From the Intern’s Desk: Life as the PFBC Intern

internship

The annoying sound of the alarm on my phone goes off once more at 7:45. “I really should wake up now.” I quickly ready myself for the day ahead of me. I keep a running list of things I must remember in my brain. The list includes book bag (with my laptop in it), breakfast (most mornings a pop-tart), my planner, my bible, and whatever else I need to sustain me throughout the day. I hustle up the stairs, and out to my car on another hot, sunny, central Iowa day. I arrive at Kalona Coffee at 9ish for our Monday Morning Staff Meeting. I order a fruit smoothie from the counter, and I take my seat next to Pastor Dave, and Pastor Jon. We begin our staff meeting noting any praises from the previous week, which encourages us as we dive into the work ahead of us. We then begin the never ending work of Pastoral Ministry. This has been my life for the past 12 weeks, and I have loved every second of it.

This week marks an end to my 12 week internship. These 12 weeks have challenged, molded, encouraged, strengthened, and cultivated my own life and my ministry skills. I have always been very busy, and I have never wondered what I would do with my time at the office. I have loved my work, my co-workers, and my church here in Central Iowa. I have learned to call this place home, and I have loved my home.

I have loved the Monday morning staff meetings, the many delicious meals with church members, the countless hours of sermon preparation, the encouraging visitations, and the numerous other aspects of this internship that have made this summer special. I have learned so many lessons here at PFBC. Here are the 7 main lessons:

 

7 Lessons I have Learned at PFBC…

1. Never leave work before checking the weather. 

  •  During my first week here at PFBC I encountered a huge storm on my way home from work. A huge wind gust blew my truck into the ditch, and I had to call Pastor Dave for help. This lesson is very humorous, but definitely true. I will never leave work without checking the weather ever again.

2. Ministry is not limited to the hours of 9-5. 

  • I quickly realized in my first week at PFBC that ministry happens after hours. Pastors definitely must labour to preserve their off-time, but they also must realize that people do not just encounter hardship during these times. Pastor Dave allowed me the privilege of being involved in every “crisis” situation. I saw everything from 10:30 P.M. phone calls to entire off days being occupied by ministry. Often the calls we got were mentally straining, and I often needed to cry out to God for help. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity I have had to participate in “real” ministry at all hours.

3. I cannot be the “Savior” in ministry.

  • Every Pastor struggles with pride in one form or another. Counseling often leaves you feeling “accomplished” especially if you have just told them exactly what they needed. The Pastor is involved in many situations in which he can project himself to be the “hero”. The sad reality is that many Pastors have spent far too long trying to be the “Savior”, and their ministries are clear representations of it. Many times we spend far too often contemplating what we can do to help someone. The reality is that we cannot help anyone in our own strength. Charles Spurgeon says, “The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it simply needs to be let out of its cage.” I learned that any effectiveness I will have in ministry will ultimately come from Jesus Christ, and the power of His gospel.

4. There is a tremendous benefit in having more than one Pastor.

  • One of the benefits I have had here at PFBC is the benefit of a Pastoral Staff. I was privileged to work under two great Pastors this summer. The unique aspect of our staff is that we are all so different in personality, but yet united in mission. The benefit of this was the unique perspective we all had on different situations. I found myself time and time again thankful for their input on different assignments. The unfortunate downfall of many Pastors today is a lack of accountability. I appreciated the fact that the staff at PFBC were all very transparent, and extremely accountable. I count both of these men as fantastic ministry partners, and great friends.

5. The trials of ministry will either tear you apart, or pull you together.

  • The work of Pastoral ministry is an incredible privilege. This privilege does not come with a lack of trials. In fact Pastoral ministry will bring you more trials than you could ever hope to handle. This internship was not absent of various trials. I found myself in many situations doubting my call to ministry, and question my ability to “Pastor” effectively. Fortunately God continued to work while I was here, and the trials I encountered during my time here encouraged my call. I found myself having an even deeper desire for Pastoral ministry. The trials we as a staff faced strengthened our bond of unity. I feel a deeper bond with these two men because of different difficult situations we faced. God used the fire of the trials to strengthen my ability for ministry, and to deepen my trust in him. This lesson was hard to understand, but it was vital to my development. Trials, for the believer, are a definite, but your response to them makes all the difference.

6. Develop friendships that will sustain you in ministry. 

  • The presence of these trials mentioned earlier, almost necessitate the need for deep, personal, godly friends. I am grateful for the fact that both Pastors here were not only my coworkers, but they are also my friends. They were able to encourage me throughout this internship, which impacted me tremendously. I am also very grateful for a couple of close friends that I kept in contact throughout the summer. They encouraged me, supported me, and even kept me laughing. Many Pastors have few friends because of the nature of their work. While it is hard to maintain friendships in ministry, I believe it is crucial for a Pastor to have a couple good friends he can call in times of trouble.

7. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

  • I heard this phrase almost everyday on my internship. The fact that Pastor Dave almost overstated this phrase does not negate its truth. I came into this internship content with just, “getting the job done”. I now see the value in striving for excellence in everything you are doing. I saw this quality in both Pastors, as both of them are excellent Pastors. I can remember my first sermon I preached at PFBC. Pastor Dave had me write up a sermon preview for the bulletin. I can remember spending around 20 minutes typing this up, and I was content with how it looked. He took one glance at what I had wrote, and gave it back to me. We sat down and spent a half hour revising it. He would not let me give half an effort, which is exactly what I needed. Life is too short to do anything half heartedly. One of the biggest lessons I learned this summer was, if I am going to glorify God, I need to give Him my best in everything I do.

I enjoyed many aspects of interning, but I would have to say may favorite was the process of preparing sermons. I had preached many times before this internship, but this was my first experience actually preparing a sermon during a normal, robust week of Pastoring. I enjoyed the frightening, yet rewarding aspect of sharing God’s word on 5 different occasions during the morning worship service.

I have learned many lessons on this internship that I will not soon forget. I have loved my time at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. I am thankful for all of the members who took me in and fed me, encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me. I am excited to see how God uses this experience in the future, and I hope I have been a blessing to the church as well. To my Prairie Flower Church Family… May God bless you and keep you. I have you all in my heart!

Stories that Change the World

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

I recently met with a young man who stated, “I just want to change the world.” Indeed, in about a month, thousands of college freshmen will storm the campuses of colleges and universities with this desire firmly beating in their chests, namely, “I just want to change the world.” Such ambition! Perhaps tainted with a touch of idealism, but a noble ambition nonetheless. “I just want to change the world.” Is this your ambition? Is this your dream?

Well, how do you change the world? Seriously. How is something as lofty as changing the course of humanity accomplished? Here’s the answer: Write a story. Yeah, I believe the best way to change the world is to write a story, starting with your own.

Think about it. Some of the greatest stories ever written were written by men and women of faith, integrity, and passion: C.S. Lewis. Jane Austen. J.R.R. Tolkien. These individuals wrote of life, love, and theology and changed the world through their words and through their lives. Yes, they wrote stories that changed the world. So, do you want to change the world? Yes? Then write a story, starting with your own. Below are some considerations as you navigate the complex waters of writing your life story:

  1. Theme – Every good story has a theme or main point. What will be the theme of your life story? Popular themes of many people today include: money, sex, achievement, and comfort. Choose your theme wisely. Indeed, remember the words of Jesus: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world [i.e. money, sex, achievement, comfort, etc.] and forfeit his soul?” A penetrating question from Mark 8:36, but a question worth pondering as you craft your life story.
  2. Plot – Every good story has a plot (i.e. conflict) in which the main character either has victory or succumbs to defeat. The old adage still stands true today: choose your battles (i.e. your plot or conflict) wisely. In other words, what will you stand for in this life? What will you passionately preach for or protest against? Will it be for (or against) the unborn, gun control, immigration, or racial reconciliation? Whatever you choose, remember Jesus’ words: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33).
  3. Structure – Perhaps not as exciting to think about in comparison to your theme or plot, but your life story’s structure deserves some thought. In other words, what will you do first, second, and third in your life story? Will you immediately jump into the action or take things slow? Remember the board game called “Life”? One of the very first decisions you have to make in this board game concerns either starting work or going to college first. Each decision has it pros and cons. So, what will you do in regards to how you structure your life story? Such decisions are not always a matter of right and wrong, but all of these decisions are a matter of wisdom. Need wisdom for your life story’s structure? James 1:5 gives hope, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  4. Characters – As you contemplate your life story consider the characters in your story. What’s your goal in this life? Lots and lots of friends to party with or just a few close friends to do life with? Will you establish relationships in order to strategize and advance your story or will you build relationships in order to propel their story? Quite simply, will you use people to build your kingdom or serve people in order to build God’s Kingdom (cf. Mark 10:45)? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Perhaps there are other elements to consider as you craft your life story, but ponder the four thoughts above. Do you wanna change the world? Then write a story, starting with your own.

From the Intern’s Desk: The Runaway Camper and the God who Chased him.

Runaway.png

“I promise you… I’m not going with you!” These words echoed through my mind as I stood beside my cabin. It was my first full summer counseling at a camp, and my first real day of being full-time staff. This small junior camper looked me dead in the eyes and defiantly promised me that he was not going anywhere. He had already run away a couple times today, and we had not even had dinner. I angrily stood there starving, sweating buckets, and anxiously awaiting this child to come to dinner.

“You cannot make me go!” He shouted! I stared at him feeling puzzled. “Why would you not want to eat dinner,” I asked. He would give me no answer. It soon became clear that, while I had no idea what I had done, this small junior camper refused to trust me. He once again stated, “I will not go with you.” I kneeled beside this small boy (a task that was easier said than done), looked him dead in the eyes and said, “whether you think you will or not… you will come with me.” I will never forget the smug look he gave me as he plopped down on a rock. I felt a cold chilling sensation as I realized, that while he would eventually come with me, we may be here all night. This seemed just fine with him.

I struggled counseling this child throughout the week. His refusal to submit to my leadership, and to trust my guidance left me infuriated. I spent much of my devotional time questioning God. I had ran out of answers for this problem. I knew he would run away again, and I knew I had to go find him. I could not give up on him, even though everything within me is screaming, “Let him go!” We were destined to play this sick game all week. Dozens of questions surfaced to the top of my mind, “Am I a bad counselor? Why does this kid not like me? Does God even care? If God sovereign, then why do I feel out of control? If God is wise, then why has he not shown me a way to deal with this. If God is loving, then why is this happening?”

I continued my dreadful first week. Around the middle of the week, I was finally able to relax during my counselor break. I was reading my bible, which did not seem to be helping. I finally broke down and prayed, “Lord why would you let this happen. I have done nothing, but try to serve you. You have put this impossible child in my care.” I can remember sitting there, internally criticizing this small child, and mentally doubting God. I then immediately stopped, and I realized the unfortunate truth. I was not trusting God.

At Prairie Flower Baptist Church, we recently finished a sermon series called, “We Trust”. I find that I often tremendously benefit from the personal study of God’s Word for a sermon. There is so much more that you understand, when you have carefully studied a text, for the purpose of presenting it to others. When I think about my experience at camp, I  am quick to realize that I did not practically believe three important truths about God.

  1. God is Sovereign.
  • This attribute of God is almost overstated in conversation, but is drastically understated in application. We will shout God’s sovereignty from the roof tops to defend a theological position, but we often fail to trust it in the depths of our lives. No matter your stance on theology, you cannot miss the fact that God is sovereign over His creation.
  • His response to Job is priceless in Job 38. Job has been tested beyond imagination, through the loss of his health, his wealth, and his family. Job questions God throughout most of the book. God responds to Job by returning the favor. He asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God is basically saying, “Start questioning me, when you have created anything.” God reminds Job that He made everything, and He is therefore sovereign over everything. The rest of the book of Job is God reminding Job of the simple fact that God is sovereign, and Job is not.
  • When facing this runaway camper, I eventually had to admit that this had all worked according to God’s perfect plan. If I truly believe God is all-sovereign, then I have to believe He is sovereign over the frequent disappearances of this troubled junior camper. The reality of God’s sovereignty, however, still left me questioning Him. The difficulty in trusting God’s sovereignty is not found in His ability to be sovereign, but it is found in the actions of His sovereignty. God can have control over everything, but if we do not believe Him to be wise, then we should tremble at His sovereignty.

2. God is Wise

  • My trust in God’s sovereignty would not have any basis unless He was infinitely wise. Jerry Bridges describes God’s sovereignty as, “Good judgement or the ability to develop the best course of action, or the best response to a given situation.” This was my given topic to preach at PFBC. God’s wisdom is what directs His sovereignty. Not only does God have control over all, but the choices He makes with that control are always the best.
  • When studying God’s wisdom, I was reminded of Mordecai in Esther. Haman wickedly plots against the Jews. In fact, he hangs gallows that were meant for Mordecai. Mordecai had every human right to question God’s wisdom, because he could literally see the instrument of his own death. Haman failed to realize that God is infinitely wise. The Lord intervenes, using a Jewish girl named Esther, and the result leaves Haman hanging on his mortal enemy’s gallows. Who could possibly orchestrate this? The answer is Mordecai’s infinitely wise God.
  • I doubted God’s wisdom at camp because I could not see how God was using this child for my good, and I failed to understand that He did not have to use it for my good. This situation certainly did not have to work out for my good, but by God’s grace it definitely did. We cannot observe the full wisdom of God in this life because we do not see what He sees. We, like an ignorant child, constantly nag Him, and question His authority. We fail to understand the full depth of His mighty plan, not only in our life, but also in others. His infinite wisdom is displayed throughout all of creation, as it says in Romans (Rom. 8:28). God’s wisdom does not refrain us from questioning His judgement, however, it will make us look pretty silly on the Last Day, when He reminds us that He had control the entire time.

3. God is Loving

  • God is all-sovereign, and infinitely wise. He has control over all things, and the decisions he makes are always the best, but if He were not loving, then we should cower at the sight of His sovereignty. We should tremble at the thought of His wisdom. When Pastor Dave preached on God’s love, he gave three thoughts on a God who is sovereign and wise, but not loving. 1. God would be Powerful, but scary. 2. God would be knowledgable, but Helpless. 3. God would be Divine, but Distant. We have no hope, in this life, if the God we serve is not a loving God.
  • The best example of God’s love towards man, was the cross. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love was so incredible, that he was willing to send His only son to die for our sins. If God loves us enough to make His son endure the cross, why would He not love us enough to protect us from this situation? Our difficulty is that we do not see what God sees. We sometimes do not understand that  the most loving thing God can do for us is to put us through this trial.
  • God’s love for me, in dealing with the runaway camper, was deeper than I could have ever known. He did not stop loving me, as I sat on the metal chair questioning His sovereignty. His love did not waver, as I continued using my own wisdom in the counseling of this camper, instead of kneeling before my Savior begging for His wisdom. It did not cross God’s mind to stop loving me, while I laid in bed questioning how a loving God could allow all of these events to take place. He continued to love me in spite of my doubt, and His love made all the difference.

The biggest challenge in counseling this child was coping with the fact that he did not trust me. His disobedience in refusing to follow the group reminded me over and over again that he had absolutely no confidence in my abilities to take care of him. I could spend all day lobbying for his trust, but until he made the personal decision to trust me, I could not help him. In the same way, God was waiting on me to finally give in and trust Him.

My experience with the runaway camper is small in comparison to some of the real tragedies that people face. When I was in the moment, my trial seemed earth shattering. I now look back and realize it was relatively small. God has also given me grace to be able to look back and see the benefit of dealing with this trial. The growth that took place in my ability to counsel, because of this situation was far greater than any of the pain I endured during this situation.

The best encouragement I received was from a fellow full-time staff member. The boy ran away again during a camp game. I immediately began to chase after him, when this staffer stopped me and said, “I’ll chase him this time. You go find your guys.” At the end of the day I did not need someone to tell me what I was doing wrong. I needed someone who was going to “bear the burden” of this camper with me. I am thankful this staffer and several others were willing to stand up and chase this camper with me.

God does not promise us in this life that everything will work out for our good. He does promise us that He will walk beside us through our trials. What escaped my mind was the fact that, while I was chasing this boy, God was running too. He was following me as I desperately searched the camp ground. While I was chasing this camper, God was chasing me. He was begging me to trust him. I failed to understand that I was running from God, and he was petitioning for my trust. I am grateful that I have an all-sovereign, infinitely wise, and loving God, who chases me when I fail to trust him. Alistair Begg offers this hope to the parent of a runaway child, “Here is a word of encouragement to every parent of a runaway child. God is greater than even their rebellion. You are not alone in dealing with a runaway. Your gloriously sovereign, infinitely wise, and ultimately loving God is right beside you. He will chase your runaway child.

From the Intern’s Desk: The Difficult Hike up the Mountain of Suffering

Mountain

I recently accompanied the Prairie Flower Baptist Church teen boys on a camping trip to Colorado. Surprisingly, this was my first experience camping in a tent. There were many experiences that were difficult (i.e. traveling to Colorado), there were many experiences that were uncomfortable (i.e. sleeping in a tent), however, the thing that made the trip totally worth it was the view breathtaking of the mountains. The only negative aspect of hiking a mountain, is the process of hiking a mountain!

On Monday, our crew of teenage boys set out with Pastor Jon, Will Luers, and myself to hike our designated trail. I initially faced difficulty hiking our first incline, because I was not used to the elevation, and I was not physically prepared for the draining effect of the hike. The most difficult aspect of the hike was the lack of water, because hiking in high altitudes causes you to lost a lot of water very fast. The hike up the mountain, was difficult, but the rewards of reaching our destination, was worth it. If I had never hiked that mountain, then I would have never seen the beautiful rapids that we encountered along the way, and I would have never seen the view from the edge of the mountain, that overlooked the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park. I ultimately would have never had the satisfaction of knowing that I had come to the end of my journey and the difficult hike made the relaxation at the campsite that much more sweet.

Often the best things in this life come after hardship. I recently had the opportunity to preach on 1 Peter 4:1-11 at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In the first two verses Peter tells us to “arm” ourselves with the mentality of Christ. Peter reminds us (as Christ demonstrated for us) that while on earth Christ had the mindset that he would suffer in this life. If we are to truly become Christlike, then we must embrace the reality that we will suffer.

I find it interesting that my experience hiking mountains, and my experiences observing suffering are quite similar. Suffering is a hard road with many difficult “climbs”. There were many times hiking up the mountain that I thought I would not make it, just as there are many times in suffering that you will not think you can make it. Hiking the mountain often left me physically exhausted, and isolated me from the group at times just as suffering can leave you emotionally exhausted, and feeling socially isolated. The most important aspect of my hike was drinking plenty of bottled water that we took along our journey, and the most important aspect of surviving suffering is depending upon the living waters of Jesus Christ.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).”

Jesus Christ is the only person who has not only experienced every emotion we are feeling during suffering, but he has also experienced far more than we ever have. The cancer patient, who has just received a poor diagnoses, can rest in the fact that Christ predicted to suffer in extreme pain more than 400 years before he walked the earth. The child with no father can identify with Christ in the fact that His perfect Heavenly was forced to forsake His perfect son. The family grieving the loss of a loved one can hold on to Jesus, who not only lost friends (Lazarus), but also gave His life for people he loved, who would never accept Him as savior. The family struggling with their wayward son can trust Christ, who relentlessly pursued after us, when we were wayward.

 

Trusting Christ is primary in our walk through suffering. We can also rest assured that God does grant us several precious tools for our difficult climb up the mountain of suffering. On my hike up the mountain I needed certain tools and in the same way we need tools from God that will not weigh us down, but that will encourage, sustain, and cultivate our hike up the mountain of suffering.

  1. God’s All-Sufficient Trail Guide: His Word
    • 2 Peter tells us that God’s Word is sufficient for, “all things that pertain to life, and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).” I could never tell you, in this blog, exactly what to do in every circumstance that you will ever experience suffering in. What I can do is point you to the one who knows exactly what to do in every circumstance you will ever face. God’s Word has a plethora of resources, especially concerning suffering. There are entire books in God’s Word that deal with suffering (e.g. Job, Habakkuk, 1 Peter etc…). There are several biblical characters that we can identify with in the bible (e.g. Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, Paul, Jesus etc…). There are also plenty of New Testament Passages dealing with suffering (James 1, 2 Corinthians 1, Hebrews 4, etc…). Finally my favorite place to turn to when suffering comes my ways is the Psalms. As Pastor Dave says, “Sometimes the Psalms don’t just speak to us… they speak for us!” The Psalms are a wonderful place for the Christian to turn to when the problems of life become too much. When life becomes too much, God’s Word has the power to encourage, sustain, and cultivate you.
  2. God’s Always Available Lifeline: Prayer
    • The hike up the mountain of suffering can leave us isolated, and feeling lonely. Fortunately we serve a God, who never leaves us. When suffering has crippled you with loneliness; cling to your lifeline: prayer. If you say, “I have tried everything,” but you have not prayed; then not only have you lied, but you have also forgotten an importance practice in this life that will truly help you. Don’t underestimate the power of a consistent daily prayer life.
  3. God’s Perfectly Imperfect Servants: Pastor
    • I can remember several years ago, when I first discovered that I wanted to devote my life to Pastoral Ministry. I remember understanding that I was nowhere near capable to handle the problems and situations of ministry. My thought process was, “When I become a Pastor, I’ll have it all figured out.” I am now an intern, I am 2 years away from graduating, and I’ve been dealing with tons of “real ministry” experiences. I now realize that I didn’t feel prepared then, and I don’t feel prepared now. However, God has given Pastors to the church to equip the saints (Ephesians 4), and He continually empowers His servants. One of a Pastor’s primary responsibilities is to counsel and comfort his flock, especially in times of suffering. One tool that every believer has in their local church, is their Pastoral Staff.
  4. God’s Support System for Hikers: The Local Church
    • We are not meant to endure this hike alone. Not only do we have Pastors, but we also have other brothers and sisters in Christ, that can support us on this hike. In suffering, you often don’t need someone who will try to explain the situation to you, but you do need some one who will walk alongside you. Find some godly Christian friends in your local church, who are willing to engage in suffering with you. You would be surprised how willing the body of Christ is to help you.

The most frustrating part of our hike in Colorado, was the fact that we were lost for a good portion of it. Every step is a little heavier when you have no idea where you are going. When we finally saw that the end is near, each step was totally worth the trip, because we had finally reached our destination.

Suffering is a difficult and draining process, especially when there is no end in sight! The Christian, who understands God’s Word, understands that there will come a day when all of this suffering comes to an end. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).” The day is coming where Christ will have the final word, and He will wipe away our tears. You can continue to endure suffering, because the one who suffered for you will eventually end all of your pain.

Understand that all of this suffering is doing something in your life. John Piper says, “This is God’s universal purpose in suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.” God is using this suffering in your life to mold you into His image. Suffering ultimately changes us, and glorifies God. Jerry Bridges says this, in his book Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, he writes, “The reason we ask (why) is because we do not see any possible good to us or glory to God that can come from the particular adverse circumstances that have come upon us or our loved ones. But is not the wisdom of God -thus the glory of God- more eminently displayed in bringing good out of calamity than out of blessing (p.g. 125)?”

We may never know the exact reason why God chooses us to hike up the mountain of suffering, but we do know that His grace is sufficient for the climb. When I reached the end of my journey, in Colorado, it was all worth it. The view of the mountains I was breathtaking. The satisfaction I had at the end was far greater than the pain I endured on the hike. One day you will reach the top of the mountain, and all your pain, tears, and grief will go away. One day you will understand why God set you on this journey. Until that day, trust God and His grace for your hike up the mountain of suffering.

Suffering, Dateline, and the Glory of God (3 Years Later) By Elisabeth Tinnes

beauty-from-ashes

Explosion. With one sentence, time stood still. For the past 2 ½ years I had spent taping together a broken life, frantically grasping for the pieces of a wounded family; desperately hoping to save them before they were too far-gone. But like a delicately mended porcelain doll, guarded from human hands, my perceived reality was crushed under the immense weight of the truth.

On July 6, 2014 (3 years ago today) my husband spoke words to me that freed his soul and simultaneously crushed mine. “I had an affair,” he said. Every fragment of air was sucked from that room. In my numbness, I whispered, “God can be glorified.” I stood. I paced. I tried to breathe. My whisper became a chant…“God can be glorified. God can be glorified.” It was all I could say. I knew it was true. All of my life: my reality, my perceived worth, the truth of our past, the truth of our marriage, the certainty of our future…all of that was destroyed in one sentence. But…God could be glorified. Even in the moment of impact between my life and that charging freight train, my Father’s voice spoke to me.

Infidelity alone severs the human soul, but this situation had a twist. Shortly after my husband’s affair with his coworker (Lisa) ended in 2012, she and her unborn child were gruesomely murdered. I knew this… I knew her… I went to the visitation and her funeral. I grieved the senseless loss of life and I watched my husband shed tears for his co-worker and friend. What I didn’t know at the time was that one little sentence. The four words that changed everything I thought I knew about our past.

What followed in 2014 were events great authors conjure up for highly desired novels.  Before I could catch my breath, we were tossed into the 3rd murder trial of this woman. The first two trials ended in hung juries in 2012 and 2013. My husband was now a suspect and I was asked to testify as his alibi. So, with nine days of “the truth” under my belt, Jason and I made the 80-minute drive to Davenport, Iowa and we each took the stand to testify in the murder trial of someone who had been dead for more than 2 years…someone who died with a secret weighty enough to destroy our family.

I think the English language falls short when it comes to pain. The war that waged in my heart was complicated, powerful and real. Anger wrestled with peace, love fought with hate, disgust battled with loyalty…my mind was an ever-fighting battleground. There was no relief in sleep. It was intense, unpredictable, and exhausting. As the trial progressed, reporters were writing and newspapers were printing. Local, statewide, and even across the nation, our story – MY LIFE – was being printed for millions of people to read, dissect and judge. The result of that 3rd trial was the conviction of Lisa’s husband (Seth) for first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The final blow of 2014 came in September when Dateline NBC broadcasted a 2-hour season premiere of this small-town Iowa story. The murder, the suspects, the two hung juries, and the greatest twist of all: the secret affair. No one asked to use my name or my picture. No one contacted us from Dateline to inquire of our side of the story. But there we were, September 26, 2014, watching our personal hurt being broadcast on national television. There’s no preparation for that.

They say time heals all wounds, but I disagree. The power is not in the time; the power is in the Gospel. What time does provide is…

  • Perspective. Pain has the powerful ability to blind us from perspective. Without perspective, we either move forward in faith, leaning heavily into the Word, or we become self-destructive in the darkness. As time passes, and our perspective widens, we have the privilege to see so much beauty from the ashes. And the beauty is so beautiful.

As the Lord has graciously allowed more perspective in my life, I’ve seen non-believers tilt their heads as if to ask, “What is it that they have that makes them handle this so differently?” I’ve heard complete strangers say years later, “You brought peace into that courtroom. I don’t know what it was, but you were different.”  We’ve seen, as a couple, others trust us with their hurting hearts. Strangers have become friends as God continues to use our story for His glory and, ultimately, our good (which is to be more like Christ).

  • Opportunities. That is to say, opportunities to choose. I’m going to say something radical here, but love is not a feeling, it is a choice. Likewise, forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice. At one point, I taped a piece of paper to my alarm clock that said, “Choose forgiveness.” I chose to forgive Jason daily. I chose to forgive Lisa daily. I had every earthly “right” not to, but I knew peace was at the end of forgiveness and I wanted peace in my own heart more than I wanted to be “right.”

It’s been three years today that I’ve known the real events of 2011 and 2012, and while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I can honestly say I am thankful. And while the list is long, I’ve selected three things I am most thankful for that I want to share with you…

  • My Father. My Yahweh. He carried me, He held me, He convicted me, He pursued me, and He protected me not just from others, but also from myself.
  • His written Word. When I didn’t feel like God was good, I laid myself in the promises of Scripture that He was and is good. I mentally combated the continuous, unreliable dialogue in my head with Truth. How lost I would be without His Word…
  • Before Lisa died, I had a chance to meet her. I didn’t know anything physical had happened (or was happening) at that time in 2011/2012, but what I thought I did know (i.e. that this was just an emotional affair) was enough for me to cultivate hatred and bitterness towards her. My Lord did not allow that. He convicted me mightily and I met with her to confess my hatred and ask for her forgiveness over coffee on a Monday afternoon. I’m thankful that, even in my ignorance, my one and only interaction with her was one that showcased Jesus Christ.

Are you currently suffering? Is your pain so great you are blinded from perspective? Are you in a place where you are being asked to choose forgiveness or love even without knowing the outcome? I don’t have the answers, but I know the One who does, so in closing, I will leave you with this passage from 2 Corinthians… “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Quarterly Meeting: Agenda Items (7-9-17)

event-meeting

Below are the official agenda items for our Quarterly Meeting on Sunday, July 9th…

  1. Prayer for Unity & Blessing – Lance Lewis
  2. Call Meeting to Order – Pastor Jon
  3. Reading of Minutes – Mike York
  4. Acceptance of Financial Report – Duane Davis & Steve Donnolly
  5. Update Membership Roster (Voting Item) – Upon their request, we will need to vote to remove Ryan and Shanon Walker from our Church Membership Roster. They are currently attending Grace Community Church (North Liberty, IA) where Trevje (their adopted daughter) is currently attending.
  6. Pastoral Items:
    1. Summer Schedule (July – August)
      • Quick Rundown of Schedule
      • Giving During the Summer
    2. Strategic Items
      • Land/Building Update
      • Intern Report – Lance Lewis
  7. Old and New Business (If Any)
  8. Closing Prayer – Will Luers
  9. Adjournment

PFBC: Prayer List #28

pray-without-ceasing

The following list of prayer requests can be prayed for in your own quiet time with the Lord, in your own family worship time, or in Growth Groups. Please keep the following requests in your prayers:

Justin Aubrecht – Please pray for Justin’s renters, Ben and Emily, as Emily has had unusual bleeding and the doctors are at a loss as to what to do.

Rachel Aubrecht – Please pray for Rachel’s home church, Gospel Light Baptist Church, as they seek a new Senior Pastor. Also, please pray for Rachel and her pregnancy.

Ise Beinhart – Please pray for this young child as she battles severe health issues.

Carl Benson – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Mike Boos – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Ray Cooper – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Susan Davis – Please continue to pray for Susan’s father, Chester, that he would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Greg Dunbar – Please lift up in prayer Greg’s mom, Debbie, who is struggling with cancer and is fighting it by means of radiation.

Veronica Dunbar – Please pray for Veronica’s friend’s grandbaby, Brilee, as this baby struggles with her breathing and other health complications.

Pierce Duvall – Please continue to pray for this little guy as he recovers from liver cancer and chemotherapy.

Jason Feuerbach – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Rick Fields – Pray for Rick and his overall health.

Steve and Diana Fordham – Pray for Steve and Diana as they battle many different health issues. Also, please pray for Steve and Diana as they get ready to move to a different house here in Washington.

John Hardt – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Marsha Jones – Please pray for Marsha and her many health complications.

Matt Latcham – Please pray for Matt’s mother, Linda, who is battling cancer. Also, please pray for Matt as he just resigned from his teaching position and is looking for a new line of work.

Verla Lewis – Please pray for Verla and her many health complications.

Edwin Luers – Please pray for Edwin’s part-time employee, Wilfred Miller, and his salvation.

Brent and Tori Lybarger – Praise the Lord!! The Lybarger’s Amish friends (i.e. four young people) who were hit in their buggy by a truck all survived and are recovering at home. Please pray for continued healing and strength.

Adele McPike – Please pray for Adele and her overall health.

John and Jackie Morgan – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Arlena Tinnes – Please continue to pray for healing and strength as Arlena battles cancer.

Doug and Julie Tinnes – Please continue to pray for Doug and Julie’s grandson, Josiah, as he recovers from heart surgery.

Judy Wolf – Pray for Judy’s son, Todd, who is in poor health and needs healing. Please pray for Todd’s salvation as well. Pray too for Judy’s great-granddaughter, Errin, who has a heart implant and other health complications.

Eldon and Phyllis Yoder – Please pray for the Yoders as they travel extensively this summer in order to serve with IRBC and the Gideons International.

Mike York – Please pray for Mike’s wife, Becky, as she recovers from knee surgery.

Heather Zieglowsky – Unspoken Prayer Request.

Our Missionaries – Please pray for our many supported missionaries as they serve all around the globe.

Our Country – Please pray for President Trump and Vice President Pence as they lead our country for the next four years.

Our State Association – Please pray for our State Rep, Tim Capon, and his Council of Ten that God would give to these men wisdom and discernment as they serve the 99 churches in our association.

Our Community – Please pray that we, as a church, would be bold with the Gospel and reach out to our community with the love of Jesus.

Our Church – Please pray for our church as we move into our summer camping season. Pray that God would keep our church family safe as we travel and go to many different places this summer.

Our Leadership Team – Pray for our Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Deacons that God would grant to them wisdom, discernment, vision, and unity as they navigate the tricky waters of pursuing land/building.

Our Summer Intern – Please pray for Lance Lewis, and his 12-week pastoral internship, that God would work in his heart and life in a mighty way.

Our Youth Group – Please pray for Pastor Jon as he leads this growing group of young people.

Our Widows/Widowers – Please pray for Prairie Flower’s many widows and widowers that God would be especially near to them and comfort them with His presence.

Please Note: We update this prayer list monthly. If you would like a prayer request to be added to this list, please let Pastor Dave or Pastor Jon know. Thank you!

From the Intern’s Desk: My Philosophy of Ministry

pastor-shepherd-guard-watch

Introduction

Pastors face an ever-growing push, from church members and even fellow pastors, to adapt to the new trends and styles that have invaded ministry. The same can also be said for the influences of outdated traditions and religious rituals. The contrast between these two extremes can cause dissention, strife, and even a church split when a pastor loses sight of what matters most in ministry. He either pursues the newest and latest styles in ministry, or he wallows in the rules and standards of tradition. Recognizing the goal of ministry is crucial in discerning the methods of ministry. With this concept in mind we must ask, what is the goal in ministry?

A Biblical Goal for Ministry

Paul gives us his goal for ministry in Colossians 1:28. Paul has just expounded on the preeminence of Christ in verses 15-23. He identifies the person (Jesus Christ) who should be preeminent in the life of a believer, and then he explains how a believer can glorify this person (Jesus Christ) with their life. He concludes his section on his personal ministry by saying, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Paul explains that the end goal of his ministry is mature believers (or disciples) of Jesus Christ.

A Biblical Model of Ministry

Achieving the goal for ministry starts by understanding the model of ministry. Jesus Christ ultimately laid the foundation for our ministry by living out His ministry for three years during His time here on earth. How did Christ exemplify ministry in His time here on earth? What does His example teach us? First of all, Christ made His first priority people. His ministry began with calling twelve disciples. Christ found these men (John 1:35-42), He taught these men (Matthew 5,6,7), He brought them with Him while He did ministry (Matthew 15:29-39), and He personally invested in these men (Matthew 26:36-46). His focus was to minister to these men first, then to teach these men to minister to others (Matthew 28:18-20). He trained disciples who had fruitful ministries of making disciples.

A Pastor with a Focus

Paul gives us the goal for ministry, and Christ gives us the model of ministry. But what is a pastor’s specific focus? Am I, as a future pastor, required to put the entirety of ministry on my shoulders? Well, Ephesians 4 gives to pastors their focus in ministry. You see, Christ ultimately gifted the church with pastors. Why did Christ give the church pastors? He gave the church pastors “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” So the pastor has not been given to the church for the primary purpose of doing ministry, but to equip the saints (disciples) to do the work of ministry. What does a disciple look like when he or she has been equipped for the work of ministry? Well, that disciple has unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity, and looks more like Christ (Ephesians 4:13-14).

My Personal Goal for Ministry

The discipleship of modern day Christians is a difficult, yet rewarding task that we, as pastors, are assigned. Ministry today should have the same goal as ministry in Paul’s day. Thus, my personal goal for ministry is to guide disciples of Jesus, who were once dead in their trespasses and sins, into a mature and fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ. This process ultimately ends by glorifying God with changed lives.

Navigating the Core Pastoral Responsibilities

There are various methods in pastoral ministry, and there is no one method a pastor should use in making disciples. However, I do believe a pastor does have several core responsibilities that should be primary in his ministry. These responsibilities should make up a pastor’s job description. In other words, if his job is to equip the disciples for the work of ministry, then these are the core pastoral responsibilities that should comprise his ministry:

  • Preaching the Word of God
    • There is no greater privilege in my mind than to preach and teach God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul gives a charge in his final words to his protégé, Pastor Timothy. He instructs young Timothy to “Preach the Word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” You see, heresy is detrimental to discipleship. Paul is challenging Timothy with the simple fact that false teachers are looming around the church in Ephesus. The solution given to Timothy, to repel these poisonous insects plaguing the church with bad doctrine, is to simply preach the Word of God. Discipleship can and should be personal, but let us not loose sight of the fact that discipleship should include a steady diet of the faithful preaching of God’s Word. As a pastor, this is my primary task.
  • Administrating the Church of God
    • The title “Pastor” is the most common term given to a man in pastoral ministry. However, the more common biblical term would be “Bishop”. The biblical basis is found throughout the New Testament, but it is specifically located in Acts 20:28 when Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [or bishops], to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” A pastor is charged with oversight [being a bishop] in his church. He must consistently manage the affairs of his church (i.e. planning, supervising, etc.) in order for growth and effectiveness to take place. Bottom line: Church administration is vital to church transformation.
  • Shepherding the People of God
    • A pastor is a shepherd. The idea behind the title “Pastor” is that of a man tending to his sheep. A shepherd cares for his sheep by guiding them, comforting them, correcting them (if need be), and ultimately looking out for their well being. A pastor does the exact same thing. As a pastor, I am to spiritually guide people through the problems of life. As a pastor, I am to comfort people lovingly through the trials of life. As a pastor, it may be necessary that I correct my people when they are wrong. Pastors have an obligation to their congregation to look out for their ultimate well being. A pastor does this by not only preaching, but also counseling, visiting, teaching, calling, and even in administration. At the end of the day, the pastor-shepherd has the ultimate goal of leading the flock into a more meaningful and fruitful relationship with their ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Ministry today is all about people. If you cannot handle people, then you cannot handle ministry. Pastors that try to either stand hard fast against the times, or who push for change in their churches, are ultimately missing the point. Ministry has never been about what style of church you have. Ministry has always been about people growing and maturing in their relationship with Jesus Christ. If a church does that, then it won’t matter what style of convictions they have. In the end, I hope I can look back at my life and say that I matured a local body of Christ effectively through these core responsibilities and all to the praise of His glorious grace. I also pray that I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

“Trusting Him” by Guest Blogger – Julie Tinnes

Grenada Missions Trip

In this week’s blog post, Prairie Flower member, Julie Tinnes, shares her heartbeat behind her repeated trips to Grenada. Julie is someone who truly understands our church’s mission and vision, namely, “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.” It is my prayer that your heart will be warmed and touched as you read Julie’s story. In the end, please pray for Julie and her team as they head out in just a few short weeks and be looking for opportunities yourself to be on mission.


In just a few short weeks, I’ll be slapping blindly at the alarm clock so that my husband, Doug, and I can rush off to wrestle a dozen suitcases through the airport check-in line. From there, we will spend the next 28 hours traveling to Grenada, West Indies. We’ll conduct Vacation Bible School every morning, do an evangelistic outreach every afternoon, and preach the Gospel on the streets in the mountains every night. Sound exhausting? It is! Eighteen hour days, coupled with constant 90% humidity, really wears us out! So why do we go year after year? Because God loves us. Because God saved us. Because God has called us to share His perfect love with the folks in Grenada. He has asked us only to trust Him.

We trusted Him when Aisha, because of the influences of a variety of religious teachings, questioned who the real god was. We were able to open God’s Word and let Him speak for Himself; showing her the One, true God. Aisha believed!

We trusted Him when ChrisAnn, who was rebellious and disruptive, day after day, finally submitted to the Savior’s tugging at her heart and repented and asked for forgiveness. ChrisAnn believed!

We trusted Him as sweet, shy, little Heidi slipped Doug a note asking, “How can I be saved?” She had never heard of her need for the Savior before attending VBS, and yet, God’s Word spoke clearly to this eight year-old and changed her heart for eternity. Heidi believed!

We trusted Him when my boy, RayJay, attended VBS again last year. RayJay was one of our groupies; showing up year after year, wherever our team was conducting Bible School. RayJay is clearly a leader among his peers; an eleven-year-old man-child that we knew God could use mightily. And yet RayJay had never made a decision to live for Christ. I was so burdened for RayJay and his salvation, but after a week of Bible School had come and gone, it seemed that RayJay still had not made a decision. He had even attended our nightly street meetings, seeking me out and pulling me into the biggest bear hug! Every night he heard the Gospel presented passionately, just as he had the morning before, and yet he did not respond.

On the last evening of our street ministry, God challenged us to be bold. I knew I could not leave Grenada without witnessing to RayJay one more time. With only five minutes until Doug was to begin preaching, we called RayJay to come and sit with us. Doug straightforwardly asked him, “Don’t you think it’s about time to get things right with God?” As his man-child demeanor melted away, and with childlike faith, RayJay responded, “Yes, sir, it is.” Doug stepped up to preach while Miss Terri, our missionary friend, and I shared God’s Word with my boy, RayJay. And RayJay believed!

We rejoice over the hundreds of names that have been added to the Book of Life through this ministry. We praise God for His promise that each one is secure in the Father’s hand and cannot be snatched out. We are overwhelmingly blessed and incredibly privileged to, not only be used of God, but to witness His work. To God be the glory!

Please pray with us for the health and strength of our team, and for our hearts to be burdened for the salvation of each child and adult the Lord puts in our path. Pray also for the local pastors and their families as we work together with them. We want to be a blessing to them and encourage them to continue on for the Lord. They experience on-going financial burdens due to the high unemployment rate and limited resources of the Grenadian people. They also battle against the wrong teachings of the various religious groups found in the country. Lastly, please pray for continued spiritual growth for each of the RayJays who have made a decision to live for Christ.

 

 

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader #2

Yesterday evening, my family and I took a walk around the neighborhood that eventually ended with us walking the Kewash Trail for a bit. It was a wonderful walk with good weather, good family time, and good physical activity. But what made this walk even more wonderful was the fact that my wife and I allowed our daughter, Ann-Marie (age 4), to be the leader during this walk. That’s right, we essentially played “follow the leader”, and, let me tell ya, being led by a 4-year-old was fun, humorous, and (dare I say it) insightful. Here’s some quick (non-deep, but essential) lessons on leadership I was reminded of as my daughter led the way…

  1. A Leader Must Be Visible – Ann-Marie was all too eager to lead the family on our nature walk last night. In fact, she was so excited about being the leader that she soon forgot to be the leader, and instead started to walk beside us (then behind us), talking about how wonderful it was to be a leader. We had to remind her several times that in order to lead, she must be visible. In other words, we told her that she needed to step out front and “be the leader”! Bottom line: Good leaders will be visible to their followers and everyone will know where their leader is and (to a degree) where their leader is going.
  2. A Leader Makes Decisions – You can only go in one direction at a time. This is a simple rule in life. Indeed, it’s impossible to go in two directions at the same time. Ann-Marie somewhat learned this lesson last night. There were many times in our walk that she had to choose whether to go left or right, north or south, or take this trail or that trail. Some of these decisions came easy to her…others came by with more difficulty, and even with fear that she was making the wrong decision. But good leaders make decisions even when it’s hard…even when it’s scary.
  3. A Leader Delights in Leading – There is nothing more disturbing than being led by someone who hates, loathes, or overly fears to lead. This type of leadership breeds mistrust, instability, and resentment. Ann-Marie, however, truly delighted in leading. She was energized at the thought of leading the family and her own energy and positivity transferred to the rest of the family. The walk was made more enjoyable by the simple fact that our leader delighted in leading the way. In fact, this would be a good time to pause and to analyze your own life. Are you a leader? Perhaps you lead at home, or at work, or at church, or in some aspect of your community. Do you delight in leading or has the energy and passion been zapped from you?
  4. A Leader Brings You Home – Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend all night walking. We had to come home. We all knew this, even Ann-Marie. So, Ann-Marie asked me, “Where is home?” So, I kindly advised her as to the direction of our home. She took my counsel, and with her still leading the way, she led us home. Perhaps this bullet point should be labeled differently: A Leader Asks for Wise Counsel OR A Leader Brings You Home By Means of Asking for Wise Counsel OR A Leader Brings You to the Appointed Destination. But here’s the bottom line: A leader always brings you to where you belong…in the case of our walk last night, with Ann-Marie leading the way, home is where we all belonged…and home is where she led us.

How about you? What are your thoughts on leadership? What makes a good leader? What makes a bad leader? I would love to hear your thoughts.