A Life Laid Down (From World Magazine)

by Mark Morris on December 7, 2013

I have linked below the World Magazine article on Ronnie Smith’s death today in Benghazi.  I have also attached John Piper’s article on the topic.

LIBYAAn American teacher killed in Benghazi strived to ‘treasure Christ above all things’

Posted Dec. 6, 2013, 11:46 a.m.

Hours after assailants gunned down American teacher Ronnie Smith during his morning jog near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday, grieving friends on opposite sides of the globe remembered Smith, 33, as a devoted teacher, family man, and Christian.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Smith’s murder, but Islamist militants had called for the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Libya in October. Hospital officials said the teacher had been shot multiple times. Read More

John Piper writes the following poignant message about Ronnie.

When We Send a Person to His Death

by John Piper | December 6, 2013

Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. He was 33. He was a husband and father. The leaders of his home church have given me permission to respond to his death publicly and carefully. You can read the fuller story at World or in the mainstream media.

One of the reasons I want to respond is because Ronnie wrote to us at Desiring God last year and told us that one of my messages was significant in leading him and his family to Libya.

Read The Entire Article

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Transforming Halloween?

by Mark Morris on October 30, 2013

Do you know what happened October 31, 1517?

Find out when you read Albert Mohler’s article below on the history of Halloween and an appropriate Christian response.

WEDNESDAY • October 30, 2013

From AlbertMohler.com

WEDNESDAY • October 30, 2013

Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. Reporting in 2007, David J. Skal estimated: “Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations.” As of 2012, that total exceeded $8 billion. Read the full article

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Do We Believe The Gospel?

by Mark Morris on October 20, 2013

Akbar does.

It is Eid (Muslim holiday) around the world. Everyone makes lots of visits to neighbors. One of the attractions of Islam is the strong sense of community and brotherhood. The hospitality extended during Eid just adds to the sense of oneness.

On one of those Eid visits, the Imam (Muslim leader) and his family made a visit to Akbar’s home. While visiting, in Akbar’s home, the Imam noticed a Bible and a Christian movie, The Jesus Film. The Imam immediately declared the materials unclean and unsuitable to have in the home. He stirred up a big argument.

If you were in one of the most dangerous places on earth, surrounded by staunch Muslims and the Bible and all that it represents was declared unclean and unsuitable, what would you do?

With much thought and prayer Akbar declared, I believe in Jesus. I am a follow of Jesus the Messiah. He had never made that statement out loud. He had been seeking God and studying the Bible and learning about Christ. But when trapped and cornered, Akbar recognized the authenticity of God’s Word and acknowledged the gospel as his own belief.

The question – do we believe the gospel? Do you believe the gospel enough to stand and declare in the most hostile environment, “I Believe in Jesus?”

Pray for Akbar and his wife:

- Pray that she we trust Jesus and stand with Akbar as the Imam will now begin pressing Akbar’s wife’s family to force a divorce.

- Pray for Akbar’s parents and brothers to be supportive of Akbar.

- Pray for safety and a place to sleep as Akbar will likely be forced from his village.

- Pray for Akbar’s continued boldness.

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Pray for Iran

by Mark Morris on October 1, 2013

A historic phone call between the leaders of two nations set in motion a flurry of speculation, fears and concerns. So as followers of Christ, what do we do?

We pray, as suggested in the following prayer guide for Iran from centralasianpeoples.imb.org.

Today’s Prayer

PERSIANS OF IRAN – (PURR-zhuns) Iranians love Jesus, because Islam considers Him to be a good man and a prophet. Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, there has been an increasing dissatisfaction and a longing for “something more.” People are hungry for the Gospel, and many are coming to faith in Christ. Please pray that God’s kingdom will continue to be established in Iran. Ask God to use this nation to spread the Good News, rather than the beliefs of Shia Islam, to its neighboring nations that follow Sunni Islam. read more

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How’s My Church Doing in Missions?

by Mark Morris on September 19, 2013

Are you a pastor or mission leader in your church? Are you curious about just how your church is doing in missions – in local and global missions? Are you wondering if your mission and vision and alleged values match up with your passion and behaviors? Do your missional systems get you to your desired outcome?

