Ministry’s Rough.

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Ministry’s rough. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I’ve seen the “dark side” of ministry multiple times. I’ve been to the churches who think their pastor does nothing more than sit in his office and read his Bible during the week. They don’t see the other 79 hours he puts in, working with people, dealing with finances, solving the world’s problems (or so it seems), and praying and agonizing over his congregation. I’ve been to the churches where the congregation believes the service Sunday morning is all about them. I’ve watched the people walk out when the music wasn’t to their liking. I’ve seen the nasty comment cards about the sermon being “too convicting.” I’ve watched people take Communion when I know for a fact they haven’t spoken to someone on the opposite side of the church for months because they have differing views on something. I’ve seen the hypocrisy in those on stage who play instruments or sing solos or even teach Bible studies when their home lives or their social lives are a mess. I’ve heard the “preach prayers” that try to convict the congregation into spending money on something or being mad with them towards somebody else. Oh yes. I’ve seen a lot.

And here I am, packing to go overseas a missionary myself. I’m not sure why… but I’m looking forward to it. I found this verse in Luke this week and I love it: “But don’t begin until you count the cost…” -Luke 14:28a, NLT. Jesus is telling the people about the cost of being His disciple. He’s previously told them that He doesn’t have a home, so they shouldn’t expect one either; to let the dead bury the dead because their job is to preach the Kingdom of God; and that if you begin the work and look back, you’re not fit for His Kingdom (all in Luke 9:57-62). Now, here, He is saying that you must not love anyone, including yourself, more than Christ. And then… “Don’t begin until you count the cost.” He goes on to talk about how much a builder would be mocked if he began a huge project, but wasn’t able to finish because of lack of funds. Or how horrible it would be for a king to go to war and not have enough money to actually win.

As soon as I read this, I thought of those in ministry. There are those who have been beaten up, knocked down, kicked while they were down, and yet gotten up to keep going. Then, there are those who get some criticism, some discouraging comments, are treated unkindly, and are ready to quit. The cost of serving the Lord and working fulltime for the Lord is high. Very high. How much do you love yourself? Enough that if someone is rude, conniving, mean-spirited, and angry with you that you’ll quit because you can’t handle it? Or, enough that you want yourself to be with the Lord, no matter the cost, and you persevere in spite of the cost to your life or even your reputation?

The phrase “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire” came instantly to mind when I read that verse. How horrible it is for the church of God whenever another minister or missionary walks away because they can’t stand the heat. The culture got to them; their co-workers were unfair; they didn’t like their pay; people didn’t like how they preached; someone left a rude comment card in the offering plate. Just like the builder who underestimated the cost of the building was mocked mercilessly for his failure, so is the church when we walk away from ministry when things get a little rough.

I’m not saying those in ministry don’t have a right to have a bad day… or even a bad year (or five). I’m not saying you can’t weep and mourn over how horribly difficult your ministry is, day in and day out. I’m not saying you can’t feel unappreciated or unloved and just want to quit. All I’m saying is that I hate it when people DO quit.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost.” I’ve been watching my father “count the cost” for 25 of his 39 years of ministry. I’ve never seen him give up, walk away, or hang his head in shame. I’ve watched him get up at 5:30am every single day to pray for his flock, even when they weren’t standing behind him in unity. I’ve seen him age and grow weary during the past couple of years because ministry is rough. But, one thing I will never see my father do is give up. He counted the cost. He knows better than most what that cost truly looks like. He may never have been physically beaten, but sometimes I think verbal abuse is much, much worse. The physical wounds always inevitably heal. But, how can you erase or delete cutting, biting, gnawing words? Oh yes, he’s counted the cost.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to our sending church in the next couple of weeks. But, I know simply because of my father’s consistent walk with the Lord that nothing he decides to do will be out of God’s perfect plan.

Ministry’s rough. I’m glad I had a prime example my entire life of how to keep going, even when the going got impossible.

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Updates:

Prayer is so awesome. God is so good to us. They didn’t think Jen would make it through the night Friday, but as of today, she is sitting up, talking, laughing, eating, and using a smaller oxygen mask! She’s coherent, she’s been able to sleep a few hours, and she’s anxious to go home!! She’s not cleared to leave yet and the healing process for her lungs is going to be awhile, but she’s alive! Gotta love the thousands of people around the globe who lifted her up! Thanks for being a part of that. Continue to pray for her husband, Jeremy, who is literally living in the ICU room with her. Pray for their unborn baby ~ so close to the due date! And pray for peace, strength, and encouragement for Jen as she continues to heal.

It feels so good to post such an encouraging update just days after we didn’t think she’d even be alive. Wow.

As for my family situation – my parents will be leaving February 2nd and will be back around the 16th. Our church is organizing a prayer and fasting schedule for those 2 solid weeks. I’ll be putting up reminders, but could you pray for my parents and the church in this decision? That would be greatly appreciated! If you plan on praying during those 2 weeks, could you just leave a comment so I could know? I would love that. Thank you!

*** Here is an email we received from Jeremy Knapp’s brother, Jason:

In reference to Jeremy and Jen Knapp, we want to thank you all for praying.  I and a few friends left last night after seeing her and Jeremy, and they were both very encouraged.  At that point in time, Jen was only being given 50% oxygen from the machine, and her oxygen levels with that were at 98%!   This means that she was breathing pretty well on her own.  She was sitting up in bed, drinking fluids, smiling, and looking pretty good.  She had eaten half a nutrient shake earlier that day and so she had also gotten some nourishment.  She will still need to be in the hospital for a few more days at least until the inflammation in her lungs decreases and she can breath completely on her own. We want to say thank you for going to the Father for all of us and for your specific and heartfelt prayers.  They made a difference!  There were multiple stories and little “miracles” that I could tell you.  But I think the biggest one was this:  Jeremy sat us all down in the waiting room and said, “We need to have a time of thanksgiving to God for what he has done.”  We all were giving praise to God and honoring him for his powerful working.  The amazing thing was this:  at the time that we were giving praise, she was still not completely healed.  But God gave us a peace and a confidence in his loving care and in faith we were thanking him for his complete healing when complete healing had not even happened yet… she is still in ICU.  I was so thankful because Jeremy’s faith and our faith in God was strengthened so much so that we were able to thank him by faith and not by sight. We would ask that you too go to the Father and thank him for his powerful working in the life of Jen and in the lives of all of us.  We sent up thousands of petitions and requests to our God; let’s give him just as much praise, and even more!  He is worthy of our praise.  He is a good God, and he did and is answering our prayers.  Let’s let him hear praise from all the voices who asked him to help.

Praise be to God alone,

Jason

Stuff.

I’ll start with the happy note:

We got our visa approval today!!!! All that’s left is to actually get the stamps put in our passports. We are ECSTATIC! The end of February is for sure our goal for arriving and that FINALLY is feasable! God is so great.

The not-so-happy note is a prayer request that is rather urgent:

We received an email this morning about some friends from New Tribes Bible Institute in Waukesha, Wisconsin. A girl by the name of Jen Knapp, who is 7 months pregnant, developed a severe kidney infection last week. She had a horrible reaction to the medicine and her lungs have filled with fluid. The doctors have done all they could this week, but as of this morning, they said they would just be making her comfortable. Unless something changes, she will not make it. She and her husband, Jeremy, have been married for just a couple of years, this is their first child, and they are in training with New Tribes Mission in Missouri. Her father was one of our teachers at NTBI – Scott Knievel. PLEASE PRAY for the Lord to intervene! He is our Great Physician.

Oh goodness.

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I love South Dakota. This picture is one of the many reasons why. It’s so vast and quiet and gorgeous and the heavens just sing of the glory of God! Reminds me of Romans every time – how we are without excuse because God has declared Himself through His creation. I also think of the passage that talks about all of earth groaning as it waits for the return and the redemption of Christ. Nature really does express God better than we can.

We made one final trip out to SD this past week. It was kind of unexpected and really hastily planned, but we were glad we went! Despite two three snowstorms, two windstorms, an ice storm, and thirty plus hours of driving both ways, it was a good trip! God really took care of us. It was nice visiting as well. We saw our best friend’s six month old baby boy (whose birth this summer we missed by a mere 24 hours!), so that was absolutely wonderful. Our other good friends took a pastorate in Texas and will be moving the end of February, so we got to see them and their adopted baby girl one last time. Both our sister-in-law and the girlfriend of one of Brian’s younger brothers are pregnant, so we got to see them before the babies are born this spring and summer. Spent time with pretty much everybody we needed to see and we both feel much more ready to head to Peru. Closure is always nice.

When we got back home, though, we got some rough news. My dad is the pastor of our sending church here in PA. The church has been having some difficulties, just with changes and moving forward. Some changes haven’t been able to be implemented and there’s been a lot of roadblocks and complaints. It really has gotten wearing on my father. He was in Niger, Africa, for a week right around New Year’s and he used that time to make some tough decisions. He announced Sunday evening that he will be taking two weeks off here pretty soon to go to Florida with my mom and just pray about whether God would have him stay here or not. A lot of people feel blindsided by the announcement, but I think it was good for them to hear how serious the situation has gotten. If you think of it, you can be praying for my father as he makes a huge decision that will affect a lot of people in the weeks to come. Pray for my family; even though we’re adults, this still affects us (Brian and I even more than my siblings since this is our sending/home church). It’s hard seeing this way down my parents like it has. I’ve seen my father age like you wouldn’t believe in the past few years. Ministry’s tough. I wish people could see that.

I love my dad, though, and I totally trust God in this decision. He has never led my family wrong! We’ll see what He has in store for all of us in 2009.

My Husband Rocks.

Got this idea from another blog. You should try it if you’re married! Here’s a brief questionnaire on why my husband rocks. 🙂

  1. Where did you meet? We met at New Tribes Bible Institute in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, 2003.
  2. How long did you date before you were married? We dated for six months before we got engaged and then were engaged a little over a year before we got married in 2005. Yup. Fast. My parents loved it.
  3. What does he do that surprises you? He’s got the biggest servant’s heart of anyone I’ve ever met and he never ceases to amaze me at the times he offers to fix something for somebody he barely knows.
  4. What is your favorite quality of his? His servant’s heart. I love it.
  5. What is your favorite feature of his? His smile crinkles by his eyes cuz it means he laughs and smiles a lot.
  6. Does he have a nickname for you? Just “babe”
  7. What’s his favorite food? Spaghetti or stuffed mushrooms
  8. What is his favorite sport? Football, though he’s not a big sports nut (thankfully! That would probably drive me insane)
  9. When and where was your first kiss? We differ on this, but because I’m right, I’ll tell you where I say it was. 🙂 In the parking lot of Barnes and Noble a month after we started dating.
  10. What do you like to do together? Everything. I seriously mean that. As long as we’re together, we’re great. We can sit and do nothing, and we’re just glad to do nothing together.
  11. Do you have any children? Nope. But, we are so looking forward to the day God blesses us with a family of our own. For now, we’re “Auntie Lisa and Uncle Brian” to our best friends’ baby boy and we have a niece and either a niece or nephew on the way this summer!
  12. Does he have a hidden talent? He is quite musical!
  13. Who said “I love you” first? Brian, right before he kissed me. Yup. Fast. 🙂
  14. What is his favorite type of music? A good mix of Supertones style and great worship
  15. What do you admire most about him? His passion for the Lord and missions.
  16. Do you think he will read this? Probably not!

Goin’ Fishing.

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I’d never really gone fishing before I got married. But, fishing is something my husband loves doing and it’s a family past-time for him, so he taught me how that first summer. I must be brutally honest, though. I kind of pseudo-fish. Meaning, I really don’t ever touch the fish. Or the worm. I just kind of cast it out and reel it back in. But, that’s more than I’d ever done before, so I give myself at least a little credit. 🙂 I enjoy going out to the middle of nowhere with him, though, and reading in the dead quiet while he fishes. It’s so peaceful. I love it.

This morning’s sermon was all about evangelism. The Associate Pastor did a really good job pulling from different passages from Jesus’ life about evangelism. The first one really caught my attention, though, and I found myself thinking more on that passage than the others. The passage was Luke 5:1-11, where Jesus called Simon Peter, James, and John to be some of His first disciples.

The three of them had been out all night fishing, which was their profession. But, these experienced fishermen had caught nothing. Jesus used one of their boats in order to teach the people for awhile. When He was done, He told them to go back out and cast their nets. Peter was awfully skeptical, but they decided to go anyway, just because Jesus told them to. They ended up pulling in more fish than they’d ever caught before, so much that their boats began to sink and they had to help each other bring in their catch. Immediately, Peter realized he was not worthy and knew that Jesus was much more than a good teacher. But, Jesus calmed his fears and told him from then on, Peter, James, and John would be fishers of men. The men left everything and followed Jesus right away.

I found a few things interesting about this passage:

  • First of all – these were experienced fishermen. They did this all the time for a living. They used giant nets and pulled in huge quantities of fish to sell every single day. They knew when it was a good time to fish, where was a good place to fish, and when and where was not good for fishing. When they told Jesus they had fished the entire night and gotten absolutely nothing, they were serious. I’m sure they were discouraged. This was their livelihood! But, just because Jesus said to do so, they went back out to do more fishing.
  • They caught the biggest amount of fish ever during the middle of the day. In fact, they had to call over more help because their boat was starting to sink. And all this because they merely did what Jesus asked them to do when it seemed unreasonable.
  • After they came to shore, Peter realized Who Jesus was. He realized this catch had nothing to do with him and he was completely unworthy of any of it.
  • Jesus told them they’d all be “fishers of men” from then on. Imagine – they had just seen the biggest catch ever during the most unlikely time of the day after an unsuccessful night of fishing. Now, Jesus is telling them that they will be doing essentially the same thing, only their “catch” will be people.
  • They left everything immediately to follow Jesus. This meant they left the biggest catch they’d ever seen, which was their entire livelihood, to follow a Man they barely knew to a destination unknown.

Jesus is calling us to do the exact same thing. He wants us to trust Him and follow where He leads us. We need to go to places that He wants us to go in order to reach people who are lost. This may not be the most comfortable place. He may call us to a slum or far away from home or even across the street to the neighbor who is exceptionally rude to us. One thing is for sure, though: He will send us to where there are the most “fish” who need to be “caught.”

Jesus wants us to expect great results. The disciples pulled in the biggest catch of their lives and then Jesus compared fishing to evangelizing. It was almost like He was saying, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” When we share the gospel, we need to expect huge results – bigger than we dreamed possible – big enough that we need help “reeling” them all in – because we’re simply doing what Jesus has asked us to do.

We need to realize that any results that come from our “fishing” have nothing to do with us. It is Jesus who does the real work. All we need to do is obey.

The disciples left everything in order to follow Jesus that day. Everything. I wonder what all was involved in their “everythings?” I bet it included their jobs, large Jewish families, friends, home, safety from the Romans in charge of the country, steady income… I wonder what else? It was obviously a sacrifice. But, it was also worth their very lives. As far as we know, every disciple died as a martyr. Peter himself was crucified upside-down because he did not want to die the same way as his Lord. But, you never hear any of them complain about the lives they led after they were called.

As I enter this new year, I find myself so anxious to get on with life it’s almost unbearable. I’ve been waiting to be a full-time missionary since I was seven years old. And yet, have I really been waiting? Or have I just been waiting to leave the country and continue this job? This year, I’m looking forward to a new step in the direction Jesus is leading me. I look forward to “reeling in” lots of fish in a different country. But, I’m bothered about leaving behind everybody here who still hasn’t been “caught in the net.” I’m glad my friends are staying behind because somebody needs to go fishing here in America.

May 2009 be one awesome year of fishing for every one of us. May our lines break, our nets rip, our boats sink, and our arms get sore from reeling in all the lost souls of this world! I’m so glad Jesus is standing on shore, cheering us on in this intense labor, waiting for us to come home with our catch.

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Things To Look Forward To.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I try not to make them because I just know I’ll break them! And not keeping my promises just kills me. So, instead, I write in my journal every year kind of a recap of the year and some questions for the new year. It’s always fun to look back at my previous New Year’s Eve entries and see what kinds of things I was looking forward to in the year that was coming, that is now passed. This year, I find myself with TONS of questions and an awful lot to recap. It took me a few hours to get it all written down. The majority of questions that I have for the new year, though, are focused on things that I’m looking forward to. A few months ago, I was terrified about the new year and leaving. Now, I’m finally (finally!!) getting butterflies of excitement when I think about the trip and the move. God has done a real work in my life to get me to this point. Here’s a partial list of some of the things I’m looking forward to in 2009. Some of them made into my journal, some of them did not. What are YOU looking forward to in 2009? Leave a comment ~ I’d love to hear!

  • Vacationing with my brother and sister-in-law in Miami for a few days before we leave.
  • Walking off the plane in Lima. The last time I was there, I was 17 and literally, when I stepped off the plane, I felt like I was home. I look forward to that feeling again.
  • Getting to know our co-workers. Yes, we’ll be the only Americans. No, not everyone will speak English. I don’t care. We’ll all be serving the Lord, with a common goal, a common dream. I can’t wait.
  • Learning Spanish! I can’t wait to be trilingual. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish. I think it’s a beautiful language. I can’t wait to be able to converse in it.
  • Designing, building, and decorating our new home. I can’t wait to have a place of our own again after more than a year of living with my parents. This has been a LONG year! 🙂 I cannot wait to have our own place. To entertain our Peruvian friends; to house people from the States who come down on missions trips; to make our new house a home, a haven for Brian and myself when things get tough and a place of joy when things are going really well.
  • The new culture we’ll get to learn. I know it’s going to be intimidating and there will be days when it’s really rough, but over all, I’m looking forward to new ways of doing things, new ways of shopping and communicating and even greeting people, new ways of “doing” church and celebarting holidays. New, New, New!
  • The holidays in another culture. One of the things that was stressed to us at the Center for Intercultural Training was that we need to look for God in our new country. He created cultures unique for a reason and He reveals Himself to them in ways that will relate to them. I look forward to celebrating Easter and Christmas with new traditions that are unique to Peruvian believers. I look forward to seeing God in a brand new light.
  • On a non-Peru note, I’m looking forward to the birth of TWO nieces or nephews or this year. We know for sure that there’s a niece on the way, but we don’t know what the other one will be. My sister-in-law and the girlfriend of one of my brothers-in-law are both pregnant. Yay for being an Auntie for the first time!
  • In just a couple of days, too, we’re going back to South Dakota for one more visit. Just like spending the holidays in the States this year, this is unexpected and very exciting. We’ll be out in SD for a week, which will enable us to see our best friend’s six month old baby boy that we haven’t met yet, say goodbye to good friends moving to Texas this spring, and see the two girls while they’re pregnant. A week is far too short, and yet, it’ll be just about perfect this time around.

I could probably keep going, but I’m sure many of you no longer care. I pray you all have a very Happy New Year and that you are able to have your own list of things to look forward to in 2009. Our times are in the hands of God. There’s no better place for them to be!

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