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Trips

Philippines (Mindanao) January 2017

Mindanao, Philippines January 20-29, 2017

TLI is conducting a non-formal, pastor training program designed to build and strengthen the church in this 7,107-island Southeast Asian nation. The pastors in the program come from various areas around the island. Most of the pastors are responsible for several churches. You are invited to join us in strengthening and encouraging these pastors in this traditionally Catholic country experiencing a growing Muslim influence Curriculum being taught: Ruth / Jonah

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Jan  28th,  2017 The Need is Too Great

 

This trip to the Philippines was my first venture with TLI.  As a seminary student half way through my MDiv, I wanted to travel overseas to take theological education to places with limited access to pastoral training. I also desired to ascertain if God may be calling my family and I to long term missions. My prayer for this trip was that God would bear fruit through the teaching of Ruth and Jonah, and to give clarity to my long term vision. 

As to the first prayer, God graciously used an inexperienced seminary student like me to open the Scriptures to Filipino pastors. I witnessed these pastors reading their bibles and deeply studying God's word. They sought to base their teachings, not on experiential testimonies, but the perfect and powerful word of God. When it came time for the students to preach, some of them had never delivered a sermon based on God's word. Some had never even preached before. I'm so thankful for the wonderful privileged to have heard these students preach from God's word and to see them pour over the Scriptures so that they may teach faithfully. 

My second prayer centered on God clarifying my long term vision for pastoral training and theological education. I know I want to teach at a seminary and invest my life in the training of pastors for the church. Yet, I didn't know if that meant overseas or staying in the States. After this trip, God answered mightily and revealed to me this truth: the need is too great. I saw the great theological famine in only one part of the world. I also experienced an incredible and different joy in teaching my Filipino brothers and sisters. Thus, I'm convinced more than ever that my family and I will move overseas to take theological education to the ends of the earth. The need is too great. I witnessed first hand the truth from our Lord's mouth, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." 

I'm so thankful for what God accomplished and will continue to accomplish through the work of this team to the Philippines. I also thank God for sharpening my vision to see his church around the world built up in the truth of his word. I look forward to more opportunities to serve while in seminary, and by God's grace, the privilege to take theological education where it's most needed. 

Cory Higdon

MDiv student at SBTS in Louisville, KY

 

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Jan  27th,  2017Teaching Jonah to Persecuted Christians

Jonah is more than the story of a man running from God and winding up in (and out) of a fish.  After that divinely-orchestrated encounter with the fish, Jonah, seeming quite reluctant, delivers a message of judgment to the wicked city of Ninevah. Ninevah was the capital of the brutal empire of Assyria, a nation responsible for much suffering in Jonah's country.

On Wednesday afternoon while our four classrooms were engaged with studying and preparing to preach sermons from the book of Jonah, I sat down with Levi, our host here. He brought up a picture on his phone of an elder in a church on the eastern side of Mindanao. Just recently this man had been killed for his faith in Jesus and leadership of a local Christian church. Levi and other local leaders were still grieving the death of this colleague and friend.

Earlier in Mike's class, I listened as one of the students explained the tension on Mindanao between Christians and Muslims. Most of the participants in our class tell stories of friends and family members who have suffered or were martyred for their faith.  As Mike faithfully taught the story of Jonah, one student responded with how hard it was for him and the rest of the participants to hear this story of a man called to preach to his persecutors.

When I've taught Jonah in the States, the application is hypothetical: "What if God called you to go to North Korea or ISIS?" Here the application is real and immediate.

Like Jonah, we love God's mercy when it's given to us.We love God's judgment when it rains down on our enemies. But like Jonah, we're much more hesitant to embrace God's judgment when it's directed at us and God's mercy when it's directed at our oppressors.

"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:8-10).

Josh Montague

 

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Jan  27th,  2017Evaluating Sermons

Something unexpected happened today. But it was not strange. I sat in a warm classroom in Digos City earlier this afternoon with my pen on a pad of paper and with my eyes on one of my students, a young man who pastors a small church in the mountains. I was taking notes on the sermon he was preaching and jotting down my evaluation of what he did well and what he could improve. This often feels odd to evaluate preaching, because it is so much more than a human act. But it is not less than a human act. For this reason, we must always seek to improve our role in communicating the Word, all the while trusting God to sovereignly step in to do his role of making it effective in minds and hearts.

            Normally I jot down notes throughout the course of the sermon to prepare my feedback for them. But something unexpected happened. When this young man finished his sermon, I realized that I was no longer holding my pen. In fact, I had completely stopped taking notes for the last 5 minutes of his sermon. I had jotted a few things down as he started, but at some point I stopped. I had not stopped looking at this preacher and had not stopped thinking about his words, but my eyes and thoughts became fixed on someone else in a moment. He was pointing me to Jesus with such clarity and conviction that I forgot myself and even my task. I worshipped. I wondered.

            When the sermon ended, I was jarred back into the reality that I was in a classroom in Digos City and that I had to give feedback. What did I say? Well, rather than making it up, I was just honest and used it as a teachable moment. A good sermon is not only judged by human standards: did he have a clear outline? Was it directly from the text? Was it Christ-centered? What makes a truly good sermon is that God uses it to connect men and women to his Son. And this is exactly what happened to me today as my brother preached the gospel to us in Digos City. This should be our prayer everytime we preach. We should hope that at some point, when God swallows up our act with his own, that all pens will drop and all but Jesus will be forgotten. I am currently sitting in the airport, and am so encouraged by the mission that is being advanced in Digos City and the larger region of Mindanau, Philippines. I’m encouraged not because we taught well (which I pray we did), and not even because the men are so sharp there (which they certainly are). I’m encouraged because God has chosen to act through his Word when anyone preaches it, regardless of age, region, or season. 

--Jesse Albrecht

 

 

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Jan  23rd,  2017Redemption and Sacrifice

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The question teachers often ask is, “Are they getting this?” We wonder if we are coming across, if we are getting through. We wonder if our questions are helpful, if we are facilitating the right discussions. I wonder about these things as I teach the book of Ruth, not because my words are so important, but rather because we are talking about the most amazing and life-changing truths in the universe: the Word of the eternal and all-powerful Triune God and the gospel of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I must get this. We must get this.

            I try to reflect on every lesson I teach and consider this question: Which part of the discussion was most lively? At which point were they most excited and engaged? As I reflect on the first day of teaching in the Philippines, the answer is clear to me. In Ruth 3, we see Boaz was willing to redeem Ruth and provide an offspring for her dead husband. But there was a closer relative who must first be consulted. In Ruth 4, Boaz asks this man if he would redeem Ruth. But the man refused. He would have to sacrifice his own inheritance; it would be too costly.

            Redemption always, always has a price. This is what makes Boaz’s redemption of Ruth so amazing. His decision to redeem Ruth is a decision to bear a massive personal sacrifice. The typology to Christ is clear. If redemption always means sacrifice, consider how great the redemption of the Gospel of Christ is for us today. If the sacrifice of the gospel was the death of the infinitely valuable Son of God — the most beautiful, most glorious being in the universe — how infinitely precious is the redemption we have found in him. How amazing is the reality that Christ himself has wrested us from the clutches of Satan, broken us free from the power of sin, assuaged us from the fear of death through his once for all sacrifice. This was the high point of our class yesterday. This was what the pastors in the Philippines are most excited about. This is what makes the careful and painstaking exegesis and biblical theology we do worth it — it leads us again and again, on new avenues of God’s Word, to the same hill on which we have seen the clearest expression of God’s love for us. As one of the older Filipino pastors said, this is where we see the “extravagant love of God”!  

Jesse Albrecht

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Jan  23rd,  2017Getting to Digos

NOTE: This post was originally scheduled to go up 24 hours ago, but due to internet issues is coming a bit late. Second post to go up soon.


Landing in Digos City

It's not easy to get to Digos City. Our team took relatively short flights on Friday morning Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Louisville, and Madison to gather in Detroit for the long trans-Pacific flight. Josh and Jesse's flight from Minneapolis landed just in time for them to be the final passengers to board the big 747. Eleven long hours later we landed in Tokyo, spent a few hours in the lounge, and then boarded again for the five hour flight to Manila. We spent the night in a nearby hotel, had a great morning getting to know each other a bit more, and then boarded yet another plane for a short flight to Davao.

Our national partner, Levi, met us at the airport, and we drove down to Digos City. On Friday morning, I arrived at the Minneapolis airport, excited for this trip. Approximately 36 hours later, our team was finally in Digos City, gathered at a table. That excitement needed to be paused as we endured long flights, layovers, and time changes. As I write this, it's 4:30 am local time. In our room, Mike, Jesse, and I are wide awake (and have been for a while). We have yet to completely adjust.

This is an awesome team to lead. I (Josh) served as a pastor on the west side of Madison, WI for 11 years. Mike was a pastor on the east side. Craig and Russ were part of a supporting church in SW Wisconsin and now pastor churches in southern Wisconsin. Reed was a part of our church in Wisconsin. Jesse sits twenty feet from me at TLI's offices. I met Cory for the first time on the plane between Detroit and Tokyo. It's a privilege to serve alongside guys like this. We're excited. We've been looking forward to this trip for months. In about five hours, we'll sit down with our classes and open up the small books of Ruth and Jonah. Our goal on this trips - the fifth of a planned nine trips - is to show how these Old Testament narratives point to Jesus, to develop their love of studying God's Word, and launch them into ministries based on expositing the Bible. On Thursday and Friday, these students will preach mini-messages from Ruth and Jonah. I can't wait for those days.

In late October of 2015, I had the privilege of being part of TLI's initial trip to Digos City. One of the great joys in this trip is the chance to see and hear these students progress in their understanding and exposition of Scripture. Pray for us this week. It's a busy week of teaching.

We're tired on the front end, but praying that we'll be "strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:1)

 

Josh Montague

Director of Short-Term Ministry Strategies, TLI

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