Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back to the Future: My Message to Myself from When I Was 21

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to actually hear yourself speak way back when you were only 21 years old? For me, that would be 37 years ago.

As I cleared out a desk drawer in preparation to leave for Nigeria, I found a surprise. Here it is...
Cassette tape of my college valedictorian address
I must explain first that this address was at a Bible College and that I was valedictorian of a class of only 6 people! Nonetheless, I quickly began to look for a cassette player so that I could hear what was on my heart all those years ago. I remembered the no-longer-used cassette tape player in my 2003 CRV.

As I listened to it, tears streamed down from my eyes. It seems as if God knew I would find this speech almost four decades later and listen to it a matter of days before departing for Nigeria for full-time missionary work. As I face daunting challenges ahead, what better to find than my own voice reminding me of my call, of God's goodness, and of the seriousness of it all.

It is odd that even though I was so young when I wrote this speech, and even though so much of life has transpired, and even though I am about to go to a culture that is greatly unknown to me, the words of this speech touched me deeply, inspired me to carry on, and brought deep encouragement. I have to think that God knew that when He helped me write the speech the most important person listening to it would be me all these years later.

Here is an excerpt, the ending of the speech:
Here we raise our Ebeneezer. Hither by God's help we have come, and by His help we shall proceed. As we leave, Jesus will go with us. We have heard that Jesus is a Friend who is closer than a brother.
Our greatest ambitions are not for success or fame; we want only to do the will of the Father. Redeeming the time, walking worthy of our vocation, and making every day count, we shall endeavor to fulfill our divine commission: Go therefore and teach all nations to observe what I have commanded you.
We go forth without fear because we know that Jesus has all power in heaven and earth, and He has promised to be with us always--even to the end of the world.
We came here to learn more about God. We leave to tell others about God, that they, too, may know more about God. 
And now, going forth in the name of Him whom to know is life eternal, we the class of 1977, bid you farewell.
I think you can see how I can apply these words to my life today. May God help me to carry on...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Books that Helped to Prepare My Soul for the Work Ahead

In my last post, I described some of the readings I have done in the past year to prepare my mind for the culture change I am about to experience. In this post, I'd like to share the titles of some books that have helped me to prepare my soul for the work ahead.

1. Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

This book is an extreme motivator, not for the faint of heart! I read it on my way to visit WATS a year ago. This stood out--the American Dream is about making much of ourselves. The Kingdom of God is about making much of God. Big difference--life changing difference.

2. Thou Givest...They Gather: Truths Gleaned from the Word of God by Amy Carmichael
Special thanks to my good friends, Don and Vicki Bridner for sending this gem of a book to me in the mail one day! It is now one of my favorite devotionals of all time! Written by a missionary who suffered much for the cause of Christ, I am both inspired and encouraged each time I read it!

3. Soul Shift: The Measure of a Life Transformed by Steve DeNeff and David Drury
The premise of this book is that we need certain paradigm shifts for our soul. My favorite chapters were on the following shifts: From Me to You, From Consumer to Steward, and From Sheep to Shepherd.  

4. 58: Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty by Scott C. Todd 
The author challenges the common interpretation of "the poor you will always have with you." This is a completely different way of looking at poverty and what we can do about it.

5. Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message  by Ravi Zecharias 
A contemporary apologetic, this book was helpful as I prepare to live in a country where almost half of the people are either Muslim or people who practice African Traditional Religion (ATR). Syncretism can also be a problem for many of the students who come to WATS. 

6. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader Edited by Ralph Winter
This is a large volume on the Biblical and Historical, as well as the Cultural and Strategic perspectives on Christian missionary work. It was my textbook for the Perspectives course I took last spring, but I loved the text so much that it will find its way into my luggage!!

7. A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Elliott
I am reading this now. How awesome to read a book about a wonderful missionary written by another wonderful missionary. By the way, when I first picked up the book I thought the reference "to die" was about dying physically. I was wrong. The reference is to dying daily, to dying to self, to taking up our cross... In my mind, I have changed the title to "The Courage to Die..."

Of course, the Word of God is the most important source of all to provide me with encouragement, peace, guidance, and strength. Recently, I find myself focusing on the following passages:
Philippians 1:6, 3:12, 4:12
Matthew 28:`18-20
Matthew 5-7

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the books listed above. Perhaps you have one or two you'd recommend to me, too.