Monday, November 7, 2011

GIFT IDEAS FOR MISSIONARIES!                                    

Below are a few practical and useful gifts for the missionaries you love and support!

1.   Financial Support

It may sound boring, but the reality is that missionaries are able to stay overseas because of the support of caring people like you.  So a great gift to give at Christmas (or any other time) is to begin support or send extra support. 

Here are a couple ways you could do that:
     a.  If you haven't sent support before, let them know
          that as a Christmas gift you're going to start this
          year!  Either a one-time gift, or something small
          each month goes a loooong way!

     b.  If you already support, consider increasing your support
          by $5, 10 or 20 dollars a month



2. Mail them something - It's always a wonderful thing to
receive mail from "home," so why not bless them with a
parcel filled with thoughtful little things?  Some ideas:

  • Magazines (they're small and easy to mail)
  • A book or CD
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Food mixes (salad dressing, gravy, icing, etc).
  • Something small for the kids

* It's usually best to email or call them first to see what they
   need.  Some countries have restrictions on what can be
   sent in.

* Usually it's best NOT to send electronics (unless they ask
   for it) often they will have to pay up to 60% import duty
   on it!

* Be careful what you send if they live in a Restricted Access
NationThey could get in big trouble if you include something
   overtly Christian!  Ask before sending anything of that nature.

 3. Amazon Gift Certificate - If the missionary you support lives overseas, it may be difficult or costly to mail them something.  Why not try sending them a gift certificate instead?  Nowadays most missionaries have access to the internet and can easily buy/download gifts online.  So go ahead, get them a $25 or $50 gift certificate and rest assured that they'll be able to get themselves something useful...and without waiting months for the mail to arrive!
Amazon gift certificate - with an Amazon certificate they can download digital CD's and books instantly! 

4. Audio Book certificate or subscription -
At they can download their favorite Christian audio book or sermon series.  Especially for those that don't have access to a Christian bookstore, this makes a great gift idea!  There's no mailing, no waiting - they can instantly download and enjoy their favorite author!
Some of their available titles:
A few other titles include:
  1 FREE Audiobook RISK-FREE from Audible

God's Smuggler 
Brother Andrew:
God's Smuggler
 Jesus Among Other Gods
Ravi Zacharias:
Jesus Among Other God's
 Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secrets of Joyful Giving
Randy Alcorn:
The Treasure Principle

5. Kindle or other E-Book Reader.   Missionaries travel a LOT and its always hard to lug boxes of books around.  If you know they'll be home sometime soon, why don't you surprise them with an E-Book reader?  It'll cut down their moving expenses and will allow them to download great books instantly - even when they're overseas!

"Where I live there are no Christian Bookstores.  But now with E-Books I can download and read
a new book instantly!  No waiting or shipping!"

        - missionary from Eastern Europe -


6. Magazine Subscription - You can bless them with a year long subscription to a magazine they'll love!  Browse some of the most popular at Amazon's Christian Magazines page.  A few magazines will even mail overseas.

Some of the most relevant are:


If you have questions or issues about magazine subscriptions, check out their Magazine Help Page.


7. Music and MP3's - It's really easy these days to send can buy them a digital album for their special occasion!  Check out Amazon's Christian Music section for some great ideas...

Or you could send them an ITUNES gift card so they can download


8. Mail a Book - If you know they love reading, why not order them a book from - they mail to almost anywhere in the world for free! For a full list of where they ship to, click here.


9. Language Learning Software - If you know what language they are learning, a very practical gift would be to give them some language learning software!  Two of the most popular ones out there are:


10. Used Tea Bags - just kidding!! Though back in the day (early 80's) people used to send us used tea bags when we lived in joke!  

But if you really are into tea bags (or coffee) why not send them a Starbucks gift card instead?


Saturday, August 27, 2011


Sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of your supporters and donations given, as well as where you're at in meeting your monthly budget.  Thankfully a good program (like "Donor Tracker" below) can really help in this area.

Not only is keeping accurate records good stewardship, it also helps you as you communicate with others - for example, when people ask what percentage of support you’re at (not good to be stuck with a blank look on your face at that point!). Good records will aid you in sending thank-you’s and help you pray more specifically.
The program we recommend to do this (for simplicity and functionality) is "Donor Tracker" - it's a free, Excel based program, which is simple to learn and easy to use. You don't need to install any other applications or have a week-long training session to use it!

