10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting

Hunting season is upon us and thanks to a gracious member of my former church, my boys and I have a Lifetime Mississippi Hunting License which we will use over Thanksgiving break! I take raising my children seriously and because of that everything I do must in some way lead my children to see and hear the gospel, hunting is no exception. I often think about two verses in the book of Joshua that constantly challenge me to lead my children to ask the right questions:

that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:6–7, ESV)

And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” (Joshua 4:21–22, ESV)

The father’s in Israel were to lead their children to ask questions about what God had done and who He was. The role is no different thousands of years later, fathers are to lead their children to ask the right questions so they can proclaim the great name and glory of God.

Just in case some of you men print this off and tell your wife, “the pastor said I need to hunt more”. I am gonna give you 3 ground rules before I share “10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting”.

1. Hunting never comes before family. As the head and leader of your home, you now realize hunting is not a priority, your family is. When hunting comes before your family, it certainly comes before your God, and therefore it is an idol….hunting can’t be an idol. If you need help here, just ask your wife.

2. Hunting should always be fun for your son! Often times Dads forget, children are children. They are gonna be loud, they are gonna get whiney, and they are gonna mess up. Getting mad, angry, and fussing at your son will be a sure way to make your son hate hunting with his Dad. Be patient, positive, and productive; see the big picture.

3. Be Safe and Be Legal! If you don’t know the law learn it. http://home.mdwfp.com/License/info.aspx?id=13

10 Things A Dad Can Teach His Son While Hunting:

As I was hunting the other day, and absolutely nothing was moving, I thought about how much I have been able to teach Isaac through our hunting time together. I realized very quickly I needed to come home and put these in writing to encourage other Dads. I am often amazed at how we compartmentalize our Christianity here in America and especially the South. We talk God on Sunday, Church functions, or at a funeral; but I hardly ever find Dads who use life to talk about God…the bible is clear on how we should teach our children:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7, ESV)

Essentially you are to talk about the LORD all the time. Just think about how much time we waste when we don’t constantly engage our sons in spiritual conversation. Here are 10 things you can teach your son while hunting.

1. God. This is huge and you have SO much material when you are outside and hunting. We don’t use creation near enough to point our sons to God. Teach your sons God made everything. Teach him how He made it (He spoke it into existence out of nothing, Gen 1-2). Amaze your son with the creativity and power of God through creation. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. ” (Romans 1:20, ESV). Psalms 8, 19, and 139 are great texts on creation, use them!

2. Sin. I know you are saying, how can you get “sin” out of hunting and the outdoors? Here is an illustration, just a few day’s ago Isaac and I are riding the four wheeler to hang a deer stand. He gets hit with a sticker bush and gets several stickers in his arm. After a few minutes he ask’s me, “Dad, why did God make stickers?” As I was laughing he answered his own question, “Because Adam and Eve sinned and God gave them thorns.” And by the way he is right, we have stickers because of sin…“thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. ” (Genesis 3:18, ESV). You get my point, the consequences of sin are easy to find. Showing your son sin, opens the door to explaining the Gospel!

3. Discpleship. Have you ever thought about the fact discipling happens before and after conversion. To be a disciple means you are following in the footsteps of someone in order to be like them. Dads disciple your son to Jesus! If your son is not born again, the greatest gospel testimony you can give him is through your life. In fact you are the physical representation of Jesus (if you are born again) God intends your son to see! Teach your son to follow in your footsteps as you are a disciple of Jesus. Pray God would graciously save him and use your example to open his heart to the Gospel. Think about this as you spend time hunting, savor the opportunity to disciple your son to Jesus! I am reminded of this every time we are walking through the woods and I turn around and say, “come on Isaac follow me“. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. ” (Luke 6:40, ESV)

4. Listening. Man oh man…..where do I begin. We live in a culture saturated with communication and information, yet it seems like the art of listening is DEAD. Christian Dads must teach their sons the discipline of listening. This will be critical as they develop spiritual disciplines as they grow older. As you teach your son about safety and how to hunt they will have to listen, be patient and help them learn this. What a great opportunity to use the environment of hunting to teach your son what it means to listen, not just for animals or to Dad, but to others and for God. “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” ” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

5. Purpose. What better way to teach your son they were created for a purpose, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” than through His glorious creation. Watching the sun set or the sun rise, seeing a deer, duck, or turkey, observing the beauty of fall or snow, looking at a full moon on the way home…God created the earth and all it contains for His Glory! God’s word tells that He made Adam and Eve after His own image, we are special and created for a purpose, to glorify God! This begins by repenting of our sin and receiving Jesus as our LORD. “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. ” (Psalm 86:12, ESV); “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” ” (Isaiah 43:7, ESV); “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

6. Reading. I know that this only applies as your son is able to read, but hunting is a great opportunity to model and teach your son about reading. Research tells us fewer and fewer people read anymore, the number of boys is incredibly low. We live in an internet based society where you can find what you want without having to read the entire book. This has killed our culture and our young men. I do some of my best reading while hunting. Dads use hunting to teach your son to read. If your son is old enough pick a book or two that you want to read during hunting season and talk about it. Read Christian biographies, Christian Adventure, Spiritual Growth books or the Bible. I usually read at least 3 books during hunting season, I can’t wait until Isaac and I take up the challenge together. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV)

7. Role. Taking your son hunting is a right of passage and an opportunity to model biblical manhood. Has there ever been a day where we need more men who model biblical manhood and are the Christ-like leaders of their home, than today? We have a new age range called “perpetual adolesence”, boys never grow up into young men. We have boys who grow up with an overly-bonded mother wound because they never broke away from mom and entered manhood. We have feminized young men, because they never did manly things with Dad and have been overly influenced by women their entire life. Hunting and the outdoors is not about making your son into a redneck brute, it is about teaching and modeling manhood characteristics and lifestyle. Hunting and the outdoors is a great platform to teach your son about what it means to be a “Christ-like Man”. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. ” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

8. Obedience. This is probably one of the greatest areas of conviction and growth I have experienced in hunting over the last 10 years. I was not raised to respect hunting laws or officials, which I regret. Therefore, learning and obeying laws was never important for me and I could find a way to justify just about anything. I remember vividly one of my first hunts with Isaac, and the Holy Spirit was convicting me that I could not continue to “halfway” obey the hunting laws. Partial obedience is “disobedience”. I knew I would never have a leg to stand on when teaching Isaac about obedience and following God, if I could not obey and follow the law. I also knew my disobedience was sin, and repented. You can teach your son so much about God, His standard, and HIs Son Jesus; through modeling, following, and teaching your son the law. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22, ESV); “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ” (Galatians 3:24, ESV)

9. Character. “Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking“. Hunting and the outdoors gives Dads more ammunition than you could shoot through a machine gun for developing character. I could write page after page about the conversations Isaac and I have had about honor, integrity, and character while we have been hunting. From what we hunt, to when we hunt, to how we hunt; the opportunities are endless from my sons questions to teach him about character. Dads don’t miss this opportunity, and just in case you need a reminder, ”you won’t teach your son something you are not living“. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him… ” (2 Chronicles 16:9, ESV); “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. ” (Proverbs 28:1, ESV)

10. Gospel. Last but not least you have time to sink deep roots into your son through hunting and the outdoors. Nothing spells love like “TIME”. Spending time enjoying God’s creation and teaching your son about God, sin, and His son Jesus is what I call “sharing the Gospel as you live life.” Certainly we need to be constantly verbally explaining and telling our kids about the good news of the Gospel, but have you ever thought about how much we “tell” our children? Have you ever thought for a moment you were raised being “told” your whole life. Go back to my first two verses in Joshua, God told the people, “When your children ask, then tell them….” Dads, hunting and the outdoors is a great environment to lead our sons to ask the right questions. May we lead them to ask about the “good news” of Jesus. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ” (John 3:1–8, ESV

Family Worship And Advent

advent |ˈadˌvent|

the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event: the advent of television.

