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.
Book Alert! China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom – RH Books
The 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!
Yesterday 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.
April 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:
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.
Carl 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.
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.
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.
Among 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.
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).