Wednesday, November 25, 2009

some reasons why i am a christian

Later today I head off for my first ever visit to Papua New Guinea where we will be launching the work of Langham Preaching. More than 100 pastors and leaders will be gathering from around the country... This follows visits to Thailand (2x), Solomon Islands, Pakistan, China, Uganda, India, Singapore, and Cambodia. What a year it has been - and there have been a few highlights along the way...

#1 Seeing the Word of God in different translations
One of the reasons why I am a Christian is God's commitment to incarnation. It started with Jesus but it continues in his delight with translation. Thai, Pidgin, Urdu, Mandarin, Khmer. There is nothing the living God wants to say to any people that cannot be said in the words of their own everyday language. It leaves this white middle-aged caucasian male humbled and hopeful...

#2 Savouring the salvation of God among the peoples of the world
One of the reasons why I am a Christian is that our founder is not just a teacher who expected people to follow him, he is the saviour who died for them. As Tim Keller expresses it, the founders of other religions tend to say 'Do this and you will find the divine', while Jesus says 'I am the divine come to you, to do what you could not do for yourselves'. The immediate bond which forms among very different people simply because they have an experience of salvation in common is a perennial heart-softening, tear-inducing experience for me. Like it was with Mercy and Frank and Barbara in Kampala after just eight hours together...

#3 Glimpsing the potential of L*angham P*rntership International in the mission of God
One of the reasons why I am a Christian is that our Leader delights in using each one of us in his mission. He does not need to have the rich and the powerful on his side. He is not dependent on celebrity endorsement. He has no difficulty working with weakness - in fact, "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable". It is so cool. We all have a role to play. Every person. Every local church. Every mission organisation. As for me - I will be forever grateful for this privilege of working with LPI. For years I have marveled at the potential there must be in its Scholars and Literature and Preaching programmes working in concert with each other and then in partnership with churches and colleges and mission groups in a given country. Now I have seen it. I have been in countries where such concerted and partnered activity, under God's gracious hand, could transform whole countries over a decade or two. It is that strategic.

And on a more personal note...
Thirty years ago this week (I left Auckland Airport the morning after the Erebus disaster, as the tragic news was filtering-through) I flew to the USA in pursuit of my own call into global mission. None of this riding on the coat-tails of my parents' call for me! I was headed for the Urbana Student Missions Convention along with 17,000 others. But God had other ideas for me. Each morning I found myself glued to the expository ministry of one John Stott. And I knew that I knew that God was calling me to a ministry of biblical preaching. Over the years, through the various vocational shifts here in New Zealand, I have tried to be faithful to this call.
And now, thirty years later, where do I find myself? In a global mission organisation founded by John Stott nurturing the work of biblical preaching! One of the reasons why I am a Christian is the aspiration which is fanned into flame when I consider some of God's choicest saints who have gone before - like John Stott. Their lives whisper to me "follow my example, as I follow Christ's."

[As a postscript it was at Urbana where I held Barby's hand for the first time - while listening to Billy Graham. Go on - beat that story, if you dare!. Barby reminded me last night that she was at the time the same age as our younger daughter, Bethany. GULP?! Ahhh, the same child who bought a John Stott book - Basic Christianity - at a TSCF student conference last week. "Ata girl! You know you want it!" Don't dare tell her but the best John Stott book of them all - The Cross of Christ - will arrive in the mail for her birthday while I am in PNG.]

nice chatting

Paul

2 comments:

Tim & Lizzy said...

All the best in PNG Paul. So many languages makes it so hard, i'm sure, but also so rewarding seeing the church work together.

Good to see you last week briefly - glad you could make it.

And as for Bethany's Basic Christianity - great to meet her, and always happy to sell Stott :) Interestingly, maybe in the providence of God, she did want Cross of Christ but we were sold out!

Jade Stanger said...

I have often been amazed the way Jesus draws such diverse people together. I have perceived it to be the power of the Holy Spirit and it has warmed my heart to witness this.

I went to a wedding today held at my old church, I was proud of myself that it was the ones closer to the social fringe who came up to me and said Hi. I must have cared for them that they wanted to greet me after not seeing me for a long time. I love it how God wants to meet us. I love it how he is not just for the elite.

It's cool how people in ministry are often so counter cultural by making sacrifices to do what they do. But it's Ok cos Jesus made sacrifices.

I love your story of holding Barby's hand for the first time with in the presence of Billy Graham and that is pretty much an unbeatable story. I just remembered the other day at Samantha's house sharing a meal around a table. Bethany to the right of me, we joined hands as we talked to Jesus that was cool ;-)