Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Monday, November 30, 2020
Monday, November 23, 2020
I'm taking a week off from the blog for the holiday, so new posts will resume on Monday, Nov. 30. If you'd like to follow along with my family and our church in the meantime, you can check out our calls to prayer (short, encouraging videos posted each evening) at facebook.com/calaisbaptist. Happy Thanksgiving!
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Whose love forever is the same:
Amid ten thousand snares we stand,
Supported by Thy guardian hand;
And see, when we review our ways,
Ten thousand monuments of praise.
Let us not murmur or complain
At what Thy wisdom shall ordain;
Accept our thanks for mercies past,
And be our guide while life shall last.
Preserve us by Thy favor still,
And fit us for Thy sacred will.
- lines derived from No. 536 & 539 of the Augustine Hymn Book, 19th century
Friday, November 20, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. – Matthew 22:21b
- The Baptists emerged out of the Puritan movement in England in the early 1600s (and from its offshoot, Congregationalism), with a bit of influence from the Anabaptists of Holland.
- The story of Baptists is not a story of any individual “heroes,” but the story of whole congregations. The first Baptist church was a congregation from England who, because of religious pressure, fled to Holland and adopted believers’ baptism.
- Puritans emerged from mainstream Anglicanism partly by saying that individual piety, not simply participation in the sacraments, is the mark of a true Christian.
- Congregationalists emerged from Puritanism by rejecting the principle of a church hierarchy, instead investing authority in the local church.
- Baptists distinguished themselves from Congregationalists by rejecting the parish system in favor of having a church membership composed only of people who demonstrate the marks of a true Christian life, and also by rejecting infant baptism and arguing for the separation of church and state.
- Roger Williams was a minister who emigrated to New England and, in the 1630s, protested against the Congregationalist associations with the state in Massachusetts Bay Colony. He founded the city of Providence, Rhode Island, and built the first Baptist church in North America there. He was also an early advocate for the rights of Native Americans and African slaves.
- The Freedom of the Local Church – Every local church is a full representation of the whole Church, with all the spiritual gifts and authority designated to the whole. Thus the local church has authority to read and interpret Scripture, to manage its own property and ministries, and to organize its own practice of faith. It is not beholden to any church hierarchy above it, though it should maintain voluntary associations with other churches for the purpose of mutual edification and for the pursuit of wider ministries. The church is also free from any interference from the state in its organization, practice, and doctrine.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
"If we would exercise a true fortitude, we must do all in the spirit of devotion, be valiant against the corruptions of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of the devil. For to be daring and courageous against these enemies is the noblest bravery that a human mind is capable of."
- William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
Over my first few days in Sudan, Ernest and Aaron introduced me to the project I would be working on. As it turned out, I was going to be more independent than I had envisioned. Ernest and Aaron were hard at work setting up their medical aid and development agency, and Anne was involved with teaching English in a nearby school, but I would be on my own, doing a project for which I only felt marginally qualified. I was going to put together a bilingual dictionary that English-speakers could use to learn Sudanese Arabic. The only trouble was that I did not know Sudanese Arabic, and yet here I was being asked to write a dictionary for the language. (It’s a dialect different enough from modern standard Arabic to require some extra resources, and the only existing dictionary was an antiquated British one from the colonial days.)
But I did have a few skills I could bring to bear. The focus of my undergraduate degree was in linguistics, and I had been trained by members of the linguistics organization mentioned above—a group which pioneered the production of dictionaries, grammars, literacy resources, and Bible translations all around the world. In terms of practical, on-the-field ethnographic-linguistic research, this organization outpaces all other academic or evangelistic linguistic efforts in the world, and by a wide margin. Much of my work in Sudan would also be done in contact with the small handful of their workers based in Khartoum, all of whom were excited about the prospect of a much-needed Sudanese Arabic dictionary. I was proud to be working alongside them, since my own parents’ missionary work in Brazil had been done with the same organization.
I was given the use of two computers—the old office computer at the Catholic Language Institute, and a used desktop unit that Ernest was able to procure for me to use at home. With these, my job was to plug in a computer program that I had brought with me into the country—a basic dictionary-maker called Shoebox, which had been used by linguists and ethnographers all over the world. Then I had to figure out how to make the program run, learning Unicode computing along the way so I could manage the input of Arabic characters. Beyond the computer tasks, I was to compile wordlists from a broad circle of Sudanese contacts and expatriate workers, and then input the data, careful keystroke by careful keystroke, into the growing dictionary database.
The main characters in this work, beyond my own team, included two British Bible translators, who had spent many years in the southern parts of the country, and two workers at the Catholic Language Institute—Father Pierre, a stooped, graying old priest who exuded a sense of patient pleasure everywhere he went, and Lucia, a Dutch woman who taught Arabic classes to other expats. Most of my work revolved around the Catholic Language Institute of Khartoum, a maroon building just a stone’s throw from the Saudi embassy in Amarat, across the main road from my home area of Diems. I got used to walking back and forth between the two suburbs, making my commute by foot every day (about half an hour’s walk). It involved crossing the wildly-weaving traffic of the main thoroughfare, which was sometimes a hair-raising experience (I only almost died once), but on the whole it was a pleasant stroll. Dressed in the normal clothes of daily life—sandals, slacks, and a button-up shirt with the cuffs rolled back—I walked back and forth across the sandy streets, stopping every now and then to practice my greetings with the fuul merchants along the way.
It was there at the institute—affectionately called CLIK—that our meeting to launch the dictionary project took place. Ernest and Aaron were there, as were the two British missionaries, along with Father Pierre and Lucia. We talked a bit about word lists (they had some 2000 pieces of linguistics data already assembled for me to input), about whether to use American or British English in parallel with Sudanese Arabic, and about who else I should contact for more information. And as I was talking in that meeting, I happened to mention the name of the linguistics organization, unaware that saying it out loud would be a problem. But I felt chastened when Father Pierre popped up, rushed over, and locked the doors.
In one sense, the work I was going to do looked kind of boring—manually inputting thousands of items of linguistic data into a computer program. There certainly wasn’t anything illegal in producing this dictionary, which would likely end up being as much use to the Sudanese government as to missionaries. But in another sense, it suddenly took on shades of excitement and intrigue. I was going to spend the next few months conducting meetings with workers whose affiliations were closely-guarded, and whose patient, stalwart work for the good of Sudan was something that had to be done in the shadows. I might be walking in the bright sunlight from Diems to Amarat every day, but the work that I did was something that could not yet be spoken in the open air.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” – John 15:14-17
- Bradford, like the rest of the Mayflower pilgrims, was a “separatist”—a small branch of the Puritan movement which thought it was better to separate completely from the Church of England than to try to purify it from within. They were thus viewed as more radical than the later Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- In drafting the Mayflower Compact before leaving ship, this small church family became the first group of European settlers in America to declare themselves a self-governing body.
1603 – King James I takes the throne of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Contrary to the Puritans’ hopes, not only does he refuse to push through any new reforms of the Church of England, he declares that he will deal harshly with its radical critics. This could mean fines, imprisonment, or even death for dissenters.
1607 – Under the threat of government persecution, the little church begins to meet secretly in Scrooby Manor, the home of William Brewster, led by Pastor John Robinson. After being caught, fined, and imprisoned, they decide to look for a way to leave England.
1608 – After several mishaps, including having an English sea captain betray them to the authorities, they finally manage to book passage to Holland. 18-year-old Bradford goes along.
1609 – The Scrooby congregation settles in the Dutch town of Leiden, though most are forced to do menial jobs in poor conditions. Bradford has to live in an area known as “Stink Alley.”
1613 – Bradford, now having gained an inheritance from his family, marries Dorothy May in a civil ceremony (not in a religious ceremony, because “church weddings” aren’t in the Bible).
1617 – The Bradfords have their first child, John. But the Scrooby congregation is now considering leaving Holland, distressed that their young people are growing up Dutch instead of English, and surrounded by the worldly temptations of the tolerant 17th-century Dutch society.
1620 – They make arrangements to settle the northern part of Virginia Colony, and hire two ships to take them. One, the Speedwell, has to turn back, so all 130 passengers have to cram together in the 100-foot Mayflower for a two-month journey over rough seas. The Bradfords have to leave their three-year-old son behind in Holland. They make landfall in November, but don’t come to their final spot at Plymouth until December of 1620. Realizing that they were well north of their chartered location, they drafted their own Mayflower Compact as a political constitution. Dorothy Bradford dies while William is away on an exploratory scouting mission.
1620s and beyond – The Plymouth colony faces a number of ongoing challenges: violence from tribes opposed to the Wampanoags, disrespect from the new Puritan settlers at Massachusetts Bay, the settlement of non-religious Englishmen in their midst, and a growing rebellion among the younger generation against the values of their parents.
“But though this had been a night of much hardship and danger, God gave them a morning of comfort and refreshment, as He usually doth to His children.”
“It was to the astonishment of many and almost to the wonder of the world, that from so small a beginning such great things should ensue - as in due time was manifested; and that there should be resting place for so many of the Lord's people here, when so sharp a scourge had come upon their own nation. But it was the Lord's doing, and it ought to be marvelous in our eyes.”
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Hear what God the Lord hath spoken,
"O my people, faint and few,
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you.
Thorns of heartfelt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways:
You shall name your walls 'Salvation,'
And your gates shall all be 'Praise.'
Ye no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But your griefs forever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o'er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the Lord, shall be your glory,
God your everlasting light."
- William Cowper, "The Future Peace and Glory of the Church," (vv.1, 3), Olney Hymns
Monday, November 09, 2020
Some wisdom from the ancient Stoic philosophers, on how to deal with unfair criticism:"Does another do me wrong? Let him look to it. The disposition was his and the activity was his." - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5:25
"If you learn that someone is speaking ill of you, don't try to defend yourself against the rumors; respond instead with, 'Yes, and he doesn't know the half of it, because he could have said much more!'" - Epictetus, Enchiridion 33:9
"Remember from now on whenever something tends to make you unhappy, draw on this principle: 'This is no misfortune; but bearing with it bravely is a blessing.'" - Epictetus, Fragment 28b
Monday, October 26, 2020
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I'm taking a couple weeks off my normal blog-posting schedule. I'll try to resume normal posts on Monday, Nov. 9. In the meantime, you can check out my church's Facebook feed at facebook.com/calaisbaptist, which includes a daily inspirational video post from me and my family.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Friday, October 23, 2020
Thursday, October 22, 2020
- Richard Baxter (1615-1691, pictured above) was one of the leading Puritan pastors in England. He reformed the practice of ministry in and around his parish of Kidderminster. His most famous book, The Reformed Pastor, describes this process. He gained tremendous influence during the English Civil War but largely failed to bring unity among the divided Christians of England. He spent much of his career suffering intermittent persecution and imprisonment.
- John Bunyan (1628-1688, pictured right) was a member of the Puritan nonconformist movement that would come to be known as “Baptists.” As a young man, he was tortured by an uneasy conscience and became convinced of his wretchedness as a sinner. It was this feeling of spiritual desperation that led him to a group of Baptists led by the pastor John Gifford. Bunyan took over the pastorate from Gifford, and became famous as a pastor and writer. He is the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most widely-published books in history, and several other important works, including his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
- The King James Bible, though it later became beloved, was originally composed, at least in part, as an anti-Baptist Bible (Baptists, and some other Puritans of the time, preferred the Geneva Bible).
- The Puritan colony at Massachusetts Bay was one of the most highly-educated, literate societies in the world. Within a few years of its establishment, they founded Harvard College.
- The early Puritans in Massachusetts, in contrast to many other settlers, wanted to evangelize and do good to the Native Americans. They considered their colony a “city on a hill,” an experiment in holiness which the whole world was watching.
“I preached as never sure to preach again, as a dying man to dying men.” - Richard Baxter
“Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in a man’s life than in the Bible.” - Richard Baxter
“There are no virtues wherein your example will do more, at least to abate men’s prejudice, than humility and meekness and self-denial.” - Richard Baxter
“Unity in things necessary; liberty in things unnecessary; and charity in all.” - Richard Baxter
“One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner.” – John Bunyan
“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” – John Bunyan
“Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and careless spirit, will cost no great difficulties; but to set yourself before the Lord, and to tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him: this will cost you something.” – John Flavel
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Monday, October 19, 2020
"Why are good people afflicted with hard times and calamities?... So that the human spirit may be proved, and that the strength of faithful trust and selfless love with which it cleaves to God may be shown."
- Augustine, from his book City of God (I.9)
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Lord, if judgments now are waking,
Let not Thy compassions sleep,
But, while earthly thrones are shaking,
Firm and free Thy kingdom keep.
Jesus, hear us; be Thou near us,
When the storm shall o'er us sweep.
Friday, October 16, 2020
The first one will be a reworked version of a project that I initially presented here on this blog. My pilgrimage book, Wings over the Wall, is going to be released by North Wind Publishing, based right here in Maine. It's a part-devotional, part-memoir account of my trip to Israel (with a fair bit of birding thrown in), which invites readers to join me on a reflective journey through the life of Jesus.
The second one is still in the works, and I don't feel comfortable sharing too much until all the details are in place, but I'm very excited about it. It will be a theology book, my first work to be accepted by a major, internationally-recognized academic publisher, and it will expand on some of the material that I've been working through during my "royal priesthood" series of midweek Bible studies.
I don't yet know the timetables for when these books will be available (for the second one it will likely be more than a year away, and perhaps two). But I'll keep you all updated. Thanks for reading along!
Thursday, October 15, 2020
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
- Lancelot Andrewes’ main impact in his own day was through his sermons and his advocacy for a church polity that supported the rule of monarchical law in England. Today, he is largely appreciated for his “Private Devotions,” which were published and which have come to be regarded as a spiritual classic.
- His greatest legacy, however, is as one of the “directors” of the translation team that produced the King James Version.
|(The KJV Bible presented to King James)|
Ministry – Andrewes took his ministry quite seriously. He refused to give in to the corruption so common in clergy of his time, turning down prestigious new positions if they came with strings attached. He preached courageous sermons against corruption at the royal courts. Despite his busyness, he always took time to counsel his parishioners, even at a moment’s notice.
Devotion – Andrewes began every day by spending five hours in prayer, nearly as much time as he gave to his scholarship and to the administration of his ministerial duties. His “Personal Devotions” continue to inspire many today. The private chapel where he prayed became so widely known as a place of remarkable holiness that many people asked to be buried there.
- As such, it was invested with a majestic tone and terminology which avoided thorny theological issues.
- The KJV was produced by a network of scholars (some of them good and saintly Christians, but some of them more politically-minded and a few even dissolute) operating in different translation teams over a period of almost a decade. It used a highly bureaucratic method of correspondence about every line of text until an agreement could be reached on terminology and phrasing. The translators began by consulting the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available to them at the time in an attempt to make the new translation faithful to the original, inspired documents. (However, they did not have access to the best and earliest manuscripts, which we are now able to consult, and many of the translators were better acquainted with classical Greek than with the koine Greek of the New Testament.) They also consulted previous English translations, hoping to make the KJV acceptable to both the Puritans (who preferred the “Geneva Bible” translation) and the high-church advocates (who used the official “Bishop’s Bible” translation). The KJV translators ended up borrowing heavily from the phraseology of William Tyndale’s earlier translation.
- Interestingly, the KJV did not win immediate acceptance or popularity. Even some of its own translators continued to use their preferred versions (Andrewes, for example, continued to preach from the Geneva Bible). It was only after the English Civil War, after people moved on from the messy political and religious squabbles from which the KJV was born, that it was widely taken up. It became especially valued as a formative text in the new American colonies. Though many new translations can now be more faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew texts because of more widely available resources, new translations have struggled to match the compelling power of the majesty and beauty of the KJV’s prose.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Monday, October 12, 2020
"There is no power like that of prevailing prayer... It turns ordinary mortals into men and women of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life."
- Samuel Chadwick, author and pastor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Lord of all power and might,
You who are the Author,
You who are the Giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your name;
Increase in us true faith,
Nourish us in all goodness,
And by your great mercy,
Keep us ever in your grace;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Friday, October 09, 2020
Oddly enough, as I sat there with the threat of deportation or imprisonment looming over me, I didn’t feel worried at all. There was a deep sense of peace that had rested on me from the moment I was waved over into the official’s office; I can only attribute it to the many prayers that were said in my behalf from friends back home.
It was about half an hour later that a tall, big-bellied man with a broad smile sauntered into the airport, papers in hand. He was gregarious and self-possessed, and the customs officials all seemed to know him and to be on quite friendly terms with him. He grinned at me, waved, and then came up to shake my hand.
“Good evening and welcome to Sudan!” he beamed. “My name is Ali, and I am your travel agent here in Khartoum. I must apologize for not being here sooner, but I was stuck in traffic.”
This was a ridiculous excuse, and we both knew it—there are no midnight traffic jams in Khartoum—but it was clearly a polite cultural way to save face and pass smoothly over any disagreements. No doubt he had forgotten about my arrival, had gone to bed, only to be roused by a desperate phone call from my team leader Ernest.
But I didn’t mind; I was happy to have him there. He had documents in hand, and we went back into the corner office and breezed through the applications. Ali was cracking jokes in Arabic the whole way through, and whenever he told me to get out some cash to pay this or that entry fee, I did exactly as he said. Within just a few minutes, my passport was festooned with brightly-colored Arabic stickers, and they waved me through without even the compulsory check of my one piece of luggage. The customs agents just grinned and shook their heads at Ali’s jokes, slapped some yellow stickers on my suitcase to show (falsely) that it had passed inspection, and handed it over to me.
This was one of my first introductions to dealing with bureaucracy in Africa, as done by its expert practitioners—have money ready, keep smiling, and, above all, know the right people. So, with many prayers answered, I stepped out as a legal foreign worker into the hot, dry midnight air of Khartoum.
Ernest was outside the airport, waiting for me beside his car. He was a tall European fellow with blond hair. Looking back on it now, he was young to be a team leader in a place like that—in his late twenties, or thirty at most—but to me at twenty-one, he was enough my senior that I never gave it a second thought. The tenor of his voice in welcoming me betrayed the fact that he had experienced more than a bit of worry while pacing around his car. It was only when I met him, shook his hand and noticed the nervous quaver in his voice, that I truly realized what a dangerous situation I might have just been in a few minutes before.
He drove me through the dark, empty streets into a suburb called Diems, where our team made its home, and left me to sleep the remainder of the night in the house of Aaron and Anne, two young missionaries who were also from Europe. I was really too tired at that point to form much of an impression of them—I was grateful to be done with my journey, and to be in a safe place where I could sleep. Their house was built around a small inner courtyard, as many Sudanese homes are, and they led me to a little room just to one side, where I found a cot, crawled under its dusty mosquito net, and went to sleep.
I awoke a few hours later to the sight of sunlight streaming through the barred window of the room, and the wild, careening cry of “Allahu akhbar!” sounding from the loudspeakers of the mosque next door.