They Were Made of Sterner Stuff


On the way to his first mission assignment, a fellow team member suffered the loss of his wife and child. Shortly after arriving, a European nurse died and his own wife gave birth to a still-born child while still en route to Burma (present-day Myanmar). Two years later, another child, their first son, died.

Three years later, another co-worker died. Two years after that the teammate whose wife and child had died at sea nine years before also died. Five years later, his own wife of 15 years died. Less than six months later, their daughter, Maria, died at the age of 2 years and 3 months old. For over a year, Adonirum Judson fought a dark depression.


Seven years late, Judson married a widow (Sarah Boardman), seven more years pass and she gave birth to a still-born son and another son, dies at 1 year 7 months of age. Four years later, his second wife dies as does yet another son at 1 year 6 months. In 1848, 36 years after leaving for the mission field, he returns to the United States at the age of 60 and married his third wife, Emily, who would die three years later of tuberculosis. Another son, by Emily, also dies in infancy. 

Through all of these losses, Judson labored on his translation of the Bible and of a Burmese-English Dictionary and completes his work in 1849. A year later, he dies of the tuberculosis (he has been fighting  it for years) aboard a ship while sailing on the Indian Ocean. Doctors had recommended the trip in hopes of clearing his lungs with the salt air. He was buried at sea in 1850, 11 years before the war between the States ravaged his home country.

“When Judson began his mission in Burma, he set a goal of translating the Bible and founding a church of 100 members before his death. By the time of his death, he had accomplished those goals and more: leaving the translated Bible as well as a half-completed Burmese-English dictionary, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers. In large part due to his influence, Myanmar has the third largest number of Baptists worldwide, behind the United States and India.” (Wikipedia)

I wonder how long Christians missionaries from the United States in our age would fare under similar circumstances? I wonder how long the pastors of America would fare? I wonder how long I would last given such soul-shaking losses? And the five paragraphs summarizing his life in this short post don’t come anywhere near to describing all of the difficulties and challenges Judson faced.

I am in awe.

I am in awe, not only of Judson but also of his Lord who sustained him and allowed him to complete his work and finish well. He who sustained Judson is the same God who can sustain you and me through all that we might endure before he takes us to be with Him.

“Lord, Rambo has nothing on this guy! Thank you for creating such men with such passion to endure for the gospel of the Kingdom. Would you raise up a new generation of such men from the soils of our churches? Lord,would you raise up men and women to follow in Judson’s footsteps and take the gospel to the world from Manchester Creek, and Trinity Church, and New Song/Compass Church (Bolingbrook) and all the churches it planted? Would You make me effective as a leader for Your glory and the joy of all people? For the glory of Your name. Amen.”

A Hymn Story for a Flawed Church

samuel-stone-hymn-writerA few weeks ago I went to the funeral for the mother of one of the elders of Trinity Church. The funeral itself was at Calvary Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Watseka. Pastor Don Love did a marvelous job but he was also helped by the marvelous funeral liturgy of his church and the genius of a hymn that was written in the 1860’s by Samuel J. Stone.

Today, verses 3 and 4 are almost never sung but they may be the most needed verses for the Church to reckon with in the present climate of our culture. Verse three talks about the Church being hated by the world but will prevail nevertheless because her Lord will not let her fail. 

Verse 4 speaks of the internal problems the Church faces because of her own frailty and hypocrisy as well as the doctrinal heresies with which she is sometimes beset. Its cry (verse 4) reminds the Church that it shall triumph yet and God will purify His bride in the end. It rings with a realistic hope that knows the Church is flawed but also that she is great.

Stone was born in England 100 years before WW II would break out in Europe. His father was a pastor, a Hebrew scholar, and an accomplished botanist. He also had a love of hymns and published a six-volume compilation. That love of hymns was picked up by his son who became a poet in his own right and followed him into the pastorate as well becoming a Church of England curate.

Wikipedia says that Stone also wrote “a set of hymns based on the Apostles’ Creed in 1866. He titled it, Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles’ Creed. ‘The Church’s One Foundation’ is based on the ninth article, The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints.”  

[I would love to see a collection of those hymns. That might be a good late night research project.]

Here are some other fun facts from the Wikipedia article on the Hymn itself:

In the 1941 film One Foot in Heaven, the song is featured in the final emotional scene.

Science Fiction author David Weber has used portions of The Church’s One Foundation as book titles for his Safehold series.

In 2013, a line from the hymn was given prominence in the landmark publication from Crossway: “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective” (eds. David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson), a multi-authored volume which defends the Christian doctrine of definite atonement.

The song also served as the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling‘s 1896 poem, Hymn Before Action.

1 The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her

To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

2 She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one Holy Food,
And to one Hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

3 The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

4 Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

5 ’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

6 Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s Hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

7 O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide! Amen

Here are two interesting versions of the song. The first is from what looks like an Indian church and is a good example of the second verse, “She is from every nation.” The second is a simpler version done by Indelible Grace. Enjoy.

The Church has but ONE foundation, Jesus Christ her Lord.

A Call to Worship

One of my favorite “guys” is Anselm (A.D. 1033-1109), an 11th Century follower of Christ. Here is a call to worship from his pen. I love how he encourages us to see ourselves with humility with his opening four words, ‘Come now, little man.” 

Stain Glass of Anselm

“Come now, little man,
turn aside for a while from your daily employment,
escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts.
Put aside weighty cares,
let your burdensome distractions wait.
Free yourself for awhile for God and rest awhile in Him.
Enter the inner chamber of your soul,
shut out everything except God
and that which can help you in seeking Him,
and when you have shut the door, seek Him.
Now, my whole heart, say to God,
‘I seek Your face,
Lord, it is Your face I seek.'”

Taken from Eerdman’s
Book of Favorite Prayers, a Treasury of Christian Prayers Through the Centuries.

I hope you will do this today. Why wait another day to seek the greatest lover in the universe?

How to Meditate on the Trinity

Ythe-valley-of-visionThe Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions is one of those works that is a model of meditation on the great doctrines of Christ. Edited by Arthur Bennett, each prayer is laid out in poetic formatting on just two pages. There are sections on:

I.    The Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2.   Redemption and Reconciliation
3.   Penitence and Deprecation
4.   Needs and Devotions
5.   Holy Aspirations
6.   Approach to God
7.   Gifts of Grace
8.   Service and Ministry
9.   Valediction 
10. A Week’s Shared Prayers
.             [broken into AM and PM]

It is a small book, easily fitting in a woman’s purse or the glove box of a man’s truck, but it is packed with 400 pages of daily helps to take your heart to the throne of grace. I highly recommend it. You can get it on Kindle for $5, or paperback for $13, or leather bound for about $23. A great buy at any of those prices. Here’s chapter 1 below.


Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered
my heart, implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.
Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, 
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace 
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;
O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace thou hast
.   exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
.   implanted faith within me,
.   subdued my stubborn heart,
.   made me one with him for ever.
O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,
O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,
O Holy Spirit, thou art willing  to help my infirmities,
to show me my need,
to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.
O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those things
that concern thy kingdom and my soul.
Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

“O happy day to be loved by the Father, washed by the Son and indwelt by the Spirit. Lord, make my heart rejoice in the wonder of both who You are and the grace You have given me both in my remaining time in Illinois and my future ministry in South Carolina. For the glory of Your Name, I ask it. Amen.”

Wolfhart Panneberg on What Is and Isn’t a Church

With special reference to issues related to same-sex marriage.

The following is from Kairos Journal. I will be busy packing and organizing to get our house on the market, but here is an article worth reading and thinking about. Tomorrow I will try to post on t…

Source: Wolfhart Panneberg on What Is and Isn’t a Church

The Tidal Wave Coming to the American Church

The Tidal Wave is coming. It may already be here. [Repost from 5 years ago.]

I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a tidal wave coming to the American Church. It is doctrinal in nature and unless pastors and church leaders are released from t…

Source: The Tidal Wave Coming to the American Church

When Repentance Isn’t Repentance


For the past five days, I have been meditating on this haunting text in Jeremiah 4. Three days ago I took a 16-mile ride with verses 1 and 2 echoing through my spirit as I rolled by farmers bringing in their soybeans and corn. Honestly, it was hard to get away from the first two lines. 

The implication of YHWH’s declaration/invitation is that there is a way of “returning” that is NOT a returning to God.

Is it possible that a people could be called to repent, hear that call, know that they needed to repent, begin to move in the direction of repentance, change their behavior in some discernable way, return to some more overtly “religious” patterns of devotion, think that they are somehow doing something good and yet, . . . it all be false, a turning that is for naught, unproductive, even counter-productive?

Listen to Jeremiah’s text. 

1 “If you return, O Israel,” declares the LORD,
.  “Then you should return to Me.
.   And if you will put away your detested things from My presence,
.   And will not waver,
2  And you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’
.   In truth, in justice and in righteousness;
.   Then the nations will bless themselves in Him,
.   And in Him they will glory.”
3  For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem,
.   “Break up your fallow ground, 
.   And do not sow among thorns.
4  “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD
.   And remove the foreskins of your heart,
.   Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
.   Or else My wrath will go forth like fire
.   And burn with none to quench it,
.   Because of the evil of your deeds.”

jeremiah-2The nation was far from God. Israel had turned from God and lived in idolatry, apostasy, and become hardened in heart toward both truth and justice and as a result, righteousness was not a high priority. As a judgment, God was about to send the nation into exile in Babylon. And He told them that when they returned to the land at the end of the exile it was imperative that they also return to Him. So even before they go into their 70-year exile, God pleads with Israel to repent and return to Him.

In fact, the whole chapter is an earnest plea for the nation of Israel to get serious about repentance. And that earnest plea seems particularly relevant not just for ancient Israel but for 21st Century America as well. And what would that look like? The second part of verse 1 tells us.

  • We will put away detestable practices to God.
    (That will require understanding what is detestable to Him).
  • We will not waver in our commitment to irradicate these things from our lives.
  • We will swear as God is our judge.

Just as with Israel, 2,600 years ago, God is calling His people to put away detestable practices and declare our allegiance to Him as our sovereign and only Lord.

He is calling us to put away anything that stands in the way of obeying Him. He is calling us to love truth, justice, and righteousness. He is calling us to swear by His name that we will live lives that are pictures to the world of an earnest pursuit of God, and His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Israel did not heed the call. 

Will the church of America in 2016?

Will you? Today?