Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Something Better, Something Greater

My sending church, the Summit, has been going through their summer series titled "Something Better, Something Greater." Most weeks I download the sermon and listen to it when I am traveling or doing things in my office. Although I have enjoyed every week of this sermon series this past week on the call of Elisha is worth sharing. Yes, I know it is a 51 minute sermon, but it is worth every minute of it. If you do not have the time to watch the entire sermon than I encourage you to go to the website and download it to listen on the go.

Burn the Plow: The Call of Elisha: 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14


From the sermon:

Three things characterize his (Elisha's) response, which is where the invitation of something greater begins.

1. The path to "something greater" goes through the valley of surrender, sacrifice and service.

2. The possibilities of "something greater" are realized only through bold acts of faith.

3. The power to pursue "something greater" is found in the heavenly vision.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Glorifying God in Everything

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

This passage in 1 Corinthians tells us that whatever we do we are to do it to the glory of God. It specifically lists eating and drinking as those are two things that we all do daily. The point is that in all things and all places we are to glorify God and if we cannot then it is probably pointing to something you should not be doing or a place that you should not be.

Does this passage include all of the daily mundane task of life? Yes. Does this passage include my mindless forms of entertainment? Yes. Then, how does one know how or what will glorify God? Simply, look to Jesus as your example. 

Over the weekend I had a brief exchange with a couple of guys via FaceBook mainly because one guy directly implied that Jesus would not be found in movie theaters or concert venues so that neither should his true followers. I do not know this guy personally and can agree that there are certain movies and concerts that followers of Jesus should not attend, but he wrote it as a blanket statement for all moves and all concerts. In a sense, that the actual place is evil, regardless what movie or what concert one is partaking.

This guy is obviously not looking to Jesus because he wrote things into the life of Jesus that are not there are do not characterize Jesus. Would Jesus have gone to the movies? I cannot say for sure, but likely yes, especially if sinners were to be found there because we often see Jesus hanging around sinners. Would Jesus have attended concerts? Maybe he did, I don't know if they had concerts as we think of them today but I am sure Jesus was part of the cultural appropriate forms of entertainment and took part in a way that he never once sinned. 

Does this mean as Christians we all have a license to go everywhere? No, as this also would not be wise and some Christians are weaker than others. Some followers of Christ maybe shouldn't go to the movies as it can be a stumbling block and struggle for them. Some maybe shouldn't go to certain types of concerts as it may remind them of their former life and tempt them to sin. But we cannot make a blanket statement like this man. 

John Piper points out two helpful points here:

1. You and I were made for the express purpose of glorifying God in all times, and places, and circumstances. 

2. Everything in life is an opportunity to glorify God or not to glorify God

So, whether we go to movies or attend concerts, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God!

Friday, July 26, 2013

ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

The ESV Bible has long been my preferred version for study and teaching, although I also use other translations. In recent years the ESV has come out with many study Bibles such as the ESV Global Study Bible. Now they are releasing the Gospel Transformation Bible, which has been produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God's grace culminating in Jesus. The Gospel Transformation Bible is a new tool to help readers see Christ in all the Bible, and grace for all of life. 


ESV Gospel Transformation Bible from Crossway on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Strategies For Raising Healthy Kids That Most Of Us Ignore

I am in the midst of going through the transition from one child to two and as all of you that have had that this pleasant experience know, it can be hard! To be transparent, I think I was more scared of going from 1 to 2 then I was 0 to 1, mainly because of stories that I heard from others. As parents we all deal with the transitions differently and hopefully try our best. Tony Morgan recently shared some tips on his blog that he had gained from reading a book on parenting that are well worth sharing for all of us parents or to be parents.


10 STRATEGIES FOR RAISING HEALTHY KIDS THAT MOST PARENTS IGNORE


  1. Prioritize family responsibilities over extracurricular activities. ”While demands for outstanding academic or extracurricular performance are very high, expectations about family responsibilities are amazingly low. This kind of imbalance in expectations results in kids who regularly expect others to ‘take up the slack,’ rather than learning themselves how to prioritize tasks or how to manage time.”
  2. Eat together as a family. “Families who eat together five or more times a week have kids who are significantly less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, have higher grade-point averages, less depressive symptoms, and fewer suicide attempts than families who eat together two or fewer times a week.”
  3. Let kids begin to solve their own problems. “Certainly there are times when children, particularly young children, need parental intervention. But these times are fewer than we think, and the goal should always be to help the child learn about how to act on his own behalf.”
  4. Let kids fail when the consequences are small. “By allowing them to get occasionally bruised in childhood we are helping to make certain that they don’t get broken in adolescence. And by allowing them their failures in adolescence, we are helping to lay the groundwork for success in adulthood.”
  5. Don’t reward kids for their performance. “Never bribe children to learn; it sets the stage for them to depend on rewards of one kind or another to learn. This sets them up to be good performers and poor learners.”
  6. Allow kids to experience consequences to their actions. “When we mitigate natural consequences for our kids we deprive them of one of life’s most important lessons: that we are held accountable for our actions.”
  7. Don’t become a kid-centric family. “Mothers and fathers spend whole weekends for months on end shuttling their children to athletic events, ignoring the fact that friendships and marriage suffer under the barrage of child-centered activities.”
  8. Set boundaries and use appropriate discipline. “Various studies have found that firm parental control is associated with children who can take care of themselves, who are academically successful, who are emotionally well developed, and who are happier.”
  9. Be real and be vulnerable. “One of the reasons that life in an affluent community can feel so lonely is because affluent people have the resources to buy their way out of many types of trouble and are reluctant to turn to neighbors for fear of being rejected or humiliated.”
  10. Make healthy marriage a priority. “The best gift you can give your children is a good marriage.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Do We Call It A "Worship Service?"

True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
John 4:23

Sunday ≠ Worship Service

This week I got into a conversation with a friend on why many churches call their Sunday gatherings "worship services," when in fact the New Testament never refers to a gathering of believers as such. Let me say that again for those of you who did not catch it: The New Testament NEVER refers to a gathering of believers as a "worship service." But the chances are that your church does call your Sunday gatherings a worship service.

One might wonder why the New Testament never calls it this. Simply put, because worship was a way of living for the New Testament believer. Worship was not something that they came to do on Sunday, but it was who they were, worshippers, seven days a week twenty-four hours a day. In other words worship cannot be confined to a particular time or place such as a Sunday gathering (John 4:23-24).

Sunday = Spurring Service

If we are not going to call our Sunday gatherings a worship service then what should we appropriately call them? More biblically appropriate names would be a "spurring service," "serving service," or an "equipping service." The church in the New Testament focused much more on being participatory than most of our churches today. This is one key aspect of church planting that we focus on in S. Asia. We start out new churches with the new leader doing participatory Bible studies as a way to spur one another on as we see in Hebrews 10:24-25.

This does not mean that they will never preach sermons because we do develop new leaders to become self-feeders and prepare their own lessons, but we try to keep it as New Testament as possible, which means keeping the participatory aspect in the new churches. This is one reason I am not a fan of a church that does two to three separate teaching (i.e. Sunday school, morning sermon, night sermon) on a Sunday that allows for very little obedience, but only produces spectators.

Returning to The New Testament

So, what does your church call its Sunday gatherings? And, why? Should we not return to the New Testament idea of spurring one another on through participation with one another? This week instead of attending the Sunday gathering as a mere worship spectator, participate in some way and encourage your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to depart from the gathering for worship.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Top Blog Posts of 2013 Half-Way In

It's hard to believe that we are already half-way through July, which means we are passed the half-way point for the year 2013. Many things have happened on a global scale thus far in 2013 and one thing I am continuously hearing about the US is that America has changed a lot in the time that I have been gone. Most of the change people tell me about is more negative, but I also believe it is forcing true disciples of Christ to come out and the "nominal" Christians to finally back away. On one end I am saddened at the state of the US and how I have viewed things from afar, but on the other end I am excited to see those in Christ rise up and continue to carry the mission we were given forward.

One of the best ways for me to reflect over the course of 2013 so far is to take a look back at my blog. By taking a brief look at my posts, I can tell which topics generate the most views from you. The topics I enjoy writing on the most usually generate the least interest and that is okay. There are many other blogs out there on topics of theology, church, culture and life that are much better than mine and I would read most of them over my own stuff too. Although not all of my top five posts of 2013 half-way in are personal ones, I still want to re-share the top five posts with you.

The first post was Dr. Benjamin Carson's Speech at the National Prayer breakfast in which he was spot on in what he says. It is a twenty-seven minute video, but it is well worth the watch. 

The second post was Quotes from J.D. Greear's Book "Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved," in which Greear addresses the issue of assurance of salvation. 

The third post was 3801 Lancaster, which was a documentary revealing the Kermit Gosnell story. This was a documentary that was difficult to watch, but one that needed to be shared as the media was ignoring the story at the time. 

The fourth post was Introducing the birth of my second son, Liam Gideon in which I revealed his name and gave the reason and meaning behind them. 

