Monday, February 29, 2016

Highlights! - A week in the Dominican Republic

After countless short term trips to the Dominican Republic, it still amazes me how God works in so many lives! From February 19-26, a total of 32 people from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Texas worked among the people of the DR in a variety of ways.

Here's a breakdown of our teams:
 - 5 people presented a four-day soccer camp in La Romana
 - 5 people worked a three-day dentistry clinic in Villa Hermosa
 - 4 people spent four days in a variety of homes in Villa Hermosa
 - 5 people built an addition onto a pastor's home in Consuelo
 - 12 people served in a community development capacity in Batey Bembe

We worked with about 10 interpreters who have become great friends over the past few years. Our 5 drivers and 2 cooks were amazing too. Additionally, we are so honored to serve with missionaries, Daniel and Elizabeth Kim. They are wonderful hosts!

During this trip, we witnessed people come to faith in Jesus Christ. We also experienced rich gospel-community where people were loved without judgment. We were able to intervene in medical situations where children were able to get vital treatment they desperately needed. We also met pastors and missionaries who share our values, convictions, and mission based on the Bible. It was incredible!!

If you'd like to learn more about these trips, check out this video.

We are also looking for people who would like to join us this June for the next trip. Apply soon!

Monday, February 15, 2016

How Money Shapes Our Heart and Impacts Our Home

In Luke 12, Jesus tells a parable about how a rich man was reaping an abundance of crops. In his greed and self-interests, he decides to tear down his barns to build new and bigger ones. This is his ticket to an easier life of ongoing success and luxury. In response to his selfishness, God says "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" (Luke 12:20 ESV).

Why does God respond this way? What does it mean to be a fool
In context, Jesus is warning those listening to his parable about the dangers and destructive nature of idolatry. When anyone places there faith, hope, love, and gratitude in something other than God, they are committing idolatry and thus sinning by breaking the first commandment (Exodus 20). Regardless of what our culture believes, God is for the betterment of people. When someone pursues a created thing instead of the Creator, that person has made a detrimental decision. God calls this man "a fool", because that's what he was. A fool is someone who rejects God's definition of reality and is therefore ultimately left empty.

Four Factors Shape Our Heart:
   1. Faith - approval and trust to provide
   2. Hope - desire for fulfilled expectation
   3. Love - a feeling of strong affection
   4. Gratitude - showing appreciation

If our hearts are shaped by God and His Word, then we have an eternal perspective that's secure. However, when our dreams and identity is centered on materialism and money, then we have a temporary perspective that may seem secure today, but will fade away. Charles Spurgeon said, “One way you know that Jesus Christ is precious to you is that nothing else is.” What's really precious to you?

“When awe of material things rules your heart, then you will live for material things, and when you live for material things, you will do just about anything to gain them, maintain them, keep them, and enjoy them... Such a materialistic attitude is not only morally dangerous but is also a violation of the reason for which you and I were created. It is wrong for material cravings to dominate our hearts and lifestyles.” - Paul David Tripp

Every Home Needs a Plan
   1. Christians must place their relationship with God as top priority.
   2. A unified plan for the home is crucial.
   3. Create a written Financial Plan that aligns with your convictions.
   4. Work the Plan every day of the year.

This Financial Plan is best when saturated in prayer, has received counsel from people who understand financial disciplines based in Scripture, and developed with percentages (when possible). Here is an example created by a friend of mine who helps people get their finances in order. This pie chart reveals a possible percentage breakdown of an American home. Your home's financial chart may look different. However, the real question is: "do you know the percentage allocation of your finances?"

Let's go back to the "heart". Under the category of Charitable Giving, there are several probing questions and comments that have been rattling around my brain.
    1. Christians should be generous toward Kingdom work. The Kingdom of God is different from every other investment, because of eternal factors. The Word of God and the souls of people are both eternal. We should also give generously out of gratitude as children of God who are already citizens of His Kingdom (Philippians 3).
    2. "What is your heart motivation for your career? Is it to get rich, to have guaranteed financial security, or are you doing what you are doing because you want to build up treasure in heaven and advance the kingdom of God." - Austin Stone Church 
    3. Could a lost person look at the way you are stewarding your money and your stuff and know that God is the master of your money? 
    4. “The reality of God’s generosity to us will never hit the world until they see our generosity to everybody else.” - Timothy Keller
    5. "Those of us who live in prosperous regions of the globe and have never known food scarcity perhaps don’t feel much awe in it. That is a sad thing: a lack of awe. It’s the dark side of abundance. We sinners tend to grow blind to glory when there’s a lot of it. God is kind not to give us heaven yet. We would not appreciate more than a fraction of it." - Jon Bloom (Desiring God)

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Every Christian Home Needs...

Every Christian home needs "Gospel Community".

The Bible is exceedingly clear about our need for significant relationships. In fact, the first thing that Genesis records after creation that is not good is Adam being alone (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, God made him a companion to enjoy life, to grow in fellowship with each other, and to thrive in relationship with Himself.

Unfortunately, sin entered the world and quickly eroded these relationships. What was designed to be easy, became much more difficult. Within our core, we long for significant relationships that are transparent and free from shame. We desire to be with people who know us, love us, and accept us in spite of our sin, failures, and shortcomings. This is the definition of true friendship. Yet, in an attempt to protect ourselves, we put up walls and barriers to keep people from knowing who we really are. Thus, people become friends with the "projected image" of ourselves, not the "real us".

Scripture declares Christians will all grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), and the gospel work which He began in us will come to completion (Philippians 1:6). This process of growth and transformation does not happen on our own. It happens in community. It happens in a community rooted in the Gospel where grace and truth are overflowing (see these characteristics of Jesus in John 1:14).

As a Christian, my identity is not rooted in me - my efforts, my accomplishments, my ambitions, my job, my family, my bank account, my stuff, my education, or anything else. Thank God, my identity isn't defined by my sin or failures either. Every Christian is free from all that! Instead, it is solely rooted in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-28). We have a new identity that rests in the grace and work of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new identity when coupled with other Christians creates a beautiful and awesome thing: Gospel Community.

Qualities of Gospel Community
There are amazing qualities of this Gospel Community described in Ephesians 4:1-6. The Apostle Paul calls the church to be humble (esteem others better than yourself while being concerned for their welfare), gentle (even tempered and self-controlled particularly in regards to the revelation of another believer's sin), patient (endure through pain and unhappiness for the benefit of others), and to bear with one another in love (a willing and intentional forfeiture of rights or privileges for the sake of someone else). The goal of these qualities within Gospel Community is to maintain unity. These should be the mark of the Church. These describe God's design for us.

Can you imagine?
Can you imagine what it would be like if these were the qualities of every church? Too often though, this is not the reality of the church. Therefore, we keep the people we need most (other Christians) at arms length in order to protect our pride and ego. The dangers of this self-induced isolation is that we begin to believe things that aren't true by hardening our hearts to sin's deceit (Jeremiah 17:9, Hebrews 3:12-13). I believe this isolation from Gospel Community is exactly what the Enemy wants for us. He wants believers to live in isolation, fear, and busyness in order to protect our pride and agendas. In this, the Enemy accomplished his purpose of of destruction within our homes (John 10:10a).

Can you imagine the opportunities for those who embrace Gospel Community? Unbelievable freedom and joy can come from being fully known and fully loved! This is the glory of the Good News of Jesus Christ: He already fully knows us and has already responded in love (John 3:16-17). As Christians, we are to represent Him to others - in grace and truth.

Further Resources:
Verge Network: Gospel Communities
Gospel Coalition: Gospel Community

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Every Home Needs to Prioritize: Rest

We live in a society where busyness is a badge of honor, a mark of importance, and often a fact of life. If we aren't busy, people may think we're lazy. We find ourselves being slaves to the schedule of our home: up early for work, out the door in a rush to get our kids to school, off to extracurricular activities after work/school, a frenzied dinner, then homework/projects/TV/social media, and whatever else we can cram into our day. We then find ourselves prepping with whatever energy we have left to do it all over again. Exhaustion, weariness, and constant fatigue plague our modern homes! Is this really the best of what God has in mind for us? Clearly, the answer is "no".

          Physical Rest is inescapably linked to Spiritual Renewal.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe the reason we don't effectively rest is connected to one or more the following reasons:
 1. It's counter-cultural (busyness = importance)
 2. We don't think it's important
 3. Pride - We lack trust in God to provide
 4. Maybe we're not that grateful
 5. We're scared to look in the mirror of our soul 

If you are interested in learning the importance of rest from a biblical perspective, check out this video:

Prioritizing the Things that Matter Most (Part 2) 
Other Resources: