The Purpose of Preaching

People have a variety of opinions about preaching. Most pastors are convinced that their way of preaching is the right way. Lets look at some of the preaching models.

Some pastors approach preaching by making it all about meeting people where they are at. This is commonly known as felt need preaching. You answer the questions that people are asking about their lives. You speak to people’s needs and hopes and fears. The hope is that if we can interpret culture and be culturally relevant then people will see how attractive the gospel is and want to follow Jesus.  The goal here is to be relevant to culture and build a bridge to culture.

Other pastors look at preaching as an information dump. They look at trying to educate their audience. They hope that they can give their flock enough information then they will be enlightened and continue to desire to grow. So they talk about theology and historical backgrounds and point to the past. Often attending a church where information is the focus, you as the member will grow in your knowledge of your scriptures and become a very informed Christian.

Some teachers focus instead on a very active, practical approach to their teaching. They try to give their congregation a clear path to taking control of the presenting problems they face. They give action points on how to overcome life’s dillemas. They focus on really practical subjects like managing your money, having a good quiet time and having a good sex life. These are usually pastors who are doers and type A leaders.

A newer, postmodern development in preaching is the teacher who brings his audience on a journey. This teacher is often the direct opposite of the active, practical teacher. They focus instead on asking questions and pondering weighty issues without resolving the tension that those questions bring about. They desire to struggle with issues and bring them to the surface but often have not desire to answer the questions they struggle with. The journey is what matters.

Still other churches are focused on the emotional response to the preaching. They focus on how the person feels in light of the sermon. There are several different expressions of an emotionally focused church. Some want you to feel a certain way during the sermon or worship service. They want you to either be emotionally moved to tears or laughter. They want you to be moved to feeling really worshipful. Or they may desire the polar opposite of someone feeling an emotion. They want a non emotional response and are very careful to not offend their audience. They try very hard to not be offensive by anything that they say, do or teach. They are very politically correct and measured.

Personally I think all these models have their strengths and weaknesses. Any thoughtful teacher should strive to preach in a relevant way that brings new helpful information to the table.  In fact, good teachers incorporate all of these elements into their teaching to be able to connect with the different kinds of people who are a part of their audience.

Recently I have had a lot of clarity concerning the kind of teaching I feel God is calling me to grow in. In my quiet time I came across Colossians 1:27-28.

It reads:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28

I love how it says that God is making known among us a great mystery. That mystery is that Christ is in us. This is our hope of glory. Think about that we have Christ in us.  During the sermon on the mount Jesus said that we are the light of the world. Thats remarkable. God is in us to be a light in the darkness. We all know we live in a dark place but it is better to be a light in a dark place than curse the darkness. jesus is calling us to be light. To show that we have his light in us. But that isn’t easy. It is hard to be consistent without community around us to encourage us to be faithful

But what Paul continues to say in Colossians 1:28 has shaped my teaching: Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Preaching at its core should be to present your audience mature in Christ. If you arent doing that you are missing the mark. Jesus said in the great commission that we are to make disciples. He didn’t say we are to make fans, or to make followers, but that we are to make disciples. When you teach you are to make people into replicas of Jesus through your teaching. That means as Paul says in Corinthians that you are to proclaim Jesus, warn people and teach them with all wisdom.

So that means that every teacher should ask themselves the following questions:

Am I calling people to be mature in this message? This is so hard because you have to work hard to be clear and practical about what you want people to change in their lives. But you have to have maturity as your target or else you will focus on either a creative idea or a truth that you are fond of but that may not transform a life.

Am I warning people? It takes a lot of courage to warn people about the dangers of this world. Often there are sermons that we don’t preach because we know that it is not a popular message. If you are going to really be a godly pastor you are going to have to be ok with offending people. If we are going to be like Jesus we will be unpopular when we teach what he said.

Am I proclaiming Jesus? It is easy to make a sermon about so many other things than Jesus. If you are going to a preacher of the gospel, then Jesus’ teachings need to permeate both your life and your teaching. You need to tie what you teach back to what he says. Be grounded in the word. Use it as your standard of truth. Use him to be your measuring stick concerning truth.

This past week we started a new series at Green Hills Church. The point is to drive people to maturity as we discuss hard topics found in the book of Exodus. The first week we had to tackle what the Bible had to say about slavery. I hope you enjoy the message.

You can hear the first sermon of the series here: What the Bible has to say about Slavery.

Church Planting Talk By Randy Draughon

A dear friend of mine, Randy Draughon, spoke at a Church Planter’s conference several weeks ago. I was really challenged by the message and wanted to pass it along. He shares an authentic approach to church planting that is moved by the spirit. If you are a church planter or thinking about planting you need to listen to this.

Here is the link: http://bit.ly/sEgWWy

 

 

Church Planting Task Management Software.


All of us have overflowing to-do lists. If you are like me, you are constantly trying to manage what is on your list and what you have already done. Complicating the issue are tasks that you share with other co-workers. Often there is as much time spend on sending each other emails about your work as doing the work itself. Group cooperation can be a maddening experience. Its even tougher when you have multiple people that you are assigning tasks too and you want to keep up on their progress without coming off as micro-managing. So how do you overcome the Task Management monster? More importantly, how do you overcome it on the cheap? My hope is that this will be helpful to all you church planters out there trying to lead your emerging teams.

This year we have more volunteer leaders and staff than ever. Our teams at Green Hills Church seem to be continually expanding. Our ministry is growing and we are trying to all stay sane and on the same page. As we have been trying to figure out the group task managing problem I commissioned my Administrative Director, and good friend Ben Stewart to come up with a solution.  What he has presented us is a task management software called Orchestra. You can check out their site at https://web.orchestra.com/#

Orchestra is completely free, has a mobile phone app and is very user friendly. You start by creating an account for each team member. It functions a lot like a Facebook Account. You then can assign tasks to other team members. They can accept or reject the task and you can see their progress. You can remind them to do the task by nudging them (a gentle reminder) or by sending them a note. You can also create subsets of tasks that are not shared globally so you can isolate your tasks to specific teams or even keep some of your tasks private.

The current drawback is that you cant upload and attach working documents and you can’t do file sharing between teams. But it is a great interface to use to communicate tasks and keep communication lines flowing.

Here is a picture of what the interface looks like.  

 

So if you are interested you can sign up at: https://web.orchestra.com/#

If this is helpful spread the word!

Covet the Kingdom

Coveting is an epidemic all around us. Our culture is based around the concept that we are always dissatisfied with what we have. We need what is new. We need what we dont have. Jesus in contrast said, “Seek First the Kingdom of Heaven.” How do we do that? How do we seek God’s Kingdom instead of ours? Check out this sermon to find out God’s heart for us.

http://blip.tv/green-hills-church/nov-6-2001-you-shall-not-covet-5713614

How To Develop Volunteer Leaders.

 

Every church need to reproduce leaders at every level. However, developing leaders not something that is easy to do. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to develop leaders. I want to share with you how to develop leaders strategically in order to make a difference in your community.

This week we had a breakthrough Sunday at Green Hills Church. We had several key volunteer leaders who were out of commission. One had a medial condition that kept him from serving, another was on his honeymoon. These were guys who had been carrying the baton of leadership over the last 3 years. Instead of catastrophe we had something really exciting happen. We had several new volunteers step up and fill key roles that they had never filled before! These were not volunteers that showed up and were plugged into roles that they had never filled before, these were young men who had gone through an apprenticing process. It was exciting to see a new set of servant leaders spread their wings! From every ministry area we had new volunteers serving this past sunday.

As a church that depends on volunteers to set up and tear down our church every sunday it is a huge undertaking to do church every Sunday. We get to Cabana Restaurant in Nashville at 7 every morning and turn it from a high end nightclub into a church. We move tables, sweep and mop the floors and set up our sound system and children’s ministry. We can get it done usually in an hour. Over the years we have had certain key lay leaders who have led the charge sacrificially. But recently we have seen that we have needed some new blood to be able to continue ministering with excellence.

1. Recruit Relationally. The best volunteers are those who are your friends. I think the best place to recruit is among people who you are already friends with. Ask your volunteers to invite their friends to volunteer. Also remember that whomever you invite to your team is now a friend. I think many leaders do themselves a disservice by keeping people at an arms distance when they are working together. Many of my closest relationships have developed through serving alongside my volunteers.

The best way to recruit someone is to get to know them personally. Take them to coffee. Get to know their story. Invite them to join you in making a difference. I make it a point to personally recruit people when they indicate that they want to serve on one of the teams that I am personally leading. I have realized that men need someone to invite them personally to serve and tell them why they are needed.

2. Establish Parameters One of the temptations when you are recruiting someone is to be vague about what their responsibilities will be. Its easier to just shoot from the hip when you are dealing with volunteers. Personally I find that to be really lazy leadership. You will not develop or attract strong leaders that way. For every volunteer you need to clearly define what the role will be. You need to be able to answer the following questions for every volunteer you put in place. What will they do? How long will it take them to do it? Who do they report to? How do they request change? How long will they be committed to serve in this position? All these questions should be written down on a job description when you hire a volunteer.

3. Model the Role Leadership is caught more that it is taught. Your volunteers learn by your example. So make sure you set a good example in how hard you work. Set an example in how you deal with stress. Be active and diligent. Do the dirtiest jobs.

Volunteers should never be dropped into a servanthood position cold turkey. We do an apprenticeship for every role at Green Hills Church. We have someone shadow a volunteer at least one Sunday before they start to do the role on their own. Whether that is on our hospitality team or running sound we have people shadowing someone so they can replace themselves. What is so exciting about that is today we have multiple gifted leaders who run sound on a rotation. We have a list of volunteers who serve only once a month in our children’s ministry. We have a rotation of musicians who donate their time and talents to make a difference for the gospel.

4. Develop a community of servants People like to serve alongside their friends. We realize this and are trying to do things on Sundays that develop community while we serve. One of the things we have tried to do is to make sure that we all leave together. We make sure that we have a final time of prayer with our tear down team and then one of our members will close us in a cheer. On Sunday set up often the volunteer team will head out for coffee or breakfast after setting up. All these little things change serving from being a chore to being family.

5. Avoid the tyranny of the urgent.  It is so easy to short circuit a good process of volunteering because you need help today. I think being patient is the most important attribute to have when you are trying to develop volunteers. Often you can rush someone into a leadership position before they have fully committed to the role or before they are ready to lead. This causes more harm than good. Often you will lose other volunteers when your leaders crash and burn. The way you overcome the tyranny of the urgent is by projecting your future needs and sacrificing in the present.

Sometimes you have to do the hard work of sacrificing your own comfort right now so you can develop a great team. That may mean that you as the leader will have to do things you don’t want to do for a season. That is normal and healthy. Every leader has to carry the weight of their responsibility more heavily at times. If you remain patient you will reap a harvest that will pay off.

Projecting your future needs is vital to any volunteering effort. It takes time for people to commit to serving regularly. But developing volunteers is worthwhile. It gives people an opportunity to serve the kingdom and often gives them a platform for spiritual growth unlike everything else.

Feel free to add your suggestions on how to recruit and develop leaders in the comments!

The Reason For God Study Guide – Epilogue

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

The Reason for God – Epilogue

Where do we go from here?

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Guide

Examining your motives

Why do you follow God?

  • Do you want to use him for your own ends?
  • We must admit that all of us begin our journey toward God because we want something from him.
  • Eventually we need to begin thinking, what do I have to do to get him?
    • If you don’t make this change you will never meet the true God, only a caricature.

Counting the Cost

  • We must realize that Jesus is Lord.
  • Bono’s conversation. Jesus is claiming to be Lord rocks our thinking about him.
  • There is no use saying you believe in Jesus unless that reality changes your views on everything.

Taking Inventory

Set of questions to help you process your questions to God.

  • Content Issues – Is there parts of the Christian message that you don’t understand or agree with?
  • Coherence issues – Are there doubts and objections to the Christian faith you cannot resolve?
  • Cost Issues – Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you something dear? What fears do you have about commitment?

You need to do this in community. Do it in a Christian church.

If you do return to God how do you know if this is a first time commitment or a rededication?

  • I cant tell, and it doesn’t matter.
  • To do either you must do 2 simple things: 1. Make the move. 2. Believe in Christ

Making the Move

The first thing you must do is Repent.

  • Not just making a list of things to be sorry for and want to change.
  • Repentance is when you recognize that your main sin, the sin under the rest of your sins is your self-salvation project.
  • Repentance is confessing the things besides God himself that you have been relying on for your hope, significance, and security. (repent for the motivations behind our good works)

Second thing to do s Believe in Christ.

  • Believe means he was show he said he was, that we require salvation, that he rose from the dead.
  • Faith that changes the life and conn3ects to God is best conveyed as trust.
  • You don’t have to wait for all doubts and fears to go away to take hold of Christ.
  • Faith begins as you recognize and reject your alternative trusts and gods and turn instead to the father asking for a  relationship to him based on what Jesus has done, not your moral effort or achievements.

Committing to Community

  • Being a part of community is vital to being a Christian who makes it.
  • Repentance and faith must be done both individually and communally.
  • Being in community is hard because Christians are a mess. But it is like the ocean. It is diverse and enormous. That doesn’t mean you don’t go into the water.

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%2014.docx

Download the Epilogue:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Epilogue.docx

The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 14

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

Reason For God Chapter 14

The Dance of God

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?
  • Does the Trinity mess with you?

Study Questions:

The Divine Dance

God, father, son, and spirit live in community and glorify each other.

  • It is not self-centered or static.
  • The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love.
  • They are entered into orbit around each other centering themselves on the desires and interests of each other.
  • This creates a dance.
  • The concept of the trinity overloads our minds.

 

The Dance of Love

Since God is Triune and is love then loving relationships in community are the center of reality.

  • When people say God is love they usually mean that God values love or wants us to be loving.
  • In the Christian understanding, God really has love as his essence.
  • He has been loving others from all eternity. God models true love in the way that he loves himself and the community of persons that he is.

 

The Dance of Creation

God created the world not to fill a void in his life. He created the worlds o that we could join him in the dance. He loves to create things to enter the dance of relationship with him.

Losing the Dance

Viewed through the lens that all creation is a relationship dance with God, brings new perspective on sin.

  • Sin is the losing of the dance. It is becoming self centered and isolated from God.
  • God doesn’t leave us there. Jesus died so that we could renter the dance wit him.

Returning to the Dance.

Jesus brings us back into relationship with himself and others when we move toward him.

The Future of the Dance.

So how will the story of human history end? The world wont melt away, instead heaven will come to earth. God will reengage with creation in a new way and we will continue to live with him.

The Christian Life

How do we respond?

  • WE see that Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven.
  • That is an important means of God’s salvation but it is not the end or final purpose of it.
  • God wants more from us than to just get us to heaven.
  • We are saved for God not just from sin.
  • We are a part of God’s plan to restore creation
  • When we get to heaven we will say we are finally home. Just like In CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia. Our adventures are just only the cover and title page.

Reflection Questions?

Do you long to Dance with God?

Do you long for heaven?

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

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Download the Intermission:

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

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The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 13

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

The Reason for God Chapter 13

The Reality of the Resurrection

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Guide:

If the resurrection is true it changes our lives completely.

  • It is a huge historical philosophical issue.
  • The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

There is a burden of proof for both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers need to come up with another plausible account for how the church began. They must deliver another narrative.

 

The Empty Tomb and the Witnesses

Timing

  • There was not enough time that passed between the writings we have and the events, which took place for them to be fabrications. There were living eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and the resurrection when the gospels and the letters of Paul were written.

Problematic accounts of the resurrection

  • There are too many quirks to the resurrection accounts to be fabrications. Women were used as eyewitnesses. There was no advantage for them to be used as witnesses. They had no social standing. There was probably pressure to remove these stories from the account but they could not because it was too well known.
  • The empty tomb and the accounts of personal meetings with Jesus are even more historically certain when you realize they must be taken together. If there was only empty tomb you would think the body was stolen. If just the meetings with Jesus you could think it was a dream or vision. Both together = resurrection.
  • Christians proclaimed Jesus resurrection from the beginning. That means the tomb must have been empty. No one would have believed them if the tomb wasn’t empty.
  • We cant permit ourselves the luxury of thinking that the resurrection accounts were only fabricated years later. Whatever happened, the tomb must have been really empty and hundreds of witnesses must have claimed that they saw him bodily raised.

