Saturday, November 19, 2011

King James Version (KJV) Bible, 400th anniversary . . . James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) and his "dear little book"

Throughout 2011, churches, seminaries, universities, historical associations and Bible societies throughout the English-speaking world are commemorating the 400th anniversary of the completion of the King James Version (Authorized Version) Bible.

For instance, on November 16, 2011, England's Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family attended a commemorative event at Westminster Abbey in London. The event was sponsored by the King James Bible Trust.

On the King James Bible Trust's website is a wealth of information and videos about the history and influence of the KJV, including videos from Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II.

No other English translation has had more influence on American and British language and culture than the KJV. It is indeed the book that has changed the world, as this 5-minute video from the New Zealand Bible Society shows:

The 1611 translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England (Anglican Church). The New Testament was translated from Greek and the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew. The 7-year translation work (1604-11) occurred during the time of the famed playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

In 1982, the New King James Version (NJKV) Bible was published by the American publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. It took 7 years for the committee of 130 biblical scholars, pastors and theologians to complete the translation. As with the KJV, so the NKJV also used the Textus Receptus (Received or Majority Text) for its translation of the New Testament.

James Brainerd Taylor, Dr. Peter Parker and Taylor's "dear little book" in China

Peter Parker (1804-1888), missionary to China
The American evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1810-1829) made much use of his KJV Bible in his effort to be an "uncommon" Christian, defined by Taylor as "an eminently holy, self-denying, cross-bearing, Bible, everyday" Christian.

In God's providence, when James' brother Fitch W. Taylor (1803-1865) was in Canton (Guangzhou), China, serving as a chaplain on the first American naval ship to circumnavigate the globe (May 6, 1838–June 1840), Fitch was surprised to find his late brother’s "dear little book," his morocco-covered pocket KJV Bible.

The Bible was in the possession of the Yale-educated Dr. Peter Parker (1804–1888), the first Protestant medical missionary to China. The Bible was given to Parker by Fitch’s sister-in-law (the wife of brother Knowles Taylor) before Parker left New York City for China.

Fitch remembered seeing James “for hours, and daily, in absorbed and delightful study” with the “identical little volume” that Parker showed him. (As of this writing, the Bible has not been located yet by this biographer on J. B. Taylor.)

See Fitch W. Taylor, A Voyage Round the World, and Visits to Various Foreign Countries, in the United States Frigate Columbia; Attended by Her Consort The Sloop of War John Adams, and Commanded By Commodore George C. Read. . . ., 5th ed., vol. 2 (New Haven: H. Mansfield, and New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1846), page 137. Available online and for free at Google Books.

"O, to be mighty in the Scriptures" (Acts 18:24) . . . Of Intense Brightness excerpts

Below are some excerpts from my second book on Taylor entitled Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor (University Press of America, 2008), pages 10-13.

The excepts about J. B. Taylor's spirituality of biblicism are taken from the introductory essay to the 168-page work.

“Next to personal holiness, Mr. Taylor desired to be ‘mighty in the Scriptures’. . . . ‘O to be mighty in the Scriptures’ [Acts 18:24], was his frequent petition at the throne of grace.” (Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, 2nd Edition, 1833, page 437).

That this desire of Taylor’s was not merely an intellectual one is known from comments by one of his contemporaries:
With constancy he searched the Scriptures—not for subjects of speculation—not as a mere intellectual exercise—but with a strong desire to ascertain what affections ought to be cherished, and what duties performed.
In the Bible, as in a mirror, he looked at himself; and in light of the Bible he contemplated every object that claimed his attention or solicited his affections. He was indeed a Bible Christian. Perhaps no one ever more implicitly subjected his whole being to the inspired word.   (Memoir, page 428.)
In a “Note by a friend,” we learn more about this seemingly “walking concordance” from another of his contemporaries:
Mr. Taylor’s familiarity with the contents of the Bible was observable by all with whom he associated.
It was an interesting trait in his habits of intercourse with friends, that, when the conversation seemed at a stand, he would take out his little pocket Bible, saying, “I guess I can find something here to amuse us;” and then would give a familiar exposition of some passage, and connect with the illustration some anecdote; at the same time repeating, and turning to parallel passages; so that no one could listen to him without being deeply interested.
So peculiarly happy was he in these familiar illustrations, that it was not an unfrequent thing to see those around him smile with delight, and at the next moment weep with deep emotion. There are many, who were often in his society, who will recognize the truth of this remark in their own experience.
He would often speak of his Bible, as “the dear little book.”
I was present at his examination [for a license to preach the gospel, October 7–8, 1828, in East Haddam, Connecticut], and never heard any man quote the Sacred Scriptures with such fluency, for confirmation of his doctrinal views, as the questions were successively proposed to him.   (Memoir, page 43-44 footnote.)

Indeed, the Princeton University and Yale Seminary-educated J. B. Taylor was, as John Wesley (1703–1791) claimed to be, homo unius libri (“a man of one book”).

And, like his deceased theological mentor Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Taylor was
Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. (Resolution 28 of Edwards’ 70 Resolutions)
Due to Taylor's frequent usage of Scripture, some verses seemed to have been particularly treasured. These include (and are presented with the NKJV text):

● Deuteronomy 3:27: “Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.”

● Joshua 13:1: “There remains very much land yet to be possessed.”

● Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”

● Daniel 12:3: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”

● Matthew 10:16: “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

● John 13:7: “What I [Jesus] am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

● 1 Corinthians 15:10: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

● 2 Corinthians 12:15: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

● 1 Peter 1:8: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Taylor hid the Word of God in his heart by memorizing Scripture so that he might not sin against God (Psalm 119:11).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review, "Encyclopedia of New England" . . . New England Historical Association, Fall 2011 issue

As an independent scholar on early 19th-century America and the Connecticut-born evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), my book review of the 1,596-page The Encyclopedia of New England: The Culture and History of an American Region (Burt Feintuch and David Watters, editors; Yale University Press, 2005) appears in the Fall 2011 issue (Vol. 37, No. 2) of NEHA News: The Newsletter of the New England Historical Association.

To read the 600-word review on the NEHA website, click here or here. See pages 18 and 19.

Also, one can read the same review on Uncommon Christian Ministries' "Book Review" page by clicking here.

Formed in 1965, the New England Historical Association has about 800 members. It is the regional affiliate of the 14,000-member American Historical Association (est. 1889).

The purpose of NEHA "is to promote scholarly interchange and to enhance teaching and scholarship in history. While most of its members are college and university faculty, its active participants also include independent scholars, preservationists and museum-based scholars, historical society administrators, and secondary school faculty."

Though not a member of NEHA, I am a member of, among others, the American Society of Church History.

Friday, September 23, 2011

10th anniversary of 9/11 . . . Sermon: "Comfort for God's People in Our Uncertain Post-9/11 World" . . . Matthew 7:7-8

"Comfort for God's People in Our Uncertain Post-9/11 World" was the title of my sermon preached on the 10th anniversay of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

The sermon was based on the New Testament verses of Matthew 7:7-8.

The familiar words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ--and that speak of persisent prayer--appear towards the end of his famous Sermon on the Mount:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

To listen online to the audio of the 50-minute sermon preached at Grace Church in my native West Hartford, Connecticut, click here or here (see 9/11/2011 date).

Grace Church (est. 2005) is pastored by Dr. Ted Bigelow, author of the recently released (January 2011) The Titus Mandate: Rescue, Protect, Reform (Paul's Plan That Rescues Christians From Dangerous Churches).

Just weeks after 9/11 took place, I preached a message from the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 55:1-13. The October 2001 sermon occured at Joyce Bible Church in Joyce, Washington.

If interested in a free audio CD of the message, contact Uncommon Christian Ministries.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summary of 26 months in Israel, May 2009 to July 2011 . . . ministry, pilgrimage, sabbatical

A dream that began as a non-Christian at age 18 (1989) became reality for an amazing 26 months, May 9, 2009, to July 5, 2011. "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:4.

With the first visit being for 10 days in December 2005/January 2006, I revisited Israel for the sake of spiritual pilgrimage and ministry.

The over two years of living and ministering in the land of the Hebrew prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the early church and 19th-century Protestant pioneer missionaries also served as a self-imposed and self-funded sabbatical.

Below are the four main entities I was involved with. Two were Christian, one Jewish-based but very secular, and the other one non-religious/secular. All provided a great cross-cultural volunteer experience. I highly recommend them all.

But first . . .

Israel Nature and Parks Authority
In addition to the below, I made visits to Germany (February 2010), Jordan (April 2010), Egypt (October 2010), the Palestinian Territories (numerous visits) and a 5-week break in Canada and the U.S. (June-July 2010).

With use of a vehicle for 5 months in 2009, and use of the inexpensive public transportation system (buses, trains), I was able to visit most of the major Israeli national parks that preserve archaeological remains from Old Testament, New Testament and post-biblical times. It helped that Israel is small (about the size of New Jersey).

Plus, I visited a wide variety of museums (art, historical, military), nature parks (for hiking) and beaches, and attended Hebrew-speaking Messianic church services, Arab Christian services, Jewish synagogue services, Christian Zionist conferences and one Christian anti-Zionist/pro-Palestinian conference in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, Arab and Jewish concerts, films (including the annual Jewish Film Festival in Jerusalem), lectures, Holocaust memorials, sporting events, English-speaking theatrical performances and cultural festivals.

On a sad note, two acts of terrorism in which a Christian was killed occurred during my time in Israel. On December 18, 2010, CMJ-U.K. worker Kristen Luken was stabbed to death while hiking in the Jerusalem Forest. On March 23, 2011, Wycliffe Bible Translator missionary and Hebrew University-Jerusalem student Mary Jane Gardner was killed at a Jerusalem bus stop bombing.

(1) CMJ Israel -- Investing in the Spiritual Rebirth of the Jewish People since 1809 . . . . Christ Church Guest House (Jerusalem)

The Church's Ministry Among the Jews (CMJ) was founded in 1809 in London by such prominent Christians as Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce. Although not the first evangelical Christian (Protestant) organization founded to serve the Jewish people, this Anglican missionary society is the longest standing.

The year 2009 marked the ministry's 200th anniversary, as well as the publication of Kelvin Crombie's Restoring Israel: 200 Years of the CMJ Story.

Christ Church Jerusalem
Church of England (Anglican)
Built 1849
CMJ has branches in Australia, IrelandIsrael, South Africa, U.K. and U.S.

To view a 10-minute video highlighting the history and current work of CMJ and entitled "Grafted Branches" (per Romans 11:24)," click here.

Completed in 1849 by CMJ, Christ Church in Old City Jerusalem is the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. The Jewish symbols and Hebrew texts found in the church are reminders that the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of God's promises to the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, and that His covenant purposes for Israel have not been canceled (Romans 11).

Christ Church is a founding member of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (est. June 2008).

In exchange for free housing, food, educational opportunities and a periodic group outing, I volunteered 40-hours per week as a front desk receptionist at the CMJ-owned and operated Christ Church Guest House.

A team of 10-15 international volunteers worked alongside paid local staff at the 30-room guest house. The paid local staff consisted of Arab, Jewish and Russian believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Currently, the guest house is #6 of the 48 B&B's/Inns in Jerusalem ranked on

Living and working among the tourists and 35,000 or so Christian, Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem's .35-square-mile Old City was a tremendous international cross-cultural experience.

(2) Voice in the Wilderness -- Preaching the Gospel in Israel
Founded in the early 1990's by a Jewish convert to Christianity, Voice in the Wilderness is a church and evangelistic ministry.