For the past ten years, MissionLeader has used an assessment tool for coaching church leaders, specifically related to mission health. A friend at efurther.com has just put the assessment tool online at http://www.missionleaderinsight.com/

The survey allows you and/or a coach to compile a church’s:

  • Missional Passions and Strengths,
  • Missional Equipping and Multiplying,
  • Missional Engaging both Locally and Globally,
  • Missional Cooperating and Partnering,
  • Praying for Missions,
  • Missional Leadership and Decision Making Processes and
  • Budgeting for and Investing in Missions.

When I use the survey, I have multiple church leaders complete the survey. I compile the data and use the results in my coaching process. The survey is easy to complete. It can be completed quickly in a cursory fashion or it can be done very thoroughly, especially when the financial data is entered by those involved in the budget process. You can begin the survey, save it and come back later to complete it.

Why gather the information in the first place? My goal is to establish a benchmark. I want churches to see where they actually are today so they can make healthy goals and plans for the future.

What do the surveys usually reveal? That churches invest far less than they think, especially in the least reached. Churches continue the basic pattern of going where it’s easiest to go in missions, giving to pet causes, responding to random needs that come up, listening to influential or available cause or relational “lobbyists” within the church to the exclusion of biblical strategy. Churches generally don’t have any framework that gives them permission to say, “No.” Why say “no?” So you can strategically say, “Yes to the most strategic.”

What can churches do after taking a look in the mirror through a survey such as this one?  Get Honest, Get Biblical, and Get Focused.

When churches look in the mirror regarding their actual missional passions and actions, pastoral and missional leaders have an opportunity to lead their church toward biblical and strategic missional discipleship.

The Premise: Obedience to God’s Word leads to local church-based biblical objectives, which bolster right practices that over time contribute to lasting values, which ultimately enable God-sized dreams to be fulfilled.

Step one of change is the evaluation process. I have yet to find a church that is at ground zero when it comes to missions. The church may be brand new, but there are notions about missions, assumptions about missions and biblical foundations that are either correct, errant, or seriously lacking.  In many cases, church leaders over-estimate their missional activity. Church leaders generally admit, we are not doing enough missions, but we tend to give ourselves too much credit for our missional effectiveness.  We also give ourselves too much credit for mere activity as opposed to strategic activity.

Evaluation involves the visional leadership and staff of a church walking with her core leaders through a process of viewing, admitting, and addressing the current realities and benchmarks of their churches “State of the Mission.” Evaluation involves answering the question: What do we say we are doing in missions, and are we doing what we allege we are doing in missions?   Why or why not? The process involves a clear look at finances, leadership, equipping, geographic involvement, systems, and the decision-making processes in missions.   The goal of evaluation is to reframe missional values, systems and practices.

Reframing involves clarifying biblical principles and priorities for Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria and Ends of the Earth Ministry.

Assistance in the process of evaluating and reframing is what this tool offers, but the best assistance comes through a missional coach. A number of organizations and individuals are experienced at coaching.

Key church leaders must invest time delving into God’s Word and comparing biblical principles with their unique church history and character. In addition, the church’s decision-making process needs to be evaluated.

So try out the tool, see if it might be helpful to you and your church. http://www.missionleaderinsight.com/

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A Generation of Firsts – Tim Elmore

by Mark Morris on September 5, 2013

Much thanks to my friend Mike Lopez for forwarding this article my direction. Tim Elmore of GrowingLeader.com has written an informative article about the uniqueness of the up and coming generation.

Take a look.

From Growingleaders.com

History is full of people who’ve gone first, especially during the last century. There is something about being first that tugs at the human spirit, and pushes it forward.

  • Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon.
  • Howard Perry was the first black man to enlist in the Marines.
  • Second Lieutenant Kristin Bass was the first female F-16 fighter pilot.
  • Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes.
  • Ann Bancroft was the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot
  • Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Sergei Krikalev was the first cosmonaut to spend ten months in space.

Did you know you have some “firsts” on your campus as well? Your high school or college students are among a generation who’s the first to experience a number of realities. In fact, because they’re initiating these realities, they may present a challenge to your parents and teachers. Adults are grappling with how to raise this population of kids who grew up on-line, with a screen in their hands. The pixels and format of those screens have re-wired their brains: they think differently, react differently, communicate differently, and process information differently than adults. Some call them “screenagers.” Consider the following “firsts” they represent.

This is the First Generation of Youth Who:

1. Doesn’t need adults to get information.

Consider how this difference changes the role of an adult. Because information is everywhere, we are no longer brokers of data. They don’t need us for information, but for interpretation. We must help them make sense of all they know. Our job isn’t to enable them to access data, but to process data and form good decisions.

- See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/a-generation-of-firsts/#sthash.9ncbokEm.dpuf

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Should I Fast During Ramadan?

by Magilicuty on July 30, 2013

By John M

During my eighth grade year I was living in a Muslim country, attending a school with a number of Muslim classmates. My parents encouraged me to take part with them in a fast. The goal of our fast was to know God better through denying ourselves of something as basic as food for a short time. This is a fitting story since it is now Ramadan season, the same time of year in which this story occurred.

During Ramadan Muslims are expected to take part in a daily fast. For a Muslim, the fast provides merit for working one’s way into heaven. I had never fasted before so I was curious. I also thought this would be a great opportunity to open doors with my Muslim classmates. When I made the decision to fast I had no idea the opportunity that God would provide.

At my school, those who fast are allowed to remain in the classroom, avoiding the cafeteria where other students would be eating. So during the lunch hour I stayed in our classroom with my classmates who were fasting. They turned to me and asked, “Why on earth are you fasting. It’s not mandatory for you?” It blew their minds that someone would voluntarily take part in a fast. They were miserable about not being able to eat all day. The only reason that they were fasting was because they had to. Through our conversation I was able to share my Christian beliefs. This was the first time my Muslim friends had heard directly from a Christian what it is that we believe.

When I returned home from school I was so excited to tell my parents what had happened at school. Fasting became a cool opportunity to share my faith with friends, who otherwise would never have heard. It was my first time to be able to sit down and clearly explain my beliefs to someone who was not a Christian. The chance to explain the Gospel to these two friends not only gave them a view into Christianity, but it also helped me in my walk with God. My faith was strengthened as I acted on my own faith and my own convictions rather than those of my parents.

In the end the little rumbling in my stomach was nothing compared to the awesomeness of getting to share my faith with some of my Muslim classmates.

When has God blessed you in ways you didn’t expect because of an act of obedience?

Jesus answered, It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

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Something Worth Dying For

by Magilicuty on July 25, 2013

Growing up I was surrounded by many godly influences and some great examples of taking up the cross daily. One of the biggest influences in my life has been, and continues to be my father, who chose to leave what was familiar to him and go to share Jesus with those who had not heard. I watched him live a lifestyle that honors and glorifies God. It’s not surprising that my Dad would challenge me to do the same.

My dad has given me two challenges; first to seek joy, and secondly to find something worth dying for and then live for that. Dad helped me to realize that as a child of God I have access to the greatest gift in the world. Why would I ever settle for less by pursuing empty fulfillment in shallow places?

I don’t know of anything that’s worth dying for that isn’t about bringing glory to God. If I am able to fulfill this challenge, then in the end, if I die young or live to be a hundred, people will see that I lived a life worth living.

Our friend Samuel is a great example of living with joy and being willing to die for Christ’s purposes. As a young man Sam became a follower of Jesus in the midst of a nation that opposes Christianity. Because of his decision to follow Christ, Samuel’s friends reported him in to the authorities and had him arrested.

While Samuel was in prison he experienced extreme persecution including physical and sexual abuse because of his faith in Jesus. Samuels imprisonment was a horrible situation, but because of the way that he handled it and used it to glorify God, it became an encouragement and further challenge as I was able to see the example set by Sam of having found something worth dying for and living for it in great hardship. Through severe persecution Samuel grew stronger in his faith in Jesus when he could have easily denied Christ in order to get a quick release from prison.

After several months Samuel was released and was whisked out of the country to safety. While in exile he spent a lot of time in prayer, trying to work through what he should do. In the end Samuel decided that he should go back to his home country to share the good news of Jesus with his people. Samuel knew full well that he could be killed or imprisoned once again. Our friend decided that taking the Gospel back home was worth even his life. So he made a choice to go back for the honor and glory of God.

Samuel found something worth dying for and decided to live his life for that. Will you commit your life to something worth dying for?

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

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Eternal Value

by Magilicuty on July 15, 2013

Eternal Value

by John M

More than one country in South East Asia has been left broken by war, but my TCK (Third Culture Kid) friend James had a unique encounter in one of those challenging nations. Thousands of children have been displaced here and each one plods along daily, merely trying to survive.

As a teenager James traveled to this remote, war-torn, mountainous village to help with a sports camp for the children. Many of the children were war-orphans. James and his Christ-centered team leaders went to the village with the desire to serve and create a relationship with the villagers – hopefully offering hope and encouragement. Even in the beautiful rolling mountains, the reminder of war sat on the adjacent hill in the form of an army base.

James’ job was to lead the soccer camp for these war orphans. He wanted to be a blessing to a people who had so little in life. James wanted to demonstrate God’s love to the people of the village.

To his surprise, James realized that his ‘elementary class’ was actually made up of 18-23 year-olds, many of them older than him. His new friends spoke little or no English. In spite of the language barrier, James demonstrated love through his service to these orphans.

What really stood out to James was the happiness of the villagers. By our standards, the young men should have been miserable. These guys had few possessions and no financial security, but they seemed happy.

As James shared his story with me I was reminded that we get trapped in worldly possessions, titles, jobs, plans and concerns for financial security. Every now and then it’s nice to get a reminder that the trappings of this world are really not important. They are certainly not eternal. These orphans, who should have been bitter and hurt were actually happy simply to be playing soccer with James. Even with the daily reminders of war just across the valley in the military camp, these orphans seemed content.

The story of Jame’s new friends challenges us believers who have been given the greatest gift, eternal life through Jesus. Regardless of our eternal blessings we seek happiness in material things. Our joy should be found in pursuing Christ not stuff.

The happiness of the Orphans breaks my heart, because I know that without Jesus it is an empty happiness. Our responsibility, therefore as followers of Christ is to show God’s love and share Christ with those who don’t know him.

James’ volunteer trip had a big impact on him. He realized that loving and serving these villagers affected them. Along with the immediate impact of being there, James was moved to make a spiritual decision in his own life. James had never been baptized.

God used this trip to lead him follow Christ into believers baptism in a local fellowship.  James’ trip also magnified God’s pull to take God’s love to those who have not seen or received Him.

Has there been a time in your life in which you have been reminded of what brings true joy?

Southeast Asia

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

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Introducing John

by Magilicuty on July 14, 2013

For several weeks, we are going to hear from a long-time friend who I’ve watched mature over the years. I’m actually more of an uncle to him.

In the early 1990’s John’s parents joined me and my wife on a cross-cultural team in another country. Cindy and I have prayed for and supported John’s family over the years as they have lived and served in various settings.

As you read John’s articles, you will be drawn into life and ministry from the perspective of John and his friends who have grown and matured as Third Culture Kids. Several of the articles that John is writing are actually interviews with his friends, who like John are American.  Yet John and his friends have spent their developmental years surrounded by people and events outside the cultural norm of the United States of America – thus, we call them Third Culture Kids. These kids are American, but their perspective is not explicitly American. Instead, these “kids” filter life through different lenses.

Join me as we look at the world from the perspective of John and his Third Culture friends.

What follows is John’s self-introduction.

Mark Morris


From John M.

Hey guys,

I am excited for the opportunity to be involved with this site. I am a recently returning TCK (Third Culture Kid) who is now attending college here in the States. I was born in America to a God-centered family, who moved overseas early in my life, and gave me many opportunities to experience the world’s different cultures, people, and languages. I have grown up most of my life in predominantly Muslim countries, with some time in a Buddhist culture, as well as several years in Europe and North America.

During my time growing up, I’ve attended many different types of schools: public, private, boarding school, and home school. Currently I am an underclassman at college. I am seeking to live a life that honors God, and to intentionally focus relationships on the eternal.

Over this summer I hope to share with you some stories, and how it is these stories have impacted my relationship with God. I hope that you will join me in sharing how these stories impact our lives.

John Magilicuty

Central Asia

24 The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

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