Friday, November 29, 2013

The Bible App for Kids

The much anticipated Bible app for kids released yesterday and I immediately downloaded it for my two sons. My oldest is going on three and would use the iPad all day long if I would let him so I believe that this app will be a helpful tool in learning the Bible at his age. It's Black Friday so many of you have already spent a lot of money today, but this is one gift that you can download for free.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being As the People in Order to Win Them

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
-1 Corinthians 9:20

In first Corinthians we see that the Apostle Paul surrendered his rights in order to reach the people he was targeting with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul took his calling so serious that he actually became as the people in order to win them to Jesus. To the Jews he became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law he became under the law in order to win them.

For the most part this is not what I experienced growing up in church or Christian school. I most often remember hearing that we are in the world, but not of the world, which led many to conclude we should physically look completely different and not associate in anyway with the world. Some Christian groups have taken this so far that they have created a legalistic bubble that is scary and cultish looking at times.

It is funny that as one in cross-cultural ministry I am almost expected to be as the people I am trying to reach, but often in the church in the West we ignore this principle. Somehow many churches have missed this example given to us by Paul.

The last two years for me this concept has come in many forms in order to be as the people in order to win the people. I will always stick out and never be a true insider, but the effort is noted by the people and makes the gospel more accessible to the people.

How about you in your context? Are you surrendering your own rights in order to reach your community? This is no easy task as Americans we like our individualism and freedom, but you have to ask yourself if Jesus and the gospel is worth it? If your answer is yes then become as the people in order to win the people.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rules As Life Guidelines, Not Law that Leads to Sin

At the age of 28 I have come to realize that sometimes rules are just necessary. It did not take me 28 years to realize or full understand this, but I struggled with the rules mentality for so long because I have often experienced rules as a law when in many cases they are guidelines. My main issue with rules over the years has been generally when someone lays down a rule as if it is biblical or the only way. 

When rules are presented this way it does a couple of things. First, it often causes something to become sin that was never a sin. A great example of this is alcohol. Often times an institution will prohibit the consumption of alcohol, which often results in turning alcohol now into a temptation and sin when it is consumed. Alcohol is a gift from God, the first recorded miracle of Jesus, and when consumed appropriately and moderately can be a wonderful thing. 

Second, by presenting or making rules as law it makes them appear as the only way. This in turn often results in the judgement of others when they may not be following those same given rules. It is important to remember that you can and still should have fellowship with fellow brothers even though their rule following may look different as the body of Christ is unique. What some can do in good conscience, other cannot. So, in some instances an issue or certain behavior maybe a sin issue for some and not for others. We must not make the mistake of making something a sin for all believers that was not clearly given as one in Scripture. I have many friends (okay a few) who only read the KJV of the Bible, don't go to movies, and dress funny. We are still friends, but the more their rules become law the less we find we have in common or want to hangout, but I love them as brothers all the same. 

Are rules necessary? Absolutely, but I have come to see the freedom in rules as guidelines and not as law. Any organization and institution will have rules and I fully believe that you should follow those as your general guidelines because in most cases you agreed to those in working with them. And following rules as guidelines does not give one an excuse to sin, but rather respect them for what they are by submitting to the authority over them in their lives in a way that is Christ honoring (1 Peter 2:13-16).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is Missions Optional for Christians?

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
-Romans 1:14-15

This week I finished reading a book on spiritual warfare and missions. In one section the book focused on common strategies used by Satan in order to keep unreached people groups from ever hearing the gospel. One of Satan's most common strategies and he's doing a good job at it is to convince Christians that missions is optional.

Most commonly this does not take much convincing because in place of international missions to unreached people groups there is the sole focus on a churches own community, programs, building campaign. None of those things are necessarily bad and in many cases they are good things that are assisting in reaching people within the churches own community. The problem therein is when missions to unreached people groups is all but ignored as if it is an optional.

Ed Stetzer rightfully pointed out that "Missions was not a voluntary act for Paul. It was compulsory." The above passage from Romans shows the attitude that the Apostle Paul took towards missions and it was not one of being optional. Paul was transparent and showed how deeply burdened he was for the people, which led him to feel obligated to do something to impact the lostness of the people surrounding him.

Our ministry focus should not be either local or global, but both local and global. One of the authors of the book, Jerry Rankin, said, "If a church does not have a plan to 'make disciples of all nations,' then they are shirking their responsibility for the mission of God."

So, where are you and your church? Have you been viewing missions as optional? Do you feel the compulsion that Paul felt that all people would hear the gospel?

