Archives for July 2012

Youth Camp 2012

Volleyball at Youth Camp 2012

Last night I had the privilege of giving the opening address at our annual Youth Camp at Camp Michawana. The camp theme is “Wisdom: The Fountain of Life.” I was asked to speak on “Wisdom’s Source.” About 150 young people are present. It is a great atmosphere, as always. God has blessed these camps in marvelous ways in past years. Pray that He will do so again this year. And pray for the speakers in the coming days: Rev. Michael Fintelman, Rev. Cees Molenaar, Dr. David Murray, and Rev. Johnny Serafini. Pray too for the work shop leaders, the chaperones, and especially the camp directors.

I’m leaving for Mozambique this morning for ten days to speak at two ministers’ conferences. I covet your prayers.

Coming Home

On the way home from London last Thursday, I sat next to a Muslim mother and eight-year-old daughter. They grew up in Afghanistan, and migrated to Denmark twenty years ago. The girl chatted to her mother the entire trip—eight hours straight. She knows English, Danish, and a local dialect in Afghanistan equally fluently. I found that rather humbling.

When I arrived at customs in Chicago, I had a rather unusual conversation with the agent who looked like he was from India.

“What is your occupation?” he asked.

“I’m a preacher, teacher, and author, sir,” I said.

“How many books have you written?” he queried. When I told him, he just said, “Very interesting. What do you write about?”

I said, “All my books in one way or another are about Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian, sir.”

“Very, very interesting,” he said, as he put my passport into his machine.

I leaned forward, and said, as respectfully as I could, “What about you, sir? Are you a Christian?”

“Well, not really,” he said, “I’m too much of a free spirit, but I like to write, too. I wish I could write what I knew was true, though.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, “that is the joy of writing Christian truth because you know what you write can truly help people.”

“Well,” he said, “I certainly respect you for that. May God bless your books.”

“Thank you, sir. May God bless you as well.”

My Chicago-Grand Rapids plane was delayed for several hours, so I took another flight to Lansing. But then we sat on the runway for 1.5 hours while we were being refueled and waiting for paperwork. Mary picked me up in Lansing, and we finally arrived home at 1:30 a.m. on Friday.

Sanctification, Rap, and Wigs in London

Standing in the Pulpit of Richard Sibbes

The Met Tab School of Theology met Tuesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon, offering nineteen plenary addresses. About 850 people came to the conference during the days and close to 1,000 for the evening sessions. The general theme was on living and walking in the Holy Spirit. Five speakers gave two messages each. John Thackway spoke on the Holy Spirit “In Troubles and Distresses” and “In Personal Relationships.”  Chris Hand spoke twice on “Weighing Christian Rap/Hip-Hop” and Ted Williams provided two messages through a reader (he was recouping from surgery) on “Who are the New Calvinists?” Chris Buss spoke on the Holy Spirit “In Christ-Centered Speech” and “In Sensitivity and Usefulness.” Jack Seaton spoke twice on “The Holy Spirit’s Objectives for Us.” Roland Burrows gave a message on “The Personal Spiritual Walk of Notable Preachers.”

Dr. Masters and I gave four addresses each. He preached twice on “The Indwelling  Spirit” and twice on “Worship and Witness in the Spirit.” I spoke on sanctification: “The Great Calling of Sanctification: Cultivating Holiness,” “The Great End of Sanctification: Knowing the Love of God”; “The Great Progress of Sanctification: Living Submissively by Faith”; and “The Great Obstacle of Sanctification: Fighting Unbelief.”

Between addresses someone was always available to speak to, ranging from young men who are interested in coming to our seminary (one young man hopes to come in January and seems to have considerable promise) and people with counseling problems seeking help.  I also kept five appointments with various people who had asked me ahead of time if they could spend some time with me. Spending time with the speakers, eating with friends, and keeping up with e-mail became such a whirl of activity that there was little time to sleep. In the midst of it all, someone hacked my e-mail password. In two hours I received over 300 e-mails from people, all thinking they might be the first to tell me that I was hacked.

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

A highlight was a London lawyer (here they are called barristers) taking me to Gray’s Inn court, where law school and the entire profession is still carried out in formal ways, harking back to medieval times. One of my favorite Puritans, Richard Sibbes, served as a preacher for the lawyers here back in the early seventeenth century. The chapel at Gray’s Inn still prominently displays his name. I then sat in with my lawyer friend on a high court session. The case we listened to involved two dogs biting each other! The lawyers were dressed in their finery—old-fashioned robes and $750 wigs. Every lawyer is still required to buy such a wig.

Preaching at Met Tab, London

The Metropolitan Tabernacle

Sunday, I preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (also frequently called, Spurgeon’s church) about the basics of justification in the morning (Rom. 3:23–28) and an evangelistic sermon on how God saves sinners in the evening (Mark 10:46–52). The church has grown since my last visit here of two years ago, due in part to each sermon now being translated into four languages simultaneously, so a number of people have on headsets as they listen to the Word coming to them in their own language. Approximately 900 people attended in the morning and 800 in the evening. Before both services, I visited with Dr. Peter Masters, senior pastor of Met Tab for over 40 years. About a year ago, his health was declining and many thought his work as pastor was coming to an end, but he is now feeling better and is working as hard as ever.

Today I finished proofing the last chapters of a new book and studied for the four addresses I need to give over the next three days at the Met Tab School of Theology Conference which begins tomorrow at noon. I’m scheduled to give the two addresses tomorrow evening (7:15–8:45 London time), 2:15–3:45 p.m. EST. I covet your prayers for divine blessing on this entire week.

Hackney, England (Evangelical Reformed Church ministry, June 29–30, 2012)

Conference at Evangelical Reformed Church, Hackney, England

I was up at 3:45 a.m. on Friday morning to fly to London via Chicago. On the flight over the pond, I was bumped up to a “handicapped” seat. The leg room was great but I got more than I bargained for. I sat next to an elderly woman who couldn’t understand a word of English and panicked half-an-hour before landing.

Between times of caring for her, I caught some shut eye, went over the notes of the eight addresses I am scheduled to give, and managed to finish editing the last chapters for The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit, which I am editing with Joey Pipa. It contains twenty addresses given at last year’s conferences offered by Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. The book will go to the printer July 10, D.V., and should be out in mid-August, just in time for our August 23–25 conference this year.

A chauffeur provided by the Evangelical Reformed Church drove me to my hotel. A pleasant fellow, he came to England from Nigeria at age 20. After a bit of probing, he readily admitted that though his wife attended church faithfully, he only attended occasionally. He pleaded tiredness after working long hours on Saturday night. After I took him to Hebrews 10:25 and stressed the importance of gleaning weekly spiritual food under God’s preached Word, he promised me that he’d stop making excuses and just attend. He then told me that he would go home and tell his wife so she could hold him accountable.

I then did a mini-conference for the Evangelical Reformed Church—a great group of 125 people (all black, many hailing from the Caribbean). They were pastored by Rev. Thomas Tuitt from 1957 to 1991. Tuitt was a thoroughly Reformed and able preacher. He often preached for seventy minutes or more. He left behind a library of nearly ten thousand books. The church has been without a pastor since the pastor’s sudden death, and is being led primarily by an elder, Easton Howes. This is the fifth trip I have preached at this church, and the second time that I did a mini-conference for them on a Saturday.

I spoke about what the Puritans can teach us about living the Christian life. My first address dealt with how to live in this world with a pilgrim mentality (Heb. 11:23) and the second about how to live godly in your own home (Ps. 101:1–3).

Young People Drawn to Church through My Last Visit

Afterwards, I fellowshipped close to two hours with the people, especially twenty-two young friends who started attending this church after my last visit there two years ago. What happened was that a young man named Kenhinde was with a buddy on a subway where he saw a sign that I was the speaker for a conference at the Evangelical Reformed church in Hackney, London.

He turned to his friend: “Hey dude, isn’t that guy the dude that preaches at Met Tab every now and then? I wonder why he’s preaching at the all black church.”

“I don’t know, dude,” his friend said. “But why don’t we check it out?”

And they did. They came with a whole row of guys—all from a Pentecostal church. None of them returned to their church. They became convicted by Reformed preaching, and then persuaded other friends, twenty-two in all, to come to this church. Since then, seventeen of them have embraced the Reformed faith and have joined this church, and several more are in process. According to Easton Howes, nearly all of them have become genuinely converted.

These dear young people wanted to meet with me afterwards to fire dozens of questions at me—and fire they did! I had a great time with them, answering questions about spiritual life, the call to the ministry, backsliding, family worship, head-coverings for women in worship, and many more. I spoke with two young men privately about coming to our seminary.

I also spoke with a young woman named Leandra, whom the Lord converted under my ministry at the Aber Conference in Wales several years ago. She is still walking with the Lord, and is two weeks from completing her speech pathology degree. She hopes to work with people with speech impediments in a local hospital. Her goal is twofold: help them speak better and evangelize them!

It was so humbling to be with these zealous young people, because, of course, I realized that everything about their conversion and coming to this church is entirely God’s doing, not mine. What is more humbling than being used by God for His own glory and the well-being of never-dying souls?