In the 1960’s I read the book Through Gates of Splendor. It thrilled me, and deeply disturbed me at the same time. I was particularly moved by the pictures of the five speared bodies of young missionaries who gave up their lives in order to reach the Auca Indians in the South American jungles.
The impression made upon me was so great that I knew I had to give my life to follow Christ no matter where he led me, or what the cost or sacrifice. Little did I know at the time that when I began to look for a Christian college, in 1968 when I was in my second year at the University of Alabama, Wheaton College would be the place where God led me. I am often asked, "Why Wheaton?" The answer is really very simple. I wanted to study, and learn to preach the gospel, in the place where Billy Graham had matriculated in the early 1940’s and where Jim Elliott, Ed McCulley and Nate Saint finished college a few years after.
Time after time I walked into Edman Chapel, during those years at Wheaton, and stopped to look at the bronze plaque on the chapel foyer wall that reminded me of the sacrifice of those young men in the Ecuadoran jungle. Often I asked God to use me to win the lost as I pondered their sacrifice again and again. I never got over their story. I have still not gotten over it thirty-five years later.
What still grips me is their simple message of complete coommitment and total sacrifice. Eliott’s famous saying, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose" speaks to my soul with power even today as I pray for the grace to live and preach well. I am at the end of a seven day mission in Seattle and Santa Cruz, California, and look with vision and longing at the beginning of fresh ministry in the days ahead.
What I am praying for is even more clear to me now. I pray that I will be increasingly clothed with power from on high! I had lost this desire, for many years, in the world called academic theology. I am not saying everyone looses it there, but I certainly did. I became convinced that an argument was superior to an enduement. I learned that polemics could very easily replace power, especially if you had a quick mind. But this cry for the power of the Spirit has come back with a deep passion of late. It has been developing in me for some time and this week it has come back like I have not known it since I was in seasons of revival in the 1970’s. I am willing to be seen as a fool if this means knowing and experiencing the power of the Spirit upon my life and ministry again.
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As always, John, you write with both passion and conviction on matters of importance. May God expand your sphere of influence both in size, and more importantly, in whose life you influence.
Glad to read that you are praying for the Spirit to empower you to be authentic in your preaching, and in your experience. That is also my prayer. I also once believed that a good argument trumped anything else. I learned, because of my failures, that I was just engaging in self service. I didn’t want people to be saved as much as I wanted to look “on top of things”. I truly wanted to “rightly divide the Word” but forgot that love is always “the still more excellent way.” In short, I became a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong. I am afraid that many of our brethren can attest to the same track. Isn’t it interesting that so many of us are beginning to come back to what really is on the heart of God – people. Everywhere I look I see people who are broken, afraid, self-absorbed, and without hope. How it must break the heart of God when He observes His people turning their backs on each other for the sake of “initiatives”, or “programs”, or correct understanding of Biblical formulas that we have memorized.
John, you have helped me to understand myself better, and I see that what I need to do is take risks and love people, just as they are, and not as I believe God wants them to be. Once again I am reminded of God’s Word which speaks to not judging another or his practice of worship, but to leave that to God. It is before God that each must stand or fall. Many have a faith which differs from mine (not in redemptive teaching, or Christology) but in the areas in which there is no clear Scriptural teaching. How often have I judged another based on superficial things. I am truly humbled by the longsuffering nature of God, who tolerates us even when we “miss the mark”.
I am new to the whole blogging thing, but I enjoy reading your thoughts and the thoughts of others. Keep up the practice. God is using you to make many face themselves.
I just followed the link from Weekly Messenger to you blog. Thanks for mentioning it. I have bookmarked it. I have always enjoyed your writing and today’s blog was challenging (i.e.good)for me.
I have been blogging for about 4 months; It is intended for a very narrow audience related to one of my projects at work. Maybe someday I will expand my audience.
Once again, my friend, you have cut to the heart of the need of the church, starting with me.
It is interesting that the same events that led you and others, I’m sure, to ministry also has been powerfuly used in my own life. I remember a teenage boy in Buffalo NY hearing daily reports on the events in the jungle of Ecuador. In later years I have read the books and God has used those men again and again.
May we join together and pray for Enduement for the Church of Jesus Christ.
John, thank you for your place in the lives of many.