In the footsteps of giants

Dr. David Livingstone, George Müller, Hudson Taylor and  Jim Elliot are all names that people might recognize. Famous missionaries would ventured where others wouldn’t go (Livingstone), provided for the least (Müller), used techniques that were doubted (Taylor) or were killed by the very people they were trying to reach for Christ. These missionaries have probably inspired many people to follow in their footsteps, but I have a different set of footprints that I am following, that of my great-grandfather.

This past Christmas I thought of a gift that I knew my mom would just love, little did I know that I would be blessed by the gift as well. Growing up we had a set of cassettes recorded by my great-grandpa, Henry Wheeler and I transferred them to cd for my mom, her sisters and brother. We were in danger of losing the stories and transferring them to cd allowed us to keep them for future generations. While recording them I was able to listen to some of the stories and they were incredible. They probably aren’t stories that will be made into a book or movie, but to me they were inspiring. I was already planning on being a missionary by this time, but the time spent listening to my great-grandfather reinvigorated my desire to go to Germany as a missionary to serve the Savior of Henry Wheeler and myself.

My great-grandfather was in World War 1 as a machine gunner and was also a missionary in Belgium Congo, Africa in the 50’s and 60’s. Henry, his wife and two other missionaries were said to be the driving force behind the increase in the Tunda station area within Belgium Congo. After he retired he recorded some stories of his time in the war and in Africa. He told about how in World War 1 he was searching for some food under a tarp in the bed of a truck and accidentally put his hand in the mouth of a sleeping soldier, he talked about a fellow soldier and himself pushing each other just a little further so they weren’t left alone. Probably my favorite story about the war was when he probably saved his whole unit by killing a German scout by firing a single shot from his machine gun.

His war stories were cool, but it is his stories of being a missionary that were inspiring to me. My great-grandpa was sent as a missionary to the Belgium Congo where, as he tells in his stories, some people were too afraid to leave their huts when he walked by because they had never seen a white person before. Talk about a tough crowd to witness to. One of the more inspiring stories was when he converted a chief to Christianity. This chief had 54 wives, a lot of prestige, a lot of money (for their location) and a lot to lose if his people rebelled against him. Henry talked about how after the chief decided to become a Christian and give up his wives, he asked the chief why he decided to become a Protestant as opposed to Catholic. The Catholic mission was not far away, a Catholic evangelist lived in the village and  some of his sons were Catholic and the Protestant mission was 150 miles away through much more difficult terrain. The chief said that when he was sick and was told he was going to die, the Catholic priest prepared him for death. Dr. Lewis and his wife (missionaries with my great-grandfather and great-grandmother) took the chief to the hospital, treated him at their own home and then brought him back to his village once he was well again. When my great-grandpa asked the chief why he became a Protestant the chief said, “Such love is that, I have never seen before. You people at Tunda loves us and do whatever you can to help us. With all of our problems, with all of our needs, with all of our cares. I am an old man, I have seen love in the world, but such love as that, I have never seen before.”

This is not a knock on the Catholic mission at all, but it is more of an inspirational story for me on how all Christians should live. We, as Christians, should love others like no one else. We are loved like no other creature by the creator of the universe so it is the least we could do to love others.

My great-grandpa may never be known as one of the greatest missionaries of all time, but to me he has some huge footprints that will guide me to helping others see Christ through me.

Theology book #1 Church History

Last year I posted a blog that was a challenge to me and maybe others to read more books about theology this year and to really strive to learn as much as possible about our Lord and Savior from the Bible and other sources as well. I started out with Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. I figured this would be a good place to start, giving me an overall idea about how the church is what it is and, to quote Shelley,” to separate the transient from the permanent, fads from basics.” That is my hope for this book among my readers.

Shelley, Bruce (2008-12-02). Church History in Plain Language: Third Edition (Kindle Locations 154-155). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. . Little did I know that this book was as long as it is. I started it January 1st and did not anticipate it taking me this long to finish. I didn’t want to rush through it though, so I took my time and tried to commit as much to memory as possible. My original plan was to finish 14 books by the end of the year and while that is still my goal, I have got some catching up to do.

I wanted to share a few of the highlights I made that will hopefully give you something to think about. I also will expound upon a few of them to share what thoughts were running through my brain as I read this.

In reference to Jesus it says, “Little by little his disciples came to see that following him meant saying ‘no’ to the other voices calling for their loyalties. In one sense that was the birth of the Jesus movement. And in that sense, at least, Jesus ‘founded’ the church.”

Could this be any more well-stated? “True philosophy, said Origen, always focuses on the Word, ‘who attracts all irresistibly to himself by his unutterable beauty.'”

Two quotes from John Hus, a Czech Protestant reformer really stuck out to me as how I hope I can view Christ as well.  These two quotes influenced me to find a biography of Hus so I can learn more. He said:

“O most holy Christ,” he prayed, “draw me, weak as I am, after Thyself, for if Thou dost not draw us we cannot follow Thee. Strengthen my spirit, that it may be willing. If the flesh is weak, let Thy grace precede us; come between and follow, for without Thee we cannot go for Thy sake to cruel death. Give me a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, a perfect love, that for Thy sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy. Amen.”

“God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. In the truth of the gospel I have written, taught, and preached; today I will gladly die.”

My favorite person to read about in the book was Martin Luther, mostly because he spoke his mind and said things like:

“I kept the rule so strictly,” he recalled years later, “that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his sheer monkery, it was I. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work.”

And, “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage,” Luther said later. “One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.”

This is what I want to talk about today though, in a little more detail than the others.

“Any religion that becomes the religion of the majority and slowly turns into a social habit tends to grow humdrum and flat, regardless of its original glow of enthusiasm. So it proved in many areas of Lutheran Germany.”

I think we are beginning to see this in the US right now and it seems as though in Europe it has been happening for a while. People are moving away from what their parents and grand-parents did because it became a social habit instead of a lively, energetic all-life encompassing movement in their heart. Church became something to do and that’s all. That is why you have a huge number of people in the US saying they are Christian when in reality it is only because they grew up in the church that they say they are Christian. When need to get back to the revival in our nation like the stats below show is happening almost everywhere but Europe and America.

“More Christians worshiped in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There were ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the United States. There were more Baptists in Congo than in Great Britain. And there were more people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe.”

My next book I am reading is Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. It might be a long one so we will see how long it takes me to finish that one.

Let me leave you with this thought by the great evangelist George Whitefield. I can add nothing to this, but an Amen!

“Father Abraham, whom have you in heaven? Any Episcopalians? No! Any Presbyterians? No! Any Independents or Methodists? No, no, no! Whom have you there? We don’t know those names here. All who are here are Christians. . . . Oh, is this the case? Then God help us to forget party names and to become Christians in deed and truth.”

2012, end of times? Doubt it!

Periodically throughout my teaching career I would be asked about whether I believed the world was going to end in 2012. They had heard that the Mayan calendar stopped in 2012 and so that asked me what I thought was going to happen. My students were fascinated with the end of the world and for some reason they thought that I was an expert in this arena. I always joked with my students that the Mayans who were in charge of making the calendar probably just got bored and stopped working on it when they hit 2012. I imagined the discussion to go something like this:

Mayan #1: On to 2013 we go!

Mayan #2: Seriously? I’m about done.

Mayan #1: We were given the honor of creating a calendar that our ancestors will use for generations to come.

Mayan #2: Yeah, that’s my problem, 2013 is over 1,500 years from now. That means our great-great-great-great-great-oh you get the point-grandkids will still not even be around to see the end of this calendar if we stop doing it now.

Mayan #1: But isn’t that what is the most amazing thing. We will have a legacy that will last forever. People will be talking about us for a long time.

Mayan #2: Do you really think it is going to be named after us? Yeah, I doubt that. Anyway, I’m bored so I’m just not going to do it anymore. Have fun though!

Alright, so it probably didn’t go quite like that, but I like to think it did. Anyway, I was on facebook and saw a comic that my friend shared. I definitely laughed when I read it, because it depicts Jesus thinking just like me! Then of course the comic gets a little more serious and I am going to leave you with the comic to get the brain thinking about the serious aspect of just living.

