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“Deeply Wounded.” Personal Tragedy and Gospel Advance

A recurring theme in the lives of those whom God has used in exceptional ways is exceptional suffering. Often, the Lord has used deep disappointment to direct His servants away from their own plans and to propel them into strategic ministries:

  • David Brainerd‘s expulsion from Yale released him from normal ministry in Connecticut (which became impossible without his degree) and prepared the way for him to take the gospel to the unreached Indians of modern-day New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
  • J. C. Ryle was planning on a lifetime in Parliament, where he surely would have thrived. However, a financial collapse took his father’s considerable fortune (to which he was heir) in one crushing day. It forced him into the ministry, the only profession for which he was qualified.
  • Nate Saint had an inflammation of the osteomyelitis in his leg on the very night before he was to report for special military training that would have prepared him to use his flying skills in combat. That door closed, choking him with grief, but preparing him for his ministry in Ecuador with Missionary Aviation Fellowship.

For those of us who know “the rest of the story,” these life-changing blows are simply steps to greater usefulness. But for these men, they were devastating, both when they happened and for years afterwards. Ryle said his father’s bankruptcy came to his mind every day, even 30 years later:

“I have not the least doubt it was all for the best. If my father’s affairs had prospered and I had never been ruined, my life, of course, would have been a very different one. I should have probably gone into Parliament very soon and it is impossible to say what the effect of this might have been upon my soul. I should have formed very different connections, and moved in an entirely different circle. I should never have been a clergyman, never have preached, written a tract or book. Perhaps I might have made shipwreck of spiritual things. So I do not mean to say at all, that I wish it to have been different to what it was. All I mean to say is that I was deeply wounded by my reverses, suffered deeply under them, and I do not think I have recovered in body and mind from the effect of them.” (Eric Russell, J. C. Ryle, pp. 37-38)

Of course, many choose to pursue the Christian ministry despite other compelling opportunities. C. T. Studd left a career in professional cricket to take the gospel to China, India, and Africa. William Borden left his family fortune to take the gospel to China. There are many similar examples. But the Lord has sometimes used personal tragedy to “shoehorn” people into ministries they wouldn’t otherwise have chosen, exercising the gracious prerogative described in Proverbs 16:9:

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Feel free to chime in with other examples from church history. It’s healthy to remind ourselves of God’s goodness and sovereignty, especially in the midst of personal disappointments. Let these examples encourage you and build your faith!  Grace.


This Is What Prayer for Missions Looks Like

Nate Saint’s prayer for the Aucas (a savage people for whose conversion to Christianity he would ultimately sacrifice his life) is the finest missions prayer I’ve heard or read. I love its doxology, its soteriology, and its eschatology. Glorious. Just about unimprovable, when you consider how his life backed it up. Pray like this:

‎”May the praise be His, and may it be that some Auca, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, will be with us as we lift our voices in praise before His throne. Amen.” (Nate Saint, as recorded in Through Gates of Splendor)

Such a desire for God’s glory to abound through the conversion of the lost around the world—and their participation with us around the throne—is the heart behind the missions hymn For the Sake of His Name. Grace.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzJYZbAVroI]

Stock up on Dispatches from the Front

I was thrilled to see that Westminster Bookstore is having a huge sale on Frontline MissionsDispatches from the Front series of videos. For the next 2 days, you can get amazing deals on the set of 5 videos (only $30!) and on Episode 2 (only $5)! That’s around 60% off for both offers. Episode 2 includes my friends and co-authors in Gospel Meditations for Missions, Tim Keesee and David Hosaflook.

I’d suggest that you stock up. Get 10 or more of each and plan to give them as gifts. Getting missions materials into the hands of church members, young and old, should be a major priority for church leaders. These videos are the best resources I’m aware of, and right now they’re big-time affordable. So affordable that Westminster Bookstore is already scrambling to restock! :)

Be sure to read the positive reviews, as well. Grace!

Church Planting in Salt Lake City. By Faith.

I love this new video from Galkin Evangelistic Ministries. It’s so joyful. So hopeful. So focused (through the exceptional text by the Gettys and Stuart Townend) on gospel mission. And I love that it’s representative of what they’re doing in real life. They’re part of a cracker jack team of families who have had the audacity to leave comfortable ministries to church plant in Salt Lake City. These are my friends and heroes. Get to know the team here. Enjoy the videos below. Order the new Galkin CD here. And pray for gospel advance in SLC. Grace.


Joy in the Congo

I was introduced to this 60 Minutes story via Craig Courtney’s post on FB. It’s remarkable. Take the 13-plus minutes required to watch it. It will make you grateful for what you have. It will make you ashamed of your wasted opportunities. And it might motivate you to spread an even more vital Source of joy with those who don’t yet have it. Grace.

New CWM Hymn: Come, Lonely Heart

One of my favorite passages for meditation is John 4. For the last decade, I’ve thought on it and preached on it often. Now, following some nudging from some close friends, I’ve written a hymn about it. Greg Habegger has written a beautiful tune for the text—one which I think will prove to be among his finest. We’ve named the tune “Samaritan Woman,” after the friend with whom we so deeply relate. We pray that Come, Lonely Heart will drive many to the text of John 4, and through it, to our matchless Savior.

The files are available below, as is the text. The explanatory notes are especially helpful for this particular song, as they give a succinct summary of this marvelous chapter and explain the thoughts behind the text. For a sermon series unpacking John 4 more fully, see this post. Finally, thanks to the many friends whose fingerprints are on the text. I appreciate your encouragement and sharpening more than you know. Grace!


Come, Lonely Heart (Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

Full PageHalf PageTextNotes & DiscussionMP3


Come, Lonely Heart

Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend—
To Jesus, Who seeks out the lost.
Your cruel seclusion has come to an end;
Find welcome, find home, at the cross.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend;
Find welcome, find home, at the Cross.

Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life—
Of bountiful, soul-quenching grace.
The world’s broken cisterns cannot satisfy;
The Savior is what your heart craves.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life;
The Savior is what your heart craves.

Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin—
In pardon from shame-stirring vice.
Though Satan and sinners and conscience condemn,
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin;
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.

Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found—
In God, Who is seeking your praise.
Then go to the outcast, that grace may resound,
For Jesus is mighty to save.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found,
For Jesus is mighty to save.

Copyright 2012 ChurchWorksMedia.com. All rights reserved.

Platt’s Urgent Call to Missions at T4G

I praise the Lord for raising up David Platt to champion the cause of world evangelization. You need to catch his understanding of missions and his passion for missions. How? First, listen to his message on missions from T4G 2012:

Second, read his book on audacious missions, Radical. I blogged about it here. My quick summary:

This is the most recent of the books listed here and was shared with me by my good friends Dick and Holly Stratton. It’s a “punch you in the mouth” book, challenging the materialism of the American Dream that we just assume coincides with biblical fidelity. It’s a quick read, more accessible than many of the others I’ve mentioned. I’ll also note that it’s a controversial book, earning rebuttals like this workshop from Shepherd’s Conference. Nevertheless, we studied it together last summer at TCBC and found it immensely helpful. Put it this way: If the people I pastor start taking missions too seriously and start making unsustainable sacrifices that border on irresponsibility, I’ll let them know. For now, getting people to rethink their view of normal Christianity, to consider doing something radical for the sake of the kingdom, and encouraging them to get their feet onto foreign soil is a great thing. The lingering influence of the book in my life? Platt’s urgent reminder that “There is no Plan B.” God has entrusted the gospel to His church. If we fumble it, there’s no backup strategy.

Related resource: Gospel Meditations for Missions. Get it here.