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Archive for January, 2011

Topical Index

Well, I finally finished a rough draft of the Topical Index yesterday. I’ve spent basically the last 10 weekdays working on this project. It’s been quite grueling, but it’s also been a blessing. I learned much as I traced the various topics throughout the NT. It was neat to have my attention drawn to a passage that I had never thought of in terms of the topic suggested by the resources I was using. For instance, as I traced the topic “the love of Jesus,” I was taken to such passages as the shepherd looking for the one lost sheep. What a blessing to look at familiar passages from a new perspective!

But though the project was filled with many blessings, I was definitely ready to move on to other activities. My eyes were about to bug out last evening as I finished the topics under “Z.” Praise the Lord for providing over 50 volunteers to help me proofread this Index to make sure the passages are accurately entered in. I wasn’t sure how many would offer their help, so it was very encouraging to see the responses come pouring in. The more volunteers I have, the less work for each volunteer. So it works out well for them too.

This morning I distributed the various “assignments” to the volunteers. Pray for them to have wisdom as they work through the various technicalities of this project. The volunteers have a week to get their work done. If things don’t go well, I’ll have lots of work when I get the material back! Pray also for them to receive a blessing as they do the work. And pray for the future readers of this Index. Two NTs are waiting for it in southeast Asia, but many others will use it in future years.

Now that I’ve turned over this work to volunteers, I can get caught up on other responsibilities that I had set aside for these past two weeks.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity of presenting my ministry at Faith Baptist Church in Williamsburg, VA. I didn’t get to visit Colonial Williamsburg, since the church is at least a few miles from the center of the city (I toured it twice in 2010). But I did get a chance to fellowship with some very kind and godly people. It was a thrill to see gifted people exercising their gifts in various spheres of ministry. Jack has a very generous spirit and is the welcome man. He makes people fill at home and always has a piece of candy for the kids. Joe loves working with paperwork, so he’s the office manager. He was busy distributing the members’ year-end statements. He also did a great job of teaching the SS class that I joined. Robert is the assistant pastor and made sure teens got rewarded with a pizza party and took care of the evening service since Pastor Privett had to leave. Pastor Privett, of course, is gifted in preaching, so he delivered an encouraging message about our King Eternal in the morning. What a necessary corrective when modern Christianity seems to overemphasize “Jesus, my friend.” Though He is our friend, He’s also our King. Therefore, we owe loving, submissive devotion to Him…. I hope I can get partnered with this church!

This Sunday I’ll be speaking in the AM at Westview Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC. I look forward to being with Pastor Coffey and his people. This church has been supporting BI and Dr. Henry Osborn, my predecessor, for a number of years. It will be nice to be with a church that’s already quite familiar with the ministry of BI!

Next week I plan on soaking in the sun’s rays in Rocky Mount. How thankful I am that the Lord arranged my schedule to be in the warm south during this time of year! I haven’t seen any snowfall since Christmas Day in Greenville, SC!

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Faith or sight?

I’ve found it’s a lot easier to believe that the Lord will provide for my needs when I see new supporters added to my support team. I can speak so eloquently about having faith that the Lord will provide, when I see Him providing. But what about those dry spells? That’s when faith is really tested. In fact, that’s when faith is truly faith. When I see support coming in, I don’t need faith; that’s sight! Thankfully, in this walk of faith, the Lord encourages me by giving evidences of His faithfulness, evidences that I can see.

I was part of a Bible study on Tuesday night, and the discussion led me down a path that I rarely take. The Bible study book mentioned that God has a plan and that my responsibility is simply to submit. Of course, I’ve always known that, but I don’t think my daily actions have always demonstrated that understanding. Instead, my thoughts are, “I have this plan, and I just need the Lord to agree with it.” So I pray to the Lord on that basis. “I want to finish deputation this year, so will you please help me do that, Lord?”

But if I focus on the Lord’s plan and live accordingly, then I will simply pray for Him to accomplish it and for me to submit to it. The Lord definitely has a plan of sending me, as His laborer, into the harvest field. He also has a plan of getting the Word of God into the minority languages of people all around the world (and He’s given me the privilege of having a part in that! Amazing!). He will accomplish His plan. No doubt about that. I just need to pray for it to be successful (because that’s what He tells us to pray for… “Your will be done”), and I need to pray that I would submit to it.

Having said all that, I was also encouraged this morning by Mat. 20:29ff. Two blind men sought the Lord’s mercy. Though the Lord knew what they wanted, He asked them to express their desires. “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” Jesus had compassion on them and granted their desires. He wants us to express our desires. “Lord, I want to finish deputation this year.” May God look down, have compassion on me, and grant that desire, if it be His will.

Speaking of deputation, things are getting firmed up for my July trip to Singapore. Obviously, part of God’s plan to send me to the mission field includes passing through Singapore. Closer to home… I have a meeting this Sunday in Williamsburg. I’ll be with the church all day, but I’m speaking only in the evening.

Please keep praying for me as I finish the Topical Index. I finished through letter “J” today. That’s halfway. If my eyes don’t bug out, I should be able to finish this thing by the end of next week. Pray for wisdom as I choose topics and passages, and strength to persevere. It’s been tedious, but it’s also been interested to trace each topic through numerous passages.

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Global deputation?

Early this afternoon I arrived safely back in Virginia Beach after a weekend of meetings in the Roanoke area. I’m thankful for the safety in travel and the good ministry. I enjoyed being with Pastor Greg Rogers and his people at Grace Memorial Baptist Church. He had asked me to present my ministry in SS and then preach in the AM service. I typically preach a message on John 6 in the worship service, but the Lord was moving in my heart to preach a different message. I settled on a message about Prayer and Missions from various passages. Just before I got up to speak, I heard Pastor Rogers mention that they have chosen prayer as the theme of the year. What a blessing to see how God orchestrated things for me to preach on prayer that morning! I praise Him for guiding me and then also for helping me as I preached.

After having a good lunch at the Rogers’, watching the Bears win, and taking a short nap, I headed to Barnhardt Baptist Church, pastored by Joe Peters. I had a good time of fellowship with the believers there as I presented my ministry.

This evening I spoke to two pastors in Singapore via Skype. It turns out that the Lord seems to be leading me to speak to a church in Singapore about the ministry of Bible translation. A friend from Mt. Calvary, who is now in Singapore, is one of the assistant pastors there. He suggested the possibility of having someone from Bibles International come to their church to talk about our ministry. Things are not yet nailed down, but it’s looking quite likely that I’ll be making a trip there in July. It’s so encouraging to hear how the Lord is working in hearts on the other side of the globe to partner with us as we try to get the Word of God into people’s hands!

Continue to pray for my Topical Index project. It’s going well, but it’s also become quite apparent to me how significant this index is. Pastors, teachers, and laymen will use it as they study Scripture for many years to come. It’s exciting to think that some may use what I put together as a basis for a sermon or a Bible lesson, or just to give guidance in their lives. That’s exciting to think about, but it’s also sobering! I need the Lord’s wisdom to choose the right topics and the right passages.

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Deputation in 2011

My deputation in 2011 has gotten off to a good start. I had a good meeting at Pastor Ramirez’s church, Filipino Independent Baptist Church, in Virginia Beach, VA. I taught SS, preached in the AM, and presented my ministry and preached in the PM. Praise the Lord for the 5 decisions of dedication/re-dedication in the morning service! It’s interesting that for the first time in my life I sang a gospel song in Tagalog, and I did it in the USA! The services at FIBC used to be conducted in Tagalog, but now it’s used only for a song or two. Otherwise, everything’s done in English. BI is setting up things to revise our Tagalog NT in the Philippines, so it was a joy to speak to the believers at FIBC about what we are doing with their language. Maybe the Lord will lead that church to partner with me through support and/or individuals to help their own people.

On Wednesday I was able to visit Sweethaven B/C in Portsmouth again. They are a supporting church. I was greatly blessed by Pastor Borkert’s message on the life of Joseph–God saved a family that He might save the world!

This morning I attended a pastors’ fellowship for pastors in the Tidewater area. I was able to make three contacts–which is exactly what I desired. I have 3 free Wednesday nights to visit churches, and now I have three contacts to follow up on. We’ll see where the Lord takes those.

As we finish up around 9 translation projects, we are working on others to take their places. I spent a while yesterday and today reading through correspondence and sending emails about three language groups in Southeast Asia. One of the groups involves a national couple who will be moving to the area, learning the language, starting a church, and begin doing/revising linguistics and literacy material. They definitely need our prayers as they have many challenges ahead.

Speaking of finishing up projects, we’ve determined that one project will not be able to use our standard concordance. Their language breaks up morphemes such that it would be extremely difficult to search for key words in their NT. Therefore, we have to develop a topical index instead. One problem–we haven’t ever created a topical index! But the Lord has so arranged my circumstances that I’m going to spend the next two weeks concentrating mostly on developing an index. Praise the Lord for making things conducive for me to do this work, including letting me stay at a place that has a library with at least 4 resources to use! God’s ways are perfect!

Tomorrow I have to drive 4.5 hours to southwestern VA for meetings at two different churches. I’ll be presenting my ministry in SS and preaching at the first church, and then presenting my ministry again at the second church. Please pray for protection, provision, and power.

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2011 in Preview

The year has already started (and I’ve already finished one book, The Text of the Old Testament), but I wanted to preview the new year in my blog. One January 1, I reviewed the past year and established resolutions and goals for the new year. Pastor Minnick asked each of us to prayerfully consider what we plan on doing in our Bibles this year. I plan on reading through the Bible once again following M’Cheyne’s reading schedule (though I read only 3 chapters each day), but this year I want to read two chapters in the morning and one in the evening. This will give me more time to meditate on what I read and also to do some cross-referencing. I’ve already begun this modified schedule and have found it to work quite well. Not as rushed to get through!

One of my greatest goals for 2011 is to grow in grace in some very specific (and personal) ways. If I can see the Lord give victory in specific areas, I will truly be grateful on Dec. 31. Pastor Minnick challenged us on Jan. 2 with a message entitled “You Must Master Sin” from the life of Cain in Gen. 4. By His grace, I want to master sin in my life.

My schedule will see deputation tapering off some and full-time ministry increasing. I have meetings mostly in Virginia in Jan/Feb, in Illinois in March, and in Pennsylvania in April/May. Then I’ll prepare for the next Haitian Creole OT workshop in June. In July I might be taking an overseas trip (Chad? Asia?). In August I’ll be leading our annual Consultant Seminar as well as attending the BI Annual Meetings. I have scattered deputation meetings in Sept, Oct, and Nov, mostly in Illinois and Indiana. And I even have a meeting in January 2012. I’m waiting to schedule many more until the beginning of February, when I’ll see how much support has come in during the first month of the year.

I hope to purchase a house some time in the summer. If that transpires, I’ll be making a trip back down to Greenville, SC, to get the rest of my belongings. At some point while I’m in Greenville, I’ll need to set up my commissioning service at my sending church, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. I’m looking forward to that occasion!

This year is BI’s 30th anniversary, so there will be some special events during the year. Hopefully, I won’t be as involved in deputation activities so I can have more participation in these events. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could finish deputation during this special year for BI? We’ll see if the Lord wants to work it that way! “Ask and you shall receive.”

So, I’m looking forward to many exciting events. I’m trying to prepare myself for the anticipated, as well as the unanticipated, events. Only the Lord knows the future. I’m so glad that He knows it and controls it! What a loving Father we serve!

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2010 in Review

It’s become my personal practice at the beginning of a new year to review back over the previous year before looking ahead into the next. I like to note the various ways in which the Lord guided and blessed me throughout the previous year. It’s a great time to thank Him once again for His abundant graciousness!

As I look back over 2010, I see that the Lord added 6 churches and 5 individuals to my support team. Accounting for those increases and the increases of certain donors and the decreases in other respects, my support went up 17% over the past 12 months. I’m currently at 69%. I had 33 individual meetings and 6 missions conferences, traveling a total of 19,806 miles. Praise God for His provision and protection!

In my work at Bibles International, I was able to travel to Myanmar, India, and Chad. I also had two workshops for the project in Haiti, but both were conducted in Michigan. It thrills my heart to think back on the translation projects I worked with for these 4 countries and the opportunities to minister the Word of God. Of course, my ministry as the head consultant enabled me to have a part in projects for many other countries as well. What a joy it is to help local churches around the world gain access to God’s precious words!

I think I read more books this past year than any previous year. I read 14 completely and dipped into numerous other ones: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To the Golden Shore, Undaunted, 1776, Respectable Sins, First Light, Peacemaker, Speaking of India, Cross-Cultural Servanthood, D’une Langue à Une Autre, A Clear and Present Word, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Singled Out for Him, Bible Translation (Barnwell), Weight Training for Dummies, and Buying Your First Home. I’m in the process of reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Second Touch, The Text of the Old Testament, On the Death and Life of Languages, and William Tyndale.

I finished up 2010 with a two-week vacation. In addition to reading about buying a home and fitness, I enjoyed extra time with the Lord. I’m so thankful for how the Lord drew near to me as I drew near to Him. I really needed that time of spiritual renewal.

This past year ended with some exciting news for our family. My sister Michele had their first boy (fourth child), Tristan Edward Rivera. He was born at 5pm yesterday, weighing 6 lb 3 oz and being 19 inches long. Both mom and baby are doing well. My other sister Lori needs our continued prayers, especially since yesterday was the due date for her little girl, whom she lost just before Thanksgiving.

2011 should be an exciting year as I hope to finish deputation (by Easter) and move into my first home (hopefully this summer). I’m looking forward to growth in grace, fruitfulness in ministry, and experiencing more of God’s faithful provision and protection.

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