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.