Friday, December 2, 2011

The Purpose of Christmas

I gave in. What was I thinking? My wife asked (begged) me to go shopping with her on the day after Thanksgiving. My answer? OK, sure.

What was I thinking!

What Did I Get Myself Into?
I hate shopping! Even worse, I had agreed to go with her on the busiest shopping day of the year. The only reason I can come up with is that if she went, I would be at home alone with all three kids - ALL DAY LONG! Oh well….

What I experienced that Friday was ugly! People were pushing, adults were fighting over toys and parking spaces (we saw two guys almost get in a fist fight over a parking space), and the sales people were rude. Honestly, it wasn't all too bad. There were some people that seemed to have some perspective, but not many we ran into.

A bright spot in our day was when we were seated in a restaurant next to a new mom and her baby. It just so happened that we had our baby with us that day, too. The young mother and my wife Robin struck up a conversation and it wasn't long before our conversation turned to spiritual things.

This woman was feeling guilty and alone (as an unwed mother). We were able to share about Christ's love and we invited her to visit our church. It was a total God-ordained appointment.

Anyway, the whole consumer-driven, commercialized theme of the holiday shopping rush always seems to frustrate me. I keep asking myself, "Don't they get it?" I mean…do they really think that's what Christmas is all about?

If we look at the Christmas story from its original source, the Bible, we can determine the true meaning of Christmas. Let's look at it. There are two biblical accounts to look at, Matthew 1:18-2:19 and Luke 1:5-2:40.

So, according to these passages (please read them in your own Bible), what is the purpose of Christmas? What is is all about? Maybe it's about:
  • Family & Friends
    Obviously in the Christmas story, they had plenty of both! Think about it…what better time is there to gather in community and celebrate relationships than the anniversary of God's Son coming to earth?

    But no. I don't think that's the real purpose of Christmas.
  • Paradox
    This story is filled with paradoxical things such as:
    1. The Creator (Heb. 1:2) became one of His created beings (Heb. 2:14).
    2. The Author of time subjected Himself to it. Although He exists in a world without time (2 Peter 3:8 - otherwise called eternity), he willingly stepped into it.
    3. The infinite God became a limited human (Phil. 2:5-7). Think about it...the omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (being everywhere at once), omnipotent (all-powerful) God became a baby. The One on Whom all life depends became frail and dependent on His parents for everything. Let me tell you from firsthand experience, that's not what I would choose.
    4. The ultimate Ruler of the universe was born into obscurity…into a poor blue-collar family. Yet still, I don't believe this is the reason for Christmas.
  • Divine Guidance
    Divine guidance occurs no less that 11 times in the two Nativity accounts:
    - Zechariah (Luke 1:5-20)
    - Joseph (Matt. 1:20-25, Matt. 2:13-15, Matt. 2:19-21)
    - Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
    - Wise Men (Matt. 2:1-12)
    - Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
    - Anna (Luke 2:36-38)
    - Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

    …But I don't think this has a legitimate claim to God's true intent.
  • Giving
    In this story we see two great examples of giving:
    1. God to man (Luke 2:10-11)
    2. Man to God (Matthew 2:11)

    …Of course, this story is about the gift of God's one and only Son to us, but I believe there is a deeper truth He wants us to see.
When I look at the whole of the Bible and especially the two accounts of the birth of Jesus, I see a couple of dominant themes emerging.

The Christmas story is vital to understanding the whole story of God. In it, we see a God who cares so deeply for us that he was compelled to act. It wasn't enough for Him to carry sympathetic thought toward us...He had to get involved.

In his book "Mortal Lessons" (Touchstone Books, 1987) physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed facial surgery on a young woman:
I stand by the bed where the young woman lies…her face, postoperative…her mouth twisted in palsy…clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight…isolated from me…private.

Who are they? I ask myself - he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. "Will my mouth always be like this?", she asks. "Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut." She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. "I like it," he says. "It's kind of cute."

All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers…to show her that their kiss still works.
His Love Still Works Too
We were hopelessly ruined by sin and our lives broken beyond our means of repair. Many of us carry internal scars as a result. There was no possible way we could ever even hope for a relationship with a holy and pure God.

He knew that, so He accommodated us by becoming as we are, even a little baby. His body was later twisted and broken on the cross. The purpose was to show us that His love still works and that He is able to repair the broken relationship between us and Him. You are not beyond His love; you haven't gone too far or done too much.

Also, I believe Christ's coming was God's response to the often unspoken cry of our hearts…to be loved, to belong, and to be significant. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has placed "eternity in the hearts of men." Inside each of us there is a longing for more. This is why we are drawn to the supernatural, even those of us that are more given to "logical thinking."

