So how did I become a Christian, anyway?

“And if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was crazy, too,” said Adam. It was the Spring of 2008, and a colleague was visiting us from the Netherlands. He, Adam, John and I decided to hang out one night. Over sodas1 he asked how we came to faith. John and Adam told their stories, then it was my turn. By the time I was done, I’m pretty sure he thought I was insane.

To be fair, I’ve had that happen a lot. The way I came to faith—the way both Emily and I did, in fact—is pretty intense, to say the least.

For a long time, Emily and I both hesitated on sharing it too much, mostly because of events like the one I describe above. We’ve had people try to tell us that what happened didn’t, and others essentially say, “But you seem so normal…” We’ve even had some friends who drifted away from our relationship after hearing about it.

But a while back, something interesting happened: Emily was asked to share her story with Christianity Today. And that led to more opportunities to tell it. And then in 2016, 100 Huntley Street2 decided to do something a little different: they wanted to do a documentary-style feature on us for their “Life Stories” segment, which they released in two parts (because there’s a lot to say).

So, if you’ve ever wondered how I came to faith, here’s the story in a way I honestly never expected to be sharing it:

Part one:

Part two:

The events of Emily’s and my conversion are not what most people expect. They’re certainly not common. But it’s what happened. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

  1. I’m not using this as a code word. Folks were drinking Diet Pepsis and whatnot.[]
  2. A Canadian Christian talk show.[]

From Bahá’í to Jesus

emily-perfection (2)

Sharing how God saved you is a rewarding exercise, but it can also be challenging. Some people love to tell the story—but some of us find it difficult. This isn’t because we are ashamed of Christ, though. It’s because how it happened was kind of… weird.

Recently, Emily (my lovely wife) felt compelled to start writing down her story. She had planned on asking our church if she could share it there. Instead, Christianity Today got in touch and asked if she’d be interested in sharing it in the testimonies segment of the magazine.

Her story appears in the October 2015 issue, and is now available for you to read online:

Heading to college in London, Ontario, I was eager to be a grown-up. And the ultimate marker of my new independence, I thought, would be joining the Bahá’í faith. A local assembly met in Caledonia, and some of my closest friends were raised in Bahá’í homes, so I was already familiar with the faith. I remember leaving Bahá’í events buoyed by the leaders’ optimism about the future: no more war, poverty, or racism. One language, one currency, and equality of the sexes. It sounded perfect.…

According to the tenets of the Bahá’í faith, all major religions before 1863 were founded by “Manifestations of God.” So Adam, Noah, Krishna, Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and the Báb are all manifestations, with Bahá’u’lláh being the final and complete manifestation. The most appealing belief to me: a new order led by Bahá’í leaders that would usher in world peace.

Since I had managed to be so good at everything else, belonging to the religion that ensured perfect order seemed the right step. But I quickly found myself falling short of its requirements. I struggled to pray the long, obligatory morning prayer. I skipped ceremonial washings because I didn’t understand how to perform them.

It didn’t help that I had started dating a non-Bahá’í a few months after joining.

Sharing a personal story like this is not easy, but I am very proud of Emily for following the prompting she felt to do it. Please read her story and if you believe it will be a blessing to someone you know, I hope you’ll share it with them.

Tell the story that’s *yours* (For the Church)


My series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back to look at getting grounded in the Bible. The third, is my encouragement to tell the story that’s yours:

We tend to follow a pretty standard three-point summary:

  • what your life was like before becoming a Christian
  • what happened to draw you to Christ
  • what your life is like now.

I’m pretty sure that there’s no Christian who couldn’t divide up their story in this fashion.

But that doesn’t mean our stories are meant to fit neatly into a template.

The first time I realized this was when I tried to share my testimony in Honduras. It was 2006, I’d been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn’t right.

