Dear brethren and friends,
I pray you are all doing well, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus, and prospering in all the will of God. Here is an update on what has been happening in our lives and ministry context.
Update on the Church in Mexico City
Before leaving for Grand Rapids, I was able to visit our church in Mexico City, Comunidad Bíblica de la Gracia. The Lord is moving, conversions are happening, the people of God are growing, and they have such a heart for the Lord. I was much encouraged to visit with these brethren again, speak with some of them more intimately, and behold the mighty work of the Spirit in their midst.
Every so often, brother Miguel sends me pictures and updates on the church. Every time, I think of Colossians 2:5, "For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ." What a joy!
Prayer meetings have been growing too! I was recently informed that about 90 persons attended the mid-week prayer gathering. This is significant in a city like Mexico City, where transit and travel times can be very long on weeknights due to traffic. I remember one old preacher complaining about the American church, saying, "The prayer meeting is dead!" May the Lord spare us from mediocrity and lukewarm, carnal complacency; may He stir us up to seek His face and call on the name of the One who is mighty to save!
Even more encouraging is that these prayer meetings are utterly God-centered, as brethren cry out to the Lord of hosts to glorify His holy name, rescue souls from darkness, comfort His people, and exalt the blood-stained banner of Christ. Leaving one of these prayer meetings leaves one with a profound sense that he has just treaded on holy ground.
The evangelism ministries of the church continue to press on and proclaim Christ on the streets! Sometimes there are as many as 50 or up to 70 people have gone out with the team. Some of the brothers, members in good standing, take turns giving open air messages through a microphone while the others engage people with gospel conversations, giving out tracts, literature and sermons. They debate skeptics and atheists, refute cults, expose the errors of non-Christian worldviews, expound the Scriptures, and focus on knowing nothing except Christ and Him crucified as they tell of salvation only through the blood of the Lamb.
And this is happening week after week, almost every Sunday. Maybe instead of the USA sending missionaries to Mexico, we should have some missionaries sent from Mexico to awaken a sleeping US church?
The evangelism team of Iglesia Comunidad Bíblica de la Gracia on a typical, recent Sunday. Every Sunday evening after church, while the officiating minister who preaches in the church travels to another city to preach in another church plant (in Toluca), a team of brethren in Mexico City hit the streets of downtown to publish the Good News.
Some other pics from downtown evangelism:
Seminary Project for Latin America
Plans are in place to continue with our project to train men in Latin America. I’m in the process of praying for, and working toward, setting up a recording studio in Grand Rapids. This will allow me to begin recording some lectures and constructing some courses. I already have some lectures prepared on the Doctrine of Salvation, including several lectures on the Ordo Salutis (the order of salvation) and union with Christ. I'm also making communication with other ministries and gifted teachers who may be able to help us develop materials. More about this in upcoming updates.
Our farewell from Guadalajara
It was bitter-sweet to depart from Guadalajara after eight years of living in the city of tierra mojada (translated literally, wet ground). It was in 2010 that Aaron and I began preaching on the streets of downtown, announcing the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world, and calling upon everyone everywhere to repent, because the Most High has established a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness. The Lord raised up more than one dead Lazarus by the Word of life, and a church was formed and animated by the breath of the Almighty. This church has been my heart since its inception.
Prior to our departure, the brethren decided to bid us a sweet and formal farewell. With the whole church gathered after my last sermon there, a dear brother took the microphone and spoke on behalf of the assembly. They expressed their love and appreciation through many tear-choked words and prayed for the Lord’s hand upon our future endeavors. It was heart-wrenching to break with this saintly company. All the brethren came up, one by one, and gave us a hearty embrace. Our mutual tears spoke louder than words. It reminded us of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.
It was the most humbling experience. What did we say as we bid each other farewell? For my part, I could hardly talk. Some of the brethren were the same. Others reminded me of specific testimonies in their lives, such as a sermon that was used for their conversion, or a word in season that greatly helped their Christian walk, or fond memories we had together in the Lord’s vineyard. If all were to write of all the testimonies and memories here, I suppose a book of a thousand pages would not be sufficient to contain them all.
The church put together a picture book, which they gave to us on that occasion. It contains photos of the brethren and their families, with personal notes from each of them attached, written in each one’s own handwriting, and signed. A very special gift that was.
Many have wondered about the church’s reaction to our embarking on this new journey. Some have imagined that they must have resisted with all their might. Nothing could be further from the truth. The church has been supportive and encouraging. The brethren know that this is not our Kingdom but the Lord’s, for whose sake we are laboring. They know that we must preach Christ in the regions beyond, for this same missionary spirit burns in them. They agree with the vision and would love to see more men trained in rightly handling the Word of truth. And they are in the good hands of the Lord and under the care of the pastoral team that remains.
I thank God for the church in Guadalajara. Not a Sunday goes by that I don’t think of them and desire to be in the midst. It will be sweet to visit them again soon, if the Lord wills, on my upcoming trips.
Arrival to Grand Rapids!
The trip to Grand Rapids was long and grueling. For me, it started with a four-day road trip from Southern California to Ohio. I had to pick up and transfer an automobile, then fly back to Guadalajara, pack the rest of our stuff, and then drive with the family up to Grand Rapids from Guadalajara. Thankfully, some brethren from the church in Saltillo graciously decided to help us. They drove us the whole way and accompanied us all the way to Grand Rapids, left us there, and then drove back to Mexico. They are truly the friend that sticketh closer than a brother!
With all of us, especially considering that our children were on this journey with us, our road trip took five days. For me, between the two trips, it was over 10 days of pure travel.
It was sweet when we finally arrived. We are now getting acclimated to life in Grand Rapids for this season. It has been such a blessing, but at the same time, difficult for me. Culture shock has set in. It feels like there are many things I need to learn all over again about life in the USA.
I'm very thankful for the opportunities to continue to minister the inerrant and mighty Word of the living God:
During the move to Grand Rapids, I was kindly invited to preach the Word at an assembly of Hispanic Reformed Baptist churches in Southern California. I preached on “The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin” from Romans 7:14. In it, I attempted to unpack something of Scripture’s testimony to the nature of sin, the role of the law in exposing it, and the power of the gospel to deal with it. I was hosted by a beautiful family from Honduras. It was a blessing to meet some fellow pastors, including Dr. Sam Renihan, who has drunk deeply from the wells of Primitive Baptist Covenant Theology and has much knowledge of the subject. It was an edifying time. It was encouraging that a family from Nevada made the drive to come out and visit. This family was previously a part of our church in Mexico City before moving to the States.
The following Sunday I was invited to preach at Providence Reformed Baptist Church of Toledo, Ohio. I’ve come to love this little church and appreciate their heart for building upon the rock of Scripture rather than the shifting sands of contemporary evangelical novelties. Some of the Lord’s best churches are small (after all, did not our Lord say the way was narrow?). I preached from Romans 5:10 on how the risen life of Christ saves us and ensures us of the security of our salvation. I’ve also been invited to preach there on a couple of other occasions recently. It is always a blessing to spend time with older, more seasoned pastors, such as those who serve in Toledo.
It was a joy to visit and be invited to preach in Iglesia Biblica de la Gracia in Grand Rapids. This Hispanic congregation is warm-hearted and lively. Pastors Billy Tavarez and Tim Elzinga gave me a warm welcome, totally worthy of the Latin American hospitality ethic (!). After the worship service and sermon, we enjoyed six hours of fellowship, feasting, theology, and testimony at the home of pastor Tavarez. It was a full and rewarding Lord’s Day.
Recently, I was invited to preach at Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids. This is the church in which a man who I consider to be a father in the faith regularly preaches, who has become a mentor to me, and has helped me more in the faith than perhaps any minister alive today. It was a humbling experience and joy to be able to visit this church. I brought a message on “Union and Communion with Christ” from John 15:1-8. You can watch/listen to this message online: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=83181217250
I’ve also been invited to preach at Antioch Reformed Baptist Church in Michigan. The three sermons preached here include, “Propitiation: The Heart of the Gospel” from Romans 3:24-28, “The Risen Life of Christ the Life of the Christian” from Romans 5:10, and “Encountering the Holiness of God” from Isaiah 6.
Lord willing, I hope to continue to preach the Word and be useful around Michigan (for the time being). Soon, I hope to make a couple of trips to Mexico to do some itinerant preaching. Your prayers are appreciated.
Digging a Deep Well?
“Dig a deep well so that you’ll have resources to pull from throughout the rest of a lifetime of ministry.” This was the counsel of a dear pastor friend with whom I recently had a cup of coffee. As we sipped away, we spoke of life, the church, equipping men for the ministry, and missions in Mexico. He was encouraging me to spend a season studying as deeply as possible so as to be as useful as possible in the near future (God permitting)—especially for missions in Mexico.
Wise advice, I think. Though, if I don’t preach regularly during this present time, and don’t engage in mission work regularly, I think I’d just rather shrivel up and die. So, to buffer his counsel with some of the personally-applicable implications of Paul’s missions-minded exclamation, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!”, I intend to spend this brief season of life both studying andlaboring in the Lord’s vineyard (if God permits). My prayer is that my studies do not detract too much from my present usefulness, and that my present activity does not detract too much from my studies. A delicate balance, to be sure, must be maintained. May the Lord help!
My classes at seminary start this Monday. This semester, I’ll be studying Research and Investigation (including how to do graduate-level research using Reformation and Puritan sources), The Christian Minister and his Ministry, Foundations and Process of Biblical Counseling, The Theology of Augustine, Modern Church History, English Grammar and Syntax, Greek I (which I already have studied but plan to re-take it so as to solidify it all the more in preparation to teach it in Latin America), and Soteriology. A full plate, to be sure. In the meantime, I’ve been investigating some subjects on my own. This summer I was able to spend a good deal of time in the doctrine of the Trinity, studying mainly Patristic sources and their exegesis of Scripture. This has been tremendously helpful as I prepare to give teachings on the Trinity in some upcoming conferences in Jalisco, Mexico.
Our projects continue underway. As our plans unfold, we are gearing up for this next season of life and ministry. We greatly covet and appreciate your prayers on our behalf.
If you desire to help support our projects, you can do so here. May the Lord richly bless all those who help us press on for the sake of the Name.