There is a poem that I dearly love; it is entitled "Our Greatest Need,"
If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness,
so God sent us a Savior.
Robin and I pray that your Christmas season is filled with memorable times of peace, joy, and community!

Have You Given Your Heart To Him?

If you have never given your heart to Christ, there is no better gift you can give Him (for His human birthday) than the gift of your heart and your life! All you have to do is pray to Him and ask Him to come into your life as your forgiver (for the wrongs you've done), your friend (who will never give up on you or abandon you) and the leader of your life (the One who is in control).

If you have walked away from a relationship with Him, simply confess your sins and ask for His forgiveness. First John 1:9 says He will restore the broken relationship and the broken fellowship between you and Him. Why don't you come back home where your heart belongs today?

If you do, your life will never be the same.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seeking Closure

Those that have been involved in abusive relationships (whether physical, emotional or spiritual) often  have a lot of emotional baggage.  And many that have "survived" try to find some sort of closure.  It's a normal part of the grieving process.  Unfortunately, that's not always possible. 

Here's my story...

Early on in ministry I worked for a manipulative, controlling person.  This person "dispensed and withdrew acceptance" (to quote from Robert S. McGee's excellent book, The Search for Significance) as a way of controlling people.  If a person did what he wanted, he/she was lavished with love and acceptance... sometimes, even with praise, especially early on in the relationship.  But if he/she didn't do as expected, desired, etc, this minister made sure everyone knew that he was displeased, and the person was excluded from the "inner circle."

This minister even made it a point to use sermon illustrations that those in the inner circle knew were obviously directed at the "offender", but everyone else listening to the message would have no clue about.  He would make fun of them, talk demeaningly about them or gossip about them to other inner circle people, but never to the offender him-/herself.  But he made sure the offender found out about what was said.  And everyone else was afraid to cross this minister, for fear of being the target of his aggression.

Unfortunately, at one point Robin and I became the offenders.  We were instantly ousted from the inner circle.  It got to the point that when Robin would go up to talk with this minister's wife in public, she would literally turn her back on Robin and continue the conversation.  Childish, no?

Honestly, this is really nothing more than a spiritual version of the playground bully, using fear and intimidation as a weapon.

Thankfully, we moved on and took another ministry position and experienced what a healthy church looks like.

Over the years that followed, I tried to get closure by sending notes and emails.  I thanked this person for giving me a start in ministry, for taking a chance on me, etc.  No reply... nada, nothing, zilch.  I even tried going through the one friend I still had on staff in that organization to confirm that this minister received my message.  Still nothing.

Eventually my friend invited me to be a guest speaker at one of his youth services.  I expected this minister to come over afterward and at least say the obligatory hello.  Didn't happen.  He sent one of his inner circle people to relay the message that he and his wife were tired and wouldn't be coming

All I wanted was for him to acknowledge that I was okay... that I had done well for myself.  I didn't need an apology... just an acknowledgement that I existed.  It never happened.

Finally I understood what Robin had been telling me all along: I was seeking something I was never going to get.  The problem is that when you're dealing with manipulative, controlling and abusive people, you'll never get this closure you're looking for.  This is a way they can continue to punish you for not remaining in the abusive relationship.  And as long as you keep trying to find peace with this person, it remains a codependent relationship.

Sometimes the abusive person is so selfish it's as if they're not capable of give you the closure you so desire.  I'm not excusing what's been done to you... just trying to provide some perspective.

Continuing to seek closure from an abuser will cause you needless stress, heartache and pain... sometimes even health problems.  You are continuing to lay yourself out as a doormat for them to wipe their feet on.  It's as if you're giving them the remote control to your happiness.  I never want to give someone else that much control over my well-being.

I recently spoke with a friend that is dealing with this very thing.  This is what I told her:
Please understand that we want the best for you. But in order for you to go on mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you're going to have to let this go. You're seeking something that you're not going to get. I learned this the hard way myself. 

You don't need this person's approval/connection/whatever to live a happy, healthy life. If you want closure, you'll need to create that yourself.

If it's bothering you this much, maybe you should create some type of ceremony and officially let this go.  Maybe you could write what you feel on a piece of paper and then burn it as a way of offering it up to God. Then anytime those feelings about this come back, say, "No, I won't let those feelings control me anymore. I gave this over to God already."
I hope this post helps you in some way process some baggage you may have accumulated over the years.  I'd be interested in your comments.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A letter to beginning missionaries

Robin wrote the following letter to some friends that were getting ready to move to Russia to work with orphans.  I believe it is good advice to anyone planning to go to the mission field! - Jon

I am so glad that you are obeying God and taking this challenge.  We are praying for you and your children! I was thinking about what I wished other people would have told me before I left for the mission field and what advice I did receive that has helped over the years.

