Sunday, July 31

What really matters?

I am convinced one of Satan's major schemes is to distract us from the few things that are truly important.

As Jesus says in Luke 10, Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

In practical terms, how does one go about choosing Jesus first?

God is showing me that I don't have to respond or act upon all that gets tossed my way. Just because someone throws me the ball, doesn't mean I have to catch it.

It also means simplify. Reduce. Unclutter my life. Define what is really important in regards to the Kingdom and focus on doing fewer things better. If the enemy can somehow fill my day with endless trivial tasks, I will not have the time, energy, or focus to deal with the really important things.

Everyday there are just too many ministry opportunities, tasks to perform, expectations, reports to absorb, books/articles to read, requests for prayer, favors asked of us, calls for help, meetings to attend, programs, work-related tasks needing attention, and daily responsibilities with family.  About 3/4 of the things I engage with are things I don't care anything about, but do them anyway so as not to offend anyone, and stay on people's good side.

The truth is, few of us are able to process all the data and requests that get sent our way. It is unrealistic to expect people to process and act upon so much new and changing information without it affecting the side of things that do matter and have eternal consequences.

Back to Jesus, Mary and Martha...What are the many things that keep me worried and upset? Jesus says only one thing is needed, and Mary had figured it out. I think Mary was so in love with Jesus that very little of the stuff her sister was distracted with seemed all that important in comparison. Mary was commended for choosing--and it is a daily choice--Jesus first. When Jesus, his kingdom, and his righteousness come first, the other stuff might not get done, but our lives will be more of a blessing, and will bear the fruit promised by Jesus in John 15.

Wednesday, July 13

21 prácticas que están frenando el avance del Reino de Dios en el Ecuador

Felicity Dale comparte 15 reasons why we don't see harvest. He modificado su lista original en inglés para incluir algunas de las razones que creo están frenando el avance de la obra del Señor en el Ecuador. Sus comentarios son bienvenidos.

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1. Estamos tan involucrados con otros creyentes que no tenemos tiempo para invertir con los que aun no conocen de Cristo.

2. Tenemos miedo de ser contaminados al tener demasiado contacto con el mundo.

3. Entender al evangelismo como un serie de eventos que se hacen en vez de un estilo de vida de cada creyente.

4. Líderes que creen que llenar el templo es la meta, en vez de movilizar a la iglesia a los campos de la mies.

5. Falta de rogar al Señor de la mies por obreros.

6. Poco énfasis en preparar a los obreros para la cosecha y más énfasis en el desarrollo de los líderes cuyo función principal debería ser el "capacitar a los santos para la obra del ministerio."

7. Líderes que creen que el mandato de "buscar primeramente el Reino de Dios" significa crecer más la iglesia donde ellos pastorean.

8. El creer que "hacer discípulos" significa predicar el evangelio y esperar que la gente venga al templo y forme parte de nuestra congregación.

9. Pescar en aguas donde no muerden los peces, o cambiando la metáfora...buscar cosechar en terreno que aun no está listo, o donde poca semilla ha sido sembrada.

10. Invitar a las personas venir a nuestra iglesia, en vez de comenzar nuevas iglesias con ellos y sus amigos en los lugares donde viven.

11. Cuando alguien se convierta al evangelio, lo extraemos de su propia comunidad para formar parte de la nuestra.

12. Evangelizamos sí, pero lo hacemos al azar en vez de buscar hacerlo con "personas de paz" como mandó Jesús. (Lucas 10:1-9)

13. El amar más nuestros reinos que Su Reino al dar prioridad a nuestros proyectos, programas, sueños, y levantar templos sobre los claros mandatos del Señor de 1) amar a Dios, 2) amar al prójimo, y 3) hacer discípulos.

14. El depender más en cualidades de carisma, estilo, organización y preparación sin importar ni requerir la presencia y poder del Espíritu Santo en nuestra obra.

