Saturday, 24 March 2012

Here's My Story; You Can Find the Application

Thursday morning was grey and gloomy, but not overly cold (although a bit windy). By noon there was some rain and snow and messy precipitation, but not a lot. Later in the afternoon it started snowing for real, much to everyone's surprise. It turned into a proper storm with a lot of snow covering the slushy, rainy stuff (but not a lot of wind, happily enough). It just surprised everyone; they had said flurries, not a storm!

On the bus on the way to a friend's house after work, I saw something that made me smile. Two young boys (probably about 10 and 12; maybe a bit younger) were riding their bikes (or trying to ride their bikes) home. Obviously, they had ridden their bikes to school that morning when there was no snow, stayed late, and were trying to get home. They arrived at the bus stop about the same time the bus stopped for a passenger. They asked the driver if, please, he would just give them a ride; they didn't have any money, but it was just a block....

Because the bus was mostly empty so there was room at the front for them and their bikes...
And they weather was miserable...
And they were children...
And the driver was a softy...

He said yes, they could get on the bus. They rode only to the next stop, thanked him, and got off. We all smiled at each other; after all, they were children and we would have done the same.

Just a couple of children who needed a bit of a boost on a miserable day.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Maybe We Need to Review the Basics

Sometimes my students aren't at their brightest.

Student 1 was having trouble with some subtraction. It turns out that when he borrowed from the 5, he turned it into a 3. Further inspection showed that he did it twice.

Then student 2 was doing a spelling test. I told him there were 14 words so he numbered his page. He was surprised when he got to the end and there was still one more word. When I checked his page, I pointed out that some people include the number 11 when they're counting.

Student 1 laughed at student 2, and then asked, "Yeah...what number comes before 10?"

Sigh. Not their brightest that night, but at least willing to laugh at themselves.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Adoniram Judson, continued

Well, you will be happy to know that Adoniram Judson did not get killed by the privateers. In fact, he eventually made it the England, where the London Mission Society was not able to help. By the time he made it back to the States, though, people were more interested in missions and the money was available.

Adoniram and Ann Judson left for Burma on February 19, 1810. Actually, they were first heading for India with the plan to somehow get from there to Burma. It was tough, since the East India Company did not want them in India and tried to send them away to either England or America. They managed to escape being deported, however, and finally found passage to Burma (in a round about way), landing in Rangoon on July 13, 1813.

Burma was rough on Adoniram and Ann. They had been told by many people not to throw their lives away on Burma, to find a safer place to minister, that they would die there. The king was known for killing anyone who offended him or who might offend him. The land was wild, the food was strange, the language was difficult to learn. There were dozens of reasons not to go, and when they got there, dozens of reasons to leave. It was months before they knew the language well enough to speak to people. It took 3 years, 7 months before they received their first letter from home. Their children died. Other missionaries died. The children of other missionaries died. Eventually, England and Burma went to war and all foreigners were suspect. Adoniram spent months in prison, part of it in the "Death Prison" and endured immense hardships. Eventually Ann died in Burma.

Today there are too many people preaching that God wants you to be happy and comfortable and rich and all that good stuff. Adoniram knew better. He knew that Burma would be the complete opposite and that he would likely die there. He went anyway. In the first 7 years, there were 9 converts. By 1841 there were 240 Burmese converts; in some places they could meet in the open, although in Rangoon they still had to hide and meet in secret. He spent years translating the Bible and then 6 more getting it printed; it remains the only Burmese translation of the Bible.

Eventually Adoniram got sick...again. Only this time he did not recover. The doctor prescribed a sea voyage and Adoniram was willing to try. On April 12, 1850, Adoniram died at sea. He was about 62, and had spent 37 years in Burma. In all that time, he had been back to America once, 5 years before. He had given his life for the Burmese and for the gospel.

I leave you with two scripture passages that came to mind as I read and wrote about Adoniram's life:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (I Corinthians 4:7-12)

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Adoniram Judson

I'm reading the biography of Adoniram Judson (from the Christian Heroes Then and Now series, by Janet and Geoff Benge). I know a little bit about his life, mostly that he was a missionary in Burma and spent time in jail in Burma. I've been learning a lot more.

Adoniram Judson was the first American foreign missionary. The USA was a young country when he left, going first to London in 1811 to seek the support of the London Missionary Society. On the way there his ship was overrun by privateers....and that's as far as I've gotten. I know he survives, though, because, again, he was the first American foreign missionary and he went to Burma!

When he was still planning to be a missionary he fell in love with a young lady named Ann. Ann was the youngest daughter of wealthy parents. Adoniram wanted to marry her, so he wrote to her asking if they could "formally commence an acquaintanceship" (remember: it was 1810). She made him wait a week (it would have been unseemly for her to respond too quickly) and then said only that her parents would have to approve.

Now here was a tough letter to write: "He wondered how he was going to tell Ann's parents that he would like to marry their beautiful, talented daughter and drag her off to the Far Ease, where they would probably both die."(p 58) He wrote it, and told them exactly what Ann could expect as his wife: want, degradation, persecution, and quite possibly a violent death.

Amazingly enough, they didn't say no. They admitted that they didn't want her to go (really, what parents wants that type of life for their daughter?), but the wouldn't stop her if she wanted to marry him.

And she said yes. Even knowing what type of future she was likely to have with him, she married him and they went off to the mission field together.

As for exactly what happened: well, it's been a long time since I read about Adoniram Judson (and that was a fiction book and didn't give a lot of details about his life) and I'm only up to the privateers. I'll try to post again after I finish because I think he led an amazing life of service to the Burmese people.

Monday, 5 March 2012


I enrolled for my next classes on Friday. I'm taking Life, Ministry, and Theology of Paul with Dr. Wong and Worship and Wisdom with Dr. Harris.

I'm looking forward to the classes and the learning. I am not looking forward to the amount of work and the deadlines! The list of assignments fills almost 2 index cards (one pre-session work, one post-session work). There's a lot of reading and writing about what I've read and answering questions and then writing papers and a discipleship plan for Worship and Wisdom to put together and then actually use to disciple someone (which is something new and sounds interesting). Tonight I'm going to figure how much needs to be done each week to keep up (except most of the reading since I don't have the books yet).

If I don't write much for a while...well, that won't be anything new, but at least now I have an excuse!

Friday, 2 March 2012

The World-Tilting Gospel, a Book Review

It has always perplexed and bothered me that many, many books about the gospel (and many evangelical tools) start with the Law, or the cross, or the perceived needs of a particular person or group. Starting with the Law assumes that the person listening cares about what God says (and if he does, he probably already has an idea of the Law); starting with the cross assumes (or should assume) that the person already understands God and sin and human nature. Starting with the perceived needs of the people...well, that just misses the mark altogether, I think. Every non-Christian I know either thinks he understands everything (but doesn't) or doesn't understand anything about God; both of them need to start with the basics.

And that is exactly what Dan Phillips does. In The World-Tilting Gospel, he starts at the beginning: creation. Starting at this point, he is able to show us, from the Bible, who we are and who God is. He explains everything carefully and clearly so that there can be no question about what he is saying, and he backs it up with Scripture through the book.

Once we understand who we are and who God is, and how completely removed we are from God and His standard for us, then we are ready to continue to the next part of the book: God's rescue plan. Here Dan makes clear that God's plan of salvation was planned from the beginning and executed in Christ, in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Furthermore, it was completed in Christ: there is nothing left for us to do. Moreover, it is God who saves us. This, I think, is not a popular concept for a lot of people, who want some credit for their salvation, for their faith. This is also the reason I'm very glad that Dan starts at the beginning, because only then can we see that there is no way we can be involved in our salvation, and no way that we want to be involved with God.

And so we need salvation, God has planned salvation, we receive salvation (justification through faith...both from God). This is where too many of the books and such in the first paragraph stop. It's where everyone who told me about salvation stopped. It's a very bad place to stop because life doesn't stop there. It keeps going.

So does The World-Tilting Gospel. See: even when we're saved, there is still a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. We're undergoing sanctification (being made holy) but we're not there yet. Here Dan talks about different errors, "misguided mind-sets" that seem pervasive in the church. I found this section particularly interesting, because in high school and university I ran into (and sometimes agreed with) all of them.
The first he calls "Gutless Gracers" who focus entirely on grace and maintain that works and obedience are not necessary. They claim that obedience turns grace into works. It's main danger is that it's very close to truth: we are not saved through works. What it forgets (or conveniently ignores) is that faith must be more than words, and that true faith produces obedience.
The second group are the "Crisis Upgraders." These people are all about the experience after salvation that makes you a better Christian. There are different versions, but in my world it was the importance of yielding yourself, making a deeper commitment (very symbolically, usually at a retreat), and becoming more like Christ in a one-time experience. That was supposed to make us more spiritual and less prone to sin (or to a particular sin). The problem is, the experience never lasted (but could be repeated at the next retreat). Eventually I learned exactly what Dan teaches here: Christian growth (and yielding) is an on-going thing, a process, not a quick-fix.
Finally, there is the group he calls the "Muzzy Mystics." Here we stop trying to live a Christian life and we let Jesus live it through us. Suddenly we don't have to work at it; in fact, it makes us more spiritual to not do anything. I don't have as much experience with this; Dan does, but I'm not going to quote the entire chapter (you can all read the book), but let me say this: it's not in the Bible either. We're not supposed to sit around and do nothing on the basis that Jesus will do everything; He's already done everything (remember the cross?). We're commanded to live holy lives, which means obedience to God's Word.

Dan goes on to talk about the struggle with the flesh that every believer encounters. He does not deny it and does not give false hope that one day we will become perfect Christians without sin or struggles; it is a struggle that will only end with glorification in Christ's presence. He also reminds us that we can't use it as an excuse for sin. This leads nicely into the work of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to all believers. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we can put to death sin; it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can know victory.

He finishes by putting it all together. He shows us the ramifications of the gospel for our lives, how it has to be part of our entire lives, not just a part here or there. We must know the truth, we must live the truth, and we must tell the world the truth.

This is an excellent, excellent book. It is well-written and interesting (I have a friend who is reading it slowly because she's enjoying it so much and does not want it to end). Everyone should read it. If you are a Christian, read it for the joy of seeing things laid out so nicely and to see how to lay things out when speaking with unbelieving friends and family. Or, read it to refresh your mind and remind yourself of what's important. If you aren't a Christian, read it to see what Christianity is really all about. If you don't think you need to read it, read it anyway. It won't be wasted time, I promise.