Archives for May 2014

Sow the Seed beside Many Waters

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches of Korea, Meeting in Los Angeles

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches of Korea, Meeting in Los Angeles

The last few months, the Lord has blessed me with a variety of opportunities to sow the seed of His Word. Here is my pastoral letter covering events from February 24 through May 24. As you read it, please pray for God to produce a rich harvest from these efforts, for one servant plants, and another waters, but only God can give the growth.

Take Time to Be Holy

Cramming Life With Too Many Good Things from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Opportunity Cost

Here is a valedictorian’s address heard at a recent graduation that was a blessing to my own soul.

Dear friends, family, and my fellow graduates,

We’ve learned a lot over the past several years, haven’t we? Between our friends and professors and everyone else who has crossed our paths, we’ve received so much teaching. Some of it has been long forgotten, some will resurface at crucial points in the future, and some will stick with us for the rest of our lives.

It was two years ago that I was taught something that has stuck with me and has already made a huge difference in my life and I’d like to share it with you this morning. It was a dreary morning in economics class, about the time in the semester when the newness has worn off but the end is still out of sight. I pulled out my laptop and began taking notes about the tradeoffs people make in business and how we respond to incentives. And then I heard the definition of opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost is the amount of one thing you are willing to give up in order to obtain something else. For example, the cost of our Cornerstone tuition is not just the amount on the checks we send in, but it is also the amount of money we are not making at a full-time job while we’re in school. On the other hand, the opportunity cost of not going to school could be working a $10 an hour job for the rest of our lives instead of getting an education and making more in the future.

But there’s far more than dollars to the idea of opportunity cost. Each of our lives is a series of decisions in which we choose certain opportunities at the expense of others. We might need to choose whether we’re going to sleep in at the expense of our devotions, sit on social media when we have a chance to interact with real people, make and hoard plenty of money instead of sharing it with missions, or keep to ourselves when we have a chance to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God willing, we have a lifetime of opportunities spread out before us, chances to show the world Who Christ is and what mercy can do in a life and why the gospel is crucial. You might have said the sinner’s prayer when you were 7 but are you taking the opportunities God Himself has put in your path? The opportunity cost of living for our own happiness alone is priceless because it could include the salvation of souls! Matthew 16:26 says, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As you walk out of this building into the “real world,” what are you willing to give up for your own soul or for the soul next to you? Would you give up your life? Your career? Would you trade in comfortable living if that was the cost of a soul? Your phone? An hour of free time? What is the opportunity cost of a soul? I don’t know; I can’t give you a dollar value or a set amount of time or a certain level of uncomfortableness and say, “If you give this, a soul will be saved.” You won’t know until you reach heaven’s gate if God used opportunities you took to be used in His soul-saving work. Maybe the opportunity cost of a soul will be your life on the mission field, maybe it will be giving up a promotion in order to be home with your family, maybe it will be making time for a person who no one else makes time for, maybe it will be a smile and a word of encouragement.

But whatever the God-glorifying opportunity is, I hope that with God’s help, you take it. Thank you.

Living Monovision for Christ

Harold Popovich, member of the Grand Rapids Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church, died at the age of 86 on April 27, 2014. Harold and his surviving wife, Dr. Fran Popovich, spent 40 years of their 57 years of marriage on the mission field in Brazil serving Wycliffe Bible Translators in the translation of the Bible into the Maxakali language.

Harold Popovich grew up in Chicago in a Reformed church under the ministry of Dr. Hagar, a son of the Rev. Hagar who served the Netherlands Reformed Church (NRC). He came under severe conviction of sin when he was 13 years old and was brought into gospel liberty when he was 14. After he died, his wife found this note (just a few days ago) written by him among his papers:

At age 13 I suddenly became aware that I was not born again. Somehow I knew that God contributes all and that we contribute nothing. Furthermore, what we brag about, God considers filthy rags. This hit me hard. How could something so enjoyable be so bad? There must be a mistake. In my anger I entered a year of vicious battle with God. On the last day of the year, I finally surrendered and God filled me with His overwhelming presence. I was crucified with Christ and He lived in me.

Harold was teaching in a Chicago high school when he met Fran, who was in nurses’ training. One of the things that drew him to her, he later told her, was that she grew up in the NRC! They discovered that they were both called to serve the Lord on the mission field. They were married in June, 1956 and began training in linguistics under Wycliffe. Harold wrote later: “God called me to foreign missionary work. In the following years, He kept me from being tied up in other things until we went to Brazil and the Maxakali Indians.”

In forty years on the mission field, the Popovich’s raised four children, did nearly everything from scratch in every area of life (since they lived in primitive conditions), and with a linguist-colleague they analyzed Maxakali speech sounds (they determined that the language had five oral vowels, five nasal vowels, and fifteen consonants), and jointly translated the entire New Testament as well as parts of Genesis. (After they retired, they continued to help develop translation helps and finished the Maxakali-Portuguese and the Maxakali-English dictionaries.)

Fran testified to me of her husband, “For 57 years God allowed me to be married to a humble, kind man, with a generous servant heart, who loved the Lord and hated sin. From the time I first met him, he always had what I call ‘monovision’—that is, he wanted to live entirely for Christ, and the Indians in Brazil were at the heart of that vision. They absolutely loved my husband. By God’s grace, he always walked with integrity in my presence and in theirs. What a blessing to have had such a husband!”

Harold Popovich was always expecting Christ to return on the clouds. But now he has returned to His Savior who has called him home to the church triumphant, saying through his death, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

At his memorial service, I preached on Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That text just seemed like a fitting summary of this dear brother’s simple, humble, “monovisionistic” life. We sang that beautiful Psalter 31:3,4,7 and that amazing hymn (Harold’s favorite), “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” May God make us jealous of those who have gone before us to be with Christ forever.

What about you, dear friend? Is your life a monovision of “Christ alone”?

Conference in Idaho (April 25–28)

Happy Church Family Geneva OPC

I flew on Friday morning to speak five times and do two Q&A’s for the New Geneva OPC Conference of the Family in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Idaho Falls is Mormon country. I sat next to Mormons on my last flight out and my first flight back and had long talks with both of them. I learned more about Mormonism than I ever knew before. It is remarkable how devoted these two Mormons were (one was an elder) to their set of beliefs that often blatantly contradict the Bible, but that really shouldn’t be surprising as both of them said they do not believe in the infallibility of Scripture. Both of them had an uncanny ability, too, at evading direct questions!

Rev. David and Debbie Bass

Rev. David and Debbie Bass

The local pastor, Rev. David Bass, spoke on Sunday schools and children in the worship services. I spoke on the biblical duties of husband and wives, the biblical duties of parents, how to bring your children to Christ, how to do family worship, and what my God-fearing parents taught me.

I very much enjoyed staying with my hosts, Peter and Bernie Nageta, as well as going to supper with the McNeeley family. I sat between their 9-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl who said some remarkably mature and cute things to me throughout the meal. I was also impressed with Roger and Andrea VanMiddendorp, and their nine children, ranging from 15 to 4. Large families who fear God and conscientiously bring up their children in a godly, scriptural way are so impressive.

Less than a hundred people attended the conference but they bought every single book of the five large boxes that RHB sent out, plus we had to back order many more. The average family bought close to $200 worth of books. These people are hungry. That is also evident from their church services, which often last two hours, notwithstanding that all the children remain in the service!