Teaching around the world

This past Saturday evening, from 8:00-11:00 pm I was participating in online education. Santiago and I were co-teaching a course on studying the Bible using tools from the 21st century, namely Logos. The two of us have taught this same course a variety of times around Spain, but this was the first go at it via Zoom.

I don’t particularly like purely online courses, first and foremost because it allows me to distance myself from the students. I can talk all I want and completely disregard any potential distractions. However, the current global situation has forced us into this new version of learning, and when you have lemons in hand…

However, I do believe that with the right mindset, online education can be extremely helpful. This class was scheduled for the benefit of our intern here in Ponferrada, Itziar. She meets regularly with us to discuss ministry philosophy, her doctrinal statement, her progress in leading Bible studies, etc. This online course is just a talking point for the bulk of the training – that which takes place right here in our city as we personally interact.

If the local church is clear, strategic, and faithful with discipleship, I believe online courses can be of incredible value.

This course will last five Saturdays, two hours of teaching each session. There are students joining in from all over the world, and from differing religious backgrounds. This past week I believe there were 18 of us all together. But we are all trying to learn how we can better understand this incredible gift of God’s Word, and how it leads us to Jesus Christ!

If you are interest in joining in, and your Spanish abilities are up for it, let us know!


Communication is important. Communication is not easy. But there are some tools that make it easier, albeit at times more overwhelming.

In the States it was pretty easy. You send a text message in the messaging app. If that was too long, you send an email. Although I am not sure the generation following mine knows what email is.

When I was a kid…

But since we moved abroad our messaging tools have hunkered down and multiplied. This is good because it allows us to continue communication with those in the States, and begin communication with those in other parts of the world. It just gets a little confusing when conversations start buzzing.

Those with iDevices still use the good old iMessaging, but not everyone has followed wisdom’s path and purchased one.

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The first app we had to add was WhatsApp, because apparently the USA is the only country to still send text messages.

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Then we added GoogleHangouts so we could keep our US number and still send text messages to those without iMessaging or WhatsApp. (Which makes it really nice as well to make phone calls to the States!)

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Then there are some hardcore Facebook users who swear by the Facebook message app. Maybe it is somehow tied to your Candy Crush score, I don’t know.

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We have so many options to choose from to try to maintain communication. But oh for the good ol’ days of simply using that ancient bit of email technology…

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Those pesky time zones

One of the 21st century problems we face is instant communication. Not long ago, communication was limited to email. Before that there were scheduled phone calls and hand written letters. Before letters…pigeons?

But today we have iMessaging and FaceTime. I can text people in the States the same as I text people next door, for free, at any time of the day.

So where is the problem? The problem is that I live 6-9 hours ahead of many of those who are receiving my texts or answering our FaceTime. Once, we FaceTimed my parents at 10 am our time, which was a respectable hour for us. Their 3 am alarm clock was not quite so respectable. We are sorry.

So how do we capitalize on instantaneous communication (truly a gift from God) without suffering from sleep deprivation caused by the pinging, beeps, buzzes, and 80’s hair band ring tones?

Enter Do Not Disturb.

The following is for iOS users. Those using Android can figure it out on their own.

Go to Settings

Click on “Do Not Disturb”


Set your Scheduled time for times that work for you.


This way I don’t feel badly for sending you a text before lunch when you should be hitting your REM cycle.

Apps that can hook…and kill

In the world of technology, there are genuine blessings that God has given to us. Everything from language to hospitals, vehicles to copy machines, comes down from the Father of lights (Jas 1:17). They are gifts from the Creator. He has enabled those in his image to follow along, in their own limited way, by fashioning world-changing technology. But any blessing can become an idol when we allow it to dominate us and distract us from the Giver.

“When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us.” (Dyer, From the Garden to the City)

Technology can very easily dominate and distract us. I am laying aside the standard Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube apps, of which most people recognize the positives and negatives, pitfalls and snares.

Here are two very common apps which could hook someone…

 Vine: 6 second looping videos. You can pack a lot into 6 seconds, and it doesn’t take much searching, or a very thorough knowledge of human nature, to figure out what kind of videos are going around.


Snapchat: send a picture and then have it “disappear” after being viewed. This seems to cater to a desire to “live wild” but leave “little evidence.”


I am sure these apps have positive features and some redeeming quality, but so does having a tiger for your household pet.

Jas 1:12- 15 – “12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Family and Media: Questions to Ask

Family and Media

Here are some questions that you need to ask about your family and the devices you use. You can take these questions and go to the extreme and demand you see every message your teen sends out, but I doubt that is the danger that we are facing today. Rather, I think the extreme we see is the opposite and deadly danger, the hands off, ignorance is bliss approach.

So, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and let them start some conversations with your family.

1. Do I know how much my teen is using their device?

Perhaps for some circumstances a better question would be, “Can I think of times when my teen is not on their device?” Do they use it in the middle of the night? Are they using it during meals and other family times? Are they using it when they should be personally engaged with someone else or something else (like school work)?

How about you as a parent? Are they picking up their habits while watching you?

2. Do I know what my teen is using their device for?

Are they listening to music, watching movies, surfing the internet, texting friends, or reading books? Do you know what their devise is capable of? The answer is, their device is capable of pretty near anything. You may want to see what apps they have installed and what those apps are capable of doing (for anyone wondering, an “app” is short for “application” and it is a program that enables you to do something on your device.)

3. Do I know who my teen is listening to with their device?

Who are they following? Whose pages do they frequent? Who is sending a stream of information to your teen through their device and how is it shaping their worldview? With a doorway into everything and everyone in the world (good or bad) in their pocket, don’t be surprised when you see changes in your teen.

4. Do I know who my teen is communicating with on their device?

“Texting? We don’t even have a plan.” Wrong answer. Any Apple device can send instant messages through iMessage and a number of other apps. Android devices have plenty as well.

“Their iPod can’t make calls, right?” Wrong.

Are they writing comments, receiving pictures, or sending videos?


The Point:

The point of asking these questions is to get a better understanding of what is actually going on. Once you can make a determination of what is happening, you can be better prepared to guide your teen into wisdom.

Please don’t let these devices be chains which enslave you or your family. May they be blessings for your growth.

You, Your Family and the Internet by Clark

Clark, David. You, Your Family and the Internet: What Every Christian in the Digital Age Ought to Know (Lifestyles) (Lifestyles. Day One Publications, 2012. 

Point: The internet offers incredible opportunities along side of deadly detours. The believer must be wise and discerning in using the internet.

Path: Most of Clark’s relatively short chapters are divided into 5 sections. They begin with an overview of a particular area of the internet. They then show the positives and the negatives of that area. He then cites some biblical principles which can have a bearing on that area, followed by some practical advice. The chapter ends with Scripture to consider and questions to ask.

Sources: Helpful polls, statistics, and research.

Agreement: Without employing the scare tactic, or the slippery slope fallacy, the author pulls back the curtain on what most internet users have no idea.

Disagreement: Some of the practical advice (specifically those given in chapter 6) were shallow and behavioristic. In this case it was lacking even basic references to Christ and the Gospel.

Personal App: Am I using the internet to glorify God or gratify me?

Favorite Quote: “Fifty years ago, if someone told you to grab a mouse, point it, and double-click it to tweet, you might have been accused of cruelty to animals.” (Joel Beeke in the Preface)

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

If this review was helpful, let me know here.

What Everyone Else Wished You knew about Social Media

Tools are multifaceted. A tool such as a hammer can be used for a variety of purposes like pounding a nail, breaking a rock, or smashing a spider. A fork can be used to eat your spaghetti, or dislodge weeds in your garden. A Swiss Army Knife is multifaceted because there are many tools bundled into one package. One can cut bread, pop tabs, pull a splinter, and dislodge food between the teeth with any number of the tools gathered.


Properly using social media is growing more difficult because of the variety of ways people use the tool. As its uses expand, the platform changes to incorporate those uses. (We can say the same about the tools we use to access social media, such as computers, cell phones, and now glasses).

Here are two suggestions for Social Media use:

1. Pick a use, and stick with it.

Because of the changing horizons of tools and uses, each individual has to determine what the tool is meant for?

Twitter: the worst place on the internet to attempt debate.

