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No. 5, Lane 269, Section 3, Roosevelt Rd, Daan District
Taipei City, 106
Taiwan

02-2362-1395

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Thoughts on faith and life at Friendship Church

Elisha's Call and Yours!

Dennis Brown

There is probably no question a pastor is asked more than, “What is the will of God for my life?” It’s an obvious question for anyone,  but particularly in a young congregation like ours. We have so many young singles, students, people early in their careers. And then added to everything is the bewildering social context where people hear the words of traditional culture (to honor family and society), modern culture (which tells you to follow your own heart). As someone said Taipei is a modern city affected by modern values, but underneath there is always a deep sense of traditional Chinese culture. In any case, it leaves people confused and wondering, “Who am I?” and “What do I do with my life?”

The story of Elisha can actually help us a lot. Elijah places his mantle on Elisha which is a call to succeed him as a prophet living in a time when the king and his queen were out to destroy prophets. For Elisha it means leaving a life of wealth and comfort to become Elijah’s servant for around eighteen years!  Please note that he is called to “being” before he is called to “doing.”

If you read the New Testament, there is no question what the basic will of God is. It is to become like Christ in the ordinary circumstances of life. 1 Corinthians 7:23 and 24 say, “You were bought with a price and do not become slaves of men. So brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” There are special calls for people to go into professional ministry. But for most people, the call of God will be seeking in ordinary life to follow Christ with sacrifice, service to others and growing Christlikeness. Answer the call to “being” and in time you will discover the call to “doing.”

Here is a quotation from Elisabeth Elliot that I find helpful:

The consciousness of His origin and destiny enabled Jesus to do very humdrum things. We get things completely backward when we feel that because of who we are or where we came from or what an important job we have to do we can’t stoop to do the humdrum; or we are engaged in the high and holy will of God and can’t be bothered with the ordinary. A look at how humdrum it must have been for the Son of God to become the Son of man will help us regain a proper perspective. His whole human life was a humiliation. At the Last Supper, we read, Jesus, “well aware… that He had come from God and was going back to God…taking a towel…began to wash the disciple’s feet”.

Taking Advantage of the Poythress Visit

We have a special opportunity from June 17 to July 10 to have in our midst some truly amazing people. I am speaking of Dr. Vern Poythress and his wife, Dr. Diane Poythress. Dr. Poythress has degrees in mathematics from Harvard, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Stellenbosh in South Africa. More than that, he is a brilliant man who has used his considerable gifts to apply the Bible to the deep questions of our age. He and his colleague John Frame have posted many of their books online to read at http://frame-poythress.org.  His wife, Diane, is equally formidable and I will share later some of her credentials.

On June 12, 19 and July 3 and 10, he will preaching on Sunday morning from the first chapters of Genesis which tell us where the world, and the universe came from. They also tell us why we are here, the meaning of marriage, sexualiity, gender--in short all the big questions people have. In addition, we have provided informal opportunities for you and your skeptical friends to meet up with them and bring any question. Please note that there are skeptics welcome opportunities at a local pub, an informal gathering at the Warren home regarding questions of science and faith, and several table talk discussions being hosted by our small groups. They will also be making available Dr. Poythress’ book “Redeeming Science”--the best work of its kind in my opinion.

Poythress Schedule:

Preaching

Dr. Poythress will be preaching from Genesis on Sunday, June 12, 19 and July 3 and 10

Friday June 17 & July, 1 8:00 – 10:00

Skeptics Welcome by Dr. Poythress

Café Odeon, 8 to 10 pm

Saturday June 18

Quantum Theory & The Bible

Warren’s Home

Sunday June 19, June 26, July 3 & July 10, 1:00 – 3:00

Table Talks with Dr. Poythress

Sunday afternoon 1:00 - 3:00

June 26, July 3 & July 10

FFF Women’s group / Lectures led by Diane Poythress

Wednesday June 15, June 22 & July 6, 7:30 – 9:30

Back Elevator room at church

Dr. Diane Poythress is also available for personal counselling at the church office on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10 to 12.  Please contact the church at fpchurch@friendshiptaipei.com  to make appointments.

Bowling Night:

You are invited to join the Martin and Red group for dinner and a bowling night on Saturday, May 28. Dinner from 5:30 to 6:30 and bowling to follow (near Shirlin station). Contact Sam Huang at samuelyhuang@gmail.com.

Jonah Continues to Run from the Call

Dennis Brown

 

Jonah Continues to Run from the Call 

Do you think God still calls people? Do you think he could call you? What might that look like? People sometimes ask me, “How did you receive God’s call?”  Going through Jonah who tried to run from God’s call,  I thought about my own call.

In brief, it began when I was growing up on a farm in western Montana. In the context of a small community church, a set of Bible story books that my Mom bought, I met God. Somewhere along the way, I felt called to the ministry and some people I respected confirmed that I wasn’t crazy. In the years that followed, I spent a couple of summers in Turkey with a radical evangelical missions group where I ended up in jail six times the first summer. The second summer everyone was in jail except me. 

Then I went to India for two years. My first experience of India was in Bombay when the war broke out between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh. That began a whole series of adventures--too numerous to recount here. Some of my best friends who are still friends today worked for years smuggling Bibles and discipling people behind the Iron Curtain. Some of my Indian brothers planted churches and started children’s homes. One of the greatest joys has been watching them grow as men. Several of them are still best friends.

But there were also great trials, great losses. My cousin Sharon who was more like a sister was killed in an automobile  accident when she was returning from India while engaged to my best friend. I was plunged into a sea of turmoil and struggled mightily with my faith. At the same time I met my wife Kay and connected with the same church in Minneapolis that sent out David and Linda Ludwig. In short, I discovered that it was harder to run from Jesus than I thought. I felt like I was saved by Jesus, my wife, and this good church. It’s one of the reasons I believe so strongly in the church and have pastored as long as I have.

It’s been humbling to reflect on this call and to see how my understanding of God has changed (the journey from Arminianism to Calvinism is another story). It has been humbling to see my own arrogance and prejudices demolished. In short, I see a lot of Jonah in myself. More, I see the same awesome God continue to beckon. Let’s pray for each other that we can continue to hear and respond to the call. It’s not easy. He’s not a tame lion, but He’s good!

Life at Friendship

Dr. Vern and Diane Poythress Summer Ministry. Sometimes, we say that if you are looking for an answer to a difficult question check out the Frame-Poythress website.  Together, Frame & Poythress represent brilliant, Biblically and theologically solid commentary on almost any subject. Dr. Poythress teaches at Westminster Seminary, has degrees in mathematics and theology, has written many books (most of which you can read on the website), and comes to Taiwan every year to teach a couple of classes at Reformed Seminary. His wife, Diane is equally formidable and loves Taiwan. They are available to minister in our church from around June 10 to July 10. We are working on their schedule to maximize their time with us. Along with Dr. Poythress preaching, we are planning informal Table Talks, pub outreaches, learned scientific discussions for those who desire answers in these areas, and interaction with our existing small groups. Diane will also be available for counselling and presenting different lectures.  The schedule will be out this week. 


The Gospel in an LGBT World. Do you find it hard to talk about issues of morality? Issues of sexuality? Almost everyone does. Part of the reason is because the church has often done such a terrible job when it has spoken. In John, it says that “The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  The church has usually gone into the ditch on both the right and left. Many churches go in the ditch on the left. It’s basically, “I’m OK;  you are OK.” It’s a church without Biblical norms. 

On the other hand, much of the evangelical church historically has gone in the ditch on the right by being judgmental, self-righteous. It’s “elder-brother” Christianity which isn’t Christianity at all. Jesus who is the model for all of us came with both”grace and truth.” The best example of this is with the woman taken in adultery. He protects her, but then says, “Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.” That is the Biblical balance the church must find and has failed in doing so.  I found the attached article in Christianity Today this week. It strikes exactly the right balance, and calls all of us to repentance. See if it doesn’t take you to the cross. Here it is: click!

Spencer’s to Move to Sanchong for Church Planting Venture and Summer Teaching Opportunity. Two weeks ago, we announced that Kalan and Kayt Spencer are moving to the Sanchong neighborhood to live, network and in time to plant a church in this working class community. The gospel in Taiwan has made more progress in the white collar class of Taiwan than in the blue collar. This fall Kalan will be working at the church as a part-time pastoral assistant, and at the same time laying the groundwork for this ministry. Soon they will be presenting their work to us so we can be practically and prayerfully involved in supporting this venture. Also Kalan is preaching on Sunday, May 29.

In addition, they are in contact with a church planter who graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary (where Tim Yates is the dean). Daniel went through the Redeemer City to City training (a ministry we are also connected with) and is planting a church in the XinZhuang area. Daniel is running a VBS type activity this summer and is looking for two English teachers July 5-8 for two hours each day in the afternoon. Please contact Kalan Spencer if you are interested or email the church on your potential availability.

Letting Your Light Shine in Your Nineveh

Dennis Brown

Pastor Dennis Brown

How would you feel being a small-town prophet who was asked to go to the big, bad city of Nineveh and tell them that in 40 days they would perish unless they repented? Probably a lot like Jonah--who ran! But God is a God of unrelenting grace who came to Jonah (and us) a  “second time”. In the end, the Lord gets Jonah to Nineveh and in the end, Nineveh repents.

Our bulletin says, we exist “for the glory of God and the good of Taipei”. God was saying to Jonah that he existed for the glory of God and the good of Nineveh. That had to feel incredibly daunting. How do you feel being challenged to live, and work “for the glory of God and the good of Taipei”? If you are a parent you might say, “How can I even lead my children to Christ?”; or “How can I hold my marriage together?” let alone share the light of Christ in my city?” Or perhaps in your workplace, you feel small and unimportant--just a flickering light in a dark place. How can we hear the challenge without giving up in despair?

Tim Challies said something today in his blog that helped. He was talking about discipleship and witness and how it often can seem vague and overwhelming to us.  He mentioned a friend of his who has raised several children who were all following Christ. He said when we needed help with work projects, his kids would always be the ones there working hard. He said:

 

This man had ingrained in his children the principle that you never leave a place in worse condition than when you came. You always work to improve the place where you go. This leads to things as simply as throwing away your cup and plate after munching on Rice Krispy Treats and Kool-Aid. But it also extended to more prolific things like building relationships with new students when they visited.

As I think about this helpful principle, I wonder if this would be a great way to illustrate and to encourage folks in personal discipleship.

Often when we talk about personal discipleship people get that deer in the headlights look. I don’t blame them. It’s a scary thing. Most of us don’t even know what personal discipleship looks like in practice.

Is personal discipleship what I’m doing when I gather at McDonald’s on a Monday morning with my buds and talk about how the preacher shanked the message on Sunday morning? Is it getting donuts and coffee with someone while we talk about Francis Chan? Do we spend six hours on Saturday’s walking through Grudem’s Systematic? Is this what we do when we watch Beth Moore videos together?

What if we used my friends helpful principle to think about discipleship? First, I make a concentrated effort to spend time with people. Secondly, every time I spend time with them my goal is to leave them better than when we started—to help them take one step closer to Christ. That’s it. Every time I meet with you I want to love you and want to help you see Jesus a little better. (And quite likely you’ll help me see Jesus better too).

This means that with every relationship I’m asking myself, how can I help them get one step closer to full maturity in Christ?

It’s a helpful and simple way for me to think about personal discipleship without getting all nervous and sweaty when I think about meeting with people one on one.

 

Jeremy Lin and the Progress of the Gospel

Last week, I watched Jeremy Lin and his Charlotte team defeat the Miami Heat in several games. I wanted to watch because Jeremy is Taiwanese, but more because he is such an outstanding example of positive witness to the gospel. He also wants to see large numbers of Chinese men come to Christ.  There seems to be a crisis among young men in Taiwan and the world in general who can’t quite figure out what it means to be a man. In the end, they lost the series to Miami, but overall it turned out to be one of the best seasons in Charlotte’s history. I believe much of it was because of the positive presence Jeremy brought to the team, and the Bible study several players participated in.

It also warmed my heart to see him give joy to the owner of the team, Michael Jordan. I pray that Michael sees Jesus in Jeremy and comes to Christ himself--not that Jesus necessarily needs Michael to accomplish his purpose. On a sidebar, do you know that Jeremy’s Mom volunteered in our Sunday School all this past winter? I could understand Jeremy’s ability to handle the spotlight of a large stage with Christian integrity and humility after meeting his mom who showed servant-like humility to our children. Pray for the Lin family (including Joseph who was playing professional basketball in Taiwan this winter) that they will be protected and continue to be used for the greater good of the gospel.

Dr. Vern and Diane Poythress Summer Ministry

Sometimes, we say that if you are looking for an answer to a difficult question check out the Frame-Poythress website: http://frame-poythress.org.  Together, Frame & Poythress represent brilliant, Biblically and theologically solid commentary on almost any subject. Dr. Poythress teaches at Westminster Seminary, has degrees in mathematics and theology, has written many books (most of which you can read on the website), and comes to Taiwan every year to teach a couple of classes at Reformed Seminary. His wife, Diane is equally formidable and loves Taiwan. They are available to minister in our church from around June 10 to July 10. We are working on their schedule to maximize their time with us. Along with Dr. Poythress preaching, we hope some special informal gatherings in a home where he can discuss matters of science and faith. Diane will also be available for counselling and presenting different lectures.

Membership and Baptism Class - Sunday, May 15 and 22

We encourage anyone who has been attending the church for some time to consider becoming a member. It’s Biblical and will help you to feel like you are part of a real family all growing in Christ together. Two sessions will be offered on Sunday, May 15 and 22 from 1:15 to 2:45 pm in room 501. Also if you haven’t been baptized, this is a good preparatory step for baptism. Get your lunch and join us.

Fit Kids Club and All-Church Picnic and Party, Saturday, May 21

Come join the Fit Kids FPC gang again on May 21 from 10 to 12 at Da An Forest Park. It’s a time of fun, games, activities and more. Parents are invited to come and sit together for some free time fellowship while the children play. We are also encouraging all the small groups to join us on that day to make it an all church celebration. We need to seize every opportunity to play and pray together as a church. This is also an outreach event, so feel free to bring a friend.

Spencer’s to Move to Sanchong for Church Planting Venture and Summer Teaching Opportunity

Last week, we announced that Kalan and Kayt Spencer are moving to the Sanchong neighborhood to live, network and in time to plant a church in this working class community. The gospel in Taiwan has made more progress in the white collar class of Taiwan than in the blue collar. This fall Kalan will be working at the church as a part-time pastoral assistant, and at the same time laying the groundwork for this ministry. Soon they will be presenting their work to us so we can be practically and prayerfully involved in supporting this venture.

In addition, they are in contact with a church planter who graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary (where Tim Yates is the dean). Daniel went through the Redeemer City to City training (a ministry we are also connected with) and is planting a church in the XinZhuang area. Daniel is running a VBS type activity this summer and is looking for two English teachers July 5-8 for two hours each day in the afternoon. Please contact Kalan Spencer if you are interested or email the church on your potential availability.

What the Pastor is reading

Someone has said you are what you eat. You are also what you read. And C.S. Lewis said for every new book you read, read at least one older book. Otherwise you become a slave to your time. Reading older, solid books allows you to transcend your time and place and see things from another vantage point--usually much better.

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. I have wanted to read this for a long time, but only getting to it. It’s about an elderly pastor in Iowa who is reflecting on his life. He’s also a lover of John Calvin as I am and so I find there is much to identify with. It’s a classic not just for pastors, but anyone.

Old Testament Characters by Alexander Whyte. Since I am doing a new series on the Old Testament, I have gone back to a book I have read several times. Whyte is an 19th century Scottish preacher who gives unforgettable portraits of Old Testament characters. He shows how they are all about sin and grace and how we can find ourselves in the different portraits.

Center Church by Tim Keller. I’m reading parts of this again as I think he does the best job of anyone of explaining what it means for churches to have fruitful ministry at this period of culture and civilization.

The Gospel Coalition and Challies blog. If you are looking for solid answers on a myriad of questions people are facing in this rapidly changing time of history, get the Gospel Coalition app and subscribe to the Tim Challies blog. They are an unfailing source of wisdom and encouragement so you can think and live Biblically and better interact with people around you who have questions.

Jonah by John Calvin. If anyone ever thinks John Calvin was a cold predestinarian, they have never read him. He is one of the warmest, most Christ-intoxicated men the world has ever seen. I read his comments on Jonah this past week, and they nearly moved me to tears. The writing is so beautiful, so true, so Christ exalting. Immerse yourself in the classics and they will immerse you in wisdom, and love for Jesus! FYI: You can find Calvin’s commentaries online. Take them slowly, and let them sink in.