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Season of Transition

The last few weeks many of you have been watching the leaves of autumn change color as they are in a season of transition. Although the leaves do not change colors where I live, the pictures that many of you have posted have reminded me of the upcoming transitions that my family is about to experience as we enter into a new season of life and ministry.  Two years ago our family was sent out to S. Asia to see churches planted and after two years of faithful ministry we sense that Jesus is calling us out of our current role and on to something new.

Throughout Scripture God calls different people to different areas of ministry and service at different points in their life. The call to go and make disciples is a life-long call on all people that are in Christ, but that does not necessarily mean that it will always be in the same place or necessarily in a cross-cultural setting. At this time in our life we sense that the best way to continue to invest in and serve S. Asia is to leave it because we believe we can do more for it from the United States.

This is one of the most difficult decisions that I/we have ever made, much more difficult than the decision to go in the first place. Amongst all of the trials, hardships, and success in this crazy life of ours, it has become in many ways our new "normal." As I sensed the Lord moving us back to the American context I was as shocked as anyone, but I have a peace that can only come from walking in obedience to Him. 

Although we are returning  in one month, we still plan on playing an active role as non-residential missionaries. As time allows I will likely travel back and forth to different areas of S. Asia on a semi-regular basis to continue the work. One thing I am very excited about is the opportunity to help mobilize individuals and churches in the US to partner with nationals on the field to see the Great Commission fulfilled through the planting of churches in areas where there are few to none.

The past two years have not been a trip, but they have been our life. After much prayer we were given a peace at the decision, but I must be transparent in that there is a sense of sadness that also enters into our lives. Once you call a place home and have a child there then it will always hold a special place in your heart. All of the details of what is to come are not figured out, but I am excited to see what God has in store for us as we wrap up life in S. Asia.  

We want to thank you all for your continued prayer, support, and encouragement during these past two years. It has been an adventure and it is not over yet. I am looking forward to connecting with as many of you as possible in 2014 and really wish we could bring you all a tiny piece of our lives back to you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cherry Blossoms

My friend Andy Squyres has written an album of songs, "Cherry Blossom," and now needs help to make the album a reality. To do so, Andy started a Kickstarter campaign a few days ago and I believe in both the man behind the album and the album itself and would like to see it become a reality. Check out the video below and go to the kickstarter page in order to help fund this project.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Essential Characteristics of an International Church Planter - SENDRDU

The last two years I have been serving overseas as an International Church Planter and I frequently receive an email with people asking me about what this looks like, what is required, and what are the qualifications. The following list is the essential characteristics of an International Church Planter that one is required to possess in order to be sent out by my local church, the Summit.

  1. Spiritual Vitality & Maturity
    1. Do they give evidence of a Gospel‐centered life?
    2. Do they possess a passionate love for Jesus and a vibrant devotional life?
    3. Do they exhibit a godly character?
    4. Are they growing in their understanding of the gospel and Christ‐likeness?
  2. Calling
    1. Can they communicate a compelling personal calling? Do others recognize their call?
    2. Are they ready to work hard to see this calling fulfilled?
    3. For couples – does their spouse share their call? Do their children support their call?
  3. Healthy Marriage and Family
    1. Do they exhibit a healthy marriage and family?
    2. Do they understand the balance of family and ministry?
    3. For Singles – Are they content in their singleness?
  4. Humble/Teachable
    1. Have they displayed a humility and willingness to listen and learn from others?
    2. Are they submissive and responsive to leadership?
    3. Can they receive constructive criticism and feedback?
  5. Relational
    1. Do they show genuine love and compassion for people?
    2. Do they establish and maintain healthy relationships?
    3. Are they friendly? Do they take the initiative to meet new people?
  6. Missional
    1. Can they naturally build relationships with the unchurched?
    2. Do they consistently and effectively share the Gospel with the unchurched?
    3. Have they shared the gospel with people from a different culture?
    4. Have they discipled others? Are they engaged in disciple‐making now?
  7. Committed to Biblical Community
    1. Are they active members of the church?
    2. Do they love the local church as God’s primary strategy for advancing the gospel?
    3. Are they committed to loving one another?
    4. Are they willing to be accountable to others?
  8. Flexible/Adaptable
    1. Are they adaptable to new people, places, cultures and concepts?
    2. Do they exhibit flexibility to changes and needs?
    3. Are they willing and committed to learning a different language and culture?
  9. Resilient
    1. Do they have an entrepreneurial, risk‐taking spirit?
    2. Have they demonstrated resilience and the ability to push through adversity? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Bridge Church Wilmington, NC

Wilmington, NC was home to me for five years and the first city that Andrea and I lived in as a married couple. Wilmington is the city where I first became an adult and went through some major life transitions. Although I left Wilmington almost five years ago, it still holds a special place in my heart as a city that I will always have memories from and long to visit when time allows.

During my years in Wilmington, one of the hardest aspects for me was to find a meaningful community of believers. Sure, there were church buildings all over the place, but many of those churches were dying as they merely represented the dead religion that haunted Wilmington. I do remember there being more church plants than one could count, I was part of one, and as many of them, it did not survive.

People mistakenly think that Wilmington is an easy place to plant and that the lone ranger can do it, they cannot. I witnessed this first hand, but I do believe that Wilmington is a place with a great need for more gospel-focused churches and pray that more people would be called to plant there. That is why I am excited to share with you about my old small group leader and friend, Ethan Welch, who is the lead planter of the Bridge Church, which will be launching in Wilmington in Fall 2014.

Hear from Ethan himself on the Bridge Church and see how you can be involved with seeing the city of Wilmington reached.

Ethan Welch - Bridge Church from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Message of the Cross presented by Billy Graham

Billy Graham has been called the Protestant Pope by some and for good reason. Regardless of what Christian tribe you belong to, Graham has a way of brining us all together for the most important message of history and the reason that we all fall under the banner Christian. Watch this moving video and share it with others as we seek to make disciples of all nations.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Lord's Supper: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

The following post is the Lord's Supper lesson as presented in the RAD Church Planting training developed by Wilson G., which I am using in equipping a group of church planters.

What is the Lord’s Supper? What does it mean to us as believers? 
Let’s look at some scripture in God’s word that tells us what it is.

Read Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Now, let’s ask these questions to find out what the Lord’s Supper is-
  1. Who-
    1. Who can take it? - Baptized believers.
    2. Who can give it? - Baptized believers.
  2. What -
    1. The bread - it represents Christ’s body, which was given for us - His flesh. (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
    2. The cup of juice - represents the new covenant in Christ’s blood which was poured out for many. (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke:22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)
    These things aren’t really Christ’s body and blood, but they provide a picture to remind us of Jesus’ demonstration of His love for us through the sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross to pay for our sins.
  3. Where can the Lord’s Supper be taken? Anywhere a church could meet.
  4. When can it be taken? Anytime. It is up to the church to decide when and how often, but it should be taken by the church regularly and consistently. However not so often that it becomes ritualistic or habitual, so as to lose its meaning, yet not so far apart that we forget.
  5. Why do we take the Lord’s Supper?
    1. ProclamationIn taking the Lord’s Supper, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. In proclaiming the Lord’s death, you are accepting that He is your Lord and that He died for the sins of the world. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
    2. Thanksgiving- Before taking the cup and the bread, Jesus gave thanks. We should also give thanks to God for the salvation He has given us.
      (Matthew 26:26 & 27; Mark 14:22 & 23; Luke 22:17 & 19; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
    3. Remembrance- Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We take the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of what Jesus did for us all. We remember that he sacrificed himself to take the punishment for our sins. Just as we celebrate or remember birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc., once per year, how much more should we remember that Jesus gave us a greater thing to remember; eternal salvation? (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24 & 25)
    4. New Covenant- It is a symbol of the new covenant God that made between himself and His people. This new covenant, in which Jesus became the once for all sacrifice needed for sins, replaced the old covenant. In the same way, believers have entered into a completely new relationship with the One True God. They have turned from their sinful ways, accepted that Jesus took the punishment for their sins once for all, and know that Jesus gave them a new life.
      (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25)
    5. Ordinance/Command“Do this...” - Jesus was still alive, yet he said to do these things in remembrance of him. It is important for the body of Christ to remember what Jesus has done for them, which in turn brings unity to the body. It is one of the functions that make up a Healthy Church. (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24 & 25) 
6. How? - 10 recommended steps to follow when taking the Lord’s Supper
  1. Prayer - Open in prayer.
  2. Teaching – A leader or one of the baptized believers should give some teaching on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, especially if it is the first time taking it. It is always wise to review the meaning of the Lord’s Supper as a church body.
  3. Remembrance - Remember as a group what Jesus did for all.
  4. Proclamation - Proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes.
  5. Thanksgiving - Give thanks to God for the opportunity to remember what He has given to us. (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:17 & 19; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
  6. Reflection/Examination/Repentance – Each believer should take some time in quiet reflection and examination of self. If the Holy Spirit convicts anyone of sin, now is the time to repent before God. (1 Corinthians 11:28)
  7. Bread- Take the bread and tear off a piece, then pass it around to the others and have them
    tear a piece off as a symbol of them breaking Christ’s body. When everyone has a piece of the bread, tell the church: Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me”. Then eat together (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
  8. Cup – If possible, take one large cup/container of juice and pass it to the others, so they can pour from the one cup into their own. When everyone has some juice in their cup, tell the church: Jesus said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Then drink together. (Luke 22:17)
  9. Song- Sing a song of praise to God for His goodness and the time together. (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26)
  10. Prayer- Close in prayer.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Giveaway: A Call to Resurgence

Mark Driscoll's new book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have A Funeral or A Future?, officially releases tomorrow. This has been a book that I have been excited about since I first heard of it being written and because I am so excited, I am giving away one copy via Kindle format. Driscoll delivers a wake up call for every believer: We are living in a post-Christian culture-a culture fundamentally at odds with faith in Jesus. 

This is good and bad news. The good news is that God is still working, redeeming people from this spiritual wasteland and inspiring a resurgence of faithful believers. The bad news is that many believers just don’t get it. They continue to gather exclusively into insular tribes, lobbing e-bombs at each other in cyberspace.

Mark’s book is a clarion call for Christians. It’s time to get to work. We can only do this if we unite around Jesus and the essentials found in his Word, while at the same time, appreciating the distinctives within each Christian tribe. Mark shows us how to do just that. This isn’t the time to wait or debate. Join the resurgence.

To win the copy of A Call to Resurgence you need to do one or both of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. Include your name and email in the form, and tell us whether you think Christianity is headed for a funeral or a future. And, why?

2. Tweet or Share on Facebook. Point people to the giveaway. You can specifically share this: "Enter to win a free copy of Mark Driscoll's book, A Call to Resurgence." Hint: The only way that I can definitely know whether or not that you shared this is by you doing step 1 above or if you tag or mention me when you share it. 

Entries are cut off Wednesday morning at 9am (EST), and a winner will be announced shortly after in the comments section below. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Making One Stumble and Making One Uncomfortable Are Not the Same Thing

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
-1 Corinthians 8:13

Yesterday was Halloween, whether you celebrated it or not. A holiday, which has become a bit of a controversy in my house over the years due to two different cultural interpretations from the church. My wife, Argentinean beauty, and the church within her culture have made Halloween a black and white issue. There is no room for middle ground or different interpretation in their mind, it is clearly the Devil's holiday and by participating in anyway then you are basically worshipping the Devil. As a side note, if one understands the culture of Argentina and where they are coming from then it is easier to understand why they view it this way.

In the US, we tend to interpret things many different ways, even within the church. I believe to simplify things, one has three options with almost any controversial topic or decision. One can reject, receive, or redeem. When it comes to Halloween in the US context you will find that all three of those choices are found within the Christian community.

Personally, I see the God of the Bible reconciling and redeeming all things back to himself, which has led me to be amongst the group that believes a holiday such as Halloween can be redeemed for the glory of God if done the right way. But this post really is not about Halloween, thank God (as if we needed another one this year), but this post is about whether making one stumble and uncomfortable are the same thing.

I used Halloween as my example because it is fresh on everyone's minds as most of you are likely dealing with a candy hangover this morning. I easily could use the one that gets everyone's attention by discussing alcohol. For now, I am going to let that one rest because I have written on it in the past and most of you know my biblical view.

So, is making one stumble and making one uncomfortable the same thing? Paul, clearly tells us in 1 Corinthians 8 not to make our brother stumble because by doing so we may cause them to wound their conscience and sin. Many of us have misinterpreted this passage over the years to not do many things, but in reality Jesus himself drank and ate with sinners, which made people very uncomfortable.

Making one stumble and making one uncomfortable are not the same thing, and we should stop interpreting them as if they are. I used to struggle through this myself because I realized that literally everything that I did on a daily basis would make some tribe of professing Christians uncomfortable. I won't list any examples because the list would be endless and this post alone would take over a day to write and read.

The two things are separate issues that can usually be figured out quite easily. If there is something you do such as drink alcohol, do not do it with or around the Christian brother that struggles with alcoholism. If it is a matter of a brother that is uncomfortable around alcohol, such as I was at one time in life, then perhaps discuss and study the biblical view of alcohol to help one feel less uncomfortable and come to a proper biblical interpretation.

Zach Lee gave a good reminder this week that "God doesn't want you to do something you cannot do in faith (Romans 14:23), but don't judge those that participate in certain things out of a good conscience." Ultimately allow the Lord to lead each of you in all things to his glory.