Friday, March 9, 2012

Spend Time Away

The Dare challenge no. 4:
Over the next year I will spend time in another context.

It's easy to get caught in your own routine and get stuck in a rut.  When we spend time in another context, it reminds us that our own corner of the world is not all there is.  There are other people with their own needs, issues and hardships.

God really wants to change us from the inside out.  When we spend time in another culture, it changes the way we see the world.  It helps us see the world more from God’s point of view.

Our hearts can break with the things that break God’s heart.

There are many ways to spend time in another context.  You can serve in a soup kitchen, work with urban ministries, take a family ministry vacation, or go on a short term mission trip.

You can find great opportunities on line at and  Of course you will want to check out any organization thoroughly before traveling with them.  But the opportunities are abundant and within financial reach.

God can use us to help others.  And in the process, God ministers to us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sacrifice and Give

The Dare challenge no. 3:
Over the next year,

I will sacrifice my money for a specific purpose.
You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.  Consider where you spend your money. What can you give up for a year, and give the money to missions?

Here are a few suggestions:

What to give up:

Cable TV, cell phone plan, pizza, Starbucks, movies, new clothes, lunch out every day, eating out, a hobby, orange juice, a big purchase.

You could also sell something (antiques, big toy) or put off a big purchase.

Maybe you would want to give up lunch every Friday for a year, and put $5 aside every week to give to a ministry.

Where to give:
OK, so you are saving up money to give to a purpose.  What are some good places to give?
World Vision, Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, K-Love, International Mission Board, Kays in Jamaica, Duhans in Germany, Good Samaritan, Camp Carefree, Operation Homework, Greensboro Urban Ministry, Salvation Army, Living Water, CCC mission trips, the International Mission Board.

These are just suggestions.  Ask God what to sacrifice and where to give.  He's an expert on that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Read the Entire Word

The Dare challenge no. 2:
Over the next year I will read the entire Word.

Centuries ago, it was difficult to hear the Word of God. Villages were blessed to have a copy of the Bible at all, and people had to gather in community to hear it read. They placed such a high value on hearing from God, that they would plan their lives around it.

Now, the Bible is more accessible than ever, in more forms and formats than ever. It’s on telephones, computers, iPods, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, audios, videos. We have new versions, easy-to-read versions, coming out every year, it seems. These can be found online, downloaded, searched and compared. There are One-Year Bibles, women’s Bible, men’s Bibles, kids’ Bibles. Reading the Bible has never been easier.

Now we just need to make it a priority. We need to commit ourselves to read the scripture. So, if you are going to read the Bible in 52 weeks, how can you do it?

1. Decide to do it.

Make a commitment. Ask God to help you follow through. Admit it—you will never read the Bible unless you decide to do it. Believe that you really can. God wants you to, and he’ll help you!

It really only takes about 20 minutes a day. Maybe you could give up a TV show, or decide not to turn on your computer until you read your scripture. Try sipping a cup of coffee as you read.

2. Choose a reading plan.

This can be simple or elaborate, depending what suits you. Maybe the simplest system is using a One-Year Bible. This format gives you readings for every day, usually some from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament. Check out for the online version or find the book at Amazon here:

You could use your normal Bible, and divide the number of pages by 365. For my Bible, I would have to read 3.1 pages per day. That’s not much.

Then there are reading plans.

This reading plan gives you 52 weeks’ worth of readings, done thematically so that every week you read from the epistles, the Law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy and the Gospels. You can print it out and check off each reading as you complete it.

There are plenty of reading plans at Some plans will get you through the Bible in 90 days! You can choose your Bible version, too.

Go to to have the daily readings sent to you by email.

3. Make time to do it.

Put it on your calendar or your to-do list. Pick a time and place, early in the day. I know that when I promise to do my Bible reading later, I rarely get to it. Ask God to give you insight and energy as you read.

4. Get a partner.

Find someone who will follow the same reading plan with you. You can encourage each other and talk about what God is revealing to you.

And share your insights with your family, co-workers and friends. We learn much better when we know we will be sharing it with someone.

5. Don’t give up!

You will miss a few days here and there. Just double up your reading until you get caught up. If you can’t catch up, read a day’s selection anyway, so you don’t get farther behind. Don’t beat yourself up. The devil wants you discouraged. The Lord wants you encouraged.

6. Expect to hear from God!

God is speaking through his Word. He wants you to hear his voice. Listen to what he says, and put it into practice. His Spirit will begin changing your life, from the inside out!
The Dare begins April 1, 2012.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pray for the Entire World

The Dare challenge no. 1: Over the next year, I will pray for the entire world.

I’m going to pray for the entire world? Yeah, right. “God, bless the world.” There, that was easy.

Obviously Jesus wants us to get more serious about sharing his love with the world. He does tell us to pray, “thy kingdom come…” And Jesus specifically instructs us to pray for workers to go share the good news.

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Matthew 9:35-38)

We have incredible resources now to help us pray for the world, in a systematic, comprehensive way. has an excellent collection of prayer material, including a prayer calendar, covering all the nations of the world. You can begin with their 60 prayer challenge, to receive daily prayer reminders. After 60 days, they will send you a daily reminder based on their 365 day prayer calendar. I signed up for the emails yesterday and have already begun praying.

The International Mission Board maps hundreds (thousands?) of unreached people groups around the world, showing each group’s information. When you click on the link, you will find a map with many dots on it. As you zoom in to a particular region, you will see that lots of the dots overlap. Click on a dot to learn about the people group at that location. All of these people groups need to hear the gospel. has videos that inspire prayer for peoples who need to hear the gospel. You will see the skylines of cities, landscapes of regions and faces of people in all different areas of the world. When you put a face to prayer, it gets much more personal.

I hope that you will make daily prayer for the world part of your life routine.

The Dare starts on April 1.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dare

This Sunday I’ll be wrapping up a message series based on David Platt’s book, Radical. The book culminates with a suggested experiment of faith. Platt calls it an experiment; I call it The Dare. We’ll start on April 1.

The Dare is a challenge to make five commitments for a year, stretching yourself beyond your normal routine. As Platt says, some of these commitments may not be sustainable for the long run, but can be handled for a limited time, like a year. It is a dare because it will be hard. It is an experiment because you can see if your life is really different after a year.

In the words of Platt, “I challenge you to an experiment. I dare you to test the claims contained in the gospel, maybe in a way you have never done before. I invite you to see if radical obedience to the commands of Christ is more meaningful, more fulfilling, and more gratifying than the American dream. And I guarantee that if you complete this experiment, you will possess and insatiable desire to spend the rest of your life in radical abandonment to Christ for his glory in all the world.” You can find more info at

I suggest that we begin this experiment on Sunday, April 1, 2012. It will all culminate on March 31, Easter Sunday, 2013. This will be an amazing time of celebration as we see what God has done in us and through us.

Here are the five commitments:

For one year:

1. I will pray for the entire world.

2. I will read through the entire Word.

3. I will sacrifice my money for a specific cause.

4. I will spend time in another context.

5. I will commit my life to a multiplying community.

To explain and recommend resources for The Dare, I’ll be writing separate blogs for each of the commitments. You can read about them and pray for God’s leadership. Then we can start the experiment on April 1. Yes, that is ironic…or maybe not.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Finding the holes

In The Hole in Our Gospel, author Richard Stearns shares his confessions about his own spiritual pilgrimage and God's call upon his life.  I'm only about 100 pages into the book now, but it is blowing me away.

The hole in our gospel, as Stearns puts it, is that we are missing a part of Jesus' reason for coming to earth.  In Luke 4, Jesus reads the scripture in the synagogue.  He reads from Isaiah 61.  He reads the passage, then declares that the scripture is fulfilled right then and there in that synagogue. 

The passage declares, "The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Somehow we have missed, or ignored, a critical part of Jesus' mission.  Jesus cares about the poor.  We acknowledge that, but so often we find ways to dismiss our responsibility to bring good news to the poor.  Caring for the poor is central in the gospel.  If we ignore it, there is a hole in our gospel.

Stearns goes on to talk about the hole in himself, which Jesus had to fill.  Jesus is revealing holes in my heart.  He is showing me my brokenness, my wrong thinking, my hard-heartedness.  Ouch.

I'm asking God to show me a people group, somewhere in the world, where he can use me to bring the whole gospel.  People really want to know Jesus.  What a joy to get to be the one who introduces them.