15. Esperar que Dios bendiga todos nuestros esfuerzos, sean cual sean, sin tomar el tiempo para buscar lo que el Señor realmente desea de nosotros.

16. Todo centralizado dentro de las cuatro paredes de la iglesia.

17. Iglesias que gastan el 98% de sus ingresos en si mismas en vez de invertir en "hacer discípulos a las naciones."

18. Oramos por muchas cosas, pero poco por las almas perdidas.

19. Esperamos que otra persona lo haga. Y cuando alguien sí intenta hacer algo, criticamos todo lo que hacen diciendo a quién nos escucha cómo debían haberse hecho las cosas.

20. Usar la excusa, "Dios no me ha llamado para ser misionero" cuando la Gran Comisión indica claramente lo contrario.

21. División entre el Cuerpo de Cristo. Nosotros somos los "buenos" y todos los demás hermanos están errados. Mejor alejarnos de todo aquel que no es cómo nosotros para así no contaminarnos de sus falsas doctrinas.

Wednesday, July 6

If you thought like a missionary

A few years back Ernest Goodman wrote a post entitled If you thought like a missionary... which contains some good thoughts for all of us.

The word “church” would conjure images of people, not buildings.

Your plans for the year would be limited only by your creativity, not your available funds. You’d have a plan for what happens after you’re gone (a plan that could be implemented tomorrow).

You’d worry more about getting things right than being right. You’d know that every decision you make along the way has far-reaching implications for the work. Missionaries think about the long-term strategic consequences of decisions like establishing elders too soon, dividing up families for Bible study, and growing one large church vs. starting several smaller ones.

Church planting would be more than just starting a church and being its pastor; it would entail discipling indigenous leaders and pastoring through them.

You’d exegete your cultural context, not consume it. What you learn would inform what you do, because indigeneity would be a goal of your work.

You would love your city, but never quite feel comfortable in it. Something would always remind you that you are a stranger, pilgrim, and at best, an acceptable outsider.

Your church would understand that it’s only a part of what God is doing around the world. There’s a lot to learn from believers of other times and in other contexts. Global involvement cannot wait until local work is mature.

Your team would spend more time listening to the Holy Spirit than listening to you.

Your family’s active involvement would be vital to your ministry. Missionaries, at least the ones that last, include their spouse and children in building redemptive relationships.

The people you’re ministering to would have your mobile phone number. The real one.

Your stories would be current, first-person, and self-depreciating.

You would be keenly aware of the depth of your inadequacy, the dangers of the spiritual reality, and the blessing of God’s gracious provision.

You should become a missionary.

Friday, June 24

¿Qué es una iglesia simple?

La iglesia simple es conocido por algunos nombres diferentes:

-la iglesia en casa
-casas de oración
-iglesia orgánica
-casas culto
-la iglesia hogareña

A menudo se pregunta, ¿qué es la diferencia entre grupos pequeños reuniéndose en las casas, células que se reúnen en casas, e iglesias en las casas que también se reúnen en hogares? ¿No son todas la misma cosa?

Rad Zdero, en su libro, Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader hace una buena explicación sobre las diferencias.
Aunque reconocemos y celebramos la mano de Dios en todos los modelos de hacer iglesia, hay importantes diferencias entre las iglesias tradicionales, celulares, e iglesias en las casas.
Muchos creyentes hoy en día forman parte de los grupos pequeños de sus iglesias. Estos pueden ser estudios Bíblicos, grupos de oración, grupos de apoyo, etc. Sin embargo, los grupos pequeños son utilizados en formas diferentes según el tipo de iglesia. Casi todas las iglesias utilizan a los grupos pequeños de alguna forma u otra. Estos generalmente saben reunirse en los hogares y animan la participación activa de los asistentes. Pero a partir de allí terminan las similaridades.

Las iglesias tradicionales utilizan a los grupos pequeños como una iglesia CON grupos pequeños (a menudo usan equivocadamente el término célula.)

Las iglesias celulares ponen el énfasis de la vida de la iglesia en el grupo pequeño. Usan correctamente el término célula para distinguir entre la reunión del grupo pequeño, y la del grupo grande (celebración) cuando todas las células se reúnen juntas en un solo lugar. Una iglesia celular es una sola iglesia DE grupos pequeños.

Una red de iglesias en casa entiende que cada iglesia en casa es una iglesia completa y autónoma en si misma. O sea la iglesia ES el grupo pequeño. Una iglesia en casa es una iglesia en todo sentido y hace todo lo que una iglesia tradicional o celular hace.


Monday, June 15

From everywhere to anywhere


Hanging in front of my desk and covering most of our office wall is the above map entitled in Spanish "MUCH REMAINS TO BE DONE."

Covered in tiny colored dots one is able to see at a glance where the largest concentrations of lostness are located in the world. The numbers are staggering: 6500 Unreached People Groups (UPG) totaling some 4-billion people who have yet to hear a clear presentation of the life-transforming Good News of Jesus Christ. Of these, 3000 are not only unreached, but unengaged by anyone. There is no one even trying to reach them! As Kirby Woods so aptly expressed, "The only thing worse than being lost, is being lost when no one is looking for you." 

This is why Linda and I are in Ecuador. To join Christ's team in doing everything possible to make His Name known in every single one of those "dots"--from everywhere in the world to anywhere God leads his people. That is our task. Our calling. Mobilization is the term used today to describe all that is involved in making disciples of the nations, who in turn, engage other nations. To mobilize is to Pray. Teach. Train. Equip. Encourage. Mentor. Assist. Counsel. When woven together we see a beautiful tapestry of disciples making disciples of the nations.

But this task is not ours alone. It belongs to us all. As C.H. Spurgeon said, "It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world." After more than 100 years of the Gospel seed being sown, watered and harvested in Ecuador, our adopted country has transitioned from being solely a mission field, and is now a front-line player in sending missionaries TO THE MISSION FIELD!

This past week a fellow missionary shared the following story that illustrates the kinds of things God is doing these days...
A Brazilian musician working in Vienna, Austria has started Bible studies with more than 30 Iranians and several Vietnamese families. Last month 12 of these were baptized and a new church started. This Brazilian evangelist/musician/church planter is being trained and mentored by two American families. One living in Germany and the other in Switzerland! 
God is indeed moving his people from everywhere to anywhere!

PLEASE PRAY. My wife and I work closely with Ecuador's interdenominational missions agency in sending Ecuadorians to the nations. IM is currently working with 28 Ecuadorian missionaries who are either on the field, on home assignment, or candidates in various stages of preparation to be sent out. It is a huge honor and blessing to be part of what God is doing to complete the cycle of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and now to the nations of the earth.

We began our own missionary journey 28 years ago serving in Guayaquil (our Jerusalem). After several years we became part of the Guayas Mestizo Team (Judea) reaching out into the province. A few years later, we were charged with responsibility to reach the neighboring coastal provinces (Samaria). And now we are faced with reaching out to the nations (ends of the earth)!!!

A great deal of our time is spent working globally in the logistical side of sending Latino missionaries from all over the Americas into all the world. The #1 barrier for sending qualified Latino workers to their fields of service is in the area of finances. Recently a new project was approved by the IMB which seeks to supplement Latino cross-cultural workers enabling them to fulfill God's call on their life to go to the nations. The special Lottie Moon project is called "Partnerships For Global Sending" (NOTE: After clicking the preceding link you will have to click VIEW PROJECTS BY PEOPLE GROUP and then select AMERICAN from the drop box. The first project should be the one.) 

Jorge, from Venezuela, is an example of the kind of person we are seeking to help. His inspiring story is entitled "Called to Go" and can be viewed by clicking https://vimeo.com/100271203

Monday, December 8

How important prayer is for missionaries

We have been Stateside since May of this year. One of the things I have come to realize during our days in the USA is the cost--the sacrifice--involved in our calling as missionaries. For most of my life I have had the attitude of tossing aside any semblance that we are "sacrificing" anything for Jesus. I guess we have always seen our own condition as far more blessed than the vast majority of people we relate to on the mission field. We have been given so much. What are we really sacrificing? God has always provided for our every need. He is faithful.

And yet, being here in the States, I am seeing that following God's call on our life as overseas missionaries has been costly on us as a family. Each member of our family has had to pay a real price in order for us to live and serve our Lord overseas. I don't know if things would have been better or worse living this time in the USA, but I do know it has been costly to us as a family emotionally, spiritually, physically. In a real sense we bear real "scars" of our choice to follow Jesus like we have.
Peter:  "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." Jesus: "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18)
These words were the text of the message preached by Keith Parks at our appointment service as missionaries back in December of '86. I have always focused on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might have sacrificed. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those things (ie. houses, wives, brothers, parents, grand children, comforts, etc.) in order to fulfill Christ's call on our life. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

I guess that is why Christ said count the cost before taking the plunge. Some of Jesus' toughest words are found in Luke 14,
Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don't, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you. 'You began to build but can't finish the job!' they will say... In the same way," concluded Jesus, "none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.
These days we have spent in the States have highlighted in so many ways, "what might have been" had we chosen otherwise. While America is far from perfect, there is much good and certainly an abundance of opportunities and blessings that few people in the rest of the world can even come close to dreaming about. When we see the houses, cars, and lifestyles of our peers, we can't help but wonder if, we too, might be living like that had we not chosen to follow His call on our lives. When we see the missed opportunities that our children might have experienced had we made different choices, we can easily "second guess" the decisions we have made to live overseas like we do.

Some of the questions going around in my head these days are:
  • has it been worth it?
  • are we really making a difference overseas?
  • have we really made any kind of lasting, significant contribution?
  • is it time to move on and do something else?
  • is the work better or worse off for our being there?
  • have we been faithful?
  • are we supposed to go back?
  • does God have more for us to do there before relieving us of this responsibility?
  • how do we balance of obeying God's call with the needs of our children?
I share these thoughts with you as a means of expressing how important praying for missionaries is. We are common people, with real needs like anyone else. We need your prayers and support (eg. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering). Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the small English society of believers sending him, "I will go down the mine, if you will all hold the ropes for me."

Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?


Tuesday, December 2

It's Lottie Moon Season!


While the amount varies from year to year, in 2013 the annual per capita giving of S. Baptists to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for global missions was $9.78.

In other words, if you gave $10 last year to global missions, you were giving more than the average S. Baptist.  As Lottie Moon herself asked over 100 years ago, "Why this strange indifferences to missions? Why these scant contributions? Why does money fail to be forthcoming when approved men and women are asking to be sent to proclaim the "unsearchable riches of Christ" to the heathen?"   I don't know, either, Lottie.

Every year Southern Baptist Churches in the United States collect a special offering in December for international missions. 100% goes for overseas work. The goal this year for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $175 million.

Here is how the offering works:



Since we see first-hand and feel the direct impact of this offering, I would like to say to everyone who gave last year or is planning to give this year, THANK YOU.  Maybe $10/year is all you really can give, and if so, God knows this and will multiply that $10 like he did the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5000.  But there are others who really could give more.

Would you be willing to ask the Lord what he would have you give to make His Name known amongst the nations?

What follows is a list of things we have personally tried over the years or practice regularly as a family.

1) Decide what amount of money you will spend on your family this Christmas and give MORE than this amount to the LMCO. After all, it is Christ's birthday we are celebrating. Shouldn't He be getting more than us if it is his birthday?

2) Something we have done as a family for many years is set aside a monthly amount from our paycheck and have that amount automatically credited to the LMCO. This took a couple of email and phone calls to set up, but we haven't had to fool with it since, and are able to give to LMCO throughout the year.

3) A variation on the idea above would be to have a gift box that you deposit a set amount every week/month throughout the year. Then give this amount to your church when the offering is collected in December.

4) Sell tickets to a mother-daughter or father-son breakfast or brunch. Invite a missionary as a guest speaker. Proceeds go to missions.

5) Auction students to church members for a day of service, from cleaning house to raking leaves. Money members give for the work youth do goes to Lottie Moon.

6) One idea missionaries have done in the past is hold an auction where a volunteer team brings in "goodies" from the States and auction them off to the missionaries. A six-pack of Dr. Pepper went for $120 one year! My son paid $60 for a box of Double-Bubble gum. I myself have paid $35 for a jar of Jiff peanut butter! All proceeds go to the missions offerings. Might your church do something similar with imported foods purchased from your local grocery store?

7) Challenge folks to save money for the offering by giving up something small. Examples include a fast-food meal a week or a movie a month. Host a special ceremony for everyone to give their offering and share what God taught them through their sacrifice.

8) Double (or triple!) whatever you gave last year. Give sacrificially, not what is convenient.

9) As a church body, decide to channel funds to a lost world instead of to building improvements or beautification projects.

10) Watch this video by IMB President, David Platt:


Whatever you decide to give, please do so prayerfully. There are few offerings that make as much of an eternal impact on the world as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Give online by clicking here.

Checks can be mailed to (gifts are tax-deductable)
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
International Mission Board, SBC
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230

Monday, December 1

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is 24 contributors (including yours truly) writing from differing perspectives what simple church proponents believe and stand for. Originally the title was to have been "What We're For"--a good description of what the reader will find in the 286 pages of this book.

What I personally like about this compilation is its contrast with many other writings out there which tend to place an emphasis on "what's wrong with today's church." Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is a positive attempt to share with fellow believers what simple church is all about.

So, what is simple church? A simple question that doesn't have a simple answer--hence the book! Each of the 24 writers shares from his/her perspective a single aspect of what it means to be the church.

For example, in my own assigned Chapter 17, "A Church That Gives Liberally and Generously," I start out by exploring the difference between 'storehouse tithing' and Kingdom giving:
When Malachi 3:10 “storehouse tithing” ceases to be the standard for how much and where we give, many believers are left wondering: 
• To whom then should I give?
• How much should I give?
• When is the right time to give? 
In New Testament simple churches, giving is based upon Jesus’ teaching on the subject:
Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). 
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).
What implications do Jesus' words and teaching on this subject have for believers and the church today? How is money to be handled in the church as exemplified in the Gospels and Epistles? My chapter seeks to answer these and similar questions.

While I have been thoroughly blessed by all the contributing writers, some of my favorite chapters in the book are those which explore the following topics:

  • A CHURCH THAT ASSEMBLES FOR MUTUAL EDIFICATION by Will Rochow
  • A CHURCH THAT KNOWS LEADERS ARE THOSE WHO SERVE OTHERS by A. Knox
  • A CHURCH THAT GIVES EVERYTHING AWAY by Keith Giles
  • A CHURCH THAT RESTORES DIGNITY WHERE IT’S BEEN LOST by Kathy Escobar
  • A CHURCH THAT TAKES THE GOSPEL TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH by Miguel Labrador (a fellow co-laborer in Ecuador)
  • A CHURCH THAT RECOGNIZES EQUAL LAITY WITH CHRIST AS THE ONE AND ONLY HEAD by Kathleen Ward

There is so much great material here and to single out a few chapters is only to whet your appetite for some encouraging, but challenging reading.

Far too often discussions about the church descend into arguments about theology, practices, doctrines, traditions, and methods. None of the writers in this book desire to be a part of that kind of dialogue. Rather, each attempts to shed light and provide answers for a growing number of believers who sense that something is missing in the way we 'do church.'  Why aren't we experiencing more today what is seen in the Gospels and Book of Acts?

If you would like to know more about simple church and are willing to have your thinking stretched a bit about the church, I hope you will read Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity and let us know what you think about the book in the comments section below.