Friday, July 28, 2006
The Time Has Come
Well, after much prayer and planning, I am heading to Belize early next week. Obviously, I will not be posting on my blog while I serve Christ on this mission trip.

Please pray for me! If you want, you can sign up to receive daily e-mail updates to help you target your prayers--simply join the CFAR Divito Google group.
 
posted at 2:30 PM  
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Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mormon Missionary Article
The Independent Florida Alligator online has released an article on some local Mormon missionaries: "Men on a mission." While it is a piece that lacks much substance or critical evaluation, the article still provides a basic introduction to those young Mormon men who coming knocking at your door. Here is an excerpt:

Elder Trevor Ricks hasn't seen his family, eaten one of his mother's home-cooked meals or gone on a date in more than 20 months.

He doesn't have time.

During rare moments when the 20-year-old is not volunteering eight to nine hours a day, six days a week in the Gainesville community or preaching the Gospel around the UF campus, he said he dreams of playing his guitar and finally beginning his own college education.

"I'm always afraid of what I am going to do when I'm older," he said. "I'm thinking about going into construction management."

Ricks, of Lindon, Utah, chose to delay his collegiate dreams in order to serve as one of an estimated 52,000 missionaries worldwide for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon church.
 
posted at 10:45 AM  
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A New PBS Documentary on Mormonism
Today, Deseret Morning News (a Mormon-owned paper) reports on a new PBS documentary currently in production: "'The Mormons' is big at PBS." Will it be propaganda or an informative series? Time will tell. Here is how the article begins:

How big a deal is "The Mormons" to PBS? The two-part, three-hour documentary scheduled to air next April will mark the first-ever collaboration between two of public broadcasting's big guns — the award-winning series "Frontline" and "American Experience."

"It will be a very big deal for us," said new PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger.

"The Mormons" (a working title that may change) will air Part 1 on a Monday night as that week's installment of "American Experience"; Part 2 will air a day later as that week's installment of "Frontline."

"It's a look at one of the fastest-growing and most influential religions," said John Wilson, PBS's senior vice-president of programming.

Details are sketchy at this point, but the "American Experience" segment of the program is expected to deal with the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while the "Frontline" installment is expected to deal more with the contemporary church and its influence in Utah, the United States and the world.
 
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Boundaries in Churches
9 Marks Ministries has posted yet more great articles and reviews on their site. But one really stands out: "Separating Insiders and Outsiders: A Biblical Theology of Church Membership - Part 1."

Have you ever found this church-growth advertisement in your church mailbox? "How to Build a Healthy Church Today: Make a List of Members!" Probably not.

Every day my church’s mailbox is stuffed with flashy pamphlets and postcards advocating a seminar, a book, or a conference that I, as the pastor, must attend if I want my congregation to succeed. Usually a glossy headshot of a middle-aged man smiles broadly at me and promises astounding growth if our church will only heed the secret that he has discovered for ____ (insert topic: evangelism, a greeting ministry, marketing your church …).

But I have yet to receive any glitzy promotional literature on church membership: "Tell those non-commitment types to join either your church or someone else’s! Watch your harvest double!" No, I have not yet received that one.

Well, call this my mailing campaign—a series of articles on church membership, of which this is the first. You want a healthy church? Tell those casual attendees to join!
 
posted at 12:00 PM  
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Nine Wonderful Years

On July 25, 1997, I entered into the sacred covenant of marriage with the woman God providentially blessed me with. After nine years, I can honestly say that I have never been more in love with my wife.

As we celebrate nine wonderful years together, I pray that we will continue to serve and glorify Jesus Christ through our union and our lives!

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"Reading and Hearing the Word in a Puritan Way"
The Resurgence site has added another informative article on the Puritans and their continuing relevance today: "Reading and Hearing the Word in a Puritan Way." This should wet your appetite to read more:

It is well-known that Puritans were lovers of the Word of God. They were not content with the bare affirmation of the infallibility, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture. They read, searched, sang, and heard the Word with delight, always seeking for and relishing the applying power of the Holy Spirit accompanying the Word. They regarded the sixty six books of Holy Scripture as the library of the Holy Spirit graciously given to them. For the Puritan, Scripture is God speaking to us, as a father speaks to his children. In Scripture God gives us His Word as both a word of truth and a word of power. As a word of truth, we can trust in and rest our all upon Scripture for time and eternity. As a word of power, we can look to Scripture as the source of transformation used by the Spirit of God to renew our minds.