The fifth post was on Making Disciples That Makes Other Disciples and how that in a very short amount of time the world could be reached if we all did that. It has actually been that way for years, but it takes all Christians everywhere in order to work. Sadly most of us have outsourced ministry, including disciple making, to the paid professionals instead of us all making disciples as we have been commanded to do by Jesus. 

Thank you for your continued readership of this blog. This year it has not been easy to keep up or always have the proper time to write, but it continues to be a work in progress that is hopefully getting better overtime. I hope you enjoy the posts above and be on the lookout for some good material the second half of 2013.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

4 Practical Ways To Multiply Disciples

For those of us in Christ we have all been commanded to make disciples. Many of us ignore this command and replace it with something else, often programs, and for others of us we may be obeying the command to make disciples, but we are unsure of how to multiply disciples. 

George Patterson has given us four practical ways to multiply disciples:

  • Know and love the people you disciple.
  • Mobilize your disciples to edify immediately those they are discipling.
  • Teach and practice obedience to Jesus’ basic commands, in love, before and above all else.
  • Build loving, edifying accountability relationships between disciples and churches in order to reproduce churches.
  • For a more in depth look at each of these four check out the Verge Network series.

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    Journaling as A Discipline

    "The journal can be a mirror in the hands of the Holy Spirit in which He reveals His perspective on our attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions." -Don Whitney

    Recently I did a self-evaluation on disciplines in my life that I either needed to work on or start doing. Of this list three stuck out to me, one of those being journaling. Journaling is not strictly a biblical discipline but it does help in prayer, Bible study, and reflection as a journal can encompass all three.

    Journaling is something that I started doing years ago when I first started travelling internationally, but eventually stopped. A journal is the place where you can write anything really but especially how God is working in your life, what He is teaching you, where He is taking you, etc.

    A large part for the renewed interest in journaling for me is because of where I am at in life. For over eighteen months now I have been living in S. Asia and I have gone through things in my life spiritually that I have never experienced. Many of these things I am sure I will remember, but overtime they all become forgetful. I want to remember these whether my worst days or my best days and I want to show  how God has been faithful through all that I have experienced in a distant land.

    Do you journal? If so, what is your preference digital or analog? I am currently leaning towards a simple moleskin type of journal to restart my journaling process although smartphone apps like Evernote are appealing too. Please share in the comment section below.

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    The Grass Is Always Greener Syndrome

    Last week I sat in a meeting with other cross-cultural workers and we discussed the many things that we deal with overseas that we may not have experienced otherwise. Most of these things are completely normal when one considers that we basically entered into an entirely different world. Just yesterday as I was driving in S. Asia I thought to myself that in many ways I went back in time to things that I only read about in history books but now I also get to experience. Sometimes I enjoy getting to experiencing them, other times I want to get on the first flight back to North Carolina.

    A common experience that we all go through, not just cross-cultural workers, is the "grass is always greener syndrome." We are all familiar with the phrase, "the grass is always greener on the other side." Growing up in a small rural area we were usually referring to our cows that had escaped the enclosed pasture and were now eating grass in our front yard. Growing up that was a situation that we had to deal with, where I live in S. Asia that is everyday life, only the cows generally have no barriers and can be found anywhere.

    Back to the point, it is human tendency to look to others and think that they have it better than we do. The truth is that many of them do. This does not mean that they don't deal with spiritual warfare and struggles of the culture, but some people in God's sovereignty are placed in a more comfortable setting. If you live in the US and are reading this then you are one of those people. On a bad day the grass is greener in most places around the world for me, but we all deal with this to some extent.

    If I can be transparent with you, I dealt with this when living in the US. I had a clear call to vocational ministry over fifteen years ago and I've only had a paid position in ministry for the past two years. This was a big struggle for me as I watched other guys my age get paid ministry positions while I was stuck working in the food service industry. In my mind the grass was definitely greener on the other side, but then in conversation with many peers I realized that in a sense I was in ministry more than they were because I spent all my time with those outside of Christ. 

    In truth the grass is always greener somewhere else for all of us, but in God's sovereignty he placed you where you are at for a reason. For some of us this may be a season, for others of us this may be a lifetime. If you are struggling with us I encourage you to embrace where God has placed you and give it your all in that place until He moves you elsewhere.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    Going to People Like Jesus Did

    Since moving into our apartment building six months ago my family has tried many times to connect with our neighbors, specifically the ones in our building. We live on the eighth floor of a ten floor building that has four apartments per floor so you do the math. Initially we hosted a Christmas party inviting everyone. We had an okay turn out, but it wasn't the big hit that we were expecting. Numerous other times we have invited people over, only to receive little response. This was discouraging for my family as we desperately desire to connect with our neighbors and see them reached with the gospel.

    Then it hit me, yes six months later, that we have been going about it in the wrong way. In the words of Steve Addison, "Jesus didn't wait for the people to come to him. He walked from village to village looking for people..." 

    Although our parties and dinners were well intentioned, we had been expecting the people to come to us based on the invitation alone. And looking back on the six months we have been in this location I remember the best conversations have taken place when I went to the house of one of my neighbors uninvited. 

    Sadly most of our churches make the same mistake that my family made. We throw these huge events or invite someone to attend our Sunday service, but rarely go to them. Yes, people will come to those huge events and some may even visit on a Sunday, but it is time to get outside of those four walls and go to the people like Jesus did. Jesus did not wait for the people, but went looking for them, which led him to many types of places to have interactions with many types of sinners. The sinners that most of you probably don't want sitting in the chairs of your church on Sunday if you are honest. 

    But what if we started taking the posture of Jesus and truly left our comfort zone and went to the people? Imagine with me for a minute the impact that would have on a community of people both in the church and outside the church. This week go to the people like Jesus did and stop waiting on them to come to you because many of them will never show.

    Monday, July 8, 2013

    An Interesting Read On Youth Who Don't Leave the Church

    This weekend I read an interesting article on 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church by Jon Nielson. Perhaps interesting to me because I consider myself one of those described in the article. Though, no longer a youth, I am still a twenty-something, at least for a couple more years anyway, that stayed in the church as I watched many peers walk away.

    Through the years I often struggled as I watched friend after friend walk away from the church in much confusion. I kept thinking, "What happened...am I next to walk away?" So, what was different for me and for those that stayed in the church? I want to share the three key points that Nielson points out in his article along with a brief commentary as I think he is on to something.

    3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church

    1. They Are Converted.

    This seems like an obvious point, but it is often overlooked for church kids. It is wrong to assume that because a child has always been in church and that they made some commitment at four years of age along with every other four year old that they are truly converted. And if they are converted were they made a disciple? As a church we are called to make disciples not converts. Too many churches are more concerned with a name on a card and their own numbers than to see if a true disciple is being made.

    2. They have been equipped, not entertained. 

    This can not be overstated as many youth ministries are program driven and never equip anyone. Yes, youth love to be entertained and the programs draw them in, but we need to get back to making disciples and equipping the youth to also make disciples. Do not wait until they get into college for them to get serious, by then it is often too late. Take them serious now, equip them to see a church planting movement as a youth on their campus. Nielson says it this way, "If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a young believer and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been."

    3. Their parents preach the gospel to them.

    This point assumes that the parents of the youth are themselves disciples, which may not be so, but in general if they are a "church-kid" then this can be assumed to some degree. But I do remember growing up the kids that would get dropped off for church activities as their parents would go do something else. For those that are in Christ often become too dependent on the church and the youth ministry to do everything for their child and then blame them later for leaving the church. Yes, the church does play a vital role, but it is your job to daily preach the gospel to them and raise them in a godly way. Your children are your unreached people group while living at home until they too become disciples of Christ.

    Friday, July 5, 2013

    Rearranging Our Priorities To Get The Gospel To All People

    The below video is sermon excerpts from the lead teaching pastor at our sending church J.D. Greear. It is a short but powerful video that will hopefully make you think. At the end of the video there is a wed address on how to get involved with international missions, but I am going to open myself up for any of you that would want to email me directly to start that conversation or get plugged in where I serve.

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    Interview with Luke Wilson from Deep Roots Library

    Yesterday, I introduced you briefly to Deep Roots Library and told you a little bit about their ongoing kickstarter project. Today Luke has graciously agreed to do an interview in order to learn more about the man behind Deep Roots and what they are all about.


    Luke will be hanging around the blog some today so if you have any questions for him leave them in the comments section below.


    Luke, to start out, go ahead and tell us a little more about yourself and Deep Roots Library.


    Well, I grew up in a pastor/missionary home. I was homeschooled as well, so early on I was reading books about various heroes of the faith. I remember in my early teens being at the Southern Baptist Convention, with probably $20 or so in hand, and looking at the bookstore with wide-eyed wonder at all the possibilities... But I ended up coming home with a compilation of Spurgeon's sermons on spiritual warfare.

    The idea of Deep Roots Library came about soon after I bought my first iPad. I went to the iBookstore looking for my typical old dead guys like Spurgeon, Luther, Andrew Murray, etc. What I found was that there were either just a few books, or there were tons of copies of... a few books. And sometimes you would get a book, and there would be all sorts of typographical errors, etc.

    This was frustrating, so at first I planned to publish books on the iBook & Kindle stores alone. But I gradually realized that there was no place online that I really enjoyed reading old authors, either. There were places I would go to read, but no place that I enjoyed reading, mostly because of outdated web design, slow speed, and a generally bad user experience.

    So that's the story of how it all started... We publish high quality copies of old books with the latest standards of web design, so it's really fast and easy to find what you want, and read it wherever your at, on whatever device you're using. That's why I tell people that with Deep Roots Library, I'm very much scratching my own itch!


    So, you would rather read dead guys then say Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, or even John Piper?


    On most things, yes. I do read modern books as well, so I've read books by all of those guys. But, I'm trying to follow the advice of C.S. Lewis, who encouraged people to read 2 old books for every new book they read.


    What is it you enjoy about old books?


    When I read an older author, it's a connection that wouldn't be possible this side of heaven. It's a reminder that Ecclesiastes is true, that there really isn't anything new under the sun. That the struggles that Christians experience today are the same ones experienced by Christians 200, 500, or 1500 years ago. They struggled with prayer, with trusting, with those in the church who weren't committed, with a world that was hostile to the truth, with the fear of man in sharing the Good News.

    Something about that that is incredibly comforting to me, and reminds me that I'm part of something bigger, older, and more important than me.


    What are you currently reading and what are your top five recommended books of all time?


    The amount of reading I do has taken a drastic downturn during this Kickstarter project! That being said, here's a few things I am reading right now:
    • The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (family devotions)
    • The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church by Roland Allen
    • Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
    It's so hard to answer this question, because I feel like it changes as you go through life, depending on what you need at the time. Also, these are only books that I have read. There are books that should be on the list, but that I haven't read yet, so, with those caveats in mind, and in no particular order:
    • The Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster
    • Sermons on the Gospel by Martin Luther
    • When I Don't Desire God by John Piper
    • Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray
    • Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study by D.L. Moody


    What would you say to the seminary guy out there who only has the newest books out there on his shelf?


    You're view of Christianity is narrow, incomplete, and potentially dangerous, both to you and to your future congregations. Every challenge and heresy you might face, in your life and in the church, has been dealt with some time in the past. Many godly, wiser, older men have spent years dealing with it, whatever "it" is. You need their wisdom. To think you don't is the epitome of arrogance.

    This is another thing I picked up from C.S. Lewis: that every generation has blind spots, particular sins that so easily ensnare us. We're so steeped in our culture that we don't see them, their severity and their sinfulness. But by exposing ourselves to previous generations, it gives us a clearer picture of where we may be missing it.


    If you could go back and meet one of the authors that you enjoy reading, who would it be and why?


    It may be cliche, but the more I think about it, the more I'd have to say Charles Spurgeon. He seemed to have such a grasp on the Good News, I would love to just talk with him about how to best make disciples. Plus he is one of the wittiest men ever, and just to be around that quick wit would be a pleasure.


    Yesterday on the blog, I introduced your Kickstarter project. Can you tell us a little more about that and the implications of what Deep Roots is trying to accomplish?


    Yeah, thanks for helping get the word out! By God's grace, we're going to publish 500 Christian books in the next 6 months or so. This is a huge undertaking with a lot of upfront costs, and that's why we chose to go to Kickstarter to have the community help out.

    As far as the implications of the project, that's the most important part and the whole reason we're doing it! Believers around the world should have fast and easy access to the best books of Christian history. I've gotten emails from from missionaries in places like China and Ethiopia saying thank you for the resources we're providing - that they were using them personally, and also to train those they were discipling.
    Emails like that are what led us to this place where we say, "We need to do this on a larger scale, so more people have the tools and resources to (a) become a better disciple, and (b) become a better disciple maker."

    Luke, I want to thank you for your time today. Once again, if you have questions for Luke then leave them in the comment section below as he will be checking in throughout the day. Also be sure to check back in on Monday as Luke will be guest posting in my absence.

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Help Republish 500 Old Books!

    My friends over at Deep Roots Library have been able to republish about 50 books over the last year since they started, which is great, but now the time has come for a big push and they need your help. They have a goal of republishing over 500 books, but need the financing to do it. To make this goal they have set up a kickstarter project designed for anyone to help out with any amount and in return you get a cool gift and eventually you will help see this reality of old theology and new technology converge.  

    To learn more watch this video with Luke and click on the links above.

    Make sure you check back on Wednesday for an interview with Luke from Deep Roots, who will also be guest posting on Friday in my absence.