David Livingstone as a younger adult.

David Livingstone as a younger adult.

David Livingstone’s storied thirty-three-year career as a missionary, explorer and slave trade opponent in the southern half of the African continent led to his becoming a missionary legend and a British national hero. He was honored with a burial in Westminster Abbey.

But initially his qualifications for missionary service were seriously questioned, and he was nearly not approved to serve with the missionary society under whose auspices he first went to Africa. His early history as a would-be missionary suggests important lessons about persevering through discouragements in preparing for and pursuing the ministries we sense God is calling us to undertake.

Livingstone was raised in a pious but poor family in Blantyre, Scotland. From the time he was ten years old he worked long, taxing hours in a cotton mill while pursuing his education on the side. He came to saving faith in Christ Jesus at age nineteen. Two years later he sensed God’s leading to prepare to become a medical missionary.

Thoroughly independent, at first he planned to work his way through medical school then pay his own way in going to the foreign field. But during his second year of medical training, friends encouraged him to apply for service under the London Missionary Society (LMS).

The LMS Directors provisionally accepted Livingstone as a possible missionary candidate and, in the fall of 1838, sent him for a period of probationary training under Rev. Richard Cecil at Chipping Ongar, not quite thirty miles northeast of London. Livingstone and six other probationers studied theology as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew under Cecil’s tutelage.

The students were also given the responsibility of leading, in rotation, the daily family worship sessions that were held in Cecil’s home. They were further required to prepare sermons that were submitted to Cecil for editing. Those sermons were then committed to memory and delivered to village congregations in the area.

David Livingstone buying a book as a boy - London Missionary Society painting

David Livingstone buying a book as a boy – London Missionary Society painting

Livingstone’s first attempt at preaching proved a disaster. One Sunday he was sent to deliver the evening message at a church in nearby Stanford Rivers. After reading the scripture text for his sermon very deliberately, Livingstone suddenly found that he could not recall a single word of his intended discourse. After a painful silence, he blurted out, “Friends, I have forgotten all I had to say,” then hastened, humiliated, out of the chapel.

Early in 1839 Cecil submitted his report on the current mission students to the LMS Board. Due to Livingstone’s hesitating manner in leading family worship and while praying during weekday chapel services, as well as his failed first attempt at preaching, Cecil’s report on Livingstone was rather mixed:

“His heaviness of manner, united as it is with a rusticity, not likely to be removed, still strikes me as having importance. But he has sense and quiet vigor; his temper is good and his character substantial, so that I do not like the thought of his being rejected.” Cecil thought Livingstone was “hardly ready in point of knowledge” to go to a theological college but stated his hope that his plodding Scottish charge “might kindle a little.”

Having read the report, the Mission Board was about to decide against Livingstone as an acceptable missionary candidate. But one of the Directors “pleaded hard” that Livingstone’s probationary period should be extended, with the result that it was. Six months later Livingstone was finally approved to serve as a missionary with the LMS. After finishing 1839 under Cecil’s further training in Chipping Ongar, Livingstone moved to London for a year of additional medical education. He sailed for South Africa in December 1840.

Gravestone of David Livingstone, Westminster Abbey.

Gravestone of David Livingstone, Westminster Abbey.

What does Livingstone’s example in this early phase of his history have to teach us?  When we sense God leading us to a particular ministry, we should diligently prepare for it. Even if at first we don’t seem (to ourselves or others) highly qualified for our future course of service, we should persevere in preparing for it if we remain convinced that the Lord is still leading us that direction. If God is, indeed, leading us into a particular course, He will give us success in becoming well prepared for it and will direct others to affirm and support us in pursuing it.

From a different angle, perhaps the Lord has us in a position to guide and encourage along an individual of less-than-obvious qualifications who nonetheless senses God’s leading to a particular ministry. Let’s seek to be careful and to be guided by God’s Spirit ourselves in how we advise that person. The Lord may use us to help bring to light a diamond in the rough.

Copyright 2016 by Vance E. Christie

Christmas gift book pix 2
Recently I heard of a mother who is buying four gifts for each of her children this Christmas: something to wear; something they need; something for fun; something to read. Sounds like a good balance to me.

As one who has a great appreciation for (and writes) historic Christian biographies, allow me to promote that type of book in the “something to read” gift category. Such biographies are not only interesting and entertaining but also spiritually inspiring and instructive.

They relate the fascinating real-life stories of some of the most outstanding and significant Christians in the history of the Church. The examples of such faithful, fruitful Christian servants encourage and challenge us to love Jesus more deeply and to serve Him more actively, even sacrificially. We’re encouraged not only to be faithful but also faith-filled in our service of Christ.

Christmas gift books pix 1There are lots of good historic Christian biographies that have been published for younger children and older youth. Check out Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazer series (under its CF4Kids imprint), YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now series, as well as similar series by other publishers.

Plenty of great Christian biographies have been published for adults also. Be sure to peruse the outstanding biography offerings of Christian Focus Publications (including its History Makers series), EP Books (including its Bitesize Biographies), and Banner of Truth Trust. A number of other evangelical Christian publishers offer additional quality biographies.

When giving a biography as a gift, of course, it’s important to give a book that we think the recipient will find interesting. That could be about a person they’ve already heard of. Or it could be about an individual who, though unknown to them, had such a compelling story that we know they’ll find it engaging. It could also be a biography that really ministered to us, and we’re confident it will do the same for them.

Christmas gift books pix 3While children’s and youth biographies tend to be fairly consistent in story-like style and briefer length, adult biographies can differ more widely. Some adult-level biographies are intended for a popular audience and are of more manageable length. Others are more scholarly and extensive. Again, it’s good to give a biography according to the interest level of the person receiving it as a gift.

Biographies are good gifts not only for family members but also for friends. Biographies make great gifts for people we appreciate in ministry and for those who are preparing for vocational Christian service.

Of the biographies I’ve written, here’s who I think they would especially appeal to:

Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China and John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs – Great for youth (as opposed to very young children) and anyone interested in missions. Young adults processing the issues of marriage and call to vocational ministry may find the John and Betty Stam biography especially beneficial.

Women of Faith and Courage – Christian women and older girls will appreciate this collection of abbreviated biographies on Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom.

Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians – This collection of short, true stories from the lives of outstanding Christians on a variety of key themes (such as Family, Prayer, Service, Adversity, etc.) appeals to adults and youth alike. Great for personal reading or family devotions.

David Brainerd: A Flame for God, Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life, and Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa – These somewhat longer volumes (300+ pages) are probably best suited for somewhat older and more serious biography readers. All three of these biographies would be encouraging reads for pastors, missionaries and lay leaders.

Happy shopping and beneficial reading to you and yours this Christmas season!

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

Young Andrew Murray

Young Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) is best known by Christians today as the author of several still-popular devotional classics. In his lifetime, however, he was equally well-known as a prominent, powerful preacher.

Throughout his active preaching career of some six and a half decades, hundreds and even thousands of people eagerly gathered to hear him preach. His sermons were characterized by overwhelming intensity, depth of spiritual insight and evident empowering by God’s Spirt that stirred, instructed and challenged his hearers.

Beginning in his early twenties, Murray conducted ministry tours to Dutch pioneers in the frontier regions northeast of Cape Colony, South Africa. Dutch settlers would assemble by the hundreds at pre-arranged meeting sites to hear the dynamic young preacher. An early Murray biographer related of his tremendous fervency on such occasions: “When preaching, so absorbed was he in his message that should he by his violent gestures knock down Bible and reading desk of the impromptu pulpit, he would not notice it.”

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Once an indigenous tribesman watched Murray closely as he preached with his habitual earnestness. The native did not understand a single word of what he heard but afterward stated his impression of what he had observed: “I never thought that the white men stood in such dread of their chiefs. Look at the young chief yonder [Murray]. He points his finger at the people; they sit quiet. He threatens them; they sit quiet still. He storms and rages at them; they sit as quiet as death!”

In 1895, at age sixty-seven, Murray was invited to speak at a number of prominent Christian conferences in Europe and America. An article in a popular British publication provided this description of his intense preaching:

“When preaching or conducting a service his whole being is thrown into the task, and he glows with a fervency of spirit which it seems impossible for human flesh to sustain. At times he startles and overwhelms the listeners. Earnestness and power of the electric sort stream from him, and affect alike the large audience or the quiet circle gathered round him. In his slight, spent frame, of middle height, he carries in repose a volcanic energy which, when he is roused, bursts its barriers and sweeps all before it. Then his form quivers and dilates, the lips tremble, the features work, as from the white-hot furnace of his spirit he pours the molten torrent of his unstudied eloquence. … Audiences bend before the sweeping rain of his words like willows before a gale. The heart within the hearer is bowed, and the intellect awed.”

Andrew Murray

Older Andrew Murray

Well into his eighties Murray continued to be a powerful, popular preacher who ministered at numerous churches and Christian conferences. He once was the featured speaker at a conference in which a new missionary enterprise to Sudan was being launched. One of the missionary candidates, who was well acquainted with Murray’s preaching ministry, reported:

“A lady was sitting close to me, and as Dr. Murray went up the pulpit steps, frail and gray and old, she asked: ‘Who is that old man? What a shame to make him go up those steps to preach.’  I smiled inwardly and thought, ‘My dear lady, you will be surprised tonight.’ Dr. Murray got up, he seemed to grow tall and majestic. In regard to the new work in the Sudan he once more spoke according to the oracles of God. ‘Forward!’ was his cry. Well, my lady was surprised, and more than surprised, pity made way for esteem. ‘What a voice for such a body!’ she exclaimed.”

Murray’s fervent preaching was reflective of his intimate, earnest personal relationship with the Lord.  His preaching was carried out—through dependence upon and empowering by the Holy Spirit—in the context of an extremely demanding ministerial career. By reading a complete account of Murray’s life and ministry (such as my recent biography, Andrew Murray, Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa) one is able to glean the keys to his powerful preaching ministry as well as the many other fruitful aspects of his Christian service.

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

Shaun Tabatt Show Ep 28 Vance Christie Andrew Murray Christian Focus

Last week I got to visit with Shaun Tabatt and share about my new book on the life of Andrew Murray. Listen to our interview below.

-Download the MP3: http://ow.ly/SMDUz
-Read the show notes: http://ShaunTabatt.com/028
-Subscribe to The Shaun Tabatt Show on iTunes: http://ow.ly/Pxz1x

To find out more about Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa, visit the Andrew Murray book page on my website.

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Several weeks ago I was delighted to submit to Christian Focus Publications the completed manuscript of my newest biography, Andrew Murray of South Africa. In the coming months running up to the book’s publication I’d like to share some of the many valuable lessons to be learned through Murray’s remarkable life. I begin with the tremendous model he was of combining a high degree of both action and contemplation in his Christian life and service.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a man of tireless action. He served for fifty-seven years as an active minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, pastoring four separate congregations, including his final pastorate of three and a half decades. Murray was chosen by his ministerial colleagues to serve six terms (totaling some twenty-five years) as Moderator of Cape Colony’s Dutch Reformed Synod. He traveled and ministered more extensively throughout all of South Africa than any other minister of any denomination in S.A. in his day.

Murray played a key role in the founding of several educational institutions. He personally carried out a number of major evangelistic tours of different parts of the country, pointing large numbers of people to salvation in Christ. He took the lead in establishing and promoting the work of various foreign missionary societies to carry the Gospel to unreached people groups outside the bounds of the Colony. Murray sponsored and was featured at numerous conferences aimed at calling believers to a higher plain of Christian living and service. He actively supported a number of student ministry organizations as well as home mission works that ministered to military personnel, the poor and moral outcasts. He also carried out prominent preaching ministries in Europe and America.

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

While being a man of seemingly-constant action, Murray was also a contemplative individual. His mind constantly probed new avenues and depths of biblical, spiritual truth. His thinking and teaching were thoroughly devotional in nature. He lived with a profound awareness of the presence of God and a preoccupation with matters spiritual. He was deeply devoted to prayer. He had an appreciation for the writings of certain Christian mystics and has sometimes been classified as being a sane, sanctified mystic himself.

Through his prolific writing ministry, which saw nearly 240 works (including over seventy books) published, Murray shared his fervent spiritual perspectives on numerous subjects. His writings reveal the breadth and the depth of his spiritual reflections. Both his preaching and writing ministries clearly set forth the great importance he placed on active, consecrated service on the one hand and the cultivation of deep personal piety and devotional practices on the other hand.

Many Christians tend to incline more toward one or the other – active service or reflective contemplation – in their Christian lives. Andrew Murray’s example (to say nothing of such biblical models as King David and the Apostle Paul) reminds us that both service and contemplation are vitally important in our living for the Lord. We ought to actively cultivate and seek to maintain a healthy balance between both emphases. As we do, by God’s grace we’ll be well-equipped and useful servants of Christ.

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

My book Women of Faith and Courage presents abbreviated biographical accounts of the lives and ministries of five outstanding Christian women: Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom. (You can read a thumbnail sketch of each of their lives in my March 6, 2014, blog “Five Inspiring Christian Women Worth Getting to Know.”) Here are several reasons I’d encourage you to get and read the book:

Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby

1. It provides the opportunity to become acquainted (or reacquainted) with a handful of Christ’s choicest female servants from the past three centuries. These women gained great and abiding renown (which they certainly did not seek) for their exceptional Christian piety and service. Their examples are absolutely worthy of our consideration; through them we will be encouraged, inspired and instructed in our own Christian life and service.

2. Not only women, but also young people as well as men can profit greatly from the examples of these consecrated Christians. Women of Faith and Courage would be a great book to read with one’s children as part of family devotions. It could also be used beneficially in ladies study and discussion groups.

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley

3. The lives of these women show that God has different ministries for each of His servants to fulfill. Susanna Wesley’s ministries centered on her children in her home and, to a lesser degree, on the people in her husband’s parish. Fanny Crosby’s primary ministry was hymnwriting. But she also used that as a platform for speaking ministries in missions, YMCAs and other public settings. In addition to placing a priority on the spiritual upbringing of her children, Catherine Booth carried out a powerful preaching ministry, especially emphasizing evangelism and a proper Christian response to the down-and-out of society.

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor’s missionary career in Calabar (southern Nigeria) involved school teaching, itinerate evangelism, church planting, foster care and judicial responsibilities. Corrie ten Boom’s varied service included ministering to young people and feebleminded individuals of her community, harboring fugitives from the Nazis, providing a bright Christian witness in the darkness of German concentration camps and, after the war, heralding the message of God’s love and forgiveness throughout the world. Their examples remind us to identify and fulfill the unique ministries the Lord has for us, and to remain sensitive to new ministries He will lead us into as we go along in our service of Him.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom

4. Each of these women experienced marked hardships in life. For most if not all of them, difficulties were regular rather than periodic occurrences. Instead of turning away from God because of such adversity, they drew near to Him for His help and strength in getting through the trials. As a result, their faith was progressively strengthened rather than weakened. As it was with them, so it is with contemporary believers: Hardships tend to be part and parcel of the Christian life; God uses those difficulties to strengthen the faith and develop the character of His children.

5. All these women were characterized by selfless service of the Lord and others. Their lives were all about serving Christ and benefiting others, not at all about living for self. They sacrificed many personal conveniences and comforts in order to faithfully serve as they did. Periodically they were tempted to feel sorry for themselves in light of the constant and sometimes heavy sacrifices their service required of them. But the vast majority of the time they bore their self-sacrificial service willingly and without complaint. Their example is a necessary corrective to many modern Christians who are absorbed with their own interests and comforts while manifesting little inclination or willingness to expend their lives in serving Christ and those around them.

6. Another commendable characteristic of these ladies was their proper balancing of family and other ministry responsibilities. As younger women, Mary and Corrie were both extremely devoted to helping care and provide for their family members. In addition, for many years Mary served as a loving foster mother and Corrie as an affectionate adopted aunt to numbers of children. Neither of them married, though they had that fond desire for a season. They were content to remain single and thus be freer to carry out the specialized ministries the Lord had for them to fulfill.

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth

Susanna and Catherine were loyal to and supportive of their husbands’ ministries. At times that required considerable effort on their part, due to heavy ministry demands, straitened finances or, in Susanna’s case, having a domineering and insensitive husband. Susanna and Catherine also dedicated a great deal of time and effort to the training of their several children. They raised their children with strict but loving discipline. Their primary concern with their children was that they would develop into devout, active Christians.

The positive examples and high principles of all these women with regard to fulfilling one’s family responsibilities, deciding whether or not to marry, and raising children for the Lord are worthy of emulation by Christian singles, spouses and parents today.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie

 

Over the years I have read with great appreciation and benefit the biographies not only of many great men of faith but also of numerous outstanding Christian women. The abbreviated biographies of five such noteworthy Christian women (Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom) are featured in my book, Women of Faith and Courage. To follow is a thumbnail sketch of each of their lives to pique your interest.

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley (1669-1742) was the godly mother of John and Charles Wesley, key players in England’s evangelical revival and founders of the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century.  She faithfully supported and helped to strengthen the ministry of her oftentimes-difficult husband, Samuel, a clergyman in the Church of England.  She also poured her life into the educating and scrupulous spiritual upbringing of her numerous children. Her life models the shaping of an exceptional character through assorted trials, including religious persecution, financial deprivation, family heartache and poor health.

Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby

In an era filled with prominent Gospel song composers, Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) became the world’s premiere hymnwriter. Blind from six weeks of age, she wrote nearly 9,000 hymns in her lifetime, 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, she 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.

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth (1829-1890) is commonly thought of as the mother of the Salvation Army, having co-founded it with her husband, William. Before that time they were involved in itinerant evangelistic ministry with the Methodists. The Salvation Army, which experienced explosive growth and spread to a number of countries in the Booths’ lifetime, emphasized ministry to the spiritual and material needs of the lower classes of society.  For over three decades Catherine carried on a powerful public speaking ministry, becoming the preeminent female preacher of her generation.  The pronounced influence she and her husband had on their nine children (including an adopted son) resulted in all of them growing up to become devoted believers, most of whom entered vocational Christian service.

Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor (1848-1915), a Scottish Presbyterian, overcame a difficult childhood that included coping with an alcoholic father, grinding family poverty and exhausting labor in a textile mill as the primary provider for her mother and siblings.   She went on to invest thirty-eight years of her life in carrying the Gospel to savage, degraded tribes in the dense forests of Calabar (southern Nigeria), West Africa.  She courageously pioneered in areas where other missionaries and even traders avoided, planting churches and schools in several locations. Through her efforts, a variety of unthinkable pagan practices were eliminated or greatly reduced, and many individuals were led to saving faith in Christ.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) is well known as one of the brave Dutch Reformed Christians who assisted and sheltered Jews and other fugitives during the German occupation of Holland in World War 2.  After being arrested for their underground work, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, carried out a phenomenal ministry of Christian witness and mercy in the Nazi concentration camps where they were incarcerated.  Following her providential release, Corrie returned to Holland where she established a recovery ministry to victims of the war.  She devoted the final three decades of her life to itinerant evangelistic ministry in more than sixty countries throughout the world.

I think you’ll be spiritually encouraged and benefited by reading the life stories of these dedicated Christian women. I would enjoy hearing how you’ve been inspired and challenged by their examples.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie