No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

DFurman sketchPart of my Sunday reading also included this fascinating “TT” interview with Pastor David Furman, who pastors Redeemer Church in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

While there are many interesting insights in this interview about planting and maintaining a Reformed church in the heart of the Middle East, I truly appreciated the way Furman answered two questions in particular. I post them here, encouraging you to follow the link above to learn more about this church in Dubai.

TT: What aspects of the reformed tradition have most equipped you for ministry in Dubai?

DF: The first and biggest thing that came to mind when I read this question was the crystal-clear call of Christ. Jesus says: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It is hard to describe how encouraged I am by the Reformed doctrines of grace that describe how Christ assuredly calls His elect, that the elect respond, and that He keeps them forever. This strengthens my heart to endure hardship, to labor over expositional preaching, and to glorify Jesus when I see fruit or face rejection. Reformed doctrine has fueled our sharing of the gospel and emboldened us to be faithful to Christ in difficult times.

TT: What advice can you give Christians for sharing the gospel?

DF: Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God. There is no need to change it, distort it, add to it, or subtract from it. Indeed, we must not alter the gospel. If you add one drop of works to the gospel, you destroy it, change it, reverse it, and oppose it. Gospel revision always equals gospel reversal. I would tell all Christians to hold on to and herald the one true gospel. We’ve seen it change lives time and time again. I read in a biography of Charles Spurgeon a story about his grandfather preaching one night. The story goes that one night Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, was running late getting to the church, and by the time he got there, his grandfather had already started preaching. Young Spurgeon was already widely known at that time, and when he walked in, his grandfather paused his sermon and said something to this effect: “My grandson is here now; he may be a greater preacher than I, but he can’t preach a greater gospel.” All Christians are equipped with the same message. We need to hold out the gospel. There is no better message and no greater news.

Book Alert! China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom – RH Books

China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom – Reformation Heritage Books.

ChinasReformingChurchesThe above link leads you to a significant new book on the exciting progress of Reformed and Presbyterian churches in China. Edited by Bruce B. Baugus, the book contains chapters by various pastors, missionaries and scholars on a wide range of subjects relating to Presbyterianism and the Reformed faith in China (the link above will give you the table of contents as well).

Below is the publisher’s description, and below that is a short video in which the editor provides a brief account of what is happening in China. You may obtain the book at 25% off now at the RHB website ($15).

China is now home to more evangelical believers than any other nation, and the church continues to grow and make inroads in every level of Chinese society. Such dramatic growth, against the backdrop of modern China, has produced profound and urgent church development needs. As faithful Chinese ministers strive to meet these needs, an increasing number are discovering the rich biblical and theological resources of the Reformed tradition and presbyterian polity.

This is a critical moment in the life of China’s reforming churches and the Presbyterian and Reformed mission to China. This book provides both a historical look at presbyterianism in China and an assessment of the current state of affairs, orienting readers to church development needs and the basic outlines of Reformed Christianity in China today. While laying out the challenges and opportunities facing the church, the authors argue that assisting this reformation in China should be a central objective of the presbyterian and Reformed mission to China in this generation.

P.S. Late last week (June 13) I received a review copy of this book. If any of you are interested in reviewing it for the Standard Bearer, let me know and the book is yours!

“All Nations” and Church Planting – Ed Stetzer

“All Nations” and Church Planting by Ed Stetzer | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014Yesterday before Sunday worship services I made my way through the rest of the feature articles on “The Great Commission”, the theme of the April issue of Tabletalk. There are many profitable articles on the subject of missions in this issue, and so we can only reference a limited number here.

For today we quote from the above-linked one from the pen of Dr.Ed Stetzer, pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, TN and president of LifeWay Research. He treats Jesus’ words in the great commission concerning where the disciples and the church are to go with the gospel to make disciples. His thoughts are helpful and challenging.

Below is an excerpt. You are encouraged to read the rest of Stetzer’s article at the Ligonier link above.

And after doing so, let’s remember to pray for our own churches and missionaries, that we would have courage and wisdom to go near and far with the gospel of sovereign grace.

In speaking of the nations, Jesus reversed the direction of mission. It was no longer that the nations were to go up to Jerusalem (Isa. 2), but that the disciples were now to go out from Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).

Upon hearing those words, the disciples took action. What they did reveals what they thought Jesus meant when He told them to go to all nations. They went to all nations—and planted churches. And so should we.

The Great Commission without a focus on the nations is missing its biblical context, the disciples’ actions, and the place it holds in the mission of God. The Great Commission without a planting focus is missing the point of what they did upon hearing the Great Commission.

When Jesus said, “all nations,” He redirected the mission and sent His people to the nations. Depending on who counts and how they count, there are more than six thousand unreached people groups. Just less than three thousand of those are unengaged, meaning there is little to no witness present.

The nations matter in the Great Commission, and God is calling us to plant churches among those (and other) nations. They need new church plants.

Your nation, wherever you are reading this, is among the nations. Wherever you are reading this, this passage applies. Church planting is to take place in your nation, just as it should in all nations. Sometimes that’s because the nations live in our nation. In the U.S. alone, there are more than five hundred unengaged, unreached people groups.

In research released last year by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that nearly twenty percent of non-Christians in North America do not personally know a Christian. More than seventy-five percent of the Sikhs, Hindus, and Jains living in the U.S. do not know a Christian. The same is true for more than sixty-five percent of Buddhists, Shintoists, Taoists, Zoroastrians, and practitioners of Chinese folk religion. Even forty-two percent of Muslims acknowledge that they have no close Christian contacts. They need new church plants.

April “Tabletalk”: The Great Commission

The Great Ordinary Commission by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014April has arrived, and so has the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. Last week I continued using the daily devotionals (on Romans – now chap.5), and yesterday I dove into the main articles.

This month’s feature is missions, under the large heading “The Great Commission”. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. And, as he points out, this so-called “great commission” is actually the ordinary calling of the church – to go into the world and make disciples, beginning at home.

Here is part of his introduction; you will find the full article at the link above.

The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

The first main feature article on this theme is “The Great Commission in the Old Testament”, an intriguing article by Dr.L.Michael Morales. He ties God’s call to Israel to be a blessing to the nations to the so-called “cultural mandate”, to the covenant with Abraham, and to king David, showing that from the beginning God’s purpose was to redeem the world, i.e., to save His people and restore the whole creation under its glorious Priest-King, Jesus Christ. I think you will find his thoughts interesting and thought-provoking.

Here is a portion of what he writes:

It is important to understand that only as the anointed king did David receive the promise to rule and subdue the nations. David’s commission was to spread the will and reign of God over the earth—his “enemies” were not merely political or personal, but the enemies of God, kings who had set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. In reality, however, the goal of subduing Israel would prove quite enough. Worse still, it was Israel’s kings themselves who led God’s sheep astray into perverse rebellion and heinous idolatry. The exile was inevitable.

Yet, remarkably, within the context of Israel’s apostasy, God promised to raise up a Davidic Servant who would not only lead the tribes of Jacob through a new exodus but who would also be given “as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). This same Servant, we go on to read, would suffer God’s judgment in bearing the sins of many, that as an exalted priest he might “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:13–53:12; see 1 Peter 1:1–2). Having atoned for the sins of his people, this coming Messiah—the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God—would ascend on high to reign from the heavenly Mount Zion, from the right hand of God the Father.

 

Matthew 28, then, is but the embrace of the inheritance promised in Psalm 2. Yet this kingship is in the service of a priestly office, to usher us into God’s presence through the veil of torn flesh and shed blood. Through His outpoured Spirit, Jesus reigns to subdue and summon all creation to the adoration of His Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28), subduing us day by day ever more deeply that we might learn how to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Luasanne III and the Church’s Mission: A Dissenting Voice – C.Trueman

Third, I wonder about the way in which the gathering was constructed. Clearly, the Lausanne movement is not a church but rather an eclectic collection of leaders from various churches. It transcends individual denominations, but does so in a way that is simply not very ecclesiastical. Now, I know that we want to find ways and means of expressing our unity in Christ; but to do this via a non-ecclesiastical root is not consonant with Scripture and leaves the gathering vulnerable to the accusation that it is self-appointed and unrepresentative. This latter criticism is especially ironic, given the laudable desire of the organizers to be inclusive and, to quote the web page, to be ‘perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church.’ To play the postmodern card: one wonders who decided which people were ‘representative’ and thus received an invitation, and which were not and were left by the wayside.

Maybe Lausanne III will be significant. I wish I could believe that. …It certainly will not have any impact at the local level: it does not have the mechanisms attached to it to do so. Thus, for most of us, life will go on as normal, in all its boring, mundane routine: we will ensure that the gospel is faithfully preached week by week from our pulpits, we will attempt to apply God’s Word to the routine pastoral problems of our congregations, we will seek to reach out to the community where God has placed us, and we will, in these straitened times, strive to meet our modest budgets. In this context, a context very familiar to most Christians, some of us will wonder whether the money and time spent in Cape Town (where Lausanne II was held -cjt) might not have given a better return invested elsewhere, pp.195-96.

trueman-fools.inddCarl R. Trueman in November of 2010 writing on the world evangelism conference, Lausanne III, held in Cape Town, S.Africa in October of 2010. Taken from his book Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread, P&R, 2012 (chapter 23). What Trueman says about this large parachurch organization may be applied to a host of others, which is why it is profitable to hear his criticism.

“Self-Discipline” by Steven Lawson & the Gospel in Japan by Michael Oh

Self-Discipline by Steven Lawson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

As we pointed out here last Monday, the August Tabletalk is on the theme of discipline, under the title “The Blessing of Discipline”. With various aspects of discipline treated, Dr.Steve Lawson tackles the subject of “self-discipline” (the article linked above). I always appreciate Lawson’s writing and this one too does not disappoint.

I give you his opening paragraphs today and encourage you to visit the link above to read the rest. Self-discipline is a subject not treated much in our day – and it needs to be – for many reasons. Lawson will help you to see why.

Growth in personal holiness is largely determined by our progress in self-discipline. Without this foundational discipline, there can be no advancement in grace. Before other disciplines can be administered, whether in the home, business, or church, there first must be self-discipline.

Admittedly, personal discipline is not a popular subject today. In our society, any insistence upon self-discipline is largely resisted, even among many Christians. Legalism, they cry, defending their rights of Christian liberty. These free-spirited believers maintain that discipline restricts their freedom in Christ, binding them in a spiritual straightjacket.

But many of these believers have so abused their freedom in Christ that they have virtually no spiritual discipline. They have swung the pendulum so drastically toward Christian liberty that their spiritual lives are out of balance. Such neglect of self-discipline prolongs their spiritual immaturity, leaving them with little self-control to resist temptation and sin.

Let us be clear, if there is no discipline, there is no discipleship. If we do not discipline ourselves, God Himself will discipline us (Heb. 12:5–11). One way or another, there will be discipline in our lives. Given our tendency toward sin, we must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, lest we be disciplined by God.

Michael Oh is chairman and founder of CBI Japan (cbijapan.org), which includes a graduate level theological seminary (Christ Bible Seminary), church planting efforts (All Nations Fellowship), and various outreach ministries, including Heart & Soul Café. Dr. Oh is the executive director of the Lausanne Movement (lausanne. org).

Another profitable article in this month’s Tabletalk is the interview feature. The August interview is with Michael Oh, a Japanese Christian who describes the unique opportunities and challenges of mission work in Japan. If you were like me and didn’t know much about this subject, then you will want to read this article.

Here’s a segment of that interview which will stir up some interest:

TT: What is the greatest lesson God has taught you as a missionary in Japan?

MO: That God alone saves. There are many questions about why the gospel has taken so long to take root in Japan—and why Korea has thrived spiritually and Japan hasn’t. There are many answers that can be offered to those questions. But the clearest answer is that God will save Japan when God saves Japan. God will bring revival to the Japanese church when God brings revival to the Japanese church.

We pray and work toward those ends. We strategize and seek to be faithful. But God alone saves. Many missionaries labor for twenty-to-thirty years without seeing much visible fruit. They faithfully serve their congregation of fifteen people, with just a few responding to the gospel. I thank God for such faithfulness and perseverance. They inspire me. They humble me. But I do hope and pray to see with my own eyes in my lifetime a season of unusual gospel impact and growth. I believe that we may be entering into such a season. Last Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing seven wonderful Japanese people. We’re already planning for our next round as well. God alone saves.

New PRCA Website Has Launched!

PRCAWebLogo2013_Page_1After months of planning, preparation, and hard work by many, I am pleased to announce here that the new PRCA website has launched! Last Wednesday we decided to do a quiet launch, since I felt ready (working with a whole new web program) and was weary of trying to update two websites (the old and the new). Even though it is far from perfect (complete) and there are lots of updates and tweaks to make yet, it was time to move forward with our newly re-designed and totally reorganized site.

Our thanks to Manuel Kuhs of our Limerick, Ireland PR Fellowship, whose company, Social Village, did the majority of the work. He has been great to work with and continues to assist me in learning the new web program. I will say this, not only is he a great web-designer, but he is also a very patient man!

It will take some time getting used to (be patient – I too am still learning where things are!), but we will all get there. In the meantime if you have ideas and suggestions, feel free to make them. Please be helpful and constructively critical, as we want the site to be the best it can be. And if you are having trouble finding an old favorite, let me know and I will assist you as best I can.

Take the time to browse casually and get used to seeing where things are. Use the drop-down menus and examine the various pages. Also, use the search box at the top to find things. Thanks, and enjoy the great new site!

Because the PRC website is owned and operated by the Domestic Mission Committee of the PRC, its main purpose is to be a witness to the pure gospel of the Reformed faith as held, defended, and proclaimed by the PRC. May God be pleased to use it for the spread of the Reformed faith far and wide – and deep!

Sunday “Tabletalk” Readings: “Faith and Assurance” and Interview with A.Saleeb

TT-June2013Among the readings in my June issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier’s monthly devotional) yesterday before Sunday worship services I read the next feature article on the theme this month, “Faith and Repentance”, and the monthly interview feature, which is with a Muslim convert. The former article was written by Dr.Joel R. Beeke and titled “Faith and Assurance”. In it Beeke treats the relationship between true faith and assurance of salvation, pointing out that assurance is both of the essence of faith as well as a fruit of faith. And, following the experience of the believer, he also pointed out that assurance can be found in varying degrees, both among believers in general, and in the same believer throughout his life. Finally, he also addressed ways in which the believer can grow in his assurance of salvation, using the Westminster Confession’s reference to three means. Below is a portion of the article; you may find the rest at this link.

Assurance of salvation is both profoundly personal and deeply doctrinal. It was at the heart of the Reformation debate. The Roman Catholic Church said a Christian cannot have assurance without first having an extraordinary direct revelation from God. Reformers such as John Calvin said that assurance is the birthright of every believer, though it can be experienced in varying degrees.

We must first understand the relationship between faith and assurance. Assurance arises from the essence of faith, just as apples naturally grow on apple trees. Assurance is the cream of faith. The essence of faith is trust. Faith grasps the covenant God and finds Him sufficient. As Psalm 18:2a says, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust” (KJV here and throughout).

Therefore, believers may rightfully have assurance of their salvation. David confesses, “The LORD is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). Paul declares, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

 

A second article I read yesterday was a fascinating interview with Abdul Saleeb, a Muslim convert who pastors a Muslim-convert fellowship in the U.S. and is closely connected to churches in the Middle East. He is also the author of the book, The Dark Side of Islam and the teaching series The Cross and the Crescent (with Dr. R.C.Sproul). The interview is titled “Reaching Muslims with the Gospel of God” and is a unique, inside look at the Muslim faith and how Christians can evangelize those in this false religion. Below are a few sections of the interview; read all of it at the link provided at the beginning of this paragraph.

Tabletalk: Tell us how the Lord led you out of Islam to Christianity.

Abdul Saleeb: My first encounter with the gospel and the Christian faith was through the ministry of a group of American missionaries in Europe. When I discovered that Christians did not believe that Jesus was simply a prophet but God incarnate who had died on the cross for our sins, my first reactions were: 1. Christians are insane. 2. How can anyone believe such blasphemies? Through many months of attending church, reading the Bible and comparing it with the Qur’an, and debating with my Christian friends, the Spirit of God finally opened my eyes to see the truth and beauty of Christ. The two truths that touched me the most to convince me of the truth of the gospel were the Old Testament prophecies about Christ and especially His deity (for example, Isa 9:6), and the emphasis on grace and love in the New Testament. (See: www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/abdul.html for a fuller version of my testimony.)

…TT: When witnessing to a Muslim, what are the major points that Christians should seek to engage?

AS: The deity of Christ and the cross of Christ are the two most fundamental truths of the Christian faith that the Qur’an denies. Although the Qur’an gives some lofty titles to Jesus (the “Spirit of God” and a “Word from God”) and acknowledges His virgin birth and miraculous life, Jesus was merely a prophet and not the Son of God or in any sense divine. The Qur’an also denies that Jesus was ever killed or crucified. According to Muslim belief, He was taken up to heaven and someone else was mistakenly put on the cross in His place. Obviously, there is no good news if Jesus never died for our sins and is not Himself God in the flesh, with the authority to forgive our sins.

 

Kleyns In The Philippines: * Visit to PRFA in Leyte

Kleyns In The Philippines: * Visit to PRFA in Leyte.

This past Wednesday, April 24, 2013, missionary-pastor Daniel Kleyn published a new blog post on a recent mission trip to another work in which our missionaries in the Philippines are involved (Rev.Richard Smit also). It was another great picture post which gives you an idea of the place, the people, and the work involved. The link above will take you to this post. And while, there, you might as well browse through the other posts.

If you are not a regular reader of the Kleyn’s blog or a email subscriber, you should be! Sign up and/or bookmark today, and stay informed of the labors of our missionaries in this part of the world! And thank you, pastor and Sharon, for keeping us informed so well through your blog! God bless! Our prayers are with you, the Smits, and the other pastors and people there!

Here is pastor Kleyn’s introduction to the post:

Recently I had the opportunity to accompany Rev. John Flores on a visit to the PRFA in Leyte. The PRFA is the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Albuera, and is the mission work of the First Reformed Church of Bulacan. This was the second time I was able to join Rev. Flores on such a visit – the first was in September, 2010.

Here follow some pictures and brief descriptions of our visit (And here is a nice one of the whole group. Click on it to enlarge. – cjt).

PRF-Leyte-Philippines

“Why Follow Jesus?”: Our Motive for Discipleship – Jonathan Dodson

Why Follow Jesus? by Jonathan Dodson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

Another good article I read in this month’s Tabletalk was the above-linked one by pastor J.Dodson, author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and Unbelievable Gospel: Sharing a Gospel Worth Believing. Dodson explores what our motives should be for being a disciple of Christ and therefore our motives for wanting to make disciples of sinners in this world. Instead of pragmatism, which so often marks our age, Dodson argues that our motives should be rooted in the gospel itself, and especially in the Person and work of Christ Himself. You will profit from these words of his, and from the rest of the article as well.

The Jesus Disciple

When Jesus gave His mountaintop commission, He loaded it with kingdom motivation. The main directive to make disciples is preceded by the image of a risen, radiant king, rippling with power and authority, in heaven and on earth (Dan. 7:9–14Matt. 28:17). He is strong enough to depose nations and glorious enough to summon their worship. We are sent under this aegis. We are not sent in the authority of our own experience but in the authority of His lordship. Our story isn’t sufficient to “make a disciple,” but His story is. Why do we go? To baptize into His name, not ours. Making disciples of all nations is no personal cause; it is the redemptive agenda of God Himself. Our motivation, then, arises from being submerged in the grace of God, not from having others align with our way of doing things.

How do we continue to make disciples when wading neck deep in sin? We have to remember that the success of our mission requires not only the authority of the King but also the mercy of the Messiah. He is the Disciple who succeeds where we fail, in perfect obedience to God. We extend mercy from His mercies that are new every day.

But what if the mission field is too hard? Behold, He is with us always, even to the end of the age. We depend not only on the past obedience of the Faithful Disciple, but also on the present presence of the risen Lord. We make disciples in the authority of Jesus, submerged in the grace of Jesus, enduring in the mercy of Jesus, with the forever promise of the presence of King Jesus. Disciples need to recover a singular motivation to endure all the cost—the infinite sufficiency and splendor of our Lord.

Why do we follow Jesus? Because of who He is. If we have Jesus, we have more than enough to make disciples.

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