Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
Our last two months of work in Hungary, western Romania, and western Ukraine were greatly blessed of the Lord. Let me tell you, first of all, about our 20 camps this summer. (We originally planned 18 camps, but added a children’s camp in Hungary and an English Bible camp in Romania). We heard from many of you that you were praying for these camps, and the Lord wonderfully answered your prayers. We had a record number of campers (603). And the Word of God was wonderfully taught in all these camps. The spiritual impact on the lives of many was obvious during these camps and confirmed by testimonies in the closing services. Fourteen of these camps were mainly for non-Christians at various age levels. We also asked for special prayer for the health and safety of all our campers since this is vital to our program and especially important to parents who entrust their children to us. Amazingly, we did not have a single illness or accident among our campers or anything among our staff of 145 except for an upset stomach the last day of the last camp! PTL! But now, looking ahead, we know that this was only the beginning – we must now follow up on all these campers to help them grow in Christ and try to draw them (and their parents) into one of our 22 congregations in these three countries. PRAY!
You see, we not only want people to hear the gospel and come to Christ. We want new congregations built everywhere in the region – congregations that can help these campers grow in Christ and, in turn, be helped as these new members grow Christ’s church. But we do not much time for this. Clara and I are really feeling our age at this pace (I’m now 80 and she is 81). So we are earnestly praying that our 22 congregations can be fully self-supporting by 2014 and our church can keep growing and become a mighty influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He also gave us the Great Commission not only to take the gospel into all the world, but disciple people to obey “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” and plant churches. And how can a Christian church grow in any country until its congregations are self-supporting and self-governing? Yes, we now have 22 developing congregations in these three countries whose giving (all from new Christians) is enough to meet half the pastors’ needs. But we still must help our 16 church planting pastors until their congregations are strong enough to give them full support. So PRAY that the 300 or so non-Christians who heard God’s Word in these camps will continue in the truth of what they heard and not fall back into the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil.
I recently read an article in a Christian magazine entitled: “Don’t Plant Churches, Build Covenant Com-munities.” Bad articles sometimes begin with one good idea and end up with false teaching. This was one such article. The good idea was that it’s not enough for churches to be spiritually strong and reformed in doctrine. They should “apply the Christian faith” to their region with good “family, economic, and educational” ideas. Hooray! Great idea! But the flaw in this article is that it totally ignores the power of the gospel and the fact that people must FIRST be converted to Christ and become, by the grace of God, faithful followers of the Lamb. The writer says: “Without God’s law applied in the community, there isn’t much that can attract the masses of people to Christ.” This is false. God’s law never attracted anyone to Christ. That attraction is Christ Himself and the gospel in which He is manifested to us as the Christ of Calvary. Romans 8:3, 4: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. He did this by condemning sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” So believers must fulfill the righteousness of the law to please God and be a good witness. But it is not our friendship or Christian lifestyle that saves the world. It is the gospel message which begins with the thunder of Sinai and ends with God’s infinite love and mercy to sinners in the gospel.
That said, however, once we become new creatures in Christ, it is our blessed duty to “put on” a Christian lifestyle that is built on the wisdom of the moral law and God’s commandments. We will then be able to be good fathers and husbands (family), pay off debt we incurred before we learned Christ (business) and train our children in godliness (education). But people will not come to Christ by seeing nice people with good life styles, only by seeing themselves as lost and spiritually ruined. And we must be the ones to give them both the bad and good news. This is why we are now emphasizing this course on Romans in our church (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe) as our best tool to reach the unsaved for Christ. This book of Romans, like no other book in the Bible, gives sinners what they need to know in order to receive Christ as both Lord and Savior. Romans 1 and 2 give the bad news that God’s wrath is upon sin and that all men, by their sinful deeds, deserve nothing but everlasting punishment. Romans 3 and 4 give the good news, what Christ has done for sinners and how we may now (by the same faith that Abraham had) become the children of God and new creatures in Christ.
Let me now tell you about our Romans course and its latest effect in our church. The first four months we used it, we had amazing results. Most people who started came to Christ either at Chapter 3 when they saw that salvation depends entirely on the work of Christ for them or at Chapter 4 when they saw it is by faith alone that this gift is received. This overjoyed us. We also hoped this period of conversion miracles would continue at the same pace. It has not. We are still seeing wonderful results, but the pace has slowed. We now realize that this early success rate came because our early enrollees already had some exposure to the Word and were “miracles” waiting to happen. Now, with this initial wave of conversions over, we are going at a slower, more “normal” rate. But we are glad to report that this “normal” rate is still very good. We also learned in the last few months that we need to go more slowly with this “normal” class of people and, at Chapter 4, carefully review everything, then see if there is good evidence of a spiritual change in their thinking and attitude. If not, we invite them to review the first four chapters or let them leave the course. For we have had a few people we led into Chapters 5-8, then Romans 12:1,2, who showed at the end of the course (by their fruits) that they were clearly unconverted, being unwilling to do things that every converted person can and will do – if he has faith as a mustard seed.
Turning to other news, we are glad to announce a graduation service at Karolyi Gaspar Institute next month. One of our students has completed the entire four-year program. PRAY for God’s leading for Janos Fulop in the training he has received at our school. PRAY also for recent developments in Romania that may affect home schooling in that country. Praise God with us for 3,190 Hungarian Bibles just received from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. PRAY that God would use these Bibles as they are distributed, then read by many. And as earlier said, PRAY for all these people at our 20 camps this past summer and our follow- up of them. Our workers and our members are doing this zealously. But we know that, except the Spirit of God open the heart, man’s fatal tendency is to remain in darkness or, if exposed to the light, not to continue in the light. PRAY also for this Romans course our men are giving to hundreds of people. “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Ps. 119:1). PRAY that God, not only by His Word faithfully given, but by His Spirit poured out, would turn many to Christ in repentance and faith. PRAY for our 16 men, that they would have daily strength and joy in doing their work. And PRAY for Clara and me. This is really a “stretch run” for us. Finally, PRAY for the financial needs of the work. Things have become tight again in the area of current operational expenses. Pray for the $125,000/year we still need to match the giving of our 22 congregations so the work can continue strongly. Remember, too, that the widow’s mite is most precious.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara