Tag: Austin City Life

Personal Faith in a Public Baptism (a baptism homily)

We made our way down the well-worn path, the one that leads right to the (free) side of Barton Springs, the place where all kinds of Austinites gather throughout the year. We were gathered, not around the Springs, but around Jesus. With the nudists thirty yards down, pot-smoking hippies a little further up, tattooed hipsters waist deep in the Springs, and dogs and their beloved owners all around, the weird Christians descended upon one of Austin’s most public and loved spots. About a hundred of us lined the bank. I waded out into the clear, to-be baptismal waters. And there, in the midst of the diversity of Austin and its weirdness, adult after adult proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord as they identified with him in the watery grave, and emerged taking their breath of resurrected life.

We also sang songs of worship, hear stories of grace, ate a lot of food, and heard the gospel preached. We plan on publishing some of the stories, but for now, here is the brief baptismal homily I gave before we descended upon the waters.


This is one of my favorite things we do. Baptism at Barton Springs. In the midst of swirling currents of spirituality and the diverse cultures of Austin, we get to wade down into the waters and join God’s new disciples in professing that Jesus Christ as Lord of All.

So welcome: church, family, and friends as we celebrate God’s grace through Baptism today. We are gathered to celebrate God. In particular, his liberating, forgiving, and renewing grace in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin and forever union with Christ. Following Scripture, we commemorate this work of grace in a person’s life through the practice of baptism. Today Stephanie, Grant, Pete, Mackenzie, and Sarah are going to be baptized because of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. So here’s the plan—we’re going to sing a couple of songs (like we mean it), then ill briefly explain the meaning of Baptism, then we’ll get to hear a couple of stories from Grant & Mackenzie. Afterwards, we’ll all go down to the Springs and each person will come out to the water one at a time, with whomever they have invited to join them. Then we will all come back up to the shelter and sing one more song, and then feast!

What is Baptism?
What is baptism? Baptism is a wonderful picture of what God has accomplished through Christ in someone’s life. This picture symbolizes repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. What is repentance? Repentance is giving up on faith in anything other than Jesus. We all have faith. We all trust in something or someone, even if it’s ourselves. Even the atheist has faith that there is no God. The question is where are you going to put your faith? Repentance is a decisive turn away from faith in yourself, your good deeds, your spirituality, your career, faith in your spouse, faith or worship of other lords AND a decisive turning to faith in Jesus, faith in his goodness, his spirituality, his intimacy, his supremacy.

Why is Faith in Jesus Better?
Clearly I believe that Jesus is the better place to put your faith, but why? Why is Jesus a better place for faith? Three reasons: he’s true, forgiving, and renewing. First, Jesus is the better place to put your faith because he is true. He is the true Lord and God (the Spirit & Word of God convince us of that). God appeals to our reason throug the Scriptures and our longings through his Spirit. Jesus is the one, true God. Second, Jesus is the better place to put your faith because he is a forgiving God. He is more forgiving than your friend, even your best friend, than your spouse, even they fail to forgive at times, certainly more forgiving than the career ladder, where the weak are crushed, more forgiving than your parents, more forgiving than any other God because he pays for our forgiveness at his expense. Forgiveness isn’t wishful thinking for our God; its not a cosmic sweep of sins under the rug. No, he deals with the sins that need forgiving. He forgives us at his expense. We sold him out; we put our faith in other things; we refused to worship him but insisted on worshipping other things. We should pay for betraying him, but instead, Jesus is betrayed and pays for us. He dies the death we deserve. Why should we trust him? He’s the true God…and he’s the forgiving God, more than any other person or thing, God forgives us in Jesus, at his expense, the death of his very own Son. Finally, it’s better to put faith in Jesus not only because he’s true and he’s forgiving, but also because he’s renewing. God doesn’t leave Jesus in the grave. He doesn’t leave us there, forgiven but dead set on sinning. No, he renews us; he’s a renewing God. God raises Jesus from the dead to new life. He receives a new body of new quality, the body we are promised, but he gives us new life right away.The old life is continually renewed by the power of Jesus new life. He transfers his new life to us right away, which we work out over a lifetime. His death and resurrection become our death and resurrection. He’s a renewing God. So, it really is better to put your faith in Jesus than in all those other things because Jesus is true, forgiving, and renewing–more than anyone or anything else!

Now, what does all this—he’s true, forgiving, and renewing—have to do with baptism? Faith in Jesus? Well, baptism compresses all of this—the gospel—into a picture. It signifies our death with Christ, as we are lowered into his “watery grave,” and life with Christ, as we are raised to take our first breath in his new life (Rom. 6:4). In baptism, we are meant to see that Jesus death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection. The life that emerges from the “baptismal waters” is a life forgiven of all sin and alive to the Savior! We don’t have to live by faith in lesser gods anymore. We can enjoy freedom and life in Christ. So you see, Jesus is worth trusting because he’s true, forgiving, and renewing. He doesn’t just forgive us; he renews us. He gives us a new life in where we can enjoy his love, grace, and a thousand other benefits. He gives us himself. Death to the old gods and life in the one, true God. That’s what we are all celebrating today, people in our church who have given up on themselves and given into the wonderful love of Christ by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Baptism is a public picture and declaration that Jesus is true, forgiving, and renewing.

New Advent Song: “We Are Waiting” & Interview

I’m excited to announce and share the release of Austin City Life’s new Advent song “We Are Waiting.” This song was written, recorded, and produced by our musicians out of a love for Jesus and a desire to quicken worship in his people during the Advent season. It’s fresh, profoundly Christological, creative, and has a great chorus:

King of Kings, come again
Renew all things, come again

As the Prince of Peace, come again
We are waiting

We encourage you to download the song at whatever cost you want to pay, yes, even for free. It is our hope and prayer that you are quickened to worship our messiah with deep, sustained affection and obedience during this Christmas season.


Interview on the Writing “We Are Waiting”

I asked our song-writer, Miranda, to answer a few questions about the writing of this song:

Why did you choose to write a new Christmas song when so many already exist?

“Sing a new song to the Lord” I really believe that God gave us the unique ability to be creative and we are blessed immensely when we worship through the gift of creativity. Writing a song for the church for Christmas is intimidating to say the least… there are some pretty epic advent songs that will stand the test of time. As I read and re-read the Story of Christ’s birth, I was struck by this parallel between the Israelites waiting for their messiah and our waiting for his coming again to renew all things. This was a perspective that I had never sung in an advent song before and thought that it might be encouraging to explore.

Is there anything we should know about your choice of lyrics?

If you notice the first verse is written from the perspective of the Angels and the second verse is narrative. I normally do not change perspectives in the middle of the song… but I couldn’t get over how important of a role angels played in the the story of Christ’s birth. I wanted to include them without saying…. “then the angel appeared to Joseph” — by using the perspective shift we know it without having to say it, which, for me are the kinds of things that make songwriting powerful.

My favorite part of the song is the bridge. I can’t think of an advent song that I have ever sung that connects these theological dots. God of the universe coming in such an unexpected way, to turn everything on its head. It is such a beautiful & meaningful part of the birth of Christ that I have never sung. Corporate worship can be a powerful teaching tool — my prayer is that this truth will get caught in our heads and hearts in a new way and produce worship in our lives.

Can you explain what led you to make some of your musical decisions in this song?

The main musical decisions that we made was to record it for free and subsequently be able to give it away for free 🙂
That is a scary thing to do… you know that the quality of the recording cannot possibly be as excellent as it would be if you went to a professional studio. That being said, I am very pleased with the level of excellence we were able to achieve with very limited gear, time and experience. Matt Oakes & the band worked very hard with joyful hearts to serve the Church, we are so grateful to God for them.

The bridge of this song is crucial to the musical movement. It is a mood shift, you know that it is important by the change of the chords & the building of the tension in the drums. The second half of the bridge the electric guitar comes in to heighten the anticipation of the climax of the chorus. This was a very important part of the Chorus paying off and eliciting a release… which mimics the Advent season… anticipation & joyful worship!

What was it like to collaborate on a new song in such a short time?

This is the first time we have ever attempted to record and release “in-house” so it was more like an experiment. I normally like to play the song live with the whole band to work out some of the kinks in the arrangement, but because of the time frame, we didn’t have that luxary… we just had to go for it. Which definitely changes the game plan, you have to be more flexible, listen to the players & try to communicate with the other musicians on what you are envisioning…. everyone has to die to themselves a little more in order to love one another and maintain perspective. We think that it went really well and are looking forward to doing more recordings to release for free 🙂

Does writing a “worship” song differ from writing as a singer-songwriter?

For me, the process looks very different. Generally when I write for the church, it comes out of a prompt… whether that be “Advent” or a scripture or truth that has peaked my interest. I tend to write more with my mind, thinking & writing more theologically because I know that when the church sings this song… it will teach them something, and I want to make sure that the truths of scripture are carefully expressed. Writing for the church is always more difficult for me. When I write songs that are not intended for the church it is much more fluid — stream of conscious. I write more out of feeling & take more artistic license. I don’t have to complete the story or explain every detail, I get to allow the listener to insert their own details a bit…. which is part of why I love songwriting so much, it is an interaction — emotional, cerebral, fanciful, spiritual.

I Love this Video – Gospel Community!

A City Group leader and all-round enjoyable guy, Dave Hampton, produced this video for our Renew the City with 11 City Groups in 2011 Vision. It’s raw, real, substantive, fruit of the gospel in the lives of Ginger, Rita, Nate, & Wheels.

I love this quote: “The Gospel is when Jesus pursues me even when I don’t feel like I deserve to be pursued.” – Rita