…nor Doth He Sleep

To All my Wonderful Followers,

We survived the holidays! Now we are making it through what the English call “Boxing Day”, which has nothing to pugilistic activities but rather to “boxing up” all the things from Christmas. Quite appropriate in our case, since we’re also packing up the house in preparation for the Big Trip.

And to make things even more interesting, our whole family is beginning a 5-day stayover in a resort not far from the house. It’s rather tired, but it has a pool, a pond and a creek, and the grandkids love it.

I know Christmas is over, but I’d like to share just one more story, in case you haven’t heard it already. It’s about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … remember him from high school literature class? He did most of his writing in the mid to late1800s, but did you know……

…that his second wife burned to death in 1861 when her dress caught on fire as she melted wax to seal Christmas letters?  Henry was so injured trying to save her that he was unable even to attend her funeral.  The next year, his son Charley insisted against his father’s will (they were Congregationalists and therefore Conscientious Objectors) to go and join the Civil war.

Almost immediately he got so sick that Henry had to go and bring him home to recover.  No sooner had he recovered and got back to duty, he was shot and the ball struck his spine, again entailing a long and arduous recovery.

Henry was still grieving the loss of his wife in 1864 when he penned the words that we know so well.  Enjoy seeing what real faith can do for us all, even as we sit in this covid world, mourning so many things:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along, The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound, the carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn, the households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said:

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Hopefully, the next blog or so that you get from me will be an auto-generated one as we will soon be winging our way to Hawaii and the teaching job that should keep us busy for many months.  Please pray for safety for us all, for clear covid “24-hour-before-you-fly” tests, etc etc.  All the dramas of this age.

May we remember who’s in control of it all!  Stay tuned!

Marsha

Tommy’s Christmas

Well, are we all getting excited yet?  It’s almost Christmas!!

I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the “Cockroach Christmas” story.  Fortunately, all our ‘goofs’ in the Japanese language weren’t so eventful

In fact, soon after we arrived, Tony came across a simple story in my grandmother’s Guidepost magazine that she’d so kindly tucked into our luggage for the ‘hard days’.  It was simple enough that Tony felt he could tell it in Japanese, and the story was a great success.  So much so that besides being “Santa” for numerous Church kindergartens every year, he began to have a reputation for the simple “Tommy’s Christmas” sermon.  Always a hit on the cold and dark winter nights of Christmas in Japan.

So here’s the story.  I can almost repeat it in both languages:

“It was Christmas Eve, and I was trying to write my Christmas sermon for the Children’s home where our family lived and worked.  Even though my heart was happy and filled with love, the words were not coming to me.

As I sat there with my head in my hands, exasperated that I had nothing, there was a knock on the door and one of our carers opened it quietly with the apology, “Sorry Pastor, I know you’re busy, but it’s Tommy”…

Tommy was perhaps our most traumatized child, always shirking in fear and sadness.  He had reason for this behavior, but now he was safe and we were all struggling to help him know it.

I arrived at his room, and as I suspected, he was hiding under his bed again.

The conversation went something like this,

“Tommy?”

Silence

“Tommy, I know you’re under there, what’s happening?”

Again, Silence

I bent over and looked, and back toward the wall, I could only see the proverbially gleaming two eyes.  They seemed to be full of tears.

“Tommy, what don’t you come out and play, we’re about to have cake!”

Silence

“And there will be games……….and later on, even presents!”  I exuded with feigned enthusiasm, still inwardly wondering what I would say in the pulpit the next day.

Still nothing.

Finally, at wits end, I dropped to my knees and crawled under the bed.

“Tommy,” I said quietly, “I know it’s scary out there, but if you’ll take my hand, we can face it together.”

It was quiet for a long time, then almost imperceptibly, I felt a tiny hand reach for mine.

We lay there for while, saying nothing. Just enjoying the closeness. “What do you say, Tommy? Shall we join the rest?”
And we did, but slowly, sliding out from under the bed and into the light. There was no hurry; I had my sermon.

Just like Tommy, under that bed, the world also huddled in darkness. Frightened, without peace, and with no way out that we could understand. God called to us from Heaven, but we couldn’t hear. He sent His prophets, but we ignored them. Finally, God Himself came into the darkness to rescue us.

And today, like Tommy, as we reach out, we too will feel His strong Hand. We will learn of His love, and we will go with Him, out of the darkness, into the light. This is what God’s love is all about.

This is what Christmas is all about.

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Christmas Cockroaches

We’d been in Japan several years when we got some new missionaries.  This couple and their two boys were unstoppable. In particular, the wife clearly had a musical ear, leading her to have a real gift for the languages. I tried not to be jealous of her prowess.

And then one day she dispelled any jealousy I’d had by telling this story on herself. It was the Christmas season. That’s when we missionaries would crank into gear and take every opportunity imaginable to show Christ to Japan. After all, materialism had appeared soon after the war was over and most Japanese understand that Christmas is coming, even going so far to seek out churches and other venues in the hope of some ‘holiday cheer’. Mind you, most have very little idea to this day of WHAT Christmas means, apart from gift giving to children  and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken with your boyfriend on Christmas Eve. I’m not making this up, you can google what an incredible marketing ploy the Colonel pulled off some 60 years ago! And so this new missionary invited some ladies to her house for Christmas tea.

There, to the tinkling of fine china, she shared with them about Jesus, why He was born, etc. Just as they seemed to be losing interest, she announced that next week, she’d like to have this time together again. They smiled and nodded in agreement. Then they all sprung to startled attention “And I want you ALL to go into your gardens this week and gather up as many cockroaches as you can find!” Seeing their faces, she thought to herself, this is a bazaar request, so she elaborated, “You see, next week we’re going to PAINT the cockroaches and decorate our houses with them!” More jaw dropped stares. As the ladies were stumbling over themselves in horror, bowing and making excuses that they’d left a pan on the stove or it looked like rain and they needed to get home, she fought back tears of defeat and tried to understand how she’d offended them so. Her best friend, the last to leave, but leaving all the same, asked, “I wonder what you’re trying to say?” Later that afternoon, as she was cleaning up the penny dropped. She’d been saying “Go-kiburi” which is the word for  cockroach, when she had been meaning to say, “Matsu-bokuri”. If you say these two words quickly, you can see how similar they are.  Cockroaches and Pine Cones. I’m  happy say she sent a runner to tell the ladies about her mistake in the language, and the group grew and many were blessed.  This family stayed many years, grew in the language and culture and

Influenced many for Christ. Be we’ll never forget to be careful what we say for it has to power to terrify people! This last week I heard a good sermon.  It was filled with hope, and relative to the season. Ephesians 4:29 was included, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” We have the POWER to ‘Change the Narrative” in people’s lives. Our words can make them raise up and find life, or as in the story above, run in terror.

Guard the ‘story’ you tell this season, both in words and deeds, to those around you.

Happy decorating!

Marsha

Christmas is Coming!

Hello all

Welcome to December!  By now you in the Northern Hemisphere should be snugged down and anticipating Christmas. I can imagine you looking thru frosty windows out at glistening lights, humming Christmas carols and sipping hot chocolate. (sigh!)

And yet, here Down Under, I have never quite “gotten” the Hot Christmas idea, but I have to admit that it’s fun to hear the grandkids frolicking in the pool and wondering what cool quick dry ‘frock’ I can come up with for the Christmas Eve carols. And then is the 8:00AM Christmas day service that is also so much a part of Australian tradition.

We love being with family then, and seeing the gleam in the children’s eyes. I was almost moved to tears when I asked my middle grandson, Ezekiel, what his favorite Christmas memory was. I expected to hear something involving food and/or presents, but he thought a moment, then said, “Oh, that’ll be THIS Christmas, because we have a ‘newcomer’! He was talking about Cousin Jeremiah, now coming up on six months and already smiling at the sight of his extended family.  Occasionally, children can be so sweet .

But we have a big surprise for a few of you who may not have heard. Good Lord willing and the CoVid tests come back negative, Tony and I will be leaving Australia and heading to the US and beyond in early January.

Tony’s been offered a guest professorship in Hawaii (Yes, I can hear you groaning), to teach his Doctoral study, “Anagaion, a Brief look at Christian life” for a semester.  Then we’ll hopefully get over to a place near you to continue our visiting, attending Missionary reunions and the like.  Then depending on all those factors like our health, finances and the crazy Covid world, we’ll keep going east until we make it back to Australia, about this time next year.

And so, starting in the New Year, we’ll be on the road.  I covet your prayers as we jump through just about every hoop we can imagine to firstly get OUT of Australia, (on a plane) and then get INTO Hawaii. We’ve been working on this venture for months and it’s so complicated that we’ve put a ‘murder board’ on the wall and are daily ticking off chores to be done, (tax clearance, myriad immunizations, people contacted, Bible studies rerouted, car sold, lawn care…….it goes on and on).

To that end, we won’t be sending a personal blog every week, because who knows what or where we’ll be?  However, if you like to read something, just to keep up a habit, we’re trying to work out how to put an old book of mine (which just happens to have 52 chapters) up online where you can read an excerpt every week, usually something about life on the mission field. Also I’ll be posting personal comments and observations on this space as we can find internet and are able to. We do so want to share our lives with you while on this journey. You’ve already been such a part of us over the years, and I would really be sad to see our relationship grow apart.

I really appreciate your friendship.  Lately a lot more of you are following me, from many places in the world including some that Google just lists as “Other”.  I enjoy wondering if you’re really people or just a bunch of bots trolling endlessly looking for some sort of meaning! I always love and get encouraged when you comment personally.

So for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Christmas tales to add to your potpourri of happy memories for this blessed season.

so let me say as I wrap it up, “Here comes Christmas!  Let’s do our best to get the real meaning out of it, God’s love for us in that He gave us His Son, and also that He had given us families and loved ones to enjoy during this time.

Love always, Marsha

A Samurai in the Vatican

Last week a friend recommended a PBS video about someone I thought I knew a lot about.  But as it turns out, there’s more to this fellow than I knew. I’m going to call him a “Hero of the Faith”, but with a different perspective. If you have access to PBS, take the hour to watch “The Secrets of the Dead, A Samurai in the Vatican”, Season 19, episode 5.”

His name was Hasekura Tsunenaga, the year was 1613, and he was the first Japanese to travel more than half way around the world looking for Christianity. Well …

If only it were that simple.

Actually, he was a disgraced Samurai.  His father had brought shame on his family for some technical error and was ordered to commit ‘seppuku’ or ritual suicide for his carelessness.  Now the son, Hasekura, with really no future as the whole family was shamed, was ordered by the Daimyo (think Governor) Masamune to go to Spain and check things out.

Masamune himself, many years prior, had been sent to Northern Japan by the Shogun (the big guy over the whole country). There, he was ordered to establish the Shogun’s authority and start collecting taxes. Using conscripted labor, he built a big castle overlooking the town of Sendai, which coincidentally, is where Tony and I spent the better part of 25 years.

The whole Christianity thing was prompted by the arrival of Jesuit missionaries, and there had been a lot of discussion concerning their motivations. That they were spreading the Gospel was obvious, but there seemed to be a political current as well.  Personally, Masamune seemed to have had leanings toward Christian faith, but I think most likely he was trying to better himself politically and possibly with a hopeful eye on becoming the next Shogun.  There were a number of Catholic missionaries in Japan and they were doing a successful work amongst the upper class Samurai, so it was Masamune’s thought (perhaps), to send an emissary to Europe and increase his influence by being more current in world affairs. While there, they were also instructed to request more missionaries.

So Hasegawa and an Italian Priest, who was a missionary and possibly had a few personal aspirations himself, set off for Spain. The ship was small, since this was the early 1600’s.  And since the world was big, the journey took years.  Finally they reached the Spanish peninsula, then over to the Vatican. Both the priest and Hasegawa were welcomed as honored emissaries, and eventually they started back for home.  But wait! While at the Vatican, it was reported that Hasekura embraced Christianity and was baptized.

They arrived home to Sendai after a 7-year journey, anchoring in the harbor in preparation for the big arrival the following morning. Legend has it that a friend of Hasegawa came aboard to report that things had changed since he had left. There was now a new Shogun in power and Christianity had been outlawed! Historians believe that the new Shogun (who sadly was not Masamune) had become nervous about the impact the Catholics were making on the Japanese.  It was not the religion they worried about but more the political power and the possibility of falling the way the Americas and other places had, who were becoming more Catholic and Spanish than those countries were ready for.

Anyway, the story ends badly…….. or does it?

The priest who had gone with Hasekura, instead of becoming a Bishop as he had dreamed, was dragged off and martyred with 26 other priests in Nagasaki, the city where Christianity had originally entered. There in Sendai, you can see a statue today dedicated to three local Catholic priests who had been staked out in knee deep water along the banks of the river and left there until they died of exposure. This happened in January when Sendai is as cold as it gets.  I often said a prayer of thanks when we drove by, glad that Japan is now much nicer to Christians.

As for Hasekura, we only know that he “died in obscurity”.

That might be the end of the story, except for this interesting fact: Hasekura’s children, now grown and professing Christ as Savior, were all martyred. Did the faith of the father extend to his children?

Almost 400 years after that time, Sendai awoke to the fact that one of their own had made a real difference in the history of the area! Hasekura had gone the distance, and paid the ultimate sacrifice. If you go to Sendai today, you’ll find an impressive museum and a full-sized replica of the original ship in which he travelled. Furthermore, if you walk out a ways from the Sendai train station, you’ll find a quaint clock which on the hour features a parade of figurines depicting Hasagawa and entourage wobbling along, carrying a gift to Rome.

I suppose only in Heaven will we know the real story of Hasekura Tsunenaga, a lowly disgraced Samurai. But we can look around today and see his influence on the lives of people.

Think about who you’re influencing today!

Till next time, Marsha

Trust

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of baptizing a new friend.

Hearing her testimony gave me goosebumps all over. And honestly speaking, we can’t claim much of the process in her journey to Christ; but the “goosebump event” came about more because of the reminder that God is at work all around us even when all around us seems to be tumbling down.

Our friend is Japanese, but we were moved to hear of her family’s involvement in the local Buddhist temple. Because of that, she was naturally taught to be “good”, moral and hard-working. In addition to that, her family focused on the exterior, “visible” aspects of living circumspect.

As she got older, those characteristics took her a long way, through a somewhat privileged life, traveling and learning languages, and becoming well educated.  She married and had kids, but there was still a God-shaped vacuum in her heart.In 2010, she came across a church, found it inviting and started taking one of her children there.  While there, a visiting missionary talked to her about being baptized. She declined, but the encounter planted a seed.

Time passed, life was busy, and she settled into finishing off raising her kids here in Australia.  Then one day, thru a friend of a friend, she found herself at a 3-day Japanese Bible study camp.  She sat next to me; you may remember my mentioning this in a blog a few weeks ago. In her testimony, she remarked about how I had smiled at her, which surprises me because Tony had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I wasn’t smiling a lot.

Anyway she took Tony’s class on basic Christianity, that Anagaion book I’ve sure you’ve heard of by now. From that point, she began seriously considering becoming a Christian.  Before leaving the conference, she also bought Tony’s Road Rising book, and started reading it as a daily devotional.

Then on April 15th this year, she suddenly felt very strongly that she should take the next step.  She even searched the web for the “only real truth”.  God and Google led her to Mark 16:16,  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  She knew what she had to do (and this is where it gets crazy), a few days later she picked up the Road Rising and out of curiosity looked at the April 15th reading.  It said exactly what she’d just heard God say. The title of that day’s devotional is  “Real Truth”, and in it the character in the book says,
1. I am loved by God

2. I’m forgiven by Jesus’ blood

3. God’s Holy Spirit lives in me

4. Satan has no authority over me

5. When I resist him, Satan has to run

6. I can do anything thru God’s power

7.  I’m a citizen of God’s Kingdom

She read the words, lifted the passage out of the book and made it part of her testimony to give before her baptism.

Life has not been easy for this lovely lady. Her husband of many years walked away. She could have crumbled and lost her newly found faith at that, but instead she responded to him, “I still love you; I pray for you, and I still hope that we will find reconciliation.” Please join her in praying for the family.

Then, as a sign of God’s Presence and Power, while she was leading her students on an outing, they looked up and noticed a sky writer flying just above their heads. He had already written, “T……R…..U…S…T” Then while they watched, he finished with “… IN JESUS”.

I’m not making this stuff up.  A few months ago, a friend, tired and weary with the constant CoVid challenge remarked, “Well, it looks like twenty twenty …won!”  I was inclined to agree with her back then, but now I’m being reminded that God is still very much alive and well.

But lest I should work myself too much into this story, I recall the Apostle Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 3: 1-4,“Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ.”

Amen,

Marsha

Counting the Costs

We’ve been a bit ‘off subject’ lately, so today I’ll return to the ‘Known heroes of the faith’ via Canon J. John.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a name you may or may not have heard in your life, but if you’re like me, you’ve just cringed back in your ignorance, silently thinking ‘Let’s see; was he a good guy or a bad guy?”

So here’s what I’m reading about him. He was born to an aristocratic German family living in Poland in 1906.  Obviously gifted, he chose to study Theology and had his PhD by age 21.  He then began to contribute to what were many international links including Germany and then the USA.

Returning to Germany in 1931 he was horrified by the rise of the Nazis and because of either his bravery or his naivety, wasn’t afraid to speak out against Hitler.  His was not a popular point of view because many German Christians, encouraged by Hitler’s manipulative use of Christian language, saw Hitler as the nation’s savior.

The lines became increasingly clearer, and soon Bonhoeffer was a part of the resistance against Nazism.  He spoke against the persecution of the Jews, and when Hitler demanded that the church swear loyalty to only him, Bonhoeffer left the country.

Sometime later, he returned to Germany and was denounced as a pacifist and enemy of the state.  In 1937 he wrote one of his famous books, “The Cost of Discipleship,” in which he created the term “cheap grace”.  This, he explained, is “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, etc.  Looking at that list, I’m a little troubled to see similarities to what many of us face today.

Gradually Bonhoeffer realized that with war looming, he could very understandably be executed, so when an opportunity came to teach in the USA, he left in June of 1939.  However, he soon realized (and here’s where the “hero” part comes in) that he needed to be with his own countrymen in such a time. As soon as he arrived in America, he boarded the next ship for Germany.

Not surprisingly, he no sooner arrived than he was arrested and sent to Buchenwald Concentration camp.  The accounts we have of his time there include descriptions of a man of peace, full of grace and kindness and totally occupied in pastoring and counseling those about him.

In the spring of 1945, Bonhoeffer’s name was linked with an old plot against Hitler and as a result, his execution was ordered.  He was hanged on the 9th of April, 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated.  His last recorded words were, “This is the end. but for me the beginning of… life”.

He was just 39 yrs old.

His faith was displayed in his doing. If he had stayed in the academic circles that defined him, he would have gone unnoticed and been safe.

But he was daring. Again, he could have stayed in the USA and been safe, but he knew he needed to be with his people.

And lastly, he was defying. He had to courage to speak out against a corrupt government and a church that was too weak to stand up to it.

As he wrote in “The Cost of Discipleship”, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.” In these 11 words, Bonhoeffer manages to encapsulate the New Testament’s teaching on what it means to follow Christ.

High above Westminster Abbey’s west door there are statues of ten modern martyrs.  And there amongst them, stands the figure of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He deserves that place.

And now you know his name. Can you wonder with me if you would live this way if called upon to do so?

All the best till next week,

Marsha

Those “Hero-ees”

I’ve been thinking about heroes lately, but another thought came into my mind as I was reading the 12th chapter of Romans.

You’ll remember last week I talked about men who lived with sacrifice and hard work, a product of their dedication to God.  Those efforts impacted so many people we can’t even imagine.

And that started me thinking about ‘those people’ who were impacted.  Not the Heroes, but let’s say the “Hero-ees”: the people on the receiving end of the heroism……..

Tony remembered one sweet but frank church lady in our first church in Japan, back in 1979.  Here we were, all puffed up about ourselves and planning to bring God to these shores and save the whole Japanese Nation. Over tea and rice crackers, this sweet lady asked simply, “Are you planning to bury your bones here?”

What a question! We didn’t know how to answer, and in fact, didn’t answer it very well. Who started talking about burying bones?  We were planning to be HEROES, not martyrs. But as I’ve thought about that conversation over and over, I keep coming back to the people on the receiving end of our heroes out there. How are they affected by what they see and hear? Can they trust us? How far does the “ripple affect” extend?

I think immediately of a (different) lady many years later. She watched us bring our child’s ashes back to Japan and bury them at the church where he had grown up. Soon after, she, and many others like her, became believers, in spite of the fact that we had practically no personal contact with any of them. It’s a fact: these people were WATCHING!

What about those mean, awful prison guards with Paul, who watched and thought about these people called ‘Christians”? They quietly observed, watched how they behaved in the face of persecution, and many became believers.

I’ve told you about the American pastor we met while on furlough one year. He told us that he became a Christian after returning to freedom, simply because an unknown guard in a Japanese prison camp gave him an egg once or twice a week, keeping him alive.  Neither spoke the other’s language, and when the American kept gesturing, “Why?” the guard simply smiled and surreptitiously made the sign of a cross.

I had the privilege of teaching English for a few years in one of the Imperial Universities in Japan.  One day I asked these elite future leaders of Japan to write an essay.

Tears of repentance came to my eyes when I read one of them. He said, “I was 8 or 9, standing by the road with my friends when we spotted a beautiful blond lady waiting for a bus.  We started up with our usual harassment shouting, ‘Harrow!!!!’ (in our best English).  ’You Pletty!!’ one of the more adroit boys added. But then, instead of turning away or moving on (as I myself was often prone to do when this happened), she turned and SMILED at us!”  Now this student concluded,  “And now I’m studying English because these people are so kind.”

I will never know until Heaven how many of those students found Christ.  Even though I was forbidden from teaching anything religious, Tony and I taught the C. S. Lewis’ book, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” as ‘literature’. With that, I was able to ’teach’ all the Christian symbolism and present them with a Bible each for further ‘research’.

Paul says “We are Ambassadors for Christ” but does that mean we are heroic? Only God knows, I suppose, what our actions will produce in the lives of those around us, but think about it: the neighbor, a parking attendant or that sweet young girl checking your ID and testing your mask to make sure you’re not spreading Covid. Lots of temptations there to be “less than a hero”. All the more reason to read Paul’s words again:

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.                                                                                           (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Lets see what we can do for those who are waiting this week!!  I would love to hear of your experiences.

Marsha

Living a Life Worthy

A few weeks ago I mentioned Eric Lidell in a blog.  He was the “Flying Scotsman” of 1924 Olympic fame.  The movie in1981 that launched his story into world news was “Chariots of Fire”.  Who can hear the theme song and not want to go jogging?

The other day, while surfing through the Christian movie channel online, we found “On Wings of Eagles”.  It’s a more modern version of Eric Lidell’s life story, taking up where “Chariots of Fire” left off. It was well done and stayed true to the man, but it lacked the beautiful music of the former movie, and since it focused on his death was not near as much fun to watch. I was left, however with the thought that I had gotten a glimpse of the “real” hero of the faith.
And while I’m at it, here’s another “hero”, but this one is a fictional character. His name comes up in the book “Hawaii”, by James Michner, and goes by Abner Hale. In the story, which was loosely based on truth, he was a Congregationalist missionary to Hawaii in the early 1800’s.

Having watched the story of Lydell’s life while also reading Michner’s novel, I was struck by these two men. I couldn’t help but set them up side by side. What was obviously apparent at the outset was that both of these men felt undeniably CALLED by God to “win the Lost”. Neither could be criticized for his lack of commitment, nor for his determination to spread the Gospel. I did take note of a couple of factors for which missionaries are often evaluated. Eric Lidell, born in China, had a natural love for the people to whom he ministered. He was surrounded by his flock all through his life and was grieved over when he died. Abner, on the other hand, was a relative newcomer to his mission field, and not surprisingly, never succeeded in understanding nor appreciating the culture. Much of his energy was devoted to changing the ways of those to whom he labeled as ”Heathens”, to the extent that he rarely had time to show them the “Way” to salvation through Jesus. As a result, he lost his battle on several fronts, including the one with his own sanity.
One true story, one fictional. But in the telling, we’re given a fresh look at what it means to be completely sold out to God. Being sold out to God is a lifetime challenge, and thanks to His wonderful grace, is not a Pass/Fail endeavor. It’s a relationship builder with the One Who made me.

And what does that means to you and me? I couldn’t say it any better than the Apostle Paul:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Marsha

Smart Heroes

For some time now, I’ve been talking about “Heroes of the Faith”: those remarkable men, women and children who by their trust in the Lord left a legacy that blesses us all to this day.

While looking for more “faith giants” to report on, I came across one of Tony’s Creation magazines and found an article about Albert Einstein. Unfortunately, he was not what we would call a “hero of the faith”, since he seems to have abandoned God as he grew older. But I was surprised to find that Einstein had heroes of his own, three of them, in fact. Each was known for his advances in science and each merited a picture on Albert’s study wall.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is best-known for his discoveries about gravity and the subsequent motions of the planets and stars.

Michael Farady (1791-1867) had a lot to do with our understanding of electricity, and,

James Maxwell (1831-1879) is responsible for a unified theory of electricity, magnetism and light.

The things these three accomplished in their lifetimes formed the basis for Einstein’s groundbreaking development of the whole “relativity” thing (Remember E = mc2 ?), and he freely acknowledged their work, hanging their pictures up as a daily reminder.

But what surprised me is the fact that all three of these men were also known as being committed Christians. Newton wrote more on theology than he did on science. Faraday was a member of the Church of Scotland’s fundamentalist group known as the Sandemanians, and Maxwell interacted with some of the best theological minds of his day.

Read the biographies of these three remarkable scientists and you’ll see that everything they did was based on absolute belief in the promises of God and His revealed Word. None of their discoveries would have come about if they had not placed their faith and assumptions in Him.

Unwittingly, Einstein placed his faith in the accomplishments of Newton, Faraday and Maxwell, but failed to see the God Who made it all possible. I’m really grateful today for the dedicated men and women who were bold enough to invest their minds in the truth of God’s Word and make no apologies for it.

True Heroes of the Faith, that’s for sure.

Marsha