Friday, October 31

Why I voted McCain/Palin

We voted absentee last week for McCain/Palin. There are many crucial issues at stake in this year's presidential election: the economy, Iraq-Afghanistan wars, taxes, health care, social security, Iran, foreign policy...but the one issue that towers above all others for us is the right to life of the unborn. With two adopted children, this is a personal issue for our family. I could never vote for someone who is pro choice as is the Obama/Biden ticket. I think the greatest curse over our nation is Roe vs Wade. We will most certainly have to respond to God as a country (we may be doing so already) for our ungodly arrogance of placing ourselves in God's place in deciding who lives and dies.

The Gianna Jessen "Abortion Survivor" story is a powerful testimony illustrating in real human terms what is at stake in continuing to sanction the legal killing of the unborn. If you aren't familiar with this remarkable story you owe it to yourself, family, and church to hear one of the most powerful testimonials on what I believe to be the most important issue facing this country.

For Part 2 of this testimony click here.

Thanks to Amanda for blogging on this.

If interested in further information, videos, etc. there is plenty on the internet...just Google "Gianna Jessen".

Tuesday, October 28

The cost involved in being a missionary

One of the things I have come to realize during these days here in the USA, is the high 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 sacrificing? Are we really out there "suffering for Jesus?" God has provided for our every need. He has always been 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. We have given up much. Each member of our family has had to pay a real price in order 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.

I have often thought about Jesus response to Peters words in Luke 18, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He [JESUS] said... "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."

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 and people in order to fulfill one's calling. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

These days we have spent in the States have highlighted in so many ways, "what might have been" had we NOT chosen to heed His call. While America is far from perfect, there is so much good and 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 all the missed opportunities available for our children, one can't help but have second thoughts about them getting "second best" by our living overseas like we do.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't thinking about resigning. I don't believe God is finished with us yet in what He has for us to do in Ecuador, but we have had a lot of time to reflect the past few weeks. Stateside Assignment (furlough) is indeed a time for reflection, evaluation, processing, restoration, healing, rest, and re-equipping for returning. We have been so grateful to the Lord for this time made available to us to deal with our own needs.

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 (a la Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.) Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the little 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?

Sunday, October 26

Money and S. Baptist Global Missions Efforts

Lottie Moon Fast Facts from the IMB on the state of world evangelization and the costs involved in the Southern Baptist global missions enterprise:

International Mission Board vital stats
• 5,359 missionaries (as of 5/12/08)
• 25,497 new churches*
• 609,968 baptisms*
• 567,413 new believers in discipleship*
*As reported in the 2007 Annual Statistical Report

Status of World Evangelization
• 11,573 people groups worldwide; 6.6 billion people
• 6,508 unreached* people groups; 3.8 billion people
• 5,903 Last Frontier** people groups; 1.6 billion people
• Less than 2 percent evangelical
**Less than 2 percent evangelical, no active church planting

Lottie Moon past and present
• 2008 goal: $170 million
• 2007 receipts: $150,409,653.86
• $3 billion given since offering’s inception
• $3,315 collected in 1888 for first offering, enough to send three women to China

IMB budgeted income:
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering - about 50 percent
Cooperative Program - 33 percent
World Hunger and General Relief - 6 percent
Field-generated funds, investment returns and other income - 11 percent

Total IMB expenditures 2007 - $300.4 million
• Overseas missions - $256.0 million
• Missionary support - $214.1 million
• Field work - $41.9 million
• Stateside - $44.4 million


Evaluating results solely in financial terms, $300.4 million was spent in 2007. That comes to $11,781 expended for each of the 25,497 new churches planted last year, and $492 for each of the 609,968 baptisms. If this sounds like a high cost per church/baptism, try comparing your own church's costs per baptism and church plant (assuming there were baptisms and church plants since 10,449 S. Bapt churches did not baptize a single person, and according to the Barrett and Johnson's, World Christian Trends, the cost of each baptism in USA institutional churches is a staggering $1,551,466!!! not to mention new church plants.)

If one divides the number of IMB missionaries (5359) by the baptisms and new church plants, the numbers average out to 4.75 church starts per missionary (9.5 per couple), and 113 baptisms each in 2007. Of course these figures include the work of all of our national overseas partners, and not solely work done by the missionaries, but it does give an idea of the kind of global response and the overall costs involved.

In these times of global financial crisis and insecurity, can you think of a safer place to invest with such a high return than in the Kingdom? Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for new disciples and church plants is a direct way of investing in Christ's Kingdom.

How much will you sacrificially give this year for global missions?

Friday, October 24

Wednesday, October 22

Why we don't make disciples

A story shared by Alan Knox on his excellent blog The Assembling of the Church describes why it is so hard for us to make disciples...

...A few weeks ago, my friend Joe invited me for a cup of coffee. We decided to meet at a local Starbucks on Tuesday at 5:00, just after work. We happened to arrive at the same time, and coincidentally, we both ordered the same thing: a tall cafe mocha decaf. Joe surprised me by buying my coffee. We found an empty table in a quiet corner and spent the next hour or so talking about God and life. We each discussed what God was teaching us and how we were trying to obey him in our day-to-day lives. We talked about loving other people and caring for the least. As Joe told his stories, I was encouraged and challenged all at the same time. When Joe announced that he had to leave, I was disappointed but also understood the demands of life and family.

I enjoyed my time with Joe, and I was looking forward to spending more time with him. From what I could tell, we had experienced real fellowship, the beginning of community, the sharing of the Spirit. Also, since I am learning what it means to grow in maturity and disciple others, I thought it would be a good idea to share this experience with others.

The next week, I invited another friend to have a cup of coffee with me. Unfortunately, Tom was busy on Tuesday evening, so we had to meet on Wednesday. He works later than I do, so we met at 5:30, and since Tom doesn't like Starbucks, we went to a local coffee shop. I was a little concerned about the change in plans, but I thought maybe it would work anyway. When I got to the coffee shop, I had to wait about 10 minutes for Tom to show up; apparently he was delayed at work. I ordered my tall cafe mocha decaf, and waited a moment for Tom to order. Instead, Tom waited until after I paid for my coffee. I was surprised that Tom didn't buy my coffee, and I was getting a little anxious. Next, Tom ordered a black coffee - no mocha, no decaf. Even though there was an empty table in the corner, Tom picked a table in the center of the room.

As we sat and talked, I kept going over things in my mind: Wednesday instead of Tuesday; 5:30 instead of 5:00; local coffee shop instead of Starbucks; Tom was late, and he didn't pay for my coffee; Tom didn't order the same thing that I ordered; our table was right in the middle of the shop, while there was a perfectly good empty table in the corner. Things were not going well for our coffee meeting. In fact, I didn't see how anything good could come out of this. Everything was going wrong, and nothing was going right!

Finally, after enduring several minutes of this train wreck, I interrupted Tom as he was babbling on about how his job was not going very well, and how he was afraid that he was going to be downsized, and how he and his wife were having trouble. I told him that I needed to go and that I was sorry that our meeting wasn't very productive.

Then, Tom said something surprising, "I noticed that you seemed distracted. Is there something wrong?"

Can you believe that Tom asked me if there was something wrong!?!? I mean, everything was wrong! The day was wrong! The time was wrong! The location was wrong! The coffee was wrong! The table was wrong! I can't believe he had the nerve to ask me if there was something wrong. I don't even know if this could be called a proper meeting for coffee!

But, instead of pointing out his obvious flaws, I just shook my head and made a hasty exit. I decided then and there to never have coffee with Tom again. He just doesn't know how to meet for coffee.

Sunday, October 19

Lessons Learned Overseas

The following comes from David Watson's TouchPoint blog describing lessons he has learned overseas as a church planter.

1. Effective church planting teams spend 3-6 hours per day in prayer.

2. Training is continuous. Leaders are constantly reproducing more leaders, and disciples are constantly reproducing disciples.