The British-born founder leads church services three times per week (one in English, two in English but with translation into Russian) and organizes weekly distribution outreaches--Bibles, Christian literature, CDs and DVDs--throughout Israel and the Palestinian Territories/West Bank. For instance, every Friday night VIW ministers among the many African and Asian immigrants in Tel Aviv, some of whom escaped from war-torn Darfur.

Voice in the Wilderness
Jerusalem, Israel
VIW also organizes periodic outreach trips to Egypt, Jordan, Kurdistan and Turkey. 

I especially liked the times of fellowship with other believers when on a VIW weekly desert hike in the Judean Mountains. Fond memories created.

Located just outside of Jerusalem's Old City, VIW served as my home church. I had the privilege of helping VIW by means of street evangelism and substitute preaching. With the founding pastor, I also attended the monthly Men in Ministry gatherings in Jerusalem. 

Here is a 10-minute video of VIW founder Antony S. and the story of his conversion to Christianity. It is entitled "How I Found the Jewish Messiah in Israel" and has been viewed over 43,000 times since 2007.

VIW is a member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.).

It is supported by, among others, Action International MinistriesHeart Cry Missionary Society and Zion's Hope Ministries.

Contact VIW if divinely led to volunteer or give financially.

(3) Sar-El -- The National Project of Volunteers For Israel
An affiliate of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Sar-El volunteers do non-combat civilian ("jobnik") work on an IDF base alongside and under the direction of the soldiers. 

Volunteers for Israel,
U.S. affiliate of Sar-El
Est. 1983
I spent a cumulative total of 10 weeks volunteering with Sar-El on 3 different Army bases: May 2009 and February 2011 (base on the Israel-Lebanon border), May 2011 (base near Beersheba in the Negev desert) and June 2011 (base in the Galilee area between Nazareth and Tiberias).

It was volunteering on an IDF Army base on my third "tour of duty" with Sar-El that I celebrated my 40th birthday.

The 5-day, 40-hour work week (Sunday-Thursday) was mainly in the logistical, maintaining, catering, supply and medical services.
In the evenings, there were various activities and educational presentations on such topics as the modern Hebrew language, Israel's ancient and modern history, Jewish holidays and traditions, and social and political issues in Israel.‏ Also, there were two Sar-El sponsored site-seeing trips for every 3-week program.

To view the 5-minute video "The Sar-El Volunteer Experience" produced by the IDF Film Unit, click here.

Since its beginning in 1983--during the First Lebanon War (Operation Peace for the Galilee)--and through the end of 2010, over 125,000 international volunteers have participated with Sar-El.

Last year (2010), 3,367 volunteered, with the most being from France (1,098) and the U.S. (1,045), and with 559 being non-Jewish (mostly Evangelical Protestant Christians), and with most being under the age of 25 (1,655).

Volunteers For Israel is the U.S.-based non-profit organization responsible for recruiting Americans to Sar-El. VFI seeks to "promote solidarity and goodwill among Israelis, American Jews and other friends of Israel."

Francis Kyle on IDF Army base in the Negev Desert, 1 of 3 bases
served on (non-combat) during 10 cumulative weeks (2009, 2011)

(4) Servas International -- Open Doors for Peace and Friendship
Founded in 1949, Servas International is the world's oldest international cultural exchange hospitality network. Its over 15,000 members are spread out in over 125 countries.

Servas International
Est. 1949
Though it has lost some of its early emphasis on world peace/pacifism, Servas has consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1998.

Though not a pacifist, I nevertheless signed up as an International Traveler with the U.S. Servas office. Over a 15 month period (April 2010 to June 2011), I visited 13 host families throughout Israel for a total of 38 nights.

Most of the hosts lived in rural areas (my favorite) and hosted me for 2-3 nights. All except one wife were secular/non-religious Jews (along with her husband, they were "illegal" settlers in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank), and all except one couple were over age 55.

Servas host in Ramat Gan, Israel, near Tel Aviv
June 2011
Once given a country's Host List, members schedule their own trips and pay for their own travel expenses.

Overnight lodging with the host is free though it is up to the host whether or not he/she/they have the time, energy and interest to accept a request for hosting.

Though not required, many hosts also fed me and gave me a tour of area sites.

For those wanting to meet locals in the country they are visiting, I recommend Servas and Couch Surfing.

Or, for those with space and a heart for people, become a host. (Travelers are not required to reciprocate and become hosts.)

Whether as a traveler or host--and though Servas is a non-religious organization--opportunities abound to be an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Servas hosts in Arad, Israel
May 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Essays to Do Good" by Cotton Mather . . . James Brainerd Taylor, do-gooder for God . . . Galatians 6:10

As I plod away at reading some of the influential 16th- to 19th-century books in the life of the American evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), the latest one was Essays To Do Good: addressed to all Christians, whether in public or private capacities (abridged title).
It was written by the prominent New England Puritan, Cotton Mather (1663-1728).

Among the 17 editions that appeared between 1800 and 1840, the 1816 "new and improved" London edition by editor George Burder is available online and for free at Google Books. It is a manageable and spiritually challenging 172 pages. (Burder's 1826 edition is also available at Google Books.)

Written in 1710, Essays To Do Good was popular among American and British Christians up to the mid-1800's. Harvard historian Perry Miller (1905-1963) considered it one of the most important books of the early eighteenth century.

The work even had a shaping influence on the non-Christian (Deist) Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). The famed American diplomat-statesman-scientist read the work when eleven years old. At sixteen, he borrowed from the book's theme when he pretended to be a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood. The fourteen satirical letters from his pseudonym Silence Dogood were published in the New England Courant from April to October 1722.

Here are some quotes from Essays To Do Good. All page numbers are from the 1816 edited edition by Burder.

+ A power and an opportunity to do good, not only gives a right to the doing of it, but makes the doing of it a duty.  (pp. vi, 4)
+ The firstborn of all devices to do good is in being born again [John 3:3,7; 1 Peter 1:23].  (p. 22)
+ Without abridging yourselves of your occasional thoughts on the question, 'What good may I do today?', fix a time, now and then, for more deliberate thoughts upon it. Cannot you find time (say, once a week and how suitably on the Lord's Day/Sunday) to take this question into consideration, 'What is there that I may do for the service of the glorious Lord, and for the welfare of those for whom I ought to be concerned?'  (p. 35) 
+ Those who devote themselves to good devices [works], and who duly observe their opportunities to do good, usually find a wonderful increase of their opportunities. The gracious providence of God affords this recompense to his diligent servants, that he will multiply their opportunities of being serviceable.  (p. 36) 
+ What I aim at is this: Let us try to do good with as much application of mind as wicked men employ in doing evil. When 'wickedness proceeds from the wicked [1 Samuel 24:13], it is done with both hands and greedily.' Why then may not we proceed in our useful engagements 'with both hands,' and 'greedily' watching for opportunities. . . . 'If you will not learn of good men, for shame, learn of the devil; he is never idle' (Hugh Latimer).  (p. 27) 
+ A workless faith is a worthless faith. (p.31)
+ Let no man pretend to the name of a Christian who does not approve the proposal of a perpetual endeavor to do good in the world. What pretension can such a man have to be a follower of the Good One?  (p. 18) 
+ Protestants, will you be out-done by Popish idolaters? O the vast pains which those [Roman Catholic] bigots have taken to carry on the Romish merchandise and idolatry!  (p. 155) 
+ 'Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.' . . . 'A good action is its own reward.' Indeed, the pleasure that is experienced in the performance of good actions is inexpressible, is unparalleled, is angelical; it is a most refined pleasure, more to be envied than any sensual gratification. Pleasure was long since defined, 'The result of some excellent action.' This pleasure is a sort of holy luxury. Most pitiable are they who will continue strangers to it!  (p. 170)

With an emphasis on self-denial, "Up and be doing" as a life maxim, and Galatians 6:10 as an oft-repeated Bible verse in James Brainerd Taylor's journal and letters, it is easy to see the impact that Essays To Do Good had on the "uncommon" Christian.

On June 19, 1820, the then 19-year-old Taylor wrote from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, to one of his sisters:
'To do good and communicate forget not' [Hebrews 13:16] is a maxim which we should keep in continual remembrance. The more we conform our lives to it, the greater will be our resemblance to our blessed Savior as he lived among men [Acts 10:38]. To do good, we must seek opportunities; and then opportunities will frequently find us. 
Since reading Cotton Mather's 'Essays To Do Good,' I feel that I have been exceedingly deficient. In looking back to the time when I first made a public profession of religion [September 15, 1816] . . . I am constrained to say, O what a barren fig-tree I have been [Luke 13:6-9]! My leanness! My leanness! But blessed be the Lord, I have a desire to do good now. 
*From John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Stereotype Edition [New York: American Tract Society, 1833], 45-46.
In my estimation, Galatians 6:10 could really be used to summarize the Second Great Awakening that Taylor participated in. The verse reads:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Because of the multitude of domestic and foreign Evangelical Protestant ministries that were established during the early 19th-century spiritual revival, this formative period of American history has been dubbed by some scholars as the Evangelical Empire and the Benevolent Empire. There was a great balance of the integration of faith and good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), with the student-evangelist J. B. Taylor being one of many examples that could be given.

Today's church in Mather and Taylor's native U.S. could learn much from Essays To Do Good. May we be striving uncommon Christians, "zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14) in response to our being justified by faith in Christ.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Go West, Young Man!" . . . The Great American "Wild" West, 20th anniversary (1991-2011) . . . U.S. national parks--Glacier, Big Bend, Olympic . . . 19th-century frontier missionaries

This month (June 2011) marks the 20th anniversary of the fulfillment of my boyhood dream of leaving the east coast of West Hartford, Connecticut, for the Great American "Wild" West.

I am so thankful for the geographic change as it was used of God to change my life forever. To God be the glory for placing the desire (Psalm 37:4) and giving me the courage to heed the call to "Go West, Young Man!"

It was as a struggling 20-year-old University of Hartford student that I went west for the first time during the summer of 1991.

After working in the hotel/restaurant industry in three national parks--Glacier National Park (Montana), Big Bend National Park (Texas) and Olympic National Park (Washington) --I settled in Port Angeles, Clallam County, Washington, in 1992. Except for six school years of Bible college and seminary in Canada (1994-2000) and the last two years in Israel (May 2009-June 2011), I have mostly lived in Port Angeles--the "gateway" town to Olympic National Park and where the park headquarters are located--ever since.

Upon taking Amtrak trains "Lake Shore Limited" (New York City to Chicago) and "Empire Builder" (Chicago to East Glacier, Montana), I worked the summer of 1991 as a security guard at the historic, 214-room Many Glacier Hotel (built 1915) in Glacier National Park.

It was the best summer of my (pre-Christian) life in one of America's "sacred cathedrals."

The scenery of Montana's Rocky Mountains combined with the North American and international tourists and 150 co-workers I met--including co-worker and special friend Stephanie B. Freedman from Marblehead, Massachusetts (now Sara Mizrahi of Jerusalem, Israel)--made for an unforgettable summer. It was my first solo time away from home (Connecticut), thus adding to the adventure.

After Montana, I worked for seven months (October 1991-April 1992) as a hotel receptionist at Chisos Mountains Lodge in west Texas' Big Bend National Park. My hiring via a brief phone interview came after I quit my studies at the University of Hartford a month after the 1991 fall semester had begun. Quitting my studies was a big financial risk as I had free tuition because my mother worked at the expensive private university. Four of my five older siblings had graduated from the university while conveniently living at home only four miles from the school. My life of risk taking and "going against the grain" had begun.

