End-of-Summer Newsletter

We just sent out our end-of-summer email newsletter. If you missed it, you can view it here.

Also, I have finally added a newsletter signup form (which you can now see at the bottom of the right side bar).  Currently our Newsletter is sent out just about quarterly.

We are excited to start our classes at the Missionary Training Center this week.  We look forward to a challenging, yet incredibly beneficial time.


A Meaningful Week

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are worth considering daily.  This week preceding Easter, the week of Passover, when these events are often given more focus, I have spent some time reflecting on the crucifixion and resurrection of our incredible Savior.  I want to share with you what I hope will be helpful in your own reflection of the most important story ever told.

First off, I don’t think Good Friday and Easter can be properly understood without understanding some things about Jewish history as they are presented in the Old Testament. God told the Israelites/Jews to observe certain festivals, or “feasts,” every year in order to commemorate things that God had done for them and/or would do for them in the future. One thing that is incredible to me is how Jesus was the exact fulfillment of the festivals that the Jews observed. – So much of the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ; in everything that God had the Jews do, He was pointing ahead to what Jesus would do for them.  (Jesus fulfilled the Spring festivals with his death and resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the others – the ones held in Autumn – are widely expected to be fulfilled at Jesus’ second coming.)

Now to look at some of these festivals that pointed to Jesus:

From the time of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, the Israelites killed a lamb each year at the Passover festival. This annual Passover was to remind them of that first Passover in Egypt when the Lord killed all the first-born sons except those in the households that had killed a pure, spotless, innocent lamb and had applied the lamb’s blood to their doorposts (Ex 12).  For every first born son in Egypt that night, there would be a death – either the son himself, or a lamb in his place.  They smeared this blood on their doorposts because they believed (showed faith in) God when He said He would have mercy on those who placed themselves behind the lamb’s blood, and so the annual Passover festival commemorated this event.

Centuries later, Jesus came, and for a few years he proclaimed to the Jews that the Kingdom of God was near. They had been looking forward to their Messiah-King coming and establishing the Kingdom of God that the prophets had talked about. And so, the time had come that many Jews (but not the religious leaders) were ready to crown Jesus as the Messiah that they had been looking forward to for generations.

When the time came, Jesus, as he did every year, made His way toward Jerusalem for the Passover festival. The Jewish Law required that the Israelites observe the annual Passover feast in Jerusalem, so it is likely that the majority of the Jews in all of Israel were in Jerusalem at the time that Jesus went to celebrate His final Passover festival. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowd worshiped him, proclaiming Him to be the Messiah (Jesus knew, however, that these same Jews would soon turn against Him – see his lamentation over Jerusalem in the midst of the Triumphal entry [Luke 19:41-44]). This happened on the 10th day of the month of Nisan – the very same day that the people of Israel were to select their Passover lamb that would be slain for the Passover festival. Thus, figuratively, Jesus was presenting Himself as Israel’s Passover lamb. Now, the religious leaders despised Jesus (primarily because he constantly showed them their hypocrisy), and the last thing they were going to let happen was that Jesus be crowned the Messiah-King. They had already been plotting to have Jesus killed, but seeing the Triumphal entry was the last straw for them, and they moved all the more quickly to plot his death (They knew that they had to arrest him and try Him when there was not a large crowd around, since He was so popular, so they had to get creative with how they would arrest and try Him without the people knowing about it).

For the rest of the Passion Week, Jesus was in and out of Jerusalem. On Thursday evening, Jesus and his disciples had the Passover meal together, then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, just outside of Jerusalem, to pray. After a few hours of them being in the Garden, Judas led the religious leaders and Roman soldiers to Jesus. It was late at night, and they arrested him and immediately began to try him under the cover of the night. He underwent three religious trials throughout that night, and then early in the morning (about 6am) the religious leaders took Him to Pilate (Under Rome’s authority, the Jews were not allowed to carry out capital punishment, so the Jews took him to Pilate so that Pilate would have him killed). Pilate tried him, Herod tried him, and Pilate tried him again, and they could not find anything worth killing him for. Pilot told the Jews that he would release one prisoner to them, either the murderer Barabbas, or Jesus. The Jewish leaders insisted that Jesus be killed, and they stirred up the Jews who were gathered to insist that Jesus be crucified and Barabbas released. So, fearing a riot, Pilate agreed to have him crucified.  Barabbas, the guilty, was released while Jesus, the innocent, would be crucified.

Jesus, having just gone through an incredibly emotional week, a long night of trials, and brutal beatings, was led away to be crucified on a cross – the most disgraceful, and one of the cruelest instruments of death ever invented. He was nailed on the cross at about 9am that (Friday) morning. He was on the cross for six hours before He gave up his life. If you’ve seen the Star of Bethlehem video, you’ve seen that there was much that occurred in the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars) at that very moment that Jesus died. But one of the most significant pieces of symbolism is that Jesus died at the very time of day that the Passover lambs were being killed. Jesus, the pure, spotless Lamb of God, died to take away the sins of the world. His blood was shed so that whoever would, by faith, put himself/herself “behind” the Lamb’s blood, would pass from death to life. We, the guilty, are released, while Jesus, the innocent, was crucified in our place.

But, as you know, it doesn’t end there.

Another of the Jewish festivals is the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” Jesus was in the grave on the first days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leavening is used to represent sin in the Bible, and Jesus was the sinless “Bread of Life,” the perfect substitute sacrifice for our sins.

Two days after the Passover in that year came the Feast of Firstfruits. The Feast of Firstfruits was the Jewish celebration of the first-fruits of the barley harvest (the first harvest celebration of the year). During Jesus’ ministry, he had been telling everyone that He was the way to everlasting life, and that if people believed in Him, they would have everlasting life – quite a bold claim! But then these people who believed in Him – the supposed source of life – saw He Himself succumb to death! What must they have been thinking?! They were devastated, to say the least. But then, on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits, Jesus rose from the dead! “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). So, Jesus’ resurrection means we can have confidence that Jesus is indeed the way to everlasting life! He was the “firstfruits of the harvest” of everlasting life – we (those who have (figuratively) placed themselves under the cover of the Lamb of God’s blood) are a part of the rest of the harvest of everlasting life in heaven!

The take-home message is this: Those who believe (put faith in the fact) that Jesus’ death was the substitutional payment for their sins, can have a fulfilled life here on earth, and will be resurrected to have everlasting life in heaven after they die! Praise God! What a wonderful Savior!

Winding Down

Niagara Falls view from Canada

Well, the end of our senior semester here at NTBI is quickly approaching! Classes are busy and will continue to be right up until they end in mid-May. Jim and I are working on getting our applications completed for the next phase of training, the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Missouri. We plan to get started at the MTC this coming August after spending the Summer in Texas.

Last week was our Spring Break, so we drove with the Riepma, Martinez, and Weichert families out to Niagara Falls and had a great time together.

While we were there, Hudson had his first birthday! We got back about the same time that Hudson’s Grandad and Keeb arrived from Texas, and we had a wonderful weekend with them. Since they left yesterday morning, Hudson has been missing his playmates!

Exciting Akolet Update!

Some of you may already receive the updates from Adam and Julie Martin who are in the Akolet tribe of PNG. They and their partners, the Warners, are a couple of weeks away from finishing a three-month teaching about the message of the Bible, and already Akolets are putting the final pieces together and becoming believers! Here is this week’s INCREDIBLE update from the Martins:



The Gospel

Instead of classes today at NTBI, we has some men and women come up from MTC in Missouri to give us a preview of what to expect during the next phase of our training.  Needless to say, Rachel and I are really excited to continue on in the training and to begin to tackle some of the challenging tasks ahead of us.
The last speaker today used the following video in his presentation.  It blessed me to see the gospel so clearly (and poetically)  portrayed.  Enjoy!
Check it out in HD here and download his free album here.

Delicious Cake

Photo courtesy of http://www.martinpng.com

I mentioned in an earlier post that NTM missionaries have begun teaching chronologically through the Bible in the Akolet tribe of Papua New Guinea.  They started on January 4th, and have taught 5 days a week for about an hour each day.  If you have not already done it, I’d encourage you to check out their blog or sign up for email updates so that you can follow the progress and pray with me that God would do an amazing work in the hearts of the Akolet, and that he would give those missionaries the energy and endurance to work faithfully to the end.

In just these few short weeks, we are already able to see how God’s word is challenging the Akolet to examine their worldview and think about what is true.  I have read several great quotes from the men and women attending the teaching, but there is one I especially wanted to share.  Gelio was asked by Ryan (one of the missionaries) to tell him what he thought of the teaching so far.  This was his response:

“Ryan, it’s like this. Remember that cake you gave me one time?  This teaching is like that cake. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and it is so delicious.”

If you’re interested in reading more, check out these links:



Humble Reformation

I recently read an excellent post by Dustin Neeley on the Resurgence blog called Justification by Theology (thanks Nathan), which honestly, I have been waiting for for some time now.  I have become increasingly weary of the way the “reformed” label gets appended to so much of our vernacular in a way that almost seems prideful.

To be clear, I have very few problems with reformed theology, and I would not dare to single out the reformed camp as the only one susceptible to theological pride.

And I do not think that it is pride to identify oneself with a particular theology.  But I do think that we are more than capable of trying to wear our reformed theology like it is a badge of honor.  We operate as though we have God’s special approval (after all, we probably have a higher view of God than everyone else anyway – I’m being silly, but stick with me).  And since we are so confident in our theology, it is a simple thing for us to slip into the habit identifying ourselves first as Reformed, instead of as Christian. There is so much good about reformed doctrine, but as Dustin Neeley so aptly stated, we are not justified by our theology.

Paul lamented that he could not refer to the church in Corinth as spiritual, but worldly, because they disregarded the unity of the church, instead choosing factions and claiming “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3).  Can we be guilty of the same when we try to distinguish ourselves by our theology instead of seeking to be unified under the gospel of Christ?

Of course we must continue to study God’s word and strive for sound theology, but let us also keep theology in it’s proper place.  We can come to a deep understanding of the incredible truths of God through careful study and systematic understanding of the Bible, but we can not stand before the righteous God on the merits of a system.  We will stand in Christ or we will not stand at all.

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).


We want to sincerely thank each of you who were kind enough to let us into your homes while we made the tour of Texas over the break.  As is always the case, we were delighted, encouraged, and blessed by you, and have made it back to Michigan refreshed and ready to continue on in our training.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the trip:

Frisco, Texas - January 7, 2011 - 7:04 PM
We had a fun Christmas with Rachel's family. It was awesome to watch Hudson interact with his cousins, though he tended to get into all their toys.
Our nephew Ethan wasn't scared of the camera.
We weren't missing Michigan weather.
Ducks on a Pond
Hudson was too busy eating the ducks' bread to notice the ducks.
Nice chubby profile.
We went with my (Jim's) family to the ice garden at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine. This is a wise man from the nativity scene. The details throughout were pretty incredible. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are in the background.
My sister Jill with Rachel and Hudson in the ice version of Snoopy's doghouse.
The extended family on my (Jim's) dad's side.
The Connally's had some fun/delicious toys.
Hudson and Charlie were sharing for a while there.
We've been working on his spelling.

The Sum of an Elephant

There is a parable out of India about three blind men who are brought before an elephant and asked to explain what the elephant is like.  One of the men reaches out and touches the leg and concludes that an elephant is thick and round and much like a column or pillar.  Another man puts his hand on the trunk and concludes that an elephant is slender and flexible and must be something like a snake.  The last man pushes on the elephant’s side and determines that it is broad and unmovable like a large wall.  Sometimes the parable includes five or six men, and you can see from the picture above than there is no shortage of perspectives one could take.  The moral of the story is that everything is relative.  Each of the blind men told the truth based on their experience with the elephant, but no one man’s truth could exclude another’s.  No truth took precedence, even in the face of completely opposite claims.

I think this parable is an incredibly beneficial illustration for our world today, but for a different reason.  If our quest is to find out what an elephant really is, then what are we doing asking blind men when there is one who came to give sight to the blind.  Why trust a man’s limited experience with an elephant when there is one who created elephants?  The religious discussion is full of men espousing experiential truth from their own narrow perspective, but God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, has chosen to speak to us through His Word, the Bible.  We should place a higher priority on God’s word because His perspective is infinitely wider than ours.  He knows more about elephants than 6.7 billion blind men ever could.

Perhaps you don’t believe in God, or that He has communicated to man through the Bible.  That is ok.  My point here is not to convince you of His existence, but to simply show that He is necessary if we are ever to know the true purpose for our existence.  Without the broad perspective of the One who set the universe in motion, we have no hope of true understanding.  We are merely blind men groping around in the dark, thinking the sum of an elephant is a snake.