Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Philosophy of Missions

This is rather old news, but several months ago, I was asked to add global missions to the ministries that I oversee. While the challenge has been quite daunting, it has also been a ball!  I'll speak more about all of this later, but for the remainder of this post, I'd like to share the philosophy of missions that I have come to adopt.

The Kingdom Wheel: A Philosophy of Mission Partnerships

When it comes to short-term mission trips, the picture that I always share with our teams is of a spoke in a wagon wheel. That little spoke is very limited in what it can accomplish by itself, but when it is followed by another spoke, and another spoke, and another, all connected to the wheel, suddenly you have the potential for great movement. In the same way, a single mission team probably will not move mountains in one or two weeks on the ground, but when it is a part of an ongoing relationship between Christ-centered churches, the impact of that trip cannot be contained. It is with this perspective that our church has recognized the importance of intentional partnerships in our mission endeavors.

The philosophy behind this is pretty simple. Just as our financial support of the Great Commission is based on a partnership with other churches, our conviction is that short-term mission trips can be strategically maximized through supportive relationships with those we serve. We believe that by developing an ongoing partnership with Gospel-sharing teams and individuals around the world, we will develop a better understanding about the needs and challenges in a particular area, our church will be informed to make better decisions in allocating resources to these particular partners, and the members of our church will become more personally engaged in our Lord’s redemptive work around the globe. Also, as the years move forward, the church will be able to hear and see the progress of the Holy Spirit in these particular areas.

While the methods and strategies of our involvement in differing locations may vary, our fundamental commitment is to be obedient to our call to be witnesses of our Lord Jesus to the ends of the earth. We are grateful for the privilege we have to partner with other brothers and sisters around the world in this mission, and by His grace we can say that we are thrilled to be “a spoke in the wheel.”

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sermon Clips

Over the Christmas holidays, I was able to spend time with several members of my family, many of whom I only see once or twice a year. Upon realizing that some of them keep up with this blog, it occured to me that I could put up links to share sermons and other resources that I develop for ministry at Travis Ave with any of my family or friends who may be interested.  Here are two of my most recent messages:

(Click on the link below, then click the play button on the next page.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favorite Travel Gear (part 2)

Picking up where I left off last post, let me share a few recommendations for great travel clothing. One of the most important principles in packing for travel is to get as much versatility in as little space and as little weight as possible. For this reason, I have become a huge fan of all things synthetic. Clothing made from polyester, nylon or any synthetic blend of fibers will weigh less and often be less bulky than cotton pieces. Synthetic clothing also offers protection from cold without being as thick and stuffy as wool; it allows your skin to breath while keeping you comfortable. Finally, synthetic apparel dries much quicker than cotton or wool items, making it possible to do laundry in the sink or shower, thereby needing to pack less clothing. Trust me, synthetic is super!

Now, here are a few items that I find especially useful in my international travels. If you have some last-minute Christmas shopping to do, let me offer these suggestions.

1. Convertible Pants. I can't say enough how much I love these. Never again will you struggle with figuring out your pants-to-shorts ratio. These pants allow you the ultimate versatility. I have worn the same pair of pants in 40F mist in Scotland and 90F sunshine in southern Italy, and they kept me comfortable in both places. They are especially helpful in places where shorts are not considered appropriate, like when visiting religious sites or conservative regions. Personally, I often have to wear the leg coverings while in villages, but then I'm able to zip them off whenever I get into the cab or bus (frequenty NOT air conditioned).  Sometimes little tricks like this make a big difference in surviving and thriving in the travel experience. Fortunately, you don't have to spend too much to get a good pair of convertibles. Academy will often have them for as little as $20, but if you want to invest a little more, check out these from Ex Officio. They are insect repellant through 70 washings!

2. Light shirts. Even when I'm traveling in a little cooler area, I like to have a few light mesh shirts for layering. I'll use these as a base layer under a good fleece or light jacket. For instance, Adidas makes a nice, light mesh tee that is comfortable and affordable. For something a little more versatile, I like this shirt from Ex Officio. It carries the convertible idea over to a long sleeve shirt that has sleeve-shortening buttons and air vents. If you want a less expensive approach to the same idea, check out the Magellan brand at Academy. 

