Sep 2, 2014

Praying For Peace 2

It seems we have had quite a bit of conflict here in Peru lately. This has led me to seek resources to help deal with the conflicts. Of course the first step should always be to fall on our knees in prayer. I was also reminded of a ministry I learned about in seminary, Peacemakers. I came across an article on their website titled getting to the heart of conflict. It is also a chapter in the book by Ken Sande, The Peacemaker. He points out one key problem in conflict is that the root is unmet desire and makes reference to James 4:1-3. 
We tend to respond to conflict by pointing to the other persons fault, but Sande reminds us what God said through James that the problem starts with our own idolatry. When we are seeking our own desires and making idols out of them, we respond with conflict. All conflict is not bad, but far too often I see conflict as the result of a lack of recognizing ones own faults and being quick to judge and condemn the others. 

My prayer for peace is that we would repent of our pride and idolatry and humbly seek to build each other up in Christ. May God grant us a culture of peace by living out repentance and faith in the folly of preaching the cross.

Aug 18, 2014

Praying for Peace

A few weeks ago it was my turn to preach in our extension church in Parque Industrial. This is the place that I have described before as being like the wild west. There are literally gangs fighting over territory and sandy roads and adobe walls. When I showed up after picking up one of the young men from Arevalo, a police car pulled me over to check my documents. He seemed surprised to hear that there was a church out there. I was surprised to see a police man out there. We greeted pastor Percy and he began to tell us that the gangs were going up on the "protection" price of the buses and that they had even planted bombs at a couple of corner stores trying to scare them into paying. I began to think, "how am I going to preach to this situation?"

Thankfully the Lord had already answered my prayer in that I had chosen to preach from one of the readings from the lectionary, Psalm 17.  This was one of those weeks where too many things invaded on my time to prepare for preaching and I was feeling particularly unprepared so I found myself, an hour before time to leave Sunday afternoon, on my knees begging for God's grace to be able to faithfully preach his word to this congregation.  I had spent time studying the passage and organizing my thoughts but had barely gotten to the point of trying to write out the sermon in an understandable manner.

As I began to preach the passage and attempt to explain how we can apply David's cry for God's ear, protection from the wicked and his confidence in God's covenant faithfulness, it seemed that God gave me an unction that I had not felt before in preaching. I was thankful to have been able to learn from several commentaries how David made reference to the song of Moses after crossing the red sea as well as the song of Moses at the end of his life which make clear references to God's covenant faithfulness and how David applied his faith to take confidence that God is the same God in David's time who rescued Israel from Pharaoh's army. We can also place our faith in God who is the same God that rescued David from his enemies to trust that God will rescue us from the gangs around us. I still have a long way to go to become a better preacher but one thing I learned from this is that, I am nothing without spending much time on my knees before preaching. Serious study is important to understand the truth of what I am preaching, but serious prayer is just as important.

This experience of seeking God's protection in the midst of the wicked came home a lot closer this past week. This was not only a congregation where I don't live who I went to visit on a Sunday evening. This was in front of my house. My daughter was being dropped off from school by a new friend who we started carpooling with. As Meg was talking with them and was about to turn into the house she noticed a man with a gun walking up. Before she could get her friend inside she realized they were after her friend and father in the car. They took their phones and all their valuables in the car, while threatening the lives of the children in the car. Meg memorized their license plate number as they were leaving but they also saw that she was getting it. Now where do we turn for help and protection? The police are being bribed every day. Many friends encourage us not to report the license plate because the thieves will come back for vengeance. Our friends did report the incident but the police gave no confidence that anything would happen. Now what do we do? Do we believe that God is the same God as David believed in Psalm 17. Do we let the fear of man keep us from going outside again? It is a lot harder to put into practice that it is to preach.  Whatever we do, we can be sure that God is the same God who rescued Israel from Egypt. God is the same God who protected David from Saul. God is real and he is present and he is the God who keeps his covenants. Even if he lets bad things happen, we can be sure that he is in control and that he is good. So we put our trust in his vengeance and justice and pray that his Kingdom come quickly.  Then we get back to work in seeking to bring his kingdom here on earth through the gospel and power of Jesus Christ demonstrated in weakness, at the same time praying for boldness and for help in our unbelief.

Jul 9, 2014

Praying for laborers

Over the last three weeks, I have had the privilege of preaching through the lectionary on different occasions. We have covered parts of Matthew 10 and 11 about the call of discipleship and Jesus' calling to receive him and rest in Him. I noticed in looking at the context of these passages that in Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus said to his disciples before sending them out, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." As we have been working through Matthew 10 and 11 and looking at Jesus' call to give our all for him and then in chapter 11 at the sad rejection of him by many and his call for all who are weary and heavy laden to come and take his yoke, I have been impressed with our great need for laborers.

Pray with us that the Lord will work in the hearts of those who have been hearing Jesus' call to lose their life for his sake and take up their cross and follow him and to take his easy yoke and carry his light burden.  I recognize more and more that our church needs local leaders and elders. May the Lord work through our teaching and His word to draw many unto himself and draw them into his service in his church.

How is his yoke easy and his burden light? When we surrender to Jesus and give our lives to him, as Paul says in Romans 6:14, we are no longer under the law but under grace. We have a new power working in us which enables us to obey because we have been joined with Christ in his death and resurrection. We no longer obey to justify ourselves. He justifies us by His work and now we obey because He has freed us to be able to obey. He restores us to be able to be the image bearers we were created to be. May God raise up leaders in our church who get this and understand the gospel instead of living weighed down by the burden of moralism.

Just yesterday, I was talking with one of the young men in our church and he was telling me how he recognizes his conversion. He said he used to live like an animal where he would get up and eat and live for himself, but now He lives for God and recognizes that he has a purpose in life to glorify God. It reminded me of a study we are doing with the young adults in Proverbs. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD. My young brother explained the difference of living with the fear of the LORD versus living without the fear of the LORD. May God continue to raise this young man up to be one of the future leaders of his church in Peru and also provide many more through him and others.

Jun 4, 2014

Answer to Prayer

It is always encouraging to see the reality of God's providence in our lives. I requested a while back a prayer request for a difficult conflict. We had a meeting and it seemed like both sides of disagreement were unwilling to budge. I was very discouraged. It seemed that there was no way to bring restoration and reconciliation. Each side accused the other of doing wrong and each side had biblical evidence for why they thought they were right.

I had the privilege of being invited to preach at another church and was assigned the passage to preach through 2 Samuel 3. It was a very long passage but thankfully, I was blessed to have a copy of Ralph Davis' commentary on the book. As I worked through the passage I was encouraged to see that God works through even sinful and broken people and situations to bring about his purposes. We might be tempted to look at this passage and say that God still worked through the sinfulness of Abner and Joab but Ralph Davis so helpfully reminded me that God also still worked through the sinfulness of David. The story is not about David, it is about God fulfilling his purpose anyway even though his chosen people are broken. The chapter ended with David saying, Lord please help me even thought I am King, I am weak and these men are too strong for me.  That is how I felt after dealing with men who were unwilling to see their own faults and quick to put down those who they thought were wrong. Lord help us!

I can't say that there was anything that I did to cause any changes but I do see the fruit of God doing something and when we met again one week later to resume the battle and seek restoration, God had worked on both parties and both parties apologized and sought forgiveness and granted forgiveness. Just like that, the meeting actually finished earlier than we expected.  I don't think the issues were completely resolved but at least our hearts were softened and our fellowship was restored to be able to work through the issues in peace and fellowship. Praise the Lord!

Westminster Shorter Catechism #11. What are God’s works of providence? 
God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

May 28, 2014

May update

Psalm 66:1 says, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” vs. 16, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” 

We give praise and glory to God. We have seen him work in our lives and are seeing him work through us in ministry. We continue to labor in proclaiming his Word and applying it in our lives and trust that God will bring fruit as a result. Our confidence is in what He is doing through us. We trust that God will use the ministry of His word to change lives and we ask you to pray with us as we seek to labor in obedience. We trust in the power of the Word of God in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit applying it in the lives of those who are hearing it. 