Download it here:
Donor Tracker 2 (2MB zip file, for Vista, Windows 7, Mac, etc)
Donor Tracker 1 (7MB for Windows XP)

For more detailed info on how to get started with it, click here.


All you need to do to start is input (a) your estimated Budget, (b) the names (and relevant info) of your donors.
Then each month write in who has given and the amount they gave (or copy/paste if your organization gives you a list).
That's it! Donor Tracker will then show you MONTHLY stats (see pic below)...
  (a) Total donations received, month-to-date
  (b) Percentage of monthly support received, month-to-date
  (c) Percentage of yearly support
  (d) Amount left to raise that month.

On the TOTALS page, you can see your YEARLY totals at once glance:

You will also be able to view:
(a) Complete yearly totals for each donor (both Church and Individual)
(b) Your "Top Ten" donors (see below)...
(c) CHARTS - showing donor giving comparisons, and individual donor patterns (see below)...

There is also a handy "PRAYER CALENDAR" that automatically puts your donor's names in a monthly calendar format which you can print out and use to pray for them each month!
Finally, there is a "Resource Page" that gives handy links and info to other relevant resources!

Download it and give it a try!

(Yearly support by donor)

(Donation comparison chart)

Monday, August 1, 2011

... .

Wayne Gretzky ("The Great One") retired years ago, but he's still a legend when it comes to hockey. 
He holds or shares over 60 NHL records including most goals, most points and most assists.  One of my favorite stats of his is “most goals for one season” – he comes in first at 92 goals (’81-’82) as well as second with 87 goals in ’83-’84 (and eighth, and tenth...)

During the 80’s you could turn on the TV and watch him play, hear commentators tell how amazing he was, you could follow his stats, collect his memorabilia and chat with your friends how great he was.  In other words, you could know a lot about him…and you could celebrate a lot about him.

But…does that mean you really knew him?
It’s one thing to know about someone and entirely different to really know them, to be counted as their friend.  If I happened to be walking down the street and Gretzky passed me by, he probably wouldn’t stop and say, “Hey man, great to see you again!” 

The unfortunate thing is that many of us treat Jesus like we do Wayne Gretzky (or insert your favorite sports hero here).  We talk a lot about him, we go to large gatherings to celebrate him, we hear commentators talk of his greatness, we collect his memorabilia.  But do we really know him?  Personally?  It’s one thing to know about Jesus…it’s another thing altogether to have a deep relationship with him, to be an intimate friend. 

It’s not enough to know his stats, it’s not enough to read of his records or to celebrate his deeds.  What he wants…what he longs for…is for us to know him deeply, intimately.  His deep desire is that we meet with him on a regular basis so we get to the point of knowing his voice and understanding his heart. 

We’ll spend tons of money and lots of time to stand in line and see sports stars or the famous.  But we bemoan the fact we have no time to spend with God. 

Yet in God’s presence is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11), strength (Is 40:31) and peace (Mt 11:28).  As we wait on him he’ll direct us, empower us, provide and guide us.  As Robert McCheyne once said, “a calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man!

Jesus is the Greatest Ever…let’s make time to spend with him this week!

Related Posts:

Friday, July 8, 2011


"I'd really love to pray more," he said to me, "but I just don't have the time!"

Many of us have heard – or said – something similar to the above statement.  It seems to be a common excuse for the prayerless life.  However, I firmly believe that it’s not that we don’t have the time to pray – it’s that we don’t have the desire.  We haven’t made prayer a priority in our lives.

Imagine with me, if you will.  A representative of Coca-Cola comes to your door with an amazing offer.  He says, “If you can get up at 6:30am every day for a month without missing a day, and watch a half-hour presentation on our company, we’ll give you a million dollars!  Wow, what a deal!  What do you think you’d do?  Would you say, “Sorry, I’m not a morning person, I don’t have time for you or your million bucks!”  No!  With great excitement you’d tell your family about the offer and get them pumped up about the prize money.  Perhaps you’d encourage them to get up and watch with you.  You’d tell your friends and remind them not to call you after 10pm as you had to get to sleep early; you would cancel your late-night hockey games; you would put your kids to bed early; you would set 5 alarm clocks instead of just one.  In short, you would do whatever it takes to reorder your lifestyle for that one month in order to get up early for that presentation!  That prize of a million dollars would spur you on!

