Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This Blog Has Moved...

This blog has moved to the Perrin Ministries website.  

We will leave it active for a season for those that are still linking to posts on this site.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't be so weird!

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I saw a video from an online Washington Post article tonight that saddened me.  A comic named John Oliver bludgeoned televangelists and "faith preachers" with his sarcasm and a dose of reality.  This "faith message" he mocks is one I grew up with, but on some of his points I actually agree with him.  He genuinely portrays the way our message appears to "outsiders."

Full disclosure: I do believe in God's ability and willingness to heal and bless us.  But I don't think we've done a very good job of sharing God's heart.  While there is much truth to what some ministers are teaching, their message often gets lost in the bizarre (and sometimes manipulative) ways they choose to share it.

I'm attaching the link for those that wish to watch it.  BE WARNED: This video contains very strong language and brutal sarcasm.  If you are easily offended, please don't watch it!!!!!  And don't hold me accountable for wrecking your perfect little Christian world.  I believe we need to understand what the world around us truly thinks about Christianity in order to engage it.  If you choose to watch the video, please read the rest of this article first...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Wizard of Oz

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We fear failure.  And although we may feel as if failure is the end of the road, it can be the beginning of a new path.  Or at least it can help us continue our journey in a smarter way.  We mistakenly believe today's failure determines tomorrow's destiny.  This is categorically false.

Tweet This: We mistakenly believe today's failure determines tomorrow's destiny. This is categorically false!

Some of history's greatest men and women have overcome failure to create great things.  Take, for instance:

  • Socrates - Labeled "an immoral corrupter of youth."
  • Sir Isaac Newton - Failed miserably at running the family farm.
  • Winston Churchill - Struggled in school and failed 6th grade.
  • Abraham Lincoln - Went to war as a captain and returned a private, failed at numerous business ventures and was defeated numerous times while running for public office.
  • Walt Disney - Fired by a newspaper editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas."  He also failed at a number of business ventures and went bankrupt.
  • Thomas Edison - Told by his grade school teacher that he was "too stupid to learn anything." 
  • Albert Einstein - Because he didn't speak until age 4 and didn't read until age 7, his teachers and parents considered him mentally handicapped.  He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic.
  • Vincent Van Gogh - During his lifetime, he sold only one painting... and that was to a friend (and only for a small amount of money).
  • Michael Jordan - Cut from his high school basketball team.

What's the worst that can happen if you fail?  So you have to start over... so you have to admit you aren't perfect... so you are disappointed... so what?!?!  A failure is not a life sentence.  It's just a normal part of the growth process.

Failure doesn't have the ability to control our destiny unless we allow it to do so.  It is not all-powerful.  Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy first discovers the true identity of the Wizard?  They find out he's really nothing but smoke and mirrors (and a deep, booming, scary voice) behind a large curtain.  The reality is an entirely different thing.

We have to remember that as long as Jesus is alive there is hope!  Most failures are neither final nor fatal.  And if we choose to learn from them, they aren't futile either.  Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

How do we learn from failures?  By analyzing them.  We have to train ourselves to become more self-aware.  We have to ask ourselves some hard questions:

  1. What really happened? (Try to separate the emotion/drama from the event and analyze what actually occurred.)
  2. Why did it happen? (Look for causes, both the obvious ones and the ones that may be harder to discover... prayer will help with this one.)
  3. What was my part in the failure? (Many of the failures we experience aren't entirely our fault, although, for the most part they are self-inflicted.)
  4. What did I do to make the problem worse? (How did my actions/reactions escalate the emotion/intensity of the situation.)
  5. What could/should I have done differently? (This one may take some time to process.  You may need to ask someone else that knows you well to help with this.)
  6. What principles can I learn from this? (If we fail to learn from the past we're doomed to repeat it.  When all is said and done, this is the step that is the difference maker.)

Now that you've analyzed everything, take a moment to pray and ask God to help you apply what you've learned through this introspection process.  You may find, like I often do, that the answers are revealed over time.  I was telling my son how I discovered a new principle about an event that happened three years ago.  He said I should let it all go.  I explained that I'm always wanting to learn from the past, so I'm thankful when God shows me something.  I'm not living in the past, just making sure I learn from it!

For further study on this subject Failing Forward by John Maxwell is an exceptional book!

What questions would you add to this list?  Join the discussion below.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


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Today I was thinking back to something I wrote 17 years ago.  It's just as true today.  God is a good Father... and He loves His children.  

Last week my wife gave birth to our 2nd child… a little girl we named Ashton.  It didn’t come soon enough!  Nine months… it doesn’t seem too long.  Unless you’re in school awaiting summer break, or away from your loved ones, or pregnant.   Then nine months can seem like an eternity.

I remember the first time I held her… she was wrinkly and cried a lot.   She was incapable of showing love and affection or appreciation.  She didn’t ask to be born and certainly didn’t seem to like the experience much.  She brought nothing to the table.  She had nothing to offer me… well, nothing I needed anyway.

But I had this incredible, overwhelming emotional experience.  I was so excited and so in awe all at the same time.  I was filled with such pride… this was MY little girl!  I would do anything to make her happy.  Nothing was too good for her.  I would give my life to keep anyone from ever hurting her.  Here she was, not even 15 minutes old yet, and my life was forever changed!  I would never be the same.

Driving home a few days later, I began to think of how God, our Heavenly Father, must feel.  We have absolutely nothing to offer Him.  He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush experience as “I AM THAT I AM.”  He is totally self-sufficient!  He doesn’t need humans to make Him feel important.  He doesn’t keep us around for self-esteem purposes.  He chooses to use us for the fulfillment of His plan, but He could easily invented with another way.

I’m convinced that He created us because He wanted someone to share His love with.

But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:4-5

The Apostle Paul wrote that it is not because of good works that we have done, but because of God's great mercy that He has chosen us (Titus 3:5).  We could never be good enough, or good-looking enough, or do enough or be loveable enough to earn a relationship or favor with Him.  He loves us because He has decided to love us.  HE LOVES US BECAUSE WE ARE HIS CHILDREN!  How His heart must beam with pride over us, even when we mess our pants or spit up or cry (spiritually speaking).  No matter what we do - even if we choose a life without Him - He claims us as His children and loves us unconditionally.   How incredible!  And how totally unlike us!  His mercy never wears out or comes to an end (Lamentations 3:21-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:8).

You are completely loved by your Heavenly Father.  He could never love you any more or any less.  And He invites you to live in a deeply connected relationship with him.  It's up to you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What if things don't work out like you planned? (a leadership thought)

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"Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”- Jesus in Luke 7:23

As you'll recall, John the Baptist's God-given mission was to introduce Jesus to the masses. (see John 1:29-34)  And he had proven himself to be a healthy leader by leveraging his influence to help someone else (Jesus) succeed.  People began to follow Jesus instead of John, which was all a part of the plan. (see John 3:30)

But at this point in the story John the Baptist had been left to rot in Herod's dungeon.  He had fallen from being the famous "prophetic voice in the desert" into obscurity.  Now he was languishing in prison because of his fiery rhetoric. (see Luke 3:19-20)  And aside from a few disciples, no one seemed to care.  I can definitely understand the fact that John felt a bit abandoned and forgotten... and probably even disappointed and disillusioned.

So He sent His disciples to confirm that Jesus was who he (John) had claimed.  After all, this wasn't the way a man of God should end his days.  Maybe he thought he and Jesus would be able to hang out together.  Maybe he expected a little more respect as the first one to truly affirm who Jesus really was. It could be that he thought he would die in peace since he had fulfilled his purpose. Whatever the case may be, we find him questioning whether he had missed God's will or not. 

Notice that Jesus wasn't offended by John's question.  Isn't it encouraging to know that God's not afraid of your questions?  In fact, Jesus gave demonstrative proof (according to Isaiah 61:1-2) that He was exactly who John initially claimed He was.  Now John would be able to die in peace, knowing he'd had a part in God's Master Plan.

Pastors: Are you questioning your call?  Have things not worked out like you planned, or as you prayed they would?  Have you not seen the growth or influence you expected to have?  Does it seem that God has forgotten you?  You need to know that God is not finished with you until you are dead.

After John's disciples left Jesus spoke to the crowd about him. (Luke 7:24-28)  Here we can see Jesus' high degree of respect for him.  He tells the crowd that John is the greatest man to live up to that time.  Why is this?  It's because John had completed the work that God had called him to do.  He'd had a part in turning a nation to repentance and connecting them to their Messiah.  I don't believe it was the scope of God's call upon John the Baptist that got Jesus' attention.  It was his absolute obedience to it, even though it meant he would fade into obscurity after his time in the spotlight was finished.  John must have felt like a failure.  But Jesus said he was a great man of God.

Let me encourage you today: Don't throw in the towel.  Keep moving forward.  God has a HUGE plan for you.  And as long as you're breathing He's not finished with you yet.  Unfortunately here on this earth we can't see from God's eternal perspective.  But when we get to heaven it will have all been worth it - every moment of sacrifice, every sleepless night of prayer, every time we kept going when we wanted to quit.  God revealed Himself to a runaway slave as "the God who sees." (see Genesis 16:13)  He hasn't changed!

What words would you have to spiritual leaders that are thinking of quitting?  Join the discussion below.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bait and Switch

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One of the things that churches have become famous for is the old fashioned "bait and switch."  It's a marketing ploy where a business lures someone into their store by offering an incredible deal on something the person really wants.  But when the person arrives that item is "unfortunately" sold out.  The store does, however, offer the person something that is "actually a better product," but it comes with a higher price tag.  You took the bait (the incredible deal) to come into their store, but they switched it with the product they actually want you to buy.

As I said, churches often do this under the guise of "evangelism."  They offer a HUGE party with free food, a concert or a giveaway, only to use this opportunity to "share the Gospel" with the unsuspecting visitors.  The visitors came for the free food, or the giveaway, or just to have a good time, but they were tricked into a heavily evangelistic event.  It's a classic bait and switch.

What churches are up against

Let's examine it through the filter of today's cynical church visitor.  Millennials (today's young adults) display a large degree of cynicism toward institutions - especially toward churches, which are the face of organized Christianity.  This is why the Barna Research Group recently discovered that the number of those that self-identify as "religiously unaffiliated" is rising rapidly.  According to the latest research, among this demographic the percentage of "nones" (those with no religious background) and "dones" (those that are done with church) make up almost 50% of the population.  And it's over 30% for the general population.

In short, Americans simply aren't looking to the Church for answers anymore.  They may indeed be spiritual, but they often choose other ways of meeting their spiritual needs.

Robin and I saw where this road leads during our 13 years of church planting and church leader training in Europe.  According to the 2006 European Spiritual Estimate less than 2% of Europeans have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Christianity is considered a historical relic - a lot like the beautiful, but empty, cathedrals that dot the landscape.    And because of this the European Church and its leaders have absolutely NO VOICE in society.  Being a Christ-follower is counter-cultural.  We knew people that were openly mocked for their faith in Germany.  This is the future of the American Church, unless we can adjust to engage the prevailing culture.

What the bait and switch looks like in a church setting

Let's examine how the bait and switch event plays out in a typical church scenario.  A church member invites their cynical friend to a typical church event.  This person comes with their friend, meets a few people, has some fun... and then he/she is preached to.  He/she came expecting to have fun, but instead got suckered into a pseudo church service (complete with all the weird traditions that churches are famous for).

They've been tricked!  Now how much credibility do you think the church member will have the next time they try to invite this person (or anyone this person talks to about their experience) to a church event?  More than likely, none.

We have to rethink our strategy!  The bait and switch may have worked a couple of generations ago, but it's not very effective anymore.  People today - especially Millennials - have too many other options.  What if we, instead, offered a party where the entire goal was to hang out with our church people?  What if we offered an event where people just came together for a meal to enjoy each others' company?  We should at least teach our people to share what to expect when inviting someone to one of our events.  And we should also train our people to not heavily proselytize the visitors.  Jesus will probably come up in a conversation.  We are, after all, Christ-followers.  But we don't need to force it.

Going back to the beginning

In my daily devotional times I've been reading through the Gospels.  One of the things I've noticed is that Jesus NEVER offered a bait and switch.  When you came to Him, you could always expect to receive "grace and truth." (John 1:14)  The only ones to face His wrath and His rebuke were those that believed they were somehow better than others, and that they were capable of pleasing God entirely on their own merits.

Tweet This: Jesus never offered a bait and switch. He offered grace and truth.

