Gospel Partnership

Missionaries are often known for their independent spirits. Of course this independence is indispensable as they raise support, live in a foreign culture, and attempt to establish churches. Yet in spite of this natural “independence,” missionaries may be the most dependent people on the planet.

First, they rely upon the support of churches to provide for their families and ministries. Once they reach the field they must rely upon others to teach them a new language and explain that culture’s unique customs. But most of all, missionaries are ultimately dependent upon the Lord to direct their steps, open doors for ministry, and produce fruit that will remain.

The apostle Paul understood how dependent he was upon local churches, and how valuable their partnership was. In his letter to the Philippian church, he expresses gratitude for a local congregation that cares deeply for him, and longs to minister to his needs. He writes:

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5)

I can echo Paul’s thankfulness to Lighthouse Baptist Church (our sending church).

IMG_0694

We had a wonderful privilege to worship together with them this past Sunday, and report back on our recent trip to the Philippines. We are so thankful for their partnership with us in the Gospel. Their love and care toward our family is humbling and overwhelming.

We had a full weekend which started out with our whole family joining the canvassing team where we invited families out to church.

IMG_0636

IMG_0642

Later that day, our children got to enjoy a hayride with the Kids 4 Truth group.

IMG_0644

On Sunday, we were so thankful to worship with our LBC family. It is always a blessing to hear the choir and passionate preaching from the Word of God.

IMG_0674IMG_0676

I am very thankful for Pastor Tobe Witmer. He has been a source of encouragement and support throughout this journey, and we are so glad to be under his ministry once again.

IMG_0677

Before leaving, the ladies gave us a huge box filled with lovingly hand-made gifts. The thoughtfulness of each gift was very touching. Each of the children got a gift that suited them perfectly: a horse for Kiersten, a piggy for Lydi, and a monkey for Jonas. They have been paying attention to what animal is our kids’ favorites.IMG_0684

I am coming to realize that this “partnership in the gospel” goes far deeper than simply offering financial support. Every missionary has emotional, relational, and spiritual needs, in addition to the financial. We are grateful for a home church that is doing everything they can to meet all of our needs.

A Grave and Glorious Burden

I concluded fourteen years of pastoral ministry on July 30. Over the course of the seven weeks since, I have preached every Sunday in six different churches. Anytime I have the privilege to open God’s Word, there is a mixture of emotions that range from fearful wonder to exuberant joy. Preparing to preach, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility in handling the Scriptures, knowing that I am not merely handling the words of men, but the very words of God. Every preacher—no matter who he is or where he proclaims it—remains under the same solemn charge to faithfully interpret and present God’s truth.

Yet in spite of the fact that I have preached every Sunday since leaving the pastorate, I have noticed something very strange over the course of these past weeks. The weight I feel waking up on a Sunday morning is completely different. Honestly, I am having a difficult time pinpointing the exact reasons for the change, but fundamentally I believe it comes down to the difference between being a preacher and being a pastor.

Pastoral ministry is a grave and glorious burden that is extremely difficult to describe to those who have never experienced it, yet very familiar to those who have. The sense of this weight has crushed many, while it has driven others to their knees in humble dependence upon the gracious Lord who counted them faithful by placing them in the middle of it (1 Timothy 1:12).

Pastors bear the grave and glorious burden to not only proclaim God’s Word, but to shepherd the hearts of those receiving it week in and week out. A pastor looks out upon a congregation that he has prayed for, wept over, celebrated and mourned with. He sees defects all round him, whether it is in his own glaring faults, in the church leadership, attenders, or just in the church building and property. He wonders if his ministry has been effective, is effective, or will be effective. He rejoices in lives that are transformed by the power of the Gospel, while mourning over those who turn aside from Christ.

Considering this grave and glorious burden, there are two passages I would like to bring to your attention. The first passage comes from Revelation 2. We commonly refer to the larger section of Revelation 2-3 as the letters to the seven churches. I am not out to change our designation of this passage, but something I would simply point out is that each of these letters are actually addressed to the “angel” or “messenger” of these churches rather than to the individual churches themselves. Certainly the “letters” were to be read within the churches, but the addressee is the messenger of the church. Beginning in Revelation 2:1 we read, “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…”

From my study of this text, I believe the “angels” of these churches to be the “pastors” of these seven local congregations in Asia Minor. For pastors, this single—often overlooked—fact alone offers an impacting challenge to recognize the responsibility they have in leading the congregations God entrusts to their care. Within the letters to each church, Jesus will either commend or condemn them (and for most of the churches there will be a combination of the two). But what I take away from what Jesus has to say (since these commendations and condemnations are addressed to the pastor) is that it is a pastor’s responsibility—his grave and glorious burden—to labor within His congregation until Christ is formed in them (Galatians 4:17).

A final text that has been a challenge to me, as well as a source of encouragement, over the course of my pastoral ministry comes from 1 Peter 5:

“1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pet. 5:1-4 KJV)

Peter begins by finding common ground with the pastors that are a part of his audience. To those pastors he is basically saying, “We are in the same boat. I—as a pastor—am exhorting each of the pastors who reads this.” Thankfully this inspired exhortation has been preserved to challenge and encourage pastors down through the ages to this very day. We can directly apply what Peter had to say to the pastors within the first century church to pastors in the twenty-first century church.

