Thursday, December 30, 2010

From Israel, Happy New Year 2011 . . . from USA, uncommon New Year 1824 with James Brainerd Taylor

From Jerusalem, Israel, Happy New Year from Uncommon Christian Ministries.

May your 2011 be filled with the joy and peace that only the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Lord Jesus Christ, can give.

As a means of inspiration and encouragement to use this annual time for healthy self-examination--spiritual and otherwise--below are excerpts from the personal writings of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829). The "uncommon Christian" American evangelist wrote in his journal on December 31, 1823:

Looking at my record made one year ago this evening, I find my testimony to the Lord's goodness the year just then ending, and an invocation for the continuance not only, but for an increase of his favor and love, during the succeeding year. My prayer has been heard. Great and glorious things have been done for my soul, in secret with my God; and of all men I am under the strongest bonds of gratitude, of love, and of praise to him in return.

Why may I not expect greater things the coming year? "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day" [Proverbs 4:18].
Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, whose I am, thine would I be. To thee, through the beloved [the Lord Jesus Christ], I renewedly and solemnly engage my love and obedience. O keep me--save me from all evil [Matthew 6:13]--and bless me abundantly, more than I can ask or think [Ephesian 3:20]; all things are possible with thee [Philippians 4:13].

And in his journal on January 1, 1824, the cousin of the famed missionary David Brainerd (1718-1747) wrote the following "short but expressive notice" while a first-year student at Princeton University:

The Lord has indeed given me a happy beginning of a new year. At evening devotion, had a blessing so rich and full that there seemed a want of room to receive it. Carry on, carry on thy glorious work, O my God, and make me more like Jesus.

For further reflection, here is part of Taylor's annual New Year's letter (1824) to his family in Middle Haddam, Connecticut. The letter is "full of affection, filial and fraternal" and is "strongly expressive of gratitude and piety towards the Giver of every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17).

Reviewing the past year, many things which awaken pleasing reflections rise to my recollection. No period of my life has been marked with clearer indications of the Lord's goodness to his unworthy servant. . . .

As to religious enjoyment, no year has witnessed such displays of divine love. And I may humbly and joyfully say, I have grown in grace [2 Peter 3:18]. My trials have been few, and have all worked for good [Romans 8:28]; my temptations many, but in heaven's armor I have overcome [Ephesians 6:13]. . . .

To look forward a year! It is a precious--an invaluable--period of time. Thus, more than we do,  the ransomed of the Lord, and the spirits of the lost view it. O that we may be wise, to make the most of the year that is before us! What new plans, then, for doing good can we devise [Galatians 6:10]? Or how can we improve those already adopted? Why should we not strive, as individuals, to make our influence to be felt all over the earth [Acts 1:8]? The Lord help us to labor faithfully. And this we should do, not merely from a sense of duty, as obligatory upon all, but as binding upon each, and that too now, as we know not but, ere the close of 1824, we may be summoned hence. Has not heaven something for us to do; something to make known for the good of mankind through us? Let us pray over this interrogatory until we are satisfied.

What is before us as a family, and as individuals, we know not; but to Him who hath brought us hitherto, all is plain [Psalm 139:16]. Concerning this we should not be anxious [Philippians 4:6-7]; for, "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right" [Genesis 18:25]?

As for myself, I feel that the seeds of mortality have taken deep root within me, and I am frequently reminded of my latter end. But does this alarm me? No; for every evidence of the approach of the messenger, death, I have cause to rejoice, rather than to be terrified. It is a sweet exercise to pass the valley, in imagination, and look beyond, upon the pearly gates. Faith enters within the city, and walks the golden streets [Revelation 21:21].

"O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be near, and like my God!"

Excerpts taken from:
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 178-82. Memoir viewable online via Google Books. Click here to read. 

Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by James' younger brother Fitch W. Taylor.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas from Israel . . . "looking unto Jesus" with James Brainerd Taylor and Hebrews 12:2, Christmas 1823

From the land of the Bethlehem-born Jesus, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a Christ-focused and joyful MerrChristmas.

With tourism currently booming, over 90,000 tourists and pilgrims are expected to visit Israel during the Christmas season.

May the below Christmas 2010 meditation inspire us to likewise be "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) with the same uncommon focus and intensity as the "uncommon Christian" James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829).

Written the day prior to Christmas Eve, below is a portion of a December 23, 1823, letter from the evangelist Taylor to his "aged clerical friend" and mentor, Frederick William Hotchkiss (1762-1844). At the time, the then 22-year-old "uncommon Christian" was a first-year student at Princeton University, and the Yale-educated Hotchkiss was the long-time pastor (1783-1844) of the First Congregational Church in Saybrook, Connecticut.