Resurrection and Immortality

Chronological Snobbery

  • Some people believe that 1st century people were not as educated and so because they wanted to believe in a resurrection then they believed it. This is a false understanding of the ancients. To all the dominant world religions of the time, an individual bodily resurrection was almost inconceivable.
  • In the 1st century Mediterranean world the universal view of the people at that time was that a bodily resurrection was impossible.
    • In Greco-Roman thinking the soul or spirit was good and physical world was weak and corrupt. So salvation was the leaving of this body. You never wanted to go back.
    • The resurrection would also have been unthinkable to the Jews. They wanted to be resurrected but saw it as a far off event in the future when God changed the world. The resurrection was merely one part of the complete renewal of the world.
    • The idea of an individual resurrection was inconceivable to both Jews and Greeks.
    • Many other would be messiahs were executed in during this time. None claimed to have come back from the dead. This would be impossible unless he actually was raised from the dead.

The Explosion of a New Worldview.

After Jesus death the entire Christian community suddenly added a set of beliefs that were brand new and up to that point had been unthinkable. The 1st Christians had a resurrection-centered world view. This was a new and unique set of beliefs.

  • Every other instance that we know of where such a massive shift of beliefs only happens to a group of people over a period of time. It usually takes years of discussion and debate to have one single narrative that wins out. That is how cultures and worldviews change.
  • However in Christianity , the view of resurrection sprang up in full-blown reality after the death of Jesus. There was no development or debate. People were just telling others what they saw.
  • The subsequent history of the church gets even more difficult to account for. How could a group of 1st century Jews worship a human being as divine? Eastern religions believe God is an impersonal force that is in all things, Western religions believed that various gods took human form. Jews however believed in a single transcendent personal God. It would be blasphemy to believe that you should worship any human being. Yet hundreds of Jews began to worship Jesus overnight. What broke their cultural and religious mold?
  • Pascal. “I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.” All the disciples and early church leaders died for their faith. They died not for what they believed but for what they saw. Big difference.

The Challenge of the Resurrection

Nothing in History can be proven the way we can prove something in a laboratory. However the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact much more fully attested to than most other events in ancient human history that we take for granted.

  • If you don’t short-circuit the process with the philosophical bias against the possibility of a miracle, the resurrection of Jesus has the most historical weight and proof for what happened than any other explanation.
  • 1st century people felt the same skepticism about the empty tomb as you and I do. The only way people embraced the resurrection was by allowing it to change their perception and worldview
  • If you doubt the resurrection you should want it to be true. It gives us hope for the future. Why sacrifice what we have for those who have none if it all this doesn’t matter?

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

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Download the Intermission:

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

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http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Download Week 12

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

Download Week 13:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

Resources for Staying in Touch Internationally

Many times on mission trips people struggle to stay in touch with loved ones. Honestly one of the biggest spending mistakes I have had happen on a mission trip was on phone calls. We had several devoted husbands on a trip in South America who rang up a $1500 phone bill calling home every night. They were using American calling cards to try to minimize expenses but were calling the US through the hotel’s switchboard and being billed $3 dollars a minute by the hotel. I think we all learned a valuable lesson on that trip about being careful on how different and difficult it can be to communicate while in a different country.

Here are some great options that I have found for communicating back home while abroad.

1. Email, blogs, twitter and Facebook.

I know these are almost no brainers today but I am always amazed by how helpful they are to keep large numbers of people connected with your team while you are abroad. Most hotels have free internet overseas so it is easy to keep people connected with what is going on on the trip by daily communicating through blogs and Facebook. On our last trip to Israel we had several people even tweeting and checking in on Facebook.

2. Skype

Skype allows you to do a couple of cool things. First of all it is free if you are connecting to someone else online either through voice or video. However you can also get a really cheap calling card option through it to call land lines and cell phones. There are other great options like skype out there as well like Face Time, Google Talk and Qik.

3. International calling cards, international phone plans and rent a phones

There are several options for calling cards and international phone plans. Many times you can get a roaming package through Verizon or ATT for about $30. Usually there is a limit to how much information you can download (usually about 20 MG) but you can use your iPhone or Blackberry that way while you are overseas. You can also get some calling cards through other online sites. I recommend http://www.nobelcom.com/ and http://callbacktoday.com/ . One thing I have seen be really helpful too is having a cell phone for use in the country you are serving in. I recommend  http://www.mobal.com/international-cell-phones/. They will actually mail you a phone and assign you a phone number.