Trials and Faith

I remember awhile back working through a Bible study in a small group. The passage of our focus was Romans 5 in which Paul commands us to rejoice in suffering because of what the suffering is producing, namely steadfastness and ultimately hope. One of the attendees questioned the truth of the passage in view of his own tragedy within his family. Given the weight of his trial, I felt inadequate to answer his question although I had recently lost my mother in her battle to cancer. This past month my wife and I, as we continue our transition in the Philippines, found ourselves in the midst of a multitude of struggles.

As I surveyed the NT, I found almost the exact description of suffering producing steadfastness not only in Paul’s writings but also in James’ and Peter’s letters (Rom. 5:1-11; James 1:2-12; I Pet. 1:6-9). In all three there are several commonalities. First, there is and will be trials in the Christian life. Secondly, we are commanded to rejoice in those trials. And thirdly, they are producing steadfastness, and therefore, we must let them continue.

The combination of the trial or suffering with that of endurance or steadfastness often conjures up images of action during the midst of resistance. The most common being a marathon race or a boxing match. As we consider these images, it is easy to fall into the temptation that everything in the trial depends upon our action. Many times the Christian’s auto response is try to fix the problem or act. This was most certainly my response in each of our trials.

However, as we investigate each of the above passages, we realize that fundamentally the focus is not upon our outward action in fixing the trial but upon the inward one. In Romans, hope is in focus with faith in the background (Rom. 4:18-19; 5:1). In James and Peter, the testing of faith is central.

  • Romans – Suffering > Endurance > Character > Hope
  • James – Trials > Testing Faith > Endurance > Perfect & Complete
  • Peter – Trials > Testing Faith > Genuineness of Faith > Praise, Glory & Honor

The primary lesson for us is that behind our trials and sufferings is an examination of the kind of faith that we have. To be vey explicit, it tests our trust in our heavenly Father that He will provide and sustain us through the trial regardless of the outcome. That is an incredibly difficult reality to stomach. Will we trust God if the outcome is contrary to our expectation or hope? As one who typically acts, I am slowly learning not to act less but to act in wisdom. And the first and wisest act in the midst of a trial is to trust in our heavenly Father. This will always manifest itself in prayer, mediation upon His Word, and most importantly rest in him.

This brings new significance to Deut. 8:3, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We must follow the example of the one who acted the wisest in the time of testing, Jesus our Messiah (Matt 4:1-11) and not the rebellious first generation of Israel in the wilderness (Exod. 17:3; Psa. 95). Thus, the greatest litmus test to determining whether or not we are indeed acting in faith during a trial is our response. As we wrestle mentally with the difficulty, our response must be first and foremost not to question “why” but to declare “your will be done.”

12729024_10208682769251260_4972605652039073681_nMany often respond, if the Lord knows all things including that my faith is genuine and I have been justified by faith why does it need to be tested? Perhaps the answer may be best given through an automotive analogy. For the one who purchases a Landcruiser, merely sitting in the garage was never its intention. The vehicle is worthless to the owner until he actually uses it for his purposes. It is only in its use that the driver can fully appreciate the quality and performance, and actually benefit from it. And, a failure of the 4×4 SUV on the mountain or in the jungle can have catastrophic results. Perhaps, this is precisely why Peter states, “that your faith will be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honor.” We are the instruments through which our heavenly Father uses to proclaim His gospel (Matt. 24:14), to reveal Himself to a broken world (Matt. 5:16), to strengthen His church (II Cor. 4:1-17), and to fight the forces of evil (Eph. 6:10-18). Therefore, when the storms of life comes, he does not want our failure but our steadfast trust in him. 

Who will help mother hen?

Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who lived on a farm. She was11259946_10207703891419926_3496470160248274047_n friends with a lazy dog, a sleepy cat, and a noisy yellow duck. One day the little red hen found some seeds on the ground. The little red hen had an idea. She would plant the seeds. The little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me plant the seeds?” “Not I,” barked the lazy dog. “Not I,” purred the sleepy cat. “Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck. “Then I will,” said the little red hen. So the little red hen planted the seeds all by herself.

When the seeds had grown, the little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me cut the wheat?” “Not I,” barked the lazy dog. “Not I,” purred the sleepy cat. “Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck. “Then I will,” said the little red hen. So the little red hen cut the wheat all by herself.

