Category Archives: Christianity

Free Seminar on Learning “God Speech”…Christian Prayer

Did you know that at its root, “theology” means “God speech”? I always thought theology meant “the study of God,” and that’s the common modern idea, but in the original Greek, “ology” is derived from “logos,”  meaning “word.”  Biology is the study of life, but it’s also “life words”…learning how to speak the language of life. Similarly, “theology” means learning to speak the language of God.

Do you know how to speak God words? To talk to God? To let him speak to you and respond back to him, the way I toddling child learns to speak to his father?

Starting today, Wednesday, February 27, 2017, my son Jonathan (who is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute) is beginning a series on prayer, and I wanted to let you know, just in case it might be interesting to you. For those of you who may not know, Jonathan’s great passion is to make Christian education available to anyone who wants it, regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to attend a traditional university for training. Moody has been wonderfully supportive in working on this vision with him. Here is the specific information:

 

 

 

Dear Friends of Aqueduct Project,

We are incredibly excited to invite you to a live lecture series on prayer that will take place on Wednesdays beginning this week, February 22, 2017! You can join in on this live event from anywhere in the world with a single click. Full details are available at the course landing page: http://aqueductproject.org/prayer-seminar/

We have assembled a teaching team of seven gifted and passionate students from Moody Bible Institute who will be delivering these lessons alongside me. Whether you are able to join us for only one lesson or whether you will be able to participate in the entire series, we hope that we will see you soon for this transformative experience!

No registration is required, and all lectures are free! If you have questions, please email Jack DePuy at jacob.depuy@moody.edu.

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17–18, ESV)

Yours,
Jonathan J. Armstrong, Ph.D.
President of Aqueduct Project

Rise Up, My Love (222): How Can We Reciprocate God’s Love for Us?

bread-and-wine-and-candlesSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.” So many of the sacred lessons I’ve learned from this book came during quiet times of meditation during our chapel’s weekly communion service. These next thoughts came as I pondered our text during one of those communion services. There were two questions on my mind. #1. The Lord gave his body as bread and wine to be broken and poured out for us…not only for our salvation, but for daily spiritual food and drink that we might have a spiritually abundant life of “feasting” on and with him. In return, what exactly (if anything) can we bring to him for the love feast? #2. What is the significance of “liquor” rather than wine, and “heap of wheat” rather than bread? The answer to the first question, is, I think, a resounding and thrilling, “Yes!” challah-bread-and-candle-10-15-16We can offer to our Lord what he has given us—our body, open and available for his delight. As a woman cannot produce offspring by herself, but rather by joyfully receiving her husband’s seed and allowing it to penetrate her being, spark new life, take root in her womb, and grow to fruition…even so can we delight our Lord by receiving with joy his living seed…the Word of God, and allowing it to penetrate our being until it sparks new life, which we allow to incubate within us…receiving our life blood of time, love, and spiritual resources until it comes to birth as a spiritual babe…to be suckled and brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is much harder than simply coming to the communion table each week and taking in all the Lord has provided for us, but if it is the longing of our heart to delight him as he delights us…this is the way, for he has told us the secret in this verse! To him, our navel is drink indeed, and our belly wheat. That in us which allows for spiritual reproduction is a spiritual feast for Christ. fresh-rolls-11-25-16Do you remember the account from the fourth chapter of John where the disciples leave a very weary Christ by the well and go into town to buy provisions? When they return and urge him to eat, what is his response? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John 4:32). The disciples…always thinking in physical terms…wondered if someone had brought him lunch. But, notice his reply; it had nothing to do with physical food. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:34-35). What had Jesus feasted on in the disciples’ absence? The joy of one sinner coming to faith in Christ…the refreshment of imparting living water to one fainting heart. What was his aspiration for his disciples? That they see the multitudes of people in need of salvation. Would you like to provide a love feast for your master? Open up your navel to be filled with the wine of the Spirit. Feast on the Bread of Life until your belly is as round and lustrous as a “heap of wheat set about with lilies”…filled with the Word, fragrant, and protected by purity. Allow yourself to become fruitful in producing spiritual offspring for your Lord. In this way, you will become a “love feast” to refresh your bridegroom!

Bucket List Special: The World’s Largest Waterfall—Victoria!

salto-angel-falls-by-paulo-capiotti-wikiAlthough Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest waterfall (3,230 feet), WasserfŠlle von Iguacuand Iguazú Falls  in Argentina and Brazil is the widest (8,858 feet), victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweVictoria Falls in Zambia is usually considered the largest waterfall in the world,victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-3 because—based on its combined width (5,604 feet) and height (354 feet)—victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-4it boasts the world’s largest sheet of falling water. monument-to-christian-explorer-dr-david-livingstone-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweEver since studying the life of David Livingstone as a teenager,
I’d dreamed of seeing this magnificent waterfall, and I was not disappointed! hiking-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweOn our tour of southern Africa last fall, we spent one long morning hiking the trail in Zimbabwe National Park facing Victoria Falls, victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-5and we had several hours to thrill over the beauty
of this magnificent natural wonder of the world. victoria-falls-rainbowAlthough we know it as “Victoria Falls,” so christened in honor of Queen Vic by the Scottish missionary doctor who first viewed the falls back in 1855,steam-rises-from-victoria-falls-on-the-zambezi-river the local name (in the Tonga language) is Mosi-oa-Tunya,
“The Smoke That Thunders.” victoria-falls-rainbow-fallsThere has been a devastating 20-year drought in this area,zambezi-river-and-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe so the waterfall has diminished into a series of falls along the Zambezi River,victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-9but that didn’t detract from my awe or pleasure one iota. victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-1We went on a sparkling, cloudless morning, alan-and-duncan-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweand our guide had us walk to the end and then meander back victoria-falls-rainbow-1 so we’d see all the rainbows from the eastern sun reflecting off the steamy spray. victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-2As we hiked along, I thought about how easy it was for me to walk this path…
but how hard it must have been for David Livingstone, the original pathfinder, who paved the way 150 years ago with his own blood, sweat, and tears. statue-of-cecil-rhodes-in-capetown-saIn the nations of southern Africa, many of the statues of Cecil Rhodes have been torn down, because he was a British imperialist who oppressed the people. plaque-honoring-david-livingstone-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweConversely, people still love David Livingstone, because he held “high Christian aims and ideals” and truly sought the welfare of the African peoples.

david-livingstone-by-frederick-havill-national-portrait-gallery-london-wiki-but-may-not-be-publishable-without-special-permissionIn fact, when Dr. Livingstone died (of malaria and internal bleeding from dysentery), his body was buried in Westminster Abby, London, but his heart was buried in Africa! He gave his life (blood, sweat and tears) to love and serve God

victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-7and man. It was his heart to end slavery and oppression… to set the captives free!thorns-in-front-of-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe Dr. Livingstone was a disciple of Christ,
who came to set us all free from oppression and slavery to sin.victoria-falls-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbzbweHave you been set free? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and other courageous people who have given their lives to share the Gospel? fisherman-near-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweAnd he [Jesus] saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). victoria-falls-from-zimbabweIf the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

(Photos of Angel Falls, Iguazú Falls, and the painting of Dr. Livingstone from the National Portrait Gallery in London are from Wiki. The rest are mine, taken on our recent trip to southern Africa.)

Do You Have An Epiphany To Celebrate?

adoration-of-the-magi-by-el-cgrco-1568-museo-soumaya-mexico-cityDo you celebrate Epiphany? I didn’t grow up knowing anything about it, but January 6 is celebrated by many Christians as Epiphany. The term Epiphany means “manifestation” and celebrates the revelation of God in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, who is called Immanuel, “God with us.” Epiphany is celebrated on “the twelfth day of Christmas” (the first day being Christmas Eve), and it’s the traditional date for the visitation by the wise men from the east, who worshiped Jesus and gave him gifts. nativity-by-lorenzo-lotto-1523-public-domain-in-usaOn Christmas Eve, we attended a service where the pastor mentioned that the story about the birth of Christ is really a story about bread: Jesus, the Bread of Life, came down from heaven to the little town of Bethlehem (whose name means “house of bread”) and was born in a manger (a feeding trough). The baby in the manger was really God coming to earth to save us from our sins. Communion (partaking of the bread and cup) is a celebration of our taking in Christ, the Bread of Life, and receiving eternal life through him. The fact that he was worshiped by the wise men and presented with kingly gifts was a testament to the world that Jesus is the king of all kings and worthy of worship. Now, that’s an epiphany worth celebrating! Are you?  the-adoration-of-the-magi-by-peter-papul-rubens-1633-1634-kings-college-chapel-cambridge-englandNow when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him...and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-2,9-11).

Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord?

Do You Know What You're Doing, Lord?Do you ever wonder what God is doing…and if He even knows what he’s doing? While visiting Jon and Linda to help out with their new baby, they held a big breakfast/ prayer meeting in their home to pray for the beginning of the school year…and really needs all around the world. While there, I met Carol Lee Anderson, who wrote “a jungle journey in search of God” called Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord? She and her husband, Neil, were missionaries for 34 years with Wycliffe, translating the Bible into the Folopa language for former cannibals in the jungles of Papau New Guinea…and learning how to love and minister to the needs of these people in numerous practical ways as well. Along the way, they had all sorts of adventures, including Carol’s developing a reaction to malaria medicine that almost killed her and plenty of encounters with “all spiders, great and small,” etc. In fact, they seemed to experience just about every imaginable scenario of raw life among a very remote tribe of precious but wild and woolly people.

Carol speaks with transparent candor and a wisdom only possible after you’ve “lived through the war” (so to speak) and have survived with grace rather than bitterness. Still, she’s retained great clarity of memory and openly describes her failures and flounderings along the way as she struggled to live out what she believed to be God’s call in her life. Or…was it?? Or, was she mistaken? Or, did He really know what he was doing? Carol deals very effectively with the inevitable doubts that come to those who attempt to follow God by doing those impossibly difficult tasks that can only be done through supernatural grace.

I think this book would be especially valuable to anyone considering the mission field, but I also found it inspirational reading for myself. Missionaries are sort of like the marines of Christian living, although rather than “the few, the proud, and the brave,” they are “the few, the humble, and the brave.” Thank you to every Christian missionary who leaves home and family to carry the love of Christ to others. May you be blessed, safe, and live to continue ministering to others even into older age, as Carol and Niel are continuing to do.

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

 

Celebrating the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers

IMG_6153Last week my son Jonathan was in Bangkok as one of 3,000 evangelical Christian leaders from 120 different countries attending a world congress on theological education, and I was so thrilled hearing about it that I wanted to share a little of what’s happening with you. Did you know that around the world there are about 50,000 people converting to Christianity every day? That sounds like an incredible number, until you consider that the world population is growing by 200,000 per day, and that 31.5% of the world’s population are Christian. So, despite the huge numbers, Christian growth is not keeping pace with world population growth. Nevertheless, the central issue addressed at the Global Proclamation Congress is how to care for the needs of the staggering numbers of daily converts. How can they be nurtured in their faith and receive the pastoral care they need? IMG_6105During the intensive week (Jon was gone from his hotel room 7am-10pm daily!), there were plenary sessions where keynote speakers such as Ramesh Richards (from Dallas Theological Seminary) pastored the pastors by teaching, sharing stories (many of martyrdoms occurring every day), and encouraging communication and prayer support among the attendees. There were also many round-table discussions and seminars. IMG_6058Jonathan (Dr. Armstrong) presented on “Extending the Reach of the Traditional Seminary Classroom,” a concept he’s been working on incessantly in recent years. Jon said that 19 men signed up for his seminar, but it generated so much enthusiasm that they asked for a second meeting, which Ramesh Richards spontaneously announced to the entire assembly, and for that meeting 190 seminary presidents and senior administrators gathered! Long story short, Jonathan has been supercharged to continue his efforts to make global theological education within the reach of any person who desires to grow in grace, and he’s been using the internet as a major means of making such teaching available. IMG_6160Jon said the language barrier at the congress was probably the biggest challenge. Each plenary session was immediately translated into 11 of the most major languages, but just being able to communicate effectively is a huge problem. At any rate, Jon came home very excited about how to meet the overwhelming needs of the Christian church today, but he also feels great hope, as he saw God working in many miraculous ways. (Just one example: Two imprisoned Nepalese pastors were prayed for—and liberated—during the conference and able to fly in to attend before it ended!)IMG_6041 Jon is taking up the task of writing to those 190 interested in his seminar, praying through how in the world they can stay in touch and help each other work out the problems associated with Christian growth. As he wrote in his last news letter: “The lesson in all of this for me is that prayer really does move mountains. ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26; ESV). What are the places in our lives and circles of influence where we believe God would like to see us live and serve differently? It’s time we start identifying these impossible asks and take them straight to God in prayer.”

Beyond his role teaching at Moody, Jonathan started the Aqueduct Project in 2009, where his goal is to make Christian teaching available to all. If you think you might be interested in getting involved, either in learning or in teaching, please check out his website at http://aqueductproject.org/

IMG_6129Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Rise Up, My Love (189): Responding to Rejection

Forget-me-nots at Giverny. France. 05.09.16Song of Solomon 6:1 “Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.” In discussing this last week, please understand that I didn’t mean to suggest we should never accept the comfort of human sympathy! God has given most of us human resources for love and fellowship. Most of us have human parents, and eventually most of us have a human spouse. These are wonderful “God-with-skin-on” comforters in pain…so long as we keep our priorities straight and recognize them as emissaries from God…not as a replacement for God!   Also, God often sends brother-to-brother, or sister-to-sister help.

God has given us some appropriate human resources for help, but he should always be first, and he will also be last. But, what about the times when our legitimate human support systems fail? What about the times when “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). For most of us, those times do come. For the bridegroom, that surely might have been the cry of his heart after his wife rejected him. What then? Then, turn again to God as David did! “I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5). Do not give in to the temptation to find an illegitimate surrogate relationship. If your parents fail you, turn to God and learn to love your parents in spite of their failures. If your spouse fails you, don’t just look for a new spouse! Turn to God and let him teach you how to love through him. If your friends fail you, don’t just look for new friends, turn to your truest, best friend, and let him make you the best friend anyone could have. Learn to love. Learn to forgive. Learn to persevere. Find your refuge and strength in God. Is that what the bridegroom did? Or, did the bridegroom turn aside with some other woman? Let’s read on and find out!

6:2 “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.” What exactly does that poetic alliteration mean? I think there is no passage in all of Scripture that more beautifully pictures God’s heart of love and forgiveness towards us. The bride herself is his garden: “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse” (Song 4:12). Where did the bridegroom go? He did not go to the arms of another woman. He waited for her to come to him. How did she find him? We’re not told, but it’s as if her expressions of praise…her witnessing to others of his graces… and the deep longings of her heart to find him transport her directly into his presence. Oh, dear friend, have you longed to find Christ again? Was there a time when your heart burned with love and zeal…until an hour came when he asked you to do something and you said, “No.” Did he slip away ever so quietly, without a fight or word of rebuke, but suddenly you felt yourself terribly alone and unable to find him again? Do you want to know how to find him again? “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord” ((Jeremiah 29:13-14). We will find him when we believe he’s worth finding. When we believe in him and search for him with our whole heart…when we’ve learned that nothing is as important to us as his fellowship…when we stop saying “no” to him and say “yes!” When we’ve laid everything on the altar—every hope, every dream, every object of our love…then we’ll find him again. We’ll find him when we’ve learned to confess Christ such that others long to find him too. When we become as impetuous as a torrent in our love…so that our hearts surge and swell like a flood, carrying along everyone we meet…then all our communion with him will be restored! Such was the force of the bride’s love. Her own life no longer mattered. All she wanted was him, and suddenly—she was with him again!