The first part of this journey is all so quick and exciting that even the frustrating parts are fun.  It’s amazing to watch the children learn and adapt to their new environment.  Learn from them.  They are watching you to see if this new place is okay.  As I read about others’ experiences on the field, I am so convinced that the difference between a bad and good experience for the children is the attitude of the parents. 

I think one of my biggest challenges is to keep positive about the cultural differences that bug me.  Patsy Cameneti once told me that if we talk about all the things that we don’t like about the mission field…it frustrates the grace of God on our lives.

I am so proud to be an American.  There are so many freedoms that you will give up to serve in another country.  Many Europeans that I have met long to live in America.  Even if they don’t really understand the politics …they understand that America equates with freedom.  Because of that, many will be excited to get to know you.  They want to know more about you and God will use this as an opportunity to lead them to Him.  On the other hand, some people will not like you just because you are an outsider.  Their long time prejudices will come out in strange and hurtful ways.  This is an even greater chance to show the love of God.  Your neighbors will be watching you.  (When we meet people in our village, they usually tell us what they know about our family.)

Remember the call of God.  Write down what He is telling you to do.  When the times get tough…and they will…you can look at what God said and it will keep you there.  There are some extremely lonely times on the mission field.  Times where you are in the middle of many people and feel really alone.  I remember a time when I was at a hardware store and couldn’t figure out how to ask for a concrete screw so I could hang a picture on the wall.  I just started crying in the middle of the aisle.  Then, I had a good laugh. Many times it was frustrating just trying to decipher the bills and the kids homework.  But, they all add up to a wonderful and challenging experience that I wish everyone could have.

No matter where you are on the earth, in God’s will is the safest place to be.  With the political uncertainties that are going on in Russia right now, it’s important to know that God is in control.  We came over here two weeks after 9/11 and things were very uncertain.  But, when we got here we knew that this was the right place. 

One of my concerns before we moved to Germany was that maybe this wasn’t God’s will after all.  Maybe all this trouble was a big mistake.  Deep inside you really know, but there will be questions here and there.  Brother Hagin always said that it’s possible to have faith in your heart and doubts in your head.  But I think it’s better to go ahead and follow what you think is God’s will and fail… than to never try. 

Some people think that it is really too big of a step to take a family overseas to live.  But, that’s why it is so rewarding to do what we do.  We took a leap of faith and now are able to watch God work in ways that we never would have known.  I think in many ways that it is really more of a leap of faith to NOT follow the will of God. With Him, you know that it will all work out. 

Just do what you were doing there in Texas… in another country. 

Many blessings,


PS. is a God-send :-)

New Watermark Freiburg (Church Planting) Blog

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New Watermark Freiburg (Church Planting Blog): "Thoughts about Church Planting and Church Government" -

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daily Downloads

My mother's sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.

I find it interesting that here in the middle of a love song is an amazing leadership truth.  Those that minister to others can find themselves guilty of this verse... taking care of the needs of others while neglecting themselves and their needs.

We have to intentionally spend time with God for ourselves... downloading His heart and passion on a daily basis.  If not, we'll never finish God's mission for our lives.  There is an entire world out there counting on us to get it right!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

The value of staying put

Over the past few weeks Robin and I have had a few conversations with people that are basically bailing out in the face of circumstances.  Some of them aren't even facing what we would consider major trials.  But each of these individuals is seriously considering quitting, or taking the easy way out.

Robin and I do understand that hard times come... sometimes it's more like hard seasons.  Been there... done that!

But at the same time, we can't afford to just quit because times are tough.  There are incredible benefits to seeing something through to the end.  Persistence pays off!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
Notice what it says... AFTER you have suffered a little while you'll end up strong, firm and steadfast.  Another translation says you'll be, "established and settled."  I believe this is why we have so many people that are unsettled in the face of trials and troubles.  They've never stuck it through to the end.

Look at what Paul told Timothy...
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus...
1 Timothy 1:3
Paul wanted Timothy to stay there so he could straighten out problems that the Ephesians were dealing with.  But notice that the basic instruction is still the same: stay put!  Why?  Because it's so much easier to leave when things aren't going as we had thought/hoped/dreamed they would.  We seem to think a change of scenery will make the problem go away.  On the contrary, if we run from a problem, we'll see it again... different faces and situations, but the same old problem.