— Brandon (@WarriorotCross) September 23, 2013

There are certain things that a tool is not capable of doing, at least in a way that leads to desirable results. We have all heard about the pocket knife arm amputation, but no one wants to be that guy.

How do you determine this? Here are several questions to ask yourself:

1. What can I say? 

2. How can I say it? Can I use words, a picture, or a 6 second video?

3. How much room do I have to develop what I want to say?

Pick your use, let it be known, and be consistent. Your “friends” will thank me. This is not to say that you can’t wear socks as mittens in a pinch, but don’t make a habit of it (that’s weird).


2. Pick an Audience and stick with it:

The audience and accessibility of the information determines what I post and what I will not. You can’t always determine who will read or view what you post, but you need to keep them in mind.

1. LinkedIn: If I used this, I would post information for those who want to read my resume.

2. Twitter: What I post on Twitter is what I wouldn’t mind pasting to my car as a bumper sticker. Anyone can read Twitter, and it will stay up there for a long time…even the 144 character rants.

3. Facebook (and Instagram): I post for those who want to look in my windows. This is sort of creepy, but then again, so are a lot of people on the internet. This information is partly “guarded” (insert 144 character rant on Facebook’s privacy policy), but I still don’t want everyone peeking in my windows. It is for this reason we don’t post a lot of pictures of our family, or any selfies (why would I want someone looking at me in my bathroom mirror?).

Some people post a lot to Facebook. That is fine. But that isn’t for everyone.

4. Blog: for those who want to read my calendar and notes. This information is open for anyone surfing the web, so I won’t be ranting about everything (except for the “You Said What?!” posts). Here though, I am able to explain myself with more than 144 letters, without relying on emoticons, and without those awful abbreviations (insert lol and dancing smiley face).

5. Dinner Table: for those who want to read my journal

If you come into my home, I have made myself vulnerable to you. You can see where I live, what I love, and how I eat. I am already opening up to you, and chances are good that you will learn more about me.

“The guiding principle is this: technology is for the table. This doesn’t mean that technology and the table are in opposition, only that everything we do with our tools—scheduling appointments on our phones, heating up meals in the microwave, reading updates from friends and family on social networks—should all be directed toward enriching the few, precious face-to-face encounters we have in our busy world” (Dyer, From the Garden to the City)

How should I use this tool? Everyone will answer in a different way. The celebrity, marketing agent, and soccer mom will all use Facebook in a different way for a different purpose. But, you have seen the mess that happens when one person tries to use it for everything.


The Takeaway:

You can’t have it all. You can’t use your fork to eat your spaghetti and hoe your garden at the same…or at least without making a mess and eating dirt. When you hold a tool, pick a use and pick an audience. We will all be happier.

How do you use certain social media tools?

Email Etiquette

I think our world would spin just a little bit more consistently if everyone who has an email account would agree to live by these few rules.

I, as holder of an email account and passing on the address thereof to others in a manner of seeking communication, and being of sound mind and able fingers, agree to the following articles under pain of death, or at least sharp criticism in the form of a specialized blog post:

I will:

Respond in an appropriate amount of time with an appropriate answer.

Not clog your email by responding when your email did not require a response, such as when you say “there is no need to respond.”

Not assume the question for which you asked my response was rhetorical, such as “When can we meet tomorrow?”

Not put you in my spam folder because you asked me numerous “rhetorical” questions.

Responding to all when you ask all of us to “respond to all.”

At least make an attempt at punctuation and capitalization.

Listen to my spell checker.

Turn off the signature that says “I sent this from my really expensive device that you are too poor to own while on my vacation to someplace you will never go.”

Make sure the caps lock is not in use SINCE YELLING AT YOU WILL NOT MAKE YOU RESPOND ANY FASTER.

Refuse to forward you any chain emails with blocks of addresses and numerous additional comments about testing whether you love God or your country because you don’t forward it again

Never use the abbreviation “IDK” as a response unless I have recently had a severe accident which left my entire body paralyzed and am responding to your message by using a chopstick between my teeth to type a message.


This is my attempt at speaking the truth in love…I’ll use sarcasm when love doesn’t seem to be cutting it.


Internet Church 2.0

Series Intro: What is a New Testament church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not something you “do.”  Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 11.12.14 AM

OverviewPart2Part3; Part4Part 5Part 6; Part 7

I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table


The preceding study has led us to an important question: “Can you have a purely online church?”

This is an important question not only because of where we are headed in this technological age, but where we already are. Believers around the world are coming together online. Are these gatherings NT local churches?

First, let’s consider the positive aspects of an “online church” (Many of these were offered by the technologically savvy at Liberty Baptist)

  • Easy to watch so it can be evangelistic
  • There can be continuity for those who move, have to travel, or are sick
  • Accessible
  • Affordable (no building is necessary to maintain, no expense for gas to drive in)
  • Safer for those in persecuting countries
  • Cross Cultural and Worldwide
  • Discipleship and Missions can be faster and cheaper
  • There is a wider selection to chose from
  • Translated easily
  • Not awkward to have to get up and leave
  • Not as attached

Now, let’s consider the negative aspects of an “online church”

  • No physical contact
  • Power outages
  • No physical outreach to your community
  • What about time zones?
  • Lack of accountability and commitment
  • Government tracking
  • Who leads?
  • How can you fellowship?
  • Church Discipline and discipleship cannot be exercised effectively
  • Some don’t have the technology

Now that we got those out of the way, let’s deal with realities. (So often discussions get clogged up with positive or negative results instead of dealing with truth claims. None of the positive elements make any difference if it can’t be a church, and none of the negative elements should stop us from calling it a “church” if that is in reality what it is.)

According to my definition – which we are still able to argue about if you want – a NT local church is composed of these essential components:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table

Now, which of these can we have online and which can we not?

  • You can have gospel believing individuals
  • They could have been baptized, but in order to be baptize the church has to stop being online and has to be physically present at some point.
  • They can covenant together
  • They can regularly meet around God’s Word
  • They can have legitimate leadership
  • In order to administer baptism and the Lord’s Table the church has to stop being online and has to be physically present at some point.
    • Baptism – see above
    • Lord’s Table – How is this distorting the picture of Christ’s death if we mail out the elements?


Can you have an actual online “church”? I would answer, No. At some point it has to come offline (baptism and Lord’s Supper). Can you have a church that primarily meets online? Yes, you can.

Now the question is, is that what is best for you?

You can have an online church in the same way you can have an online family. You can have a father who lives in China, a mother in South Africa, and children scattered throughout South America. Is it possible? Yes. Is it healthy, vibrant, and how it is meant to be? No. Why? Because that is not how we were made by God. We were made with physical bodies to be physically present in one place.

Jesus has given this incredible reality called the New Testament local church. It can have spots. It can have wrinkles and warts and less desirable parts, but it His Bride. He died for it and is giving it life.

How would you answer the question?

Why every church should buy their missionary an iDevice

iPad, iPod, or iPhone – how can we use this technology for missions?

(Warning: shameless endorsement of Apple products)

1. iMessaging – physical letters are important, emails are essential, but iMessaging is texting without any cost. It is set up through your email address but allows you to send immediate texts and photos. This is helpful because you can send out a quick text with a prayer request, a personal note, or a short thought. Sure, you could send an email, or write a card. That would be good. But having the ability to text a missionary can be a great way to learn about their everyday life. (If you don’t use yours, start by going to Settings>Messages>iMessage. Turn it on and then under “Send and Receive” you can set up what email addresses can be recognized as iMessaging addresses.)

2. FaceTime– think Skype without cost and hassle. It just works. I would suggest you connect with your missionaries in this way in order to appreciate any exceptional facial hair attempts or maybe they can encourage you to hit the treadmill.

3. Ebooks – there are kindles, nooks, and I actually heard about a paper copy of a book. Those have their place and can be great, but you can read books right on your iDevice. Buy them a book you have really appreciated and it arrives immediately. Have a book study with them. Get something that they can use there. You can also use Logos on your device. Logos is the Bible study software to own.

4. Audiobooks – both free (www.christianaudio.com each month; librivox.org) and paid (www.audible.com). This is great for all the waiting missionaries have to do in various avenues of life.

5. Dropbox – a quick way to swap files without using a cd, flash drive, floppy disk, or clay tablet. It may also keep them from having a nervous breakdown when their computer crashes.

What would you add?