Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Example of Adoniram Judson

An open letter to the Appalachian Bible College sophomore class

Dear Class of 2020,

It's August!  Summer is slipping away and your sophomore year is quickly approaching.  I have mixed feelings about that, and you probably do, too.  I'm eager for new students to arrive—especially several internationals from South America, Asia, and Europe!  And I can't wait to hear about your summer experiences.  What has God been teaching you?  Were there ways you put into practice what you learned as a freshman?

One highlight of my summer was worshiping with a supporting church in Kansas, which includes a large number of refugees from Asia.  Many of them are ethnic Karen people (pronounced kuh-RIN), descendants of some who were introduced to Jesus by Adoniram Judson.

You probably know a little of Judson's story.  He was the first Baptist missionary sent overseas from the U.S. in the 1800's.  He lost two wives, he took only one furlough in 38 years of ministry, and he suffered from chronic illnesses.  Still, he labored on—translating the Bible into Burmese and slowly seeing hearts turned from Buddha to Christ.

As I listened to my Karen brothers and sisters sing and pray in their beautiful language, and as we celebrated the Lord's Supper together and then fellowshipped over lunch, I rejoiced!  I rejoiced because Jesus is Savior of all peoples.  I rejoiced because my country has made a place for these immigrants.  I rejoiced because a small local church welcomes them despite the inherent challenges.  And I rejoiced because God used a man named Adoniram Judson.

If you ever question the impact that one life can have, think of my Karen friends.  Generations after Judson's death, they are part of his legacy.  Whatever he suffered during his short time on earth, I'm certain he now counts it fully worthwhile for the crown of rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 2:19).

The class motto you chose is a single, powerful word: Surrendered.  I pray each of you surrender to the Lord Jesus with the lifelong, selfless commitment of an Adoniram Judson.  The days of such "heroes of the faith" are not over.  It is your time.  Prepare well!
So Spirit, come, put strength in every stride;
Give grace for every hurdle.
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful.
As saints of old, still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls, and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in Glory. 
"O Church Arise," Keith & Kristyn Getty

Saturday, May 13, 2017

In This I Rejoice

Was it really just a week ago that we celebrated these Appalachian Bible College graduates and bade them Godspeed with servant's mantles in hand?
Some of them are sticking around for a summer of ministry or work here (thank you for sparing me from all the goodbyes in one day!), but most have scattered.
Several are headed to seminary for additional ministry training. Some are getting married (to each other, in a few cases 😊) or having babies soon. Some are already candidating/interviewing for ministry positions. Others have jumped into the workforce with the goal of paying off student loans. And a handful are enjoying precious time with family before soon embarking on gospel-advancing work in other parts of the globe.

It's a bittersweet thing to befriend, invest in, and delight in the growth of a group of young people only to watch them leave. My guess is it is not unlike parenting.

I get a little wistful this time of year. I look back and realize I could have invested in these men and women more than I did; I could have opened up my home more, initiated more conversations about substantive things, made time to pray with them more. I'm still learning how to do all of that well, after spending a decade in a very different ministry setting. Thankfully, God's grace can be trusted to use us in our weakness and fill in the gaps.

But mostly I just rejoice. Because God's heartbeat for the nations beats strong in young veins. Because his plan for Christ's bride, the church, is carried forward on young shoulders. Because his gospel is preached and taught and studied and shared by young minds who know how to reach their own generation. "Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice," Paul wrote, "Yes, and I will rejoice!" (Philippians 1:18).

He went on with these heartfelt words for the believers in Philippi—which are just as relevant for the Class of 2017:
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel..." (1:27).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

On Moving

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you... you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences... little rags and shreds of your very life.

Katherine Mansfield's words keenly describe the heart-wrenching nature of moving. And the longer you have been in a place, the more you have invested in its people—the sharper the pain of leaving.

There is a way to keep all your bits to yourself while going about this fair and fallen world. It goes something like this: ignore the beauty, resist belonging, harbor bitterness, stay self-absorbed and narrow-minded and aloof.

But don't do it. Press in. Put down roots. Open your eyes and open your heart to each place the Good Shepherd leads you. It's worth the risk of pain.

And when it comes time to leave again, may the familiar ache remind you, dear pilgrim: there is a Forever Home just around the bend. The Shepherd himself prepares a place for you there. He will tenderly salvage every last ragged bit of yourself from Earth's fences. He will dry your tears. He will restore all things for eternity.
Another rag, another shred,
Another goodbye said...
O come, thou world; come, thou day,
When—heart made whole—I stay.