If we'll just stay the course and see it through to the end, we'll come out the other side stronger, established and settled. The Book of Hebrews tells us that it's by faith and PATIENCE that we inherit what God has promised us. This leads me to believe that if we're not patient, we won't see the full realization of God's dream for us and our lives.

God wants us to not just be good starters, but good finishers. Bill Hybels said recently, “How you finish is how you will always be remembered. Don’t end it with a whimper.” Let's be known as those that finish well!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Smash & Grab!

As you may already know, our church was broken into last Sunday night. The thief (or thieves) kicked in the office door and stole two guitars, two laptops, a bike, a camera and an iPod, and some other smaller items.

It has been quite frustrating trying to figure out how to do ministry without some of our basic equipment. We are working on getting replacements, loaners, new stuff, etc. And it's been an experience learning how law enforcement and insurance works in Germany.

We have decided this is a great time to obey God's Word. Jesus said,
“But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. - Luke 6:27-28
We have been praying that God bless and help those that did this. As we were doing so the other day, Robin felt as if God was using this situation to reach the people involved. It was as if there was no one praying for them. And although God didn't cause this to happen, He will use it to bring about good for everyone involved... especially since we're actively praying and inviting Him into the situation.

Actually, the first Scripture to come to my heart when I first learned of the break-in was written by the Apostle Paul...
I want you brothers and sisters to know that what has happened to me has helped to spread the Good News. - Philippians 1:12
We are excited to see the redemptive ending God will bring about as we continue to pray. God is good and is able to bring good out of bad things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Day The Manna Stopped

They had finally arrived! No more desert!!! The Israelites had finally entered the land God had promised to give them. Now they were "home."

And then someone interesting happened... This miraculous daily provision of manna stopped. It had been a part of their daily life for 40 yrs. And now it was over.

The exciting thing was that they were finally eating the food of their promised land. The hard part was that now they would have to work for whatever they ate.

I find this to be the case in my life as well. On my journey to something God promised me I see His provision...often it's even miraculous. But once I reach my "destination", it seems I need to start doing more for myself.

For instance, the first year we were on the mission field it seemed we didn't even need to pray about finances. After that, things got tough and we really needed to trust God to just survive financially. Of course He took care of us... it's just that our faith and trust in Him needed to grow in this area.

It's like parents putting their children down so they can learn to walk. It's not that they don't love their kids enough to hold them. The parents are actually doing their kids a favor in the long run. God does the same with us... it's a normal part of the growth process. Short-term struggles can produce long-term growth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

When it's too late...

Sometimes because of our decisions we miss out on God's best for us. It's not that He doesn't want to bless us... It's just that the window for that particular opportunity has closed.

What God calls us to do always requires faith (Hebrews 11:6).  And when we respond in disobedience instead of faith, we don't get to see the results that obedience would have produced.

Read Numbers 14:39-45

In this passage, the Israelites disobeyed.  Then they decide to make up for lost time, and obey God "after the fact", even though He told them it was too late to see the blessing for obedience. The results were disastrous!

I was supposed to go on a mission trip between my first and second years of Bible school. I didn't go (read: disobeyed), then asked God for forgiveness.

He forgave me, but every time I would talk with God about what I should have learned there or what connections I should have made there, He was silent. One time I felt Him speak in my heart that I would never get to know what I missed until I got to heaven. That blessing only comes with obedience.

Had I obeyed, maybe I would have discovered years earlier that I was called to be a missionary and a lead pastor. I could have been better prepared for what God had called me to.

Who knows what would be different today?  I just know that I don't want to make the same mistake again! Let's be like Caleb and obey the first time (Numbers 14:24)... And obey immediately!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stop Spamming My Blog!

I just confronted another blogger that thought the way to increase traffic to his website was to keep commenting: "You are invited to visit my blog" on our Perrin Family Blog.  This is an excerpt from what I emailed him...
While I understand that you would like me and our other readers to visit your blog, this is a guaranteed way to keep people away from your blog.  In a sense, it is a way of hijacking our blog and our readers, and this is not acceptable.  And our readers are the type that would never visit the blog of someone that posted such things, so it's actually counter-productive.  
The best way to get someone to visit your blog is to make comments that add value to the discussion... this generates interest in the author of the comment and what else they might have to say.  One way we have attracted new readers is by posting interesting comments on other blogs that pertain to the subject matter.  This communicates respect to both the author of the blog and to their readers.
These "Visit my blog" comments are unrequested and unwanted (read: SPAM) that I end up deleting each time.  Please refrain from commenting on this blog again unless you have an actual comment that adds value to the discussion...
If you desire to create an audience, you have to give them a reason to visit your blog (great content), and generate traffic based on personal relationships and thought-provoking comments on other blogs.  Seth Godin has some great thoughts about this on his Blog.  In one post he writes, "Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk."  Absolutely true!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Write it out yourself!

