Bad News, Good News, and Ray Rice

The revelation of a video this week of Ray Rice hitting and knocking out his then fiancé has caused quite a stir. No doubt, his actions are deplorable and worthy of punishment. In fact, the NFL has suspended him indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens have released him from their roster. Some have questioned whether or not he will ever play in the NFL again.

But this post is not about sports.

The thing that grabs my attention is how quickly people in general have jumped on Ray Rice and condemned him. Again, his actions are worthy of condemnation. Yet, it is interesting the sins that our culture deems deplorable (and seemingly unforgivable) and those that it seems to just overlook.

I think this is more than just varying morals. Sure, the Bible condemns things that our culture has willingly accepted as normal and okay (homosexuality being the big one that comes to mind). But even actions that most in our culture would agree are not okay hardly garner the response that Rice’s actions did. How many NFL players have cheated on their wives? How many have used illegal drugs? I am not going to speculate a guess but I haven’t heard of players being fired for adultery. It seems, our culture has a standard but that standard is in constant flux. 

Regardless, the situation is far worse than Ray Rice, and all of us, can imagine. Why? Because the standard is not, ‘don’t commit an offense that the culture deems deplorable.’ The standard is set by God and it requires perfection. It requires not only never hitting your fiancé, but not even having the desire to do so in your heart or mind. It require not only not committing adultery, but not even having a lustful thought. By our holy God’s perfect standard, we all have a lifetime of deplorable actions to account for. And the Bible says that eternal death and punishment are what sinners deserve. Being suspended and losing your source of livelihood may seem bad, but standing before a holy God with a lifetime record of sin is far worse.

Yet, our hope is far greater than we could ever imagine. There seems to be little hope of away out of this for Ray Rice. When our culture finally does condemn sin, we go all the way and seem to offer no hope of reconciliation (a host of examples could be given here). But we are choosy about what sins we really condemn, God is not. Indeed we are all in the same situation of having not met God’s perfect standard and there seems to be little hope for us as well.

We need a way out. But a lifetime of not hitting your fiancé will not make up for even that one incident. Setting up a foundation that helps out battered women and being really nice to people will not make up for even that one incident, let alone a full record of other wrongdoings. No, God’s requirement is perfection and once you are no longer perfect you can’t undo it.

This is why the message of Jesus Christ is called good news. Really, that is underselling it. In the end, it is the only news, the supreme news, the life-saving, life-transforming news. God, in his love, sent his son Jesus Christ to live on this earth. He, unlike us, never sinned. He never hit a woman nor desired to do so. Yet, he died a criminal’s death. He died a death like he had committed many sins. Why? The Bible says that for anyone who turns from their sin and puts their faith in Christ, his death atones for theirs. Meaning, he dies in our place. On the cross he took on the sin of all of his people. From lying to punching your fiancé to murder. He paid the penalty for that sin.

The news is far greater than we can imagine because we have a savior who stood in our place if we will trust in him. Ray Rice, don’t try to make up for what you did by just telling people you were sorry or touting out a new PR campaign. That may atone for your sin in the culture, but it will never make you right with your creator. Trust in Christ and his payment of your sin on the cross. Trust that he gives new life, new motives, new desires.

In the end, everyone of us is in the same position before God. Maybe we haven’t done what he did, but we have in some way broken the law of God. Still, our only hope is the same.

Trust in Christ.


Interpreting the Bible in Panama

Students apply interpretive principles they are learning.

Students apply interpretive principles they are learning.

“If the Bible truly is the word of God, then we need to seek to understand and interpret it rightly.”

This was the premise that guided our week of training in Panama early in August. About 45 students, split between a morning class in the small town of Capira, and an evening class just a short walk from the Panama Canal, gathered to learn solid principles for interpreting the Bible.

The makeup of these classes varies from pastors serving or desiring to serve in remote places, to faithful women seeking to share Christ in their neighborhoods, to young professionals who want to learn how to study the Bible faithfully. One man, who attended the morning class in Capira, has only been a believer for two months. Yet, here he was, learning to interpret Scripture faithfully and apply it rightly. I was struck by the consideration that if every new believer learned these principles, how healthy our churches would be!