As late twentieth-century Protestants and evangelicals, we too must complement the defense of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy with a positive demonstration of the transforming power of God's Word. That power must be manifested in our lives, our homes, our churches, and our communities. We need to show without pretense that though other books may inform or even reform us, only one Book can and does transform us, making us conformable to the image of Christ. Only as "living epistles of Christ" (2 Cor. 3:3) can we hope to win "the battle for the Bible" in our day. If half the strength spent in attacking or defending the Bible would be devoted to knowing and living the Scriptures, how many more would fall sway under their transforming power!

No movement in church history can teach us more than Puritanism about cultivating the transforming power of the Word. Puritan preachers excelled in expounding how the Word must be used as a means of personal transformation. Their focus centered upon practical directions on how to read the Scriptures and how to hear the Word of God preached.
 
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Monday, July 24, 2006
Yet Another Cult -- Creciendo en Gracia
Last week, the Christian cult Creciendo en Gracia made an announcement, "July 22 Destruction and Public Demolition of all Religious Literature and Artifacts":

The Centro Educativo Creciendo En Gracia, Inc. is a ministry that has emerged as the last reform of the church to teach the science of grace. This science is transmitted through conferences in more than 30 countries every Wednesday and Sunday.

The International Ministry Growing In Grace, Inc., exclusively invites you to witness the greatest and most important event taking place in the History of mankind - the like which mortal eyes have never seen.

For the first time in History, people from all walks of life will gather Downtown Miami for the destruction and public demolition of ALL religious literature, images, statues, artifacts and traditional so-called 'holy' objects, which have cursed the world for ages. The cause? International followers of the man Christ Jesus, Dr. Jose Luis De Jesus, will be marching to announce to the world with proof that God is here on Earth. He’s Back! (Heb. 9:28)

While I have not heard of any reports over what they announced would happen over the weekend, I know that the Miami newspapers have kept up with this group. Here are two of their articles to learn more:

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posted at 8:45 AM  
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Saturday, July 22, 2006
Weekender -- Cotton Mather on the Bible
For my weekender, here is a quote from the puritan Cotton Mather:

You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure. God hath spoken much to you in the Scripture; labor to understand as much of what he saith as you can. God hath made you all reasonable creatures; therefore let not the noble faculty of reason or understanding lie neglected. Content not yourselves with having so much knowledge as is thrown in your way, and as you receive in some sense unavoidably by the frequent inculcation of divine truth in the preaching of the word, of which you are obliged to be hearers, or as you accidentally gain in conversation; but let it be very much your business to search for it, and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of silver and gold.
 
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Friday, July 21, 2006
"Professions of Faith on the Mission Field"
J. Ligon Duncan has an important post on "Professions of Faith on the Mission Field" over at the Together for the Gospel blog. He relays the observations of a missionary in Uganda. Here is an excerpt:

As I sat down to write this prayer letter I thought about what the significant events were that had happened in our ministry in Uganda since we had last written. The most important thing that jumped out at me was that our students at Westminster Theological College have a much better understanding of what the gospel of our Lord Jesus really is than before they came.

(HT: Tim Challies)
 
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"What's a Thousand Years Among Friends?"
Kim Riddlebarger has written a lot of good material on the end times, and yesterday he posted an introductory defense of amillenialism over premillenialism: "What's a Thousand Years Among Friends?" Here is how he begins:

Without a doubt, most American evangelicals are firmly committed to premillennialism–the belief that an earthly millennial age of one thousand year’s duration will begin immediately after our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Advent. Since premillennialism is so dominant in American church circles, many who encounter Reformed theology for the first time are quite surprised when they discover that all of the Protestant Reformers, as well as virtually the entire Reformed and Lutheran traditions (along with their confessions), with a few notable exceptions, are amillennial. Amillennialism is that understanding of eschatology which sees the millennium as the present course of history between the first and second Advents of our Lord (the age of the church militant), and not as a future golden age upon the earth as is taught in premillennialism and postmillennialism. In the case of both "pre" and "post" millennialism, the millennium is thought to be the age of the church triumphant, not the age of the church militant.

I am convinced that the reason why so many people reject amillennialism is simply that they do not understand the basic end-times scenario taught throughout the New Testament. Part of the problem is that dispensational premillennial writers have completely dominated Christian media and publishing for the last fifty years. There are literally hundreds of books, churches, and parachurch ministries, all devoted to taking premillennialism, dispensationalism, and the so-called "pre-tribulation" rapture idea to the masses. Many of these teachers and ministries are very effective and compelling in their presentations. Look at the sales of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, which was the best-selling book in the USA in the 1980's. And then there is the Left Behind series of novels, and the accompanying videos, journals, games, and whatever else LaHaye and Jenkins have cranked out, which have cumulatively sold well over 50 million units.

I can only lament the fact that my own tradition has done so little to produce popular books introducing and defending amillennialism. It is my guess that a number of you have never heard the case for the classical position held by Reformed Christians regarding the return of Christ and the millennial age.
 
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Thursday, July 20, 2006
Baptist Press on the Founders Conference
Baptist Press has released three reports on the annual Founders Conference:

 
posted at 6:00 PM  
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Isaac Watts
Michael A.G. Haykin continues his excellent blog with his latest: "EMINENT CHRISTIANS: 11. ISAAC WATTS." Since I consider Watts one of the greatest hymn writers in the history of the church, I appreciated learning more about him. Here is how Haykin begins:

Pick almost any recent hymnal, look in the index that lists the authors of the hymns, and the name "Isaac Watts" will usually have a long list of hymns beside it. During his life, Watts penned over 600 hymns, and through them has powerfully shaped the way English-speaking Evangelicals worship God.
 
posted at 3:30 PM  
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Big Announcement from Way of the Master Radio
Yesterday, in the first hour of Way of the Master Radio, Todd Friel made a big announcement:

Here's the big announcement:

For six, seven months, for however long Way of the Master Radio has been on the air, you have been hearing us use a principle that we like to call "Law to the Proud, Grace to the Humble," helping somebody understand their need for a Savior by using the law of God, the Ten Commandments, to hold it up as a mirror, to help them go "I'm not a good person, I'm a bad person, and I need forgiveness" and therefore they appreciate what happened on the cross. It's law to the proud, grace to the humble. And with that, you've been hearing me and Ray and Kirk and, well, practically everybody else who goes out onto the streets and does some witnessing, say very familiar things like "Have you ever told a lie?" "Have you ever stolen something?" "Have you ever looked at a women with lust?" And we've used that terminology almost verbatim.

Now, here's the big announcement:

You must always, always, always, always, what I'm trying to say is, Ray, always. Not never, sometimes, [but] always use the law to bring about the knowledge of sin. But you don't have to say, "Have you ever told a lie?" "Have you ever stolen anything?" "Have you ever looked . . . ?" It's not a script. It's the principle of law to the proud, grace to the humble. And so what we would like to do now that we've been doing this for six or seven months is start to try to demonstrate how you can still use the law to bring about the knowledge of sin without saying—this isn't a script. This is a principle, a biblical principle: law to the proud, grace to the humble. It's not saying it the exact same way every time.

I welcome this change and appreciate this ministry's desire to move away from using a formulaic approach to evangelism. It reminds me of a previous post I wrote: "Witnessing to Mormons." I said:

I just don't believe that a canned, one-size-fits-all approach to witnessing is the right way to witness, even if it is rooted in the biblical law/gospel contrast. We need to understand what the one we are witnessing to believes and then relay the gospel message to them in an understandable and relevant way.

I look forward to listening to this radio show as they continue proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ with a world that needs to hear it!
 
posted at 12:00 PM  
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"Weird Al" News
For those of you who are not tired of my posts on "Weird Al" Yankovic, here's yet another one.

First, both his web site and MySpace page have announced the release of his next album--9.26.06. Guess who will own a copy of it the day it comes out?

Second, Shout! Factory has posted some sample clips from the soon-to-be released "The Weird Al Show" DVD set. I especially enjoyed Al's parody of The Prodigy in the sample of the episode "Promises, Promises."
 
posted at 8:00 AM  
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
My Nerdiness Score
I am nerdier than 67% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!Ha! Despite my wife and friends' insistence, I am officially and objectively "low on the totem pole of nerds" according to the scientifically precise test: "How NERDY are You?" Here is the test's conclusion:

Overall, you scored as follows:

33% scored higher (more nerdy), and 67% scored lower (less nerdy).

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:Low Ranking Nerd. Definitely a nerd but low on the totem pole of nerds.


How do you score?
 
posted at 3:00 PM  
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Internet Apologist
Jason Dollar has proposed a new ministry position for churches today in his post: "Internet Apologist?" While I am not sure what I think about his proposal, here is how it begins:

It is easy to suggest things, but not follow through with actions. So that is what I am going to do! I suggest that the Church establish a ministry to people who surf the Internet.

The person would be paid a salary and have board oversight and be required to surf the Internet 8 hours a day, focusing especially on forums, chat rooms, and blogs, and be a solid Christian voice there. He / she would not be a columnist but rather an evangelist. The goal would be to carry on conversations with people who talk online and to point them to the living water of Jesus Christ (John 4). As far as I know, this is not currently being done (correct me if I am wrong).
 
posted at 12:30 PM  
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Infant Salvation?
Today Tim Challies has begun a controversial series on his blog, beginning with: "Original Sin & the Death of Infants." He starts this post with:

It seems that people were surprised to learn, in an article I wrote last week, that I presume my children to be unsaved. The article, What's Dead Looks Dead, expressed my belief that my children (ages 6, 3, and 3 months) are, at this time, likely unsaved and are thus spiritually dead. The subsequent discussion was very interesting and the commenters ranged from Reformed Baptists to Roman Catholics and just about everyone between. I was honestly very surprised at the reaction, for I had not thought that what I wrote was so controversial.

The comments turned quite quickly to a discussion of what happens to children who die in infancy. I'd like to discuss that issue along with my previous posts over the next couple of days.

Because this is an issue I have also studied through and come to similar conclusions on (so far), I look forward to Challies thought provoking series.
 
posted at 10:15 AM  
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A New Way to Share the Gospel with Mormons
A ministry I respect, Truth in Love to Mormons, recently has created a new web site designed to share the gospel with Mormons: The City of Zion.

I pray that God will bless this ministry, and I will likely use this resource in my own evangelistic opportunities with Latter-day Saints. To learn more about the approach of Truth in Love to Mormons, you may also want to check out their Philosophy.
 
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Christians and the Middle East
With all that is happening in the Middle East right now, how should Christians respond? Russell Moore provides us with some helpful thoughts in an updated commentary: "Middle East Peace: For What Should We Pray?." He begins:

The Apostle Paul didn't know anything about Hezbollah or the Israeli defense ministry. But he did know something about hatred and hostility between irreconcilable people groups. And, more importantly, he knew something about the Kingdom of Christ.

Much of the Christian response to the headlines and television images coming out of the Middle East is informed by more intricate hermeneutical and theological tendencies, especially among evangelicals. Evangelical thought on the Middle East crisis is linked inextricably to evangelical thought on the Kingdom of God. Some evangelicals believe peace in the Middle East is a hopeless endeavor, until Jesus sets foot on the Mount of Olives. Other evangelicals believe peace in the Middle East can be hammered out in the West Wing of the White House. Both groups are partially right, but both groups easily can miss a crucial element of the biblical vision of Kingdom peace, the church.
 
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Monday, July 17, 2006
New Video Curriculum on the End Times
The Apologetics Group recently announced its latest project, "The Late Great Planet Church" (DVD). For those of us who believe that the church should "leave behind" dispensationalism, this looks like an excellent resource. Here is how their web site announcement begins:

The Apologetics Group has started a new project for 2006, with a completion date of November 1, 2006 (Lord willing.) Like Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism this will be an epic documentary on the history, theology and consequences of dispensationalism. We will also be presenting a positive theological alternative to dispensationalism. In our estimation this production will be approximately four hours long.

It is not our intention to personally attack our dispensational brethren. We believe that this discussion is an in-house discussion, one between professing Christians. However, it is our conviction that dispensationalism has broken continuity with both the Word of God and the history of the Christian Church in that:

  • it is a recent historical development
  • its hermeneutic is flawed
  • its view of the Church and Israel is mistaken
  • the premillennial rapture theology leads to cultural withdrawal and
  • it is intrinsically antinomian
 
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James White on Mormon President's Latest
A couple of weeks ago, I briefly blogged about a new article by Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley: "In These Three I Believe."

Now, James White has written a helpful analysis of Hinckley's piece: "Gordon Hinckley Hearkens Back to Old Time Mormonism While De-Emphasizing Human Exaltation." He says:

When you go to www.lds.org today you will find a "First Presidency Message" from Gordon Hinckley, printed in the Ensign magazine, July, 2006. Since this is the current prophet writing, being published in the official church publications, and being recommended for use and discussion by home teachers, there is little ground upon which anyone can question that this is official teaching. Not Scripture, but official interpretation thereof, a clear exposition of the official position of the LDS Church. If the prophet can make this kind of statement for the First Presidency in the church's official publications and it still just be his "private opinion," there is really no logical way to determine what Mormonism actually believes or teaches any longer.

I found this message most interesting. In many ways, it is a re-affirmation of "old time Mormonism," those beliefs that some LDS seem to at least be embarrassed about today, and even to be waffling on, in some instances.
 
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The Worldview of Consumerism
The Leadership Journal web site has posted an interesting article: "From Christ's Church to iChurch." Here is an excerpt:

We find ourselves in a culture that defines our relationships and actions primarily through a matrix of consumption. As the philosopher Baudrillard explains, "Consumption is a system of meaning." We assign value to ourselves and others based on the goods we purchase. One's identity is now constructed by the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive, and the music on your iPod.

In short, you are what you consume.

This explains why shopping is the number one leisure activity of Americans. It occupies a role in society that once belonged only to religion—the power to give meaning and construct identity. Consumerism, as Pete Ward correctly concludes, "represents an alternative source of meaning to the Christian gospel." No longer merely an economic system, consumerism has become the American worldview—the framework through which we interpret everything else, including God, the gospel, and church.
 
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Friday, July 14, 2006
I'm Baaaaack!
Well, today I completed my final for Dr. Cook's Introduction to the New Testament, Part I. I guess that means I have a little break. . . until I leave for Belize in a little over two weeks. This summer is definitely keeping me busy!

Anyway, I'm back. I'll begin regularly posting again on Monday. Until then, here's the latest news on "Weird Al" from his official web site:

AL ON MYSPACE!
Remember when Al said that if he ever were to have his own MySpace page, it would be announced on weirdal.com? Well, guess what?! Okay, you’re way ahead of me on this one. Check out Al’s MySpace page (it’s not very exciting, but it’s official, dang it!) at www.myspace.com/weirdal.
 
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Class Again
Well, I'm in class again (July 5-14). This time I am taking Dr. William Cook for Introduction to the New Testament, Part I. Here is the catalog description:

A study of the materials available for studying the life and teachings of Jesus, the transmission of the gospel traditions in the early church, the teachings of Jesus, the main events in Jesus’ life, and the quests for the historical Jesus.

With this in mind, I doubt I'll be able to post anything to my blog until after I have finished this class. Thank you for understanding!
 
posted at 7:00 AM  
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006
From Circumcision to Baptism
Greg Welty, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has just launched his latest salvo into the baptism debate: "From Circumcision to Baptism" (in PDF format).

Given his previous material on baptism, I am sure that this is another must read. You can also check out his previous article: "
A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism."
 
posted at 11:30 PM  
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Monday, July 03, 2006
Mormon President on the Doctrine of God
The latest issue of the official Latter-day Saint magazine Ensign (July 2006) included an incredibly important First Presidency Message by Gordon B. Hinckley: "In These Three I Believe." In the introduction, Hinckley says:

I recall reading a tract some years ago written by a critic, an enemy of the Church whose desire was to undermine the faith of the weak and the unknowing. The tract repeated fallacies that had been parroted for a century and more. It purported to set forth what you and I, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe.

Without wishing to argue with any of our friends of other faiths, many of whom I know and for whom I have the highest regard, I take this opportunity to set forth my position on this most important of all theological subjects.

The position of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the doctrine of God is significant indeed! I am holding back from responding to this piece because I am simply overwhelmed right now with family, work, church, and school responsibilities. I hope other evangelicals will reply to Hinckley; maybe I will in the future. Regardless, this message is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand and interact with Mormons.
 
posted at 9:00 AM  
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Saturday, July 01, 2006
Weekender -- Richard Baxter, "Praying for the World"
Today's weekender selection is from Richard Baxter.

My soul is much more afflicted with the thoughts of the miserable world, and more drawn out in desire of their conversion than heretofore. I was wont to look but little further than England in my prayers, as not considering the state of the rest of the world; or if I prayed for the conversion of the Jews, that was almost all. But now as I better understand the case of the world, and the method of the Lord’s Prayer, so there is nothing in the world that lies so heavy upon my heart as the thought of the miserable nations of the earth. It is the most astonishing part of all God’s providence to me, that he so far forsakes almost all the world and confines his special favour to so few; that so small a part of the world has the profession of Christianity, in comparison of heathens, mahometans [Muslims] and other infidels! And that among professed Christians there are so few that are saved from gross delusions, and have but any competent knowledge: and that among those there are so few that are seriously religious, and truly set their hearts on heaven. I cannot be affected so much with the calamities of my own relations or the land of my nativity, as with the case of the heathen, mahometan, and ignorant nations of the earth. No part of my prayers are so deeply serious, as that for the conversion of the infidel and ungodly world, that God’s name may be sanctified, and his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Nor was I ever before so sensible what a plague the division of languages was which hinders our speaking to them for their conversion; nor what a great sin tyranny is which keeps out the Gospel from most of the nations of the world. Could we but go among Tartarians, Turks, and Heathens, and speak their language I should be but little troubled for the silencing of eighteen hundred Ministers at once in England, nor for all the rest that were cast out here, and in Scotland and Ireland. There being no employment in the world so desirable in my eyes, as to labour for the winning of such miserable souls: which maketh me greatly honour Mr. John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians in New England and whoever else have laboured in such work.
 
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About Me

Name:
John

I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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