Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lives to Model

I read a book by John Piper about 3 Christian men who set good examples for us all (Noel Piper has a similar book for Women).

I think I'll relate briefly the life of one of these guys, William Wilberforce. He was a British member of Parliament, and fought to end the slave trade, and then slavery, until it was abolished in 1833, three days before he died. As a young man, he was a bit of play-boy, and ran in the high social circles. His good friend, William Pitt, ran for Prime Minister at 24 and won it. Wilberforce ran for a seat as a joke, and thanks to 8000 pounds and an incredible talent for speaking, he won it. From that point on he never lost an election.

So how did he go from a play-bog politician to possibly the greatest human rights advocate in the Western world? Isaac Milner, one of his previous schoolmasters, was invited to spend a vacation with Wilberforce, and to the amazement of Wilberforce, Milner was a pretty convinced Christian. Wilberforce was intriqued because Milner didn't fall into the Christian stereotype. That summer, on another trip with Milner, Wilberforce chose to follow Christ. Now he hit a real crisis period, how was he to follow Christ? He sought help from John Newton, who had worked in the slave trade himself, but converted and was now a pastor (he wrote "Amazing Grace"). Through discourse with Newton, Wilberforce became convinced that God had given him "two great objects, the Suppression of the Slave Trade, and the Reformation of Manners [morals]."

Most people don't realize how hardcore a Christian Wilberforce was. He wrote a book, "A Practical View of Christianity," in it he lambasted British society for losing the core doctrines of Christianity - that humans a sinners, and need to take faith in the death of death of Christ for thier sins, and allow God to make the moral. He blamed this loss of true Christianity for the rise of corrupt economic practices. People forgot that the basic assumption of Christianity is that everybody committs and suffers under sin, and everybody needs to be forgiven and released from its oppression - "No one is good, not even one," Rom 3.

All that being said, I don't want to make the same mistake that Wilberforce accuses British society as making and skipping the gospel to get to moral life. If you're a pretty average moral person like me, you can't imitate great morality unless you experience a change of heart. We can't just learn what Wilberforce did, and try to make our lifestyles reflect his. We need to find the source that Wilberforce drank from. Wilberforce believed in the gospel, and did a lot to make sure he never lost sight that it is from Christ where he would derive any strength he needed. I'll let Wilberforce make this point himself,

"Lord, thou knowest that no strength, wisdom or contrivance of human power can signify, or relieve me. It is in thy power alone to deliver me. I fly to thee for sucor and support, O Lord let it come speedily; give me full proof of thy Almighty power; I am in great troubles, insurmountable by me; but to thee slight and inconsiderable; look upon me O Lord with compassion and mercy, and restore me to rest, quietness, and comfort, in the world, or in another by removing me hence [from sorrow and weakness], and into a state of peace and happiness."


Monday, October 15, 2007

Africa is da b0^^b

So how's it been living it up in North Africa for a month? I've been enjoying myself. As best as I can see, I'm having a good time here because I am surrounded by good people, the work I do is within my skill set, and God takes after his children.

Family of Five
I work with a great team, on all levels. The first level is the five Canadian STINTers who, like me, are here for one-year. We have a lot of fun. We actually desire to be around each other most of the time. That's cool, because you think we'd get tired of each other. There's been some conflict resolutions, but that is a sign of strength. I've been able to recharge off of them by hanging out during a meal or watching a movie or taking a three hour train ride. Sure, they've made me dance and have taken paparazzi style photos, but those have been character deepening experiences that I'm thankful for.

Working within my bounds
I'm not Mr. Social. Apparently I've been seen as a little introverted sometimes. A large part of my work here though is building relationships. That's tough, and it's been stretching, but it's not like I'm a misanthrope (thank you Angela). I enjoy my time with people, and I know I need to limit the amount of people I meet, otherwise, I'll become the depressed sort of person no one wants to meet. I am doing my best to take of myself, by biking, reading, and watching a movie a week :)

God is Good
all the time. This past month I've had the privilege of feeling closer to God. My times in prayer and bible reading and having fellowship with Christians have been a real joy to me. That's not something that I could have said as easily in Canada during my last year. I've also been experiencing more of God's power at work in helping me do what I don't think I was otherwise all that capable of. Sometimes I've felt like I really didn't have the energy to meet a dude, but then he shows up on a scooter, and takes me flying through town, an experience that will get any lazy heart going. Or seeing how God brings people into your life that are well suited to your personality, and you know that he is working out something special between you and them.

I also have to say that I have great friends and family at home who are so supportive. I have received encouraging emails. I'm pleased that my friends still love me, and guys I've mentored are taking steps forward in their walk with God. That make me joyful, and gives me faith that perhaps this work too will not be in vain.