I am now writing a weekly post for my church's blog, as we read through the New Testament in 2014. This week's post is on 2 Corinthians 8, where I discuss giving, sacrifice, and a little bit about church planting. 

Go check it out over at Erlanger Baptist Church.
 
 
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We are finishing up our first week here in Africa and some of us have made an interesting observation about the people here. They are obsessed with credentials. Any one of them is very quick to tell you where they went to school or how qualified they are to do whatever it is they are doing. And they LOVE certificates. We gave each one of the teachers in our seminar a little completion certificate and their smiles nearly split their faces. I remember giving some of the students of our friends' ESL classes a completion certificate as well, with the same reaction.

I couldn't help but see the parallels between this and their religious views. The people here are nearly all Muslim, a religion of works. In your life, your good must outweigh you bad by a significant portion, and if Allah is in a good mood the day you die, you will get to go to heaven. Their religion is entirely based on credentials. Everything they do must be legitimized so that it "counts" to Allah.

How joyous it is to be free from pursuing legitimacy. Paul says it best in Philippians 3:4-8: "If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more...But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ."

Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Circumcized on the eighth day, blameless under the law, he says. He had credentials. Trained under the yoke of Gamaliel, (still) one of the most revered rabbis in Jewish history. Paul had it all.

And yet, he counted it as loss for the sake of Christ. Loss! All of that time he spent pursuing those credentials were wasted because it could have been time spent pursuing Christ.

Christ is our credential. Without Him, we could never stand before God. But with Him, we can stand before God blameless, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Sola Christo.

 
 
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Rachel and I are finishing up our first week in Africa. Most of the kinks have been worked out of our living arrangements (though our water pump and Air Conditioner went out two nights ago, so we're hot and basically showerless, yuck). It has been absolutely wonderful so far; nothing has happened yet that has made us want to hop on the first plane back to the States :)

The success of the teaching seminar we did with the team exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds. We worked with 30 teachers (the best of the best teachers who work with the best of the best students) to present a sort of "How to Teach Literature" seminar.  For three days we dicussed character development (Greg adapted the DISC profile test), plot lines, thematics, and teaching methodologies. We could not be happier with the results.

Rachel and Audrey did a fantastic job telling the story of Mary and Martha from the Word to illustrate personality types. Joel gave us his words of wisdom every morning. Regina and Sandy did a wonderful job of moderating the DISC test and explaining each of the character types. And Greg kept us on track, presenting the bulk of the information. The teachers loved it and seemed to really learn from us, repeatedly saying that they would take the methodologies back to their classrooms (the ONLY teaching style here is lecture and rote memorization).

The rest of the team from HHBC leaves tomorrow evening, leaving Rachel and I to help with some of our friends' ESL classes and Walk intentionally through the city, speaking Truth where we can. Lift us up so that He will provide us with opportunities to do so in the next few weeks.

Tutaonana!
 
 
Thinking about someone and praying for someone are not the same thing.

Have you ever been going through the day and, seemingly at random, a person or situation pops into your mind? I am sure all of us would be quick to say that the Holy Spirit lays those things on us and that it is a perfect time to pray for them. But that isn't always what we do, right?

If you are anything like me, when that happens you begin to let that person dwell in your mind for a while, analyzing the last thing you said to them (or they said to you), wondering why the friendship isn't as strong as it used to be. Or if they are still a good friend or close family member, you might begin remembering good times that you have had and just enjoy having them as a friend.

We start thinking about the person or problem and all of a sudden, we have to go to a meeting and realize that we haven't even bothered to pray for them like we know we should.

Next time the Holy Spirit brings someone to the front of your mind, be intentional in praying for them, calling out to our Father to let the Holy Spirit work in their life, and not just thinking about them.

Do you guys run into the issue in your life? How are you intentional to combat it?
 
 
Just 12 hours or so until we are in the air! It has been an intense few days of packing, last-minute-supply-purchasing, and platform changing. What we originally thought we were going to be doing there is now quite different, and it could change again when we land! Welcome to Africa, ladies and gentlemen.

