Spotlight - The Bells

Here is the next Spotlight. Each month I will highlight a different friends that my wife and I know somewhere around the world. We encourage you to pray for them and their work. You will find contact info if you want to send them an encouraging note and also information on how to donate towards their ministry if you feel so led. The next family I want to spotlight are the Bells. Rick and Jennifer work in China.
We first met Rick and Jennifer Bell back in 1994 at a DTS in Lindale, TX. Actually I met and fell in love with Sarah there and Rick and Jennifer also met and fell in love during this time. I asked Rick to share a bit about themselves:

The Bell Family has been serving for over 14 years in China. Rick has worked in various teaching positions, working with children as well as adults. Most of his work, however has been in Universities, where he has sought to shine the light of Jesus while teaching various subjects, like English, Culture, and Literature classes.

Jennifer has done most of the homeschooling of their children, Matthew (11), and Ryan (7), while also taking care of Marybeth (2). She makes friends in the community and shines her light through the relationships that develop.

The Bells have been involved with others in the building of new schools in the countryside, and more recently helping a farm project to get started. They are coming alongside Chinese brothers and sisters to support them in their own outreach to needy villages.

Please pray for them as they seek to make a difference among a population that is so large! Pray that their words and works are attended with divine power!

See Rick's blog at www.bamboobell.blogspot.com . Gifts and donations can be made at: http://www.globaloutreach.org/giving-to-global


Moose, Wisdom and Wives

1 Corinthians 12:8, "For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit"

This verse aptly describes my wife. In fact she modeled both wisdom and knowledge to me about a week before our wedding.

I had just come to Canada a couple weeks earlier, as we were preparing for our wedding. Sarah wanted me to go for a walk with her on the perimeter trail around town. As we went traipsing around the edge of town, hand-in-hand, we suddenly heard a crashing sound in the woods behind us, and to the right.

Turning, we saw a cow moose (a female moose) come crashing through the trees and turning up the trail we had just come down. As she raced off into the distance you could see big clods of dirt being thrown up in the air. An animal that stands over 6 feet tall will do that.

As I stood mesmerized Sarah began to tug at my jacket. Then, just as suddenly, a baby moose came through the brush and stopped a few feet away! I extricated myself from Sarah's grip and stood about a foot away from the baby moose making what I thought might be moose sounds, trying to draw the baby out. Sarah kept telling me we needed to go, and go fast. I kept trying to call the moose. Finally Sarah broke through my thick skull by saying something along the lines of, "Rick: Moose Big! Big Moose Come Back! Moose Kill Rick." That got my attention, and we hurried down the trail.

I need wisdom at times. However, the wisdom I really need is spiritual. At times I, as most all Christians do, need God's wisdom in pressing situations. I need to know His direction, His will. So how do I acquire that?

James 1:5 says that "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" God can give us His wisdom in each situation. We can operate out of that wisdom on a daily basis if we will just turn and seek Him.

Don't be thick-skulled. Seek God and His wisdom today.


Books or The Book!

Popular Christian books are ruining the Gospel.

Don't get me wrong, I love to read. I am an avid reader. Everything from history to fiction to teaching books line my shelf. However I see a trend that concerns me.

I do not want to be a doomsayer but I received an email today from a friend in Alabama who expressed concern that a local church was encouraging people to embrace the "Papa" from the Shack and to set aside their Bibles. In my shock I wanted to deny his claims but my mind went racing back to the recent past.

I went back to when the Prayer of Jabez was released. People grabbed a hold of this book and before you knew it churches were teaching the Prayer of Jabez, while people sipped from their Jabez coffee cups, sticking their Jabez bookmarks into their Bibles tucked inside their Jabez Bible covers.

The fad soon drifted away as the Left Behind Series came out. Before too long I would be in a Christian Bookstore and hear people say how their church was teaching Revelation as it was found in the Left Behind Series. As the Series grew so did the T-shirts, the comics, the kids books and the movies.

Then the Purpose Driven Life came out and every church suddenly seemed lost. They all had to find their purpose in life, their purpose as a church. Of course they used the Purpose Driven Life book, video series, etc...while sipping from their Purpose Driven Coffee Cups and you get the point.

Now the Shack is upon us. People are torn, some love it, some hate it. It's either Blasphemy or the "Gospel Truth" depending on who you talk too.

Each of these books are good if you take them in context. The Shack and the Left Behind Series both were well written fiction stories that spoke to a hunger people have. However, while they may include some Biblical truths in the end they are FICTION stories.

The Purpose Driven Life and Prayer of Jabez were great little teaching books that got twisted into something more.

Everyone seems to want to read about God everywhere but in His Word. What's up with that? When did Christian Fiction define who God is? When did fiction books become the end all on the end of the world?

Don't get me wrong, we can learn from many sources and God can use anything. I have seen people who have been blessed and touched by this material and God has used it to bring people deeper into a relationship with Him. However He gave us His Word for a purpose.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Note what it doesn't say...it doesn't say Christian fiction or Christian teaching books. It says Scripture.

So let's put God back on the throne and the books back on the shelf. Each in it's proper place.


The Bible....boring?

Is the Bible boring? I have heard people say that before. These same people have no problem going to the latest action movie, reading romance novels, war stories, adventure novels, etc. They'll scour the Internet looking up all kinds of stuff, read the news and try to fill their day with "excitement".

So is the Bible boring?

I read the Bible and I find a book filled with romance, murder, the supernatural, intrigue and mystery. There are historical battles, deception, adultery and good people who make bad choices.



"God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions." (Hebrews 4:12)

The Bible is filled with stories of life. The Life that can only be found in Jesus Christ. It contains the Words of God!

"Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." (Psalms 119:105)

"From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures. They have the power to give you wisdom so that you can be saved through faith in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval. They equip God's servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things." (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Sure, I'll be honest, there are times I don't feel like reading the Bible. However this is NOT because it is boring. It's because I choose to not give God and His word the priority I should. There are times it feels like everything in the world is more of a priority than His Words to me as found in the Scriptures.

When I am participating in sinful activity I find it difficult to seek Him! Especially when I might feel convicted.

I have a choice each day. I can choose to run away from Him or to draw closer to Him. I can feed on His Words or choose to eat from less nourishing sources. The choice is mine. So are the consequences!

Boring...hardly! Exciting...definitely!

Life changing......undoubtedly!

Read the Word of God with fresh eyes. Let God speak to you today.


5 Questions With Andy Park

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is
Andy Park. In the late 1980's Andy began recording with Vineyard Music. He participated on numerous Vineyard recordings, including Blessed Be The Name, The River Is Here, Eternity and All I need. Andy released a solo project, Night And Day, in 2000. In 2004, Vineyard Music released Andy’s solo project, In The Secret.

Andy wrote the book: “To Know You More – Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader” for IVP in 2002.

2006 saw the release of Unshakable and his newest CD is Wonder Working God with Ion Records. Of course Andy recently appeared on the CompassionArt CD as well as authored a chapter in the book, The Art of Compassion.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Andy,

Question 1: What one word would describe your current relationship with God?


Question 2: Why CompassionArt? What drew you to the project?

Martin Smith invited me to be part of the CompassionArt team. I thought it would be a privilege to do that. It was a joy to hang out with all the guys in Scotland and to contribute to the pool of songs.

Question 3: How has being involved in this project affected you?

The project fit very nicely with a long term emphasis I've had on speaking out on behalf of the poor. I've written several songs on this theme through the years, and I've been singing them more often since we did the CompassionArt project.

Question 4: What charity did you pick for this project?

I picked St. Stephen's Society in Hong Kong. It's a ministry I've been connected with for many years. Over the past 40+ years, St. Stephen's, led by Jackie Pullinger, has led thousands of people to Christ, mostly drug addicts and other needy people from the streets. This ministry has helped many of these people enter into healing and a productive life.

Question 5: What is next for you?

I am leading worship and teaching on worship in many different contexts. In a few days I'll head to El Salvador to check out one of Compassion International's child development projects. I advocate for Compassion International in many of my worship events, and am excited to see my sponsored children in person as well as the entire project. This fall I'll be heading to Europe and Australia for a couple of tours, as well as a handful of North American destinations.

Thanks so much Andy.

There you have it. I would encourage you to purchase Andy's latest CD and to check out his, as well as the other artists work, at the CompassionArt website. For more info on the charity Andy picked, St. Stephen's Society, click here.

To read other 5 Question interviews see the rotating interview link on the sidebar.


What is CompassionArt?

You may or may not have heard of CompassionArt.

"CompassionArt is a charity that joins the dots between art and poverty. It raises money to help breathe life into the poorest communities, restoring hope and igniting justice."

I've already reviewed this book and CD before but if this is your first time then here's the lowdown:
You can read the Press Release here but in short 12 artists: Michael W. Smith, Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, Graham Kendrick, Steven Curtis-Chapman, Andy Park, Stu Garrard, Martin Smith all got together to write and record songs for charity. Each musician involved with CompassionArt then wrote a chapter about compassion and how they came aboard this project, how the focus on poverty has shaped them.They put this into a book called The Art of CompassionThe proceeds from this and other projects all go to 4 charities picked by the group and 12 by the individual artists.

There is no way, let me say it again, NO WAY, you can read this book and listen to the CD and not have your heart touched. It's not fluffy. It's painful, raw and very vivid. This is exactly how it should be. We live in a de-sensitized society and can easily pop a CD in the car, cruise down the road and drive right by the hurting and homeless.

What Martin and Anna Smith envisioned with the creation of CompassionArt is something that will not allow the people involved to return to the status quo. You cannot read this book without committing yourself to do something...anything....to help those in need.

Martin Smith discussed the project recently on this very site.

Check it out, be blessed and help those in need, get behind CompassionArt today!


Are they worth anything?

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27)

I try to stay away from politics. Not that I believe Christians should not vote, I do, but because it can frustrate me to no end. Take this past week. I went to a local town council meeting. Now many may be wondering if I slipped a cog....what a way to spend an evening.

There may be some truth in that.

See I heard this week that the town council was going to discuss the local homeless shelter. Seeing as I work and interact with the homeless everyday, my wife and I thought we would go down and see what was up.

Who knew town council meetings could be so contentious.

From the opening statement I sat in shocked frustration as each member of the council berated, attacked, belittled and smeared the local homeless shelter. In the end it boiled down to the fact that, as it was stated clearly more than once, "We don't want THOSE people on Main Street!"

Those people are people who are homeless and/or intoxicated. Every crime in our town was pinned on THOSE people. Everything was the fault of THOSE people. The shelter was attacked for helping THOSE people.

I finally spoke up about how "those" people were human beings and worth something. My wife said basically the same thing. Our cries, as well as those of a few others, seemed to fall on deaf ears.

"but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."
(James 3:8-9)

When I was a teen, my family was homeless for a time. It is not a good feeling. We hurt as fellow Christians blamed us and said we must have sinned against God to be suffering like this. My Dad's business folding was God's punishment. Sadly as new believers we were somewhat confused.

Words hurt.

These council members spewed forth indignant venom, belittling the vary essence of the homeless people in our town.

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."(1 John 3:17-18)

We were created in the image of God. We are called to love.....not just the wealthy business man, but the lowliest beggar on the street. Yes people make bad choices, yes some choose to drink, but not every homeless person is there due to drugs and alcohol and even if they were Jesus loved them enough to die for them as well. How can we treat them any less than human?

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

It may be uncomfortable, it may even scare us a bit, but Jesus loves the downtrodden. Shouldn't we? A kind word, a pat on the back, a nod, a hearty hello, they can all go along way to giving someone basic dignity. They can also open the door for you to reach out with the Love of God in word AND deed!

So the next time you pass a homeless man or woman on the street I want to challenge you to look beyond the physical. Look with the eyes of God to a hurting world and LOVE!


Can we not love?

"Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in Moses' Teachings?" Jesus answered him, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' All of Moses' Teachings and the Prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)

It's about relationship with Him and with each other.

So why do we mess it up so bad?

Why do say we love Him yet ignore someone from another denomination? How can we say we love Him yet insist if someone doesn't practice communion or baptism the same way we do they must not be part of the body? How can we say we love Him yet walk by the homeless man on the street with nary a glance? Or ignore our kids? Our spouse?

Jesus wasn't kidding here. He said we are to love. L-O-V-E. Yet ask most non-believers what they think of when they here the word Christian and love is the last thing they will say. You'll hear judgmental, hypocrite, protests, intolerant, etc. Hardly will you here the word love.


Why is that? How come God can so love the world that He gave His Son yet we can't seem to love enough to share a coffee with someone from another church?

How come Jesus can love us enough to die for us yet we can't cross the street to help a neighbour in need?

Oh not everyone does that. Quite a few people I know love and love completely. Yet even in my own life I find it hard to love when I have just been cursed at by an inebriated man. I find it hard to love someone who insists on keeping the letter of the law while ignoring the heart.

Our neighbours are not just those in the world, it's those in the church too. We should love both the downtrodden and our fellow saints! Of course that might mean we need.....humility.

Our we judging others based on our own interpretations of Scripture? Our we ignoring the hurting around us, in our church, beside us on the pew?

What would Jesus say?


Spankings - Are they really any good?

I looked up the word discipline in the dictionary and I saw 3 things that stood out:

1 - Punishment
2 - Instruction
3 - Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

Sadly instruction was considered an obsolete definition. The 3rd one is what I think of when I think of discipline. To disciple, to mold. This to me is what a parent does. They mold and shape a child. This should be done in love. There should be a heaping dose of mercy and grace. There should also be some punishments when behavior reaches the point of extreme.

However the world now equates discipline with definition #1 - Punishment. Spanking is looked at as corporal punishment. Spanking is also looked at as abuse.

I was reading the newspaper this week and saw that Canada is considering outlawing spankings...or making the conditions such that no one will ever be able to do it without fear of government crackdown.

I posed a question to a group I interact with online (both Christians and non-Christians) this past week and the consensus was fairly evenly divided. The question was simple: Spankings....good thing or bad thing? I am not talking about the unbridled abuse of children. I am talking about what my Dad use to do. My Dad would send us to our room to think about things....this was, I found out as an adult, so he could calm down and never strike us in anger. Then he would proceed up the steps and administer 1-3 swats on the butt....never bare. This was an infrequent event and only when we crossed the line in treatment of our mother or acted in such a way that we endangered ourselves or others. I never got one I didn't deserve and didn't get ones I did deserve!

Some I asked said spanking is always abusive. There are other ways to discipline was another statement I heard often.

So I went to the Bible. What does the Bible say? I found some Scriptures in the KJV and then looked those same Scriptures up in the God's Word translation...an easier to understand English translation. Interestingly this is what I found:

"Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him, but whoever loves his son disciplines him from early on." (Proverbs 13:24)

"Foolishness is firmly attached to a child's heart. Spanking will remove it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15)

"Do not hesitate to discipline a child. If you spank him, he will not die. Spank him yourself, and you will save his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14)

"A spanking and a warning produce wisdom, but an undisciplined child disgraces his mother."
(Proverbs 29:15)

Pretty strong stuff! Just looking at the last verse alone, I have seen many undisciplined children kicking, cursing and screaming at their mothers in grocery stores and Wal-Marts while a frantic mother tries to soothingly appease and quiet the child, embarrassed by their actions. Usually they buy the kid what they asked for to shut them up. Sad....very sad.

Discipline can be done and should be done in love. It should involve nurturing, care, love and punishment. It should be fair and focused. The goal should be to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

When done correctly it is an act of love. When done wrongly it can be abusive.

So spankings...are they good? I believe so.

My name is Rick Apperson, I was spanked as a child and I endorse this message!


5 Questions with Kary Oberbrunner

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Kary Oberbrunner. With a M.Div. in Counseling and his D.Min. in Transformational Leadership, Kary is a self-proclaimed "Recovering Pharisee" and founder of Redeem the Day Ministries. The author of The Fine Line, Called and The Journey toward Relevance, he serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Kary,

Question 1: What one word would describe your current relationship with God?


Question 2: I found your book, "The Fine Line", to be very impacting. In it you talk about being a Transformist rather than a Separatist or Conformist. Can you describe those terms in a nutshell?

The first camp - the Separatists - are anti-everybody, anti-everything, and they retreat from culture. Their excessive rules are an attempt to escape the world. Those who lean toward the Separatist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow:

rules to replace relationships
microscopes to replace mirrors
performance to replace passion.

The second camp - the Conformists - are hypocrites, biblically shallow and consumers of culture. Their excessive desire for trendiness results in merely mimicking culture. Those who lean toward the Conformist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they follow:

media to replace meditation
liberty to replace love
tolerance to replace truth.

Thankfully there is an alternative.

Enter stage right the Transformists, a new breed of Christ followers who are in the world but not of it and more clearly mirror New Testament Christianity. The backstory of Transformists is quite convincing. For starters, they don't need to say anything goes, for that would mean they're Conformists. They neither add to God's Word nor do they ignore it. Instead, they obey it.

They're not perfect, but they're seekers. They long to have a pure relationship with the Creator of the Universe. They desire to know the "why" behind the "what" and the purpose behind the principle. Of course there will be mistakes along the way, but this is what sets them apart. They have a little more grace and patience with each other, because they know what they've been saved from.

Above all else, they passionately love God and people. They don't fear culture because they're called to shape it. They don't fear Christianity because they're called to embody it. They are the Relevant. They are the Transformists.

Question 3: How hard do you find it to walk The Fine Line" yourself?

As a pastor who works in a church with other Christians I have to intentionally schedule times and spaces to interact with unbelievers. You can't be a Transformist if you are not in the world.

Question 4: The Transformist lifestyle is not an easy one. Do you find the body of Christ receptive to this message?

Most are excited but unsure. Once they read the book and start applying the principles and follow THE Transformist (Jesus) they shoot me emails about how exciting it is. They wish they would have started earlier.

Question 5: What is your prayer for the body of Christ as a whole?

Instead of our camps (Separatists and Conformists) attacking each other and making the one Jesus approved method of evangelism obsolete (our love for one another), I wish we would admit our junk and invite the Holy Spirit to make us Transformists.

Thanks so much Kary.

There you have it. I would again encourage you to Kary's book. You won't be disappointed.
I would also encourage you to check out Kary's website, the Recovering Pharisee

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Don't go to church! - Just A Thought #35

I have to admit I have struggled with church. When I became a new born Christian I wanted to be in church all the time. I wanted to be there, EARLY, for every service. I wanted to participate in every activity. However the "newness" wore off after a season. I originally started going to church because I was trying to learn all I could about God. However after a bit I started looking around and wasn't really liking what I saw.

I think the word I am looking for is, oh yeah, hypocrisy. That would be the one. I noticed that some people did not live out what they said they believed. Later I saw even more stuff that frustrated and turned me off. Anger, bitterness, gossip...it was all there on display. Of course I became part of the problem as I let these same attributes come out in my own life.

We were burned quite a few times and the hurt came out as bitterness and gossip. I am saddened by this today.

I then took the opposite tack and started looking into the house church movement. I wanted to find an unchurchy church.

Of course I was looking in the wrong place. I was looking at the people and at the building, not at God. I wanted to find the "perfect" church... a place to worship and hang my hat. Yet as soon as I got there the church was no longer perfect. (I was the problem!) I was trying to "do" church.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The locale is not the problem. The focus is. I was not going to encourage others and to stir one another to love. I was going to be "fed" and to watch a show.

I want to encourage you: Don't just go to church, be the church. Don't just embrace the establishment, practicing religion, live your faith!

Our faith should be evident to all. Not some flashy ostentatious showmanship but something real, vibrant, alive! There is nothing wrong with attending a service in a traditional structure, or in a home or in a car for that matter. The problem is not the building...it's us. We need to get over ourselves and quit putting people on pedestals. We need to live our faith!

When someone sits across from you and tells you they are dying are you going to tell them to go to church or are you going to get down and dirty and talk to them about their faith? When someone needs a helping hand will you toss some money their way or get into the trenches and help them dig their way out? We need to be the "hands and feet" of Christ to a dying world. It's not up to the ministers...we are all ministers. (1 Peter 2:9) It's up to each of us to throw off our spiritual lethargy and to LOVE!