Archives for January 13, 2014

Cape Town Area, South Africa (January 12)

Pastor and Mrs. Jason Labuschagne in front of Plumstead Baptist Church

Pastor and Mrs. Jason Labuschagne in front of Plumstead Baptist Church


I preached for Pastor Jason Labuschagne in Plumstead Baptist Church on Sunday morning from John 18 on Gethsemane’s King-Lamb. The 150 people were unusually attentive, I thought, which gave me more freedom than usual. Many were quietly taking notes. What a joy it is to preach to a small church that is drinking in the Word!

Fellowship in the Backyard of My Host

Fellowship in the Backyard of My Host

In the afternoon, my host family provided a great meal for the McIntoshes and several couples from Goodwood Baptist Church, including the new pastor and his wife (he hopes to preach next week and be installed in two weeks). Fellowship was excellent. We went around the table and shared what we thought were important biblical qualities for effective leadership in the church and for effective marriages. The overlap between these qualities in both areas was quite surprising and nearly complete. Collectively, iron sharpened iron as a considerable amount of life experience surfaced in the responses. Major qualities that surfaced included humility, servanthood, spiritual and moral integrity, consistency, kindness, good communication, developing great friendship, being examples, understanding how men and women think differently, etc.

Goodwood Baptist

Goodwood Baptist

In the evening I preached in Goodwood Baptist Church to a large crowd, as several other churches joined this flock for their evening service. They do this each year in January for one evening service so that churches in the area can hear one of the international speakers for the Grace Ministers’ Conference.

After the evening service, I had a good talk with two daughters and their husbands of the Pieterse family—a family I’ve known for many years. It’s hard for me to believe that their two youngest daughters are now married, and that one of them already has two children. Then I spoke with two young men, one of whom is deeply involved in jail ministry and would like to attend PRTS but is grappling with how to do that since he has three young children. After that I spoke at length with three ministers, one of whom wants to study at PRTS.

Monday through Wednesday is the second and final portion of the Grace Ministers’ Conference.

Touring in Cape Town, South Africa (January 11)

On the Road to Simon's Town

On the Road to Simon’s Town

Cape Town is one of the world’s most scenic cities. Pastor Jason Labuschagne (who formerly served as an intern under Dr. Martin Holdt and has now served another Reformed Baptist church for the last 13 years where I also hope to preach tomorrow) picked up Dr. Andy and Juliet McIntosh and me on Saturday morning for a day of touring. We drove up the historic Table Mountain as far as we could and took a cable car up the rest of the way. The mountain is very flat on top—hence its name—and expansive. Views of the ocean and its rocky shoreline and whitewater waves are spectacular from a wide variety of angles. I couldn’t resist taking more than a hundred pictures for two hours as we walked around the top of the mountain. The divine grandeur and beauty is more than breathtaking. It provokes inward heart worship and sheer amazement that the sinless Creator of this stunning beauty would have anything at all to do with sinful man. It makes you want to cry out to all the tourists—yes, to everyone on this globe, and above all, to God Himself: “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens…. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:1).

From there we took a spectacular one hour drive along ocean’s shore to Simon’s Town, stopping at several scenic points along the way. At one scenic point, I opened a conversation with a man by saying, “It sure is hard not to believe in God when you see scenery like this, don’t you think?” “Oh yes, I definitely believe in God,” he said, then added, “I believe in the God of the Old Testament.” He paused: “I am a Jew from Argentina, and have been traveling through this beautiful country by myself for nearly a month.” After I told him that I was a Christian pastor, he tried to get me to agree that Judaism was almost like Christianity, but I had to lovingly tell him that there was a huge chasm between the two since one denied the messianic character of Jesus Christ and the other based all of salvation on Christ. He agreed he was a sinner and needed salvation, but he (sadly) thought that he had a spark of divinity within himself so that he could save himself.

Moreover, he thought that Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and others were all true prophets who could lead us to God.

I asked him if he had ever read Isaiah 53. He said, “No, but why do you ask?” I explained to him that Isaiah 53 pointed clearly to the coming Messiah and that Messiah is revealed to us in the New Testament. After he promised that he would read Isaiah 53, I explained to him why Christ alone could save us. I then asked him if he was a reader. He said that he read “a lot.” I asked him, “If I were to send you some books I’ve written about Christianity, would you read them?” “Definitely,” he said. He then wrote out his address for me, and I promised to send him several books. After we shook hands, he suddenly surprised me by asking: “Would you ask a blessing for me for the rest of my travels?” I gladly did that—and also prayed that God would lead him to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. To my surprise again, he said with tears in his eyes, “Thank you so much for those beautiful words you prayed for me.” Who can tell what God will do with this man?

Navy Frigate

Navy Frigate

After arriving in Simon’s Town, we were given a private tour by a Christian named Peter through a massive Naval Dockyard that employs some two or three thousand people. We saw numerous large ships, two submarines (of which only one is still active), and ships dry docked as well. Peter and his father both served the navy for most of their lives, and one of Peter’s sons is now following in his steps. With his 31 years of experience working for the navy, Peter was able to get us on the SAS ISANDLWANA, a Navy frigate that is the first ship ready to move out of the bay and into sea action on South Africa’s behalf. (I learned that the various ships from the smallest to largest have these names: offshore patrol vessel, corvette, destroyer, frigate, cruiser, destroyer, air craft carrier.) A female lieutenant on the frigate, who has been in the navy for 13 years, gave us a private tour of the frigate. The tour was supposed to be only 20 minutes but when the lieutenant saw how interested we were, she ended giving us a tour of more than an hour. We saw everything from the engine, the air conditioning room, office and sleeping quarters, to the bridge, which includes where the helmsman sits and steers the ship, and where the quartermaster and others involved in guiding the ship sit and work. Many parts of the frigate were off-limits for photographing, but she did say that she would take a picture of me in the helmsman’s position.

All the various instruments in the bridge reminded me a bit of an airplane cockpit. I was struck with how much is involved in bringing a frigate like this out to sea. It takes a whole team of people, each one doing his or her part. It reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul similarly argues in terms of Christ’s body, the church, that everyone is needed to do his or her task so as to reach the safe harbor of heaven in the end.

To Cape Town, South Africa (January 10)

South Africa Map 2I was going to try to sleep on the two-hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, but in God’s providence, a talkative atheist, who wanted to talk about God and religion, sat next to me. The two hours “flew by” in a moment.

My atheist companion was from California, but was presently working in Nairobi, Kenya, as a diplomat in the U.S. embassy department. Our conversation about his work was fascinating and eventually led into him asking about my work, which became the bridge to talking about God and Christianity. He was friendly enough but remained adamant throughout our conversation that God did not exist. He was very intellectual and yet woefully ignorant of what Christianity was all about. He gave me opportunity to explain exactly what the gospel is, but had a hard time understanding the concept of “free grace.” He kept thinking that Christianity teaches that we merit heaven. That conception was no doubt due, in part, to his having married a Roman Catholic, whom he since divorced.

At one point in the conversation, I graciously tried to point out to him how small his worldview was, because if everyone was their own “god,” as he claimed, then his worldview was no bigger than the human individual. Instead of getting angry, he agreed with me, but said he would rather have it that way than believe in a God who didn’t exist!

I don’t think I made any headway with him, but pray with me that the Holy Spirit will bring back certain things to his mind that may give him pause. The only time in those two hours when he seemed a bit stumped was when I said, “Well, what if Christianity is right, and you are wrong, and there is an afterlife. What then?” He was silent for a few moments, then said, “Well, then, my gamble didn’t pay off and your afterlife will be a whole lot better than mine!”

When we exited the plane, we were taken by buses to the terminal. It was only a five-minute ride. I asked the lady next to me how she was doing, to which she replied, “OK.” I said, “You say OK, but your tone of voice sounds like you’re not OK.”

She then changed the subject by asking me how I was doing. After I said I was fine, I told her that I was a pastor and didn’t want to pry, but that she seemed troubled, and I would be grateful for an opportunity to pray for her if she opened up.

Through tears she told me that her partner who was planning to be with her on this vacation in Cape Town had been murdered by a stranger two weeks ago. He was walking out of a bar in Johannesburg, and a stranger just walked up to him and shot him through the heart, took his wallet, and ran away. By the time she finished her sad story, the bus had stopped at the terminal, so I quickly wished her God’s grace and told her I would pray for her. I looked for her around the baggage claim area, thinking that perhaps I could find a more private seat somewhere to pray with her, but I couldn’t find her in the throng of people. Please pray with me for this hurting soul. And thank God for your living relatives as well as for the amazing gospel of Jesus Christ which alone can meet the needs of this unbelieving, broken, needy world.

By mid-afternoon, I had settled in at the home of Francois and Eileen VanderWesthuizen. It wasn’t long before we shared conversion stories. Some years ago, after Francois’s brother was radically converted one day, he called Francois the next day to share what happened to him. Francois could see that his brother was powerfully changed but didn’t know what to make of it. His dad thought his brother had joined a cult and asked Francois to save his brother from it! It wasn’t long, though, before Francois and Eileen returned to church. Astonishingly, the Lord began to deal with both of them under the first sermon after they returned. Already that week they met with the pastor of the Reformed Baptist church they attended (where I was invited to preach), and soon were brought to know the Lord savingly. What a delightful host and hostess I have been blessed with!