We have to get back to representing the true heart of Jesus.  One of the church planters I mentor asked his people to invite their friends to "a church service with a baseball game afterwards."  After the short service they grilled hotdogs, then headed over to a pro baseball game to have some fun together.  No one was under any illusion as to what it was all about.  It was a chance for people to visit the church and then watch a ballgame afterwards.  And they DID have visitors because this church was up front about what to expect.

Let's rethink how we do ministry.  American culture is FULL of marketing ploys.  As a result, people have become cynical and choosy about with whom they do business.  Let's be authentic and actually EXCEED peoples' expectations.  If we do, word of mouth will be our best friend!

How does your church avoid the bait and switch?  Join the conversation below.  Your comments help others process how to do ministry in today's society.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Immunization from problems?

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During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both very old. - Luke 1:5-7 

Some people believe that living a life that is pleasing to God will somehow immunize them from problems - as if serving Jesus is some sort of spiritual vaccination. Unfortunately this is not the case. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both faithfully serving God, but still were unable to conceive. They would have had to deal daily with the stigma of having no children (which in their day was considered a curse).  And now they were "very old."

Thankfully God gave them a miracle child. (You can read more about that in Luke 1:8-17 and the rest of the chapter) We know him as John the Baptist. He still does miracles and answers prayers today. You may feel abandoned by God - forgotten and alone. But God sees you, and the totality of your situation. Don't give up hope. Keep trusting. Keep serving. Who knows... your miracle may be right around the corner. Zechariah and Elizabeth kept their hearts in the game and were eventually able to hold the answer to their prayers in their hands.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Things are not always what they seem

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Have you ever felt as if no matter how much you prayed, hoped or trusted in God, He wasn't listening; or even worse - He wasn't going to get involved? It's frustrating when you pray and are doing your best to believe in God's willingness (and ability) to change your situation, but still see no changes taking place.

According to the Reuters News Service, in September 2004, David Page of Norfolk, England held onto a rusty piece of metal that he thought was a bomb for four hours. He was convinced that it was unexploded ordnance from WWII and would detonate if he let it go. He was working when he dug up the device. He immediately called the emergency operator on his mobile phone. She immediately dispatched fire, police and ambulance crews.

“The woman police operator kept saying it would be OK but he kept saying to her, ‘You’re not the one holding the bomb’." The father of five cried as he told her: “Tell my parents and the children that I love them if anything goes wrong.”

When the bomb disposal crew arrived, they told him his “bomb” was nothing more than part of the hydraulic suspension system of a Citroen car. Things are not always what they seem!

In Exodus 14, we find Pharaoh looking down on the Israelites. He had allowed them to leave because of the plagues, but now he was just plain mad! He thought he had them cornered, with their backs against the Red Sea… but things are not always what they seem!

In 1 Samuel 17, we see David facing off against Goliath. As Goliath looked down on this teenager, he mocked him. He thought he would quickly crush David… but things are not always what they seem!

In Luke 24, Satan thought he had Jesus conquered. He thought He had succeeded and God’s Messiah had failed… but things are not always what they seem!

In each of these stories, we find that people overestimated themselves and underestimated God. They weren’t smart enough to realize that God was working behind the scenes.

Perhaps you feel forgotten or overlooked. In 1 Samuel 16, David’s own father overlooked him. He thought David didn’t have the makings of a king, or seemingly of anything important, for that matter… but things are not always what they seem.

I’m sure the Israelites felt abandoned by God on the very night Jesus was born. That same night you could probably hear people singing songs of lament, hoping that God would remember His people. But things are not always what they seem. The Bible says,

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” – Galatians 4:4 (emphasis mine)

In January 2001 the small handful of teens at Rhema Bibel Gemeinde in Bonn, Germany prayed for a youth pastor. They asked God to send them someone. Since this was a new church plant, there wasn’t yet anyone to work with the youth. The teens later told me that many of them felt as if nothing happened when they prayed… but things aren’t always what they seem. One month later God told Robin & I to move to Germany to be the youth pastors at RBG Bonn.

God is not only willing, He is also well able to coordinate events and move people to bring His plan to pass. Let me encourage you not to give up on your prayers or your dreams. God is alive and well… and He is working behind the scenes. He is faithful. He can be trusted. We need to remember that just because we don’t see Him doing something doesn’t mean He is apathetic or uninvolved.

But what if it takes awhile to see the answer to your prayers or the fulfillment of your dreams? If you give up, you’ll never see them. It took Joseph 22 years to see his dreams come true (See Genesis chapters 37-46), but it was well worth it. And Abraham had to wait 25 years to see God's promise come to pass (see Genesis 12). So don’t give up… keep praying, keep serving, keep dreaming. God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)! And remember: Things are not always what they seem!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dear Church Diva...

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I was reminded today of a bad experience I had while visiting a church a few months ago.  And probably because I didn't get enough sleep last night, I felt compelled to write this.  I do have a favor to ask of my readers: Please don't passive-aggressively post this on someone else's wall in the hopes that they will read it and change.  That's not the point.  If you want someone in your circle of relationships to read it, the best way to accomplish this without being rude it to share it on YOUR Facebook page.

After visiting a church recently I have some advice for the "Church Diva" that sat behind me.  You know the type... they want everyone to notice them, whether it's because of their clothes, their actions or their attitude.  Well this guy must have thought the Sunday morning service was his chance to audition for American Idol, and that I was one of the judges.  Now God has blessed me with a powerful set of lungs (read: I'm loud), but I almost couldn't hear myself sing over the sound of his voice.  To be fair, he did have a decent voice.  But to be honest, I don't think anyone around him was as impressed with his voice as he was.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sacred People (part 4)

In this series of articles we're examining the life of Jesus to see what a truly Sacred Person looks like. And it may not be the most spiritual or holy person, although that's what we've been led to believe.  The answer may shock you.

Sacred People (part 1)
Sacred People (part 2)
Sacred People (part 3)

Unholy people

So far we've talked about the need to be authentic and to begin to allow God to expand our small-minded thinking.  And we saw in Acts 10 that we need to treat everyone as if they are created in God's image... because they are!  As we finish up this series we'll look at ways to practically apply these truths.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we see the will of God in action.  He lived a holy life.  His disciples record God speaking from heaven about Him:

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” - Matthew 3:17

God was well pleased with Him because He always did those things that please God.  He lived a life that was fully devoted to God.  This is the definition of a sacred life.  Jesus was truly a sacred person!  And by looking at the life of Jesus we can see how sacred people should live.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Enemy of the State

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So often we miss the contextual details of the biblical narrative.  Most people don't know the cultural context of 1st Century Palestine.  We forget that Jesus and the New Testament writers were real people that lived in the real world.  We must never forget that the Bible was written in space and time.  Unfortunately much of this cultural context is lost on us.  Take, for instance, the following example...

Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it.  For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life?" - Mark 8:34-36

The interesting thing about this passage is that his audience knew exactly what it meant to "take up your cross.’’  Crucifixion was regularly used by the Roman occupation force as a means of keeping the Jewish population in line.  It was a gruesome/tortuous method of execution, almost always committed alongside major travel routes for maximum exposure.  It was reserved for serious offenders - a way of punishing its enemies.  When Jesus used this phrase His hearers understood exactly what He was implying.  It meant dying as an enemy of the State.

What does that have to do with us?  We can’t expect everyone to like us as we follow Jesus.  This goes against the part of us that wants to be liked.  But we have to understand that as our culture wanders farther from God, genuine followers of Christ will be more counter-cultural.

Our insecurity drives us to seek affirmation.  We want to be loved, liked and accepted.  But Jesus was telling His audience that in order to follow Him they would end up as counter-cultural enemies of the State.    The good news is that the darker the world around us grows, the brighter Christ’s light shines through us.  And that’s a good thing because the light is supposed to shine in the darkness. (John 1:5)  We need to let our light shine brightly!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Facing Reality

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Reality - what a painful word for leaders.  It refers to the status quo we live in.  It speaks of the circumstances we are currently experiencing - the inconvenient truth we probably aren't happy with.

A good friend of mine worked at a large church in the Midwest a number of years ago.  This church had been plateaued for awhile, and was starting to head into decline.  So they made a smart decision: they brought in an outside church consultant.  This brings in a fresh set of eyes and removes the emotion from decision-making.  A consultant has nothing to lose by being honest.  He/she can talk about "the elephant in the room" without fear of consequences.

This church hired a very well-known church consultant to identify problem areas so they could make the appropriate adjustments.  They paid a good sum of money for him to analyze everything they did and define their current reality.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sacred People (part 3)

In this series of articles we're examining the life of Jesus to see what a truly sacred person looks like. And it may not be the most spiritual or holy person, although that's what we've been led to believe.  The answer may shock you.

Sacred People (part 1)
Sacred People (part 2)
Sacred People (part 4) 

Unholy people

So far we've talked about the need to be authentic and to begin to allow God to expand our thinking.  This time we're going to look at the turning point for the burgeoning Church (found in Acts 10).

As we also learned last time, the Jews sought to maintain their focus on God through isolation.  They wouldn't even eat with non-Jewish people.  But God wanted to invite "outsiders" in!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Missed Opportunity

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Our family checked out a nearby church this past Sunday.  One of the privileges of this season of our lives (searching for a pastoral position) is being able to visit a lot of churches.  Because of our experience as church planters, pastors and in associate pastoral roles over the past 25+ years we know churches inside and out.  But because of what we have learned in secular (unchurched) Europe we view every church through the lens of outsiders, especially Millennials and others that are far from God.

In visiting this church on Sunday we saw some things that were really good and things that would cause an unchurched person to never come back.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Competition

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Leaders are often competitive.  It's one of the things that drives us to build strong, innovative organizations.  It enables us to persevere through difficult situations without giving up.

But there is also a darker side... one that will destroy everything that God desires to build through us.  We end up eyeing everyone that is succeeding around us as "the competition."  Anytime we do this we reduce them from human beings created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) to rivals needing to be conquered.  And we forfeit the ability to work together to tackle big-picture problems.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Core Values Must Be Modeled

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As Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s home, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. - Mark 2:15

Jesus took His disciples along to dinner at Levi's (Matthew's) house. He modeled for them the kind of people He chose to spend time with. The disciples saw the criticism Jesus got from the religious leaders for hanging with "tax collectors and sinners." But they also saw His heart to connect with people that were far from God.

Spiritual leaders have to model the core values they wish to pass on to those they lead. It's not enough to simply talk about them or teach about them. We must embody them if we want them to be embraced by our team/church. I heard Pastor Rob Ketterling say, "If the unchurched are going to have a voice in my church it MUST be mine." Exactly!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Our First Priority

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"He [Jesus] appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach and to have authority to cast out demons." - Mark 3:14-15
We are ALL "called" by God to serve in full-time ministry. Some are called to serve in a church (pastors), and others to serve in church planting or a foreign country (missionaries). Still others are called to serve in their occupation (painters, bankers, bakers, programmers, etc.).

Notice, though, that when Jesus called His disciples and designated them as apostles the mission and priorities were clear: They were to first be with Him. Then, and only then, were they to go out to preach and do miracles.

It is the same with us... before we go out into our everyday mission field (our occupation) we are to keep first things first. We need to spend time with God, catching His heart and allowing Him to refresh and empower us. Then, and only then, should we head out into our calling. Spending time with God provides meaning and empowerment to spread the message and bring His power to a broken world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Evangelism

Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” They left their nets immediately and followed him. - Mark 1:17-18

When Jesus invited these men to become His disciples (that was the point of this "follow me" invitation) they realized exactly what He meant, for they were fishermen by trade.

Jesus wasn't referring to the holiday weekend, relaxing, cast out a line and wait for the fish to bite kind of fishing. He was referring to the long days/nights of blood, sweat and tears, labor-intensive occupation of net fishing. It involved throwing a round, weighted net over the side of the boat, waiting for it to sink and then pulling it back in - often with little or no results. (See Luke 5:5 and John 21:3) THEY KNEW WHAT HE WAS IMPLYING AND STILL THEY LEFT EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM!!!

Far too many believers are unwilling to put in the time, effort and prayer necessary to truly share the Good News of God's grace to their relational circle. We want something that is socially and financially convenient and that fits into our busy schedule and our lifestyle. This isn't effective. It won't produce the results God intended for us to have. God's way of reaching people requires a lifetime commitment to discipleship (following Him by growing in our trust and obedience to God). If we will simply follow Him, HE will MAKE US fishers of men and women.

All He asks for is our commitment to follow. If we'll do that, He'll take care of the rest!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sacred People (part 2)

In this series of articles we're examining the life of Jesus to see what a truly sacred person looks like. And it may not be the most spiritual or holy person, although that's what we've been led to believe.  What we discover may shock you.

Sacred People (part 1)
Sacred People (part 3)
Sacred People (part 4) 

Getting out of the box

The Jews in Jesus' day lived by rigid legal standards – some established by God and others added by men.  These rules were put in place to keep their hearts and their focus solely on Him.  This included isolating themselves from people that didn’t serve their God.  As a matter of fact, Jews wouldn’t associate or even eat with non-Jews.  This tradition continued with the believers in the early years following Jesus' resurrection and return to heaven.  Their churches were made up entirely of Jews or converts to Judaism.

But God never planned to keep the message of the Jewish Messiah (Jesus) just for the Jews.  His plan all along was for men, women and children of all nations to be a part of His family.  In order to make this a reality, God had to get the Jewish believers out of their isolationist box!  A radical worldview transformation was necessary for this to happen.  Jesus warned that this would happen:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sacred People (part 1)

In this series of articles we're examining the life of Jesus to see what a truly sacred person looks like. And it may not be the most spiritual or holy person, although that's what we've been led to believe.  What we discover may shock you.

Just be real

The lady that cuts my hair is a trip! (in a good way)  She has multiple tattoos (almost a full sleeve), multiple piercings, WILD hair colors and likes "eccentric" clothing.  She's nothing like me, except for our mutual gift for sarcasm and honesty :)  One day she told how she used to go to church with her parents, but never really fit in because she asked too many questions.  Questions make religious people nervous because they bring up uncomfortable topics.  Apparently in a church you’re supposed to stick to the script!  So she finally came to the conclusion that, “I don’t belong in a church.”

Unfortunately I could tell you story after story after story that has exactly the same ending.  This breaks my heart!  We have FAILED in our primary assignment – to represent Jesus to a broken world.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Ministry of Quality Control

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Months ago I had a conversation with a pastor over lunch.  I had recently visited his church and, I must say, I liked it a lot.  His church had an amazing band and had a lot of young people serving in prominent positions in the church.  It was growing and had a lot of positive momentum.  By outward appearances, everything was working... and it was working well.

When he told me how many visitors they'd had recently I asked him how he was doing quality control with their visitor experience.  He replied, "That takes care of itself.  People vote with their feet and and with their finances.  As long as people keep coming I know it's working."  I was honestly shocked to hear this, although I didn't let him know that I was.

Last weekend Robin and I visited a large church in another city led by a pastor we respect a lot.  We were directed by the parking lot crew to park near one of the church entrances.  It was a large building so we didn't know where to go.  We walked in 20 minutes before the last of the multiple services was to start.  No one was there to greet us.  We wandered aimlessly, confused by the signage.  Although it indicated multiple auditoriums nowhere did it say which one hosted the adult service.  We wandered the length of the building - past the youth room and an auditorium apparently used for the new members class - looking for the main auditorium.  In the 4 - 5 minutes it took us to find the main room we passed by several volunteers.  We received three smiles (I counted) as volunteers stood at their posts, but NOT ONE PERSON said hello, welcomed us or offered to help us find our way around.

When we got to the main auditorium there was a young lady that smiled at us as we entered, but she never offered a handshake or a hello.  She simply opened the door and smiled.  We went in and found a seat near the front.  A couple of ushers came by and said hi to a couple near us.  They left before the service started, not even acknowledging us as they walked by.

The service was good, and everyone on stage did a great job.  When it was over they dismissed everyone.  We walked to our car, which we discovered was near the back entrance.  Again we walked past numerous volunteers, but this time we didn't even get a smile.  We got in our car and left.  I was sad.  This church had a LOT to offer, but they had FAILED at connecting with visitors.

Monday, April 27, 2015

How God Rescues [mp3]

I spoke at Pipe Creek Community Church in Pipe Creek, TX on Sunday.  What a great church!  The basis for my message was Exodus 3:7-10.

You can listen to the mp3 by clicking here, or download it to your computer by right clicking and choosing "Download Linked File" or "Save linked file as".

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Lost A Student Today

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We were told last night that a young man from one of our past youth groups ended his own life last week.  He was a sharp college student in California with a promising basketball career.   When we were his youth pastors he was just beginning high school.

It hit Robin and I quite hard.  Our hearts go out to his family.  His parents were very loving and supportive, as were his siblings.  We have been praying for them a lot since we learned of the tragedy.

While we will never know just what he was truly struggling with, we do know that he was loved everywhere he went.  He was respectful, courteous and kind.  When we knew him he had a deep love for God, even though he was fairly shy.  Apparently he came out of his shell as he grew older.

It got me to thinking... youth pastors only have a few years with the students God sends them.  These students have real hopes and dreams, and have been created by God for a significant purpose.  Unfortunately they also bear all-too-real hurts, disappointments and pain.  Many carry hidden scars.

Sadly we sometimes get too busy to notice that the people around us are hurting.  When I was a youth pastor at a megachurch I was often so busy preparing to minister to students that I missed God-given opportunities to connect with them.  What's really dumb about this is that these same students were the very reason I was there in the first place.  How crazy is it to be too busy getting ready to invest in students, only to miss the face to face opportunity to do so?!?!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Role of the Arts in the Church

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In my conversations with church leaders I often get the question about the role of media and the arts in the Church. Most of the time you can boil their objections down to trying to “dress up” the message of the Gospel, as if it couldn’t stand on its own. The typical argument is that some churches are trying to repackage the Gospel to make it “seeker-friendly”, and in doing so they are watering down the message.

While I have seen this done more often than I care to admit, I have also seen many churches that are accessible, yet producing both converts and disciples.

A number of years ago we took a road trip Paris. While there we took the kids to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. What a beautiful church! As I was explaining to the girls about the meaning of the different stained glass pictures and the carvings, it hit me: The Early Church (and the Church of the Dark Ages) explained the message of the Gospel to an illiterate people through images and stories. And this is exactly how today’s Church will be able to explain the message of the Gospel to a biblically illiterate, media-saturated culture!