In May 1992, I began what turned out to be my first of nine summers (1992-97, 1999-2001) as a seasonal waiter at the historic, 52-room Lake Crescent Lodge (built 1916) in Olympic National Park. Soon after arriving at Olympic, I attended my first-ever Evangelical Protestant church at Independent Bible Church (IBC) in Port Angeles, Washington (pop. 20,000).

Six months later, in mid-October 1992 and when 21.5-years-old, I became "born again" (John 3:3, 7 and 1 Peter 1:23 in the New Testament) in a Lake Crescent Lodge employee dormitory room. On November 1, 1992, I was baptized by water immersion at IBC by associate pastor Mike Chinn.

Some resources that have helped me appreciate more the Great American "Wild" West--and its 19th-century frontier missionaries--have been the below items.

Most of these same resources were used in my organizing the October 31, 2004, event "Go West, Young Man! A Tribute to Lewis & Clark and the Western Pioneer Missionaries that Followed." Sponsored by the Pensinsula College Christian Student Fellowship (where I served as founding advisor, 2002-09), the 2-hour Port Angeles, Washington, event saw about 200 in attendance. For a free video of the event, contact UCM.

+ DVD (1996), "The West," 8-part documentary series by PBS's Ken Burns and Stephen Ives . . . "journey through a boundless landscape where myth, vision and dream seem to shape to historical reality"

+ DVD (1997), "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery," documentary series by PBS's Ken Burns

+ DVD (2009), "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," 6-episode documentary series by PBS's Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan

+ DVD (2008), "Great Lodges of the National Parks," documentary series by PBS

+ Music CDs by Montana's David Walburn, especially his albums "Lewis & Clark: West for America" (1999) and "Montana: Life Under the Big Sky" (2002). . . "captures the songs of Montana and Glacier National Park like no other artist. Whether historical ballads, love songs or personal tunes, David's Montana Music flows easy, like a cool mountain stream" . . . every summer, Walburn performs live shows six nights a week at Glacier Park's Many Glacier Hotel 

+ Book (1971), Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand: The Story of Frontier Religion by Ross Phares (Bison Books)

+ Encyclopedia (1998), The New Encyclopedia of the American West by editor Howard R. Lamar (Yale University Press)

+ Book (1997), Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose (Simon and Schuster)

+ Book (4 volumes, 1931-46), Religion on the American Frontier, 1783-1850 (Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians) by William Warren Sweet (1881-1959) (University of Chicago Press)

+ Museums, National Museum of the American Indian (part of Smithsonian Institution) in Washington, D.C., and New York City . . . and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial's Museum of Westward Expansion (and the adjacent Gateway Arch), St. Louis, Missouri
"Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. . . .
I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe."
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), Walking (1862)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

40th birthday . . . "40" in the Bible . . . celebrating with Sar-El (Volunteers For Israel) on IDF Army base

Today I celebrate my 40th birthday. I was born in the U.S. on Tuesday, May 18, 1971.

Amazing and hard to believe in light of the first 21.5 years (1971 - October 1992) that were filled with deep spiritual darkness, hopelessness and despair.

Along with King David after the Lord made a historic covenant with him, so with similar conviction I say,
Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house/family, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in your sight, O God.
2 Samuel 7:18-19 (also 1 Chronicles 17:16-17)
While I do not believe in biblical numerology or gematria, nonetheless some major events in the Bible occurred in 40 days, 40 weeks and 40 years. The list includes the Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the desert and the Lord Jesus Christ's 40 days of fasting while being tempted by the devil and prior to beginning his public ministry. For some of the many occurrences of the number 40 in the Bible, click here and here.