Deuteronomy 17:18 NCV

Here God commands the Israelite kings to write out a copy of His teachings for themselves.  I wonder how many of the kings actually did it.  It would have been much easier to have someone else do it... or just not do it at all.

This is yet another practical way that God gives us to help keep our hearts close to Him: take a verse or passage of Scripture that means something to you and write it down.  Then keep it with you and look at it throughout the day.

Or you could do what my wife did... she just wrote it out and taped it to her mirror.  One time she even wrote "NO COMPROMISE" on her bathroom mirror in lipstick.

Whatever it takes, we have to get these principles down into our hearts so we can serve God and live the life He has planned for us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Still amazed!

Easter Weekend at Watermark

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that we saw 43 people make a commitment to give their lives to Christ on Easter weekend.  AMAZING!!!  It's even more amazing when you think about the fact that this is more "salvations" than most European churches experience in their entire existence.  That brings the grand total of new believers since we started our church six months ago to 54!!!

The Saturday before Easter we had an Easter Egg Hunt (normal in America, but not in Germany) with 3500 eggs!  Before the kids got started we had a little program for the kids, complete with "The Story of Hearts" by our friend Geni Brooks.  It is incredibly effective at presenting the Gospel message to kids.  At the end of the program 35 kids and 5 adults raised their hands and prayed with me to commit their hearts to Christ!

Our Easter service was a home run!  One young lady gave her heart to Christ.  Then we had an Easter Fair with 20 booths, prizes and an evangelistic clown (who shared the Gospel story as she made balloons).  She prayed with two more boys... what an awesome weekend!

None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for our amazing team and our generous partners!  We appreciate all of you more than you know!  Now more than ever we see how fruitful a missional church for the unchurched can be.  Of course all of this takes finances... if you would like to be a part of helping reach Freiburg, Germany - a city of a quarter million people with less than 1% Born Again believers - you can click on this link to go to our secure PayPal donation page:

Friday, April 22, 2011


Spring is my favorite time of year.  Winter is usually cold and dark in Germany.  The days are extremely short and dark.  But, in Spring and Summer, the scenery is so beautiful in the Black Forest, and this part of the country is known to be the sunniest (and therefore, the friendliest) part of Germany.  

The reason that this is my favorite season is not only the weather and flowers, but Easter! Jesus’ birth is celebrated at Christmas.  It’s a wonderful time that I feel we have really turned into something other than a celebration of Jesus.   But, Easter….it’s a celebration of just Him and what he did on the cross for us!  Not only did Jesus live a perfect life day after day, year after year, but after 33 years of this perfect life….he gave it up for us!  At Easter, he paid the ultimate price.  God paid the ultimate price for us, the riff raff of society. 

Jesus was beaten beyond recognition of even looking like a man- so we could have healthy bodies.  His blood that poured out at the cross was to make sure that we could be forgiven….that we could experience the unbelievable joy of being in the very presence of His father!  Jesus knew that if he sacrificed himself for us, that it would produce a harvest of believers that would span the course of time.  

On Easter, we celebrate when Jesus rose from the grave.  When he rose, he gave us hope!  I LOVE THIS SEASON!  It makes me cry every time I think of Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy in His resurrection!  He layed down everything for us…so that we could enjoy everything that God had given to Him!  That’s what the season means for me.  

People are so open to the things of God at Christmas and Easter.  Let’s tell everyone we know!   

Watermark Easter
We are going to have a huge Easter egg hunt and festival (carnival) for the at-risk kids in our neighborhood this Easter.  We are going to tell them about what Jesus did for them through eggs, juggling, carnival booths, clowns and balloons. Our church is in the middle of what we would call "the projects".  There are so many cultures represented in this area because of the large immigrant population. I can't wait to see what God will do with this outreach!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Bible Study Discussion Guides!


A few years ago Robin and I wrote a series of Bible Study Discussion Guides for a local church in Bonn, Germany.  The small group program at this church had become basically teaching groups (old school Bible studies).

In an effort to revitalize the small group program, we started writing our own curriculum, which was translated into German.  The purpose of these Discussion Guides is to both build relationships and learn spiritual principles.  The result was better than we expected!

We have an entire year’s worth of weekly Small Group lessons (52 lessons) in 4 main themes (including 26 lessons on Spiritual Disciplines). And we want to give them away for free.

Click on this link to download the free Discussion Guides (zip file): Small Group Discussion Guides (English)