The truth of the illustration is this: we make time for what is important to us.  If socializing is important to you, you’ll prioritize that over prayer.  If entertainment grabs your heart, you’ll stay up late for that.  Whether its money, sports, internet, shopping, work, golf…if you’re passionate about it, you’ll make time for it.

So we see that, except for those very rare occasions, it’s not that we don’t have time for prayer, it’s that we don’t have desire.  Unfortunately most of us wait for moments of crisis to pray…as that’s when desperation and desire kick in!  In crisis we suddenly become aware that we need to shuffle our schedule and priorities to pray.

The men and women of God who have made a difference throughout history knew and prized and treasured Jesus more than anything – even more than their sleep.  They didn’t wait for crisis.  They made prayer a priority, despite busy schedules, heavy workloads and crowds of children.  They rearranged their schedules and learned to say no to things that would have taken away their time and attention from the priority of prayer.

People often ask me, why don’t we see God move here in North America like you say He is moving around the world?  Part of the answer is that they have desire and desperation – while we are content for life to keep on going as it’s always gone.  Poverty or persecution spurs them on.  Affluence and ease lull us to sleep.

What we need is a God-given passion.  The Kingdom of God and the salvation of the lost are worth more than a million bucks…Are you up to the challenge?

Below are a few ideas to help us practically grow our desire for God
a. Ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed passion for Jesus and for prayer (“You have not because you ask not” – James 4:2)
b. Set a schedule…and an alarm clock if necessary!  (You schedule everything else that's important to you, why not prayer?)
c. Get friends together and pray.  (That’s what the early disciples did in Acts – gathered daily and from house-to-house.  It helps keep us accountable…and helps spur each other on).
d. Fast and pray – as you learn to fast and say “no” to earthly appetites, you’ll be surprised how your spiritual appetite will grow!  When you unplug from the world, it’s easier to plug-in to God!
e. Read and/or listen to those that were passionate about the things of God.  Their fire can help ignite yours!  I'd suggest pretty much anything by Keith Green, Leonard Ravenhill, Charles Finney or John Wesley.
f. Meditate on eternity.  Once you grasp the reality of hell and the necessity to reach the lost, you’ll find a new fire and passion kindling in your heart!  You’ll begin to agree with Charles Spurgeon who said: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies.  And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees…let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

 "Could a mariner sit idle if he heard a drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?"
 - Leonard Ravenhill -

Related Post:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Diapers and Good Deeds

It always amazes me how many diapers we go through each month with our baby.  Thankfully though, we’ve been through this routine before and I know that one day he’ll grow out of them.  He’ll go on to maturity: he’ll start to feed himself, dress himself and make his own bed (well…maybe not that one!) and eventually make it through school.  His growth won’t be easy though – it will require some work and training: potty training, piano lessons, homework, chores…but it’s our prayer that one day he’ll be both mature and fruitful in life.

It also amazes me how many Christians pay little attention to their growth in godliness.  In my last post (WWJD: What Would Jordan Do?) I talked about the importance of practicing the spiritual disciplines that Jesus did.  However, talking about “disciplines” may make some uncomfortable.  Since the Reformation, it seems, many of us have a fear of “good works.”  However, I believe one of the biggest lies of the devil is that any emphasis on deeds or works immediately means legalism.  Some might say: “We’re saved by grace, we don’t need to focus on works!”  Unfortunately, that is plain unscriptural!

Now obviously it’s true that we’re saved by grace alone – but that doesn’t negate the need for us, as believers, to emphasize good works.

I want to share with you a distinction that has helped me tremendously.  It’s the simple truth that there is a vast difference between one’s IDENTITY and their MATURITY
As a believer you can’t change your identity – you are IN CHRIST.  The moment you repented and turned to Jesus you became a child of God…works won't make you a Christian or make God love you more.  That’s your identity – you are a CHILD of God.  However, you can change your level of maturity.

A baby doesn’t work to be born….but to grow to maturity requires LOTS of work!

No matter how long my boys stay in their diapers, they’ll always be my kids…their “works” won’t change my love for them.  However, their “works” will change their maturity, their growth and their fruitfulness!  When my son is 18 and heading off to college, my guess is that he won’t take a box of diapers with him!

YOU ARE IN CHRIST...your works can’t add to your identity.  But the question is – are you going to be a BABY in Christ or an ADULT in Christ?  Are you going to go on to maturity, to fruitfulness?  If you are, that will take work!

That’s why the Scriptures are full of exhortations to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18) and to “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5, 15; 3:14; Heb 12:14, etc) and to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7,8)...and that believers are to “prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20 – heard a sermon on that one lately?).  And that’s why Jesus said “by your fruit you will recognize them” (Mt 7:20) and why he declares over and over in Revelation “I know your deeds!” (not just “I know your intentions!” – see Rev 2:2,19,23; 3:1,8,15). 

Your deeds – your works, growth and fruitfulness – are of extreme importance both here on earth as well as on judgment day!  (See Rev 22:12 and 1 Cor 3:11-15).

Martin Luther himself, in his treatise on “Christian Freedom” said, of course, that Christians are “justified by faith,” yet he also was emphatic that while still on this earth the believer must:
“give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith…True then, are these two sayings: ‘Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works’” (Martin Luther – Concerning Christian Liberty ).
That’s why spiritual disciplines are so important – like a child learning practicing piano, or a basketball player doing training – disciplines and good works help us grow in spirit and have a positive impact on the world around us.

Works won’t save you.  But they’ll sure help you get out of your diapers and make a difference for Christ!

     Recommended Resources:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Would Jordan Do?
Reflections on personal discipline...

A while ago it was vogue in Christian circles to ask WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?  But it got a little over-hyped and largely under-practiced (which often happens) and has since received its fair share of criticism.
While I agree that asking WWJD is biblical – Jesus, after all, told his followers to follow him – I think it has inherent problems.  The main one is this: we can’t do what Jesus did just by asking that question.  For even if we think we know what Jesus would do the reality is that we often don’t have the spiritual reserves to follow through.

By itself asking WWJD is just as unreasonable as asking “What Would JORDAN Do? 
I enjoy basketball and always held Jordan’s abilities in high esteem…but I’d never ask that kind of question.  Why?  Because even if I knew the answer, I still wouldn’t be able to do what Jordan did!  I can’t jump like him, shoot like him, or stick out my tongue like him.
And here’s the key point: Unless I practiced the way Jordan did in private, I’d never be able to do what he did in public.   It’s not enough to know what he’d do in a given situation – I must have the strength and ability to do it as well.

The same is very true in our Christian walk.  We’ll never do what Jesus did in public until we learn to do what he did in private.  Unfortunately, a lot of us wear the Jesus-jersey, skip out of practice, then wonder why we’re so lousy when it comes to game time!
Jesus’ life of prayer, sensitivity to the Spirit and obedience to the Father laid the foundation for his amazing ministry.  He knew Scripture inside out and walked in intimacy with the Father.  Doing what Jesus did without his focus and prayer life is like me getting up off the couch and doing a 360 slam dunk from the free throw line.  Ain’t likely that’ll happen!

Dallas Willard puts it this way: "As Jesus’ disciple..I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens as he would lead my life if he were I.”

So this is a call back to the basics – a call to do things that Jesus did and that his early followers put into practice.  If we want to see even the beginnings of a Jesus-kind-of-life we’ll need to get back to the core practices of fasting and prayer, simplicity of life, memorizing Scripture, self denial and intimacy with God.  Once we begin to do these things not only will we be able to discern what Jesus would do, we would – by His grace – have the power to be able to imitate him as well.  So while it wouldn’t fit a lot of bracelets or make a lot of sales, I would suggest this question is much more appropriate: “What Did Jesus Do in order to Do What He Did? 

I’m never going to be Michael Jordan, but it’s my prayer that each day you and I will grow to be more like Christ!

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Green Card Christianity

Years ago the movie "Green Card" came out.  The plot revolved around two strangers getting married – not out of love, but out of convenience.  The one would get an American green card, the other a fancy apartment.  After the wedding the two would separate, get on with their lives, and live life as they wanted (at least, that was the plan)...

Unfortunately, it seems, some people go through a similar process in becoming a “Christian".
They hear that the heavenly country is a little better than the other option and that if they say a prayer and sign a card, then presto, they get citizenship and all the rights that go with it!  So they say “I do” to Jesus and then keep right on living as they had before…

But is that what coming to Christ is all about?  Saying “yes,” then living as you please?  Does going to church or saying a prayer mean you are “in”? 
Well, it may - if it’s the start of a life-long passionate relationship with the Son of God. 

But, on the other hand, it may not. 

Jesus and the disciples seemed to suggest that there was much more involved than a good beginning.  When our Master walked this earth he didn’t tell people to just say a prayer.  He told them to follow (Mt 4:19; Lk 5:27).  He called them to repent (Mt 4:17[1]) and leave their old ways behind, walk with him and make him central to everything they would do from that point onwards (Lk 9:23-25).  Saying a prayer is a good way to start…but it needs to be followed up with a life that’s radically centered on Christ.  It means intentionally switching allegiance from self to Him.  It transforms the way we think and talk and spend our money and use our time and talents.  Everything becomes surrendered to Jesus and his kingdom.  Jesus talked about a narrow door and a narrow way (Mt 7:13,14)…not a narrow door with a broad way, where we squeeze in then live as we’d like.

In the movie, things unraveled when an immigration officer checked in on them and discovered the truth.  And I sometimes wonder what would happen if someone checked in on us and our devotion to Jesus?  Would they see much in common with him?  Would our love for each other be visible?  Would we know his ways, spend time together and be growing daily in our relationship with him? 

Just as in a marriage you need to continue to love each other, serve each other, live with each other, listen and talk to each other – the same is needed in our relationship with Jesus!  There’s no such thing as “Green Card” Christianity, if by that we mean saying “I do” then living as we want.[2]  You might be able to fool the American government, but you can’t fool Christ!  

> If you liked this article you may also want to check out:
Spiritual Narcolepsy.

[1] The exact same message of repentance was preached by John the Baptist (Mt 3:2), Peter (Acts 2:38) and Paul (Acts 26:20) and recorded by the apostle John (Rev 2:4,5).
[2] Just so there’s no confusion, let me say that I have nothing against people getting Green Cards.  In fact, my wife is in the process of getting one.  (Actually, being Canadian, it’s commonly referred to as a “Maple Leaf Card”).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lessons in the obvious and the obscure                                                

We’ve probably all heard about the group that’s been proclaiming the end of the world on May 21stI just don’t get how people can ignore plain teaching of Scripture and hold on to hidden obscurities.  It just doesn’t equate!
Jesus clearly stated in Matthew’s Gospel:
  • “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven…” (Mt 24:36).
  • “Keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord comes” (Mt 24:42).
  • “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Mt 24:44).
  • “Keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour” (Mt 25:13). 
 And if that wasn’t enough, when they asked him later about it, he reminded them:
  • “It’s not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
It just boggles my mind how someone calling themselves a follower of Jesus can ignore something so obvious!  But while it’s easy to get exasperated at these kind of doomsday predictions, the truth of the matter is we often do the exact same thing: ignore the obvious teaching of Jesus, while holding onto the obscure.

Below are a few more things – obvious things – Jesus said that we tend to ignore:
  • The “Great Commission” – Jesus told all his followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).  We need to get involved at ‘home’ and around the world.  We can pray, give, go…but we can’t ignore him and do nothing!  It’s high time we made his last command our first priority!

  • The Poor – Jesus said to his disciples “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Lk 12:33).
     If you read the book of Luke he actually states that 3 different times to 3 different groups (the Pharisees, the disciples, the rich ruler).  But it seems we think that since we live in the West we’re somehow let off the hook and can live as affluently as we’d like!  We’re not called to poverty, but we’re called to radical sacrifice and joyful generosity!

  • “Don’t store up treasure on earth” – Jesus said it as clear as day (Mt 6:19).  Yet for most of us (myself included) it’s just so easy to store stuff up!  But why do we think we’re exempt?  Consumerism, materialism and self-centeredness are killing the church and robbing the poor. 

  • Jesus also said, “You’ll have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word you have spoken” (Mt 12:36).  Ouch!   How many careless words do we say each day?  If Jesus is saying the truth here (and I’m quite sure he is!) then a lot of us will be in a lot of trouble when that day finally does come!
This list could go on and on!  So while it’s easy to blast doomsday predictors, I think it’d be much more fruitful if we repented of disobeying the obvious teachings of Jesus that we ourselves have ignored!