• ( Advent )the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

• ( Advent )Christian Theology the coming or second coming of Christ.

Family Worship- Family Worship is the regular and intentional gathering of a household to praise God together. -Tony Kummer, Ministry-To-Children.com Permission granted to make copies for non-commercial use. 

regular = consistent, habitual, normal

intentional = planned, deliberate, on purpose

gathering = coming together, meeting, assembly

household = family unit, everyone living in your home

praise = worship, expressing love, showing value, glorifying

10 Principles for Family Devotion - adapted from Tony Kummer, Ministry-To-Children.com Permission granted to make copies for non-commercial use. 

1. Worship is about God. Family devotions are when you meet with God as a family. Don’t let the details hide the big point – you are gathering together to hear from God and respond to Him in love.

2. Make it important. You can make family devotions a regular and joyful part of your home life, but you must make it a priority. Don’t let time pressures rob your family of the eternal treasure of knowing God.

3. Keep it short. For most families, 15 minutes several times each week will work well. As your children mature, devotion time will naturally become longer. But regular short meetings are better than occasional long meetings.

4. Make it fun. Everyone should look forward to family devotion time. Use role-playing to act out Bible stories, or invent motions to accompany the singing.

5. Use songs that teach. Not all songs are equal in learning value. Choose songs that tell about the character of God and incorporate Bible verses. (Seeds Worship-Itunes)

6. Same time, same place. Getting into a pattern (or habit) will make family devotions a normal part of your home.

7. Learn as you go. Experience will become your teacher. Since every family is different, you will need to discover what pattern of family worship best fits your home life.

8. Use variety in prayer. Alternate who leads prayer, or ask the children to pray aloud in turn. You can even have the children copy aloud after you as you pray.

9. Avoid distractions. Turn off the television and remove toys from the area. If you have small children, an illustrated story Bible will help retain their attention.

10. Everyone participating, head of household leading. Whoever is head of the house should lead if in a single parent home or absent father home. Otherwise, Father’s should lead with Everyone Participating. 

Objectives for Every Family Concerning the Gospel and Christmas.

1. Teach clearly the Biblical story of Christmas and the Doctrinal meaning of Christmas.

Old Testament Prophecies: Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

New Testament Narrative (Luke 2): Luke 2:8–11 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Doctrinal Emphasis (Incarnation): Philippians 2:6–8 (ESV)

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

2. Recognize the Worldview of materialism and consumerism; Beware of The Law of Unintended Consequences.

consumerism: the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

3. Model the example of Jesus and serve.

Philippians 2:4–5 (ESV)

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

John 13:13–15 (ESV)

13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Click here for Family Worship Advent Resources.

 

 

Time To Plan And Set Goals For 2015

In our current culture of Gospel-Centeredness (which you will see I am all for below) achievement and goals are almost frowned upon. Some have co-opted a do-nothing, lazy, and passionless phrase "resting" in the Gospel; in place of an active, courageous, and passionate biblical Gospel-Centeredness. Jonathan Edwards was known for his 70 resolutions, but his own words remind us that they were not by his strength or for his glory...

Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
— Jonathan Edwards

During the first week of December my family and I will take our annual goal setting and planning retreat. This year we are taking three days to reflect, repent, and refocus. Joy and I will reflect on our goals and plans from 2014 and set goals individually and as a family for 2015. This will be the fifth year we have made a commitment to set goals as a family, and to say it has changed our marriage and life would be an understatement. 

First, I want to encourage you to read a book that really transformed my thoughts about what it meant to love God, lead my family, and live the Gospel. The premise in this book has become the foundation and filter for so much of my life. It would be well worth your time to pick up a copy and read Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood. 

Second, spend some time reflecting on how you are evaluating growth for yourself and your family. How do you measure what you can't manage? Is there a tangible way to see the fruit of the Gospel in your life and leadership? Paul talked about how the Gospel was productive, proficient, and powerful in the life of believers, “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,” -(Colossians 1:5–6, ESV)  If you are in Christ, you should be bearing and increasing in the fruit of the Gospel. 

Living life with no goals, is like playing football with no end zone.
— Scott Thomas

Finally, make sure you don't confuse goal setting with performance. Goal setting should be Gospel-Centered. Your goals are not to define your value and worth, your identity is in Christ. If you are in Christ you are already approved, forgiven, and accepted. There is no way we can set a "goal" for God to love us any more than He already does. We do not perform our way into pleasing God. Personal and family goals are a way to grow in Christ and manifest His kingdom here on earth, in your life and the life of your family. Through Gospel-Centered goals we aim to display the rule and reign of Christ in and through our lives. 

There are three primary areas I believe every christian should set goals in; loving God, leading your family (or leading well if you are un-married), and living the gospel. Each year Joy and I set goals that flow out of these three spheres of life. This is a great way for us to stay focused on spiritual disciplines, cultivate a healthy family, and live out the kingdom mission. This has become one of the most beneficial ways Joy and I have grown together in marriage. Joy has said, that for us, it has been the difference between "surviving" and "thriving".

Here are three results of goal setting we have identified:

1. Communication- Joy and I have cultivated some great communication during these times. I am amazed at how much closer we become when we stop long enough to listen and talk to each other about our family and life. 

2. Prioritizing- There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day that leaves you 112. What are your priorities? You will either AGONIZE or PRIORITIZE! Joy and I finally realized we simply could not do everything. Prioritizing our values and time changed our lives. 

  • Everything cannot be a priority. You can’t have it all.
  • Everything should not be a priority. All things are not created equal.
  • Some activities and investments are more important than others.
  • Some activities and investments are more lasting than others.

3. Growth- Joy and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage at the end of December. Unlike many marriages, we did not start out well and we certainly were not growing in Christ as a couple. By God's grace, we have seen our greatest growth over the past six years. It was during this time Joy and I began intentionally setting goals for ourselves and family in the area of loving God, leading our family, and living the gospel. 

Gospel Life Plan Resources: Interactive Gospel Life Plan Documents (Examples & Blanks)

Churches Plant Churches..Join Us In New Orleans!

God is at work here in New Orleans and we are excited about the opportunity for gospel multiplication through church planting, here in one of the most unreached and broken cities in North America. We have a vision to plant over 100 churches in the next 10 years, in order to accomplish this task we need prayer and partners! New Orleans has long been called the “The City That Care Forgot”; we believe that gospel multiplication and church planting can change that to “The City That God Transformed!” 

Mobilizing local churches to plant 120 multiplying churches in the greater New Orleans region over the next 10 years, believing the gospel has the power to transform a city that care forgot.
— SEND New Orleans Church Planting Vision

Ministry in New Orleans demands long term, strategic partnerships. We are praying that God would continue raising up pastors and churches to embrace New Orleans as a key part of their national mission strategy. Our goal is to mobilize multiple partner churches with every church plant here in the city.

We are here to help your church mobilize through prayer, participation, and/or provision. By God’s grace in 2014 we will see 10 new works start here in New Orleans, and we are praying to start 10 more in 2015! To accomplish this we will need to mobilize 50 churches to partner with incoming and current planters, will your church join us?

There are tremendous opportunities to partner in God’s kingdom mission to evangelize the lost, disciple the saved, and plant multiplying churches that will impact New Orleans and the world. Please let us know if we can serve your church in any way. 

Here are some great informational resources about SEND New Orleans and an invitation to “Like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. 

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NEXT CATCH THE VISON TOUR:

February 27 Catch The Vision

 

RESOURCES:

Read about New Church Planter Josh Holland

Read about New Church Planter Reagan Farris

SEND New Orleans Overview

SEND New Orleans Church Plant Map

Current Church Planters In New Orleans

Celebrating Church Planting- LST Fall Meeting

One of the blessings of my job is celebrating what God is doing through church planting in New Orleans at our Local Strategy Team Meetings. We have two LST Meetings each year, where our team of pastors, planters, and denominational leaders (NAMB, NOBA, LBC) come to hear and see how God is working to bring gospel transformation and multiplication to our city.

Here is the SEND New Orleans vision statement and below are some pictures and contact links for our newest planters. Take a moment and pray for these gospel warriors who have stepped out on faith to start a new work here in one of the most unreached areas of North America.

Churches plant churches, and if I can ever serve your church in a mission partnership here in New Orleans do not hesitate to contact me gross@namb.net

Mobilizing local churches to plant 120 multiplying churches in the greater New Orleans region over the next 10 years, believing the gospel has the power to transform a city that care forgot.
— SEND New Orleans

5 Reasons To Host A Global Impact Conference

Since joining NAMB I have been invited to preach and speak at several "Global Impact Conferences". What is a Global Impact Conference you may ask? A Global Impact Conference is a strategic and intentional calendared event in the local church for the purpose of exposing, engaging, and involving the body of Christ to local, regional, and international missions. My experience reflects a correlation between a defined missions strategy and churches that make hosting a Global Impact Conference a priority. Here are 5 reasons why I think every church should host a Global Impact Conference. 

1. It has never been a better time. We are in one of the most exciting periods of Southern Baptist missions history I have known. The North American Mission Board is having incredible kingdom impact in North America under the leadership of Dr. Ezell and with newly elected President of the International MIssion Board, David Platt, I for one am excited about the future! This a great time to educate your church about the mission agencies of the the Southern Baptist Convention. 

2. Millennials will GO! Millennials are the largest generation in history of America. If you have not heard, they want to be challenged with the impossible. What better way to challenge this current generation of young people who are saying "Here Am I, Send Me." A Global Impact Conference will expose millennials to unprecedented lostness and unbelievable opportunities to engage the world with the gospel. My prayer is that we will not look back on this willing generation of young people and regret not equipping them to go. 

3. It is an opportunity to clarify. Does your church "know" what is happening in your missions ministries? I often hear pastors struggling with "being all over the map" in their missions strategy, unable to communicate a clear vision for the church to embrace. When people do not understand or participate in your vision, there is usually a problem with communication and passion. A Global Impact Conference is a great opportunity to bring clarity to your entire church concerning your mission vision, strategy, and passion. 

4. We need everyday missionaries. A Global Impact Conference is not just about calling people to go somewhere to do missions. It should involve the challenge to be an "Everyday Missionary". We are living in an increasingly post christian culture, the time to recognize we are missionaries in our own country is now, the harvest is indeed plentiful. 

Everyday missionaries are those who practice life on mission where God has placed them, whether that be at an office complex, a developing country, or a college campus.
— Willis, Dustin; Coe, Aaron (2014-08-26). Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Kindle Locations 268-269). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

5. It is an opportunity to host missionaries. Implementation of a Global Mission Conference varies, but hosting missionaries is a key component. As I sit here and type, I am humbled as I reflect on the missionaries God has used to shape my life. At the joint IMB and NAMB Missionary Commissioning this past June, I heard numerous appointees share how God used a missionary's story to confirm their call. What a blessing it is for a local church to share in God's global agenda through hosting local, regional, and international missionaries. 

6. The local church is God's agent to carry the gospel to the nations. Mission agencies like the IMB and NAMB are resources for the local church. God has called the local church to go and make disciples of all nations, this cannot be overstated. A Global Impact Conference reinforces and communicates that reaching the world is not something we pay or pray for someone else to do, it is what we are to do

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)



Thank You For Giving To The Cooperative Program

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Sunday (June 8th) our family will participate in the joint commissioning service with 100 NAMB and IMB Missionaries at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Baltimore. (Your invited to watch this service live at 4pm EST) We are so grateful for this opportunity. Just over 6 months ago our family embraced God's call to be a kingdom family and join the North American Mission Board as SEND Missionaries in New Orleans, LA. We have never been more excited about the opportunity to glorify Christ and manifest His Kingdom. 

Without the Cooperative Program this would not be possible. Our ministry efforts and kingdom impact are because of faithful local churches across the SBC that believe we can do more together than alone. Having served in the pastorate for over 20 years, I recognize the sacrifice churches make when they give a portion of their budget to the cooperative program, and I am thankful for those that continue to make it a priority. 

There is much talk today about the decline of the Cooperative Program and the uncertainty of its future. Local Church Cooperation has been the catalyst to create the greatest missions sending agency in the history of Christianity, and although our resources have been in steady decline, I for one find reason for optimism. Never before has there been such a passionate generation of young christians who are zealous to advance the gospel. This certainly is not the time to give up on a proven means to support and send missionaries across the street and around the world. 

Over the last six months, I have been able to preach in many different Southern Baptist Churches, my first sentence is the same on every occasion, "Thank you for giving to the Cooperative Program, I am your missionary in New Orleans, LA." No doubt there needs to be discussions about how to stem the tide of decreased giving, but for today my family and I just want to say, "Thank You." 

Discipleship 101

Discipleship is one of the most talked about church planting topics. There is no shortage of strategies, methods, theories, and pronouncements on the subject. With so much written and talked about, we still have a glaring weakness when it comes to gospel multiplication through reproducible discipleship. 

There are three questions I am constantly asking church planters? 1. What is a disciple? 2. What is your reproducible strategy for making disciples? 3. How is your reproducible strategy working?

At the very least you should be able to answer these questions and evaluate to some degree the effectiveness of your strategy. Jim Putman in Real Life Discipleship defines a disciple as someone who is intentionally following Jesus with their head, heart, and hands. Some will find this too simplistic; personally I love it and use it with my family. All of my children can articulate what it means to be a disciple from this definition. 

Church planting is a result of making disciples in the New Testament. The gospel was proclaimed and demonstrated, people were converted and discipled, and churches were birthed. Which means if we are not making disciples, were not really planting New Testament churches. Here are four foundational principles for making disciples, or Discipleship 101.

1. Discipleship must be Intentional.

Jesus was intentional about who he called, how he taught, what he said and where he went. His ministry of discipleship had a strategic beginning and a missional ending. For three years Jesus prepared his disciples to carry on his ministry after he was gone. We cannot and will not make disciples that impact the world and fulfill the great commission without being intentional. Disciple making is deliberate and purposeful, someone must intend to do it. What is your long term vision and short term goals for disciple making? 

2. Discipleship will be Relational.

In the New Testament we overlook on the most obvious principles of discipleship, relationships.   The ministry of Jesus and ministry of the early church flourishes through relationships and hospitality. From the relationships of fisherman and families, to the hospitality of Martha and Mary; discipleship in the early church revolved around being relational. We see the impact of the gospel through relationships and hospitality when Peter the Jew, goes and dines with Cornelius the Gentile. Truths we preach from the pulpit find their greatest application in the context relationships. 

3. Discipleship must be Reproducible.

Are you making disciples who make disciples?  It is a question we must ask, even if we don't like the answer. I believe the most effective way to grow disciples is through regular systematic expositional preaching of the Bible. However, I have seen too many congregants who gush about the sermon and the preacher, but have never discipled one person. Is your preaching ministry growing a church of disciples who make disciples? If not, either your preaching and teaching is not as good as you think or your preaching and life are disconnected from an intentional reproducible strategy for making disciples. Pastors who model disciple making will have members who practice disciple making. 

4. Discipleship will be Fruitful. 

Paul writes in Colossians 1:5-6, 

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.
— Colossians 1:5–6 (ESV)

If we really believe the gospel is the power unto salvation, we can trust that it will be fruitful in the lives of those who are saved as they are discipled into maturity. The gospel will bear fruit, it will increase, that is the promise of the new birth. This is why we must begin all discipleship by teaching clearly on the gospel. A reproducible discipleship strategy that takes God at his word will rely and rest in the power of the gospel for fruitful discipleship. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)


5 Lessons Learned By A Church Planter For Church Planters

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I had the privilege to plant and pastor a multiplying, gospel-centered, and disciple making local church. The last nine years of my life were devoted to seeing a gospel-centered local church birth in the religious culture of of the bible belt south. Approximately half of our membership joined by baptism, which was a testimony of conversion growth and the power of the gospel at ground zero of churched culture.

I can honestly say it was the most difficult and rewarding experience I have ever undertaken. When I am asked by new planters to talk about what to do, I alway's respond by telling them, let me tell you what not to do firstAs with any journey, hindsight is always 20/20, we see clearly looking back. Here are 5 Lessons, in no particular order, I learned during my church planting journey:

1. Be Patient not Impulsive 

Most, not all:) church planters are naturally impatient. The last years of planting were the most enjoyable for me, just because I grew in patience. If you think you have to (fill in the blank with whatever scenario), it would probably be wise to wait. God is sovereign and your patience is a testimony to that reality. 

It is easy for a passionate leader to confuse impulsive leadership with spiritual leadership. 

2. Be a Shepherd not a Driver. 

Shepherds know, feed, lead, and protect the sheep. Jesus call's us to shepherd the flock until he returns. Your personality can never be an excuse to not shepherd. I always see bedouin shepherds when leading trips to Israel. I have never seen a shepherd driving sheep, he is alway's leading them. If your shepherding doesn't look like Jesus, your following the wrong shepherd. 

Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares His people to sheep, not to cattle. - A.W. Tozer

3. Be Teachable, not a Know-It-All.

The older I get, I feel the less I know. I am so grateful for men who invested in me, even when I wasn't very teachable. I learned this 20 years ago from Howard Hendricks in"Teaching To Change Lives". He made a statement in that book I have always kept in front of me, "If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow", leaders will be learners. I am reminded daily, that my journey as a leader, husband, and father is a display of the gospel as I am teachable and grow in Christ.  John Maxwell, suggest 10 questions to determine, if you are really teachable:

  1. Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  2. Do I listen more than I talk?
  3. Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  4. Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  5. Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  6. Do I ask questions?
  7. Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  8. Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  9. Am I willing to ask for directions?
  10. Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?

4. Be Accountable not An Authoritarian. 

As a called pastor, you have derived authority from the Lord Jesus Himself. In His sovereign pattern He has placed pastors in position's of authority to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The danger happens when we misuse our derived authority and become passive aggressive authoratarians. The only way authority is not abused is when it submits to authentic accountability. Who has permission to tell you no or stop? Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?

“shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2–3, ESV)

5. Share the gospel personally, as much as you Talk about the gospel publicly. 

I have never been more convicted about my lack of of evangelism than right now. Yes, I shared my faith during my planting years; but more often than not it was circumstantial evangelism, not what I would call intentional evangelism. Moving to New Orleans has been an eye opener! The needs and lostness here are overwhelming and the only hope for New Orleans is the good news of Jesus. In truth there was great lostness where I planted and pastored, but my context made it easier to talk about evangelism than be an evangelist. Share the gospel personally as much as you talk about the gospel publicly. 

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” -Charles H. Spurgeon

Kingdom Families Are Joyful

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One thing I would challenge families to in 2014 is...to be joyful. A kingdom family should manifest joy. Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Peter 1:8, ESV) Peter’s audience was discouraged by the persecution they were encountering, but he challenges them to manifest inexpressible joy in spite of their circumstances.

Inexpressible joy does not describe many of the Christian families I encounter these days. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “We have given the impression that to be a Christian means to be miserable."  Christians should be the most joyful people on the planet. When we are joyless we harm our witness to the world and impact our legacy with our family. Demonstrating joy in a fallen world is one of the greatest testimonies of Christ living in you. Here are 4 practical applications for leaving a legacy of joy.

1. Prioritize your passion.

When we have misguided passions and misplaced priorities we find ourselves void of joy. Families become whirlwinds of busyness trying to find their joy in the pursuit of empty idols. Scott Thomas writes, “We discover what our idols are by asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.” What do your priorities and passions say about where you get meaning, worth, and value? Many families are joyless because they have misguided passions and misplaced priorities.  Prioritize wisely.

2. Choose love. 

Bitterness, hurt, anger, hate, and the like, steal our joy and infect our families. Sometimes we just have to make up our mind that the most Christ-like action we can take in a circumstance is to choose to love. When we choose love we are crucifying our flesh and relying on the Spirit. We manifest joy when we are walking in the Spirit and choose love.

3. Cultivate contentment.

When I reflect on my marriage over the last 12 years, some of the most miserable times occurred when we were not practicing contentment. Because we allowed all our wants to become needs it affected our finances. My wife would agree we were not a joy filled family. Today our family is totally debt-free, we are renting and do not even have a house payment! There is a marked difference in the joyfulness we exhibit and experience as a family, when we are practicing contentment.

4. Grow in the gospel.

Paul celebrates the Christians in Colossae’s growth in the gospel, Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,” (Colossians 1:5–6, ESV) You are growing in the gospel when you are repenting and bearing fruit. A fruit of growing in the gospel will be the manifestation of joy as we lead our families.

Prioritizing our passions, choosing love, cultivating contentment, and growing in the gospel will lay a strong foundation for a legacy of joy in your family. 

5 Reason's We Should Preach Expositional Messages- Hershael York

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Last year at the ONE8 Preach The Word Conference Dr. Hershael York preached an incredible message entitled, "5 Reason's We Should Preach Expositional Messages". I am grateful Dr. York is allowing me to post my notes from that message today. May this be an encouragement to you as you faithfully labor to preach the Word. You can find out more about Dr. York here, and his books on Amazon

5 Reason's Why We Should Preach Expositional Messages

1. We preach expositionally because it is the only form of preaching that takes the Word of God as it is written. 

a. It assumes you have a High View of God's Word. 
b. It assumes you don't set yourself above the text. 
c. It submits to the truth as the Holy Spirit revealed it. 
     - What does it mean?
     - How does it apply?
d. Your congregation see's you handle the Word correctly. (They need to learn to be self-feeders)

2. We preach expositionally because it relies on the profitability of all scripture. 

a. It is not possible to preach the whole counsel of God changing Churches every two to three years (ouch!)
b. You can't be a shepherd any other way than sustained time at a local church. 
c. If we believe in the profitability of all scripture we will preach the whole counsel of God. 

3. We preach expositionally because it has a high view of preaching. 

a. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit using God's Word and transforming people. 
b. Our view of preaching will be dictated by our view of Scripture.
c. The way we handle the Word in the pulpit is the way our members will handle it at home.

4. We preach expositionally because it forces us to be hard thinkers.

a. It forces us to know the meaning of the text. 
b. It forces us to think about how it applies. 
c. How people perceive? This is a most arduous task. (Don't be a preacher that puts people asleep)

5. We preach expositionally because it limits itself to the authors intent for maximum authority. 

 

Under Authority Before In Authority

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2014 will mark twenty one years of serving in a local church as a volunteer or vocational minister. I have been privileged to be under the authority of some of the greatest men in the world. Although every place of ministry had challenges, combined with the fact I made more than my share of immature leadership decisions, I am grateful for every experience. As one of my pastoral hero's plainly stated, "You will never be in authority, until you are under authority". Authority is God's idea and how we respond to authority is a reflection of gospel in our life. 

Submission to authority is absolutely a biblical idea that impacts everyone at some level. Everyone is called submit to worldly institutions (I Peter 2:13-17). Household servants are called to submit to the authority of their masters (I Peter 2:18-20). Wives are commanded to submit to the authority of their husbands (I Peter 3:1-6). Husbands are called to live in a understanding way with their wives which is the fruit of his submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33). Christians are to submit to biblical leadership and to each other (Hebrews 13:7,17). It is a distinctly biblical concept to submit to authority. God's will of decree has established authority for our good and His glory, and as christians we are called to proclaim the gospel through voluntary submission. 

A person who understands submission to authority is someone who is humble, teachable, and personally responsible. Someone who does not understand submission to authority is a person who is prideful, full of criticism, and the victim of someone else's failure. We all to different degrees and at different times struggle with authority. Rejecting authority started in the garden and is our sinful inclination. Only the transforming power of the gospel can bring joyful submission to authority. The gospel reminds us that submission to authority is actually and act of worship that glorifies God. 

Currently as I serve as a Missionary for the North American Mission Board, I have two supervisors and I am under their authority. I have a job description, responsibilities, and evaluations. There is an expectation that I carry out the directives and vision my supervisors have given. I am not only grateful for this opportunity to be under authority, I am excited! Here are some principles that I have found helpful for being under authority:

1. You manifest the gospel when you are under authority. 

Each year when I teach at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, I am overwhelmed with the example of Jesus as he submits to authority,  “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42, ESV) When we submit to authority we manifest the very character of Jesus. As Jesus is an example of submission to authority, Satan is an example of subversion to authority. Satan rebelled against the idea of being under authority. When we reject being under authority we become tools of Satan undermining what God has established. Submission manifests the message of the gospel. How can we truly proclaim the gospel and call people to submit to Christ, if we cannot model what this looks like in our own life? 

2. You should embrace the vision when you are under authority. 

The North American Mission Board has a vision to mobilize churches to plant churches, I did not come up with it and I had no input in its creation.  Are there things I would do differently? Maybe. But part of being under authority is running with the vision that has been given to me. My responsibility is to embrace the vision and carry out the directives and responsibilities that will fulfill the vision. That means I am in agreement with my authorities and work with a positive winsome attitude. Complaining, constant critiquing, and waiting for the failure of others, diminishes the vision and undermines authority. After high school I worked for five years at the shipping giant Fed Ex. Their motto then, "Federal Express: When it absolutely positively has to be there overnightI"  I could sum up my time there in one sentence: "Those who embraced the vision did well,  those who rejected the vision were miserable." Many people are miserable in life, because they cannot submit to authority. 

If I trust in a sovereign God, I can trust the leadership and embrace the vision of whomever's authority I am under. At the end of the day we will do well to model the example of the unworthy servant, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. ” (Luke 17:10, ESV)

3. You should be under authority, because if you are not, you are disqualified to be in authority. 

Are there times when you should question authority? Absolutely. Authority that is illegal, unethical, abusive, or immoral should always be questioned and confronted. Being under authority does not mean you should not voice your opinions and thought, any competent leader values discussion and the input of others. However, if a prejudice, personality, or preference are your reasons to resist authority, they have no merit. I had dinner with one of my supervisors a few weeks ago to give an update and get directives for a meeting I was facilitating. Arriving a few minutes early and thinking about my responsibilities, I wrote this down in my notes, "Your inability to be under authority, disqualifies you from leadership."  Sadly, many who desperately desire to be in authority, are disqualified because they refuse to be under authority. Those who are in authority usually have a track record of being under authority. In contrast those who have trouble being under authority usually have a track record of resisting authority.  It has been my experience that the more I embrace submission to authority, the greater my authority becomes. Be humble, teachable and take personal responsibility as you are under authority for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. 

Those who rebel against authority and scorn self-discipline—who shirk the rigors and turn from the sacrifices—do not qualify to lead.
— Oswald Sanders

Hospitality Defined And Practiced

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Have you ever thought about how much hospitality is a part of God's grand story? From Abraham entertaining guests in Genesis 18 to Lazarus and Martha opening up their home to Jesus and his band of disciples in the Gospels, hospitality is a major theme in the Bible. In fact the Apostle Paul makes two significant mentions of hospitality. In Romans 12 he uses it as a mark of a true Christian, 

   “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, ESV)  

and in Titus and Timothy it is a qualification of an elder in a local church,

 “but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8, ESV)

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1 Timothy 3:2, ESV)  

Clearly, hospitality should be the practice of Christians and most certainly pastors

Hospitality Defined

The practice of entertaining strangers graciously. Hospitality was a very important trait in Bible times. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.
— Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

This practice was a sacred duty in biblical times and extended to enemies and friends alike. While in Israel several years ago we spent the night in a Bedouin tent camp near Beer-Sheba. I loved the experience of nomadic hospitality, no doubt similar to what Abraham provided to his angelic guests. There was instrumental music, singing, dancing, discussion and food! You may have entered a stranger, but you left a friend. 

Hospitality Practiced

This past year, Joy and I became very convicted over our lack of hospitality. Our goal for 2013 was to have all of our deacons and their families, all of our widows, and random church members in our home for dinner. We organized monthly dinners with our deacon families in groups of two. Each family with all their children would come over to our house for dinner, fellowship, and family worship. Joy started a prayer journal for each family with specific requests. I took ten minutes at dinner to challenge families to love God, lead well, and live the gospel.

I could write an entire series of blogs about the fruit and impact of this simple act of hospitality. In my nine years of pastoring Lifepoint, this was the most fruitful ministry I experienced. At my transition from Pastor of Lifepoint to Missionary with NAMB, one of the deacons sent me a text saying, "You showed me the most important part of my spiritual leadership having me in your home; how to lead my family in worship and the courage to do it."  Wow! I had preached numerous sermons in nine years about leading your home and practicing family worship. I even gave out guides almost every week! But one dinner and ten minutes of family worship in our living room gave new meaning to application. 

I want to encourage you to model hospitality. Many of our greatest victories in making disciples is not taught but caught. Practicing hospitality gives you the unique opportunity to bring people into the reality of your walk with Christ. The question I would ask is, "Why would you not want people in your home?" Don't waste your home, practice hospitality. 

2014 Reading List

I remember reading a biography on Fredrick Douglass, the slave turned abolitionist, and learning about how he was taught to read. As a young boy he knew that his freedom and life hinged on being able to read. As a slave in Maryland, he would bribe white kids to teach him, and taught himself from a Webster's dictionary. Douglass would write in his autobiography, "he who does not improve himself by the motives and opportunities afforded by this world gives the best evidence that he would not improve in any other world." Fredrick Douglass would become one of the greatest orators and public readers of the 19th Century. He not only received his freedom, he was appointed United States Minister to Haiti before his death in 1895. His story has always been an inspiration for me to be a consistent reader, never taking for granted the wonderful privilege of reading.

I will be starting my Doctor of Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Seminary this year, so my reading list is certainly subject to change. This is the largest reading list I have set as a goal since seminary, this will be a real challenge for me in 2014! A major focus for reading reflects our transition to New Orleans and assuming the role as a NAMB Missionary. Although I am aware of most of these authors I have only read one of the books, Andrew Murray's The Prayer Life, which was over 10 years ago. The list is not an endorsement of content, but a goal to read through. The reading list is broken down by categories and you can click on any book to purchase it from Amazon. The Kindle versions are much less expensive than the hardcover or paperback. 

Missional Ministry

Preaching & Communication

Marriage & Family

Spiritual Formation

Church Planting, Church Growth, & Discipleship

History & Biography

Resources:

1. Douglass, Frederick. Autobiography. New York: Bonanza Books, 1962.

Kingdom Family: Christmas and Tradition

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As parents we have one of the most awesome privileges in the world, discipling our children! If you do not already let me encourage you to make the most of family traditions and use them as a means to disciple and shape your children. Gospel-centered traditions can have profound influence and lasting impact on your children for generations to come. Here are several thoughts I have found helpful in creating gospel-centered traditions in the Ross home.

1. Teach The Gospel.

The gospel is the grand story of how sinners who were made in the image of God can be saved from their sin through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Making memories and establishing traditions are discipling opportunities that allow us to take a specific calendared time to teach on the gospel. Gospel-centered families realize that traditions will always make much of Jesus. When the story of the gospel is the centerpiece of our traditions we say loudly the gospel is greater than…..!

2. Make Memories.

Here are a few of the upcoming Ross family traditions: 

  • A few days before Christmas we have pajama night and watch "The Nativity Story." Our kids start asking to watch this movie around the first of December. Yes, I know for the legalistic there are a couple of parts not so accurate, but it is a beautiful picture of the Incarnation. 
  • We have a "Lord of the Rings" marathon! What better way to talk about the war announced against sin, death, and the grave, than Sauron vs. Frodo? Nothing say's Christmas like epic Middle Earth battles and the ultimate victory of good over evil! 
  • We celebrate missions. It is a tradition for us to teach on and give to the "Lottie Moon Christmas Offering" every December. This offering goes to resource the over 4000 Southern Baptist Missionaries around the world. Also, joining your local church in ministering to the community is a great way to be missional as you manifest the gospel to those who are truly in need.
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  • We load up as a family and go the best place around to look at Christmas lights.  There is never a shortage of teaching opportunities about being "light" in the midst of "darkness." Since we moved to New Orleans in October, we had to find a new place to look at lights. This year we went to "Celebration In The Oaks" in City Park, which was a pretty amazing. 
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3. Incorporate Family Worship.

Each year we begin an Advent devotion on December 1st for our Family Worship. Advent is defined as: arrival, appearance,  dawn, birth, or coming . As a family we use this time of Family Worship to draw close to the greatest story ever, God becoming man. C.S. Lewis wrote, "The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . ."  Use Christmas time traditions to teach your family the incredible doctrine of the Incarnation. 

The birth of Jesus is the grandest light of history, the sun in the heavens of all time. It is the pole-star of human destiny, the hinge of chronology, the meeting-place of the waters of the past and the future.
— Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ's Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (23–24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

4. Record Your Journey. 

I just finished organizing some of our photos from past holidays. We have so many incredible resources at our fingertips for capturing our traditions. Take time to take pictures, make a video, or just journal some thoughts down about your family. I try to journal after as many of our family traditions as possible. This affords me an opportunity to share my heart through writing, but to also pass down our legacy of traditions. In past years I have used journal entries and photos to create an album of the years family traditions to give to Joy as a gift, which she loves! 

5. Be A Kingdom Family.

Creating gospel-centered traditions in your home involves a kingdom mindset. Jesus came to inaugurate His Kingdom, we are here to manifest His Kingdom, and He is returning to consummate His Kingdom. A Kingdom Family embodies the character of Christ, intentionally lives out the mission of Christ, through the Spirit of Christ, for the glory of Christ; manifesting His kingdom here on earth. Family traditions should always reflect the Kingdom of God, not the American dream. 