This evening my mind has been led to look to Jesus, as the apostle says, 'Looking unto Jesus.' I was thus led, more particularly, because tomorrow [Sunday] is to be our communion season [the Lord's Supper].
'Looking unto Jesus.' Before the world was, he dwelt with the Father. And, O what glory and delight he must have had from all eternity! We may look unto him as God, by whom the worlds were made [John 1:3, 10]. But had he need of worlds? What do they add to his infinite, underived, eternal glory? For whom, but for man, was this fair fabric formed, and lighted up, and adorned so richly? Upon God's equal we may gaze with wonder, and adore his condescension. O what pity touched his sympathizing soul! What the might of that love which brought him down! Well might the plains of Bethlehem resound with glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good will to men [Luke 2:14]. And well may we join the heavenly host in praising God; for unto us a Savior was born, who is Christ the Lord [Luke 2:11].
'O for this love, let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break.'
Let us look to Jesus during his state of humiliation, for from the manger to the cross he was preparing the way to bring many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:10]. O the contradictions he met from sinners! What temptations in the wilderness! What agony in the garden! But the wonders of the cross! It is here our hopes center. For the hope which the cross inspired, the primitive Christians were ready to suffer; nay, did suffer and die. However opposed, they preached its doctrines, and said, 'God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' [Galatians 6:14].
Extending our view beyond the cross, we may profitably look upon him whom we have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], as arising from the dead. 'He rose again for our justification' [Romans 4:25]. What joy his disciples felt when their eyes once more beheld their Lord, whom the Jews had crucified and slain! But he was soon to leave them, and triumphantly ascend up where he was before.
Thither our forerunner hath entered--our captain has led the way; and now we may look unto him at the right hand of the Majesty on high. By faith, too, we may look at the mansions he hath prepared [John 14:2]. But what is faith's vision? It is indeed a blessed reality; 'it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen' [Hebrews 11:1]. But we want more, and more we shall have. Not through a glass darkly shall we see him, but face to face--see him as he is [1 Corinthians 13:12]. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' [Luke 12:32].
Do we want stronger faith? To Jesus must we look, who is the author and finisher of faith [Hebrews 12:2]; and pray, as by example we are taught, 'Lord increase our faith' [Luke 17:5]. Would we be what God would have us to be, what do we need but to be conformed to the image of his dear Son [Romans 8:29]? And how shall this be effected but by looking continually unto Jesus?
Are we ignorant? He is our Prophet. Are we sinners? He is present to plead our cause--a Priest whom the Father heareth always, and whose blood cleanseth from all sin. Would we have all things brought into complete subjection to his law? As King, he is on the holy hill of Zion. Where is such an example of patience under suffering? And he knows how to succor them that are tempted. In doing the will of his heavenly Father, how assiduously and perseveringly did he accomplish his work!
What we find to do, may we do it with our might [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. The more steadily we look to Jesus, the faster we shall run, the higher will be our attainments, the happier we shall be, and the more we shall honor God.

Taken from:
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 172-77. Memoir viewable online and at no cost via Google Books. Click here to read. 

Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by James' younger brother Fitch W. Taylor.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The unknown "uncommon" Christian . . . my Boss, the once-unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth . . . Ordinary Pastors Project

Are you an obscure and unknown "nobody" living to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?

Does hardly anyone know your name as you say along with James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) and from the depth of your very being/soul, "None but Christ; all for Christ" (the catch phrase of Uncommon Christian Ministries)?

Like J. B. Taylor sought to be and encouraged those converted to Christ under his ministry to be, so are you striving to be an "uncommon Christian"--defined by Taylor as an "eminently holy, self-denying, cross-bearing, Bible, everyday" Christian? Yet in your striving, are you off, under or not even on the radar that is your local neighborhood or that is popular American Evangelicalism?

Is your Christian-themed blog not part of the Top 100 Church Blogs? Are your books ranked 3,014,783 and 3,291,944 with Bestsellers Rank (such are the rankings of my An Uncommon Christian and Of Intense Brightness)?

If so, may the Lord bless you as you are among the majority of Christians throughout the ages and have the privilege of being able to identify more intimately with the once-obscure and unknown first-century Jewish carpenter from Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). The Lord Jesus' public ministry lasted about three years while his work as a carpenter lasted for about the first 30 years of his life.

Whether fame and notoriety come our way or not, may this not be our life's ambition. Such ambition is sin and the Lord will not bless it. The Lord blesses obedience. He blesses when His people make Him their true Boss; their Boss above all bosses. If such obedience leads to your name being in bright lights, on most-visited blog lists and bestseller lists, and being invited to speak at conferences, so be it. May His name be praised. If not, so be it. May His name be praised.

Please join me in living intentionally and intensely for the Lord no matter what the consequences and however large or small the sphere of influence He gives us. "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).

Joe Carter's recent blog entry "Note to Young Evangelicals: You Can't All Be Elite" provides a wise observation about today's younger generation. On the First Things blog, Carter writes (November 12, 2010):
Matt Anderson makes a very astute observation about the younger generation of evangelicals:
Here’s my hypothesis as to why young evangelicals tend to be drawn toward Randian libertarianism or Obama-style pragmatic liberalism: we think of ourselves as elites, even though most of us aren’t. This is particularly true of white, college-educated younger evangelicals who went off to Wheaton and Biola, and who are the only young evangelicals the media ever seems to talk about.
Our dissatisfaction with the mainstream evangelical populism we grew up in makes us particularly susceptible to either top-down statism or ubermensch libertarianism. Obama or Ron Paul, Jim Wallis or Ayn Rand. Both appeal to our elite aspirations, as in the former we can politically engineer society to bring about the Kingdom and in the latter we get to be captains of industry.
Exactly. And, like many others of their generation, they think they should be able to take an advance now on their future potential. Since it’s inevitable (so they believe) that they’ll be successful writers/pundits/leaders, etc., we old Gen X and Baby Boomer geezers should just step aside and let them run the show. They are the ones they’ve been waiting for.

The fact that they aren’t qualified for such roles doesn’t seem to daunt them in the least. They have energy and ambition and opinions of their own. What else could they possibly need?

The problem is not just that such an attitude is off-putting (though it definitely is obnoxious) but rather that it prevents young talented evangelicals from adequately preparing to live up to their elite aspirations. They need to spend many years (ideally between ten to fifteen) in preparation and service to others before they can fully grasp how the world works, much less how they can fix it.

Of course, being told they need to gain wisdom and experience before they can be truly effective is the last thing any young person wants to hear. But young evangelicals should humbly consider the example of our Lord: If the savior of the world saw fit to toil in working-class obscurity for thirty years before embarking on his cosmos-changing mission, it probably won’t hurt you to spend a bit more time forming your intellect and character before you’re ready to make your mark on the culture.

Relatedly, U.S.-based The Gospel Coalition has recently begun (September 2010) the Ordinary Pastors Project.

The project is inspired by D.A. Carson's book about his father entitled Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (Crossway, 2008).

Click here (Matt B. Redmond) and here (Justin Taylor) for more information and how you can give an online testimony about your beloved "ordinary pastor."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization . . . USA's Mission America Coalition . . . James Brainerd Taylor on evangelism

The Third International Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization took place in Cape Town, South Africa, October 17-24, 2010. It was held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance (est. 1846).

"Perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church," Cape Town 2010 (Lausanne III) "drew 4,000 selected participants from 198 nations. Organizers extended its reach into over 650 GlobaLink sites in 91 countries and drew 100,000 unique visits to its web site from 185 countries during the week of the Congress."

For a report of the historic event and its document "The Cape Town Commitment: A Declaration of Belief and a Call to Action," click here. Also, read here attendee and New Testament scholar Darrell Bock's blog entry concerning his reflections.

To view videos of most of the sessions, including John Piper's exposition of Ephesians 3 (see World Faiths: Plenary I, October 20), click here.

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization is "a worldwide movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization." Lausanne I--LCWE's first International Congress on World Evangelization--was held in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne II was held in 1989 in Manila, Philippines.

In 1974, LCWE produced The Lausanne Covenant, one of the most influential documents in modern Evangelical Christianity. Click here to read the document in various languages.

Mission America Coalition, National Association of Evangelicals & UCM

Since its founding in 2007, Uncommon Christian Ministries (UCM) has been a member of LCWE's American affiliate, Mission America Coalition: Uniting Christians for Evangelism and Revival. Begun in 1995, leaders from 81 denominations, 350-plus ministries and dozens of ministry networks have been involved in MAC. Some members of the coalition's staff and national committee were among the 400 U.S. delegates at Lausanne III. MAC's Chairmam/CEO Paul Cedar wrote an endorsement for my 2008 edited anthology Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor.

As a follow-up to the Congress, MAC is co-sponsoring a leadership consultation forum in Orlando, Florida, April 4-7, 2011. For more information about "From Cape Town 2010 to Orlando 2011 . . . and the Future: Accelerating the Church toward the Great Commission," see MAC's website. Among others, the forum is also being sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals as NAE also sent representatives to Cape Town 2010. Both MAC and I individually (as founder of UCM) are members of NAE.

James Brainerd Taylor

The Princeton University and Yale Seminary-trained evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) would no doubt have been pleased with Lausanne III/Cape Town 2010 and the work of Mission America Coalition in his native U.S. That J. B. Taylor lived and breathed evangelism is evident by such comments as these from his journal entries and letters included in the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor (1833) and A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838):
O, may we enter the work [of ministry] to win souls to Christ, and have, as our great motive, the honor of our blessed Redeemer. (Memoir, page 80)

I know that my object, my highest wish while on earth, is to be instrumental in bringing souls to Christ. (Memoir, 181)

The spare time I have from my college duties, I would rather spend with the sick--the indigent; and that, too, to win souls. (Memoir, 233-34)

I feel willing to live a hundred years on earth if I might work for God and bring souls to Christ, and then have nothing diminished from eternity. . . . I fell before the throne and had a longing for souls--I thirsted to bring souls to Christ. I groaned to win souls and almost with agony pleaded to have souls for my hire. I think I felt willing to lay out my life for souls. Souls, souls, I want souls. (Memoir, 268-69)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Peter Gulick (1797-1877), missionary in Hawaii . . . new book on James Brainerd Taylor's "uncommon Christian" classmate at Princeton

Missionaries in Hawai'i: The Lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick, 1797-1883 is a new book on an "uncommon Christian" classmate and close friend of James Brainerd Taylor.

Especially noteworthy is Peter Gulick's emphasis on self-denial, one of the five pillars or traits of uncommon (biblical) Christianity as stressed by J. B. Taylor. Gulick wrote in 1841,

I trust our [eight] children will all learn that life is not given us, that we may enjoy ourselves, but that we may glorify God by denying ourselves.

During the revival-filled 1820s of the Second Great Awakening, Peter Johnson Gulick (1797-1877) and James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) were students together at the two New Jersey schools of Lawrenceville Academy (now The Lawrenceville School) and Princeton University. In fact, at Lawrenceville the two were roommates.

James Brainerd Taylor
Upon beginning his studies at Lawrenceville, Taylor wrote on January 23, 1820, that Gulick is "a pious, humble Christian, and I think as suitable a companion for me as could be found. He is about three weeks ahead of me in pursuit of the same object" (i.e., Christian ministry).
--> See page 39 in John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833). Free online copy available here.

Along with two other students, Gulick and Taylor founded one of America's earliest student religious societies, the Philadelphian Society of Nassau Hall (1825-1930). The Philadelphian Society is the spiritual parent to today's Princeton Evangelical Fellowship (1931- ) on the Princeton University campus.

Author Clifford Putney's book is the first extensive work devoted to the progenitors (patriarch and matriarch) of the missionary-rich Gulick family.

For 46 uninterrupted years (1828-74), Peter and Fanny Gulick served as pioneer missionaries in The Aloha State. Some structures Peter helped build still stand today and are on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, including Kaua'i Island's Gulick-Rowell House on the former Missionary Row in Waimea.

From the 1820s to the 1960s, members of the Gulick clan could be found throughout the world doing missionary work. This makes them one of America's greatest missionary families and most important evangelical dynasties.

For a synopsis of Missionaries In Hawai'i, click here (University of Massachusetts Press).

For my "Customer Review" of the book at, click here.
--> UPDATE: For my full review of Putney's book, see the online journal Global Missiology, January 2011 (Vol. 2, Nov. 8)
I am persuaded God leaves his children on earth for the sole purpose of glorifying Him and the Great Question with every one should be by what use of my time and talents can I most effectively promote this object?
Peter Johnson Gulick, 1840
Perhaps you would ask if we were not sometimes sorry we were missionaries. No never never. I thank the Lord almost daily that He permitted me to be a missionary.
Fanny Gulick, 1875

Monday, September 13, 2010

German Christian resources . . . James Brainerd Taylor books at . . . Germany trip, February 2010 . . . prayer request

For free online Christian resources translated into German, see the U.S.-based Desiring God and Gospel Coalition web sites by clicking here (Desiring God) and here (Gospel Coalition). Also see the new Gospel Translations web site (est. 2007) and its German page for additional translations.

The founder of Desiring GodJohn Piper, is an American theologian-pastor-author with a Ph.D. in New Testament from Germany's University of Munich. The Gospel Coaltion (est. 2007) is "a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures."

Though not translated into German, the recent (2008) University Press of America biographies An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist In America's Second Great Awakening and Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor are available at Germany's (click here for An Uncommon Christian and here for Of Intense Brightness). The books also are available from the publisher's European distributor (click here). Relatedly, the Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, est. 1558) in Munich purchased Of Intense Brightness for their over 9-million collection.

See my May 10, 2010, blog post for a report on my visit to Kofering, Germany (and, relatedly, my June 30, 2010 post about my trip to New York City's Ellis Island). It was in the rural Bavarian village of Kofering (8.5 miles south of Regensburg) that my beloved American immigrant grandmother, Marie Gangl Kyle (1905-1992), was born.

In addition to Kofering, I visited the following towns and cities during my 2-week trip to Germany, February 16 to March 2. Though in the dead of winter, the trip was a nice break from my current 2-year stay in Israel.

Bad Doberan
Former East Germany/DDR, near the Baltic Sea, pop. 11,000
+ Molli (historic late 19th-century steam engine)

Capital of Germany, pop. 3.4 million (Germany's largest, European Union's second largest)
+ Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom, built 1451)
+ Brandenburg Gate
+ Checkpoint Charlie (and remnants of the Berlin Wall)
+ DDR Museum (exhibit on what everyday life was like in the former East Germany/DDR)
+ German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum)
+ Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial, inaugurated 2005)
+ Humboldt University (est. 1810, Berlin's oldest university)
+ Pergamon Museum (part of Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999; contains displays of the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way of Babylon, etc.)
+ Reichstag (Parliament) building
+ TV Tower (Fernsehturm Berlin, 1,207-foot lookout tower near Alexanderplatz)

Former East Germany/DDR, pop. 30,000
+ Castle (Schloss, built 1589 in Renaissance style, residence for the dukes of Mecklenburg)
+ City Museum
+ Dom (Brick Gothic Cathedral, built 1226-1335, includes W.W. I memorial "Hovering Angel" sculpture by local expressionist artist Ernst Barlach)
+ Ernst Barlach Theater
+ Fountain fox and the hedgehog (sculptures at entrance to the town, from a story by local author John Brinkman)
+ Gertrude Chapel (Ernst Barlach Studio)
+ Krippen Museum (North German Nativity Museum, housed in the Holy Spirit Church)
+ St. Mary Church (19th century, Brick Gothic)
+ Town Hall (built 13th century)

Former East Germany/DDR, pop. 519,000
+ Auerbach's Cellar (Auerbachs Keller, 15th century, second oldest restaurant in Leipzig, entrance statues depict scenes from Goethe's tragic play Faust I)
+ Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus, built 1556)
+ St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche, built 1156, Lutheran, bust of Bach, first performance of the St. John Passion play by Bach on Good Friday 1724)
+ St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche, Lutheran, 13th century building, Bach served as cantor [1723-50] and is buried, outside monuments to Bach and Mendelssohm, Martin Luther preached on May 25, 1539)
+ University of Leipzig (est. 1409)

In Bavaria (8.5 miles north of Kofering), pop. 134,000
+ Regensburg Cathedral (Kathedrale St. Peter, Roman Catholic, built 1275-1634)
+ New Parish Church (Neupfarrkirche, Lutheran, built 1519-1863)
+ Old Town city center (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006)
+ Remains of the Roman fortress' walls including the Porta Praetoria
+ Stone bridge (Steineme Brucke) over the Danube River (built 1135-46)
+ University of Regensburg

Former East Germany/DDR, port city along the Baltic Sea, pop. 201,000
+ University of Rostock (est. 1419)
+ St. Mary's Church and St. Nicholas Church (built 13th century, Brick Gothic)
+ Town Hall (15th century)

Highlights included learning about
~ the former East Germany (German Democratic Republic [DDR], 1949-90) and especially the Mecklenberg-Vorpommern district of northern Germany and its towns of Bad Doberan, Gustrow and Rostock;
~ the Berlin Wall (1961-89);
~ the European Route of Brick Gothic (a tourist route connecting 31 cities with Brick Gothic architecture in 7 countries along the Baltic Sea);
~ the cultural, political and religious impact of different movements and eras of German history (Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, etc.);
~ Germany's contribution to Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern-era music; and
~ the world of Medieval European castles and dukes, princes and princesses.
Please join me in praying for Germany, that the spiritual-theological flame of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and the 17th and 18th-century Pietist movement would be re-ignited both in-and-out of the Lutheran state church.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

James Brainerd Taylor, boyhood home . . . "The Hill," Middle Haddam, Connecticut

Alas, after some 10 years of personal searching in libraries and online, a sketch of the boyhood home of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) is found!

Via Google Books' digitalization (February 11, 2010) of Columbia University Library's copy of A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (New York: John S. Taylor, 1838), the sketch appears in the book's frontispiece.

For some reason, every copy this J. B. Taylor researcher has come across thus far of this second 1830's memoir on the Second Great Awakening "uncommon Christian" evangelist did not contain this frontispiece sketch. That such a sketch existed is known from pages 263-64 of A New Tribute when the compiler Fitch W. Taylor (1803-1865, James' younger brother) wrote in a footnote:

[The Hill] is the name by which the family residence of Mr. Taylor was known among his friends. See the sketch on the Title page. The scenery at this point of the Connecticut [River] is considered to be very fine.

The footnote is included in a paragraph from a July 29, 1828, letter from J. B. Taylor to his family and friends in New York City and elsewhere. The paragraph reads,

When shall we see you at the Hill? You know how gladly we all would welcome you. The Hill looks finely. The trees are doing well, and grow luxuriantly. The lover of scenery will never tire here, but always find enough to feast his love of the beautiful amid so much enchantment of nature.

"The Hill" most likely refers to the Hog Hill section of the early 19th-century ship building town of Middle Haddam, Middlesex County, Connecticut (est. 1767). Located on a summit overlooking the Connecticut River, Hog Hill was so named because a hog was once stuck underneath the Hill's now non-existent Congregational Church (built 1744). Today's Hog Hill Road is adjacent to the Middle Haddam Historic District (part of East Hampton, Connecticut, click here for photos). Since 1984, the district has been listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Andrew Versteeg, Ethel, Ontario, Canada . . . uncommon Christian wedding

Congratulations to groom Andrew J. Versteeg and his new bride Patricia!

With over 300 in attendance, the "uncommon Christian" wedding took place July 17, 2010, in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

After a honeymoon on the Canadian Atlantic island of Newfoundland, the couple will settle where Andrew has lived since 2001: rural Ethel (pop. 216) near Listowel in the eastern portion of Ontario's "west coast" of Huron County (pop. 59,325).

I served as Andrew's best man as I took a 5-week break from my 26 months of sabbatical/pilgrimage/ministry in Israel.

What an honor and privilege from my best friend during and after my student days (1994-2000) at Canada's Prairie Bible College (Three Hills, Alberta) and Toronto Baptist Seminary (Ontario).

Andrew Versteeg (left) and Francis Kyle (right).
July 17, 2010. Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

While past joint travels included trips throughout the U.S. and Canada and to England, Scotland and Israel, Andrew will now have a new traveling partner.

In addition to being now a husband and step-father to four wonderful teenagers, the pig farmer-laborer-preacher serves as an elder at Ontario's Gorrie Bible Fellowship (est. 1985).

Click here to listen to some of Andrew's sermons.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24  (Matt. 19:5, Mark 10:7, Eph. 5:31)


On August 6, 2011, Patricia Versteeg gave birth to a son, Cornelus Samuel John Versteeg. He is named after Andrew's father (Cornelus), Patricia's father (Samuel) and Andrew's middle name (John).

In summer 2011, Andrew became an elder and pastor of Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Huron County, Ontario, Canada. To listen online to some of Andrew's sermons, click here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day 1826 with James Brainerd Taylor, uncommon American Christian . . . Nassau Hall, Princeton University. . . fireworks vs. God's light

From Granby, Connecticut, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes all Americans a happy Independence Day (Fourth of July). Happy 234th birthday, America!

Appropriately, here is the Tuesday, July 4, 1826, diary entry of the "uncommon Christian" American James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1826) as recorded in Fitch W. Taylor's A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838, available online and for free via Google Books). At the time, the Middle Haddam, Connecticut native and aspiring evangelist was a graduating senior at Princeton University (est. 1746), and America was celebrating its 50th birthday. Taylor is the primary founder (February 1825) of what is now called Princeton Evangelical Fellowship.

The candles in the windows that Taylor mentions in his diary were in Nassau Hall, his place of residence (student dorms) that also housed classrooms and offices. Completed in 1757, Nassau Hall is the oldest building on the Princeton campus. It was one of the largest buildings in colonial New Jersey. (See modern-day photo above.)

Interestingly, on the same festive day the "father of American music" and writer of such classics as "Oh, Susanna," "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Hard Times Come Again No More," Stephen Foster, was born in Lawrence, Pennsylvania. Sadly, and along with the young nation, J. B. Taylor and his fellow Princetonians mourned that day as its country's second and third presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died.

This evening the bell rung, and summoned each man to his post. Another bell was the signal to illuminate the windows in front. I was on my knees and alone, conducting our stated prayer meeting. By and by I walked out and beheld the illumination and the crowd. Did some hand light up these tapers [candles]? "God said, let there be light, and there was light" (Genesis 1:3).

For a half hour the crowd gazed at the illumined windows. Had one of ten of them during their lives ever spent a half hour in looking at their hearts in the light of conscience—the grave—the bar of God—of heaven and hell? Who of them had solemnly and seriously and prayerfully retired, even once, to investigate their character?

"This is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:19-20)—or lest they should be brought under conviction. Happy they "into whose hearts God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Assist me, Holy Spirit, and thus fit me for that city [the new Jerusalem] whose "light is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:23).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kofering, Germany to NYC . . . immigrant Marie Gangl Kyle (1905-1992) . . . Parkway Baptist Church, Queens (Rosedale) . . . pro-Christ sermon

How fitting to have visited New York City this month, just 4 months after visiting the rural village of Kofering, Germany, where my beloved paternal grandmother was born. (Click here to read the May 10 blog entry about the February 20, 2010, trip).

My visit to Kofering this year was only the 4th visit by a Kyle family member in 64 years. Very special.

It was at New York City's Ellis Island Immigration Station that Marie Gangl Kyle (1905-1992) first arrived via boat as an American immigrant in 1922 (age 17). Ellis Island in New York Harbor was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the site of the nation's busiest immigration station from 1892 to 1954.

In the early 1990s, I had my grandmother's name engraved on Ellis Island's American Immigrant Wall of Honor (panel 240).

Next to Ellis Island is Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty sits.

On my next visit to Washington, D.C., I plan to visit the German-American Heritage Museum (est. 2010).

Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
New York City. USA.

Though not my first visit to NYC, this month's 7-day visit comes during my 5-week break from Israel, June 9 to July 20, 2010. The break includes visits to my home in Port Angeles, Wash.; friends in NYC; family in Granby and New Hartford, Conn.; and friends in Burlington and Ethel, Ontario, Canada.

I am the best man in my friend's July 17 wedding in Burlington, thus the main reason for the North American trip. On July 21st I return to Israel to begin my second and final year of volunteer work and ministry there. (Click here to read the February 11, 2010, summary of my happenings in Israel so far.)

Parkway Baptist Church. Est. 1989.
Rosedale, NY (NYC/Queens). USA.
While in NYC, and in addition to trips to the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan, I had sweet and renewed fellowship with "Brother" Rizzo (Robert F. Rizzo Jr.), Pastor Vincent Williams and the dear saints at Parkway Baptist Church (est. 1989) in the NYC borough of Queens (city of Rosedale, NY). The church consists primarily of Caribbean/West Indies immigrants (Jamaica, Trinidad, etc.) and some African immigrants.

--> UPDATE: I am pleased the City of Rosedale and the New York State Senate honored Pastor Williams with a Senate Resolution (J1836-2013) to have him be the Grand Marshall of the 2013 Rosedale Memorial Day Parade, May 27, 2013. Click here to see Pastor Williams to the immediate right of N.Y. State Senator Malcolm A. Smith's three-minute speech prior to the parade.

On Sunday morning (June 27, 2010) I delivered a sermon entitled "Pro-Christ and Pro-Eternity, not Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine."

Left to right:
Francis Kyle, Robert F. Rizzo, Jr. (church treasurer), Vincent Williams (pastor).

Parkway Baptist Church. 
Rosedale, NY (NYC/Queens). USA.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kofering, Germany . . . Marie Gangl Kyle (1905-1992) . . . beloved grandmother + German Catholic turned American Protestant . . . pray for Bavaria

German Passport.
Marie Gangl (Kyle). Age 17.
Stamped November 15, 1922.

For immigration sea voyage from
Hamburg, Germany, to New York City, USA.
Dr. Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.
Marie Gangl Kyle

Born: Kofering, Germany (Bavaria)
Died: West Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Marie Gangl Kyle

Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.

U.S. Army Private, W.W. II.
Enlisted August 10, 1945, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Serving in Germany, 1946. Age 19.
Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.

Granby, Connecticut.
2005. Age 78.

Irvin Francis Kyle III (far right) with German relatives
who had met and remembered Marie Gangl Kyle
(their aunt) and I. F. Kyle Jr. (their cousin).

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Irvin Francis Kyle III.

Train station. Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
The same station U.S. Army private I. F. Kyle, Jr., used in W.W. II
on his weekend visit to/from Munich and Kofering, 1946.

February 20, 2010.
Irvin Francis Kyle III.

In front of the birthplace and home (1905-22)
of grandmother Marie Gangl Kyle.
Homestead still owned and lived in by the Gangl family.

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Castle in Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
1/4-mile from the Gangl homestead.

February 20, 2010.
St. Michael's Parish (Roman Catholic).

Home church of the Gangl family.
1/4-mile from the Gangl homestead.

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Map of Germany.

For 6 hours on February 20, 2010, I visited the rural and adjacent villages of Kofering and Scheuer in Bavaria in southeast Germany. It was a very precious and memorable visit.

With a population of about 2,400 and located 8.5 miles south of the historic city of Regensburg (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it was in Kofering that my beloved maternal grandmother was born on January 25, 1905.


At the age of 17 in November 1922, Marie Gangl left Kofering and sailed, via Hamburg, Germany, to the United States of America. She landed on New York City's Ellis Island near Liberty Island's Statue of Liberty.

Evidently, there was a wealthy family that was friends with the Gangl family who helped secure the hard-to-obtain immigration papers for Marie. Marie was the only family member among her seven siblings (3 brothers, 4 sisters) to leave Germany after World War I (1914-18).

As a teenager, it appears that adventure and seeking a better life were the main motives behind Marie's decision.
--> NOTE: In the mid-1990s, I purchased an engraving with my grandmother's name on it during a centennial anniversary fundraising project to restore Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The engraved name (Marie Gangl Kyle) is located on Ellis Island's American Immigrant Wall of Honor, panel 240.

After marrying Irvin Frielinghausen Kyle (died 1967) in Wichita, Kansas, on September 8, 1926, Marie gave birth to my father, Irvin Francis Kyle Jr. (1927-2006), and my aunt, Lenore Anita Kyle (later Lenore Anita Thomas, 1928-2009).

After living in Germany (Kofering), Kansas (Wichita), Nebraska (Omaha), Oregon (Hood River), Illinois (Alton) and Ohio (Toledo), Marie Gangl Kyle died of Alzheimer's Disease (a form of dementia) on March 21, 1992 in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Sadly, her dementia began soon after she was violently assaulted/mugged in the mid-1980s in Toledo, Ohio. At the time, she was on her way to get breakfast for me and a sibling while my family was visiting her on a summer vacation. (Just a year prior a teenage female cousin of mine was killed by a drunk driver on September 16, 1982. This also took place in Toledo.)

Marie Gangl Kyle is buried next to her husband at Hillcrest-West Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska. A "Together Forever" emblem, Bible emblem below Marie's name and a Masonic Lodge emblem below her husband's name are engraved on their gravestone. I visited the gravesite during a visit to Omaha in August 2008. The visit was in conjunction with the 80th birthday party of Marie's daughter, my aunt.

Except for Kansas and Illinois, I have now visited and seen most or all of the homes where Grandma Kyle lived. This includes a visit to Hood River, Oregon, in April 2009, and the still-existent apartment she and her fishing-loving husband lived in. Her husband's ill health prematurely ended their 5-7 years of peaceful retirement along the Columbia River in scenic Hood River. They had to head back to Nebraska where Grandpa Kyle's railroad retirement health insurance provided better financial coverage, so I was told.

My time with Grandma Kyle in Ohio during my foundational infant years of 2-to-5-years-old (1973-76) are my most precious memories of her, followed by the family vacations we took to see her in Toledo and her trips to see our family in Connecticut at Christmas (1976-85). In September 2014, I met for the first time Donald W. Fothergill, her pastor in Toledo, Ohio (see below).

It was when I left Grandma Kyle and moved to Connecticut with my family in 1976 that my life took a downward turn--click here to read the story on the Uncommon Christian Ministries' website.


My visit in 2010 was only the fourth visit to Kofering by a Kyle family member in 64 years.

In 1946, my father visited Kofering while on a weekend leave from the U.S. Army (see above Army photo). (Private Irvin F. Kyle, Jr., enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 10, 1945, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.) In the early 1950's, Marie returned to her native village for the first and only time since immigrating to the U.S. And in October 1997, my father, mother and a sister visited.

The trip to Kofering was extra special and timely in that

+ my father and his sister (my aunt) died recently (August 2006 and November 2009, respectively);

+ two of my grandmother's nephews are still alive--Walter Brombierstaudl and Paul Gangl, both in their 70s--and remembered many things about my grandmother and my father's two visits which were separated by 51 years; (there is a third nephew, Alfonse Brombierstaudl, but was unable to meet him.)

+ many buildings that existed during my grandmother's brief 17 years in Kofering (1905-22) still exist, including the town's Roman Catholic Church (St. Michael's Parish, see above photo), inn (now a restaurant/bar owned by Regensburg's Brauerei Kneitinger), railroad station building, castle (schloss) where Marie and some family members worked (see above photo), and the Gangl family home which is still owned and occupied by the family (see above photo);

+ the Roman Catholic Church in the nearby village of Scheuer (one mile from Kofering) also stands today (the name of Faver Gangl is engraved on a memorial outside the church that is dedicated to those from the area that died during W.W. II); and

+ I had a German-to-English translator in my native German friend Friederike who I met here in Israel--I will forever be grateful to her.


Uncommon Christian Grandmother? . . . German Catholic turned American "Born Again" Protestant . . . pray for Bavaria

I am so grateful to the Lord that He took my beloved grandmother out of Kofering, Germany, and sent her to America at age 17 (1922). For it was in America that she heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and apparently and hopefully "fled the wrath to come" and was "born again." I explain . . . .
Though impossible to know for sure, it appears Grandma Kyle was a Christian--that is, was born again, was a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ--and thereby had her sins forgiven and has been granted eternal life by God the Father. I hope I will see her in heaven but it is only a hope, I realize.

Grandma Kyle did not speak to me about the Gospel during my 21 years with her (1971-92). However, with only a third-to-fourth grade education, and with a son (my father) and daughter-in-law (my mother) who were raising their six children in the Roman Catholic Church, her silence on spiritual and eternal matters to me and her seven other grandchildren is somewhat understandable. Plus, during the last of these 21 years with her she was unable to remember things and speak clearly due to her dementia.

What is known and what I do remember from my childhood is that Grandma Kyle read her Bible regularly, was a woman of prayer (including before meals), attended church every Sunday (including the evangelical Washington Congregational United Church of Christ in Toledo, Ohio, under one of her beloved pastors, Donald W. Fothergill, a Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary graduate and native of West Hartford, Connecticut), attended periodic "revival" meetings, never partook of the Eucharist when attending a Catholic Mass with my family, and had evidence in her speech and actions of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).

From what I have pieced together over the years is that my grandmother may have become a Christian in the 1940s (about age 45?) during a series of revival meetings by the evangelist-pastor and pioneer radio preacher, Dr. R. R. Brown (1885-1964), at the Omaha Gospel Tabernacle (Christian & Missionary Alliance [C&MA] denomination). Founded in 1921, "The Tab" is now called Christ Community Church.

It appears that her daughter Lenore got saved first and then brought her mother (my grandmother) to the revival meetings. Lenore would later go on to study at Minnesota's St. Paul Bible College (est. 1916, C&MA affiliate, now called Crown College) and marry Meredith Thomas. "Uncle Tommy" later become a Baptist minister and Air Force chaplain.
--> See here for the November 13, 2011, Parade Magazine article, "Could It Be Alzheimer's?" Meredith Thomas is mentioned in the article.

My father told me he attended the meetings only once for about 10 minutes and hated it because all he heard was "fire and brimstone" (preaching about hell). He never again entered the Omaha Gospel Tabernacle and would later convert to Roman Catholicism in Lourdes, France (of apparitions of the Virgin Mary fame) while a 19-year-old soldier in Germany at the end of W.W. II.

It is possible his conversion to Catholicism was a reaction to the constant preaching of his fiery redhead, German immigrant mother that he "must be born again" (John 3:3, 7). In his later years, when I politely asked if Grandma Kyle ever talked to him about being born-again when a youngster, my father told me in immediate reactionary anger, "Did she? Every day!"

As I learned first-hand in February, the villages of Kofering and Scheuer, nearby Regensburg and all of Bavaria are steeped in Vatican-style Roman Catholicism. Sadly, the Martin Luther-led Protestant Reformation did not penetrate as much into Bavaria as it did in other parts of Europe. Even today, only Saarland has a higher percentage of Catholics among the German states. While 56.4% of the population adhere to the Catholic Church, 21% are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. The former pope (2005-13), Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger), was born in Upper Bavaria.

Religion remains important to many in the region, as expressed by the typical Bavarian, Austrian and Swabian greeting: "Grüss Gott!" ("God greet [you]," originally es grüsse Dich Gott--"God may bless you").
--> NOTE: In the U.S., particularly among German Americans, Bavarian culture is viewed somewhat nostalgically, and many "Bavarian villages," most notably Frankenmuth, Michigan and Leavenworth, Washington (in the North Cascade Mountains east of Seattle), have been founded.

An interesting observation and question was made my grandmother's nephew Walter while we were having dinner in Kofering. A Catholic himself along with his wife Trudy, he asked why my grandmother converted to Protestantism after she left Germany. To add to his observation, I commented that her son (my father) converted at age 19 from nominal Protestantism to Catholicism, attended a Catholic university for his B.A. and M.A. (Creighton University [Jesuit] in Omaha) and that he even studied for the Catholic (Benedictine) priesthood. And that I converted (was born again) at age 21 from nominal Catholicism to Evangelical Protestantism and graduated from three Baptist schools.

Please join me in praying for more Gospel-centered Evangelical Protestant workers to go to Kofering (and Scheuer), Regensburg and other parts of Bavaria where spiritually lost people are blinded by the deceitfulness and darkness that is the false religion of Roman Catholicism.
"The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2).