Prayer, a Water Bottle, and a Baby Doll

I love the following story about prayer and God’s provision. I shared it this morning with my Sunday School class and was asked to share it online. The story comes from Helen Roseveare (1925–2016), English missionary to the Congo. Justin Taylor did a profile of her when she passed in 2016.

THE HOT WATER BOTTLE – A True Story By Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Helen Roseveare a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa, told this as it had happened to her in Africa. She shared it in her testimony on a Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

The Goal and Meaning of Expositional Preaching

I think that the best way to understand Ephesians 4:12 is to remove the commas: “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This verse is saying that the job of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and as a result, the church will grow. This is how Christ builds His church. But what resources does the pastor-teacher have to accomplish this? In 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2, the Apostle Paul tells us.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

John MacArthur has correctly drawn attention to the link between a belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and the need to preach it expositionally.

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.

This is why whenever a church chooses a pastor, it should be a non-negotiable that the man be an expository preacher. Not everyone who claims to preach expositionally, actually does it. There may be some who don’t know the word, but do preach expositionally. Expositional preaching is preaching that takes as the point of the message, the point of the passage being preached. It’s not a special ability or a style, it is the pastor-teacher’s calling! It’s simply preaching the meaning of a text. Very simple, but it takes hard work to know the meaning of the text and communicate it to God’s people.

To put it another way, expositional preaching, as I once heard Danny Akin say, does not view a text as a peg to hang a bag of miscellaneous thoughts, but as a master that determines what is said. The calling of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints by the proclamation of the Word of God just as the Holy Spirit of God inspired it. It’s interesting that those who talk so much of the Spirit of God, prefer a method of preaching which basically says that the Holy Spirit did not do a good job organizing Scripture. Instead, they seem to think, they can do a better job.

What I Said Ten Years Ago (and still believe)

Ten years ago today, I preached my first sermon as pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church. I preached a sermon titled “Jesus Christ: The Builder of the Church” from Matthew 16:13-19. I focused on verse 18, where Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I said in part (and still say):

The word Jesus uses that is translated church in Matthew 16:18 is the Greek word ekklesia which is a compound of two words in Greek ek “out of” and kaleo “I call.” The church is a community of people called out from the world who have received the revelation from God that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s ultimately what unites us here at Farmdale Baptist Church. Not because we’re all natives of Central Kentucky, we’re not. Not because we’re all UK fans, we’re not. Not because we all have the same hobbies and interests, we don’t. We’re united here despite our differences because of a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the church, the rock upon which Christ builds His church: the confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Jesus is the one building His church. He is the One who is calling out people to be a part of His ekklesia. I recently received in the mail an advertisement from a company whose slogan is “We build Christ’s church!” No, they don’t! They may build buildings, but they don’t build the church. Christ alone builds the church.

I’ll never forget hearing John MacArthur describe his response to a reporter who asked him about his desire to build the church. He said,

When a reporter asked me once if I had a great desire to build the church, I told him, “No. I have absolutely no desire to build the church. That’s not my job. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church,’ and I would rather not compete with Him. I simply want to allow Him to do that through me in a small way in one location.

I don’t want to be in competition with Jesus! Do we think we can do better? Our job is to be faithful to do what He has told us to do in His Word. As Mark Dever has summarized what the church is to do: Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible (through the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). As ministers of the gospel, we are called to faithfulness, not success.

Whenever people have encouraged me by telling me how that God has helped them through my ministry, those words mean a lot to me. But if you want to know what I’m thinking when I hear those encouraging words, without fail it is amazement at the power of God’s Word simply proclaimed. I don’t have any great plans or programs to implement here other than preaching God’s Word verse-by-verse. If anyone is helped by my ministry it is a testimony to the power of the Word of God and not my abilities. This is what I’ve always desired. I desire that the testimony of the German Reformer Martin Luther would be mine:

I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.

Christ is building His church!

200th Anniversary of Buck Run Baptist Church

Cover of BRBC History

Cover of forthcoming history of Buck Run Baptist Church

On January 31, 1818 (200 years ago today), the “Baptist Church of Christ at Buck Run” was constituted. The initial meeting was held in the home of Isaac Wilson near Buck Run Creek on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky. Wilson was one of twenty-one charter members of the church. Present at this gathering were some of the most prominent of the Baptist preachers in Kentucky. The pioneer preacher William Hickman was there and served as the moderator for the meeting. Silas Mercer Noel, a Circuit Court Judge turned preacher and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Frankfort two years earlier) was there and served as the clerk for the meeting. Also present as a charter member was the inimitable John Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth.

Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two primary documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). Baptist churches are not formed based on geography or genealogy. In other words, a person does not become a member of a Baptist church simply by living in a certain area or by being born into a particular family. Baptist churches believe in what is called regenerate church membership. This means that only professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who give credible evidence of that profession are admitted as members. Therefore, the only reason a Baptist church can exist is if a group of believers come together sharing a common set of beliefs (a confession of faith) and an agreement of how these believers are going to dwell together (a church covenant).

Although similar in form and content to other churches’ founding documents, the Buck Run documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor. The sixty-five-year-old Taylor had by this point been laboring in gospel ministry for forty-five years. He was a well-respected leader among the Baptists who had seen many converted through his preaching and had helped to establish many churches. Taylor would later write that, in the constituting documents adopted by Buck Run, “the creed of my own heart on these subjects, is very [sic.] fully expressed.” He went on to say that these ideas were not a recent revelation to him, but instead reflected his “unwavering opinion from my youth.” In these documents, Taylor declared, one could “see the complexion of my whole soul in theology.” Although he had considered writing an explanation of the beliefs contained in these documents, he said “they stand explicit for themselves.” In these beliefs, Taylor said, “I have lived long, by them I expect to die, which I hope is not far distant.”[1]

Taylor would live another seventeen years to the age of eighty-four years. Those extended latter years were given in service to the Buck Run Church. A contemporary young man whose job it was to ring the court house bell to announce the beginning of preaching services for the various churches in the Frankfort area reminisced of how often he “hammered That old Cort [sic.] house Bell For … old man Tailor [sic.], “the Father of the Buck Run Church.”[2] Clearly, Taylor was recognized as the founding father of Buck Run by those in the community.

To read the church’s founding confession of faith, see here.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of this history, please comment below and I will send you the information on how to secure your copy at the special pre-release price of $25 (it will retail for $40).

[1] John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 2nd ed. (Bloomfield, KY: Will. H. Holmes, 1827), 199-200.

[2] Frances L. S. Dugan and Jacqueline P. Bull, ed., Bluegrass Craftsman: Being the Reminiscences of Ebenezer Hiram Stedman Papermaker, 1808-1815 (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1959), 80.

Top Ten Reads of 2017

I’m beginning to see the list of favorite books/reads of 2017. I love to read others’ lists. I also like to think about over what I’ve read this year and choose my favorites. These are my favorite books I read in 2017. Only three of the books were actually published in 2017.

  1. The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.
    Image result for the preacher and the presidentsThis book explores the relationship between Graham and eleven United States presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush. It is both a fascinating and frightening portrayal offering an encouraging look at the possibility of gospel ministry to political leaders and a cautionary tale of the perils of such ministry.
  2. Henry Clay: The Essential American by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler.
    Image result for henry clay an essential americanAn exhaustive biography of a truly important American, the Kentuckian Henry Clay. It’s amazing how entwined his life was with the life of our nation from 1800-1850. This is not only a primer on Clay, but a good overview of American political life in the first half of the 19th century.
  3. The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War by Jim Downing.
    Image result for the other side of infamyI loved reading this book by 103-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, Jim Downing. Downing, who I met this year, is very lucid in his recounting of his experience at Pearl Harbor and his years of service and ministry that followed. A great first-hand account of the day that lives in infamy and of the early history of the Navigators.
  4. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
    Image result for lyndon johnson and the american dreamAfter you get past the creepy psycho-analysis of Johnson early on, this is a very compelling read. This combined with the portrayal of Johnson’s relationship to Graham in The Preacher and the Presidents paints an interesting picture of a man increasingly isolated during his presidency who looked for loyalty and love of people.
  5. He Died for Me: Limited Atonement and the Universal Gospel by Jeffrey D. Johnson.
    Image result for he died for meA compelling look at the nature of the atonement with an understanding of its nature that allows for/demands a proclamation to the world.
  6. Controversy of the Ages: Why Christians Should Not Divide Over the Age of the Earth by Theodore Cabal and Peter Rasor II.
    Image result for controversy of the agesThis book is well-described by its subtitle. While discussions about the age of the earth often divide Christians, this work argues that should not be the case. Interesting analysis of historic debates between science and Christianity provide a model for how to engage in perceived conflicts in the present and future.
  7. The Reason for God: Belief in An Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.
    An excellent apologeticImage result for the reason for god work that winsomely argues for the existence of the Christian God. C. S. Lewis for the modern man. After reading on Kindle, I ordered a hard-copy to have on hand for reference and perusal.
  8. Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber.
    Image result for surprised by oxfordBeautifully written memoir of an American who converted to Christianity while studying at Oxford. Fascinating details about life at Oxford sprinkled throughout a conversion narrative that takes place slowly, but powerfully.
  9. Lincoln’s Bishop: A President, A Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors by Gustav Niebuhr.
    Image result for lincoln's bishopInsightful portrayal of the impact of a minister who appealed to Abraham Lincoln on behalf of Native Americans. This book has everything from details of conflict on the frontier between settlers and Indians to the conscientious stand by an Episcopalian bishop for the equality and protection of a despised group of people.
  10. All That is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal.
    Image result for all that is in godA short, but dense treatment of some of the foundational issues related to the doctrine of God that have seemingly been assumed, then lost to a current generation of evangelicals. Dolezal builds the classical doctrine of the Trinity while affirming and safeguarding the foundational doctrines of simplicity and impassibility. In the end, he shows that the orthodox position on the Trinity must take into account these doctrines in any formulation of a doctrine related to the Godhead.

 

Articles of Faith of Buck Run Baptist Church (1818)

Article 1

Article 1 of the Buck Run Confession (1818)

On January 31, 1818, the Buck Run Baptist Church on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky, was constituted with twenty-one members. Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). These documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor, who was called by a contemporary “the Father of the Buck Run Church.” Taylor said that in these eight articles “the creed of [his] own heart on these matters is fully expressed.”

The confession as it appears in Buck Run’s Minute Book reads:

1st There is but one true and living God – the maker and preserver of all created things, visible and invisible; and that in this adorable Godhead there are three personal relations, a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And these three are one – equal in glory, dignity, eternity, and power. Though, as to the true humanity of Jesus Christ, He is often spoken of in the New Testament as inferior to the Father.

2nd That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as stated in their canonical books, is the uniform doctrine of faith; and that this sacred volume is the only infallible rule of all our faith and practice.

3rd That by the disobedience of the first Adam, all his posterity became guilty, and sinful in every part; and helpless as to any aid they can give, in the great work of converting their own souls.

4th That according to God’s foreknowledge, previous to time, he did predestinate his people to life, and they being chosen in Christ before the world began, He did as our second Adam, the Lord from heaven, assume their nature, yet without sin when he became incarnate, and by his obedience and atoning sacrifice brought in everlasting righteousness for the rebellious and where said blessed merit is imputed or applied to them, they are thereby justified before God and being efficaciously called by his grace shall finally persevere therein to eternal happiness and glory.

5th Since the day of the Apostles, there is no higher ecclesiastical authority on earth than the congregated worshiping church of Christ being God’s heritage here below, there [sp.] right is to govern themselves by their own voices, select their own officers as Bishops and Deacons, who are their servants for Christ’s sake. So that no conclave of bishops or any counsel [sp.] appointed by themselves or even their own officers have a right to lord it over the church.

6th That as it is appointed for men once to die so there shall be a resurrection of the just and unjust on which awful day Jesus Christ will judge all men in righteousness; when the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment and the righteous into life eternal.

7th We consider baptism valid only by profession of faith and immersing the whole body under water.

8th We most seriously consider the preaching of repentance, and the invitations of the gospel to all characters of men to be one of the most interesting subjects of the gospel ministry, and that they who persecute, neglect or disobey, the gospel more highly aggravate their own guilt.

Resources for Battling Pride/Anger

I am a prideful man whose pride is often revealed to me in my anger toward others. God is convicting me of this and calling me to repentance. I am finding the following resources helpful in addressing this sin in my own heart. If you struggle with this sin, I’m sure they will prove helpful to you as well.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I’m sure that I will be returning to these links again and again in a lifelong battle against the sin of pride and anger.

If you know of any other resources that have proven helpful to you in this struggle, please add in the comment section below.