We began each day by teaching Biblical interpretive principles and why they are important. However, from the beginning, we reminded the participants that we were there for more than just teaching head knowledge. We wanted them to practice what they were learning and by applying it we prayed their hearts would be drawn closer to God. Each day we assigned the class a text from the Bible and asked them to apply the principles we were teaching. This was truly encouraging to witness! Here were Christians from various backgrounds and education levels studying the Scriptures deeply and seeking to understand them rightly. There were times when this was a struggle. But, as their understanding grew, you could sense a renewed passion to study and apply the Scriptures.

In addition to Biblical interpretation, one of our teaching team members, Andres, taught on the spiritual discipline of evangelism. Andres taught on the Biblical motivation for evangelism and some practical things to consider. Here again our goal was not just to give head knowledge about evangelism but to see that knowledge lead to action. On the final day students were able to share stories of opportunities they’d had to share the gospel recently. Praise God for their faithfulness!

Panama is a country made up of various indigenous tribes. Some of these tribes extend into other countries where those groups remain unreached with the gospel. At least two of these tribes were represented in the training sessions. Our hope is that not only will they take what they are learning back to their own communities, but also that God will use them to take his truth into neighboring countries and into unreached tribes.

We are reminded then, of the vision of Reaching and Teaching Ministries that comes from 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul writes this to Timothy, “…What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” We pray that God will allow the principles taught this week to be repeated and taught over and over again and that the church in Panama, and beyond, will be strengthened.




Over the last year and a half Kami and I have been thinking through and praying about how God might have us be more directly involved in missions. We believe God has called us to that through his word and through the desires and passions he has given us. There have been times throughout that year and half that we thought we were to be on the field cross-culturally but those opportunities never developed. Our desire is to be involved in the raising up of others to deeper involvement in missions.

A few months ago we began talking with Reaching and Teaching International Ministries (RTIM). This ministry exists to disciple believers and train pastors in culturally appropriate ways all over the world. I went on a short term training trip with Dr. David Sills, the founder and president of RTIM, back in January and my desire to be a part of this organization was confirmed. There is some really great work being done and the needs are clear.

Over the next several months we will be transitioning to be on staff full time with RTIM. My role as Executive Director of Church Relations will be to connect churches in the U.S. with the ever growing training sites of RTIM. There are many places where believers are asking for the training we offer, but there is a huge need for churches and leaders to go and do the training. My hope is to partner churches with each of our training sites so that the work can be expanded.

Part of joining the staff of RTIM includes raising our own support, just as missionaries on the field do. So, over the next several months we will be on that mission. Our goal and prayer is to be 100% by the end of October and be a part of an RTIM training in Brazil in November. For the mean time, I will continue serving Redeemer Church as Executive Pastor and as an Elder. The elders of Redeemer have been encouraging and supportive and we will work together for a smooth transition when that time comes. We are grateful to be a part of an encouraging and kingdom-focused church.

Your prayers throughout this journey would be greatly appreciated. For more information on Reaching and Teaching International Ministries you can visit reachingandteaching.org. If you are interested in partnering with us on this journey we would love to sit down and share our vision and goals! Please email me at jason.wright@reachingandteaching.org and we can make that happen.

We are excited and humbled to be a part of RTIM and pray that God uses us for his glory among all nations.


Trust in God’s Word

DSC_0224“God give me humility, give me clarity, and give me confidence in Your word!” That was the prayer I prayed over and over again last week as I served with Reaching and Teaching in Panama.

This was my first trip with Reaching and Teaching and there were many questions that crossed my mind as we began. Are the people following what I am saying? Am I really teaching them anything new? What if I say something culturally inappropriate?

We taught two different groups over the week. The morning group, which met at a church in Capira, was made up of a good mix of about 40 men and women of all ages. There were young men preparing to be church planters as well as older believers longing for more teaching. It was encouraging how eager the participants were to receive the teaching. The questions that were asked throughout our time made it clear that the people were being challenged and really thinking through what they were being taught.

This class was organized by IMB missionary Kenny M. Over and over again he expressed his thanks because of how much this training was needed and really serving the church there. It is encouraging to know that we were able to be a positive in his work there and meet a very real need.