Below is a little more in depth explanation of each of the ministries we are involved with to help you see what God has done for and through us in Peru.


Parish
     We are slowly helping Las Ponas become sustainable. Hermes has been laboring diligently over the past year and a half working with Javier and Norvil teaching the importance of good administration of their business. They have actually gone from just making ends meet to setting aside money into savings. They are finally to a point where they want to buy the equipment that we are lending them. We are coming up with an inventory of the value of all the used equipment and they will start paying monthly. This will enable them to become more independent. 

     Hermes has continued the morning bible study and also added a Saturday morning breakfast with the carpenters. The carpenters are slowly growing in their faith, they are members of Cristo Rey and are attending worship and their cell group. There is a particular difference in the family life of one of the carpenters. Two years ago he and his wife were constantly fighting and in need of counseling. Now there is a level of peace that demonstrates drastic growth in their family life. 

     Las Ponas hired a young helper, who participates with the bible studies and Hermes has helped him in discipleship. He has seen a transition in his life as a result of being a part of the bible studies and discipleship in the shop. He now is planning to join a new members class at Cristo Rey to consider joining. We are extremely excited to see the fruit of discipleship ministry play out through the relationship of employees of the shop. Las Ponas is in the process of seeking to hire another master carpenter. They have re-hired another member of Cristo Rey, who came to us through the SALI english courses.

   Javier and Norvil recently invited their cell group over to the shop for a labor day grill out. This demonstrates growth in Christian community. They are actively bearing witness of God’s work in their lives to their clients and are gaining new clients because of the quality and timeliness of their work. 

Parish is a ministry that serves as a consultant to Las Ponas. We are teaching them to be sustainable and aim to achieve success in helping Las Ponas before we seriously focus on other carpenters. Our aim is to have a broader reach with other carpenters but we think it is best to be successful with our first disciples before we spread ourselves out to try to help others. 

     Hermes is also helping with sales and Parish is ordering items from Las Ponas to sell to the short term teams and on the missions website marketplace fundraiser. We are putting a hold on pursuing export sales to the States until we can get more established in the local market and develop sustainability with the carpenters. We think it is best to focus on building a good foundation with the carpenters we work with before we return to exporting. There are several leads and interests in the States that we are continuing conversations with, but we are not making any definite plans until farther in the future. 

     Our main focus now is on discipleship, development and training. We think that by focusing on this part, the carpenters will be able to grow into able businessmen who will then be equipped and ready to enter the international market and grow out of poverty.



Arevalo
     The work in Cristo Restaurador seems to be going well. The growth is slow and we do not have droves of visitors coming regularly. We do have a small group of faithful members and occasionally have visitors. We have regular services of worship Sunday morning and evening, Sunday School class, Wednesday evening prayer meeting, Mens meeting, Ladies meeting, Marriage study, Young adults study and adolescent study. 

     We definitely need to grow and raise up more leaders from within the church. We have started a sunday school class that is slow to gain traction for attendance. We will be changing the schedule in June to having worship at 9am and sunday school at 11am. With the evening service starting at 6pm instead of 7:30pm. Pastor Ricardo is working on rebuilding the marriage study to help minister to the young families. I am leading the young adults. There are several promising future leaders, but they are almost all university students and very busy during their classes. I am seeking ways to interact with them during the week in either one on one or small group meetings for discipleship. Our Saturday evening meeting is going well but attendance has dropped with the pressure of classes. We are also seeking to work with our local university ministry and encourage our members to participate with the on campus evangelistic bible studies. 

     Pastor Ricardo and I have also redoubled efforts on visitation of all the members of the congregation. We hope this will be a big part of helping the members grow and pastoring them. We pray that this will also lead to reaching out to other people in the community for evangelism. We have had a case of discipline that has taken a toll on all of us. Please pray for a meeting this monday night that the Lord would give us all understanding, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.



Prayer for moving forward
     Through my time working with Parish Woodshop and preparation for ministry in the church in Arevalo, God has been leading me into a focus of ministry in the workplace. Our work with Parish has focused on a group of carpenters and teaching them to apply the gospel to their work. Now as a pastor, I am seeking to help our young adults and also all our members to do the same in all of their various roles and responsibilities. I am applying the same principles that I taught the carpenters to our college students and teaching them to apply their calling as citizens of the Kingdom of God to their preparation for their vocation. I am excited to see what God is going to do with us as we continue to teach the Word and seek the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives. 


King David charged his son Solomon just before he went the way of all the earth, to..."keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn," (1 Kings 2:3) 


In recent conversations, I have been impressed with our need to be daily feeding on the means of grace and this verse grabbed a hold of me as a good verse to remind us of our need to walk in God's ways by feeding on the Word. I am convinced that as we walk in the means of Grace, God will apply those means to our lives and produce fruit in our lives. Please pray with me as I seek to labor in the means of grace in my own life as well as shepherding my family and the church and the carpenters to live by the means of grace so that we all will see the end result of God causing growth in our lives that will bring glory to Him and His Kingdom. The fruit we hope to see is not only growth in the church but a spiritual growth that will also flow out into affecting the workplace and broader community which will contribute toward the furthering establishment of the City of God, the coming Kingdom that Jesus told us is already here. 

Jan 23, 2014

Short update and prayer requests


One particular prayer request would be for growth in our church in Arevalo in commitment from the members. We have one deacon that is carrying most of the load and we need more leaders. My biggest goal is to disciple and seek the leaders that God is preparing. I have been given responsibility for the young adult ministry and the adult sunday school class. Pray for the Lord's guidance and blessing on my efforts to do this well and also balance my time with the woodshop ministry. Things are very busy with the church and other ministries here. I had the privilege of preaching last Sunday and administering the sacraments for the first time. I also will be preaching this Sunday morning in a sister church plant in Parque Industrial, as well as preaching this Sunday evening in Arevalo. We also had a visiting pastor teaching a course on church history last week, Dr. Ian Wright from Chicago.  We had a great visit from Twin Lakes the first week in January that put on a camp ministry here in connection with our local churches. We also have a retreat planned February 7-9 with our youth to visit the youth of a sister church in Lima, Los Olivos. We are very thankful to finally be in a house and gradually getting settled and set up to be able to minister to the church in Peru.
Thank you for praying for us and supporting us!!!  We couldn't be here serving God's Kingdom in Peru without you.

Jan 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are having a happy New Year!
We have been extremely busy and also limited at access to internet. Our apologies for not posting any new updates recently.

We are actually still not settled yet. We finally found a house a couple of weeks ago but there were a few unforeseen repairs that surfaced before we moved in. So hopefully we will be moving in this weekend. This week we are very busy with a team from Twin Lakes in Jackson, MS and Point Pleasant from Savannah, GA here putting on a camp ministry. 
I have preached a couple of times so far. I will be preaching once a month and I have also been put in charge of the young adults (youth) ministry and the adult Sunday School class that we will be starting up later this month. We have been busy getting to know all the members of the church and getting involved with the young adult group. I have also been catching up with the carpenters and next month after we get settled into our new home and balance out a schedule with the church we plan to schedule out my time between the ministry in the church and the ministry with the carpenters. 
Meg is hanging on keeping up with the kids and anticipating moving into our home where she can get settled as well. Please pray for us for endurance and patience to wait on the Lord's timing for his providence. Please also pray for our ability to balance our time with all the demands of ministry in the church with the carpenters and maintaining a healthy family. It seems like there are always needs that come up every day that disrupt our planned out schedule. Pray for grace, flexibility and good boundaries. We pray that we will be able to work on developing leaders in the church for growth both numerically and spiritually instead of the pastors burning out on meeting everyone's needs. We pray that we can grow so that all the leaders in the church will be able to meet the needs of the members and reach out to visitors. 

I hope to have time to write more next week after the camp is over and we get moved into our house and unpacked.

Here are some good words to start off the new year:
“And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.””
(Deuteronomy 32:45–47 ESV)