Rachel and I have both been practicing our stories and praying for the Holy Spirit to lead us into intentional conversations while we are there.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and supprt. Pictures and updates soon!
 
 
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Last night I had the privilege of attending the Missionary Appointment Service for the International Mission Board here in Nashville. 101 men and women gave their testimonies of how the Lord called them from a life of self-service to a life of Kingdom-service on the mission field.

Some had known from their pre-teen years that they were called. Some have been called for less than a year. Some heard the call as individuals and were brought together in marriage to serve together. One couple even met at age 5 on the mission field and were reunited in college, now married and heading back to the field. Some were called in singleness. Some of those will know the goodness of remaining single as Paul was. Some will meet their spouse on the field. Some were called to sacrifice by takig their children to the field. Some were called to sacrifice and wait to have children.  Some calls came in the midst of despair and strife. Some came at the height of pursuing the American Dream. Every call was as unique as the hearer. And yet I was struck by one common factor that bound every new missionary: they weren't that different than me.


As I sat in the upper balcony, my eyes filled with tears of joy as I heard one account after another of how God had raised up ordinary men and women to do the extraordinary work of proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ to the unreached people of the world. A schoolteacher going to Scandanavia, a football coach to Africa, an IT worker to Central Asia. These were regular men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads, who were endowed with a supernatural calling and a humble willingness to answer. And through these jars of clay, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will shine in all the world.


IMB president, Tom Elliff, stated that this group of 101 missionaries had tied for the fourth largest group that the IMB had sent out at one time. After training, they will join the ranks of almost 5,000 other Southern Baptist missionaries around the world. Such sacrifice that each and every one of them has made.


But I could not help but think of the words of Christ, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2). We must (must!) pray that more and more ordinary people will listen for the call to enter the mission field. Currently, there are approximately 3,200 people groups in the world that have never heard the name of Jesus. Plenty, indeed.


As Rachel and I prepare to enter the mission field on the short-term, my prayer is that I will be open to hearing the prompting of God as to our next steps. I am confident that seminary is the direct next step for me, but after that is still wide open. I will continue to acknowledge that Lord and trust that He will direct my paths.

Check back tomorrow for a post with a list of ways everyone can get involved with local and international missions.
 
 
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Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. - 1 Peter 2:11


Christians are strange creatures.

New creatures, to be exact, but strange nonetheless.

I have a tendency to miss this as I move through life, but every once in a while I come along something that makes me realize just how different we are (supposed to be) from the world around us.

Last week an author over at Stepcase Lifehack wrote an article entitled The One Time Your Ego Serves You Well. Here's a quote:
The problem with putting someone else first is that unless that person is putting you first in a reciprocal fashion one hundred percent of the time, it is a downward spiral. It may be a very slow one, but if you are not caring for your own needs first, you can end up at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. If you put others before yourself, everyone else will get taken care of and you will be last; and since there is always someone else who needs something, you will not only be last on the list, you may never get anything you need.
Now, I get what they are trying to say. Later in the article the author uses the example of airlines having a passenger put on their own oxygen mask in the event of an emergency before trying to help another passenger. If you pass out you are of no help to anyone else.

But here is the truth, Jesus calls for us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. There is simply nowhere in Scripture that tells us to look out for ourselves first. In fact, we are repeatedly called to give sacrificially. Jesus commends the poor widow for giving out of her poverty (Mark 12:41-44). Paul praises the church at Macedonia for giving "beyond their means" (2 Corinthians 8:1-3).

Ladies and gentlemen, our ego never serves us well as Christians. Our ego takes its cues from Pride and Worry. Our ego tells us that we should not serve but be served. Out ego tells us to keep and not give.

If our life is truly a union with Christ, then we are called to empty ourselves, give up our "rights," and serve others first.

 
 
I am going to start this post by humbly asking for your forgiveness. I want to rehash a topic that has been talked about for years, but it is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately. With the current economic and political situation of the United States, it seems like as good a time as any to start thinking about it again.

I assume that you all have heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” Many believe that this quote comes from the Bible, and, at first glance, it seems to be harmless. After all, Proverbs 6 warns against laziness by honoring the work ethic of the ant and in Matthew 25, Christ presents two parables that speak of the virtues of preparation and hard work. In truth, however, this phrase is not in the Bible at all; Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1735.

And, honestly, how much further from the truth of our Lord can a phrase be? God helps those who help themselves? No! Our Lord helps those who cannot help themselves! Jesus healed the lame man at the pool at Bethesda (John 5:1-8). He healed the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-5). And He healed you and I, desperate and wicked sinners who had no hope of ever spending eternity with our God and Creator. He gave His life so that we might be freed from the bondage of our sins and know the joy of being able to boldly approach the Father and be presented holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.

Unfortunately, that phrase has a tendency to creep into our everyday speech and it is rarely spoken in a loving manner. The homeless, the prostitutes, the addicts…they can all be written off because they are obviously not helping themselves. That is not how our Savior sees them. Thankfully, that is not how our Savior sees us. I challenge you to try to become more like Christ in this way: help the helpless just as Christ did for you.

How do you feel about the phrase “God helps those who helps themselves?”   I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

 
 
So, you have a bunch of friends that don’t (or won’t) go to church, but you are hurting for a way to connect with them in the real world.  Been there many times, my friend.  Here are 9 simple ways to connect with anyone:

  1. Go to a concert/sporting event:  Especially in Nashville, there is always live music to be heard. Several minor league sports teams, too.  Check your community calendar and go have some fun!

  2. Volunteer: Go help serve a meal at the homeless shelter or help out at the local animal shelter. Habitat for Humanity is always a great organization to work with and you might even learn a new skill! There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in and around your community and I’ll bet your friends would love to get involved, too.

  3. Invite them over to your house for dinner/dessert: People gotta eat, right? Why not feed them on your home turf? Give them a chance to see you and hang out with you at home.

  4. Invite them to church/small group: They don’t go to church, huh? Have you invited them? This one might seem obvious, but it might just be that your friends aren’t coming because you aren’t bringing.

  5. Go for a motorcycle ride: Maybe you don’t ride a motorcycle. Well, start! Or go for a scenic drive. Or go for a bicycle ride. Get out and spend some time in the world God created.

  6. Host a Guitar Hero/Rock Band night: Everybody needs to unwind.  Break out the PS3 or Wii and rock out!

  7. Go play (insert your sport here): Football, Ultimate Frisbee, Tennis, Golf.  If you have the equipment, why aren’t you using it as a witnessing tool? Huh?

  8. Start a book club/study group: It’s not as nerdy as it sounds. Surely there is a book that has been written sometime in the history of the printed word that you might find appealing. If you are a student, you’re gonna be reading it anyway. Invite your friend/classmate to talk about it with you.

  9. Serve Them: Do they need help moving? What about helping them do a full-on cleaning of their house/apartment? Fixing their car? Volunteer yourself to help them get the mundane done; they will appreciate it.

Looking back over this list, I see a recurring theme: these are mostly things I like to do anyway. Theoretically, my friends like to do these things, too (would we be friends if we didn’t like even few of the same things?).  Connecting is simple: find common interests and go do them!

9 is a weird number for a list, so I need your ideas to finish it off.  What are some ways that you (specifically) can connect with your non-believing friends?  Leave your ideas in the comments.
 
 
I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn word of my good mother. - Charles H. Spurgeon


Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I want to take some time and honor mine.  Here are some things that stand out to me the most about her:

  • I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that she loves me to death.  I feel it every time I see her.  She has always put her children first, and I am very appreciative of that, even though I don’t show it as often as I should.

  • I have never doubted her devotion to Christ. She always made sure that a strong grounding in faith was a top priority for all three of us.

  • She is the best household manager I have ever seen.  Even though I always give her a hard time about her obsessive organization and cleanliness, I know that I am a much better husband and father (though not nearly as good as I should be!) because I have learned how to shoulder some of the responsibility of running a house.

Mom, you are the greatest I could ever ask for.  We both know that I will always be moving forward with my life, but I promise I will make time to remind you that I love you.  Thanks for being my mom.

 

    About the Author

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a husband to Rachel. I am a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I worship at Erlanger Baptist Church in Erlanger, KY.

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