Please join with me in praying for Divine guidance as this striving uncommon Christian begins a 5th decade of living today. After a 25-month sabbatical/pilgrimage/ministry venture in Israel (May 8, 2009 - July 5, 2011), I return to my native United States in early July.

As I "number my days" that I may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:2), I do so with eager anticipation and expectation as I discover/learn for the first time what the Sovereign Lord has already decreed from "before time began" (in eternity past, Titus 1:2; cf. Psalm 5:3Psalm 139:16). Concerning my near and distant future, what I know not now I shall know hereafter/later (John 13:7).

I will be celebrating my 40th birthday by doing a third "tour of duty" with Sar-El: The National Project for Volunteers For Israel.

The first two "tours" were in May 2009 (3 weeks) and February 2011 (2 weeks) on a base in northern Israel on the Lebanon border. This "tour of duty" (3 weeks) will be on a base in the Negev desert near Beersheba and about 15 miles from the Gaza Strip. Next month (June 2011), I plan to do a fourth and final "tour of duty" (2 weeks) on a base in northern Israel near Nazareth and Tiberias.

An affiliate of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Sar-El volunteers do non-combat civilian ("jobnik") work on an IDF base alongside and under the direction of the soldiers.

The 5-day, 40-hour work week (Sunday-Thursday) is mainly in the logistical, maintaining, catering, supply and medical services. 

In the evenings, there are various activities and educational presentations on such topics as the Hebrew language, Israel's history, Jewish holidays and traditions, and social and political issues in Israel.‏ Also, there are two Sar-El sponsored site-seeing trips for every 3-week program.

Since its beginning in 1982 (during the First Lebanon War [Operation Peace for the Galilee]) and through the end of 2010, over 125,000 international volunteers have participated with Sar-El. Last year (2010), 3,367 volunteered, with the most being from France (1,098) and the U.S. (1,045), and with 559 being non-Jewish (mostly Evangelical Protestant Christians), and with most being under the age of 25 (1,655).

Volunteers For Israel is the U.S.-based non-profit organization responsible for recruiting Americans to Sar-El. VFI seeks to "promote solidarity and goodwill among Israelis, American Jews and other friends of Israel."

While most of my pacifist and Christian pacifist (anti-war, anti-violence) friends may not agree with my non-combat military and political involvement with Israel, I politely remind them that members of the Islamic terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah are not very nice people. Israel is not a perfect democracy, but it is the only one in the Middle East and a "work in progress." With the continuance of anti-Semitism in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere, I believe Israel has the right to exist and defend itself against her enemies.

Also, my love does not discriminate between Jew and Arab (of whom I have friends on both sides), for both need to hear and respond by faith to the "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) as it is found in the Messiah for both Jews and Gentiles, the Lord Jesus Christ:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek/Gentile. Romans 1:16
Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking [on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended] in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:11
Via YouTube and produced by the IDF Film Unit, here is a 5-minute video about Sar-El:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011 in Jerusalem . . . The Garden Tomb . . . "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said" (Matthew 28:6)

This Easter/Resurrection Sunday, I will be attending the sunrise worship service at Jerusalem's Garden Tomb.

In addition to the 4th-century Church of the Holy Sepulchre within the walled Old City of Jerusalem, The Garden Tomb is a possible (though less likely) location of the burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both locations claim to be adjacent to Calvary/Golgotha where Christ was crucified.

An oasis of calmness in the midst of a tension-filled and Muslim-dominated East Jerusalem, The Garden Tomb is popular with Evangelical Protestant pilgrims visiting The Holy Land.

Entitled "The Garden Tomb: Where Jesus Rose Again?", here is a 5-minute news video from (April 1, 2010):

Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a blessed and Christ-focused Easter 2011. "None but Christ ~ All for Christ" (UCM's motto).

The Lord Jesus Christ, "declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). 
Here is the video of the 1 hour, 15 minute worship service, recorded and broadcasted live by on April 24, 2011: