Andrew MurrayAndrew Murray (1828-1917) was a Dutch Reformed pastor who ministered in South Africa for over sixty years. He is best remembered as the author of numerous devotional classics, many of which are still read today. His ministry was characterized not only by ceaseless activity for the Lord but also by marked Christlikeness. His winsome, Christlike spirit in dealing with friends and foes alike was a key to his tremendous spiritual fruitfulness.

When Murray was forty-three years old he was called to pastor the Dutch Reformed Church of Wellington, about forty-five miles northeast of Cape Town. While Murray’s main emphases were on leading people to the Savior and helping Christians grow deeper in their faith, he was also a teetotaler who actively promoted temperance. The Wellington church had a number of wine farmers in it.

As the congregation was unacquainted with temperance principles, Murray introduced them by stating: “When a farmer trains a young horse it will often shy at a stone or something else. The wise farmer will quietly lead the horse to the unfamiliar object and let him look at it and smell it till all fear passes, and it will not shy any more. So I will not force temperance upon you, but we will speak and preach about it till you are familiar with it and approve of it.”

Not long after his arrival in Wellington, Murray began a movement to have some of the many “public houses” or “canteens” (bars, taverns) in town closed. “Mr. Murray,” a provoked wine farmer asserted, “the congregation will be torn asunder by your temperance sentiments.”

“Never,” Murray replied. “We will, if necessary, take the scissors of love and cut it in two, having one section for temperance and the other not, but we will live together in love.”

Murray’s temperance efforts were so successful that for many years there came to be only four saloons in Wellington. By contrast, during the same period there were forty taverns in the neighboring village.

Andrew MurrayNot surprisingly, Murray encountered some strong opposition. One of his daughters recollected of their early years in Wellington: “When father came to Wellington there were seven canteens in Church Street alone, but he soon got four of them closed, and also in other streets he got the canteens closed. These people were very angry with him, and sought to burn down the parsonage. We had to be on the watch constantly, for rags soaked in paraffin were thrown in at the window near the lace curtains, so as to cause them to burn. God, in His mercy, graciously protected us, but we exercised great care and watchfulness at this time.”

When Wellington’s jubilee was to be celebrated in 1890, there was a difference of opinion over how the church, which was central to the community, should mark the special occasion. Murray and a number of others in his congregation desired to do so by promoting a generous special offering in support of a missionary cause. But another party within the congregation wished to have a church tower built with the special funds.

Everyone was greatly surprised when a pledge list for the church tower was circulated, as it was headed by a generous donation from Murray. When one of his earnest Christian friends protested, Murray responded, “Let us draw them into the Church by love.” That proved to be the case. The tower came to be spoken of as “the tower of love,” and many of Murray’s former opponents became his lasting friends.

Murray went on to serve as Wellington’s minister for thirty-four years until his retirement from active pastoral ministry at the age of seventy-seven. He then continued to live in the town till the end of his life eleven years later.

Murray exemplifies the type of spirit Christians are encouraged to manifest in Scripture passages such as Ephesians 4:2-3: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

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I am currently writing a biography on Andrew Murray’s remarkable life and ministry. While the book’s completion and publication dates are not yet known, I’ll seek to update you periodically on the work’s progress. And I’ll share other highlights occasionally from the example of this commendable, Christlike servant.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie

Shaun Tabatt

Shaun Tabatt

I thought those of you who kindly read my Perspectives might enjoy meeting the skilled individual, Shaun Tabatt, who constructed and manages my writing website and its affiliated Facebook page. I share these thoughts out of appreciation for all that Shaun has done to help promote my own writing endeavors AND to heartily affirm the several significant ministries of his own that Shaun carries out.

Shaun and his wife, Lynette, live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, and have been blessed with eight children. Shaun has a heart for Christ and advancing His kingdom. He effectively promotes Christ’s kingdom work by actively using the verbal and technological gifts and abilities that God has given him.

Shaun’s a busy guy! He works with several publishers and numerous authors, helping to promote their titles and other ministries on-line and in other ways. Through his company, Cross Focused Media, he seeks to serve the Christian publishing community by providing social media and literary publicity services.

At his Bible Geek Gone Wild website, Shaun blogs and has posted many book reviews he has written for various publishers through the years. There you’ll also find his popular podcast, “Author Talks with Shaun Tabatt.” In just over a year Shaun has compiled nearly eighty on-line interviews with various authors, and these interviews have been downloaded over 10,000 times. I’ve had the privilege of recording two Author Talks interviews with Shaun, one featuring my newly released biography Adoniram Judson, Devoted for Life (Nov. 1, 2013) and the other highlighting my Women of Faith and Courage and Timeless Stories titles (June 6, 2013).

Shaun’s interviewing skill recently received high praise in a blog written by Dr. Michael Milton entitled “Areopagitica and Bible Geeks Gone Wild: The New Christian Journalists”. I’d encourage you to read the article as a commendation of the important ministry that Shaun and other modern Christian journalists are carrying out.

I would like to echo the appreciation Dr. Milton expressed for Shaun’s expertise in conducting his interviews. Unfortunately, my limited experience with book-related interviews has not been overly positive on the whole. In the majority of the interviews I’ve been part of, it seemed the host had little or no familiarity with the work I had written and that we were supposed to be discussing. Instead, the host “shot from the hip” based on his or her general, prior knowledge of the subject, sometimes saying very little that related directly to the book under discussion!

Shaun, by contrast, comes to his interviews having familiarized himself with the book to be discussed and prepared with insightful questions and comments that help bring out the main emphases an author intends to communicate in his or her work. In the dealings I have had with Shaun, I’ve appreciated his great balance of being both very personable and highly professional.

Thanks for everything, Shaun. May the Lord continue to use you to His glory and for the great good of many people.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, encouraged their children to keep a variety of pets, both as a way of enjoying some of God’s creatures and as a means of learning to care responsibly for others. Dogs, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs (the latter numbering nearly a hundred at one time) and other animals made up the family’s revolving menagerie.

For a time the Booths’ daughter Eva had a mischievous pet marmoset named Little Jeannie. The monkey was very affectionate toward her young mistress but all too often guilty of “indecorous behavior.” Little Jeannie would race up the curtains till out of reach then peer down at the people below with disrespectful grimaces. The elaborate Victorian era hats worn by some of the ladies who called on the Booths (“sometimes very important and dignified ladies”) seemed to provoke the monkey. She would leap onto these headgears and screech her disapproval!

Evangeline Booth

Evangeline Booth

Eva was very sorry about this and hoped that her wayward pet would reform. A hired household servant who worked in the kitchen sought to promote the reformation process by making a miniature Salvation Army uniform for the recalcitrant creature. When Catherine Booth spotted the uniformed monkey she said nothing but immediately began to unclothe it. “But, Eva,” came the mother’s quiet reply when the daughter began to protest, “she doesn’t live the life.”

Eva never forgot those words. The concept of “living the life” stayed with her throughout her long career of devoted Christian service.

Colossians 1:10-12 provides Christians with a helpful summary of what “living the life” should look like: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

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An account of the life and ministry of Catherine Booth is featured in my book Women of Faith and Courage. It includes many instances of how Catherine sought to influence her own children and numerous other individuals in faithfully following and serving Jesus.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie

Christ in the MangerIn December of 1949 Geoffrey Bull, a British missionary to Tibet, was seized by Communist soldiers. Day and night his captors drove him across frigid mountains, leaving him cold, hungry, exhausted and despairing of life. Late one afternoon he entered a small village where he was shown to an upstairs room that was swept clean and heated by a small charcoal brazier.

After being provided a meager supper, he was ordered to go downstairs, where the animals were kept under part of the house, to feed the horses. After making his way down a notched tree trunk into the stable, he found himself standing in pitch blackness. His boots squished in the manure and straw on the floor, and the stench of animals was nauseating. Cold, weary, lonely and ill, he began to feel sorry for himself.

As he continued to grope his way in the darkness, expecting to be kicked at any moment by one of the ill-tempered horses, the thought suddenly flashed into his mind, “What’s today?” He had to think for a moment, because while traveling the days had begun to run together. Then it came to him, “It’s Christmas Eve.”

Later he wrote in his book When Iron Gates Yield: “I stood suddenly still in that Oriental manger. To think that my Savior was born in a place like this. To think that He came all the way from heaven to some wretched eastern stable, and what is more to think that He came for me. How men beautify the cross and the crib, as if to hide the fact that at birth we resigned Him to the stench of beasts and at death exposed Him to the shame of rogues.”

Bull added, “I returned to the warm, clean room which I enjoyed even as a prisoner, bowed to thankfulness and worship.”

The Manger and the CrossThis Christmas season may we similarly thank and praise the Lord Jesus Christ for leaving the glories of heaven to come to earth in our behalf. As God the Son He lowered Himself infinitely by coming to be born in such humble circumstances, by serving humankind with His life and by dying on the cross for our sins.

The timeless words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 remind us of both Christ’s condescension and subsequent exaltation: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby

When Frances (Fanny) Crosby (1820-1915) was just six weeks old, she developed an inflammation of the eyes as the result of a cold. The regular doctor of their community of Southeast, New York, was away at the time. Another man, who claimed to be a doctor but apparently was more of a quack, offered to treat the infant’s eyes. He put a hot poultice over her eyes, insisting it would draw out the infection. Instead, it all but destroyed the child’s sight. When Fanny’s parents accused the man, whose name is no longer known, of blinding their baby, he fled Southeast, never to be heard from again.

To the end of her long life, which stretched out for some ninety-five years, Fanny Crosby was able to see only bright light and vivid colors, and those but faintly. Other than that she was totally blind, being unable to make out distinct details or even indistinct shapes.

But this seeming tragedy led to her developing an overcoming spirit, an incredibly retentive mind and an exceptional poetic gift. All of which played into her becoming the world’s premiere hymnwriter of her generation. She wrote the lyrics to nearly 9,000 hymns, including a number that are still sung today – to name but a few: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Blessed Assurance,” “He Hideth My Soul,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “Redeemed,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” and “To God Be the Glory.”

A Presbyterian by upbringing, Fanny ministered in various denominational settings as an adult. Well into her eighties, she traveled widely, ministering in churches, Bible conferences, rescue missions, YMCAs, patriotic rallies and various other settings. Her songs have been an inspiration and a blessing to untold millions of Christians around the globe from her own day till the present time.

In the final decade of her life Fanny wrote of the accident that took her sight and the individual who was responsible for it: “But I have not for a moment, in more than eight-five years, felt a spark of resentment against him because I have always believed from my youth to this very moment that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do. When I remember His mercy and lovingkindness; when I have been blessed above the common lot of mortals; and when happiness has touched the deep places of my soul – how can I repine?”

Just about everyone faces circumstances and developments in life that seem most unfortunate or even tragic. We wonder why we have to experience them and what good could possibly come from them. But over time we come to see how God uses such hardships to forge within us strong, positive characteristics we otherwise would not have come to possess. He also redeems our challenges of life by leading us into tailor-made ministry opportunities we otherwise would not have had.

For our part, we need to prayerfully seek God’s help to trust Him, even when we cannot yet perceive how He is using our difficulties in these positive ways. And we should endeavor to become, by His grace, stronger and more useful servants of Him through the challenging circumstances He has permitted in our lives.

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A fuller account of Fanny Crosby’s inspiring life is included in my book Women of Faith and Courage. That account includes several examples of how the Lord used her hymn writing and other ministries to greatly bless and help others.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley (1669-1742) is best known as the godly mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement. Her husband, Samuel, was a Church of England minister for forty-five years, thirty-eight of those in the Lincolnshire market town of Epworth.

During 1711 and 1712 Samuel was assisted in the care of his parish by a curate named Inman. Once during that period, when Samuel was away fulfilling denominational duties in London, Susanna initiated a practice with her own household that, surprisingly, came to have a profound positive effect on the entire Epworth congregation.

Inman did not hold an afternoon church service. Ever a strong believer in devoting the Christian Sabbath to sacred focuses, Susanna concluded it was her duty to spend part of the day instructing her family since they had so much time available for such activities. She read them sermons from Samuel’s library and led them in a time of family prayer.

Shortly after she started doing so, others heard of the Sunday evening gatherings in Susanna’s kitchen and asked if they might attend as well. Soon between thirty and forty people were present each week.

Just then one of Susanna’s daughter’s, Emilia, discovered in her father’s study an account of Danish missionaries who had risked their lives and sacrificed all the world holds dear in order to advance the honor of Christ by taking His Gospel to foreign lands. Susanna was greatly inspired by their example and concluded, “ … if my heart were sincerely devoted to God, and if I were inspired with a true zeal for His glory, and did really desire the salvation of souls, I might do somewhat more than I do.”

She resolved to begin with her own children, and thereafter met with them individually once weekly to discuss each child’s spiritual condition and concerns.  Susanna also began discoursing more freely and fervently with the neighbors who attended the Sunday evening gatherings. The results were amazing, for in a short time over 200 people per week were attending the Sunday night readings, which had to be moved to a larger venue.

Inman became envious and annoyed because more people were attending Susanna’s evening readings than his own morning sermons. Early in 1712, he and two other men wrote Samuel, accusing his wife of holding a conventicle, an illegal religious meeting. Alarmed, Samuel wrote from London, asking Susanna to stop her meetings.

In her earnest but measured written response to her husband, Susanna pointed out her primary reasons for thinking the Sunday evening gatherings should continue. No more than three or four individuals were objecting to the meetings. Whereas twenty to twenty-five people used to attend evening services at the church, now between two and three hundred people were coming out for the readings. Some families who formerly seldom went to church were now attending church services regularly. Many people were “very much reformed in their behavior on the Lord’s Day.” Through this ministry Susanna had “an opportunity of exercising the greatest and noblest charity, that is, charity of their souls.”

Epworth Parish Church

Epworth Parish Church

She closed that letter with these compelling words: “If you do, after all, think fit to dissolve this assembly, do not tell me that you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send me your positive command, in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt and punishment, for neglecting this opportunity of doing good, when you and I shall appear before the great and awful tribunal of our LORD JESUS CHRIST.”

Samuel raised no further objection, and the meetings continued till his return. At that time he found the moral and spiritual condition of his congregation remarkably improved. Through Susanna’s Spirit-led ministrations nothing less than a touch of revival had come to Epworth.

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A fuller account of Susanna Wesley’s life of devoted service to the Lord, her family and others is included in my book Women of Faith and Courage. May her example encourage us to “do somewhat more” in our own service of Jesus Christ, His people and those who still need Him as their Savior.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom is best known through the book and movie The Hiding Place as a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, sheltered Jews from the Nazis in Holland during World War 2. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned in a German concentration camp where Betsie died of illness in December, 1944. At the end of that same month, due to a clerical error, Corrie was released.

After traveling by train to Groningen, just across the border from Germany in Holland, Corrie made her way to a Christian hospital called the Deaconess House. The hospital staff immediately began to tenderly care for her. Of her first experiences there, Corrie later wrote in her book Tramp for the Lord:

“Then I was eating. Potatoes, brussels sprouts, meat and gravy, and for dessert, pudding with currant juice and an apple! … How wonderfully good that food did taste. I shall remember that meal as long as I live.

“Then came a warm bath. They could hardly get me out of it. My poor sick skin, damaged by lice, seemed to grow softer the moment I slipped into that warm tub.

“Afterwards they dressed me. Several of the ex-leaders of the Netherlands Girls’ Clubs were among the nurses—girls that I had known before the war. They dressed me up as if I were a doll. One of them had lingerie, another shoes, another a dress and pins for my hair. I felt so happy that I laughed for sheer joy. How sweet they were to me.

“These young women had been trained in kindness. How opposite from the concentration camp where men had been trained in cruelty.

“I was then taken to a cozy bedroom so I could rest. How lovely was the combination of colors. I was starved for color. In the concentration camp everything was gray. But here in Holland the colors were vivid again. My eyes could not seem to get enough to satisfy them.

“And the bed! Delightfully soft and clean with thick woolen blankets. One of the little nurses brought an extra pillow and tucked it under my swollen feet. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

The Hiding Place“On a shelf was a row of books. Outside I heard the whistle of a boat on a canal and the merry sound of little children calling to one another as they skipped down the street. Far in the distance I heard the sound of a choir singing and then, oh, joy, the chimes of a carillon. I closed my eyes and tears wet my pillow. Only to those who have been in prison does freedom have such great meaning.

“Later that afternoon one of the nurses took me up to her room where for the first time in many months I heard the sound of a radio. Gunther Ramin was playing a Bach trio. The organ tones flowed about and enveloped me. I sat on the floor beside a chair and sobbed, unashamedly. It was too much joy. I had rarely cried during all those months of suffering. Now I could not control myself. My life had been given back as a gift. Harmony, beauty, colors, and music. … But right now, [God] was letting me enjoy the luxury of thanksgiving. I was drinking from a fountain I knew would never run dry—the fountain of praise.”

The thing that always strikes me about this incident is that most of the blessings Corrie reveled in on that occasion were simple, everyday blessings. They are the type of commonplace blessings we are so accustomed to we tend to take them for granted.

But they truly are significant blessings that we rightly should continue to be grateful for. As we tune into those ordinary blessings, we too will have the delight of drinking from the never-ending fountain of praise and thanksgiving. And our gracious God will receive a fuller measure of the gratitude and glory that is due Him for the countless blessings He continually showers on our lives.

 

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For other inspiring and instructive true stories from the life of Corrie ten Boom, you may want to check out two of my books, Women of Faith and Courage and Timeless Stories.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Christians who read historic Christian biography are acquainted with the benefit and enjoyment of doing so. As we read the lives and ministries of outstanding believers of the past we receive considerable inspiration and instruction for our own spiritual life and service. But many Christians have little or no awareness of this vital source of spiritual encouragement and enrichment. Here are some suggestions of how we can share the value of such biography with others:

1. Tell interesting and beneficial stories about great Christians to our young children at bedtime. I fondly remember an occasion when my three daughters were very young when I offered to tell them a story before bedtime prayer. That was a periodic feature of our nighttime family devotions, and they knew the type of tale I often shared. So they spontaneously started chanting, competition-like, the names of two individuals about whom they had heard a number of stories. “Moody! Moody!” shouted two. “Hudson! Hudson!” countered the third with equal enthusiasm. Our kids will enjoy and profit from these stories if we will but share them.

Family Reading2. Read a children’s or youth biography to our kids as part of our family devotions. A few Christian publishers have produced worthwhile biography series for younger children and somewhat older youth: Christian Focus’s Trailblazer series (under its CF4Kids imprint), YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now series; Barbour’s Heroes of the Faith series (unfortunately no longer in print). One word of caution: Some children’s biographies take the liberty to make up representative dialogues or events that are not known to have actually happened. Even with children it is better to read biographies that are discernibly more factual rather than artificially portrayed.

3. Relate biographical incidents and studies as part of our formal teaching and preaching ministries. Throughout my years of pastoral ministry I have used many anecdotes from the lives of eminent Christians from history to effectively illustrate a wide variety of life-related themes. (I also seek to employ plenty of contemporary illustrations.) Children’s teachers and youth leaders can periodically relate an ongoing series of stories and lessons from the life of an outstanding servant of Christ. I certainly join John Piper in encouraging pastors to present a biographical sermon (or short series) annually for the benefit of their congregations.

4. We can also share worthwhile biographical information and events in our informal conversations. As we’re reading a good biography we can tell people about it and relate a couple highlights from it. If a discussion brings to mind an intriguing or instructive example from a biography we’ve read in the past, that can be profitably communicated. Sharing such incidents adds flavor, perspective and benefit to conversations.

Gift Books5. Give quality Christian biographies as gifts. They make great gifts for children, teens and adults. They can be given for birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions (graduation, pastor appreciation, etc.). Or they can be given simply to encourage and strengthen people in their relationship with the Lord and service of Him. Of course we want to give biographies that we think will interest and profit those who receive them. Most biographies are priced quite reasonably, so they make affordable gifts.

6. “Share” or “like” helpful postings related to historic Christian biography that we come across on various websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is a powerful tool we can use to encourage contemporary, techy Christians to connect with their rich Christian heritage.

7. Make sure we are purchasing some of the historic biographies that Christian publishers are producing as paper books and e-books nowadays. Many Christian publishers are producing few or no historic biographies because they reportedly do not sell well. That trend can be reversed if Christians will make a point to buy quality biographies and let publishers know (through their purchases and via encouraging emails) of their interest in this valuable genre of literature.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Author Talks With Shaun Tabatt - Episode 51 - Vance ChristieEarlier this week I was interview on Author Talks with Shaun Tabatt about my recent book Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life (Christian Focus, 2013). You may stream or download the interview below:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

To find out more about Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life, visit the Adoniram Judson book page here on VanceChristie.com.

Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China by Vance ChristieCongratulations to Timothy Harris, who was selected as the winner for an autographed copy of Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer To China. Timothy blogs at activedidactic.wordpress.com.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and helped spread the word about my Hudson Taylor book and VanceChristie.com. Your support is greatly appreciated.

To learn more about Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China, visit my Hudson Taylor book page.