When all the wheat was cut, the little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me take the wheat to the mill to be ground into flour?””Not I,” barked the lazy dog. “Not I,” purred the sleepy cat. “Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck. “Then I will,” said the little red hen. So the little red hen brought the wheat to the mill all by herself, ground the wheat into flour, and carried the heavy sack of flour back to the farm, and carried the heavy sack of flour back to the farm.

The tired little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me bake the bread?” “Not I,” barked the lazy dog. “Not I,” purred the sleepy cat. “Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck. “Then I will,” said the little red hen. So the little red hen baked the bread all by herself.

When the bread was finished, the tired little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me eat the bread?” “I will,” barked the lazy dog. “I will,” purred the sleepy cat. “I will,” quacked the noisy yellow duck. “No!” said the little red hen. “I will.” And the little red hen ate the bread all by herself.

For few, perhaps the libertarian or the staunch individualist, the story has a happy ending. But for most especially from a communal worldview, the ending is quite sad primarily because a lack in participation in the work resulted in a lack of participation in the celebration and enjoyment of the bread.

12038253_10207703890739909_6636751037505945013_nNow I readily admit that all analogies at a certain level break down.  But, I do think that this bedtime story if interpreted as a parable serves as a spiritual warning to the church. Jesus has purchased a group of people with his blood. He has called his church to help him in the gathering of them from the nations. In this calling he has asked some to send and some to go but all to be involved. Yet for some reason, many Christians simply ignore this command or consider it as, not applicable to them. The one who loved us and gave his life for us continually calls out to us, “Who will help me gather my sheep?” However our response is repeatedly and chillingly, “Not I.” As we have met with supporters time and time again, it has been our senders who have repeatedly lamented over the lack of support and interest in world missions in view of the sheer magnitude of the harvest.

On the last day, there will be a glorious grand feast. It will be a spectacular wedding. The time will have begun for the saints to rest from their labor because their deeds follow them (Rev. 14:13). The center of the celebration will not be centered upon the food though. It will be upon the lamb who was slain receiving the reward for his suffering, his bride – a people from every tribe, tongue and nation. The question remains to be answered “What will be racing through your mind in that moment when look back at your earthly life and you think back to a time when you could have said, ‘I will?'”

 

 

 

 

The vital role of leadership in the church

Traditionally Matthew 9:38 has been a key text in the mission of the church to emphasize the call of missionaries to overseas work among the nations. Jesus declared to his disciples:

  • The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

No doubt this has been a primary text for various mission boards and para-church ministries throughout the previous decades. However, what has been often overlooked is the reason behind this proclamation. For just a moment, the narrator gives us an omniscient view into the mind of Jesus. In verse 36 the narrator explains:

  • When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

As Jesus is ministering among the people through teaching, preaching, and healing, he sees them in their greatest need. His thought although subtly through imagery speaks directly to that need. They were an oppressed people. And that oppression is directly linked to the absence of a leader. Thus, the root issue that incited Jesus to invoke the call of the harvest was that of leadership.

Now we know that there was a form of authority in Israel, a mere two verses earlier is the mention of a faction in the religious establishment, the Pharisees. However, their statement exposes their heart condition and their utter failure in true Mosaic intercession and humble leadership. While Jesus rescues the people from demonic oppression, they have the audacity to declare that he is actually in league with the devil.

From this climax, we watch as Jesus commissions new leadership to gather and lead his sheep. In very significant salvation-history imagery, Jesus calls new leadership by giving authority to twelve disciples to gather the house of Israel. One can’t help but recall the great prophet-priest of the distant past, Moses, as he gathered the twelve tribes of Israel in Egypt and prepared them to be led out of bondage and slavery.

We must recognize the absolute necessity that the proclamation of the gospel, the call of sinners to repentance and faith, the making of disciples, and the reaching of the nations can only be accomplished through solid Biblical leadership. This is precisely the reason for our ministry’s primary focus, namely pastoral training and mentorship.

There is one weakness in Filipino missions work especially in the province. Leadership development has often suffered at the expense of evangelism. Missionaries and church planters often spend a predominate amount of time evangelizing and planting many little churches. Because of the influx of converts, pastors are installed with little training in Biblical interpretation and even less preparation for the discipleship of their flock. Thus, missionaries often have been great at fulfilling the first part of the Great Commission, namely baptizing, while neglecting the second portion, that is teaching them to observe all the commands of Jesus. We want to place the Filipino church in a better position for spiritual maturity and purity by emphasizing the latter.

Now, how shall we go about accomplishing this? The Bicol region is composed of six provinces with roughly six million people. Currently there is no Protestant seminary that offers a M. Div. program. There are several small Bible schools which have the equivalent education level of a Bible Institute. Our desire and prayer is to establish a seminary that is very helpful to the development of the pastors’ Biblical understanding and leadership development.

Our philosophy is slightly nuanced from traditional Western models in that we want to maintain the emphasis upon Biblical knowledge and interpretation, while supplementing it with a robust leadership development track. This second unique feature will train the students in methodology for successful development of their own spiritual discipline and how they can successfully train leaders from among their flocks. Essentially, we want to develop leaders who can train leaders.

Historically, Western seminaries have left this area for the most part to the local church. That model is only successful if local churches have a strong discipleship and mentorship program and are cooperating in tandem with the seminary. However this is typically not the case. Moreover because of this separation, the students often see something quite different (I speak as one from experience). The student does not see this larger picture. Rather, they see in the seminary the pursuit for Bible knowledge as the ultimate goal and the highest good. Additionally, if the student enters the seminary without being joined to a strong local church with good mentorship, they never actually receive the necessary training in the spiritual disciplines and discipleship methodology. It seems that this may often be the reason for poor discipleship programs in the church and lack of spiritual maturity among congregants. Leadership is the key component.

Therefore, it is our plan to merge these two major areas of development for future pastors. Biblical interpretation and leadership development will form the foundation of our curriculum. We believe that this holistic model will have tremendous benefit for the local church in the Bicol region and ultimately for the advance of the gospel in Asia.

together … on the road

As we move ever closer to our time of deployment, the more we have come to realize that the fulfillment of the churches’ mission to reach the nations with the gospel of the kingdom will not come through lone wolf, bull-headed missionaries. As an independent, and driven self-starter, I have found myself continually repenting from my western, individualistic, “my way or the highway” mentality. This trip has been a constant reminder to trust fully on the sovereign will of our heavenly Father, the reign of his son Jesus, the guidance of his Spirit, AND the support of his body, the church.

During this past month we will have traveled over five thousand miles and visited nine states. We are physically exhausted but spiritually rejuvenated. John Piper has stated there are only two kinds of Christians, senders and goers. We have seen the sacrifice of those who are committed to sending us to Asia. They have shared with us their homes, food, finances, time, pets and of course their children. We have eaten, joked, laughed, sweated, cried, reminisced about the past, celebrated birthdays, encouraged each other in our struggles, and discussed innovative methods for furthering the gospel in Asia. 

The “t” in t4kohasia stands for “together.” Since the inception of our vision and mission we strongly desired that one of our ministry’s key characteristics would be “togetherness.” Now we are just beginning to see just how important that support structure and mentality actually is. In the NT “togetherness” is often stated in the terms of unity, fellowship, and co-partnership. We get a small but pristine glimpse into this mentality from the Revelation to John. He is commanded by Jesus to write the words of the prophecy in a book and to send it to the seven churches in Asia. In its introduction, he describes his precise relationship to the churches. “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus…” (Rev. 1:9a). Although John was in a position of leadership and authority, he describes himself in terms of humility and equality concerning both relationship and mission to the seven churches. This is our prayer and hope with you our supporters. We are truly brothers and partners in “tribulation and the kingdom and the patient in endurance that are found in Jesus.” TOGETHER we can reach Asia with the gospel.

food in the philippines

 

252864_10150207511213647_6581159_nIn the last post, we introduced you to daily life in the Philippines. We shared many similarities and some differences between Filipino and American culture. We concluded that overall life in the P.I. is somewhat similar to our context in the United States. However this is not the case concerning food. We intentionally did not include “food in the Philippines” not because we forgot the topic but because of its centrality to the Filipino social structure. So we thought that it deserved its own special post. This post is separated into two parts – the variety of Filipino food and its social significance.

An assortment of food – The Philippines has a vast array of fruits, vegetables, and of course full-course delicacies. The indigenous fruits are all the typical tropical kinds that you would expect. Their yellow mango and pineapples are the most notable. The sweetness of these two fruits is unparalleled. The Durian fruit which is located in the island of Mindanao is infamous for its flavor and distinct smell. If you can get past the smell, it is actually a very tasty snack. Unfortunately, the smell is quite strong and difficult but not impossible to overcome. Additionally, they have an incredible amount of diversity among 1098197_10151727205218647_1855857359_nthe banana family. These range from the typical plantain/cooking banana to the very small sweet banana which is only found in and around the area of Lake Taal, specifically the city of Tagaytay. The coconut and its dessert counter-part, buko salad, is very popular. Although to most in the West with a sweet tooth, coconut and its meat may taste a little bland; its combination with mixed fruits and condensed milk make buko salad an instant favorite. Vegetables are also very common. These include all the typical kinds that you would find in a mixed vegetable dish – green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Now concerning their actual meals, their ingredients are very different compared to western cuisine. Many times Filipino food has been compared with Chinese food. The taste ranges from sweet to a sour/spicy flavor. Rice or kanin is served with every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whereas we would typically have eggs and toast or cereal for breakfast, their breakfast is composed of fish, eggs, rice, and then some form of sweet bread or mango. The fish is often salted and dried. The entire fish is eaten with the exception of the bones. Yes, that would include the head and the eyeballs. Often many of my Filipino friends have described to me the exceptional tastiness of the eyes. I have yet to share in their enjoyment. Lunch and dinner are often similar. It is served with rice and some form of ulam (side dish) which is placed upon the rice. This side dish is often close in texture to that of soup and has a vegetables and a meat which is mixed into it. A more solid ulam would be manudo or adobo. This is a combination of pork or chicken in a thick sauce with chopped potatoes and various other herbs and spices.

The meals described above are most common in Filipino homes. However there are special occasion meals which are extra tasty. These include a more expensive form of seafood and/or lechon. Lechon is cooked pig. This is cooked over an open fire by rotating it over white hot coals. It is incredibly delicious, but it is not very advantageous for your cholesterol levels. Filipinos also eat various shrimp, squid and crab delicacies along with tuna and other kinds of fish. Most are freshly caught. For most foreigners, there is a time period of adjustment to the differences in cuisine. However once you acquire a taste for it, it is awesome!

1170754_10151727205503647_1558076983_n

Food as a part of community – In contrast to Western culture’s isolation and individualism, the fabric of Filipino society is sewn together with the thread of the common meal. A common meal is more than simply a time of fellowship. It is primarily a means by which individuals, families, and communities come together to mutually encourage another, to share in their support for the other person, and to experience life. To share in a meal tells others that you are for them and united with them in life’s journey. We see the importance of this in the first century church in Acts 2:42-47. Thus, we can say that the common meal is very important for both Filipino hospitality and the social structure. It is impossible for you to visit a church or an individual’s house without partaking in some form of a meal. A perfect example of this occurs after the Sunday service. Whereas most American churches are accustomed to eating Sunday dinner from the confines of their individual homes, Filipino churches almost always have a common meal at the church in which the entire church participates. Additionally, one can rarely escape the prayer meeting without sharing in some form of a snack. Viewing this from an eternal perspective, we are reminded of the great marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation. In it we will all partake together in the great feast, the ultimate example of community, mutual peace, and rest that we share in Christ (Isa. 25:9-12; Rev. 19:6-10). In conclusion, there is only one word to describe Filipino food – “Masarap!” (Translation – Delicious).

Footnote: It may be noted that we left out the most notorious Filipino food, balut. For those interested in the details, we recommend that you simple google it. Once Tim conquers it (Bethany refuses!), he will share his experience. 

life in the philippines

Life in the Philippines1000567_10151708107438647_746430684_n

Often when we tell people that we are preparing to be missionaries to the Philippine Islands, they frequently have visions of half-naked people running around a beach in loin clothes. They imagine us living in a situation without running water or the basic necessities of life. Although there are isolated scenarios that this may be the case, this is not typical nor will be our situation. While the Philippines is still considered a third world country, it is rapidly catching up to the 21st century. We will briefly survey three areas of life in order to give you a more realistic perspective of what our daily life will look like. This includes life at home, life on the road, and life in the market.

Life at Home

In many ways10659303_10206222267140245_1551464070184999876_n life at home in the Philippines is very similar to life here in America. We will have access to all the basic appliances, which include oven/stove, refrigerator, clothing washer, and various other small appliances. Our floors although stone, will be smooth, clean and dirt free for the most part. Furniture is also similar. We will sleep on a western bed, have a round table for meals, and have a standard sofa and chairs for our living room. Nevertheless, there are some notable differences. The most prominent difference is the lack of central air. Typically, only one room if any will have air conditioning so the house is noticeable warmer than then the 70o F constant room temperature of typical American homes. Another noticeable difference once you are acclimated to the setting is the many gecko lizards that occupy your walls and ceilings near your lights. These house pets are unavoidable, yet helpful for pest control. The sun dries your laundry. Your bathroom does not have a tub, so you can forget bubble baths. The last noticeable difference is the yard. This is both in appearance and size. Every yard has at the least a six-foot high fence. That fence may have additional barriers for protection. These may include barbed wire, electric wire, shard pieces of glass, nails, and sharpened steel rods. The unique benefit of the yard is its beauty. Because of the warm weather and heavy rainfall, Filipinos are able to fill their yards with beautiful tropical flowers and fruit trees. The beauty is striking and relaxing. The worst disadvantage is the inability to walk in your own yard barefoot for fear of the mighty red ant.

Life on the Road

1151076_10151705730958647_25151079_nOnce we shift from home life to the road, things begin to become a little crazy. Whereas public transportation is an anomaly in the American suburbs, it is the norm in the Philippines. Tricycles, motorized cabs, jeepneys, vans, and buses jockey for position as one enters and drives around the city. Tricycles and motorized cabs are simply the attachment of a covered side cart to either a bicycle or a motorcycle. Jeepneys are infamous in the Philippines. They can carry well over 20 persons in their side bench seats, back, roof, and hood. Essentially, any flat surface is a potential seat for the daily commuter. Once you are on the road you will immediately realize two universal rules. First in contrast to accelerating when approaching an intersection, the rule of thumb is to stop. This will significantly reduce one’s risk of accidental collisions. The reason for this may be explained by the second rule. The right of way is always granted to the largest vehicle on the road or the vehicle that races to the intersection first. In contrast to the horn being used in the U.S. only for extreme situations or expressions of road rage, it is a common signal to notify other drivers of your presence and to ask them to kindly move to the side as you pass through. If you make it to the market without incident you have become a proficient Filipino navigator on the road.

Life in the Market

11027502_10206222268180271_8639970881738264492_nOne of the Filipino’s favorite past times is shopping. It does not matter if it is window shopping, grocery shopping, or clothing shopping, shopping is both a weekly chore and weekend highlight for Filipinos of all ages. Because the Filipino culture is very social, this activity allows for group participation and comradery and has become a favorite past-time. Consequently, the Philippines has a great array of shopping stores. The three major categories are the traditional market, grocery stores, and, of course, shopping malls. The traditional market is still the preferred place of shopping for one’s food necessities. The market is known for its very distinctive smells and images. One will never be the same once they have traveled through a Filipino market. This unique once-in-a-life-time experience will make one a more well-rounded individual. In addition to the traditional market, they have begun to build supermarkets very close to their American counter-part. These have a similar layout and for the most part, sell equivalent products. Finally, the Philippines has excelled in the development of their shopping centers. They have become world-renown for their shopping malls. Metro Manila contains some of the largest and most advanced malls in Asia. Two of the most famous are MOA (Mall of Asia) and the SM Mega-mall. In conclusion life in the Philippines is not as radically different as one might expect.

 

our name – t4koh

brand final print black backgroundA BRIEF EXPLANATION OF OUR NAME & ICON – t4kohasia

MT.13:31-32 – The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and rest in its branches.

In society, people name everything from their cars to their pet fish. There are a host of reasons for the selection of their particular names. Their rationale may include something as simple as “it sounds cool” to a famous person. Bethany and I thought that we could provide a little bit of reasoning behind the choice of our community name.

TOGETHER – Although we are the missionaries, this is not an individual endeavor. There are three different yet equal co-laborers in this mission – the senders, the sent ones, and the disciples. All three are necessary and no one group assumes a more important role for the task at hand. We join together to achieve a goal that is greater than ourselves.

FOR THE KINGDOM – The concept of “kingdom” is bursting with imagery. Intrinsic to its meaning is a dynamic narrative. It contains the storyline of a king, His throne, His heir, His royal family, His law, His enemy, His conquest, His judgment, His reward, and finally His peace.

OF HEAVEN – This phrase communicates the source of the kingdom. It is not from this world but from the very location where the Creator God abides, heaven. The curse has completely broken this world and our hope for the restoration of all things can only come from beyond. When we unite this idea to the preceding one we may body declare that our mission is to proclaim the coming kingdom of heaven and to command people to submit to its reign by turning from their sin and believing in the gospel.

IN ASIA – While we will be physically located in the Philippines our vision extends beyond its shores. We are committed to seeing the proclamation of this coming kingdom in the region of Asia both by sending the Filipino missionary to his people and beyond and by receiving, training, and commissioning students from various countries and nationalities to return to their people.