January 07, 2010

learning from Amy Carmichael

india//amy charmichael
The name Amy Carmichael has been familiar to me for many years. Had you asked me about her six months ago, I might have been able to tell you that she rescued children in India. I knew that she had once wished to have light eyes, but once in India realized why God had given her dark eyes. In the past few months I "met" Amy through her biography, A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot. I now understand why this tenacious, spiritual woman still speaks, though she is dead.The following themes from her life impressed me.
  • Prayer was the foundation of her life and ministry."And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father, until it be according unto mine? But, no, Lord, no, that never shall be, rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine." (p223) Would I have a ministry that would last and bear fruit? I need to labour in prayer.
  • To Amy, harmony and love between coworkers was not optional. Other missionaries deemed this impossible. "To and never about" was the policy for talking about problems in relationships. If you weren't talking to the person you had the problem with, you shouldn't be talking about it.
  • Silence before men in regard to her financial needs. She brought these to the Lord Himself. He was Author of the work, and He was also Provider. Oh, but sometimes she must have wished to put a bug in a wealthy human's ear.
  • Consistent discipline and self sacrifice: these were not only Amy's message, but her lifestyle. She practiced what she preached. "It must be come and never go. We cannot ask another to do what we have never done or are not willing to do." "Leaders must climb the steep hills first."
  • Adherence to God's Word above trends, even "Christian" trends. "Books that whitewash [a particular religion] are turned out by the dozen now, and its terribly unfashionable to feel as we do (that [a particular religion] is "slime, filth, sin"). Along with this, Amy showed a willingness to become "of no reputation", like her Lord. "Was our reputation ashes to us?" (p246)
  • High standards for the people of God. "Amy felt that the world had far too many run-of-the-mill Christians, cool, respectable, satisfied with the usual, the mediocre. Why bother to lay down one's life to multiply the number of those?" (p251)
  • Value given to both common work (burping babies, clipping toenails) and spiritual work (preaching, teaching). These two can be hard to balance. She knew that souls with needs come with bodies with needs, and made provision for both. "Souls (in India at least) are more or less securely fastened into bodies." (p247)
Although I look back in admiration, I wonder if I really understand the cross that Amy carried. She was disgusted when she heard that her writings were "popular," because she knew that the path of the cross was not popular. Why should her books be?

Amongst the legendary stories of Carmichael's zeal and discipline, Elliot sprinkled stories of Carmichael's falliable side as well. At times she was short-sighted. She seemed to have a low view of men, marriage and even the nuclear family. Favouritism leaked out from time to time. Others thought her pig-headed. These weights pin the story of Amy to the ground. She was a sinner. But what a work God did in and through one tenacious servant. Will we have the discipline and zeal to see if He can and will do great things again?

January 06, 2010

i must tell Jesus

A few weekends ago when I walked into church, the congregation was singing I Must Tell Jesus. It is not a hymn that I grew up singing, but the words have resonated with me. The title summarizes a lesson that the Lord is teaching me.

These two things have been hard for me to grasp:
  1. Some things need to stay between me and Jesus. Telling others will not edify.
  2. Discussing my situation with another human is sometimes helpful, but I should do so only after I have brought it to Jesus.
Why it is so hard to bring things to Jesus first? I run to a family member. I phone or message a friend. I blog. What should I say to my boss? What do you think that boy means when he says this? I am frustrated with so-and-so, what should I do? And Jesus, who I claim is my closest friend, doesn't hear about it from me until I've exhausted the obvious human options. Too often He's my last resort.

Maybe I call on humans because we are at the same level. They are visible. I follow their thought processes. When I talk to a human, I can cloak things in spiritual words. Private details can be disclosed as prayer requests. Because the listener is my friend, and only has heard my side of the story, I can garner his or her pity.

I must tell Jesus. So why don't I? One reason is because I haven't been fellowshipping with Him throughout the day, so when a matter comes up, my heart isn't really where it should be for talking to the Lord. He knows that, so things are awkward. Also, Jesus' words are hard for my proud heart to bear. No cotton candy or undeserved pats on the head. His Word cuts right through my pride and leaves me with no excuses. His message is repeatedly that I must confess my pride and choose the humble path, the path He chose. Turn the other cheek. Forgive as I have forgiven you. Lay your life down. Bear each other's burdens. Only speak what is helpful. Stop looking to others and look to Me!

I want to learn to talk to Him first. What peaceful days those would be, if I could simply lay my concerns before the Almighty. As the hymn says, not only does he share my burdens, but only He is truly able to help me at the deepest level. While humans have helped me to take a step in a Biblical direction, God's Word does so more often. When I can agree with Him about my sin, He gives victory over it. "I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone."