Archives for January 6, 2014

Reformed Church Tshwane and Constantia Park Baptist Church, Pretoria (Jan. 5)

With Dr. Miskin (left) and consistory

With Dr. Miskin (left) and Consistory

It was a joy to preach for Dr. Arthur Miskin Sunday morning to seventy-five people in his church plant called Reformed Church Tshwana. The church plant, which is affiliated with Gereformeerde Kerk Rietvallei, now has two elders and two deacons.

Dr. Arthur and Dr. Sonja Miskin are a great husband-wife team, who gave up their doctoral careers, so that Arthur could complete a four-year M.Div. degree at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  They returned to South Africa so that he could teach at Mukhanyo Theological College, which trains men from all over Africa for ministry. Meanwhile, he has become deeply involved in this multi-racial church plant and his wife is deeply involved in supervising the Nakekela Clinic, which cares for about twenty very ill people on-site, and about 250 off-site. Nearly all of the patients are suffering from AIDS.

Sunday afternoon was spent at the Miskin home, situated in a very remote area, about half an hour from the college. Impala (similar to deer) stroll through their backyard, together with a host of other forms of wildlife—including four pet dogs and a cat. I enjoyed time with their three children, all of whom are anticipating marriage with God-fearing partners in the not-too-distant future—two of them most likely this year.

The Miskin Children and Their Friends

The Miskin Children and Their Friends

Also present was Jane Korevaar, a friend of many years who works for Mukhanyo Theological College (particularly for its long distance program), and an OPC missionary Dr. Brian Wingard, and his wife . Dr. Wingard teaches systematic theology and church history at Mukhanyo Theological College.  He and his wife had some particularly interesting stories to share about their years in Eritrea, where Christians have been severely persecuted in recent decades. In fact, the persecution became so severe when they were on a furlough that they could not return, and were never able to retrieve their belongings, nor his library.

Dr. and Mrs. Wingard (left), Dr. Sonya Miskin, Jane Korevaar, and Dr. Arthur Miskin

Dr. and Mrs. Wingard (left), Dr. Sonya Miskin, Jane Korevaar, and Dr. Arthur Miskin

In the evening, I preached for the Constantia Park Baptist Church in Pretoria to about 200 people, where my former close friend, Dr. Martin Holdt, spent the last years of his influential ministry. It was nostalgic to preach there, and it was good to hear that his successor, Rev. Willem Bronkhorst, is now running an effective ministry there. I got to meet Dr. Holdt’s widow, Dr. Elsabe Holdt, and to walk through the outstanding book store that she runs in the church. It was great to see most of the titles we publish gracing the bookcases of the store.

Monday was a catch-up and study day, preparing for addresses to be given, commencing on Tuesday, at the Grace Ministers’ Conference.

Traveling to South Africa: Two Very Different Worldviews

My overnight flight (Jan. 3–4) to South Africa went smoothly. I was able to edit the final typeset version of our forthcoming Reformation Heritage King James Bible Study notes on Ecclesiastes, Daniel, and most of the Minor Prophets.

I also had a long talk with a very intelligent 75-year-old Jewish woman on the 15.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We talked for a while about her job and her family and about interesting things to see in Israel. She has made over fifty trips to Israel, and seemed quite pleased that I was taking notes of a number of her suggestions.

Before long we got to religion. She is a Reformed Jew, is big on women’s rights, and doesn’t believe in the after-life. Her “church” has 1400 members and is led by three Jewish rabbis. They are not looking for a messiah to come, but view the caring community of Jews as “the messianic fulfilment.” Her rabbis preach almost exclusively about horizontal issues, such as women’s rights, how to help the poor, etc., and seldom touch on our vertical relationship with God. They use the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it.

I got close enough to her that I dared to ask her about Jesus Christ. She said that has never read the New Testament, thinks that Jesus was just another rabbi, and sees no need to be born again.

I then explained how we as Christians view the gospel, and why we think it is so important that Jesus is also God. I talked to her about our sin, and about our need for the active and passive obedience of Christ as our substitute and savior. She listened carefully, was not offended in the least, but didn’t buy into it. I asked her, “So then you feel that when you die, life is over, and that this life is the be-all and the end-all?”

“That’s right,” she said.

“Pardon me for saying this,” I responded, getting bolder now, “but from the perspective of being a Christian, that seems like such a narrow and small purpose for life. For us as Christians, we believe that this life is like a one-page preface to a massive book—it is only just the beginning. We strive to live all of life in the light of eternity, and anticipate being with Christ forever. ”

“Well,” she said, “I’m not saying for sure that there is no eternity, and no pie-in-the-sky for after this life, but I’m not betting on it. If I can just pass on my moral values to my two children, and they pass it on to their grandchildren, that, to me, is about the best I can hope for in this life.”

That was about as far as I could get with this friend. I silently thanked God for His Son and for the biblical and Christian worldview, for its much larger vision of what life is all about.