Family Traditions can be some incredible times of discipleship for your family. As you love God, lead your family, and live the gospel you manifest what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

Thoughts On Thanksgiving

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A few weeks ago Joy and I took the kids to see "Free Birds". which was a pretty funny movie apparently made by a vegan! The time traveling turkey's went back in history to change the menu at the first Thanksgiving feast. The underlying message of the movie will not have many people trading in Turkey for Tofu this week. Come Thursday people will travel for miles and begin that traditional time of feasting, football, and family

Here are some some quick thoughts for enjoying Thanksgiving:

1. Cultivate Thankfulness. 

Thankfulness and bitterness are contradictory. Bitterness is the absence of thankfulness; thankfulness is the absence of bitterness. Being thankful and enjoying life reflects the goodness of the gospel in your life. Thanksgiving should be a time to express gratitude for all Christ has done for us. Because of Jesus and in spite of our circumstances we can be thankful, it is God's will, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV) 

2. Unite Your Family.

The first four year of marriage for Joy and I were constant fights over where we would be during the holiday's. It was not because we didn't like each others families, sadly it was because of sinful selfishness. In our second year of marriage Joy went to her family and I went to my family; which was terrible leadership on my part. If there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be this, keep your family together during the holidays. Yes you will have to plan, you may have to rotate where you go yearly, it might require laying down your rights; but never separate your family during the holidays. 

3. Enjoy Your Family.

Extended families could make your question the sovereignty of God…but resist the thought and enjoy your family:) It is just a waste of life and time to not enjoy your family. Holidays are not a burden to be under, but a celebration to be cherished. I tell young couples repeatedly, God gave you the family you have, enjoy your family. When we manifest joy we manifest God's kingdom here on earth, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV). Circumstances should not determine your joy, enjoy the family you have they are a gift from God. 

4. Manifest Jesus.

Holidays are great opportunities to witness as we manifest the gospel in our families and marriages. Gossip, bitterness, complaining, selfishness, arguing, anger, etc….is not the salt we need to flavor the food around the table. Christians should be the most hopeful and thankful people on the planet, don't miss out on the opportunity to be salt and light this Thanksgiving.  “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13, ESV)

Jesus reminds us in the story of Healing The Ten Lepers how easy it is for us to take blessings and goodness for granted. Jesus affirmed the one leper who returned to express gratitude, “Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17–19, ESV) May we all cultivate thankfulness, love our families, and manifest Jesus as we feast on Turkey and watch my Bulldogs beat the Webels at this years Egg Bowl! 

 

 

Tis The Season For a Moon Pie

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This past year Joy and I had the privilege of teaching missions at VBS. Each day we taught on a significant missionary. One of my favorite missionaries is Lottie Moon, who served in China for 39 years after the Civil War. On the day we taught about Lottie and her impact, we gave out over 120 Moon Pies! We reminded each class that every time they saw a Moon Pie they were to pray for and think about Lottie Moon. I know that sounds corny, but Joy and I had sooooo many parents stop us during the next week and share how their children recounted our teaching on Lottie Moon.

Traditionally December is the month where Southern Baptist take up the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. If you have not already prepared your church to do so, you still have time. The IMB has put together some great resources that can be found here. This offering goes directly to funding missionaries around the world.  

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Every December Joy and I take the opportunity in our home to teach about and celebrate the life of Lottie Moon. We intentionally teach our children about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and together as a family pray about what sacrificial amount we will give for this offering. I have close friends who serve overseas as missionaries, we talk about how this offering provides resources for their ministries and families. What better time to talk about Kingdom sacrificial giving than during Christmas, when we are often consumed with what we are getting. Joy and I want to encourage you to lead your family and your church to participate in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this December. 

Here are two great resources for learning more about Lottie Moon. Danny Akin's book, "The 10 Who Changed The World", and the Lottie Moon, "Heart of a Rebel" video. I love history and I especially love the history of Southern Baptists in missions. Our prayer for our children is that when they hear stories like Lottie Moon's, they will be motivated to live for the Kingdom. 

 In Judges we have a clear warning about what happen's when we forget to pass on history and truth…we forget.

   “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10, ESV)  

Don't forget this December is Tis The Season….to give to Lottie Moon:)

Kingdom Families And Goal Setting (Part 2)

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In part one of goal setting, I gave some basic thoughts on the importance of setting goals individually and as a family. There are three primary areas I believe every christian should set goals in; loving God, leading your family (or leading well if you are un-married), and living the gospel. Each year Joy and I set goals that flow out of these three spheres of life. This is a great way for us to stay focused on spiritual disciplines, cultivate a healthy family, and live out the kingdom mission. This has become one of the most beneficial ways Joy and I have grown together in marriage. Joy has said, that for us, it has been the difference between "surviving" and "thriving".

Here are three results of goal setting we have identified:

1. Communication- Joy and I have cultivated some great communication during these times. I am amazed at how much closer we become when we stop long enough to listen and talk to each other about our family and life. 

2. Prioritizing- There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day that leaves you 112. What are your priorities? You will either AGONIZE or PRIORITIZE! Joy and I finally realized we simply could not do everything. Prioritizing our values and time changed our lives. 

  • Everything cannot be a priority. You can’t have it all.
  • Everything should not be a priority. All things are not created equal.
  • Some activities and investments are more important than others.
  • Some activities and investments are more lasting than others.

3. Growth- Joy and I will celebrate twelve years of marriage at the end of December. Unlike many marriages, we did not start out well and we certainly were not growing in Christ or our marriage. Over the last five years however, we have seen our greatest growth. It was during this time Joy and I began intentionally setting goals for ourselves and family in the area of loving God, leading our family, and living the gospel. 

Here is a short explanation of each life sphere:

1. Love God- These goals should focus on spiritual disciplines, identifying idols, repentance, fruit, and community.

Mark 12:30 (ESV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Spiritual Disciplines are a means of sanctification and our sanctification is the will of God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification…As Christians we should set goals to read and memorize the Word, examine our lives, and pray earnestly. Without spiritual disciplines we will not grow in Christ-likeness and we will not deepen our love for God. 

Idols in our life are the primary reason we fail to love God. As you identify idols and demonstrate godly repentance, God graciously allows us to see fruit in our lives. How do you know you have truly repented of an idol? You will have a corresponding fruit! 

“If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.” - Tim Keller

“We discover what our idols are by asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.” Scott Thomas

Part of loving God and Christ is loving the Church. Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride, Jesus loves His Bride. Part of loving God and growing in our relationship with Christ is loving His Church. Don't forget that corporate body life is a spiritual discipline, along with reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and scripture memorization. 

2. Lead Your Family- These goals should focus on your marriage, your role as a parent, managing finances, relationships in your immediate family, discipling your children, and your physical health. 

Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (ESV)
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Marriages are under attack and one of the most missional things we can do as christians is to model a Christ-honoring, covenant keeping marriage. Christ Centered marriages are endangered species in our culture. We can never discount the impact and witness this has to a lost world. Because marriage is so important and is a primary picture of God's love to the world, we must maintain our marriages at all cost. May it be your goal to have a marriage that thriving and not just surviving. 

Father's (head of household) are called to shepherd their family. This means you have to know, lead, feed, and protect your family. Every home should have goals for family worship and intentional discipleship that focuses on biblical manhood and womanhood. The Bible say's that children are like arrows; may we shape, sharpen, and send them for the glory of God!

3. Live The Gospel- These goals should focus on disciple making, personal evangelism and missional living. 

Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Mark 12:31 (ESV)
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark Dever says, "If you tell me your a follower of Jesus and your not helping other people follow Jesus, I just don't know what you mean." If you are Christian you are called to make disciples, this is not optional. I cannot count how many christian men over 35 I have encountered that say one of two things: 1. I have never been discipled, 2. I have never discipled another person. What a tragedy! It should be the goal of every christian to be intentionally discipling others to follow after Christ. 

Personal evangelism is an intentional explanation of the Gospel and genuine appeal to repent and believe. Pray earnestly for God to cultivate a brokenness for lostness in your life and challenge yourself to be intentional about sharing the Gospel. Some of the greatest growth I have experienced in the area of personal evangelism has been when I am around someone who has a heart for the lost and is intentional about sharing the Gospel. Your faithfulness in this will impact others and advance the Kingdom of God. 

Missional living is where we embody the character of Christ and the mission of Christ through the Spirit of Christ, for the glory of Christ. We see the world through the eyes of Christ. Setting missional living goals will mean getting involved with the least of these. The broken, hurting, poor, abused, used, orphaned, and oppressed are not only around the world, they are across the street. Missional living is an intentional way to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the glory of God. 

Click here for an example of my Gospel Centered Life Plan from 2013 and some detailed notes on goal setting. 

Kingdom Families And Goal Setting (Part 1)

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Isaac and I were privileged watch a young man from our home town in MS play last week in the Dallas vs. New Orleans game. It was incredible to see the dreams and goals of a teenager I saw play high school football, achieved in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. And if you have never been in the Superdome, it is a surreal experience. Some of the greatest sporting events and athletes, were a part of what I grew up calling the "Sugar Bowl." The Stadium and our young NFL friend are a reminder of what it means to set goals and reach those goals.  

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Sadly, when our playing days are over and youth has passed us by, we stop reaching and striving in life. We get more settled and complacent, and become the very person, that lives vicariously through someone or in something else. It is easier to live off the goals and desires of others than give the sacrifice and discipline required to meet those goals. After years of apathy and the idea that we have very little to accomplish, setting goals in life are forgotten.

In our current culture of Gospel-Centeredness (which you will see I am all for below) achievement and goals are almost frowned upon. Some have co-opted a do-nothing, lazy, and passionless phrase "resting" or "trusting" in the Gospel for an active, courageous, and passionate biblical Gospel-Centeredness. Jonathan Edwards was known for his 70 resolutions, but his own words remind us that they were not by his strength or for his glory...

“Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake." -Jonathan Edwards

During the first week of December my family and I will take our annual goal setting and planning retreat. This year we are taking three days to reflect, repent, and refocus. Joy and I will reflect on our goals and plans from 2013 and set goals individually and as a family for 2014. This will be the fourth year we have made a commitment to set goals as a family, and to say it has changed our marriage and life would be an understatement. 

First, I want to encourage you to read a book that really transformed my thoughts about what it meant to love God, lead my family, and live the Gospel. The premise in this book has become the foundation and filter for so much of my life. It would be well worth your time to pick up a copy and read Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood. 

Second, spend some time reflecting on how you are evaluating growth for yourself and your family. How do you measure what you can't manage? Is there a tangible way to see the fruit of the Gospel in your life and leadership? Paul talked about how the Gospel was productive, proficient, and powerful in the life of believers, Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,” -(Colossians 1:5–6, ESV)  If you are in Christ, you should be bearing and increasing in the fruit of the Gospel. In Part 2 of this series I will share practical ways to set goals and offers some tools to manage those goals. 

Living life with no goals, is like playing football with no end zone.
— Scott Thomas

Finally, make sure you don't confuse goal setting with performance. Goal setting should be Gospel-Centered. Your goals are not to define your value and worth, your identity is in Christ. If you are in Christ you are already approved, forgiven, and accepted. There is no way we can set a "goal" for God to love us any more than He already does. We do not perform our way into pleasing God. Personal and family goals are a way to grow in Christ and manifest His kingdom here on earth, in your life and the life of your family. Through Gospel-Centered goals we aim to display the rule and reign of Christ in and through our lives. 

The gospel-centered life is a life where a Christian experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him from depending on his own religious performance and being seduced and overwhelmed by idols....Gospel-Centered People-They are driven by a love for Jesus and his work on our behalf. Gospel-centered people are focused on Jesus His Finished work, His Present Work, and His Future Work.
— Joe Thorn

What is a Kingdom Family?

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Joy and I have been discussing and praying about how we live intentionally as a kingdom family over the last year. In the New Testament Jesus speaks often about the kingdom of God (Heaven), it would seem that manifesting His kingdom should be a priority for my family. Not only does Jesus devote incredible amounts of teaching to the kingdom of God, the book of Acts opens and closes with teaching about the Kingdom of God. I have alway's said, the Gospels are "who to know" and Acts is about "what to do". 

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the  kingdom of God.  - Acts 1:3

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. -Acts 28:30-31

In the New Testament the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are one and the same concept. The two names are used interchangeably by Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament. The Lord’s Prayer itself makes this link. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” The Kingdom of God is the progressive implementation of God’s rule “on earth, as it is in heaven,” to be completed when He judges mankind finally into Heaven or Hell. It is the rule of Christ manifested on earth through the Church (believers) among all nations, who bring a portion of heaven (peace and joy) to earth by their rule and example of righteousness (ethics/worldview). The Kingdom of God is the new world-order brought about through the Gospel; Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension. 

The kingdom means the reign of God in the lives of HIs people, enabling them to serve Him wholeheartedly and to live the kind of life Jesus died to give us. In other words, the kingdom of God, in its simplest form, is the reign of Jesus Christ as Lord and King in our lives. It is His Holy Spirt working in us, through us, and around us in such a way that we actually live and do the will of God.
— Gene Mims

The kingdom of God is both not yet and here now . Although it has been inaugurated with the advent of Jesus, it has yet to be consummated with the return of Jesus. We are living in the day of kingdom manifestation. Until the Lord Jesus returns we are living here on earth testifying to the reality of His kingdom in and through our lives.

Several years ago I was in Bethlehem teaching on the Incarnation of Christ. While there I was challenged by what it meant to manifest Christ and His kingdom on earth. As a believer, shouldn't every area of my life manifest Christ and His kingdom?

Absolutely yes! Our life should reflect the transforming work of the Gospel. It is the power of the Gospel through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that allows us to manifest His kingdom here on earth. With that as a background here is my definition of a kingdom family: 

A Kingdom Family embodies the character of Christ, intentionally lives out the mission of Christ, through the Spirit of Christ, for the glory of Christ; manifesting His kingdom here on earth. 

What a privilege we have as believers to be ambassador's for God's Kingdom here on earth. As we demonstrate Christ's rule and reign through our families we put the gospel on display for the world to see. 

 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:20