PS: I am pretty sure the comic Jesus has it right, if I knew it was my last day I would be curled up in the fetal position, for sure.

Prayer needed for Europe

My plan today was originally to write a comical view on something I saw on facebook the other day, but I will have to wait for another day to write that because something much more pressing needs my attention.

I don’t watch the news very often, or even read it for that matter so I have been kind of oblivious to the recent nasty cold streak happening across Europe. Calling it a nasty cold streak is putting it lightly. In case others of you are like me, I’ll explain the situation a little before I get into the reason for this blog. Over the past 10 days there has been record breaking cold weather throughout most of Europe, but especially Eastern Europe. The temperatures have dropped to -33 Celsius (-27 Fahrenheit) and some places are snowed in so supplies have had to be airlifted so the death toll does not continue to climb. Recent reports have said that the death toll has eclipsed the 300 mark.

The reason for this blog is to get more people to pray for the people of Europe. This is currently a very hard time for many families over there and it might get worse before it gets better. Please be praying for the families that have lost family members and for the missionaries in the field who may be caught in the bad weather. We all know God can use the craziest things to get people to see their need for Him, so also be praying that this tragedy can be used by Christians as a witness tool and let the church body rise up and help those in need.

Relationship, religion and youtube!

By now, just about everyone and their mother and in some cases grandmother have seen the video on youtube that has been floating around people’s Facebook wall about one man’s commentary on the difference of relationship and religion when it comes to the Christian faith. Well, I finally decided to watch it today after seeing my old church showed it yesterday. I also looked up a website that was in response to this video that my friend posted on facebook as well. I wanted to see what people thought about the video after I had a chance to view it. I found two more sites with commentary on the video and I am sure if I had spent more time I would have seen a plethora more sites as well. Before I speak on this issue I want anyone who has not had a chance to check the video out, to watch it right now. Here you go:

My first response was mainly, nice job! There were a few parts that stuck out to me in a good way and a not-so-good way, but honestly I don’t want to discuss what he got right and what he got wrong except for one thing. He did get one thing very right, he got people discussing their beliefs about Jesus and religion. A quick search on Youtube of the video’s title and you get over 3500 results, including a Catholic, Muslim (even one that claims to hate religion, love Jesus and be Muslim) and atheist viewpoint. Simply put this video got people to think about their own beliefs and that is never a bad thing.

What I do want to write about today is religion and relationship and what they mean to me. In all of my theological studies (absolutely none) I have heard a lot about Christianity as a relationship with Christ and that we should be thinking about Jesus in that light rather than in a religious mindset. I’m not quite sure how that works.

Religion itself is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe. Without religion we have nothing to believe. Now I think what was meant by the word religion was more of the beliefs that certain people are ascribing to Jesus. How we go about interpreting the Bible and applying it to our lives. Over the years different beliefs on topics such as communion have resulted in different denominations within the Christian faith. If they are still Biblically sound than they are a part of the Christian religion community. Some people have been misusing the religion of Christianity to justify racism, hatred, and countless other things. That is not religion. That is someone misusing religion to justify their own agenda.

A relationship can fit nicely within the definition of religion. A relationship is an emotional connection between two people (for religion sake this can be applied to an emotional connection between humans and God). How does this stray from religion itself? In my opinion, it doesn’t. Can’t our beliefs cause us to have an emotional connection with God? Don’t we have a desire to talk to God (pray)? Look how David cries out to God in pretty much every Psalm that he wrote. If you have a set of beliefs that include a Father in heaven who sent His only Son to die for us even though we suck, how can you not have an emotional connection?

Let’s live life as if our religious beliefs cause an emotional reaction in us so strong that we can’t help but be in a relationship with the God of the universe. That should drive us in everything we do and if something else is causing us to do something then that’s when Jesus would call us a “brood of vipers” for being hypocrites.

Because God Said So

Almost four years ago, I was in Maryland pretty much hating every minute of my job as a Middle School Science teacher. My mom knew that I was not content with where I was in life and that I wanted a change of job and location. She sent me a page out of The Upper Room daily devotional with a little blurb about following God’s plan. That days story was written by a teacher who also did not like her job, but was supposed to be there anyway, according to God’s plan for her. Well, I have kept that devotional and I happened to look at it yesterday. Maybe for the first time I noticed the devotional that was from the previous day titled “Because God Said So.” I am going to retype it out below for you and then explain why it touched me.

Here are the words of LaTonika L. Johnson from the April 2008 edition of The Upper Room:

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. Romans 8:15

Think back to your childhood. Who was the one person you could always count on to keep promises? When I was a child, I could count on only a few people to do what they said they were going to do. One of those people was my grandmother. If she made a promise to me, I could rest in the assurance that she would do what she promised.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that even as adults we have Someone who always keeps promises? God promises never to leave or forsake us, which means that God is taking care of us. Even when we may not see the fulfillment of those promises in front of us, we can rest in the assurance that our blessings are on the way because God said so.

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for the assurance that you will never leave us or forsake us. Give us childlike faith, so that every day we can remember that you keep your promises to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There was no valid reason for me to read this yesterday. I was at a Bible study for the first time and there was a little lull in the discussion so I flipped to the back page of my Bible and found the devotional. I read the one my mom sent me and then flipped it over and read this one. The only valid reason to read this was that God wanted me to read this yesterday.

As you probably know I am raising financial support to be a missionary in Germany. My goal is to get there in September of this year. Sometimes I get discouraged at the lack of change in my support, or the lack of meetings set up, or the fact that I have no idea where this support is going to come from. This little two paragraph devotional reminded me that if it is God’s plan He will provide. I have zero doubt that this is God’s plan for me. I believe He has promised this to me, now I have to act on that belief and go about every day doing all that I can to find the people God has called to be a part of my team. I know they are out there somewhere, I just haven’t found them all yet!

Do you believe God has promised you something? Are you frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet? Like the devotional says, God keeps His promises to us. It might not be in the time frame that we want, but it will be in the time frame that is best for us!

Men, this is for you! Women, you can read it too!

I read a blog title a while back that caught my attention so much that I let it sit in a “to read” folder in my browser for since November. The title was “Jacob’s Story: Are You Ready For An Eye-Opening, Gut-Wrenching Film?” I really did want to read it, it just took me a while to get to it, maybe because I didn’t want to have my gut wrentched, maybe because I didn’t want to be convicted of something, I don’t know. I didn’t even know what the blog was about until I read it today. I watched the video below first and it awoke me to something that I hadn’t really thought much about, human-trafficking. I knew it existed, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t ever really think about it. The interesting thing about the video is the tie that human-trafficking has with the porn industry. I never even thought about that. I always thought that the sex trade was mostly involving forced prostitution (a horrible reality in and of itself), but I never thought that the pornography industry was just as much a part. Supporting pornography means supporting human-trafficking. I hope that that fact alone makes the men out there think twice about submit to the temptation of porn. Whether you are male or female reading this right now, it is worth watching the video from that blog.

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/31795904?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&#8243; width=”400″ height=”225″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/31795904″>Jacob’s Story</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/unearthed”>Unearthed</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

After watching this video I was scrolling my facebook feed and saw a video posted by Christian rapper, Lecrae. Lecrae is an amazing rap artist, who thankfully is fully committed to the Lord. He is also a part of a rap group called 116 with a bunch of other very talented Christian rap artists. 116 released a Man Up cd and went on tour together last year. The whole cd is about men needing to man up and be who they are supposed to be in Christ. It was all supposed to be over last year, but they decided to do a combination conference and concert this April in Atlanta. Here is the video Lecrae posted about the event.

The event looks like it is going to be an amazing event for men, discussing issues that are too often pushed to the side if discussed at all. I would love to go, but unfortunately probably wont be able to. I suggest that anyone who can take the trip and become more of the man that you should be.

If we, as men, change our actions to fit the Lord’s desire then the human-trafficking epidemic will disappear due to the lack of demand. We can do something about it, so lets man up and do it!