Friday, January 31, 2014

Restoration Community Church Sermon

As promised here is the link to the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at Restoration Community Church in Raleigh, NC. I am thankful to Restoration and Pastor Robin Phillips for the opportunity to preach my first sermon of 2014 and my first one since returning back to the US. I apologize that it is not a video upload, but the church currently only does audio recording of sermons. If your church is interested in having me as a guest speaker one weekend here is a link to my speaker request form.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It All Stays Behind

The last couple of weeks my family has been blessed with a fully furnished house to stay in during our visit to Wilmington, NC. Visiting this city is like coming home for us in many ways because this is the first city where Andrea and I lived together and started our marriage. We are also still in a state of transition back to the US and although we loved our time with family we needed a break at a place where it could be just our family for a couple of weeks.

Arriving at the house we were unaware of the story of why it was available. We walked in and the house is fully furnished from the late seventies maybe early eighties with all the essential kitchen needs, family pictures on the walls, books on the shelves, and even some clothes in the closets. It was like going back in time when we walked inside the house for the first time.

A few days later we saw the man who blessed us with staying in this house and asked him where his in laws were, to which he replied, "They're dead!" We were saddened to learn that this couple had both passed away in the last four years due to cancer.

Though the couple who lived in this house for so many years are gone, the house is still as if they live in it. I imagine that not much has changed since either one of them passed. As I sit in what was likely "the man's" recliner I think how this was probably his chair to sit and watch television.

I noticed the other day that I was drinking my coffee out of a mug that had the name "Sandy," on it to realize that I'm drinking out of this man's mug who is no longer here. Being at this house has served as a great reminder that when we leave this earth we take nothing with us. It all stays behind. Our family, our friends, and all of our earthly possessions.

The only thing that really matters for eternity is whether or not you surrendered your life to Christ on this earth and allowed him to die in your place in order to be restored to God. No, there is nothing wrong with prioritizing family and having possessions, but are you preparing yourself for eternity?

Monday, January 27, 2014

What Is the Cost of Following Jesus?

Now when Jesus saw a great crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." -Matthew 8:18-22

I. THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS REQUIRES A COMMITMENT NOT JUST A PROFESSION.

And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." 

II. MANY PEOPLE LIKE THE IDEA OF FOLLOWING JESUS MORE THAN THE REALITY OF FOLLOWING JESUS.

And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 

III. THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS GOES ABOVE ALL EARTHLY RESPONSIBILITY OR ALLEGIANCE.

Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."

CONCLUSION:

  • Are you willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost?
  • Are you all in with Jesus?
  • If asked to give up your life as you know it in order to follow the will of God in your life, would you be able to do it?
  • Maybe God is calling you to do something that seems radical, but I encourage you to give it all to Jesus as you count the cost of following him daily.
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The above post is a condensed sermon outline from the message I preached yesterday at Restoration Community Church in Raleigh, NC. By next week this time the full sermon should be posted on their website.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Abortion and the Gospel

Abortion is one of the greatest evils of our day whether you believe that or not. I am not here to be politically correct and do not care if you agree with me because murder is murder. The below video was posted this week by Justin Taylor and is worth the twenty-eight minutes as you will see a conversation between Francis Chan, John Piper, and John Ensor on the abortion and the gospel. The video can be graphic, but I encourage you to watch it to sense the reality of what is happening with abortions and how we as disciples should respond to this evil.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Cost of Following Jesus

Now when Jesus saw a great crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." -Matthew 8:18-22

This coming Sunday I have the opportunity to guest preach at Restoration Community Church in Raleigh. The topic that I am preaching on is "the cost of following Jesus," from Matthew 8. There is much to be said about this passage and I will unpack much of that on Sunday, but I briefly want to point out a few things.

1. Jesus in his human nature needed breaks from large crowds just like the rest of us. 

2. Many of us like the idea of following Jesus more than the reality of following Jesus.

3. Jesus had very few earthly comforts, less than the animals, and had nothing to call his own.

4. The call to follow Jesus rises above every other earthly allegiance or responsibility.

Once I have my full sermon manuscript together then I will most likely post it on here and then be sure to look out for the link the sermon.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lately, I've Been Dreaming...by Daniel Hodges

My friend Daniel Hodges is recording his first solo album, but is needing some help to pull it off. I've known Daniel for over fifteen years and listened to his music develop and mature over the years. I am excited about his solo project and would love to see it get funded to help make his dream a reality. Below you will hear from Daniel himself and here is a link to his kickstarter page so you can at least give $10 to help fund the album and receive a copy yourself.

