Tag Archives: End of the Spear

The World was Not Worthy of Them

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“Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves.  They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed foreign armies.  Women received their loved ones back from the dead.  There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better:  resurrection.  Others braved abuse and whips, and yes, chains and dungeons.  We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless- the world didn’t deserve them!- making their way as best they cold on the cruel edges of the world.”  Hebrews 11:32-38

Westminster Abbey martyrs

I teach the Book of Acts to the 9th graders at our school.  I really did try to get out of this assignment, but it seems that I’m the only teacher who actually went to Bible College, so I was the obvious choice for teacher.  Turns out, I’m really enjoying this class.  It kind of reminds me of teaching Sunday School to our youth group kids all those years ago.  But this class is distinctly different from our church youth group where the majority of the kids had grown up in church, hearing all the classic Bible stories over and over again until they were bored with them.

This class is made up of a wide variety of denominations, most are some flavor of Protestant, one is Catholic, one hasn’t decided if he really wants to follow Jesus or not.  There are a handful of missionary kids, and the rest are Latinos whose parents want them to learn English.  So my first question of the year was, “Who has read the book of Acts in the Bible?”  Not one of them.  As I teach, I weave back and forth between the Old and New Testaments showing parallels in other stories, discussing symbolism unique to Judaism, explaining cultural details that us Western thinkers often miss.  The thing that is interesting to me is that if I were teaching this to our kids who grew up in church, they would be bored.  They have heard this so many times.  But for this class, most of these stories are new and ALL of the conclusions I present are revelations to them.  And that’s exciting to me.

I love laying out new material.  I love seeing the lights go on in their eyes, waiting for that “Ah-ha!” moment when it all clicks for them.  I love watching the wheels start to turn in their minds as they are exposed to completely new thoughts.  I love hearing them unravel a story and wind it back up again- making it theirs.  I love that.

When we reached the point of the story where the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is stoned and then later Saul is converted.  We “camped out” on these stories.  We talked a lot about what it means to be a martyr and why the Lord allows Christians to die like that.  We read stories about modern day martyrs and watched the movie “The End of the Spear”.  Then I assigned them a paper about a martyr of their choice.  This awakening of knowledge stirs the embers of passion into a flame.  This age, kids can really seize upon a cause and wrap their hearts around it.  They want to meet with ideas that challenge them to think and feel and question their own beliefs.  This is a good age to stoke the flames of dedication.

The potential to change the world that sits latent in those desks in my class room is just staggering to me. Will the world find itself unworthy of any of my students?  I hope so.  I hope that some day these kids will look back on their 9th grade year as the year when they decided to get serious about their relationship with God- to really “go for it” and “give their all”.  If you can look death in the face and know where you will end up once the battle is over, then you have robbed death of its power of intimidation over you.  You won’t fear death.  Death comes to us all.  Will the world which is unworthy of your life, look you in the face as you die and sigh because it could not conquer you?

Leaving an Indelible Mark… and I don’t mean getting a tattoo

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When I was in high school, the kid with the locker next to mine started a gum collection in the door of his locker.  Every day we would both stick a piece of chewed up gum on the inside of the door.  We were trying to fill the whole door in a year, but we got caught and he had to scrape the door clean.  Along the same lines as those kids who carve their names in the desk tops or graffiti walls, I think we were trying to leave our mark on the school (without using knives or spray paint).

Leaving your mark on life is a vague goal that most of us want to achieve but really have no idea how to accomplish.  How exactly do you go about leaving a legacy?  Think of these historical people and think about if they were deliberate in leaving a legacy.

Anne Frank (her diary was published after her death in a Nazi concentration camp)

Laura Ingalls Wilder (the stories of her pioneer life made American history come alive for school children)

Louis Pasteur (think pasteurized milk)

William Wilberforce (British politician who worked to abolish slavery)

Joan of Arc (French peasant girl who inspired and lead the French army into battle during the Hundred Years’ War.  She was accused of heresy and burned at the stake.)

Jim Elliot  (Missionary)

Jim was one of 5 missionaries who were speared to death while trying to bring the Gospel to savage natives in the Amazon of Ecuador in 1956.  Their deaths have inspired 60 years of missions in all organizations around the world.  Here is the Radio Memorial from 1956 honoring the deaths of the 5 missionaries in Ecuador.  And a brief clip from the movie The End of the Spear, where Steve Saint learns of how his father Nate (one of the 5 missionary men) was speared by his adopted, Auca father… and learns how forgiveness can bless for generations.  Before his death at the end of a spear, Jim Elliot penned this famous line:

“He is no fool, who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.”

Based on the scripture that says, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life, for my sake, gains it.”

Not everyone leaves a legacy.  Even some of the people who try to do so sometimes fail.  And some of those who never try to leave their mark end up doing so by chance.  Some make their mark in the things they do.  Some in the way they lived.  Some in their deaths.  This uncertainty really bothers me.  I just want my life to MEAN something.  I want to leave my mark on the world, but I don’t know if I’m succeeding at that.  Maybe I just need to chew more gum.

Waiting for a Blaze of Usefulness

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“A missionary plods through the first year or two, thinking that things will be different when he speaks the language.  He is baffled to find, frequently, that they are not.  He is stripped of all that may be called “romance.”  Life has fallen more or less into a pattern.  Day follows day in unbroken succession.  There are no crisis, no mass conversions, sometimes not even one or two to whom he can point and say: ‘There is a transformed life.  If I had not come, he would never have known Christ.”

These are the words of Roger Youderian as he struggled with his role as a missionary just a few short weeks before he committed to Operation Auca and lost his life at the end of a spear with Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and the other men.

We are tools.  Missionaries are just tools in the hands of the Master.  A lot of what we give our daily lives to is nothing more than positioning.  We are just waiting in a position to be used.  It’s our job just to be available for the Master whenever and wherever he needs us.  He should be able to set his hand right down and find us ready and waiting to be used.  And that readiness is unromantic, un-dramatic, daily and boring.

But when the Master reaches for his tool and finds it exactly where he placed it, ready to be used… BAM!!… Look at the dramatic impact the tool can make in one moment.  One hit of the hammer, one strike of the match.  One moment of usefulness leads to generations of brilliance!  This man and his companion missionaries went to their deaths in a blaze of usefulness!  They were matches lying in the box, waiting for the one strike that would set them aflame.  Who had ever heard of them before they died?  No one, but hundreds, maybe thousands of young people heard of their deaths and felt called by God to go into full time service.  Workers sent out, tools now positioned and available to be used whenever the Master has need.

If you have children you very likely know the quote from the movie Toy Story were Woody tells the other toys, “Com’on Guys, it doesn’t matter how much we’re played with.  All the matters is that we’re there for Andy when he needs us.  That’s what we’re here for.”  That’s what our true mission is:  to be available for God when he needs us.  Which might mean a lot of waiting in the bottom of the toy box or the matchbox or the toolbox.  Waiting for when the Master has need of us.