20 October 2008

Brother Augustine

A man I admire very much, as much for the coolness of his name as for the patient humility of his faith, is visiting this week in nearby Dayton. His name is Brother Augustine Asir and he lives in Chennai, India. I count him a distant friend even though I've spent a scant few weeks with him, first in the summer of '99 and then again in 2005.

One of the kindest words of encouragement I've ever heard came from this man. In 2005, I was so blessed to have the opportunity to preach twice to groups of believers there, first to a small crowd of elderly folks in a home and then to group of believers in our borrowed flat. Both times, I spent many hours preparing some thoughts from passages of Scripture only to be led to change plans in the hour before I was to speak...but when the speaking came, I had such confidence, power and peace when I opened my mouth that not a word fell to the ground. And I felt joy. Joy like I feel when I read the prophet's echo, "Is not My Word like a fire, like a hammer which breaks stones to pieces?!" or when I read Paul's words to Timothy, "But the Word is not imprisoned!" Joy solid like stone.

It was after the second occasion, the one in the small flat (incidentally, after a long night and day of throwing up and general illness), that Brother Augustine came and encouraged me. He came and spoke to me as a sort of spiritual grandfather, eyes peaceful and glad, face lined with dark wrinkles, crowned with his white curly fuzz. He told me then that I had served well, that the Spirit works mightily in my speaking, that He is strong within me.

My father has encouraged me much over the years, and my wife encourages me wonderfully as well. But along with their good words, I remember his. They've stayed with me, as a kind of spiritual blessing...these words from a grandfather in the faith.

Thanks, Brother!

17 October 2008

Some Missionary Thoughts

I am studying the Gospel of Matthew, and this morning began working through chapter 3 and a bit about John the Baptist. A little later, I saw a Piper sermon in my Inbox about John the Baptist--called John the Witness in one of the other gospels. In Piper's sermon, he speaks of how God is going to use us to share the Light...

The Word and the Life and the Light are coming into the world. But they are not going to conquer this darkness the way a bolt of lightning brightens the night. They are going to conquer it by lighting millions of cold, dead human torches with the oxygen of the gospel and the mysteriously spontaneous combustion of the new birth. And that gospel will come through human witnesses.

Such a beautiful way to put it! Another reference to John the Witness came up earlier this week in Oswald Chambers:

The key to the missionary message is the propitiation of Christ Jesus. Take any phase of Christ's work—the healing phase, the saving and sanctifying phase; there is nothing limitless about those. 'The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!'—that is limitless. The missionary message is the limitless significance of Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins, and a missionary is one who is soaked in that revelation.

The key to the missionary message is the remissionary aspect of Christ's life, not His kindness and His goodness, and His revealing of the Fatherhood of God; the great limitless significance is that He is the propitiation for our sins. The missionary message is not patriotic, it is irrespective of nations and of individuals, it is for the whole world. When the Holy Ghost comes in He does not consider my predilections, He brings me into union with the Lord Jesus.

A missionary is one who is wedded to the charter of his Lord and Master; he has not to proclaim his own point of view, but to proclaim the Lamb of God. It is easier to belong to a coterie which tells what Jesus Christ has done for me, easier to become a devotee to Divine healing, or to a special type of sanctification, or to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Paul did not say 'Woe is unto me, if I do not preach what Christ has done for me,' but 'Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!' This is the Gospel—'The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!'

O be encouraged, you who are the Light! Take the Word of God to the world, regardless of darkness; for we are captives set free, even in this world of chains, and we know that "the Word of God is not imprisoned!"