From Daniel,

When I was 3 years of age my brother bought his very first (and only) electric guitar, and immediately I began tearing the strings off and begging for it to become my own. Around my 10th Christmas, my brother Randall got sick of the begging and gave up his dreams of shredding - but with the guitar came an agreement: I would never follow the trend, just for the sake of being understood, and that I would always respect the value of other artists, regardless of genre or the tools they chose to express their art. 
 About 10 years after my first guitar, I decided that it was time to record my first "solo album" (solo meaning songs originally crafted by or for my own use, not with help of a set group of other musicians). As soon as I decided to record this record, I called my brother who was living on the other side of the country and started talking about how we would record this when I was visiting later that summer - he reluctantly agreed to handle the technical end. We began work on a record that summer, but we were unsuccessful in finishing quick enough before the other parts of our professional lives took over. 
 In the summer of 2012, Randall lost a short battle with a cruel illness. The last time I saw him, sitting on a couch in a hotel suite in Hollywood (one of the most posh places either of us had ever been for sure), just before I left he looked at me and said, "Hey...finish that album, alright?" A year and a half later, and I finally have the songs in place, and talent that my brother would be proud to help represent those songs.
Will Noon (as seen with FUN., Cuddle, Straylight Run, etc.) has agreed to come in and help me craft some of these songs into something you all might want to listen to, and we'll be tracking at one of my favorite spaces in my home town (old house studio), with one of the best engineers around, Chris Garges. In addition to these two, there are a handful of area musicians who will be dropping in to help with some of the instrumentation.
I, however, can not do it with out a little financial help, so I'm asking for all of my friends, friends' friends, family, family of family, and 'fans' to help me out! Each incentive is worth its asking price, so if you fear being taken advantage of - don't! 

Daniel Hodges - Telephone Wire from Mahogany, Inc. on Vimeo.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Discoveries of Church Planting Movements via Bob Roberts Jr.

In preparation for the upcoming Release Initiative church planting cohort in February, I am reading Bob Roberts Jr. book, The Multiplying Church. I am loving what I have read so far and believe that in order for the church in the west to truly see the type of church planting movements that are happening in the east that this book will be a good starting place.

Movement has basically become another buzz word within the church today, similar to missional, but Roberts points out that there is no one alive today in the US context that has ever seen a church planting movement. He goes on to say, "In the United States it's bee over 120 years since we've seen a church planting movement."

That is not to say that we cannot or will not experience one, my prayer is that my country will see one just as many parts in India and other places around the world are experiencing. Roberts goes on to share a number of discoveries that he has made regarding movements.

Discovery 1: It's not about a church planting movement - it's about a Jesus movement!

Discovery 2: Jesus movements are highly personal and highly societal.

Discovery 3: Jesus movements take time.

Discovery 4: Jesus movements are led by disciples, not by church planters.

Discovery 5: Historically there is only one national Jesus movements per nation that involves everyone. After that, there are sub-movements within the broader movement. 

Discovery 6: Jesus movements surge from the young.

Discovery 7: Jesus movements are collaborative.

Discovery 8: Jesus movements hinge on the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

50 Countries Where Christian Persecution Is Most Severe

World WatchList has released their 2014 data on the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is most severe. Please pray for our brothers and sisters around the world that face the reality, not that the persecution would necessarily stop, but that they would be faithful to endure in the midst of it. As Christians we know that persecution is the norm and it should not surprise us when it happens. It is possible that there will be a day that the church in America will not have all of its freedoms, but please do not consider Duck Dynasty, Chickfila, or other meaningless controversies as persecution. 

My readers should all know that India holds a special place in my heart as it was once home. When I see it on the list, I do not only see a number, but faces of friends that may be facing hardship due to their walk with Jesus as I type. Be thankful for your religious freedom and join me on my knees for our brothers and sisters around the world.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review - T4T: A Discipleship ReRevolution

Steve Smith with the help of Ying Kai has written a book that is actually “the story behind the world’s fastest growing Church Planting Movement (CPM) and how it can happen in your community.” In short this process is known as “Training for Trainers” or T4T. The story is written in such a way that it gives the foundation for T4T, the process of T4T, and the application of T4T.
       
Smith proposes that the main idea behind T4T is training Christians in church planting movements. This idea came about when he was tasked with planting a single church every year for five years, but somehow mistakenly had planted 200 in three months. The difference between what those over him had instructed him to do and what he did was he expected those he trained to train others, which turned into T4T.
            
Smith turns to the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit fell and through his power there was a movement of people that came to faith and the church was started. Although these church planting movements are not happening in the same way, the power behind them is the same Holy Spirit. In its most simple form this movement comes from one following Jesus and fishing for men (Mark 1:17).
            
Smith looks to the church at Ephesus in Acts 19 for his basis of a discipleship revolution where Paul won a few people and then trained them that led to a movement spread by new believers. He contrast this to most of what is observed in the church today with only the professionals trained, leaving the majority of the church on the sidelines. The movement started in Acts was due to the everyday, ordinary new believer.
            
A key component of the T4T story is the interpretation of the Great Commission. Smith shows how many have misinterpreted this passage or have it confused. He believes that the church should view it this way: “Go, not come, everyone, not some, and make trainers (disciples) not just church members. He proposes that the next step would be to implement Paul’s strategy of investing in young Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2).
            
Smith realized in his own story that many Christians were simply not sharing the gospel and he came up with three reasons why. First, people were not aware of the reason for sharing the gospel. Second, people were not aware of whom the gospel should be shared. Third, people were not aware of how to share the gospel. As a result Smith started to train everyone because he realized that is what it would take.
            
Some have questioned the validity of T4T, but many just want to know why and how it is working. Smith believes that the basis for its success is its biblical principle. The only way to discover good soil is to sow a lot and within the soil a CPM is birthed. Another reason that Smith believes it is working is because the push is not for decisions, but for disciples. The way in which a T4T trainer assesses ones maturity is not their knowledge, but their obedience to what they do know.
            
Smith makes sure to point out that T4T is not a lesson, but an ongoing process. He points to the problem of the spread of a CPM throughout history has been the unwillingness of laborers (Luke 10:2). Although he distinguishes that a CPM must be Holy Spirit driven, Smith believes that by following the general T4T process one will see a CPM. The beginning process of a CPM is evangelism, discipleship, church planting, leadership development, and a recurring cycle.
            
Smith firmly believes in training everyone, but he also shows that likely only twenty percent of those trained will actually go on to become trainers themselves. Although filtering is part of the T4T process, most of this will happen on its on through what Smith calls obedient based discipleship. In other words, most people will naturally filter themselves out of a group by failure to show up or by disobedience.
            
Smith presents the T4T model as a three-thirds process. First, is looking back, which includes: pastoral care, worship, accountability, and vision casting. Second, is looking up, which includes a new lesson with short-term and long-term discipleship plans in place. Third, is looking ahead through practicing the new lesson and setting goals for the future.
            
Once a group gets started, Smith shows what things need to be in place in order for it to continue and to sustain the movement. Although he recognizes that in order to have growth, one will have a mess because it easily gets out of control. What Smith hopes to do through T4T is help you to know what to do at each stage of a group and a movement.
            
In the final section of the book, Smith gets away from the story of T4T and moves into the practical side of how one can apply it in their own ministry context. He simply starts with sharing the gospel, make disciples of those that respond with baptism being the first step of discipleship, form the new disciples into churches, and reproduce leaders. In sharing the gospel, Smith points out to sow broadly because we do not know whom God has prepared to respond. Looking back to the command to make disciples in the Great Commission, Smith proposes that there be both a short-term and long-term discipleship plans in place.
PERSONAL REACTION
            
Smith has written a book on the story behind the world’s fastest growing Church Planting Movement and then shows how it can happen in ones own community. Although it is a story, it does not read like most stories, but more like a book that gives facts about what happened and how one can hopefully transfer the same happening into their context. If the goal was a story then the job was not completed, but if the goal was to give some parts of the story with the foundation, process, and application then the goal was met.
            
Personally, I did not mind the way in which the book was written because it helped me break down each stage of how this story unfolded. I can see where it may be slightly confusing to someone their first time hearing or reading about this process though.  In my current ministry context my team has implemented much of T4T so in reading the book it was not my first exposure to training for trainers.
            
