Category Archives: Inspiration

What’s the Aqueduct Project?

Thank you to my many Facebook friends who hit the “Like” button in support of Aqueduct Project’s new Facebook page. I also got a number of messages and questions asking about both the Aqueduct Project and my son, Jonathan, so this morning I want to share just a little bit about what’s going on.  Jonathan (Dr. Armstrong) accepted a new position with Moody Bible Institute, who are very graciously allowing him to develop a “Center for Global Christian Theological Education” (which he refers to as C-GATE).   This center will be based in Chicago, so they sold their home in Washington State and have moved back to the Midwest. Jonathan has also been given a sabbatical for research and writing, so after a wonderful visit with us this summer, Jon and his family have gone to Germany for the fall semester (which is his wife, Gerlinde’s, homeland). They will rejoin us for Christmas and then go on to Chicago to look for a place to live. The new center will open at the beginning of January, 2018.

Last night, I got a wonderfully encouraging call from one of my Facebook friends, who directs a Bible school in New Delhi and is interested in materials from this new program (which will be a coordinated effort on Jon’s part, orchestrated both through Moody and the Aqueduct Project). Right now, the program is in the developmental stages, but the goal is to be able to provide high-quality evangelical Christian training wherever around the world there is a desire to learn about the Bible. Jon has been producing lectures and developing a network of resources for several years now, so a limited amount of training is already available, but this should exponentially increase in the next few years.

From this mother’s viewpoint, I think Jon’s passion started as a young teenager, when we visited China together and he saw the great need for teaching in the churches there. Back in the 1990’s, I believe the Chinese Christian church had become the largest in the world, with thousands of people coming to Christ each day but precious little scripture to read. Beyond that, there is the challenge of reaching the global Church, many of whom live in countries where financial constraints make college-level courses an impossible dream even if they are available in some of the largest cities.

Moody Bible Institute is enabling Jonathan to partner with them in trying to meet this overwhelming need!  Here’s a note from his last adventure two weeks ago: “I attended on Saturday the graduation ceremony of 281 Ghanaian pastors who completed Moody Bible Institute’s experimental certificate program. This is an experimental program for which audio recordings of Moody theology classes have been translated into the local language by a Ghanaian ministry partner. These translated courses are then uploaded onto solar-powered audio-players and distributed for free to students. This system allows us to conduct a form of theological education in extremely remote locations (where there is no electricity or internet, and perhaps most amazingly, even where there is no literacy!).”  As a believer with a heart to “go into all the world” with the joyful gospel of redemption, peace and good will that God desires for all men, this thrills my soul no end! If you’re a Christian, would you please pray with us for wisdom and grace as Jon moves forward with the development of resources for the global church community? If you have a lifetime of study and experience in the ministry and would consider contributing study materials that you’ve generated over the years, would you please let me know? If you’re interested in participating in learning yourself, or in helping develop a study group in your area for fellowship and learning (since education is much more enjoyable when there are real, live people with whom to discuss issues and think about things), please let me know that too! Or, go directly to The Aqueduct Project Facebook page, or connect directly with the Aqueduct Project through their website: https://aqueductproject.org/

Sometime after January 1, there will also be more ways to connect via C-GATE (Center for Global Theological Education) at Moody in Chicago, IL (America).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

 

Rise Up, My Love (247): Up Early

Song of Solomon 7:12 “Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.” Have you ever had orange juice that was fresh-squeezed from the trees outside your door? I have on a few very rare occasions. The first time was at a bed and breakfast overlooking the pounding Pacific coast. That breakfast, with its array of home made delights, will ever live in my memory! This verse, with its promise of sweetness at the end of labor, makes me think of such a feast. Let’s look at each phrase and squeeze out the bursting goodness, as if we’re making our own refreshing glass of orange juice.

“Let us get up…” You can’t “get up” unless you’ve been lying down. The couple had been enjoying the communion of love and rest, but the wife now understands that relaxation and refreshment are for the purpose of restoring energy for labor. Jesus went apart to pray, but always with the purpose of strengthening himself for the stresses and strains of physical ministry and spiritual warfare.

As frail humans, it is often said that we must come apart sometimes, or we will fall apart! When our youngest son, Joel, was a child, he had rechargeable batteries for his little hand-held computer games. One night he was so tired that he sighed, “I wish I could get plugged in and be recharged too.”

“Let us get up…” We’ve been recharged by drinking from the wells of living love and a restful season of sleep…now let us get up and go! Getting up is ever hard work; it’s an uphill battle! How easy it would be to pull a dark cover of excuses over our heads, shut off the alarm clock of the Holy Spirit’s urging, and roll over for another round of spiritual lethargy. How easy when our senses are dull, but not when our senses are sharp! The bride’s senses are tingling with the sensations of love, joy, and peace, and she is exhilarated and ready to go…not just sometime, but— “Let us get up early!”

It was early in the morning when Abraham rose up for his ultimately difficult job of sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22:3). It was early in the morning when Jacob took a stone pillow and built his first altar to the Lord (Genesis 28:18). It was early in the morning when Moses went before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20) and when he climbed Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:4). It was early in the morning when Joshua and the children of Israel camped at Shittim before passing over the mighty Jordan River (Joshua 3:1). It was early when Samuel’s parents worshiped the Lord (I Samuel 1:9)…early when Saul was anointed and sent away (I Samuel 9:6)…early when Job prayed for his children (Job 1:5)…when David went to the battlefield and slew the fearful giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:20)…, and when Hezekiah led all the people in a great revival and restored worship in the temple (2 Chronicles 29:20).  Much of the most earnest work—the most difficult jobs—are accomplished early in the morning. Solomon’s father, King David, cried, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). “Oh satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Indeed, it was King Solomon who penned the response of wisdom: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me”(Proverbs 8:17).

I wonder, could Solomon have had such a thought on his mind as he heard his beloved bride exclaim, “Let us get up early to the vineyards!” Did he indeed think to himself, “I love her, and now she loves me… and I love her even more for loving me. I sought her, and now she is seeking me…and I will let her learn more of me because she wants so desperately to be a part of everything I am and do.”

I wonder, do we seek the Lord early and desperately…our souls thirsting for him as the deer pants for the water brook? Are we willing—even so eager that we do the inviting—to rise up early and be about our bridegroom’s business? In the New Testament, there is one last ultimately significant occurrence of someone rising early in the morning: our Lord Jesus Christ at his resurrection! Mark 16:9-10 relates, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.”

Jesus was up and about his Father’s business early in the morning, and what was he doing? Tenderly comforting and strengthening his own; working in his Father’s vineyard. Oh, Lord, please give us such passion that we wake up with joy in our hearts, a spring in our step, and a song of praise on our lips…eager to be about our beloved’s business!

(Not that you’re interested, but the first photo was taken at sunrise just outside my window through the woods a few years ago, and I took the other on a foggy morning along the Danube River.)

Did You Know We’ve All Been Born to Win?

I’ve spent this entire week discussing genealogies, but today I want to share  a wonderful (and at times heartbreaking) true story about a little boy who  was abandoned by his parents in South Africa and was taken in
by a very brave and godly black woman.  He had no clue what his genealogy was, but over the years,  he learned that every last one of us has been born to win!  Born to Win (the 2014 version from Union of South Africa)  shares what it’s like to grow up without parents,
trying to survive in a harsh world during the Apartheid,  when the police would rather a white child be an orphan
than grow up in a loving black family. While all his teammates were out having fun in college,
Leon was shoveling coal on a train to pay his way. Although Leon eventually married a beautiful model, he felt like such a loser on the inside that he almost ruined his marriage through alcohol abuse and neglect. Desperate for answers, his wife and daughter found help, but Leon was resistant. However, something terrible happened  that changed his life forever. Today, he’s doing something awesome. Wouldn’t you like to know what??! As it says on IMDb: Born to Win is “A true story of how God turns the hurt, frustration and emptiness of a man into hope, faith and victory
to inspire many to be the winners they were born to be.”  Do you ever feel like a loser? No pedigree; no special gifts or talents?
Terrible background or present circumstances that make your future seem dark? Take heart! God has a good plan for you! It may not be what you’d like, but it will bring honor and glory to God, and in the end, it will bring you joy as well!I’m sure Leon wouldn’t have chosen to have been abandoned by his parents, but he wouldn’t be where he’s at today
if he hadn’t come from where he’s come from. God has a special path and plan for each of us which is good, even though
much of the time we may feel confused and unsure about what’s happening.
TRUST HIM!But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
(Matthew 19:30).

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain
” (1 Corinthians 19:24).

Imerovigli (Ημεροβίγλι): Santorini’s Balcony of the Aegean

There are two communities in Santorini that are especially beautiful.  Today I want to share photos from Imerovigli (Ημεροβίγλι),which is also known as the Balcony to the Aegean, because the town sits high up on the cliffs  with perfect viewing of the sapphire waters and glowing sunsets of the Aegean. (We were back on the ship by evening, but even there the sunsets were lovely.) Imerovigli is also recognized world around because of the Church of Ai-Stratis, which has been loved, photographed, painted, (and even memorialized in a nursery mural) by various family members and friends!  Imerovigli only has 470 permanent inhabitants,  but their narrow streets are crammed with many thousands of visitors yearly!  Homes are built around the caldera amphitheatrically in the “Cycladic” style, typified by glistening white homes and blue-domed churches.  In the late 1800’s, wealthy ship captains built neo-classical mansions  into the sides of the cliffs,  and you can still see the succession of homes built above each other. The houses are painted with white lime wash so that the rainwater  which falls over them and runs down can be collected and used in their homes. Of course, they also paint their homes colorfully for aesthetic purposes.  I was amazed by how clean, new, and beautiful everything looked! Our guide explained that in 1956 there was a terrible earthquake  that just about destroyed everything on the island. Rebuilding has been a huge job, but what a beautiful community they have now! I would say they met their mountainous challenges and conquered them!While meandering through the byways of Imerovigli,  we noticed an irresistibly appealing book shop. The shop had words of wisdom written without and within. And, some words were even written on the bookshop:
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”  Have you met any new mountains lately?And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord‘s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)

 

Meditating on the Nature of God via “Andie’s Isle”

I rarely share videos, but this one, forwarded to me online, filled me with such a sense of peace and awe that I wanted to pass it on. If you can indulge in five minutes of nature photography and some encouraging thoughts, please visit “Andie’s Isle” for a gorgeous journey into the beauty of God’s creation on earth:

http://www.andiesisle.com/thenatureofgod.html

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
” (Psalm 29:2)

 “For the Beauty of the Earth*”

1. For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

2. For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

3. For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

4. For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

5. For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

6. For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.”

(* Originally composed by Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917; there are several variations, but this is the version with which I’m most familiar.)

A Lion of a Little Boy

Have you seen Lion? It’s a heart-rending biographical drama adapted from the non-fiction book, A Long Way Home.  Lion premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, is PG-13, and has an 8.1 IMDb rating.  If you’ve been adopted or have adopted…if you’re a foster parent or have grown up in an orphanage, Lion will break your heart, but it might also help heal some of the pain that haunts most people who’ve grown up without knowing their biological parents.  The story begins back in 1986, where little five-year-old “Saroo,” lives in Khandwa, India with his mother, older brother, and younger sister.  Saroo and his brother steal coal from trains to trade for food, but one night Saroo is so tired that he falls asleep at the train station rather than helping his brother.  Through a series of misadventures, Saroo ends up lost on the streets of Calcutta, many hundreds of miles from home.  In fact, he doesn’t know the name of his hometown…or even his full name!  He survives many frightening episodes before a kindly man helps him get to an orphanage, where he learns some English and is later adopted by a couple in Hobart, Tasmania.  The story picks up again nearly 25 years later, when Saroo, as a young adult, sets out in search of his lost family.  Although I wouldn’t recommend the movie for children (at least until you’ve viewed it first), it is a very moving account that brought out a visceral response in me…I felt the horror of lostness, the fear of strange adults, the hunger, the loneliness, the pain…the relief…the deep, lasting grief. I came away feeling like I’d experienced a tiny taste of what it might be like for the millions of children abroad—and at home—who’ve grown up without the loving support of their parents.  I’ll never meet someone who has been orphaned now without feeling more compassionate toward them. It’s one of those movies that has a lasting impact.

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy
(Psalm 82:3).Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world
” (James 1:27).

(The photos are a combination of two real pictures of Saroo as shown at the end of the film, plus images from the movie, Lion.)