3. Do extensive planning, but expect God to show up and do the unexpected.

4. Be flexible in order to take advantage of the unexpected.

5. Young Christians and young leaders are encouraged to lead and reproduce new Christians and leaders from day one.

6. Ownership of the work is in local hands, never in the church planters' hands.

7. There are no founding pastors. Church planters are church planters. They raise up and train local leaders who become the pastors of the the churches.

8. Family-based and group-based evangelism through Guided Discovery Bible Studies.

9. Every new Believers is trained as if he or she will be the next leader of a movement. People self-select out of training. We often see people become leaders who would have been overlooked with any selective training process.

10. Discipleship is about teaching to obey through word and deed. High accountability in close community is foundational.

11. Failure happens. Start over. Failure happens. Start over. ...

12. Church planting starts with ministry that leads to appropriate evangelism.

I can identify with many of these same observations from our own ministry in Ecuador. Every one of the above points merit an entire article in its own right. The one that catches my attention the most though is #1 where effective church planting teams spend 3-6 hours/day in prayer. That is convicting, but certainly true.

How about you? Which of these points caught your attention?

Thanks to Expectation Blog for being the one to point out this article for me.

Thursday, October 16

To live or die for Ecuador's Quichua

The following article entitled, Willing to die, he brings new life to his people, was written by Dea Davidson for the International Mission Board, SBC and is featured along with the video at the end in promotion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions this year.


They came for him in the afternoon.

With torches in hand, 250 of Gabriel Mugmal’s neighbors forced him and his family from their home perched on a mountainside in Ecuador’s Andes. Gasoline trickled down Gabriel’s face and arms as the mob prepared them for a brutal beating, then burning. The only way to save his family was to recant what he believed.

For months, the then 27-year-old Gabriel had preached from house to house the newfound faith he and his family had embraced. He had spoken openly about the sin of idol worship that permeated homes and churches in the area.

Enraged, the crowd demanded that Gabriel renounce his words.

The thought, “Don’t burn me,” raced through Gabriel’s mind. But he wasn’t afraid and began preaching to the crowd from Genesis.

Moment of truth

Then the circling mob fell silent.

The priest, moved by Gabriel’s willingness to die for Jesus, took Gabriel’s Bible, raised it before the crowd and declared freedom to preach the Gospel.

“The Word of God shall be preached throughout the entire world,” he shouted. “You all are doing a good thing. Keep preaching the Gospel so that everyone can know Christ.”

As the crowd dropped their stones and sticks and trickled away, some families remained. “We want that,” they said. “How can we receive Christ?”

More than 250 now worship

Today, more than 250 villagers meet for church each Sunday less than 200 yards from the site of Gabriel’s near execution in 1982. The people of Naranjito are a light among the 300,000 Quichua people of northern Ecuador. Gabriel and those he has led to Christ have started approximately 30 Bible studies and churches in the villages that dot neighboring ridges and canyons.

“He literally took the Great Commission in Matthew 28 that it was his responsibility to go to other communities and just talk to them,” says missionary Darrell Musick.

The Quichua live in thatched-roof dwellings on farms at elevations up to 14,000 feet. Darrell and Rogene Musick work alongside Quichua believers to share the Gospel, provide training and materials, and use their ranching background to offer agricultural help.

Gabriel walked three hours to ask help

The missionary couple met Gabriel in 2004. He knocked on their door after walking three hours across mountain trails to their home.

“God has sent me here,” he said to the new missionaries. “I want you to train me to lead my people.”

Within months, the Musicks trained Gabriel in church planting and discipling. He then asked them to train his fellow church members at Iglesia Bautista Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God Baptist Church). Today, more than 200 have been trained.

As the people of Naranjito go about their day – shearing sheep or roasting cuy (guinea pig) – Gabriel blends in, looking much like any other farmer of the region. Only his ever-present Bible signifies his role as a spiritual leader.

Faithful, humble discipler

“He is probably the most faithful, most humble discipler I’ve ever met in my life,” Darrell says. “When you give him instruction, or materials or Bibles, they don’t stay in his hands long.”

Gabriel and members of 27 church-planting teams he coordinates trek into Quichua communities each week to plow new ground for Bible studies that lead to reproducing house churches. On a bulletin board outside Cordero de Dios church, Gabriel posts names of villages the teams visit. Seeing their progress helps him coordinate a comprehensive church-planting strategy among these unreached people.

By hosting regular seminars he and fellow believers have trained more than 350 people scattered throughout the region. Gabriel’s prayer is to teach Bible studies and church-planting methods, to “quit crossing our arms and sitting,” as he says. “We’ve got work to do in Imbabura province.”

Darrell adds: “He wants every community to know the way of Christ. He doesn’t care where they are or who they are – just whoever will allow him to tell God’s plan for their lives.”


Go as a volunteer to help the Quichua reach fellow Quichua for Christ. Learn more about opportunities in South America. Find general volunteer opportunities.
Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® to provide vital support to the IMB’s more than 5,300 missionaries worldwide, including the Musicks.
Pray for the Musicks and the Imbabura Quichua people during the 2008 Week of Prayer Nov. 30-Dec. 7.


Please click
to see the video of this powerful story.

Sunday, October 12


I have read some great books the past few months. One of these is Sway: The Irresistible Pull Of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman.

Having loved The Starfish and the Spider, I was curious as to how SWAY would live up to its touted, will change the way you think about the way you think.

Essentially SWAY is a book that seeks to identify the unseen forces that sway us in our decision making. What was fascinating is how vulnerable we all are to these psychological forces. What I often consider "rational, reasoned, logical thinking" is, admittedly, more often than not, my own "blind spots" influencing the way I think and reason.

For anyone dealing with people, ministry, organizations, church work, etc. this book will be an eye-opener. All of us tend to think of others as irrational in their behavior and thinking. But few of us believe we ourselves are influenced by these same factors. Sway helped me understand some of the deeply-rooted psychological forces at work influencing the choices I make. What often passes as "God's will" or the "right thing" is frequently more the irresistible pull of one of these hidden forces at work upon our thinking and reasoning.

"We're all susceptible to the sway of irrational behaviors. But by better understanding the seductive pull of these forces, we'll be less likely to fall victim to them in the future."

Some of the forces that sway us and are backed with fascinating real life stories and research:

loss aversion: how we overreact to perceived losses...our natural tendency to avoid the pain of loss distorts our thinking

strong resolve to stay the course to the way we have been doing things for years and our inability to react to superior strategies

value attribution:
our tendency to imbue someone or something with certain qualities based on perceived value, rather than on objective data...once we attribute a certain value to a person or thing, it dramatically alters our perceptions of subsequent information

diagnosis bias: our propensity to label people, ideas, or things based on our initial opinions of them and our inability to reconsider those judgments once we've made them

chameleon effect:
when we brand or label people they take on the characteristics of the diagnosis

fairness: and the great lengths to which we'll go to defend it...when it comes to fairness it's the process not the outcome that causes us to react important it is for people to feel they have a voice when it comes to the issue of fairness

group conformity: depends on unanimity for its power...the temptation to align ourselves with everyone else...a lone dissenter is enough to break the spell and "give permission" to break ranks with others in the group

For more on this enlightening book watch the following video...and then go out and get your own copy. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, October 7

Einstein quotes for missions and church planting

Many Albert Einstein sayings and quotes are highly applicable to missions and church planting. The following are my "top ten" favorites...

10. "The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them."

9. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

8. "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

7. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

6. "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

5. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious."

4. "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

3. "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

2. "The important thing is not to stop questioning."

1. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Have any other favorites or comments about any of the above you'd like to share?

Wednesday, October 1

Happy Birthday Josh!

This is our daughter Anna's birthday present to her friend and brother, Josh, on today his 17th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Josh. All of us love you!

Video photos and Twila Paris song compiled and selected by Anna Muse for her brother Josh on his 17th birthday.