Tweet This: How do you explain the message of the Gospel to a biblically illiterate, media-saturated culture? The arts! #PostChristianity @jonperrin

What do you think?  Add your voice to the discussion!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Becoming a Better Lover

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Like that title? I thought it might pique your interest. I want to take a few moments and consider how growing in your relationship with Jesus can make you a better lover.
I guess maybe I should give you some background. A number of years ago I taught a series called “Redefining Relationships“ to a college group. As usual, we talked about everything from friendships to sexuality. Since this church was made up primarily of singles, this subject hit home with many of the group members. Those that weren’t facing the battles of purity were still surrounded by sexuality from the media and pop culture at every turn.
Anyway, in this series, I made a passing reference to the fact that becoming more intimate with Christ can make you a better lover. I got quite a bit of response from that statement, so I decided to develop the thought further. I thought this would also be a good subject for married couples. A healthy marriage is like a healthy garden… it requires a lot of effort to weed, water, feed and nurture, but the results are well worth it.
So, I want you to drop your religious inhibitions, take off your holier-than-thou glasses and track with me as we delve into the subject of becoming a better lover. Maybe it would be best if we started with a verse or two from the Bible, so you won’t think I’ve gone off the deep end.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Church Lessons from the Camino (part 3)

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Last year Robin and I walked the last 140 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the medieval Catholic Pilgrimage immortalized in The Way).   We chose the Norte route through the mountains because less "pilgrims" travel it.  It provided us a lot of time to pray and reflect.   The scenery was beautiful, the people were welcoming and the food and coffee were delicious!  It really gave us some time to confirm that God was truly directing us to move back to the US after 13 years of training and coaching leaders, teaching in Bible schools and planting churches in secular Europe.

There were a few lessons we learned on our trip that apply to churches.  If you haven't noticed, our culture is rapidly moving from postmodern to Post-Christian.  Christianity, believers and churches are rapidly losing their influence in society.   But there are some things we can do to create a larger footprint for the Kingdom of God.  In this series of blogposts I'll cover a few of them that are pertinent to North American church leaders.

If North American church leaders want to connect with an unchurched Post-Christian audience they need to:

3.  Choose to be present

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

One of the guys in our "Camino family" (staying at the same Pilgrim Hostel every night) was often so intent on getting to the next town that he just lowered his head and walked as fast as he could - sort of like a fullback taking the ball up the middle.  It was as if the journey didn't really matter... only the destination was important.  One night he lamented the fact that he often lost his way by missing the signs because he was so determined to get to his destination.  He always ended up in the right place, but he missed a lot of the scenery.

Robin and I, on the other hand, would stop every now and then and allow ourselves to be awed by the amazing scenery.  (For the record, we stopped at almost every coffee shop along the way as well, but that's more about my coffee addiction than anything else.)  I'd love to tell you that this was a continual occurrence for us, but it wasn't.  We did, however, often choose to stay present in our surroundings instead of just focusing on where we had to go.  It would have been much easier to get caught up in the weight of our backpacks, our sore muscles and blisters or the distance to the next hostel.  But we made an intentional decision to be present.  And we enjoyed the benefits.  Some of the sights, sounds and experiences truly took our breath away.  And because we slowed down, we were able to hear God's voice more clearly.

Tweet: Make the intentional decision to be present. #slowdown #relationshipsmatter #enjoythejourney @jonperrin

Too often we are so focused on our goals that we ignore the people around us.  We noticed it when we moved from western to southern Germany.  For the first time in our marriage we were visiting churches as outsiders.  Up to this point, anytime we visited a new church it was as guest speakers.
Now we were just looking for a good church for our family.  Often when we arrived early for the service the people inside were scurrying about trying to get everything ready for visitors.  And they were far too busy to be bothered by the very visitors they were getting ready for.  It was almost like the business owner that wouldn't allow people inside his shop because he wanted to keep the floors clean.

One of our mantras at our church in Freiburg was, "It's all about the journey!"  We wanted to make relationships a priority, rather than just getting our tasks done.  We required all preparation to be done 30 minutes before the service started so we could enjoy each other and truly welcome our visitors.

Actually, we found a sign along the Camino that said the same thing:
"Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar." - Antonio Machado
It means, "Camino traveler, there is no Camino.  You make the Camino as you walk."  Or in other words, the Camino is a journey, not a destination.  We can't afford to take the relationships and situations around to us for granted.  We need to take time to enjoy the scenery.  We need to make time for the important people in our lives.  We need to slow down and savor the sights, smells and sounds all around us.  And most importantly, we need to quiet ourselves enough to hear God's voice as He speaks to us.  We must choose to be present.

How do you stay present?  Join the conversation!

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Church Lessons from the Camino (part 2)

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Last year Robin and I walked the last 140 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the medieval Catholic Pilgrimage immortalized in The Way).   We chose the Norte route through the mountains because less "pilgrims" travel it.  It provided us a lot of time to pray and reflect.   The scenery was beautiful, the people were welcoming and the food and coffee were delicious!  It really gave us some time to confirm that God was truly directing us to move back to the US after 13 years of training and coaching leaders, teaching in Bible schools and planting churches in secular Europe.

There were a few lessons we learned on our trip that apply to churches.  If you haven't noticed, our culture is rapidly moving from postmodern to Post-Christian.  Christianity, believers and churches are rapidly losing their influence in society.   But there are some things we can do to create a larger footprint for the Kingdom of God.  In this series of blogposts I'll cover a few of them that are pertinent to North American church leaders.

If North American churches want to connect with an unchurched Post-Christian audience they need to:

2.  Teach their people to listen

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 3)

As I wrote recently, if you truly believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, you have a responsibility to tell as many people as possible.  Unfortunately too many people fulfill this responsibility irresponsibly.  They treat everyone they meet as an "opportunity to preach."

Tweet: Too many people share their faith irresponsibly. @jonperrin #evangelism #faith #justbenormal

Although we prayed that God would use us to invest in the lives of others along our Camino journey, that was not our goal.  We went to hear from God personally.  We chose to listen rather than just talk. And it opened a LOT of doors!

We struck up conversations with our fellow Caminantes (Camino "Pilgrims") as we walked, as we ate together and as we settled in for the night at pilgrim hostels.  We asked a lot of questions.  It was fascinating to hear people's life stories.  We learned that one of our fellow travelers dealt with severe depression.  Another had a devastating divorce.  One guy was taking a much-needed semester break from college.  A couple was contemplating beginning a new life in another country.  A couple of friends had been hiking together for 20 years.  Two of them told us their fathers expected them to carry on the family business, but they didn't want to.

As we truly listened, we heard stories of great joy and great loss, of pain and progress.  We laughed a lot.  And our hearts broke for the hurts people carried.  But the very act of listening itself opened the door for us to be able to share our story.  I spoke with a young man one day as we walked, and we had the most amazing conversation.  He told me he had been studying the Law of Attraction.  He was trying to get his life back on track and he felt this was a positive way to do so.  I explained that many of the principles of the Law of Attraction are actually found in Scripture.  I was able to share about my experience with God's love and His mercy, and how this had radically changed my life.  It was a dialogue that would have never taken place had I used our walk to launch into a monologue.

People will usually open up if you’ll first listen.  Remember: Sow first what you want to reap.  Do you want people to listen to what you have to say?  Then you have to listen to what they have to say... and do so without an agenda!  Don’t preach… start a conversation and build a relationship.  You have to earn the right to be heard.

God desires to use us to influence the world around us.  But a lot of times we screw up God-given opportunities with people.  Commonsense people skills can help us tremendously in this area.  In his amazing book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says we need to, "Seek first to understand; then to be understood."  What would the world look like if we really did this?  I believe we would see a LOT more opportunities!

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 1)

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 3)

Join the conversation... What other advice do you have for church leaders that want to help their church members be more effective in sharing their faith?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Church Lessons from the Camino (part 1)

The Camino de Santiago outside of Sobrado de Monxes (image source:
Last year Robin and I got to walk the last 140 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the medieval Catholic Pilgrimage immortalized in The Way).   We chose the Norte route through the mountains because less "pilgrims" travel it.  It provided us a lot of time to pray and reflect.   The scenery was beautiful, the people were welcoming and the food and coffee were delicious!  It really gave us some time to confirm that God was truly directing us to move back to the US after 13 years of training and coaching leaders, teaching in Bible schools and planting churches in Europe.

There were a few lessons we learned on our trip that apply to churches.  If you haven't noticed, our culture is rapidly moving from postmodern to Post-Christian.  Christianity, believers and churches are rapidly losing their influence in society.   But there are some things we can do to create a larger footprint for the Kingdom of God.  Over the next few blogposts I'll cover a few of them that are pertinent to North American church leaders.

Having been involved in numerous church plants in secular Europe (planting and pastoring the last one we were involved with), we learned how to effectively minister in this environment.  If North American churches want to connect with an unchurched Post-Christian audience they need to:

1.  Prepare their people to welcome visitors

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

As we walked I think we stopped at most of the coffee shops along the way.  The coffee served in Galicia, Spain was the tastiest I've EVER had!  Most of these cafés were very inviting to "pilgrims," serving great coffee, "pinchos" (tapas) and tasty sandwiches.  But one experience was drastically different.

In the middle of nowhere during an exhaustingly steep 30 mile leg of our journey we found a rickety shack that advertised drinks and snacks.  Thank God we could finally get a cup of coffee!  But when we went inside there were a half dozen unwashed tables covered with dirty plates, coffee mugs and shot glasses.  The black mold on the ceiling and walls had creeped all the way down to the floor in some areas.  And there was no one inside.  After a minute or two a very old lady came out of the back room to wait on us.  She was sweet, but her place was DISGUSTING!  I was desperate for a caffeine boost, so we ordered a Café Cortado to go (which turned out to be powdered Nescafé).  Needless to say, it was a very disappointing experience.

Compare this to our experience a couple of days later.  We stopped for lunch at a café with some people we had met as we walked.  The café owner was dancing to the Caribbean music as she waited on tables.  As a matter of fact, she offered free homemade specialty drinks from her village to everyone at our table.  And instead of rubber stamping our "pilgrim passports," she hand-drew the stamps.

One café was welcoming.  The owner went out of her way to make it a fun, inviting experience.  The other café appeared as if they couldn't care less whether we showed up or not.  The owner of the dirty café was sweet, but the atmosphere wasn't inviting.  We instead wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Sending mixed messages (source:
How many times does a similar thing happen in our churches.  An unchurched person works up enough courage to actually visit a church service.  They search online to find a church with a nice looking website and decide to come.  But in the parking lot there are no signs pointing to the entrance.  When they do find it, there are friendly people shaking hands at the door, but after the visitor comes inside he or she is alone again.  There are no signs to the main service room, Kids Church or the restrooms.  People smile when they see them and maybe say hi, but don't really engage them in conversation.

The music, customs and language of the service are strange.  The pastor's message makes references to Bible characters and stories but gives no background (i.e. "It's just like David in the Cave of Adullam... he only cut off the corner of Saul's robe instead of killing him.").  To a visitor it seems as if everyone else in the service is familiar with the story the pastor is referencing, but he or she is clueless.  The message is probably doctrinally sound, but contains no practical application.  The visitor walks away deciding the church has nothing to offer them.  The church has unintentionally given the same message as the dirty café  We want your business; but we don't want to work hard enough to keep it.  The whole experience doesn't draw the unchurched to Jesus; it repels them.

Tweet: To a church visitor, it seems as if everyone else knows what's going on except them.

When we visit a new group, we want to feel welcomed.  We want to feel like we belong... that the people wants us there.  So do our visitors.  Visitors from previous generations came to church when they had a glaring problem.  In an Post-Christian culture people are often just curious.  Yes they may have a need, but they often don't even realize that their lives are messed up.  It's the welcome factor that makes our churches "sticky" (shuts the back door).

There are some simple things you can do to improve your church's welcome factor:

* Train your people (staff, volunteers, members and regular attenders) to welcome people by engaging them in conversation.  I'm not just talking about before the service, but after it as well.  Visitors observe how you treat them before the service to see if you have anything to say to them.  What they experience after the service tells them whether or not you really believe what you're saying.  Pastors: you have to model what you want to see in your church.

Tweet: Visitors size up your church before the service. After the service they determine if you are for real. @jonperrin

* Use adequate signage throughout your facility (and not the kind that look like a handmade garage sale signs).

* Monitor the condition of your facility regularly.  Keep it clean and orderly.  This means the Kids Church and Nursery rooms are clean and orderly, the restrooms are clean, the musicians don't leave their cases laying around on stage and the mic cables on stage don't look like a plate of spaghetti.  It also means mowing the grass and painting the building when necessary.

Pastors, I believe we have a message worth sharing.  And in a secular climate people are interested in spiritual things.  But if we want to have the platform to share the life changing message of God's grace, we have to make some changes.

Join the conversation... your comments can help pastors and church leaders as well.  How does your church intentionally welcome visitors?

Church Lessons from the Camino (Part 2)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sharing your faith

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If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord of all people at all places in all times, and that after this life a person either goes to spend eternity with Him or apart from him, we are compelled to share our faith with those around us.  It's not that we're better than the people we share it with.  Rather, it's a sign that we care.  We call this "evangelism."  But Christ-followers often get so focused on results in this area that they forget about the process of someone coming to faith in Jesus.

When it comes to evangelism, many Christ-followers focus on the wrong thing.  They only define success in evangelism as actually "praying the sinner's prayer" with someone.  That's just not true.  Take a look at the graphic below:

The "Seed" referenced above is the truth of God's grace and love.  As long as we make a positive connection or impact on a person, we have been successful.  Every time I have a positive interaction with someone who knows that I am a Christ-follower I have "pushed the ball up the field."  I have just made it easier for the next Christ-follower to share their faith with this person.  They have opened the door of their heart a bit wider.  This takes the pressure off of us when we do share our faith.

This is exactly what it says about the Church in the early years after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection:
They praised God and were liked by all the people. Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers.
    - Acts 2:47 NCV
As this group of believers gained respect and were liked by the people around them, new people committed their lives to following Jesus every day.  It will be just the same for us.  We may not be the one that prays with a person to commit their lives to Jesus.  But as long as we're doing our part, God's will is accomplished.  Everyone has their part:
I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it. But God is the One who made it grow.
    - 1 Corinthians 3:6
Something to consider: Older believers need to keep in mind that just as younger generations see the world differently than they do, they will also come to Christ differently.  I've spoken with some young believers who can't name the place and time they committed their lives to Christ.  One guy told me he was investigating Christianity and started hanging out with an on-campus Christian group.  Somewhere along the way he started following Jesus for himself, even though he couldn't put a date on it.

So let's ask God to use us in the process of helping people discover His grace and mercy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Our fiercely protective God

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A friend of ours told us the story yesterday of what happened to her husband's puppy.  While her husband was at work, she and the puppy were enjoying some time in their yard.  Then the neighbor lady let her dog out.  The neighbor knew that her dog - a Pit Bull - was aggressive, and had promised to never let the dog out when our friend's puppy or son are outside, but because of her dementia she sometimes forgets things.  The two yards yards are only separated by a low, flimsy chain-link fence.

Our friend's dog is very curious, especially of the growling Pit Bull next door.  As the dog went to investigate, the barking Pit Bull reached through the fence and grabbed the puppy by the neck.  He started to yank the other dog violently.

At this point our friend started shouting to the neighbor and tried to separate the two dogs.  Nothing worked.  Because of her failing health, the neighbor was also unable to do anything about her dog.  As the Pit Bull continued to yank, our friend's dog started to slide under the fence.

Finally in desperation our friend jumped the fence and got on top of the Pit Bull.  She squeezed with her knees so the dog couldn't breathe.  When that didn't work she tried to choke him out.  The Pit bull was absolutely unfazed continued to yank viciously.

At this point our friend had had enough.  She started punching the Pit Bull in the face until it released her dog.  The amazing part of this story is that our friend is about 5' 6" tall and 120 lbs. soaking wet - not a big girl by any stretch of the imagination.  The Pit Bull could have eaten her for an afternoon snack.  But at that point, all that mattered was protecting her husband's dog.

What a perfect picture of the heart of God.  Look at what David said about Him:
The lord himself watches over you! The lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
   -  Psalm 121:5-8 NLT
... and in another verse, he writes:
The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear God, and he saves them.
   -  Psalm 34:7 
No matter what you're going through or how bad things seem, you are not alone!  God is watching over you.  Yes, there is a devil who hates you and wants to take you out.  But if you'll pursue God with all your heart and trust Him to deliver you, you'll see Him do amazing things.  You can't earn His love.  And you can't do enough bad things for Him to not love you anymore.

We've seen Him come through for us over and over.  But even if our experience were to differ from what these verses state, it doesn't change who God is.  He is faithful and He can be trusted.  Run to Him, not from Him.

For all you animal lovers out there: Don't worry... our friend's dog is fine.  The wounds were superficial, requiring only a few stitches.  And the Pit Bull is fine too.

PS. If you don't believe in the devil, that's okay   You're entitled to your beliefs.  But Jesus obviously believed in him, and taught about him often. (See Matthew 13:19, 36-43, 12:24-28; Luke 10:18, 11:18; John 8:43-44, 10:10, 12:31-32, 14:30, 16:11... and this isn't even a definitive list).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lost sheep

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Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
During my devotional time this morning I realized something.  Jesus' first ministry assignment for His disciples is to go to the lost sheep among their own people. Only later does He send them out to the whole world.

It is much easier to go overseas than to go next door.  In some aspects it's much easier to tell people about Jesus in a foreign culture.  The expectations are lower.  If you are unsuccessful you can always use the excuse: "Oh well... I'm just a foreigner."  You don't have to fit in there.  You will automatically stand out.  It's not as embarrassing, to some extent.

But where does Jesus begin training His disciples?  Where is the first place He sends them "on mission?"  He sends them to their own people.  Why does He do this?  Sharing God's message of love and grace is often more difficult in your own context.  You know what is socially acceptable; what is considered "normal behavior."  You know "the rules" of what a polite society does and doesn't do.  And to go against the rules makes us uncomfortable.  It makes us stick out in a place where we shouldn't stick out.  No matter how much we value our individuality, we all want to fit in.  Maybe not with some groups; but at least with our own.

But Jesus knew something: If you can't learn to minister to people that share your culture (your traditions, customs, language, food, etc), you won't be nearly as effective among a people whose culture is vastly different to yours.  Courage is better developed HERE than THERE.  Having served as a missionary to Europe for 13 years, I can honestly say it's much easier to represent Christ THERE than it is HERE.  But if HERE is where God has you, then it's HERE that He wants to use you.

Cross-cultural mission trips are vitally important. But don't discount the value of ministry among your own people. Jesus is concerned about the lost sheep among YOUR people - this includes your neighbors and your family.

My encouragement to you today: Pray for courage.  Pray for boldness.  Pray for opportunities: that you would recognize them and take advantage of them.  And pray Philippians 2:13: "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."