Remember the standard three-point summary? Well, usually when you hear it, it goes something like this:

“Before I was a Christian, my life was a mess. I was living for myself, joyful on the outside but empty on the inside, numbing my insecurities with drugs, alcohol and/or sex with random strangers. One night, things reached a breaking point—I hit rock bottom—and I gave my life to Jesus. After that, I realized I’d found what I’d been looking for and now I’m living my life for him, serving in my church and found an extra five dollars in my coat this morning.”

Okay, that probably came across a little cheeky, but I don’t mean it to be glib. When I hear how God has brought someone to this obvious breaking point, and taken them through the proverbial fire, and when I see how their lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus Christ, I am so thankful. But not everyone has an obvious rock bottom moment. And for some of us, the story doesn’t get better at the end.

Keep reading at For the Church.

They will argue your experience, but share it anyway


A few years ago, a couple friends and I were hanging out with colleagues of ours from the Netherlands. As we enjoyed some chicken wings and soda, one of them asked me, “So how did you get saved?”

I hesitated for a moment, and then told him the short(ish) version: that both my wife and I were attacked by demons, I asked Jesus to save me (which he did), and it all stopped. After what seemed like several minutes of stunned silence, one of my friends said, “And if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was crazy, too.”

This wasn’t the first time that’d happened, either. A couple of years prior to that, back when I used to frequent the message boards of a couple of big name comic book writers, an artist named Alex wanted to hear from people who’d had a conversion experience (he was and is not a believer, to the best of my knowledge). I offered to share what happened, which he was glad to hear about… but then suggested it probably wasn’t actually something supernatural that happened, but sleep paralysis. And then there was the time when… You get the idea, right?

As you can imagine, I have a hard time telling people about how I came to faith. Now, it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because there’s some freaky deaky stuff in there, I’ve come to expect people to back away slowly. And to be honest, it gets a little disheartening when people look at me as though I’ve got two heads and one has spinach in its teeth. And it frustrates me to no end when I see the cavalier attitude with which some charismaniac nitwits brag about such thing because I’ve had experiences that would make them tremble in their biker boots.

Some well-meaning people will tell you that the best tool in your evangelistic arsenal is your testimony—no one can argue it. They can’t tell you that isn’t really what happened… y’know, except for when they do. And make no mistake: they will. But you know what? I still try to tell it, awkwardness and all. Why? Because it’s how God saved me.

The same is true for you. Whether it was a seemingly mundane experience or a terrifying one, how God saved you is how he saved you. You might feel awkward, but you know what? Share it anyway.

Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson

Title: Permission to Speak Freely
Author: Anne Jackson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“What is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?”

When Anne Jackson published that question on her blog in May, 2008, she wasn’t prepared for the response. 497 comments (and counting) later, she knew she’d hit on something significant: A large number of people feel like they can’t be open and honest about their struggles with their church.

Jackson knows something about this. As the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, Jackson struggled with pornography addiction, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, sexual abuse at the hands of a youth pastor and depression. For years, she never felt the freedom to share these things with anyone but those closest to her (including her husband). In Permission to Speak Freely, Jackson shares her struggles and what she’s learned about the healing & freedom that comes from opening up about our sins, temptations and abuses we may have faced.

This book is messy. Jackson’s writing is alternatingly funny, raw, and at times all-together heartbreaking. Reading her struggles with depression and attempts to push away her husband… this really hit me hard as a man whose wife struggles with depression.

In all honesty, the fact that she could even gather up the courage to share her struggles the way she has in Permission to Speak Freely is to be applauded. It’s extremely helpful for others to know they’re not alone in facing depression, sexual temptation, pornography addictions… The worst thing we can do to ourselves in our sin is to convince ourselves that we’re the only ones who face whatever it is that tempts or has power over us. Sharing her experiences with pornography, drugs and depression shows others that they too can overcome. They can speak up. They can be healed. They can have hope.

This—what she refers to in the book as “the gift of going second”—is a great gift indeed.

There were, however, a some things in the pages of Permission to Speak Freely that didn’t sit quite right. Read More about Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson