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A Vacation Day in Brazil

Yesterday was our vacation day in Brazil after speaking 21 times in four conferences in the last two weeks (and Mary five times). I caught up on 100+ emails, and then we drove in three cars with our old and new friends from the conference in Governador Valadares the 6 miles up an incredibly stony, bumpy, steep road to the top of a huge mountain called Ibituruna that overlooks the city of 350,000 people. The scenery overlooking the city is breathtaking–God’s creation is amazing! We arrived just as the sun was setting (photo 1–note the island in the center that has a beautiful 3-mile walking trail around it), and stayed for a while as all the city lights turned on (photo 2). Many people go parasailing off of this ramp in photo 3, not a few of which get seriously injured in one way or another. Before returning to the city to enjoy 2.5 more hours of fellowship over dinner with these lovely Christian friends, we took a group picture just as it was getting dark on top of the mountain (photo 4).

Today we’re taking two flights to get to Sao Paulo, and then driving four hours from there to reach Franca, the location of our fifth and last conference which begins tomorrow. About 1000 are expected to attend, with tens of thousands listening online. Please pray for God’s benediction as I preach four sermons there, D.V., on the theme of “Experiencing Intimacy with God.”

Final Conference in Governador Valadares

On Tuesday, we had another work-catch-up day here in Governador Valadares, Brazil. Late afternoon, Mary spoke to a group of women on “Humility: Our Duty and its Beauty.” Then ministers, elders, and members of local Presbyterian churches gathered for a second evening commemorating the 59th anniversary of the regional Presbyterian Synod at which I preached on “How to Promote Holiness in the Family through Family Worship.” Next to preaching itself, family worship is the most powerful practice that will enrich a church, all with the Holy Spirit’s blessing.

The conferences in this locality are over, and we had a little time to relax. I shot hoops for a few minutes with Abraham, Tiago, Mary, and Ana Julia (photo 1)–and I didn’t miss any of them! It’s a consolation that at 69 years, I haven’t totally lost my touch! I also tried out a homemade go-cart at the Eler home, made by Leo, the father who is a school supervisor, for him and his daughters to go flying down mountain roads on (photo 2).

Brazilians are experts at fellowship and food. Tonight was no different. Laurime Eler is a biology teacher and a baker, and we enjoyed an excellent meal (photo 3). We were joined by the parents of PRTS grad Felipe Boechat.

A sweet and cute little elderly lady gifted Mary with a bag of cookies (photo 4). A restored vintage VW van caught Mary’s eye, so she jumped in with a bunch of children (photos 5 and 6).

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59th anniversary of the Rio Doce Presbyterian Synod

Yesterday we were able to catch up on some work in our hotel in Governador Valadales, Brazil. In the evening I had the privilege of preaching to a gathering of the Rio Doce (Doce River) Presbyterian Synod, to commemorate their 59th anniversary. I spoke on Job 22:21, stressing the need for ministers to grow in holiness through the use of the spiritual disciplines. The presidents of all the individual Presbyteries, and a few other ministers, sat on the pulpit platform behind me, with our friend Tiago serving as my translator (photo 1). A number of other ministers and elders and lay people were in attendance.

A group of friends and family of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary student Israel and Larissa Quaresma greeted us. Their brother-in-law is Ewerton Tokashiki (photo 2, 4th from the right), who has been translating significant works of John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli into Portuguese.

By 10:00 p.m. we returned to the Pires home for another two hours of wonderful fellowship and a special Brazilian fish soup called Moqueca. We celebrated their oldest daughter, Ana Louisa’s 20th birthday (photo 3, with her mother clapping beside her; Brazilians are very warm and expressive, so they all clap robustly when they sing “Happy Birthday”). She is studying to be a doctor and is engaged to Abraham, a seminary student who is interning in the church, and has also been serving frequently as our chauffeur. They make a lovely, God-fearing couple, and hope to be married in 108 days from now! As usual in Brazil, we made it back to our motel room shortly after midnight, grateful to God for another wonderful day of worship and spiritual fellowship.

The R.C. Sproul Signature Classics

I had the privilege of dedicating the first volume of my co-authored “Reformed Systematic Theology” to R. C. Sproul with these words: “In memory of R. C. Sproul (1939-2017), friend and mentor, dedicated worker and prolific author for God’s kingdom, gifted teacher and theologian: he, like Abel, being dead, yet speaks (Heb. 11:4).” Because he was such a very clear biblical and theological thinker whose addresses and writings have brought tens of thousands into a Reformed understanding of biblical truth, I am thrilled that Ligonier Ministries has just brought eleven of Dr. Sproul’s best known works into print in a beautiful 6-volume set titled, “The R. C. Sproul Signature Classics.” Even if you already have some of these titles, you will want to own your own set of this very beautiful, highly readable, well laid out set of classic books by this master theologian and lucid thinker. You can buy them now at a very special price from Reformation Heritage Books.

Learn more here.

Saturday and Sunday in Brazil

Our addresses on Saturday in Governador Valadares, Brazil went well, and they sold many of Mary’s and my books. Danilo, my interpreter, and I are holding three of my larger titles that are selling well here (photo 1: Reformed Systematic Theology, vol. 1; Living for the Glory of God: An Intro to Calvinism; Meet the Puritans). On Saturday evening, we went to an Italian restaurant where the cook prepared our food table-side (photo 2). She torched the cheese to warm it, then mixed it with cream on the hot plate, and heated it together with the noodles. Interesting and delicious.

On the Lord’s Day, I preached on Christ’s superiority over the priesthood of Aaron and His perpetual intercession from Hebrews 7:25 and on the only way to live and die from Philippians 1:21. Danilo did an outstanding job of translating and we both felt greatly helped in proclaiming God’s Word to this very warm, hungry, loving, and hospitable church. Some precious children tried out their English skills on us, but they were quite shy (photo 3). The Pires family hosted us for a delicious lunch, and we enjoyed sweet fellowship (photo 4). Their son, Abraham, to my left, is 16 years old and has a remarkable affinity and love for learning languages. I encouraged him in his desire to use his talents in God’s kingdom, and to pursue Biblical Hebrew and Latin.

After the evening service, we gathered at the Freitas home with several families for delicious Brazilian BBQ (photo 5). We discussed several issues confronting the church today. Their church has welcomed 200 new members since we were here last time, which was only three years ago. Pray that God will continue to bless them abundantly.

Continued Travels in Brazil

We arrived in Goverador Valadares, Brazil Thursday for a conference at the Presbyterian Church of Gra-Duquesa. God’s splendorous creation was on display from our hotel room balcony last evening in the form of a full rainbow surrounding nearby Mount Ibituruna (photo 1). It’s winter here below the equator, and yesterday it was 81 degrees.

Mary spoke to the women last evening on “Teach the Child to Work,” and today she is to speak on “Laying our Anxieties Before Christ.” Her interpreter is Tiago (photo 2). The theme of the conference is “Growing in Glorifying God in the Ministry.” I spoke on “Cultivating Prayer as a Pastor to Glorify God” last evening, and am speaking today on “Growing in Applying the Word to God’s Glory” which focuses on Reformed experiential preaching and on “Cultivating Growth in Coping with Criticism as a Pastor to God’s Glory.” The approximately 250 attendees are primarily ministers and church leaders, but there are many lay people here also. At conferences, Brazilians eat dinner late after all the addresses are over (10:30 p.m. to midnight), so here we are in a restaurant with (photo 3, from left) Christian singer Paulo Cesar, my translator and future Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary student Danilo, and Pastor Ricardo Silva Ferreira. As we were eating, just before midnight I suddenly noticed a man at the next table getting down on one knee and holding up a ring in a box to his girlfriend! She said, “Yes!” And suddenly everyone clapped!

New Book from RHB–Providence, Freedom, and the Will in Early Modern Reformed Theology

We are honored at Reformation Heritage Books to publish Dr. Richard A. Muller’s informative and excellent essays on “Providence, Freedom, and the Will in Early Modern Reformed Theology” (290 pages) in our Reformed Historical-Theological Studies series. As Dr. Fesko writes, “No serious student of theology can afford to ignore this work.” This is a great book!

Learn more here.

Arrival in Governadore Valadares, Brazil

After 13 hours of travel, which included 3 flights, we arrived safely in Governadore Valadares, Brazil late last night for two more conferences, both of which include many pastors and church leaders, as well as their spouses and some church members. I speak for the first time this evening, just after Mary gives an address to the women.

This morning I received a delightful letter and photo from my friend, Dr. Richard Daniels, who graduated with me 37 years ago with a PhD from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. (A few years later I published his excellent dissertation on Christology through RHB.) For years, he has been teaching systematic theology at the African Reformation Theological Seminary in Uganda, Africa, where he is using the first three volumes of our Reformed Systematic Theology as his major text. (By the way, we just sent the fourth and last volume on the church and the last things to our editors today—and it hopes to appear in print by Crossway Books next year.) Here is what Dr. Daniels wrote:

I am writing to let you know about this past semester and the use of Reformed Systematic Theology (RST), vols. 1-3, here at Africa Reformation Theological Seminary. We used the first three volumes in 4 courses and the students, whether this was their first course in Systematics or their third and fourth, loved them. They particularly valued the way the studies applied the convincingly expounded doctrine to personal piety and to living the Christian life. We, the Principal Dr. Dave Eby and I, knew this would be a special strength of this series and were more than greatly pleased with the books and rejoice in the way the Lord used them. We have 2 more courses in our series, The Church, and Eschatology which will be offered next Spring. Also, we have at least 2 graduates who are seriously looking at participating in the PhD program at PRTS; one of them has already submitted his application.

The photo above is of Mercy, one of the ladies in our Biblical Counseling program, with RST on her head! As you know, these African women can easily carry great burdens on their heads.

The Puritan Vision of the Scriptures–Conference in Brazil

We arrived in Aracaju, Brazil on Monday for the Puritan Conference. Thirty years ago, Dr. Manoel Canuto (a pediatric surgeon) was deeply moved reading Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and was inspired to begin “The Puritan Project.” (Photo 1, from left, is Fabio and Virginia Andrade, Dr. Canuto and his wife Telma, and on the right are the Andrade’s sons. Virginia is the Canuto’s daughter and is very involved in organizing the conference.) He was soon joined by Pastor Josafa Vasconcelos (photo 2, with his wife Graca), a crusade leader whose passionate preaching filled stadiums, but who became convicted that Reformed and Puritan teachings were biblical and that Arminian and Pentecostal teachings were not. This conference brought me to Brazil for the first time ever, back in 1995, and I have enjoyed coming many times since. I count Manoel and Josafa as very special friends.

The theme of this conference was “The Puritan Vision of the Scriptures.” My good friend Dr. Joey Pipa, who has also spoken several times for this conference, and I each spoke five times on this theme. He spoke from an exegetical perspective and I spoke from a historical perspective. I covered the Puritan view of the inspiration, clarity, authority, sufficiency, and efficacy of the Scriptures, as well as their convictions about the regulative principle of worship in preaching, praying and singing the Scriptures. I also looked at how they used the Scriptues in family worship, how they meditated on the Scriptures, and how they taught the transforming power of the Scriptures. Daniel Silveira, one of our Puritan Reformed Seminary alumni, served as my excellent and passionate translator. What a dear brother he is! Four Brazilian pastors also gave one address in Portuguese, of course. Mary spoke to the women on “Teaching Children to Work,” the subject of her book, which is freshly translated into Portuguese. Mary’s translator was Daniel’s dear wife Flavia (photo 3, with their daughters). It was wonderful to be reunited with these dear friends.

The Canutos invited us and others to lunch on Wednesday. It turned out to be a surprise celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary. Dr. Canuto sang a love song to Telma, and she joined in singing it to him. There were six ministers in attendance (photo 4). Later, back at the conference, Christopher showed me his note-taking system of his reading of three of my books that are in Portuguese (photo 5). It does my heart good to see young men being inspired by the Puritans and beginning to publish them themselves in other languages. Soli deo Gloria!Presently we are on our way to the 3rd of our 5 back-to-back conferences in Brazil. Two of our three flights today to get there are behind us. Continue to pray for us please.