A. Reid Jepson – Pastor, Missionary, Mentor

God gives us faithful men and women to lead us and shape us in our journey towards Christ. A. Reid Jepson was a mentor of mine. 

The classroom was empty, but I was sure it would soon be full. A junior at Biola University, I was excited about my developing relationship with God and expecting the gospel of Jesus Christ to reach the world in my lifetime.  A leader in the Student Missionary Union (SMU), I had arranged a prayer meeting to petition the Lord on some pressing missions concerns.  I had invited a dear friend, Reverend A. Reid Jepson, a long time pastor and missionary with the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) and the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), to address the group.  Reid had traveled many times behind the Iron Curtain and had dozens of examples of the powerful work of God in his life to share.

I had invited all of the active members of the SMU and many personal friends, selected the time and place to coordinate with their schedules, and even used my meager college income to buy a few refreshments.   Reid had known my mother for years, had taught me many things about the Lord, and he was the most faithful Christian man I knew.  Always punctual, he arrived about 20 minutes before the prayer meeting was to begin.  I arranged and rearranged the chairs, the missions materials and the snacks, and we chatted as we waited.

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Adoniram Judson, a simple man used mightily by a mighty God

Each man has only one life and most that I have known start out with big dreams; dreams of riches, influence, and the ability to change the world and make it a better place.  Some of these dreams are dashed early, many are dashed later, and most are modified into something far more humble by the time the man is in his thirties.  It is the rare man, perhaps less than one in a million, who actually achieves what he dreamt of in his youth.  It is the rarer man still whose dreams as a boy were the same that God had for him as a man, and carried through faithfully in life to achieve them.

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Jonathan Potts – American Revolutionary Physician

Military physicians, just like all soldiers and military officers, should read military history. We will be better if we do.

Napoleon suggested “Read over and over again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene and Frederic. … This is the only way to become a great general and master the secrets of the art of war. …” As true as this maxim is for line officers, it is also true for leaders in the Army medical department. By studying the struggles, victories and defeats of our forebears we can better surmount the obstacles we face today.

Dr. Jonathan Potts is a medical officer worth studying. He was born in Popodickon, Pennsylvania in 1747 and, with Dr. Benjamin Rush, attended the famous medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. He returned to the colonies on learning of the illness of his fiancé, Miss Grace Richardson. Potts married her in May 1767 and completed his Doctor of Medicine at the College of Philadelphia, the first institution to grant medical degrees in America, in 1771. He began a private practice in Reading, PA, but responded to the call of independence, seeking assignment with the Continental Hospital Department, comprised of Northern, Middle and Eastern Departments.

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What were William Carey’s contributions to the modern missions movement?

Believers in Jesus Christ belong to the largest organization, with the longest history, on earth. Knowing the work of saints of old grounds us in who we were, who we are, and who we will become. 

William Carey (1761-1834), the 18th century cobbler who was captured by the grace of God and became the “Father of Modern Protestant Missions”, was a remarkable man in almost every respect. According to Indian Christians Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi, writing in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, he made major contributions in many fields:

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Why Was the Preaching of Jonathan Edwards So Effective?

The name Jonathan Edwards is the first many people remember when discussing the Great Awakening. His signature sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, delivered 8 July 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, was electrifying; with wails and cries in the congregation and the fear of God on the lips of His people. It is the most famous sermon of the Great Awakening, a move of the Holy Spirit in which an estimated 5% of the population of the colonies found the Lord.

In a communications class today, however, Edwards might have received a failing grade on delivery. Most modern speakers are taught to speak from notes, to gesticulate, to vary the inflection of their voices, and to mix current events, humor, and even music and drama into their preaching. Edwards did nothing of the sort. He was an academic who spent most of his work hours in his pastor’s study. He wrote every speech, choosing each word with exquisite care, and read the sermon in a monotone voice. Edwards was so nearsighted that he kept his text close in front of his face to see it. Sinners has neither jokes nor anything calculated to identify with or engage the congregation. Churchill, the foremost orator of the first half of the 20th century, would probably have commended Edwards for reading his sermons but condemned him for his presentation.

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What Was the Most Important Part of Luther’s Theology?

Luther’s allegiance to the Holy Bible (solo Scriptura) as the ultimate source of authority in Christianity was the most important point of his theology. It is hard for Christians in the 21st century to imagine how the first 350 years of the faith must have been, when the only Bible available was the Old Testament, possibly the Apocrypha, the gospels and the letters of Paul, and some other letters. There was no firm agreement on what constituted the inspired Word of God, and therefore the dangers of heresy were great.

It is little wonder, therefore, that the church came up with a combination of means to judge whether a teaching was orthodox or not. Creeds such as the Apostle’s Creed, which summarized the key points of Christianity, a single bishop in each city who served as the source of authoritative interpretation, and an increasing understanding of which books belonged in the New Testament and which did not, were the means by which the early Church defeated Gnosticism and a host of other heresies that could have destroyed the new faith in its cradle.

The danger, of course, in using such a combination is that believers are tempted to put creeds or authoritative teachers above the Bible. This is exactly what happened. At the Council of Carthage in August 397, church authorities recognized (they did not determine) which books should form the New Testament. These books bore apostolic authority, were consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and other Christian teachings, and they were recognized throughout the church as God’s inspired truths.

After the Bible was completed, the reasonable thing to do would have been to recognize that the authority of creeds and bishops is derived from and therefore subordinate to the Word of God. Creeds are useful teaching tools but are essentially mini systematic theologies and therefore necessarily oversimplify or even distort the truths of the Lord. Bishops are usually well educated and faithful and their word can be trusted, but they are still sinful men and liable to errors of omission and commission. Creeds and bishops were still needed because in cultures with few books and little literacy it is important to have such lesser authorities, but God‘s word was the ultimate authority.

What happened, unfortunately, was that the authority of the bishops was magnified, not diminished, until church leaders were presenting as truth teachings that were clearly falsehoods, such as the practice of indulgences. Unbound to the Bible, creeds also proliferated and promulgated misinterpretations of it. Over hundreds of years, these errors gained the authority of tradition and tradition, not the True Word, became the ultimate source of authority. Believers suffered greatly from both of these errors for centuries.

Luther came at a time when mass printing and distribution was possible and literacy was rising fast. Over a millennium after Carthage, he and others rediscovered what should have been apparent all along. The Word of God, not creeds based on it or bishops and other churchmen explaining it, was the real source of truth. Everything believers teach and do must be measured against the only real source of authority, the Bible, and not the other way around.

Tradition still has authority and much of what we do in the modern church, such as worship services at 1100 on Sundays, midweek prayer meetings, and Christmas on December 25th, is based on it. Creeds still have authority, because they are quick and useful ways to teach important Biblical truths to men. However, the Bible is supreme. Luther recognized this, and all of his other great contributions, such as sola fide and sola sacerdos, came from that foundation.

The Conversion of Augustine

Augustine, one of the most prolific and the most famous of the church fathers, was born to a Christian mother (Monica) and pagan father (Patricias) in the small town of Tagaste (Souk Arras in modern Algeria) in 354. His devout mother provided a home where he was nurtured in the Lord, and Augustine had marked spiritual sensitivity, but he was dissatisfied by the simple country preachers near his home. Desiring to give him every advantage, Patricias and Monica sent Augustine to study in Madaura and Carthage (370-375). He read Cicero’s Hortensius and was captivated by the intellect and language therein, moving away from his Christian background and towards philosophy. Given to sexual temptation, Augustine took a concubine, who bore him Adeodatus. Augustine went through a phase when he embraced Manichaeanism, a belief of rational dualism, but grew disenchanted when his concerns could not be answered. Augustine migrated to magic and astrology, and then moved with his mother to Rome at the age of 28 (382).

Having teaching experience in Carthage, Augustine was made professor of rhetoric in Rome (384). He had largely broken with Manichaeanism and one day went to a speech by Bishop Ambrose in Milan, a famous Christian, intellectual and orator. Ambrose presented a much more intellectual and, to Augustine, a much more satisfying explanation of Christianity and Augustine was interested. Simplicianus, a presbyter at Ambrose’ church, met Augustine and decided to try to lead him to the Lord.The story of how the famous pagan orator Victorinus became a Christian was also a great encouragement to Augustine. In Confessions, Augustine later wrote that he “burned to imitate him (Victorinus).”

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Jesus, an Example of Mentoring Leadership

How did Jesus mentor His disciples? How did He mentor others? How should we mentor those who look to us for leadership?

One of the greatest strengths of mentoring leaders is the ability to teach.  To reproduce himself, a man must teach, by words and by actions, those who are learning from him.  Jesus taught large groups and the people marveled at the wisdom and authority of His words.  He was doing His most important work, however, when He was teaching small groups of His disciples and other followers (Luke 24:32).

Mentoring leaders also use gifts of exhortation to mentor those entrusted to them.  Exhortation includes encouragement and instruction to do the right and wise thing.  After Peter’s proclamation of faith in Matthew 16:16, Jesus encouraged him.  After Peter denied Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75, Jesus encouraged him again (John 21:15-17).  Many times in the gospels Jesus exhorted His disciples.  Such gifts as exhortation and teaching are evidence of excellent communication, in this case sharing leadership principles and examples to the next generation of leaders.

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Hezekiah – an Example of Crisis Leadership

Hezekiah had the same foibles and failings as the rest of us, and that is why his example is worth studying. 

After the golden age of Israel, during the reigns of David and his son Solomon, Israel split apart.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin kept Rehoboam, grandson of David as their king, but the northern ten tribes chose Jeroboam, an Ephraimite.  The subsequent history of Israel is a sad tale of uniformly evil rulers, people unfaithful to the Lord, and near extermination by the Assyrians two hundred years later (721 BC).  The history of Judah is little better, with a few good kings, including Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah and Jotham interspersed with many evil ones.  Judah lasted 135 years longer than Israel but became progressively more wicked and was finally overwhelmed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

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Moses, an Example of Administrative Leadership and People Management

Moses, the man of God, freed the slaves and built a nation. He has much to teach. 

Moses is the single most famous leader in the Old Testament and is respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.   He was born a Hebrew slave, adopted by an Egyptian princess, raised as a prince of Egypt, exiled at age 40 after killing an Egyptian who beat a Hebrew slave.  Fleeing to the tribe of Midian in the Sinai desert, Moses married, started a family, and became a shepherd, an occupation loathsome to the Egyptians, especially a prince.  He was as low as a former prince of Egypt could go.

At age 80, when Moses probably felt that his life was nearly over, God met Moses on the slope of Mt. Sinai.  God told Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites, God’s chosen people, out of slavery to the Egyptians.  The rest of Moses life was a tremendous example of faithfulness to the commands of God and skill in building a nation as he led His people into their Promised Land.

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Leadership Examples of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph

The Patriarchs of Israel believed God when others did not. Christians today can follow many of their examples. 

Abraham

In many ways, Abraham was an entrepreneurial leader. Born in Ur in southeast Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC, Abraham had a wide variety of skills and a strong work ethic. He could have been very successful in Ur. God, however, had other plans. Terah, Abram’s father, took his entire family, including Abram and his wife, hundreds of miles northwest to Haran in upper Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:31). After Terah’s death, God called the 75 year old Abram to take his entire household, scores of people and many possessions, to Canaan, 700 miles to the southwest. Genesis 12-24 recounts the rest of Abraham’s life, and in these chapters we see a wealthy rancher, a diplomat, a military leader, and a faithful servant of God.

Strengths

Jehovah’s plan was to bring a great people out of Abraham that would bless the whole world. He intended to put these people in Canaan, the most fruitful part of the great land bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and build them into a “kingdom of priests” to shine God’s light to all of His creation.

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Paul’s Life – Background and Chronology

The Pharisee Saul, better known as Paul, laid the foundation for the Church. What can we learn from him?

Paul, possibly the most famous of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was a scion of Jews of the Diaspora.  Until the Babylonian exile beginning in 605-586 BC, Israelites of the tribe of Judah were concentrated in Southern Palestine.  Afterwards, they were scattered all over the ancient Near East, with large communities thriving in Alexandria and Rome.  A sizeable community arose in Tarsus of Cilicia, a province in what is now southeastern Turkey close to the border of Syria.  Tarsus was a major Roman city of trade and learning, and Cilicia was famous for its cloth products.  Both influences can be clearly seen in Paul’s later life as an educated traveler and scholar who made tents to support himself.

Jews of the Diaspora formed communities wherever they lived and so were able to maintain much of their religion and culture, including attending synagogues and observing dietary laws.  Paul, the son of observant Jewish parents, was raised as a “Hebrews of Hebrews” in this environment.  Paul’s parents were also Roman citizens, a rare honor, and so Paul inherited citizenship, which greatly helped his ministry.   At some point in his childhood he traveled to Jerusalem and learned Judaism at the feet of Gamaliel, the famous 1st century Jewish teacher.  Passionate for his Hebrew faith, Paul became a Pharisee, and excelled among his peers in every way.

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