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Thoughts on faith and life at Friendship Church

Newsletter - Nov. 2017

Peter Brown

Sinclair Ferguson Visit

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Renowned theologian and leader of Reformed Christianity, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is coming to Friendship Presbyterian to deliver a week-long lecture series, free and open to the public, during the last week of November. Sponsored by China Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS), the series will take an in-depth look at the biblical teaching on the ministry of the Holy Spirit from creation onwards. Please note, this will be a bilingual presentation, with line-by-line oral translation provided by CRTS honorary president, Dr. Luke Lu.

You may register for the event here.

You can read a sample of Sinclair Ferguson's thought and writing here.

 

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Romans, Reformation, FPC, and You!

by Pastor Dennis Brown

I hope you are receiving at least a small portion of what I am receiving by the recent series of messages on Romans that we began in September. As I have said on numerous occasions, the goal is that you and the church together would be rocked by the Romans revolution as Luther, Calvin, and all the Reformers were in the 16th century. For many of us it can seem like ancient history (yawn), and conjure images of memorizing dates for an eighth-grade history exam (yawn).

Over thirty years ago, my little world was rocked by Romans and the Reformation when I stumbled over some sermons by Charles Spurgeon (the great London, Baptist preacher of the 1800’s). He took me to the Bible and Christ and the gospel like no one ever had. I’m still recovering. Several other friends experienced the same revolution, and in our enthusiasm we even created a “dead theologians society” (a take-off on Robin Williams’ 1989 film, Dead Poets Society).

So you may say, what is all the fuss about? Or you might say, “We live in Asia — what do these old, dead, white (non-Asian) guys have to say to us in Taiwan in the twenty-first century?”

These old, dead, white guys discovered something that had gotten lost. Namely, the gospel! The church was in deep darkness, and Martin Luther discovered something that has changed entire civilizations and countless lives ever since. But, unhappily, it is equally true that the gospel has gotten lost in our own day. Most evangelical (not just Catholic) churches have no idea what Luther and Calvin and others were protesting. Remember they were called “Protestants.”

As a consequence, more often than not, evangelical “Protestant” churches have fallen into moralism, legalism, liberalism, or the prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all). All of these are a departure from the pure, unadulterated gospel that we read about in Romans. In short, in too many places the gospel has gotten lost.

So what needs to be recovered? In a recent post on The Gospel Coalition Website (quoted at length below), Union School of Theology president Michael Reeves gives us three things about the Reformation that all of us should know. He also highlights some of what got lost then and continues to get lost today:

1. IT WAS ABOUT HAPPINESS.
Luther discovered a powerful secret that would shake the world, unleashing happiness wherever it went. The secret was this: failing, broken people “are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.”

Could that be more counter cultural today? It is deep in our blood that the more attractive we make ourselves, the more loved and happy we will be. The Reformation was a story of one man discovering to his delight that, with God, it the other way around. God does not love people because they have sorted themselves out. He loves failures, and his love makes them flourish.

So Luther was concerned with people’s happiness. In fact, he would come to believe, he had found the secret of happiness. And that, at its heart, was what the Reformation was all about. Not moralizing. Not self-improvement. It was a discovery of stunningly happy news, news that would transform millions of lives and change the world.


2. IT WAS ABOUT FREEDOM.
The Reformation was the beginning of Protestantism, so people sometimes assume it was simply about protesting, arguing, and getting tied up in knots about what was right and wrong to believe.

Yet when Luther wrote a short book to explain his discovery, he called it The Freedom of a Christian. In it we find that the Reformation was a freedom movement, not an excuse to impose new rules or complexity.

In fact, Luther argued that the gospel was breathtakingly straightforward. He said the good news he had found was like the story of a wealthy king (representing Jesus) who marries a debt-ridden prostitute (representing one who trusts him). The girl could never make herself a queen. But then the king comes along, full of love for her. And on their wedding day he makes his marriage vow to her. With that, she is his, and the prostitute becomes a queen. He takes and bears all her debts, and she now shares his boundless wealth and status.

It is not that she earned it. She didn’t become a queen by behaving royally. Indeed, she doesn’t know how to behave royally. But when the king made his marriage promise, he changed her status. Despite all her backstreet ways, the poor girl is now a queen.

Likewise, the greatest failure who accepts Jesus Christ gets to share his righteousness and status. What happens is a happy status-swap: When Jesus died on the cross, he absorbed and dealt with all our guilt and failure; and out of sheer love he now shares with those who trust him all his righteousness and life.

It means, wrote Luther gleefully, her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him. And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, which she may boast of as her own and say, “If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.”


3. IT WAS ABOUT THE FUTURE.
Consider these words, written by a team of scholars in Westminster, England, in the 1640s: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Those words capture the heart of the Reformation. For what Luther’s discovery had made abundantly clear was that God is glorious: beautiful, good, kind, and generous. We can therefore actually enjoy God. Not hate. Not avoid. Not appease. Enjoy.

This was all quite different to what so many had known before. As a monk Luther had confessed he’d come to hate God; doubtful of whether he’d made himself worthy of heaven, he shook with fear at the thought of how God might judge him on the last day. Yet armed with his new discovery, Luther realized he could face such fears like this:

"When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satis­faction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.’ "

And so the terrifying doomsday became for him “the most happy Last Day.” The gospel had so transformed Luther’s life that he was able to look to the future with unshakeable hope and assurance that he would enjoy the living God forever. And there could be no better hope for hurting, hopeless people today.

Imagine what your life might be like if you experienced Luther and Calvin’s Romans revolution? Imagine what we would be as a church if we experienced it together? Amen!

 

What If I'm Not "Hurting" or "Hopeless" Today?

by Peter Brown

Michael Reeves’ helpful article on three things about the Reformation (read here) ends with this thought: “…there could be no better hope [than the Romans revolution] for hurting, hopeless people today.”

Without question, Luther and Calvin’s Romans revolution was a profound and joyfully life-transforming event for millions of people. But what about those of us who are not sure that our lives need transforming? What if our lives actually seem pretty good already? Sure, things could always be better in some way.  But as long as we have the basics covered (good job, good health, good friends), do we really need a “revolution?”  

If this describes you (as it once did me), the Romans revolution is quite possibly more important to you than to those who do feel hurt and hopeless. For as Pastor Dennis has shown us, one of the essential teachings of Romans is that no matter how comfortable our lives may be at the moment, the wrath of God at human unrighteousness is being revealed (Romans 1:18), and none of us are righteous (Rom. 3:9). What’s more, we are made righteous only through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin (Rom.3:20-25).

Romans teaches that God’s blessings to us in this life are meant to remind us of him, to turn us to him in repentance (Rom.2:4)–in spite of the fact that we suppress the truth of his very existence (Rom. 1:18-20). It can be tempting to think that having a good job, good health, and good friends means God is pleased with us. But Christ tells us otherwise: “Blessed are you who are poor…you who hunger now…you who weep now….But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” (Luke 6:20-24).

 

Update From the Session

by Alan Fiol

The session (church elders Alan Fiol, David MacRaild, Kalan Spencer, and Pastor Dennis) has been working hard to serve you.  As the governing body for our church, we meet and communicate regularly with one another to understand, plan, and prepare for all aspects of our church life.  It’s not all business, of course.  We pray with and for one another and for the church’s needs.  That includes the needs of members, regular attendees, and visitors.  We invite you to pray with and for us.  Please feel free to share with us your needs.  If you have a special burden you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to share with one of us.  

Here are a few of the items currently or recently on our “agenda”.  Hopefully, this brief list will help you become better acquainted with what we’re doing and to pray with and for us. Please do!  We also want to remind you of the work our brothers and sisters are doing on a regular basis and to encourage you to pray for them as well:

  • Church renovation.  The congregation voted last week to release NT$1.7M for the much-needed renovation of our church apartment.  We are thankful for the church’s full support.  Pray for Donna Warren, David MacRaild and the rest of the planning team.
  • We have been spending much time in thought, discussion and planning for FPC’s staffing as we are now in a period of transition.  Together with the search committee, we have been working to find the right pastor to succeed Pastor Dennis.  In addition, we are developing and clarifying our church’s missions and goals and planning the best way to arrange staffing/structure to best meet those goals.  Pray for this most-important area.
  • The deacons and church staff work hard to serve you as well!  Together with them, we seek to serve the needs of the Sunday worship service, including ushering, greeting, reaching out to newcomers, preparing and managing refreshments, arranging and managing the welcome tables, among a number of other items.
  • Four very important aspects of church life which are continuously on our hearts and in our planning and prayers are: Children’s Sunday School; welcoming and connecting with newcomers; small groups; and outreach. We very thankful for our staff, Anna Furness and Peter Brown, who do the bulk of the day-to-day, week-to-week work in these areas.  
  • We are grateful for the worship teams.  Pray for the team leaders and teams, as well as Donna Warren who heads up and coordinates the teams.
  • Let’s all lift up the Sunday School teachers to the Lord.  We thank the Lord for each one of them.  Pray that God’s Spirit may empower them with His love and grace as they serve our precious children and youth.

A quick update from the search committee: We shared in our recent congregational meeting that, at the end of a thorough application review process with our most recent candidate, we decided not to proceed with him.  We are currently resetting our “outreach” to advertise in a number of key places to receive fresh applicants, which we need.  Finding a suitable pastor can be one of a church’s most important and also most difficult tasks. Please pray that God will give us patience, faith, and wisdom in reaching out and in processing applicants. Pray that God will send the man of His choice to us soon.

 

College Ministry

by Peter Kim

This Fall has been a fun-filled and exciting time for G2C (Gospel 2 the Campus). First off, we had the opportunity to go to Yilan during a national holiday where we filmed our first ever music video (https://goo.gl/878Zjb)! Secondly, we were able to hold our very first English/Chinese Exchange (https://goo.gl/F9JMfK) through which we hope to meet new friends who are unbelievers. We won’t use the English/Chinese Exchange to evangelize directly, but our hope is that we can build friendships and begin sharing with them the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Lastly, our weekly meetings have been a joy as we learn more and more about the depths of the good news of Jesus Christ in our lives. 

One prayer request is for effective discipleship. The problem that we constantly face is that since students are so transient, it is difficult to build deeper relationships, grow in the Word together, and send them off as deeper lovers of Jesus Christ who will continue to share this good news with others. But this is exactly what we are striving for: to receive, disciple, and send them forth!

To learn more about G2C, visit   http://www.facebook.com/groups/fpccollege.

 

"Living Stones" and "Building Up"

by Peter Brown

  #tbt  (" T hat  B ible,  t hough...")

#tbt ("That Bible, though...")

In their handbook on church community groups, the staff of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York lay out a compelling biblical foundation for community groups. Starting in the Old Testament, we see that the tabernacle and temple are called God’s dwelling, or his “house” (1 Chronicles 6:48, 25:6; Ezra 5:2, 15). But, rather amazingly, in the New Testament, the people of God themselves have become the dwelling of God. Individual Christians receive the Holy Spirit and become “living stones” being built up into God’s “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5), or “God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

  Indonesian Student Group

Indonesian Student Group

Therefore, in the New Testament age that we live in, the main work of Christ in the church is “building up” (oikodomeo, in the original Greek). God is the one who can “build you up” (Acts 20:32). “In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21). The church grows not just by joining physical stones, but by joining and uniting human lives filled with the Spirit of God.

  Finding Grace

Finding Grace

Accordingly, the main work of the “living stones” is also “building up.” “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). “Speaking the truth in love…the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:15-16). This “building up” cannot happen only (or even mainly) in large worship services. It happens in face-to-face groups.

  G2C ("Gospel 2 the Campus")

G2C ("Gospel 2 the Campus")

So whether you are with us at FPC for three months or three years, we are always encouraging you to visit our community groups, find one that you connect with, and commit to it. To be clear, Christians are not saved by participating in a community group. They are simply walking in the good works for which they have been created (Eph. 2:10).

 

You can find information about FPC's community groups here.

 

Sanchong Ministry

by Kalan and Kayt Spencer

Over thirty-five people attended the Moon Festival barbecue outreach in Sanchong last month, and several families expressed interest in attending the Sanchong small group. The small group has been meeting faithfully every week for worship, Bible study, and prayer. The Spencer family and a local Taiwanese family attend every week, and we continue to pray that more non-Christians friends will join us and encounter Jesus.

We’re very thankful for FPC members Alan and Rinah Fiol, as well as Sara Hook, who have been a great help with childcare. Kalan and Kayt continue to meet with individuals regularly for evangelism and discipleship. This past month Kalan made some new connections with local men through teaching English, and we are praying for expanded opportunities to share the gospel.

Looking ahead, a “Fit Kids Sanchong” outreach and a Christmas outreach are in the works. If you’d like to be involved, please contact the Spencers at Kalan.spencer@gmail.com.

 

December Travels and Preaching Schedule

by Pastor Dennis Brown

On November 1st, I began year ten at Friendship. What a wonderful journey it has been. Before the summer, I reached an agreement with the elders and congregation that I would continue for the year, if they would allow me to spend most of the summer in the States and then allow me time over Christmas to connect with family. They graciously built that into the contract, and so I will be going to the States from December 5th to January 4th. It also coincides with the apartment renovation which was approved by the congregation on Sunday, Oct. 29th.

During Christmas, we will take a break from our sermon series on Romans, and different preachers will take up a Christmas text—likely, texts that will coincide with the Advent candle readings each Sunday. Here is the schedule for December:

Sunday, Dec. 3:   Dennis Brown, Romans (Note: Communion served)
Sunday, Dec. 10:   Peter Kim (Christmas, part 1)
Sunday, Dec. 17:  Peter Wang (Christmas, part 2)
Sunday, Dec. 24: Kalan Spencer (Lessons and Carols Service/No Sunday School)
Sunday, Dec. 31:  Peter Brown (New Years)
Sunday, Jan. 7:    Dennis Brown, Romans

Also, Christmas plans are in the works. Wait for further information on plans for the annual night-market caroling, New Year’s Eve service, and other Christmas activities. Note that we will not be having the Christmas Eve rooftop service event. Instead, we will have a service of a lesson and carols that morning at 11:00am. There will be no Sunday School. Children will be with us for the service and we will end by noon and have a large, joyous fellowship afterwards. 

 

Sermon Series: Romans: The Power of the Gospel

Through November, we are continuing our sermon series on the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul's great exposition of the gospel. In case you missed any of it, here is a quick recap of the passages we have covered so far, brought to you by the creative team at The Bible Project.