Quotes from William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast

The Good Man’s Peace

“It is true the saints grieve, but then dolent et de dolore gaudent (they grieve and rejoice that they can grieve): they are troubled for sin; and they have rest and quiet in this, that they can be troubled for their sin: they have no peace in their sin; but they have peace in this, that they can have no peace in their sin. … No, they will say, I am glad that I am grieved for sin; and the Lord knows, it is my trouble that I can be grieved no more; I have quiet and peace in that I am troubled.” (16)

True Peace May Be Interrupted

“Dispute not with God lest you be confounded; dispute not with Satan lest you be deceived.” (40)

Saints Should Not Be Discouraged, Whatever Their Condition Be

“A praying man can never be very miserable, whatever his condition be, for he has the ear of God; the Spirit within to indite, a Friend in heaven to present, and God Himself to receive his desires as a Father.” (55)

A Lifting Up In The Case Of Great Sins

“Nine things there are, which usually are the grounds and occasions of the discouragements of God’s people.

  1. Sometimes their discouragements are drawn from their greater and grosser sins.
  2. Sometimes they arise from the weakness of grace.
  3. Sometimes they are taken from their failing in and non-acceptance of duty.
  4. Sometimes they are drawn from their lack of evidence for heaven, and non-assurance of the love of God.
  5. Sometimes they come from their temptations.
  6. Sometimes from their desertions.
  7. Sometimes from their afflictions.
  8. Sometimes from their unserviceableness.
  9. Sometimes from their condition itself.” (67)

“Chrysostom of Constantinople had so great a sense of the evil of it, that when the Empress Eudoxia sent him a threatening message, Go, tell her, said he, Nil nisi pecatum metuo (I fear nothing but sin).  And in some respects the sins of the godly are worse than the sins of others, for they grieve the Spirit more, they dishonour Christ more, they grieve the saints more, they wound the name of God more, they are more against the love, and grace, and favour of God than other men’s sins are.” (68)

“Their (believers’) sins may hide God’s face: but as their sins did not hinder God and them from coming together at first, so their sins shall never part God and them.  Their sins may cause a strangeness between God and them, but shall never cause an enmity.  Their sins may hide God’s face from them, but shall never turn God’s back upon them.” (70)

“But again you say, suppose that a man’s sins be exceeding great, gross, and heinous;… though your sin be great, is not God’s mercy great, exceeding great?  Is not the satisfaction made by Christ great?  Are the merits of Christ’s blood small?  Is not God, the great God of heaven and earth, able to do great things?  You grant that God is almighty in providing for you, and is He not almighty also in pardoning?  Will you rob God of his almightiness in pardoning?  You say your sin is great, but is it infinite?  Is not God alone infinite?  Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ?  Is Jesus Christ only a Mediator for small sins?” (74)

“True humiliation is no enemy but a real friend unto spiritual joy, to our rejoicing in God.  The more a man is humbled for sin committed, the more he will rejoice in God, and rejoice that he can grieve for sin.  He grieves, and rejoices that he can grieve for sin.” (82)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Weak Grace

“The more extensive a man’s obedience is unto God’s commandments, the more he is grown in grace.” (102)

“The more a man sees and understands his Christian liberty, and yet walks the more strictly, the more he grows in grace.  Some think they grow in grace because they have more understanding in their Christian liberty, though they walk more loosely.  These are deceived in their spiritual growth.” (103)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Miscarriage of Duties                

“Prayer is the pouring out of the soul to God; not the pouring out of words, nor the pouring out of expressions; but the pouring out of the soul to God.” (115)

“Oh, again you say, but I am afraid that the Lord will never hear my prayer, or regard my duty because I am so selfish in it. And did not those seek themselves at first, who came unto Christ for cure?  All true love begins in self-love.  The sweetest flower grows on a dirty stalk.  And I pray, what think you of Jonah?  The Lord heard me, says he, out of hell, and yet I cried, says he, by reason of mine affliction.” (123)

“We must learn to leave the event and success of our spiritual things unto God Himself; so shall we never be discouraged in any duty.” (127)

A Lifting Up in the Lack of Assurance

“No: for if you be drawn to Christ, does it matter whether it be done with a cord of flax or a cord of silk?  God has two arms whereby He draws us unto Himself—the arm of His love is put forth in the promise, the arm of His anger and justice is put forth in the threatening; and with both these He lifts up the fallen sinner.” (137)

“Assurance of faith comforts, but the reliance of faith saves.” (142)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Temptation

“So spiritually: there are two sorts of people in the world: one that is very confident of his salvation, and full of comfort, yet he prays not in private, reads not, meditates not, examines not his own heart, takes no pains about his soul, but is often spending, keeping ill company, will be sometimes drunk, swear, and be unclean, yet he is very confident he shall go to heaven; the other prays, hears, reads, meditates, walks with all strictness in his life and behaviour, yet he is always doubting and fearing, but through grace he has some comfort.” (159)

“Temptations answered by reason will return again, but temptations dipped in the blood of Christ will return no more, or not with such violence and success.” (170)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Desertion

“Now I ask, what is the reason why God forsakes His people for a time, or a moment?  Has He any design but love?  Does He not withdraw Himself from them, that He may draw them to Himself?  …Does He not forsake them for a moment, that He may see their love to Him?  In the time of His presence we have the sense of His love to us; but in the time of His absence, then He sees, and we ourselves have the sense of, our love to Him.” (176-77)

“Now so it is, He may hide His face, He may withdraw and deny particular comforts and manifestations, yet love me eternally.” (188)

“When God seems to be mine enemy and to stand with a drawn sword against me, then do I cast and throw myself into His arms.” –Luther (190)

“If He has loved once, He will love me to the end; and therefore though for the present He hides His face from me, yet I shall see His face again.” (191)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Affliction

“But the Lord not only upholds His people under sufferings, but He gives them much light therewith.  The school of the cross is the school of light. …when is God more present with His people than when they are most afflicted?  God is always at the back of affliction.  There heaven opened to Stephen.  Afflictions are the rusty lock oftentimes which opens the door into the presence chamber. …as they have most of God when they are most afflicted, so in time of their sufferings they have most communion and fellowship with Jesus.” (196-97)

“But so it is that a Christian has never more experience of God’s upholding sustaining grace, his sin is never more revealed and healed, his grace is never more present with him, than when he is most afflicted: and he is never more partaker of Christ’s sufferings than in and by his own sufferings.  Surely therefore, he has no reason for his discouragements, whatever his afflictions be.” (198)

“I have gained more by my sickness than by many a sermon…  And this I must needs say, I have had more of God’s presence in my affliction than ever I had before.” (206-07)

“Death is the worst that can befall; and what is death, but an inlet to eternal life unto the people of God?” (207)

“What though men hate me, if Christ loves me?” (209)

“There are but two things to bear, sin and sufferings.  Christ has borne all your sins; will not you bear His sufferings?” (210)

“The more serviceable a man is to God the more he honours God, and the more he honours God the more he honours himself.” (Bernard, 214)

“The true Christian does God’s work without any great noise or notice of himself.” (229)

“How is it therefore with you?  Have you a skill at pulling down what is man’s and neither skill nor heart to set up what is God’s?  Have you been employed and used in God’s service, and have you done your own work fully, and God’s work by halves?  Are you not contented to be laid by, and that God should use another?  Do you make a noise in the work?  Are your hands not under your wings?  Have you made a goodly outward bargain of the Lord’s work and service as a shoehorn to your own ends?  Have you not grown in experience, faith and holiness, by this work, but in pride rather?  Have you not been very tender of the name of God in your service; nor been acquainted with God’s design; nor thine heart drawn out the more to love the Lord?” (230)

“In case God does not call you forth to any work or special employment, then act thus:
“Consider that you have now the more time to mind your own soul, and to attend to your own condition.  Some are so much employed, that they have not time enough to pray, read, meditate, examine their own hearts, and look into their own condition.  Yea, even though a man’s work lies in the ministry, it is possible that he may so mind his public work, as to neglect his private.  But now, if you have no public employment or service, then you have the more time to spend upon your own soul, the more time to converse with the Lord in private, and to look into your own condition.” (231)

A Lifting Up in the Case of Discouragements Drawn from the Condition Itself

“…why does the Lord permit the condition of His people to be so unsettled in the world?  It is that they may settle upon Himself.” (241)

“Now you complain, Oh, my heart is dead, my heart is dead.  This argues that it is but a deadness that is opposite to liveliness, else you could not feel your own deadness.  A man that is stark dead, cannot feel that he is dead.” (245)

“Do hypocrites ordinarily think that they are hypocrites?  Where do you find in the Scripture that hypocrites ordinarily think they are hypocrites?  If hypocrisy be a man’s burden, it is not his condition.” (248)

The Cure of Discouragements by Faith in Jesus Christ

“Hoping, trusting, waiting on God, is the special, if not the only, means appointed against all discouragements.” (262)

“‘Come, my beloved brother,’ said Latimer to his fellow prisoner when he went to the stake, ‘though we pass through the fire to-day, yet we shall light such a candle in England as shall never be put out again.’” (274)

“There is a two-fold presumption which you read of in Scripture: the one is that whereby men rest upon their own works for salvation without Christ… The other is that whereby men do as they think, or in their own way rest on Christ for salvation, and yet live without works and obedience: and therein they presume also because they take mercy when it is not given them.  But if I rest on the promise or on Christ, that I may be made the more holy, doing what I can to be fruitful in every good work, yet resting upon Christ for all, this is no presumption.” (279)



Posted in Quotes Worth Noting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Highlights from: Stephen Neill: A History of Christian Missions (Part II)

Part II

Chapter 8: Introduction

“The Protestant Churches owe an immeasurable debt to the Evangelical Revival in the broad sense of that term.  Many forces – high Anglican piety, the mystical tradition, the pietism both of Halle and of Herrnhut – combined to produce John Wesley and the Methodist movement in Britain.” (213-14)

“For this was the great age of societies.  In many cases the Protestant Churches as such were unable or unwilling themselves to take up the cause of missions.  This was left to the voluntary societies, dependent on the initiative of consecrated individuals, and relying for financial support on the voluntary gifts of interested Christians.” (214)

 (c. 1915?) “The primary barrier of language had been surmounted.  Some languages in every known family of languages had been learned, and in many cases reduced to writing for the first time by the missionaries.” (215)

 Chapter 9: New Forces in Europe and America, 1792-1858

“It is doubtful if there is another people on the face of the earth who, in proportion to their numbers, have given so many missionaries to the Church, or have paid so great a price in sacrifice and martyrdom.  At home not only do they build and maintain all their own churches, schools, and other institutions, but they sustain their missionary guests as well.  They regularly support the world-wide work of their Churches.” –Comments on the Samoan Church (253)

“In 1846 Krapf was joined by Johannes Rebmann, who held the fort, often almost alone, until 1874.  The two made a number of remarkable journeys inland, in the course of which they discovered Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peaks in Africa.  An unbelieving world was not prepared to accept the fact of never-melting snow on the Equator, and high scientific authorities affirmed that the missionaries must have been deceived by the sun shining on limestone formations at a distance.  The missionaries, being continentals, were unmoved, reckoning that they knew snow when they saw it.” (268)

Chapter 10: The Heyday of Colonialism, 1858-1914

“In the spirit of prayer the missionaries in Korea were led to accept the ‘Nevius method’, and to make its four principles their guiding rule in the development of the work:

  1. Each Christian should ‘abide in the calling wherein he was found’, support himself by his own work, and be a witness for Christ by life and word in his own neighborhood.
  2. Church methods and machinery should be developed only in so far as the Korean Church was able to take responsibility for the same.
  3. The Church itself should call out for whole-time work those who seemed best qualified for it, and whom the Church was able to support.
  4. Churches were to be built in native style, and by the Christians themselves from their own resources.” (290-91)

“His [Thomas Valpy French’s] companion on the voyage was a young American of the Reformed Church, Samuel M. Zwemer… Zwemer lived for more than sixty years, to be scholar, preacher, writer, evangelist, and apologist throughout the world of Christian missions to Muslims.  At the great Tambaram Missionary Conference of 1938, the most moving of all the speeches was that of the veteran Dr. Paul Harrison, who, having told the story of the five converts that the mission had won in fifty years, sat down with the quiet words: ‘The Church in Arabia salutes you.’” (311)

“The last thing they [missionaries in Africa] desired was to create a new and separate Africa; yet again and again they found themselves the center of a new settlement, made up of freed slave children, of men who for some reason had lost their identity with their tribe, of criminals fleeing from justice (murderers not excluded!), and of young men who wished to learn the skills which only the white man could teach.  Willy-nilly, the missionary had become a chief.  As Dan Crawford picturesquely expressed it: “Many a little Protestant Pope in the lonely bush is forced by his self-imposed isolation to be prophet, priest, and king rolled into one – really a very big duck he, in his own private pond….Quite seriously, he is forced to be a bit of a policeman, muddled up in matters not even remotely in his sphere.” (321)

“The chairman of the conference was the American Methodist layman John Raleigh Mott (1865-1955), who, though he was never a missionary, was destined to play a leading part in all protestant missionary affairs for fifty years.  His name was associated with the slogan through which he had given inspiration to the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions in the 1880s and 1890s: ‘The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.’” (332)

Chapter 11: Rome, the Orthodox, and the World, 1815-1914

“Orthodoxy was beginning to rediscover the treasures of its own historic past, in the theology of the great Greek Fathers of the Church and in its unique liturgical tradition.” (370)

“It may be convenient to arrange this brief summary of Orthodox missionary activity around the names of three great missionaries.  [Michael Jakovlevitch Glucharev (Makary); John Veniaminov; Ivan Kasatkin (Nikolai)]” (371-75) “Michael Jakovlevitch Glucharev was born in 1792. …In 1819 he became a monk, and took the name Makary.” (371) “And [Makary] constantly impressed on his fellow workers that baptism is the beginning of the process of conversion and not the end of it.  Use must be made of every possible means to help the converts to live their lives genuinely as Christians.  They must be encouraged to adopt a more settled way of life, taught agriculture and gardening, and helped to practice such handicrafts as are possible in the life of a village.  The result of these principles is that Makary did not originate any mass movement; he is not recorded to have baptized more than 675 candidates in the course of fourteen years.” (371)

“On one occasion, a lama spoke in such glowing terms of Christ – ‘If all men were true Christians, they would find it impossible to sleep, they would be constantly awake from unutterable joy, and that would be heaven on earth’ – that Spiridon asked him why he was not baptized. “The important thing [was the reply] is not baptism but the renewal of life.  What good does it do you Russians that you call yourselves Christians?  Excuse my frankness.  You Russians do not know Christ, and you do not believe in him.  You live in such a way that we uncultured folk flee from you, and fear you like the plague.

“This is not the whole of Orthodox missionary work; the imperfection of much of it is balanced by the heroic example of the saints and the solid achievements that they have left behind.  But it is good that Christians should hear and mark all that can be said from the other side.  Our sharpest critics are often our best friends; and no reader of the New Testament need be surprised to learn that the work of God in the world goes forward in spite of the imperfections as well as because of the virtues of Christian believers.” (378-79)


Posted in Evangelism, The Gospel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Highlights from: Stephen Neill: A History of Christian Missions (Part I)

Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions. 2nd Edition. Edited by Owen Chadwick. London: Penguin Books, 1986.

 Chapter 2: The Conquest of the Roman World, A.D. 100-500

“in A.D. 529…Christianity was fashionable…” (41)

“Faith became superficial, and was identified with the acceptance of dogmatic teachings rather than with a radical change of inner being.  As the Church became rich, bishoprics became objects of contention rather than instruments of humble service.  With a new freedom, the Church was able to go out into the world; at the same time, in a new and dangerous fashion, the world entered into the Church.” (41)

“The Cappadocian Fathers – Basil (c.330-79), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-89), and Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-95) – had received the best education that the times offered, the two former having been, in fact, fellow-students of the future Emperor Julian in the University of Athens.  Perfectly familiar with Homer and Plato and Demosthenes, these fathers wrote in a Greek which, though not classical, is clear and idiomatic and admirably adapted to the purposes for which they used it.  Purists, and defenders of Hebrew as the only tongue in which theology can really be expressed, may criticize the Hellenization of the Gospel as necessarily deformation.  But, if the Word of God was to make itself at home in a world in which Greek was the universal medium, it could do so in no other way than by teaching itself to think and speak in Greek.” (41-42)

“In all this side of Church history there is much that is grievous and discreditable – the rivalries of the great sees and their incumbents, political chicanery, personal malevolence, and even bribery and corruption.  But the Church lived in its humble and faithful members, and in the ceaseless life of prayer and worship in which the true apostolic succession was to be found.” (42)

Chapter 3: The Dark Age, 500-1000

“Once the Arabs had begun to emerge from the fastnesses of their deserts, their progress was astonishingly rapid.  By 650 the ancient empire of Persia had been destroyed.  Jerusalem fell in 638, Caesarea in 640, and with them Palestine and Syria came under Muslim domination.” (54)

“…though less violent than has often been represented, the Muslim conquest was a major disaster for the Christian world.” (55)

Chapter 6: The Roman Catholic Missions, 1600-1787

“In two hundred years the Jesuit Order had only 456 members in China, of whom nearly one fifth were Chinese.  Mortality through disease and persecution was heavy.  Every journey was an adventure.  Of 376 Jesuits sent to China between 1581 and 1712, 127 were lost on the voyage through disease or shipwreck.  It is amazing that so small a company of men achieved so much.” (176)

“The first principle of Protestant missions has been that Christians should have the Bible in their hands in their own language at the earliest possible date.” (177)

Chapter 7: New Beginnings in East and West, 1600-1800

The Mission on the Middle Volga. … Peter the Great confirmed the promises of his predecessors, and further added the privilege of exemption from the hated military service for those who would accept baptism.  It is not surprising that these offers proved welcome to the inhabitants.  It is recorded that, in the years 1701 to 1705, 3,683 pagan Tschermisses accepted baptism.” (184)

“Cyril Vasilyevich Suchanov (1741-1814).  This layman devoted his whole life to the conversion of the Tungus people of Dauria.  Believing that missionary work depended more on quality of life than on the spoken word, he reduced his personal possessions to what he could carry about in a travelling-bag, moved ceaselessly among the nomads, and won their whole-hearted affection.” (185)

“In the Protestant world, during the period of the Reformation, there was little time for thought of missions.  Until 1648 the Protestants were fighting for their lives;…” (187)

“Johann Gerhard (d. 1637).  Gerhard’s point of view was that the command of Christ to preach the Gospel to all the world ceased with the apostles.” (189)

“Only one baptism of an Indian in the Church of England is recorded in the seventeenth century.” (197-98)

“By far the most famous of all the missionaries who have worked in South India was Christian Friedrich Schwartz (1726-98)…” (198) “And the young Rajah Saraboji, who had been for years under Schwartz’s care, also set up a marble monument, with the epitaph that he had himself composed:
Firm wast thou, humble and wise,
Honest and pure, free from disguise;
Father of orphans, the widow’s support;
Comfort in sorrow of every sort.
To the benighted, dispenser of light,
Doing, and pointing to, that which is right.
Blessing to princes, to people, to me,
May I, my Father, be worthy of thee,
Wisheth and prayeth thy Sarabojee.” (199-200)

“One of the fruits of the Missionary College at Copenhagen was the mission of Hans Egede to Greenland.” (200) “But the value of her sacrifice is seen in the words of a dying Greenlander: You have been more kind to us than we have been to one another; you have fed us when we were famished; you have buried our dead, who would else have been a prey to dogs, foxes, and ravens; and in particular you have told us of God and how to become blessed, so that we may now die gladly, in expectation of a better life hereafter.” (201)

“The noted Congregationalist minister Cotton Mather (1663-1728) in Boston corresponded with Francke in Halle and with the missionaries in Tranquebar, and agreed with them that a world-wide preaching of the eternal Gospel, free from confessional limitations, would help to usher in that great outpouring of the Spirit which would be one of the signs of the end of the age.  Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), theologian and revivalist and later president of Princeton, put mission in the centre of his programme, and associated it with the idea of a world-wide ‘Concert of Prayer’ for missionary work.  This idea, originating in Scotland, caught the imagination of Edwards, who set out the programme at length in A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture Promises, and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time.” (203-04)


Posted in Evangelism, The Gospel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What is a Christian?

There are many definitions of the word “Christian.” Most of us have seen or known people who say that they are Christians but their behavior is not consistent with their profession of faith. Usually, those people are termed “hypocrites.” No one likes a hypocrite, especially when they act pompous and project an air of superiority while among their acquaintances. Nevertheless, those who study and survey the “religious” usually discover certain categories of people who call themselves Christians and those categories can be broken down in these general designations:

  1. The nominal Christian – this is a person who is a Christian in name only. He (or she) might read his Bible and he might attend church but he doesn’t take his faith seriously nor does he believe it enough to actually live it out. This individual leaves himself exposed to the accusation of being a hypocrite and frequently is.
  2. The traditional Christian – this individual probably grew up in the church and actually likes the church and its traditions but is only engaged with the traditions and practices of the church while simultaneously not focusing upon the person of Christ. Church makes her feel good or gives her purpose (and/or a place to serve) in her life but that is its only function.
  3. The cultural Christian – this person believes that if you live in a Christian nation or in a Christian influenced culture, then you are obviously a Christian. Being a Christian isn’t a matter of much importance to this person, but if put on the spot, he would probably profess to being a Christian as opposed to being a member of any other religion or being an atheist. The cultural Christian often looks more like his culture than the Christians described in the Bible and this designation might possibly accurately describe the majority of professing Christians in America and the West today.
  4. The liberally minded Christian – this individual professes to be a Christian and usually professes that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means) and that she should follow His teachings and worship Him in some fashion as well. However, she doesn’t believe the Bible is fully God’s Word or that it should necessarily be personally obeyed, nor that Christ is unique in either His person (His divine nature) or His work of salvation on the cross.
  5. The true Christian – this individual has, in some fashion, come face-to-face with the reality that the living God is a perfect creator who made him and yet he has lived only in a manner that would be displeasing to this holy God, thus bringing the condemnation of God upon himself. Recognizing this personal predicament, he looks for a solution outside of himself and his own efforts and turns to Christ, repenting of his sins and sinful condition, truly trusting in Christ’s provision of forgiveness through his sacrifice on the cross.

What type of Christian are you? Are you serious about the claims of Christ, His lordship over your life and the truthfulness of God’s Word? Don’t be deceived by a lesser brand of Christian faith, one that is really not a true Christian faith at all. Don’t look at Christians for your faith – they will fail you. Look to Christ. He alone is the eternal creator and sustainer of the universe and came that sinners might find peace and forgiveness and a relationship with the living God. Look to the cross and give your life to Christ. You will not regret it.

Posted in Discipleship, Eternity, Evangelism, Ministry, The Gospel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

God Working Before My Eyes

In the fall of 1973, I walked into my dorm room (Snowden 416) at the University of South Carolina and was met with a very unexpected but pleasant surprise. My roommate, Mack, was sitting on his bed along with two of my friends from Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru), listening to them present the gospel message about Christ through the use of a small booklet known as The Four Spiritual Laws. As simple, and maybe as simplistic as it may sound, my friend, Jay, was reading through this small evangelistic pamphlet word for word, with Mack listening quietly and attentively.

Now, I must explain that I myself had been a Christian for only about a year, having given my life – everything – to Christ the fall before. Although Mack and I had been roommates for just a couple of months, I had spoken to Mack about the gospel, the Bible and Christian matters a few times. But I had never pushed the issue of becoming a Christian upon him. Although he was my roommate, we hadn’t been together very long, not even the entire semester thus far. We were actually thrown together.

Providential Roommates

I guess I wasn’t too good with roommates because during my freshman year, my first roommate, a friend from high school, dropped out of USC. He kind of failed out but mostly he became discouraged and left, returning home at the end of the fall semester. My next roommate, one given to me during the spring 1973 semester (by default on my part, through the USC housing department), was from a small town, had nothing in common with me (or my new found faith in Christ) and struggled with drug use. Needless to say, we didn’t sign up to be together the next year.

For some mysterious reason, however, I decided to trust the USC housing department once more and go for another “pot luck” roommate in the fall of 1974 (I’m still not sure why I did that). When I showed up that fall, my roommate was a fellow South Carolinian with a kind and thoughtful disposition. However, after a couple of weeks, it was quite apparent that we were not going to become good friends or even compatible roommates. We got along fine when we were together but that was the problem. Whenever we were in the dorm room together, one of us was trying to sleep. I tried to live somewhat normal human hours and would go to bed at 12 midnight most nights, whereas he would start studying at 12 midnight and study through the night, while sleeping throughout the day. He was a pharmacy major and his studies required long and arduous hours. He studied best in the quiet of the late night and the early morning. Thus, he would try to sleep during the day while I was both awake and present in the room (I don’t know what he did during the non-sleeping daylight hours). It didn’t take very long for us to realize that this situation would not work out for us.

In a very amicable manner, we discussed our dilemma. It boiled down to this: he had a friend who lived on our floor, directly catty corner from our dorm room and this friend had a roommate who was willing to trade places (i.e. dorm rooms) with him. We would simply swap roommates; he was going to live with his pharmacy buddy and I now would be receiving a complete stranger, one hailing from a foreign land (New Jersey)! I did meet this northern freshman prior to our agreeing to this new rooming arrangement and he seemed compatible enough for me. At least he slept normal hours. My new roommate, Mack, was seemingly a nice guy, could carry on a conversation and apparently didn’t do drugs. Raised in the northern Presbyterian church, he probably had some respect for the church but he (like myself a year earlier) had no interest in church or Christian involvement of any type.

A Providential Slip Up

It was inevitable, however, that he would meet my good friends in Cru, Jay and Randy, because Mack and I ate a lot of meals together in the campus cafeteria at the Russell House.  Jay and Randy would show up there as well. One day, having run into Jay and Randy inadvertently (we might say) and without me being there, Mack returned to our dorm room and adamantly stated to me, “Tell your friends, Jay and Randy, to stay away from me. I have no interest in what they are selling!” I fully understood his request and would soon inform Jay and Randy that Mack did not want to be harassed by them.

However, God had other plans. I am a conscientious sort of guy. I was definitely going to tell Jay and Randy to leave Mack alone. But for reasons only God knows, I didn’t see them for a few days. This was unusual because we went to at least two Cru meetings a week together and we also attended the same church together, First Baptist Church of Columbia, where we would see each other at worship, Sunday School, the college student lunch and most likely at the Sunday evening worship service as well. Somehow, I missed them in the coming days and Mack’s admonition could not be communicated to my friends.

A Providential Dorm Visit

Life goes on, the days are busy and I dutifully attended my classes the next few days. Late one afternoon, however, after a long day of classes, I returned to my dorm elated to be done with class attendance and study. When I opened the door and entered my dorm room, there were Jay and Randy sitting on the bed with Mack, gradually making it through The Four Spiritual Laws, Jay reading it to Mack phrase by phrase. At first, I recalled my failure to explain Mack’s recent request to these guys and I thought, “Oh no, they are harassing him!”

But, as I walked in and observed what was happening, I saw that Mack was listening attentively, so I simply sat inertly on my own dorm bed. I listened and watched. As Jay approached the question, “Would you like to invite Christ into your life right now?” I prayed in my heart to the Lord for Mack. Surely Mack wouldn’t agree to this. He had never responded to any of my gospel oriented conversations (later, he told me that he didn’t even remember any of those conversations). But, amazingly, when Jay asked this question, Mack said “Yes.” And, consequently, he verbally prayed the prescribed prayer to receive Christ out loud, repeating it line after line, parroting Jay as he read it right out of the booklet.

Skepticism Countered by Providence

I too bowed my head but being the skeptic that I am, I wondered if anything real was going on here. The prayer ended and then, in a few minutes, Jay and Randy left the room. “Did this really happen?” I wondered. “Could Mack be serious about this decision?” Being a typical doubter about such things (on the spot prayers especially), I wasn’t sure if he really had become a Christian right before my eyes. But I knew one thing – if he was really a Christian, he would want to read the Bible. “We’ll see about that,” I thought!

So, the next day, I hustled downtown to the Columbia Christian Supply bookstore searching for an inexpensive and easy to read Bible. I found an edition that I would not normally endorse or give away since it wasn’t an actual translation (I had already learned that it was important to read from a good Bible translation) and so I bought Mack a brand new copy of the recently popular, light green, soft cushion covered Living Bible paraphrase written by Kenneth Taylor. I believe it cost about $17, which wasn’t too hard on a college student’s budget, even in 1973. I contemplated what passages he should read, if indeed he would read any of the Bible.

So, I took a scratch piece of paper and started to scribble down a number of Bible verses and passages that I thought a new Christian should read and know. This task wasn’t too difficult since in the past year I had been involved with a campus ministry called The Navigators. As a matter of fact, I became a Christian through the Navigator ministry at USC, providentially attending the very first Bible study that they had ever held on campus. The Navigators were famous for their emphasis upon memorizing Scripture and I had already begun to memorize a lot of individual Bible verses. Therefore, I just wrote down a number of these verses and some other passages and handed him a small list of about 15 verses or passages. I figured that would take care of him for the next week or so. He started reading that night.

The next day, he said, “Okay, I’m done with that list. What’s next?” I frankly didn’t expect such a quick turnover of Scripture reading. But, again, having been trained by someone in my past, I knew that the Gospel of John was the next place to begin (“I’ll give him something longer this time!” I thought to myself). And I threw in both the meaty book of Romans and the practical book of James and some Psalms on top of the Gospel of John “assignment.” He read something from the Bible most every night, usually while we were in the room together. In a couple of weeks he told me that he was finished with all of the reading I had “assigned” to him. So, at this point, I told him to just read the New Testament through. He complied. By the end of the semester (maybe 6-8 weeks), he had finished the entire New Testament! I was pretty sure he was now a Christian, i.e., definitely a new creation in Christ!

A Providential Christmas Card

We wrapped up the fall semester and Mack went back home to New Jersey for the Christmas holidays. As he left, I wondered how he would fare in his new found faith while at home, since, in my own experience, returning home after becoming a believer is not always an easy transition. I don’t recall exactly how things went spiritually or in relation to his parents and sisters upon his return, but I do still recall receiving a simple but very special Christmas card in the mail just before Christmas. It was from Mack.

I opened it up and all it said on the inside was “Merry Christmas.” But underneath those imprinted words, Mack had written in pen, “Rod, you have a one track mind – thanks for sharing it with me!” Wow! That is a memorable Christmas card, one which I still have in my possession! Mack was correct in many ways – I had been converted to Christ about 16 months before his conversion and God had thrown us together and allowed me the unbelievable privilege of watching my “stranger” roommate visibly and verbally enter into the kingdom of God! I really didn’t have a one track mind (I was dating, studying, playing and following sports, as well as Gamecock athletics, etc.), but that one track certainly did impact everything I was doing in life. And I still remember a special verse that Mack used to quote all the time when he reflected on his conversion to Christ. The verse came from Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae, where he wrote these words:  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son… (Col. 1:13, ESV). Mack would often audibly express these words to me, knowing that he had received both new life and new light in Jesus.

Providential Roommates Once More

FAST FORWARD: Without going into great detail, Mack and I remained not only good friends but in the coming years, we would remain roommates. Mack’s sophomore year, while searching for a major that he could enjoy and succeed at, Mack discovered the language of French. It was obvious that he loved studying French. Much to my sadness, but happily for him, Mack left me at USC for an entire year (his junior year) while he studied French in the city of Limoges, located in the south central part of France. This was my senior year at USC; it was a long year.

Yet in God’s providence, because I had changed majors, I was required to attend an extra semester in order to graduate. So, in a blessing beyond my imagination (have I said that I loved him dearly as a brother and friend yet?), Mack and I were able to room together for one more semester. I really don’t remember the semester of fall 1976 at USC very well (I spent a lot of time thinking about post-graduation plans) but know that I couldn’t have been any happier to have my best friend and roommate back in my life. Nevertheless, soon I would have to graduate and move on with my life, looking to the future with Mack no longer being such an integral part of my life.

The future, by God’s very good providence, meant that in January 1977, I would travel by faith (i.e., flying across the country without enough money to return home) to Arrowhead Springs, California to investigate and explore a possible calling with Cru as a campus staff member. My few weeks attending Cru’s Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS) were great, but those contemplative days also led me to decide to forego Cru staff for a number of reasons, thus planning to attend seminary instead. I researched a number of fine seminaries but settled on Columbia International University (CIU now – then it was Columbia Bible College and Graduate School of Bible and Missions). Conveniently, CIU was located in my beloved city of conversion, Columbia, SC and I would start school there in the fall of 1977.

In the meantime, Mack, having fallen in love with not only French but language study in general, was pursuing a possible career of Bible translation with the well known translation ministry of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT). He had interviewed with Wycliffe, attended a session of their Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and since he was going to become a part of their missionary staff, they recommended that Mack attend one year of seminary training  for mission preparation (note: most evangelical mission organizations at that time required a year of seminary or Bible certificate training prior to going on to the field).

And where do you think that Wycliffe sent (recommended) Mack to study for that one year, beginning in the fall of 1977? Providentially, Mack and I were reunited for one more year as graduate school roommates, living on the bottom floor of East Hall on the campus of CIU. What an unexpected blessing for me! Without going into details about that year together (we were overwhelmed with our studies), time passed and once again, after Mack completed his one year Certificate of the Bible program, we had to part ways. I would remain in seminary for two more years working on a Master of Divinity degree, while Mack would attend Wycliffe’s SIL training in Dallas, Texas in order to earn a Masters degree in Linguistics.

Separated But Providentially Called

In time, we both found our future wives, married and moved into our respective careers, God giving us opportunities to do the things we loved. Mack (and his wife Doris) headed into translation work (his location choices were either Cameroon, West Africa or Papua New Guinea – PNG), whereas my wife, Cathy and I were granted the heaven ordained gift of doing full time campus ministry at the University of Florida. Doing ministry at UF was actually a pipe dream I had held onto since visiting this beautiful campus during the summer of 1974 (in order to assist a friend, whose sister was moving out of her dorm after the completion of her summer school session). Mack and Doris, eventually moved with their newborn daughter, Sarah, to the secluded mountains of Papua New Guinea (the Jimi Valley) in order to work with the Kandawo people of that area; I would minister to UF students with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) for almost 10 years.

To understand our separate callings and how we both were perfectly suited for them, I need to tell a short story. First, I have to say that Mack and Doris and Cathy and I only see each other every 5 (or more) years or so. Our times of being reunited are infrequent. But in one of his early visits back from PNG, Mack, Doris and their first two children visited us in Gainesville, Florida for a couple of days during the fall semester. The year was 1986 and the UF football season was in full swing. Mack and his family stayed over through the weekend, so together both of our families went over to the beautiful, historic dorm area of the university in order to attend a pregame cookout. This gathering included both our RUF students and a number of students from other UF campus ministry groups. As we were all eating with the students (photo below), Mack and I were conversing together and I turned to him and said, “I have no idea how you can live and minister in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world.” He replied, while looking at all of the students attending our pregame event in this campus saturated environment, “I love what I am doing. I don’t understand how you can work with college students all the time. I wouldn’t know where I would begin!”

Providence and Patience

The love Mack had for Christ, for language study, for translation work and for a people who were not necessarily always impassioned about his presence in the Jimi Valley was undeniable. He believed in the hope of the gospel for people everywhere and anywhere. And these people of PNG deserved to hear the Word of God clearly spoken and expressed in their own dialect as much as anyone. Without going into the details regarding the many challenges, trials and even persecution that Mack, his wife Doris and their three children underwent throughout the years living in Papua New Guinea and in the secluded area of the Jimi Valley, I simply want to explain that they remained as a constant presence there, serving the people of the valley and the ministry of Wycliffe Bible Translators for over three decades.

Some might wonder why anyone would spend what amounts to, in essence, a lifetime of quiet, industrious service in and with an obscure and low profile location, people and task. I imagine that, at times, they wondered as well. But, in God’s perfect timing, through the help and assistance of “uneducated” and non-literate faithful locals, as well as the latest in state-of-the-art technology, the complete New Testament in the Kandawo language was consummated during the year 2014. Fittingly, a Bible dedication is scheduled to occur on April 14, 2015.

Patience Providentially Rewarded

Yet, after all of this time and effort, one might ask the inevitable question, “Will any of this translation work and New Testament production make a difference to the people who hear it?” “Was it worth it?” With the assistance of the provision of a strategic technology, the Audibible®, an inexpensive mechanism that plays the Bible audibly in the language of the people, the Kandawo people are now able to hear the Bible read in their own language. The Audibible® is a solar-rechargeable audio player in a strong and sturdy package about the size of a cell-phone, capable of holding hundreds or thousands of hours of high quality audio content. The Audibible® was designed and developed as a cost efficient, durable tool to meet the needs of those who do not read (source: https://biblerevival.igloocommunities.com/home/products/audibible).

It must be noted, however, that many of the Kandawo people previously have heard the Bible read in local worship services. But it must also be explained that the readings during these services were not always clear and edifying, since the Scriptures had not been provided in the Kandawo’s own specific dialect. 30 plus years later, however, the Kandawo people finally have the complete New Testament in their own, audible language, (see photos below) which is easily accessible through the means of the Audibible®.

So, how would the Kandawo people respond, hearing the Word of God in their own language for the first time ever? Below are two stirring quotes, spoken directly to Mack and spawned by those who were enabled to hear God’s Word through the use of the Audibible®:

“We were starving and we didn’t know it. Now this AB (Audibible®) satisfies our hunger and tastes sweet. Now I’m waiting for the Lord to come back to get me. You’ve come with the AB, at this exact time in my life. It’s perfect for me. I have worries and heavies, my husband left me to work the garden and feed and clothe our two grade school children. But the AB has given me so much peace. We saw ourselves as wild animals, pigs and dogs that die and are lost. But when you came and introduced this machine to us, it enlightened our minds from being like wild animals. It has taken us out of the destructive road we were on, and we have entered into its (new) road. It has been a game changer for me. I feel that it has met my deepest longing. The AB said that if I humbled myself before the Lord, He would lift me up. So now I give things to God and I am at peace with this because God will raise me up.” [Mack continued…] The next morning through tears, she pleaded with me, “You have to understand how very much this has completely changed me and my situation! This has changed everything for me.”

This woman’s mother said, “I couldn’t afford K20 (about $6) for an AB, but when the price came down to K10 (Mack’s note: second price; it is now K5 – about $1.40), I borrowed money and bought one. I tell others ‘to avoid hunger, you need to get one of these. Find the kina (money), sell stuff at market…get one!’ Before I got the AB I felt like a pig that was tied to a stick. But now I feel like I’ve been freed. I’m only a rotted old woman and I was going to church every week and I always wondered during the Bible reading. We thought that it was some language from some far away people. But now this machine has brought it close to me. We were ignorant pigs and dogs, but now we are changed. I take it to the garden and listen to it playing on my chest as I fall asleep because I love it. Now in the family we respect each other. I make them sit quietly and we listen to the AB. No more talking baksait (criticizing others), or stealing from others.

Pondering God’s Providence

What beautiful testimonies from those who have received the good news of God in their own language! May the Lord Jesus be praised and given the glory! His Spirit evidently has been at work!

I walked into my dorm room over 40 years ago and watched part of God’s plan unfold, a sovereign plan designed to provide a remote and neglected people, a Bible-less tribe, with a means to finally hear Him speaking to them through His Word, in a language that was their own. Little did I know what God was doing that day when four young University of South Carolina students sat together on two beds of a dorm room engaging in a message that began, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

God was working right before my eyes.

December 2014

Posted in Up Close and Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments