Jesus gives a simple “follow me” as both an invitation and a command. It’s a command, because he is our king who has come to lead. It’s an invitation, because he is our Rescuer who has come to save. This invitation-command is open-ended. He does not tell us where we are going. It’s not a follow me from Point A to Point B on the map. The invitation-command to “follow me” carries an implied meaning of follow me (wherever I go). When we respond positively to Jesus’ call, as Peter did, we stand ready to follow Jesus anywhere. So, our commitment to follow is also open-ended. We aren’t certain of where the path leads. We just know that we’ve committed to go.

In this sense, it’s like marriage. When people get married, they commit to be together. They stand up in front of friends and family and make vows to one another saying “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” These are open-ended commitments. We are promising to remain faithful no matter what. But let’s be honest. How many young couples have any idea what they are committing to when they make these promises? I love my wife and have a wonderful marriage. But the truth is that, when we married, Nan had no idea what the “worse” parts of my life would be. We said for richer or poorer, but we only imagined the richer. When she said “in sickness and in health,” she had no idea that one day we’d have three kids under the age of four when I had surgery and could not walk or drive for two months. We make bold statements of unconditional love on our wedding day, but the fullest understanding and deepest joy of those commitments comes only through many years of experiencing life together.

In the same way, we come to understand more deeply what following Jesus means through the experiences of life. Wisely, Jesus doesn’t detail every hardship up front. He simply bids us come, and then he gives us grace that carries us day-by-day. Our job is to follow him in what is right in front of us.

Open-ended commitments can be scary. Would you sign a contract to buy a house with an open blank on the line for sales price? Of course not. We have been taught to negotiate contracts to make sure there are no surprises. This is what makes open-ended commitments so frightening: you can’t negotiate the unknown.

A Relational Commitment

This is also what makes all open-ended commitments relational at their core. You can’t be sure of what lies ahead, but you can make sure you know who you are with. This is why the one who says, “Follow me,” also says, “I am with you always.” We have confidence for the road ahead because we know Jesus goes with us. When we begin to see this, our journey becomes less about the road ahead more about the companion at our side.

Growing up, we used to sing: “Wherever he leads, I’ll go.” Ultimately, that’s the commitment we make when we decide to follow Jesus. I copied below the page out of my grandmother’s old hymnal. The song still works.

Can you honestly sing (or say) the words to “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go”? Is there anything that causes you to hesitate or doubt?