Archive for May, 2010
We have had a wonderful trip. We made it to Havana safely, and we spent the afternoon with dear brother pastors from Santa Clara. We were driven around in a 50-something Oldsmobile – quite a ride in Havana.
We are now at our hotel – Habana Libre, and we are trying to rest for our journey tomorrow. Lord willing, I will be enjoying supper with my family tomorrow (Saturday) evening. Please pray for our safe return.
Well, this was the final day of our pastors’ conference on preaching Old Testament historical narrative with a view to Christ. We had an amazing time with about a dozen pastors. The conference was very hands on – they each gave mini-expositions on various texts from Exodus.
It was great to see lots of light bulbs turn on as we made connections from the Old Testament to Christ. It was also a great joy to fellowship with these men of God. They are doing a great work in very difficult circumstances with great joy in their hearts.
This morning Floyd and I went out for our morning exercise and prayer time on the beach. Also, we have been enjoying the local fruit for breakfast, and the wonderful meals during the day.
Floyd and I had an opportunity to hang out with two pastors during the afternoon. Since they had a car, they took us to the end of the peninsula of Varadero Beach. It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Floyd experienced two firsts for him today. I introduced him to Malta – my favorite childhood drink (a non-alcoholic drink made from malted barley). I also had the privilege to introduce Floyd to his first (non-alcoholic) Pina Colada. The bartender assured us it was the best in Cuba. At the very least, it was the best I have ever had!
Floyd wrapped things up tonight with an exposition on 2 Timothy 4. He did a marvelous job! Afterward, we all gave thanks for the week, and had some tear filled good-byes. At the end of the evening, there were eight of us left, so we went to a local restaurant for some flan – amazing (sorry Jeanine)! We have laughed very hard and enjoyed great fellowship. I fell in love with these brothers! It was a joy to see their love for the word and hear of their love for their churches.
I thank God for High Pointe and our elders who freed me to come to Cuba and spend time with these pastors. It has been a blessed time. Friday I plan to visit with some of our brothers from Santa Clara. They will travel to Havana. Then Saturday morning we head to the airport. Please pray for our remaining 48 hours.
Tuesday was the first full day of our pastors’ conference. By God’s grace I awakened these last two mornings in time to join Floyd at 6:30 for a brisk walk on the beach. My goals are to try and get some exercise in during this week and to pray with Floyd. My brother Floyd is a prayer warrior, and it is a joy to pray with him! The sand is loose, so the exercise part is for real.
We have been enjoying wonderful food that is being prepared for us every day, three times a day by some very sweet ladies. It is more than I am accustomed to eating – it’s like eating supper three times in one day. One of my favorite things about Cuba (and Puerto Rico) is the tropical fruits. They just taste better!!! The mangos melt in your mouth, and the guavas are my favorite childhood fruit! Oh, the memories! This morning we had bananas unlike anything I’ve tasted before!
After our afternoon session, Floyd, my friend Al Pino from Miami and I went to a restaurant on the beach – actually, it was more like a hut. We just wanted to hang out and talk over sodas, but the man who seated us insisted that we look at the fish – literally! He brought a plate with four huge fish (snapper, I think) that had been freshly caught and suggested we try some. Ok, so we gave in (far too easily), and he brought us each a snapper – Al has the pictures! The fish came on a tray (a la plancha – grilled), head and all, accompanied with some arroz congri (rice cooked together with black beans). It was the BEST fish I’ve ever had – no exaggeration! Amazing! The three of us then pondered that if this setting was so beautiful (the restaurant was on the beach and overlooked the clear, blue water) and the food was so good, what would the new heavens and earth be like. Eye has not see, nor ear heard what God has prepared for us!
We then started on the long walk back to the conference site (about 30+ blocks). About half way, we stopped in at another place for Cuban coffee and some amazing flan (sorry Jeanine!). I love Cuban coffee – straight, no sugar! It is a joy to partake in these graces with thanksgiving! The Lord is truly good to us!
The best part of our trip is spending time with the Cuban pastors, teaching the expositional preaching and biblical theology. They are eating it up! And what a joy it is for us! I have been walking them through Exodus, and showing them how to make connections to Christ through redemptive history, type-antitype, promise/fulfillment, analogy, direct reference and longitudinal themes from Sidney Greidanus’ book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.
We have also listened to them preach mini-expositions from Exodus. Again, it has been a great joy! In the evenings we have been spending some time in 2 Timothy, and then we have had open discussions on preaching, ministry and pastoral care. Tonight’s discussion got quite heated, but that is simply how Latins communicate – with much animation and passion but no hard feelings (Americans might think we are about to begin a fight). One of the great joys is the diverse background of these pastors: one Pentecostal, two Freewill Baptists, the rest traditional Baptists with links to Southern Baptists in the states, and even one Seventh Day Adventist. Needless to say, we have had interesting discussions, but I always point us to the word of God.
Tomorrow (Thursday) will be our last full day of the conference, then on Friday we make our return trip to Havana where I hope to reunite with some friends from Santa Clara. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for health and strength. Pray that the Lord would do a great work in these men this week and that they would return to their congregations with a desire to let the word of God speak loudly and clearly for itself through expositional preaching.
I had the privilege of spending the morning in study at the hotel. Right now I am working on 1 Corinthians 13, for Sunday morning. It was very humbling to meditate on love as the mark of the Christian, as Francis Schaeffer once said.
Floyd and I had a quite lunch at the hotel, then Alexis and Elio of Equipo Impacto (Team Impact – an expositional preaching ministry) picked us up, and we took a beautiful ride along the northern coast of Cuba to Varadero, perhaps the most beautiful beach I have been to. We are having our conference on expositional preaching at a church by the beach.
We arrived at the church, and we met some great brothers from a church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. We all ate supper together (Mahi, rice with black beans, vegetables and custard for desert), then we went into our conference with the Cuban brothers. It was great to see our brother from Sovereign Grace, Al Pino from Miami.
We had a wonderful time in the word, looking at 2 Timothy where Paul charges Timothy to remain in and guard the deposit of the gospel. It was an encouraging time. These are dear brothers from various denominations who love the Lord, are learning to love one another and love the Word of God. Please pray for our week – that there would be much fruit as we pass on the gospel to these pastors so that they would then pass it along to others.
It’s hard to believe this is day four already, but it’s been a busy and good time. The Lord has been truly gracious.
On Saturday, Alexis, Lourdes and I ate at this wonderful Spanish (as in from Spain, not Cuban) restaurant hidden inside what looked to be a deteriorated building. It was quite a surprise to go inside and find such an elegant restaurant. We then picked up Floyd (one of our High Pointe elders) from the airport and prepared for our evening.
After wonderful conversations at lunch about culture and the state of the church and youth and singles in Cuba, I decided to preach on biblical manhood and womanhood. That night over 300 youth and young adults showed up at a church in Havana for the meeting. Floyd went on the roof of the building and prayed for me the entire time I was preaching. The Lord was merciful; I sensed great freedom to speak boldly and clearly to the young people about the biblical roles of men and women in a culture where the government is highly touting homosexuality and castigating those who would oppose it, labeling them homophobic.
On Sunday morning I planned to preach on biblical manhood and womanhood as it relates to marriage, but seeking to be sensitive to the Spirit, I changed the message because the churches were celebrating the day of Pentecost and the end of a 50 day campaign of prayer for gospel advancement. Instead, I preached 1 Corinthians 9:23 – For the Love of the Gospel. I had the opportunity to explain the gospel in all its glory and urge the people to proclaim the gospel in both word and life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8).
We ate a wonderful Cuban lunch (arroz congri, picadillo, fried green plantains) around 3:00 p.m., then headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. In the evening we were at another Havana church which was celebrating the seventh anniversary of an evangelism ministry, and I again preached 1 Corinthians 9:23. It was a glorious evening with the brothers in Cuba.
What I enjoyed most about the gatherings was their simplicity and biblical reflection – each had a song, word, etc. It was gloriously encouraging!
This morning I will be working at the hotel, getting things together for the pastors’ conference taking place this week. We will travel the two hours to Varadero, the beach resort town where the conference will be taking place. We will not be at a resort; we will be at a Presbyterian church that has facilities to accommodate us. Please pray for our time that we would encourage one another.
Thursday afternoon I left Chicago and arrived home in Austin about 5pm. I got to spend the evening with Jeanine and the girls – went to Elgin for BBQ, attended Hope’s volleyball game, got home about 10pm, put the girls to bed, then worked until 1 am, preparing lectures for Cuba.
I got up at 3.30 am, got ready and Jeanine took me to the airport. Needless to say, my engine was functioning on fumes, as they say. All the flights went well, then when I went to my concourse at the Miami airport, I was told I did not have the proper boarding pass. I was pointed to a line which seemed a million miles long. Those in the line had bought lots of goods (I mean lots – TVs, bicycles, clothes, foods, etc.) and were taking them to Cuba to family and friends. All I had was my little carry-on bag and one small suitcase full of some goodies for children. I was dejected at the thought that I would have to stand in that line. Time was not the issue – I was the issue!
I finally found an agent and he helped me immediately since I wasn’t entering Cuba on a tourist visa. I got through the security checkpoint and sat down for a breather. All this time I had been whining to Susan (my assistant) and Brenda (our travel coordinator) about how difficult everything had been. “We will NEVER go this route again,” I protested! Previously, we would travel through Cancun, a personal travel agent would meet us and take care of everything!
When I arrived in Cuba, I (with my little bags) and the others (with their tons of goods) all sought to get through customs as quicly as possible – hah! That was funny! Finally after 1.5 hours, I was outside in hot and humid Havana. Last night, I began to gain perspective, thought I was utterly exhausted and still had to attend a 2.5 hour graduation ceremony for a local seminary.
I went to bed about midnight, set my alarm and fell asleep. I finally awakened after 9.30 am this morning. I had slept through my alarm for the first time in years! I can’t remember when the last time was that I was that exhausted. I felt refreshed and got ready. As I write this morning I have a much better perspective and a clearer mind. I knew I had to confess my sin this morning to those whom I had affected. Here is what I wrote to them:
Please forgive me for my whining yesterday! I think I was overwhelmed with my tiredness. Looking back, I don’t think it was half as bad as I intimated. I was speaking out of frustration. I am feeling refreshed this morning and have a much better perspective on everything!
The great lesson the Lord taught me yesterday is that tiredness, even exhaustion, is not an excuse for not fighting sin! Oh God, help me, even in my exhaustion to battle sin faithfully. Yesterday I experienced my sinfulness and I hated it! Not while I was sinning, of course, but after I gained perspective. Please pray for my time here in Cuba-that the Lord would grant me much grace. In order that you may pray specifically, here is my schedule (Lord willing):
This afternoon (Saturday, May 22) I will spend some time with Alexis and Lourdes (dear friends doing a great work in Havana), then in the evening I will preach at a youth meeting/conference (?).
Tomorrow morning (Sunday) I will be preaching at Alexis’ church in Havana, then in the afternoon I will be preaching at the closing celebration of 50 days of evangelism for the Baptist state convention, also here in Havana.
Monday I leave for the pastors’ conference at a Presbyterian church at Varadero. The conference will be on preaching Old Testament narrative, with a special focus on Exodus. I can’t wait to spend this time with the brother pastors here. Also, I have the special joy of hanging out with my friend Al Pino, who is a Sovereign Grace pastor in Miami. After much needed sleep, I am looking forward to it all!
I will be traveling to Havana, Cuba on Friday to spend some time with the brothers there. Our intention is to encourage them, but they are great encouragers to us! Friday night I will be at the graduation service for the Baptist Seminary in Havana, then I will spend the weekend with our brothers in Santa Clara.
From Monday through Thursday, I have the privilege of leading in a conference on expositional preaching. Please pray for me as I am still finishing up some lectures. I will have the opportunity to spend a few days with about a dozen pastors as we consider preaching from Old Testament narrative, particularly Exodus.
I covet your prayers for my travels and for my family as I am away. I thank God for High Pointe’s vision for the nations and for their encouraging me to have a hand in our brothers’ ministries in Cuba.
Justin Taylor interviews David Platt about missions. David’s first book is titled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. I just got in and am looking forward to reading it – perhaps with my family as we vacation together later in the summer so we can discuss it together.
Justin also links to David’s breakout session at Together for the Gospel (T4G). I attended this breakout and came away greatly encouraged and challenged. This is a MUST listen to message!
Bob Kauflin has some great words of wisdom for all of us concerning the Contemporvant service parody that I and many others posted on their blogs. Be sure to take a couple of minutes and read it here.
ht: Justin Taylor
Now that summer is approaching many of us will plan to embark on much-needed vacations. I encourage you and your family to take advantage of such times. Before you go away, though, I want to remind you that churches continue ministering during the summer and that such ministry requires your ongoing financial support. Why should you remain faithful in your giving during the summer months?
First, giving expresses your love for Christ. We don’t give in order to gain favor with God-that would amount to justification by works and would give us reason to boast. All our giving is an expression of a love for God that flows from a genuine trust in His promises to provide for our basic needs. All the blessings we enjoy are gifts from God: our homes, cars, families, employment, even our time (James 1:17). Our giving of such gifts to Christ is a recognition that these things have no eternal value in comparison to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord” (Phil 3:8). Our giving expresses that we love Christ more than “stuff.”
Second, giving expresses your love for the body of Christ. We may say that we love High Pointe Baptist Church; however, the true test of our love for Christ’s body at High Pointe is that we willingly, cheerfully and sacrificially give of our time, talents, gifts and earthly treasures so that the body might build itself up in love (Eph 4:16). I am continually humbled by the testimony of the church in Acts. Luke says, “they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45). What a challenging thought.
Third, giving expresses your love and concern to see all peoples become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ. Giving expresses our concern to advance the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ as given to the local church. Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matt 9:38). Rarely does a day pass that I do not meet someone in our city who needs Christ. According to recent statistics, only 37% of the 218,000 people who live within 5 miles of our building are strongly involved in a church. Just stop and think of the enormity of that mission field! If we are to reach the unbelieving people of Austin and the world, we will need workers, hard workers. We will need men, women and children of great faith and maturity who will give willingly, cheerfully and sacrificially of their time, talents, gifts and treasures to reach our community with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let me ask you a few questions in closing. Do you love Christ? Do you love His body? Do you love to see unbelieving people come to faith in Christ? Then, are you putting your money where your mouth is? Are you storing up treasures in heaven?