Dr. Livingston, I Presume?

I read a book about Dr. Livingstone once.

Bored me to tears.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt was anything but boring.

David Livingstone was known as a missionary, explorer and anti-slavery advocate.  As a missionary, he only had one convert during his lifetime.  His entire life was a jumble of faith, missions, exploration, fame and failure. He spent more time in Africa than he ever did with his family.  In fact he went years without seeing his children. 

Prior to this book, my recall of his life was limited to his failures and the fact that he got lost in Africa.  The whole, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" was the only thing I could quote about his life.

One thing that was largely lost on me was his passionate drive to end the slave trade in East Africa.  This is where Jay Milbrandt does Dr. Livingstone justice. Milbrandt examines David Livingstone's life through the lens of his anti-slavery crusade.  He looks at his failures and successes and how they impacted the ongoing slave trade.  Quoting from Livingstone's journals and other papers, he shows his commitment to God, desire to serve Him and the many times he falls short.  Yet through it all, you see Livingstone's continual focus on stopping injustice.

My view of Livingstone has changed quite a bit after reading this book.  Shortly after his passing, the slave trade was ended in East Africa and it had everything to do with Dr. Livingstone.  After reading the facts laid out by Jay Milbrandt, I can say unequivocally that David Livingstone changed the world!

A must read for history buffs, those who love missions and for anyone who desires to see an end to the modern day slave trade.

BookLook Bloggers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy.


Back to the Wall!

Over the years, I have always tried to sit with my back to the wall. 

It could have something to do with the fact that, as kid, I was attacked from behind at school.  I remember sitting on a ramp near our locker area and feeling a sharp pain near the back of my neck.  I woke up on the ground with my back and neck bleeding from cuts made when another kid repeatedly hit me with his cleats. 

Whatever the reason, I always liked to sit facing the door.  I wanted to see what was coming.  I learned to live with one eye open!  I felt as if I couldn't trust anyone and had to watch my own back.

Actually, It was a pretty miserable way to live.

My relief came as I began to understand the nature and character of God.  I found comfort in a passage from the latter part of Isaiah 52:12. While speaking on deliverance for Israel, Isaiah has this word, "...For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard."

Now that sounds like someone who has your well-being in mind!  He goes before them and is their rear guard.  We also see from Scriptures that the Lord surrounds us. (Psalms 125:2)

God has my back, my front, my whole being!

Now that is protection you can count on!


David Wilkerson

My familiarity with David Wilkerson comes primarily from The Cross and the Switchblade and receiving his newsletter for a short period of time in the late 1980's.  This created an image in my mind of a man who seemed cutting edge but also at times quite legalistic.  I knew almost nothing else about him.

When Zondervan announced a new biography about David Wilkerson, written by his son Gary, I was intrigued and also a little curious how open his son would be about his dads life.

Having now finished the book, I am impressed.

Gary Wilkerson has crafted both a loving tribute and an unvarnished look at his father's life.  This book gives you a clear picture of his dad's spiritual life and corresponding struggles.  You see both his highs and lows of a lifetime of service to the Lord.  The behind the scene looks at his book The Cross and the Switchblade and the movie of the same name were quite interesting.  The fallout among his own staff when he released The Vision was a bit surprising.

David Wilkerson's ministry is still changing lives today.  I saw firsthand the work of Teen Challenge while living in Croatia and can attest that it does change lives.

What develops over the course of this book is a story of a man who was passionate for God and who still struggled with his own faith walk.  I found myself encouraged by this clearer picture of David Wilkerson. I found myself relating to some of his spiritual struggles and his final acceptance of the grace of God.

I highly recommend this book.


Jesus Loves Me This I Know

 I have been singing this children's hymn for over a week now.  Like any ear-worm, it has buried itself deep and I have even woken up in the middle of the night with the song on my lips.  However, this simple but profound song isn't driving me crazy, it's driving me deeper into the Word of God!
I found a definition of love that I have been using as a baseline as I read various scriptures on the topic.

Love - It is
a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

Tender and passionate.  That is the kind of Love I believe the Lord exhibits towards us on a continual basis.
  It is that passionate love that caused God to send His only Son to die for us!  It was that kind of love that caused Jesus to submit His will to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane.  A sacrificial love!

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2)

One of the most encouraging Scriptures to me is found in Romans 8:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

The key to experiencing that love is relationship with Him!  Recognizing and accepting the work he did on the cross!

From the Garden of Eden to the Book of Revelation, Love Permeates the Bible.  Yes,  at times God has had to discipline His children, we have suffered the consequences of our own sinful actions, but His love is there, wooing, calling, and available.

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

If we except, or have excepted that love then we can also rest in that love:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

To Abide meas to: to remain or continue, to dwell, or my favorite, to await in expectation!

Jesus love us, let us abide in His Love!


Don't Miss Jesus

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her.

But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."  (Mark 14:3-9)

The people gathered at Simon’s house were missing the point of what this woman was doing.  They saw with their physical eyes and their indignation and disgust was distracting them from what was really happening.  The people were more focused on the value of the nard and what could be done with it, than they were on Jesus Christ. 

"The poor always being with us" is probably one of the most misquoted Scriptures in the Bible.  I have seen it taken out of context and used as an excuse to avoid asking the hard questions about poverty or as an excuse to do nothing.  Jesus was not talking about ignoring the poor in this passage.  He was not saying that they’ll always be there so therefore we should do nothing to relieve their suffering.  He was saying that at that particular moment, what this woman was doing was a reflection of God’s will and timing. 

Jesus pointed out that she was anointing his body for burial.  He was drawing their attention to the fact that He was going to die!  We know through the Scriptures that He was dying for each one of us, but at this moment in the story, people weren’t getting that.   
Jesus had a heart for the poor.  He reached out to and walked with those who suffered.  He called the weak, the sick, the impoverished and even the religious.  He called all of them and all of us to a deeper relationship.   He called us to love one another, just as he loved us. 

He calls us to walk with those less fortunate.  To reach out with His love, grace, mercy and hope.  If we do otherwise, we miss opportunities to see Him reflected in those around us.  I have seen Jesus reflected in the lives of the poor, the needy, the addicted and the afflicted.  I have felt the presence of God as a homeless man poured out his heart beside me, sharing his struggles with addictions, fear and faith.  I have seen the heart of Jesus reflected in an addict who reaches out in concern for those around him.  I have seen the love of Jesus in the actions of  the one whom society steps over and ignores.

Yes we have the poor among us today.  We also have an opportunity to experience God’s love in a fresh and exciting way.  Let’s not miss Jesus.


Let's Get Real!

Life is hard and sometimes it feels like we are on the losing side.  It's hard to get on top of life's battles.  Discouragement and disillusionment seem to be nipping at our heals.  

Let's be honest...that sounds like a typical day for some of us!

This week I was encouraged by a Psalm of lament. 

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.  (Psalms 13:1-6)

There was a man who sounded like he was suffering and yet He trusted in the Lord, the one who restores his soul!

Here is another Scripture with a similar theme.

Habakkuk 3:17- 19, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

I remember sitting on my balcony in Croatia years ago.  I was in a bit of a funk and looking up, saw dark clouds rolling across the sky.  I decided to put down my feelings in a poem.  As I neared the end, the sky began to clear.

I Need Clear Skies 

I need clear skies
Lord, I need clear skies
I need a ray of hope
To start shining through

The winds are getting strong
Dark clouds are rolling in
And now the rain
The rain is coming down

Things don’t look good
A gloom is setting in
Help me Lord
Let it not affect my mood
Off in the distance
I see some brighter clouds
Oh please let them
Start to come my way

Finally here they come
Sunshine is on the way
The winds are calming
The rain has gone away

I see clear skies
Lord, I see clear skies
I see a ray of hope
It’s shining on my heart

I read that poem, thanks to translation via a Croatian friend, at an evening of poetry and song a few days later.  A lady came up to me afterwards and asked how long after I wrote the poem did I become a Christian.  I told her I wrote it last week!  She was stunned because she was not used to hearing Christians speak of discouragement and gloom.

In the midst of the storm, it is hard to keep our eyes on Jesus.  Distractions come to easily.  We lose our focus and look at the storm itself.  Yet it is only Jesus who can lift us up above the storm and calm the wind and the waves of life.

Sometimes my prayer is simply "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!"  (Mark 9:23-24)

The great thing about Jesus is He hears and answers those prayers as well!


I'm Broken!

“I’m Broken.”

After sobbing for 20 minutes, these were the only words that I could say to express the way I was feeling.  Broken.  I knew it was a lie, yet it was how I was feeling at the moment.  My wife, so wonderful through my long struggle with a head injury, continued to speak affirming words and prayed with me before we ended our phone call.

The day started off innocent enough, just going through the normal motions and doing my job.  What precipitated this emotional upheaval was looking back.  It has been 2 years since my 6th and most significant concussion.  After 18 months I finally felt like I was getting back to my “normal” self.  I was finally implementing all the tools I had been learning at the Brain Injury Association and had found a medicine that relieved some of my lingering post-concussion symptoms.  I had a good month and then, bang, concussion # 7 arrived.

Discouraged, emotional, tired, frustrated and sad would be just a few of the words I would use to describe the way I felt afterwards.  I thought I was finally hitting a stride, only to stumble and falter as I continued the race of recovery.  I made the mistake in the midst of this emotional upheaval of looking back at things I had written and done last year.  Where I thought I was doing well, I realize now I was not nearly as “recovered” as I had assumed.  I more “maintained” than anything else at work.  I made mistakes, simple mistakes that I should have caught, and began beating myself up.

As I returned to work, the Lord reminded me of a prayer I prayed a few years back.  I had been studying the passage of Scripture where Jacob wrestles with the Lord. (Gen. 32:22-32) He came away with a blessing and a limp.  I prayed that the Lord would take me deeper, whatever the cost and make me more dependent on Him.  Shortly after that, I acquired concussion 6 and then 7.  I have spent the last 2 years learning to cope and accept what has happened to me.  I saw the blessings in my situation.  Sarah and I had many a conversation about how God has used these concussions to change me for the better in my walk with Him and my relationships with others.  I have become more contemplative, reflective and still, listening in ways I never have before.  I have found a heart of compassion for those suffering with head injuries and mental health issues.

In all of that I have been blessed….but until recently, I ignored the limp.  I knew it was there but I never really “grieved” over what happened.  I have suffered a loss.  I have a “limp” called an acquired brain injury.  It hit me recently that I will, barring a healing from God, never be the same again.  Yet in that grief, I also see how I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)  Despite the loss, I am still a new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 5:17) Yes I have lost much, but I have gained so much more.  I can count all things as loss (Phil. 3:8) and look to Jesus Christ and Him crucified! (1 Cor. 2:2) I am honestly not ready to “rejoice” in my situation but I am ready to acknowledge God is still using, leading and guiding me.  Darkness may last for a night but there truly is joy in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5)

Night is ending and I see the cracks of dawn.

For now, I can rejoice in that.