3. Fleece. If you will be in a cooler area, I definitely recommend you check out some fleeces. Now, this is one place I recommend you don't pinch pennies. There is a noticable difference in quality between some of the lesser brands. If you will be frequently travelling to cool climates, it will be to your advantage to check out these options from Mountain Hardwear. First, check out this pullover fleece. It's light enough to pack for those occasionally cool nights in the Meditteranean, but it will keep you comfortable on moderate fall days. I also love this fleece as an under-layer for icy mornings in the duck blind.  For something a little heavier, I really recommend this light jacket. It's just a bit heavier than the fleece, and can be worn over light mesh shirts or combined with a heavier outside coat for ultimate warmth. I wore this when hiking through a brisk rain in the Scottish Highlands, and it kept me warm despite the weather.

4. Footwear. Here's one place where we could look at a whole lot of options, depending on the trip. Of course, the idea is to pack as lightly as possible, so how do we accomplish that? Well, my starting point on any trip is a sturdy pair of sandals like these from Teva. These are comfortable enough for the beach, tough enough for hiking ancient sites, and small enough to fit in the bottom of a backpack. I don't go anywhere without these sandals. Something like this is especially helpful in cultures where you take off your shoes at the door. If you know you'll be doing quite a lot of hiking, I would point you to anything made by Merrell. While not the cheapest option, these shoes and boots are renowned for comfort and quality.  For our trip to Europe, we knew we'd be hiking some decent "day trails", including one 9 miler. I also wanted to buy a boot that I could "grow into" as I take on more hiking and backpacking trips. For this reason, I decided to spring for the Chameleon3 Mid tops. I couldn't be more pleased! I wore these for about 15-18 miles of hiking trails in 3 days, then I followed by wearing them all around Rome and Pompeii for several more miles. My feet, though tired, did not blister at all, and the boots proved to be quite versatile. In short, I'll be buying another pair IF these ever wear out (they have shown little wear in 9 months). While your trip will determine your footwear needs, these two options would be useful in most settings.

So, that's the basics for clothing. Let me know if you have any other recommendations for travel apparel.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My favorite travel gear (Part 1)

As mentioned in the previous post, I've had the privilege to hop around the globe a bit, especially this past summer.  One thing that I alluded to in my Top Five Travel Tips was the importance of having good gear.  Now, "gear" can include a whole variety of stuff, depending on the type of trip one takes. For the next few posts, I will share some of my favorite travel tools, attire and baggage, along with the general settings in which I found them useful.

One of my very favorite travel tools is my iPhone.  Here's why: it contains more helpful travel tools in a 4 inch x 2 inch package than I could carry in my backpack.  For keeping travel itinerary and reservations handy, I simply built an email file of all my confirmation messages, ready to go at a moments notice. No shuffling with paper, just tap and point.  To communicate with villagers in Cambodia, I just utilized my "I Speak Khmer" app. To figure out if I was getting a deal or getting ripped off in the market, I just opened up my currency exchange app.  I was able to keep in constant contact with folks back home through email, facebook, and my latest favorite app HeyTell.  In fact, with the latter I was able to talk to my wife almost every morning while in India, free of charge.

Now, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to traveling with an iPhone. 1) You need an international data plan.  These can be purchased at varying levels from AT&T.  They're not too bad when you consider how useful it can be. 2) You need to follow all of AT&T's directions for adjusting your phone's settings while abroad.  Warning: if you skip this, you could get a brutal phone bill. 3) iPhones are easily lifted by pickpockets.  If you will be traveling in cities, like pickpocket-capital Rome, be cautious how often you whip out your phone.  Everybody may have one over here, but it will attract a lot of attention overseas. Also, I chose to keep my phone in a hidden, zipped inner pocket inside a pocket in my pants.  Call me paranoid, but I do still have my iPhone!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 5 Travel Tips

This past summer has been one of the most rewarding (and weary-ing) of my life.  Between a European vacation to celebrate our 5 year anniversary and two separate service trips to Asia, I spent a total of 38 days out of the country.  Let me first say that, contrary to what is shown on cable tv, international travel often is not luxurious.  It does have its challenges.  At the same time, let me also say that knowing how to navigate the rigors of travel abroad absolutely has its rewards.  This little list is an introduction to help you start to think strategically about how to best navigate the travel experience.  I will dive into more detail in the coming posts.

Travel Tip #1 Keep Organized Plans

Much of this happens before you go.  Making travel and stay preparations are a huge part of any trip.  Even if your desire is to keep spontaneity as a core part of your experience, a little bit of planning will be necessary.  It is advisable, therefore, to keep copies of all reservations and travel documents, emergency phone numbers, as well as your atm or credit cards.  These should be in a secure location (preferably carried with you).  Let's face it, sometimes reservations don't make it into the computer. It sure is nice to be able to show proof of your arrangement.  Also, know your plans and review them before you go.  Planning on the front side of the trip means you don't have to think about it much once you are there.

Travel Tip #2 Pack Smart

Basic premise: If you pack it, you better be able to carry it.  Don't fall into the temptation of thinking that you need a separate outfit for every day of your trip.  You can have a much more enjoyable trip if you will pack the right kind of clothes/gear, especially things that are light, synthetic, and can be sink-washed and hung dry overnight.  Even if you are going to be traveling in "nicer" attire, you can still find ways to limit how much you bring.  Packing smart not only means less you carry, but it also means you pack expecting to have hiccups along the way.  Five days in Cambodia without luggage makes you rethink your carry-on strategy.  Simply put, if you can get away without checking any luggage, do that.  If you must check baggage, for size or restriction reasons, then make sure your carry on has everything you need to survive for a few days.

Travel Tip #3 Adjust to the Culture

Things are done differently around the world.  Get over it.  It may not be as efficient; it may not be as you are accustomed.  Gaining a better understanding of the cultures of the world is a part of the travel experience.  Rather than try to make things fit into your framework, why don't you try to understand the people you are visiting?  Remember, you are a guest visiting in someone else's neighborhood. At the end of the day you will probably still prefer your cultural attitude to many situations, but you will at least have been exposed to different practices and ways of thinking, which will make you more thoughtful as you view your world.

Travel Tip #4 Taste the Culture

While this is similar to the tip above, I think it merits specific mention.  Get out and eat some of the local cuisine.  Don't travel across an ocean and spend all your time at McDonalds and KFC (yes, they are in Southeast Asia).  Go eat at some reputable local places.  As you sample what the locals enjoy, you'll gain a better sense of connection with them and their community.  Many times you'll also be eating only the foods that are produced nearby, an experience that is unknown by most Americans who are used to finding whatever they want at their Supermarket.  One word of caution on this: be sure to take some Acidophilous pills to protect your digestive system from the new and unusual elements found in food in different parts of the world.

Travel Tip #5 Get Out of the City

I have been to London, Edinburgh, Rome, Phnom Penh, and Bangalore in the last three months.  You know what's remarkable?  That despite their obvious differences, they are amazingly similar.  Cities are cities.  I am not advising you to miss the remarkable aspects and attractions that are offered in cities such as these.  Things like the British Museum and the Roman Colosseum shouldn't be missed!  But, I would urge everyone to experience life outside these cities, in the towns and villages that are often overlooked by travellers.  These are the places where you really get a taste of the uniqueness of a culture, and where you see life through a different pair of lenses.  Only off the beaten path will you really find "the best fish and chips in the UK," or will you get to see farmers planting rice fields or harvesting sugar cane.  Only out there will you come across the best iced coffee you've ever had, or get to see border collies "work the sheep."

Friday, August 6, 2010


Our final stop on this trip was to Delphi, Greece, home to one of the most significant artifacts in New Testament studies.  But we'll get to that in a moment.  First, in the above picuture we are standing in front of the famous Temple of Apollo for which the city was known in antiquity.  Delphi was also home to the Pythian Games, one of the four panhellenic games held in ancient Greece.  Below is a picture of the stadium, which sat high above the rest of the city on the mountain.  It is estimated that this stadium could hold over 6,000 spectators to view the games.

What made Delphi truly a special stop to me, and what makes it a significant location in New Testament studies is its claim as home to the Gallio Inscription.  This particular artifact establishes the date when Paul was in Corinth on his second missionary journey, and gives us a likely framework for dating all of Paul's ministry! I'll explain this in detail below, but first let's have a moment to stare in awe at the famed Gallio Inscription.

Ok, this inscription was  written by Emperor Claudius and placed at the wall near the Temple of Apollo.  It is dated according to the year of the Emperor's reign, which we can figure to be between AD 52 and January 53.  Further events indicated help us narrow the time period down even more to no later than August AD 52.  This inscription also mentions Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia.  This provides us another clue, for proconsuls served a one year term, from July 1- June 30 before being replaced, often being recalled back to Rome.  Based on this information, we can deduce with a high degree of certainty that Gallio was Proconsul of Corinth from July 51- June 52.  So why does this matter?

In Acts 18:12, Paul is taken before Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia by the Jews for preaching the Gospel.  We know, therefore, that Paul, having spent 18 months in Corinth, appeared before Gallio between AD 51-52.  This is the linchpin in dating all of Paul's ministry.  And I could have touched it!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


 (Street in ancient Corinth with shops on each side.)

Near the end of our trip, we finally arrived at one of my most anticipated sites: Corinth.  Paul had more known dealings with this city than any other, having lived there 1.5 years, visited at least twice more, and writing at least 4 letters to the church at Corinth.  (Our books of 1 and 2 Corinthians are actually the 2nd and 4th letters. The first and third letters are lost to history.)  Corinth was also a booming metropolis in the first century with a massive commerce industry and a notorious reputation as the Sin City of antiquity. A temple was built for the Greek goddess Aphrodite in Corinth, and unbelievable perversity was offered as worship to her. An example of the city's wealth can be seen below in the exquisite mosaic that was originally on the floor of a wealthy Corinthian's dining room.  This can be dated to very near the time of Paul.

One of the reasons Corinth attained so much wealth was its strategic location.  It was built on an isthmus, and had harbors on both sides of the city.  Cargo from ships would be loaded onto a rail system on the east, taxed by the city, and rolled to the west where it would be loaded on another ship, saving sailors days or even weeks on the sea.  Though it was tried many times throughout history, in the late 19th century a canal was built that linked the two sides.  The canal is approximately 1.5 miles long.

We know that while he was in Corinth, Paul worked for a time as a tentmaker with Aquila and Priscilla.  It is likely that they had a shop in the local agora.  The partially reconstructed shop below gives an idea of what Paul's tent shop may have looked like.

We also know that Paul first went to the Jewish synagogue in Corinth to preach the message about Jesus.  For some time, archaeologists questioned if there actually was a Jewish synagogue in the city.  With the discovery of this stone, however, all doubts were laid to rest.  Though it is not easy to read, the upper stone reads "goge (H)ebr..."  in Greek.  While there are letters missing due to the break in the stone, there is no question what is being mentioned.  Also, notice the menorahs on the stone below.

Here is Dr. Vang teaching about when Paul was taken by the Jews before Gallio, the proconsul of Corinth. This account is recorded in Acts 18:12-17.  In a legal dispute, offended parties would take a defendant to the Proconsul, an official appointed by Rome for a one year term, from July 1- June 30.  The Proconsul would sit on the "Bema" seat of judgement.  This one event provides New Testament scholars the foundation for dating all of Paul's travels and ministry.  More on that in the next post.

One other "rock of interest" is this stone.  It was a marker outside the Corinthian theater which mentions of the patrons who financially supported the construction efforts, a man named "Erastus."  He was, undoubtedly, one of the most important and wealthy men of the city to have overseen such a significant project.  It should also be noted that as Paul closes his letter to the Romans, a letter he wrote from Corinth, he mentions in Rom. 16:23, "Erastus, the city treasurer and our brother Quartus greet you."  It is highly likely that this is the same person, one of our Christian brothers.