The evening class met at the First Baptist Church of Balboa. This group of about 30 was also quite diverse and, like the morning class, they were eager to learn. As we taught on basic Christian doctrine it was evident that the students were trying to apply what they were learning to every day issues. Their questions during the Q&A time made this clear. The theology we were learning about was not something that was merely challenging them intellectually it was also impacting their hearts. At other times their questions revealed that they weren’t quite sure that what we were teaching was quite right. But, they were thinking it through and searching the Scriptures.

At the end of one teaching session a man who happened to speak some English approached me. His questions ranged from how to deal with youth who were no longer interested in church to women serving as pastors. He mentioned things he had heard on TV or at other churches that were not biblically accurate. I did my very best to give answers based on God’s word, the highest authority. He left seeming satisfied but I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of answers he might have found elsewhere or what he would have taught others had he not been shown biblical truth.

Other questions revealed the ongoing influence the Roman Catholic Church has on believers and pastors in Panama. They truly desire to understand and obey the Scriptures but when what they have been taught contradicts God’s word they struggle. This is a struggle that will continue but these leaders must repeatedly be shown the truth of the Bible and the need to cling to it above all else.

I was privileged to be on this trip with Dr. David Sills. Dr. Sills is clearly passionate about teaching and training church leaders anywhere and everywhere. After one teaching session he was more energized afterwards than when he began! This clearly is his passion and it is contagious.

When I consider the great need that exists for pastors and other leaders to be trained in the Word and that God would use a simple servant like me I am overwhelmed! God is sovereign and he will accomplish his purposes. He will build and train his church. And he will use whomever he chooses. I praise God that he chose to use me in such a way on this trip.

As I reflect on the week it is evident that God answered my prayer over and over again. My fears and questions were laid to rest. My hope was not in my ability to teach but in God’s word. I am confident in the words of God found in Isaiah 55:10-11:


For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven 

and do not return there but water the earth, 

making it bring forth and sprout, 

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 

it shall not return to me empty, 

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


Reaching and Teaching in Panama

imageThis week I am serving along side Dr. David Sills teaching and training pastors in Panama. Dr. Sills is the President of Reaching and Teaching International Ministries and is also a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Reaching and Teaching sends short term teams around the world to teach and train pastors and other believers in basic Christian doctrine. In many places, formal seminary training is not available and in places where it is, the cost, distance, education requirements, or poor doctrine make it a non-option.

So, Reaching and Teaching provides necessary training to ensure that as the gospel spreads it is being built upon sound doctrine.

This week we are teaching in two locations in and around Panama.

The first group meets for about four hours in the morning time in a small church building outside of the city. This group is a made up of over thirty men and women from a variety of ages. There are many young men present who the IMB missionary is raising up to plant churches out of the city. It is clear that they have a desire to know Scripture deeply but the kind of training we are offering is not generally available. We are teaching through a very basic systematic theology.

Today I taught this group on prayer and sin. There were several good questions that arose after my teaching time which I pray shows they are understanding and processing the information well.

The second group meets for about five hours in the evening at the Primera Iglesia Bautista Balboa (First Baptist Church of Balboa). The church is located right across the street from the Panama Canal Administration building. The group meeting here is made up of about twenty men and women. Many are pastors or evangelists while others are church members desiring deeper training. There is one man here who is a church planter that neither reads nor writes. Yet, he listens very well and desires to learn.

Tonight I was tasked with teaching this group on the doctrine of sin. Some very good questions and discussion arose out of this time. Thankfully, Dr. Sills, who is fluent in Spanish, was able to field most of them and answered them very well. Again, these questions are a sign that they are understanding and seeking to apply doctrine to real life situations.

Our daily schedule is pretty taxing. Please pray for strength. Especially pray for Dr. Sills who is teaching in both locations and also translating for me in the morning sessions.

We pray we will leave behind sound doctrine and a desire to rely solely on the authority of Scripture.


A Dangerous Look at the God of the Bible (Book Review)

Stephen Altrogge is on a mission to dismantle our safe comfortable view of Jesus. The “nicely tanned, unblemished skin,” blue-eyed Jesus. Those pictures of Jesus and all that it brings us to believe about him, Altrogge argues, are false. Not only are they false they are irrelevant to people and are causing them to leave the church.

This book is a fun and dangerous journey to replace our false and often weak view of God with a biblical view of God. As Altrogge says, we need to take God out of the box that we have so neatly placed him in and worship him for who he truly is.

Altrogge (re)introduces us to a God who pursues whores, kills people, and most importantly saves his people from their sin.

Altrogge is an engaging and appropriately humorous author who tackles an important issue. The call to worship the God of the BIble for who he truly is much needed in our day. Too many people are worshipping a god they have created in their minds and we are reminded in this book that the God of the Bible is far more glorious than anything we could imagine.

I hope that those who read it will be stunned (maybe again) by this Untamable God and may he be glorified!


Check it out on Kindle


Reconciliation and the Gospel

reconciliationAny time there is conflict of any kind whether it be in the heart, in the home, or in the church it may be that we have our doubts about reconciliation. Maybe the person or group we are in conflict with said or did something so terrible in our eyes that we cannot imagine a situation in which reconciliation is possible.

Christians who have been saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ ought not to have such a attitude. For, before Christ, we were enemies of God because of our sin. We were deserving of his wrath and judgment and unable to bring about reconciliation. But God in his love reconciled us to himself “by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

Further, since we have been reconciled to God through Christ we now have the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). He has entrusted to us the “message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). So as a result of our own reconciliation with God we are now to be reconciled with others.

So what about the person with whom reconciliation seems impossible? Well, do we believe in the power of Christ to save the worst of sinners? Do we believe that even we, who were enemies of God, have now been restored? If so, we must believe that reconciliation with others is possible even if it seems difficult or impossible to us.

The gospel frees us to reconcile with others. Part of our unwillingness to reconcile and unbelief that it is possible comes from fear in our own hearts. We fear that if we reconcile with people who have wronged us we are saying that what they did is okay. We fear that those whose sin has affected us will get off free and we want them to pay a price. Left to ourselves we will never truly reconcile and restore relationships but rather ride the wave to bitterness and cynicism.

But the gospel guards us from such a path. If we believe the gospel we are freed from worrying about ourselves. We are reminded that our own sin was paid for by Christ and we didn’t get what we deserved and in the same way we should reconcile to others. We are freed from the deception that we must prove that we were right and they were wrong because our identity is not found in our ‘rightness’ but in Christ.

At the end of the day we must be willing to reconcile with others even if it seems difficult or impossible. Because, without Christ, our own reconciliation to God was impossible. Our reconciliation to God depends on our trust in the work of Christ. And our reconciliation to others who have wronged us depends not on our ability but on our trust in the work of Christ.

So, can you reconcile to that person who drug your character to through the mud? Can you reconcile with that group of people who slandered and criticized you and your family? Can you be reconciled to the spouse or family member who hurt you? On your own strength…never. But with the power of the gospel and trust in the work of Christ you can.


Romans 12:14-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 


Racism and the Generosity of the Gospel


In recent weeks people like Paula Deen and Riley Cooper have come under intense scrutiny for their use of racial slurs. The stories are not identical (Deen was accused of using the word years ago, Cooper was more recently caught on video using it) but both revealed much about our culture and what we are/are not willing to tolerate.

With these stories on my mind, I ran across these words in J.D. Greear’s book, Breaking the Islam Code. I think they are worthy of sharing…

The sin of racism arises, ultimately, out of insecurity. The racist feels the need to look down on other people (in his case, a whole race of people) to bolster his own self-image. If you try to change the racist by saying, “Don’t be a racist, because racists are bad people,” you are implying to him that bad people will be rejected. And if he wants to avoid rejection, he should conform to the moral behavior that will gain him acceptance. You are appealing to his fear and insecurity—the very things that prompted the racism to begin with!

The gospel, on the other hand, attempts to cure the sin of racism not by threatening rejection, but by showing us the unconditional acceptance we have received in the cross. How could those of us who have been accepted by Christ refuse to accept others? This is what happened with the apostle Peter. Peter had some racist tendencies, believing Gentiles to be inferior to Jews. When Paul confronted Peter, he did not threaten him with rejection. Rather, he said, “Peter, you were accepted by Christ when you were an outsider. How could you then refuse to receive other outsiders?” The generosity of the gospel, note fear of rejection, was Peter’s catalyst for change.


Some Thoughts from SBC 2013


The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ended just one week ago. I was able to attend this year’s convention and here are a few quick thoughts.

More Equipping, Less Business

As a church staff person who has limited time to attend conferences, etc. I try to make the best use of that time. I generally pick conferences that will teach, grow, and train me. Listening to debates on resolutions and amendments to said resolutions doesn’t necessarily meet that criteria. I don’t mean to say that these are unimportant or a waste of time its just a matter of good versus best.

That being said, I often found myself hanging around the Cooperative Program stage where interviews and panel discussions on a variety of topics were held. The topics ranged from missions to church planting to author interviews. The participants included SBC entity heads, pastors, and college students.

Most of the discussions I was able to watch were encouraging and contributed to the teach, grow, and train criteria I mentioned above.

I think that we could do much more of this at the SBC meeting. Of course, we have to do business, that is part of it. But let us minor on business and major on equipping pastors and church staff who limited time to be away from their ministries and churches.


Solid Leadership

One of the panel discussions I watched included Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee, Tom Eliff, president of the IMB, and Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB. This was such an encouraging conversation to watch. These men are doing a great job of leading their respective organizations. There is room to grow but from what I saw as each gave their reports, they are taking the job seriously and working hard. They are focused on the great commission and seem to be more concerned with the gospel than with denominational superiority.

I am hopeful about the future of the SBC and these entities because God has placed good, solid men in leadership.


Back to Basics

While I am hopeful about the future, it is also clear that some things are going to have to change. Tom Elliff’s report about the IMB and the financial reality should cause Southern Baptist’s to recall the original purpose of our convention. We cooperate together for the sake of the gospel and for its proclamation to the end of the earth. With the resources available in SBC churches we should have more money than missionairies. Instead, we have more missionaries willing to go than we have money to send them.

Tom Elliff has called on the Executive Committee to seriously look at funding issues and come up with ways to turn this trend around (among other things). I pray that SBC churches and entities will have a renewed desire to cooperate together for the spread of the gospel among all peoples.




Further reading….

I found Tim Brister’s thoughts and open letter to Frank Page and the Executive Committee worth while. I join him in urging for change at future annual meetings.


Stories of a Global God


The Insanity of God may sound like a strange title for a book that seeks to glorify God, but once you read the stories enclosed in this work, you will understand.

Nik Ripken (whose name is changed for security purposes) and his family started with missionary work in Malawi in the 1980’s. Through a series of events Nik was able to be involved with relief work in war-torn Somaliland long before the United States or United Nations got involved. What he saw and experienced in that desperate place made a lasting impact on his life.

After seeing persecution of Christians face to face he decided to travel the world and discover what characteristics of the church allowed it to survive and even flourish in the midst of such conditions.

Most of the book, then, is spent chronicling the stories of Christians from all over the world that experienced persecution. These accounts are stunning. The faithfulness of these believers despite their conditions is humbling. How little persecution we in the West endure, yet how weak our faith is. This book will certainly cause you to examine your own relationship and commitment to Christ and his church.

There are many stories from this book I could share but of the ones that caused me to stop and say, “Wow!” this was the most stunning.

Ripken is lead to a remote, rural area in China where he is able to meet with many leaders from a persecuted house church movement. He is undoubtedly the first non-Chinese believer they have met. Once man asks, “Do the people in other countries also know about Jesus – or is He still known only in China?”(pg. 242) That question alone is incredible!

Ripken goes on to share about how there are believers in other countries and that in America these believers pray for them, the persecuted Chinese. Later that night a young lady asked him, “Since Jesus is known in other countries, are the believers there persecuted like we are?” (pg. 243) Nik shared about believers in two Islamic countries and their experiences under great persecution. Suddenly, the crowd of Chinese believers was stunningly silent. The night ended there.

The next morning Nik was awakened to the sound of screaming and yelling. His first thought was that the police had come and were arresting the house church leaders. Soon he discovered though, that the sound he was hearing was that of dozens of Chinese believers crying and shouting prayers to God for believers in the two Islamic countries he had mentioned the night before. One man explained the scene, “They were so moved by what you shared last night about believers who were truly persecuted, that they have vowed before God that they will get up an hour earlier every morning to pray for those Muslim-background believers that you told them about…until Jesus is known throughout their countries!.” (pg. 244)

The Insanity of God is filled with stories just like this. They will deepen your faith, challenge your prayer life, and cause you to worship anew the great, mighty, and global God we serve.