Within the middle of Peter’s charge, he reminds pastors that the burden of leading God’s flock is not to be borne by constraint (by force), but willingly (voluntarily) with a ready mind (eagerness). You may ask, “Who in their right mind would take upon themselves this enormous burden?” First of all, the answer is men like Peter who have witnessed (and have been transformed by) the sufferings of Christ. Certainly we did not witness Jesus’ sufferings with our physical eyes, but those who come to faith in Christ witness His sufferings with greater force than anything that can be seen with corporal eyes.

But Peter does not solely focus on suffering. In fact, when Peter ends out his charge to pastors, suffering is but a distant memory. His focus permanently shifts to glory. I love how glory serves as bookends to this passage. In verse one, even though we are witnesses of the sufferings of Christ, we are also partakers of the glory that shall be revealed. And finally, we are given a promise that every faithful pastor should cling to: When the chief Shepherd shall appear, you will receive a crown of glory that will never fade.

For this reason, I call the work of shepherding God’s flock a “grave and glorious burden.” Sometimes the weight of this calling seems to be more than a man can bear. Yet if that man casts himself in humble dependence upon God’s grace and keeps an eye on the glory that is to be revealed, and the crown that awaits him, he will find strength for his labors and joy to eagerly shepherd the flock.

As I have expressed before, one of our highest goals in this period of raising support is to encourage pastors, their wives and their families. I pray that God will encourage every pastor that reads this post. Our faithfulness to the Lord truly matters. The example we leave with our children will have an eternal impact. May God grant grace so that we will finish the course he has laid before us with joy to testify of our Savior.

 

Email Subscription

If you have not already, please take a moment to subscribe to our website. This will allow you to automatically receive updates and posts directly to your email inbox.

You can subscribe by going to the home page on our website and inputting your email address into the field where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.” After typing your email, click the “Follow” button. You will then receive an email confirming your subscription. Once you click the “Accept” button in that email you will be all set. (Please note, sometimes this email will show up in your “Junk Folder” or “Social Tab,” so if it does not come through you can first check one of those places).

Thank you once more for your encouragement and support!

 

 

On Display

A missionary’s “display” is an important component of their presentation. Our display is no different. We have a table-top banner showing who we are, the field we are going to, and the place we will serve. It also includes information about the church we are sent out from (Lighthouse Baptist Church, Newark, DE), and the missions agency we serve under (Pacific Rim Missions International).

On our display you will find our prayer cards, the Philippine flag, Filipino Pesos (their currency), and a couple of Gospel pamphlets in Illongo (their dialect). We also have a couple of items we were able to pick up during our trip to the Philippines this past month. These include a couple of mats, as well as a miniature tricycle and Jeepney.

Each of these items opens up the door to numerous conversations about the Philippines, which gives us the opportunity to share our excitement about God’s call upon our lives. We hope you will be able to stop by our display at one of the churches we will be visiting over the coming months!IMG_0557

IMG_0559

IMG_0558

Impacting Devotional Thought from Sarah

This is an impacting devotional thought Sarah wrote:

If God can do the impossible, why is it that sometimes it seems that He doesn't?

Mark 9:14-29 tells of a man whose son was demon-possessed and often thrown into the fire or water by the demon within. This father had asked the disciples to help, but they could not. Jesus came and asked if the father believed He could heal his son. The father admitted that yes, he believed, but confessed that he needed Jesus to help with his unbelief. Jesus then heals the boy and the disciples later ask why they could not do this miracle. Jesus explains that this kind can not be healed except by prayer and fasting.

I am rebuked by my own struggle to make things happen while not relying fully on God. He calls for selflessness and dependence upon Him. Often I just want God to make it easy and change my circumstances, but instead He calls me to give up my own ambitions or way of doing things for simple obedience to Him. Then He calls me to seek His face all the more, asking for His will to be done, not my own. When I am yielded I see amazing things happen because I am seeking His help and His will, but when I am self-consumed, nothing goes the way I plan.

"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

Reaching our Goals

Having just returned from our trip to the Philippines this past week, yesterday (Sunday) was our first opportunity to present our ministry in a church (other than our sending church). As Sarah and I have talked about our “goals” for this period of raising support we have a number in mind:

1. We long to truly encourage pastors, pastors’ wives, and their families.

2. We desire to be a help and blessing to churches as we preach, teach, and share the Gospel.

3. We want our children to enjoy getting to meet new people, experience new adventures, and grow in ministering to others.

4. We hope to share our excitement about the work in the Philippines, and get others excited about it as well. We also look forward to having a growing prayer base of those who subscribe to our blog and keep up to date on the ministry God has called us to.

5. We will seek to rest in God’s provisions as we raise the financial support needed to send us to the Philippines.

Looking back on the day in light of our goals, it was a smashing success.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to present our ministry at Bethel Bible Church (Berwick, PA). IMG_0563

Over the years I have been very thankful for Pastor Buddy Thomas’ friendship, as Sarah has been for Rebecca’s. This is a couple who is faithfully serving the Lord. It was a blessing to preach at Bethel yesterday in both Sunday school and the morning worship service. We were excited to learn that a young woman trusted Christ after the morning service!

IMG_0594

Following a wonderful morning together, we joined the Thomas’ for a delicious lunch. Our children spent the entire afternoon playing with the Thomas children. You can see from the pictures that they had a blast!

IMG_0573

IMG_0587IMG_0583

We are so thankful to a great start!

Reminders of God’s Promises

The lifeblood of Christianity is faith in the promises of God. It is what starts us out on the journey of Christian life, and it is what sustains us when dark clouds of fear and despair overshadow our way. A person first becomes a Christian when he clings to the promise of eternal life offered through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus. Although people complicate salvation by teaching that it is a process, or something that can only be obtained after completing certain steps, the Bible is clear that salvation is a gift received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). “It is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Romans 4:16). But where do we place our faith? The Bible affords only one answer: In Jesus Christ. We rest our hope in the promise of eternal life offered to all who will come to faith in Jesus Christ (John 6:37). We see this “promise of eternal life” in Titus 1. In the opening verse, Paul speaks of the “faith of God’s elect,” and the “acknowledging of the truth” (Titus 1:1). He then goes on (in the very next verse) to lay the foundation upon which our faith is built: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).

You could invest plenty of time examining this particular verse, but I would draw your attention to the phrase, “God, that cannot lie, promised.” Our confidence (which is the biblical definition of “hope” by the way) is based upon a promise God makes (eternal life) and is guaranteed by as aspect of God’s character (He cannot lie). Have you come to place your hope in Jesus Christ?

God’s promises, however, do not just relate to salvation. We can find countless other promises made throughout Scripture. One of the earliest promises is found in Genesis 9. Immediately after the flood, God makes a covenant (a promise) with Noah that He will never destroy the whole earth again with a flood. In spite of raging hurricanes and tsunamis, this promise has held true for thousands of years. This promise in Genesis 9 is then confirmed with a beautiful symbol: the rainbow.

This morning as I was walking out of the store with Jonas, we looked up and saw a stunning rainbow reaching across the sky. Although when I see a rainbow, I recognize that it relates to a very narrow promise (i.e. that God will never flood the entire world again), I believe we can make a broader application as well. A rainbow reminds us that God will keep, not just the promise He made to Noah, but every promise He has made throughout all time.

This was a reminder I needed this morning. We had a wonderful trip to the Philippines, but there yet remains so much in our immediate future that could cause me to despair. The uncertainties of finances, scheduling meetings, or a host of other questions could paralyze me with fear. The times I am anxious, uncertain, wavering, or any number of unhealthy responses to life are the times I am not clinging to the promises of God. The promises of God serve as an anchor to our soul. Without this anchor we are set adrift upon life’s tumultuous seas without direction or hope. For this reason, having faith in specific promises God has made is vital for my spiritual health. Learning to lean upon these promises is my lifeblood. May God give grace to rest in His promises, knowing that He is faithful and true. img_0546

Driving

Ever wonder what it is like to drive in the Philippines? Take a look at this video and you can find out! I really enjoyed driving in and around Bacolod. It was a blessing to have our own vehicle to help us get acclimated to the area and be able to come and go as needed. And it was fun to drive a stick (something I had not done in 15+ years). In spite of the craziness of driving in the Philippines, I did not witness a single accident. Vehicles drive relatively slow (with all of the tricycles and Jeepneys on the road), and even on open stretches of highway outside of the city, I generally kept under 80 kph (about 50 mph) and only very rarely went above 100 kph (about 62 mph).

 

 

A Memorable Final Day

Our last full day here in the Philippines was packed with memorable moments and joyful fellowship. We have truly enjoyed getting to know Pastor Callejas and his family. Tonight they treated us to some delicious pizza after the evening service!

IMG_0460

Our children really enjoyed getting to know everyone. Micah liked talking about spiders, reptiles, snakes and a whole host of other critters with Pastor Callejas’ three sons. He was especially fascinated to hear about T.J.’s tarantula collection.

IMG_0466

IMG_0476

Earlier this morning, as well as tonight, I had the privilege of speaking at First Sunshine Baptist Church, Pastor Callejas’ congregation. This wonderful group of believers are committed to faithfully serving the Lord.

IMG_0435

Our kids had the opportunity to join in the Sunday School at First Sunshine and were the center of attention!

IMG_0427

IMG_0426

Of course, all of this transpired today (Sunday), but we also had a very memorable final night at Haven of Grace with the local children on Saturday. Since the local children knew Saturday was our final full day staying at the camp, they were at our door at 7:30am. They stayed throughout the day and asked if we might have a campfire on the beach that night. It was a lot of fun, and certainly a night we will not soon forget.IMG_0403

In the picture below, Micah is holding a small fish he caught in one of the pools of water on the beach side of the breakers.

IMG_0413

Here Vincent is proudly displaying a crab he caught on the beach.

IMG_0402

This has certainly been a memorable 24 hours to cap off a memorable trip! We will appreciate your prayers for us as we leave early tomorrow for the States.