The way in which Smith chose to break the book up into three main parts was helpful because in laying the foundation as he did and then showing the process, it was not a stretch to see how the application would work. If he only reported what happened but did not give us the foundation and process then it would be much harder to believe how one can apply it in any context. The encouraging thing is how it is being reported that the T4T process is working all over the world now.
            
This book rightfully points out that this process is not a revolution but a rediscovering of a revolution that if applied can help see church planting movements all over the globe. Smith helps the reader see that this was not something magical that himself and Ying Kai developed, but that it was simply returning to a simple process that can be seen in the New Testament. It is encouraging how it is written and the process shows that any Christian has the potential to be a trainer and see great things happen for Jesus.
            
Although I have already recognized the importance of the foundation and the process, my favorite part of the book is the application section. The reason being that people are often told the “what” or “why” without the how. Smith has done a good job of giving the “what” and “why” with the “how.” In this case the how or application section of the book is the majority of the book. The foundation and process are a combined ten chapters whereas the application is eleven chapters by itself. 
            
Overall I enjoyed reading this book and agree with the overall presentation. A major reason that I am in favor of this book is because it is very similar to the current practice that I have been implementing in my own life and ministry in India for the past two years. If more people in the Western context would implement a T4T type of strategy then I believe we would see many more communities reached for Jesus in a much quicker way than with some of the current models being practiced.
           
In concluding, this book is a helpful piece into the story behind a noteworthy church planting movement and what it will take to see it happen in other contexts. I personally know many people implementing it around the world and for that I am grateful; but I sense that the majority of the American church will ignore its significance. As for me, I plan on continuing to implement its three-thirds process and plan to reference it in my own ministry for years to come.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World

In What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World, Steve Addison starts off with a brief introduction on Jesus where he points to the reality that without Jesus there would be no Christian movement, communities of believers, or Bible. Christianity at its very essence is about Jesus Christ, as he is the founder of the religion that bears his name. The idea of a Christian or missionary movement was unheard of at that time in history, but Addison shows that Jesus first recorded public act in three of the four Gospel accounts was the calling of mobile missionaries. The task that Jesus left all followers of himself with is also the task of being missionaries based on the Great Commission. Addison says, “The purpose of a missionary movement is that people accept the message, begin to follow Jesus, share him with others, and form new communities of faith that become partners in the spread of the gospel.”
            
To give a frame of reference for the entirety of the book, Addison proposes six elements of the movement that Jesus started: see the end, connect with people, share the gospel, train disciples, gather communities, and multiply workers. Addison contends that there is a job for all followers of Jesus to do and the book is written for those that want to have Jesus train them in his movement. In order to do that, the book is broken down into two main sections. First, he takes a look at what Jesus began in his mission, and at how he called his followers to continue his mission. Then within these two main sections there are four parts that helps break down the ideas and concepts.
            
In section one, Addison points to Jesus coming to earth to seek and save what was lost. Initially he focused on the people of Israel, as they were the ones chosen by God to be the witnesses to the world. Jesus started with the twelve and gave them a vision for a worldwide mission once he departed from the earth. In other words, Jesus will build his church, but he has given all believers a task in seeing that accomplished through obedience to the Great Commission.
            
Addison helps one see that in Jesus ministry he did not wait for people to come to him, but that he actively went to them. The ones that Jesus went looking for were the ones that knew they needed him, and in turn the gospel message spread through these people. Addison shows the key to the movement Jesus started was that he allowed it to spread beyond his direct control or influence and everything about it was reproducible and sustainable.
            
Jesus came in and not only taught about the Kingdom of God, but made it happen and in doing so he radically redefined what it culturally meant to be “right” with God. Addison shows that Jesus focused in on two main audiences, his disciples and the large crowds. Typically he spent a little bit of his time with the large crowds, but the majority of his time with the close followers who would carry on the movement he was starting.
           
Everywhere Jesus went he gathered people, not only to save them, but also to build his church and turn her into a missionary movement. Addison contends that Jesus always intended for his followers to continue on with the movement, as he knew his time on earth was temporary. Once Jesus departed and the Holy Spirit came, there is one main theme woven throughout the book of Acts, the missionary expansion of the movement Jesus founded.
            
A key difference with modern missions and the movement Jesus started as pointed out by Addison is that there was no central organization, but only Jesus and his teaching. In Jesus teaching he made sure that his followers were clear on the message and he showed how ordinary people were key players in the movement, not professionals as is common today.
            
Once Jesus departed the earth he had fully equipped a group of faithful followers to carry on the movement he started in his absence. The disciples were expected to carry on this movement faithfully and most did so even when it meant their own death. Once the Apostle Paul comes along, the mission that he was on is just an extension of the mission of Jesus.
            
Addison shows that the movement spread the quickest through the cities. For this reason it is commonly observed that the message went first to the big culture making cities as the church spread through them to all places. The key way that the movement continued was through the training and multiplication of workers into the harvest. Addison shows that Jesus intentionally picked twelve to invest in as the faithful ones to continue the mission.
            
In the last section of the book, Addison wraps it up with what Jesus is doing today. The basis for this is by seeing the end vision, spreading the gospel, making disciples, gathering them into communities, and continuing the process in all places. The mission and the movement are not finished yet, but the end vision is in sight. Addison invites people to join the movement that Jesus started in order that the word will be changed and even has a helpful guide on showing how that can happen.

PERSONAL REACTION
            
Addison has written a book on how one can join the movement that Jesus started that is packed full of Jesus. Everything in and about the book in someway points back to Jesus and his method. Addison rightfully points to Jesus as the basis for everything that those in Christ propose to do and shows that it was Jesus himself who gave us our marching orders.
            
The way in which the book is written is helpful because it is twenty-five chapters that are broken down into four parts. Part one gives the basis for Jesus and the movement that he started. Part two shows how Jesus equipped the twelve and the early church to continue on with the mission even after he departed. Part three shows how Jesus continued to work through the Apostle Paul and his team. Part four shows what Jesus is currently doing and how each of us can be involved in the movement. By breaking the book down into four parts, it allows for there to be a clearer understanding of how we got to where we are today based on what started from Jesus. It helps one see that the mission Jesus gave us was meant to be a movement, not a stagnant idea with a bunch of pews filled with people one time in the week.
            
More than once it is pointed out that Jesus actively went to the people instead of waiting for them to come to him. It seems simple, but often in the church today we do the opposite and wait for the people to come to us. I am all in favor of inviting people to church, but we should be more concerned with actively going to the people and sharing the gospel with them. Jesus modeled this simple concept and if we would only implement it then I think we would be surprised at the results.
            
Addison also presents the book in a way that shows that although Jesus started this movement, he allowed it to get beyond his direct control or influence and kept is completely reproducible and sustainable. This again, is something that we do not often do well in the Western context. Typically leaders want to keep everything within arms reach and the model that most churches are using is neither reproducible nor sustainable, but only designed for the professionally trained clergy. Addison rightfully helps one see that the movement Jesus started assumed that all Christians would play a role in the process.
            
Overall I enjoyed reading this book and agree with how it is presented, primarily because Addison is really just showing what Jesus did and how he left it. Another reason that I am in favor of the book is because it is very similar to the current practice that I am implementing in my own life and ministry in India. What Addison presents is the same process that my team uses and he even cites a couple of examples from people that I personally know that have experienced success in joining the movement Jesus started in the way in which Jesus himself did it.
           
Many times a book will tell you about something, but not give you any practical steps in implementing that idea. Addison does both in his book and actually includes a forty-eight-page implementation guide after the last chapter. For that reason alone this book is worth the cost, as I firmly believe in the implementation of Jesus movement in all places.

In concluding, this book is one of the most concise in recent years to come out that helps the current day church learn how to be part of the movement that Jesus started. It would be a good idea for every pastor in the American church to read this book and evaluate their own ministry to see how they could line it up more with Jesus’ movement.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Planning for the Year Ahead

On Monday I wrote about how what one does at the beginning of the year sets the tone for the rest of year. A large part of setting the tone is planning for the year ahead. It helps me if I write things out that are a priority in my life and then I plan a time to get alone with my wife where we will discuss them and pray over them together in our joint planning. This year our planning will look a little different than the last couple of years because of the transition back to the American context.

Below is an example of a few of the broad categories that I will plan for as we start 2014.

1. Family - Andrea and I plan on taking some time in January to look at the year ahead and plan as to what our monthly life will look like as a family. We will pencil things on each others calendars as far as my traveling/ministry schedule, her ministry schedule, when we will vacation, etc. This allows for us to be on the same page and also be prepared as the year unfolds.

2. Ministry - I plan on taking some time in January to seek God and see where it is that I really feel like he is leading me. There is a part of me that already senses where this will be and what I will be doing, but I still want to take the proper time to hear from the Lord.

3. Writing - 2013 proved to be the best year yet of blogging in regards to content, audience, and interaction. My goal for last year was three posts a week, regular giveaways, and switching over to a better format. Many have encouraged me to take my blog and writing to the next level in 2014 and I am seriously considering it. I am working on a large writing project now that should be finished by early summer that I may turn into an e-book in the Fall. It will be highly advertised if it happens, but keep your eyes and ears open for when this takes place.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What You Do at The Beginning of the Year Sets the Tone for the Rest of the Year

Photo credit to NCSA.
It's that time of year again where people make resolutions to start the new year, most will not be kept past the first week, which is one reason that I typically do not make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. Most people make resolutions in wishful thinking that the new year will be different from the previous year, but most people would be wrong.

There is nothing wrong with having resolutions at the beginning of the year, but we are foolish to think that anything will be different the first week of January from the last week of December based on writing down a list alone. Rather than having the resolutions that we cannot remember the first week of February, we should put in place a pattern of life that we desire or attain to live the next year. My suggestion is to make this pattern of life something that is within a reachable goal that you may already obtain partially, but want to obtain fully. For example, I want to lose fifteen pounds this year, but desiring it alone will not make it happen. Truthfully, I already lost five of the fifteen that I would like to lose so the goal is attainable.

How is it attainable? Through a purpose, goal, and action plan. The purpose in my case is to live a healthier lifestyle. My goal is to lose fifteen pounds of weight. And my plan of action is to eat a little better, limit my calorie intake, and exercise on a regular basis. Notice that my plan is attainable because it is realistic and reachable, not unrealistic such as becoming a vegan and exercising everyday.

What I have come to learn is that what you do at the beginning of the year sets the tone for the rest of the year. This holds true in all matters of life, spiritual included.

It's time to set the traditional resolutions at the beginning of the year down and instead remember that you are setting yourself up for the rest of the year. If you set yourself up realistically then you will likely have more success at whatever it is that you are trying to attain. Sure, it will be hard work whether you are trying to lose weight or read the entire Bible for the first time this year, but by setting up an attainable pattern now puts you ahead of the game.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Carolina Panthers - Coming Home

After being away for two years there were many things that I looked forward to returning to in the US context. Spending time with my dad was on the top of my list as he has always been one of my number one supporters and he is stocked full of wisdom that I could use. Since I was a child we have always attended ball games together. As a kid it was the Charlotte Hornets games and in recent years it has been the Carolina Panthers. 

The above picture was taken at the recent win over the New Orleans Saints, which gave the Carolina Panthers the lead in the NFC South Division and put them into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The below video, put together by the NFL and their respective owners, does a great job of capturing their season and what has led them to the playoffs. I am home this playoff season and so are the Panthers!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kick-Off 2014 with A Bible Reading Plan from YouVersion

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12

It is the first day of 2014, which means that it is the time for people to make resolutions that will barely make it into February before they give in and return to old habits like a dog to its own vomit. Over the years we have all been guilty of not keeping our resolutions and many people have quit making them altogether. Instead of a resolution, I want to encourage you to make a daily habit of reading the Bible and instead of doing this on your own and just picking up a random place, YouVersion has created a number of Bible reading plans to get you started and help you along the way.

Just last year a friend and I committed to reading through the New Testament in a year together. The New Testament is not the only Scripture that I read, but it was one plan that kept me on track and that I just completed a couple of days ago. If you are not familiar with YouVersion than you need to check them out because they have everyone version of a plan that one can think of, which eliminates any excuses or busy schedules. 

The app is one of the most downloaded every year and it makes it easy to have the Bible with you and read it anywhere you are in the day. The potential danger that I found with a plan is that it can easily turn into something you just check off in the day because there is literally a little circle in the app that you check off after you complete the reading for the day. Many people are uncertain of what they are looking for when reading a passage of Scripture or how to get anything out of it; so I want to encourage you to ask these questions when reading through the daily passage.

Participative Bible Study Questions

1. What does this teach me about God?

2. What does this teach me about man?

3. Is there a sin to avoid or forsake?

4. Is there a command to obey or an example to follow?

5. What will I do as a result of what I have learned?