Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Man Who Lived by Faith

George Mueller supported and influenced a missionary named Hudson Taylor. As a boy, Hudson loved to listen to his father, a Methodist preacher, talk about China. "Nearly every person there can read. We should flood China with Bibles," he often said.

Twelve-year-old Hudson spoke up. "When I'm a man, I want to be a missionary and go to China."

Hudson's father had prayed for a son who would be a missionary, but he had given up that dream when Hudson was born sickly. The family merely smiled at his declaration.

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)
But when Hudson grew up, he did go to China as a missionary. He studied medicine, read books about China, and even tried to teach himself Chinese. At the age of 21, with promise of support for his work, he left England on the sailing ship Dumfries.

The first few days out a terrible storm nearly wrecked the ship on the rocks. When the storm finally abated, the ship sailed south around Africa and India then up towards Shanghai, China.

Just off the coast of New Guinea, the wind suddenly died down completely. The ship drifted helplessly, closer and closer to New Guinea. Hudson could see people on shore dancing excitedly and pointing toward the ship as they gathered wood for fires.

The people on the ship soon realized that cannibals were preparing to eat them for dinner. Closer and closer they drifted. Not the slightest hint of a breeze stirred the sea. Finally, the captain begged Hudson to "please pray for God's help. Please pray for wind."

"I will," said Hudson, "on one condition. You must set your sails to catch the breeze."

"But the crew will laugh at me for setting the sail in a dead calm."

Hudson was adamant. "I will not pray for wind unless you prepare the sails."

Glancing at the cannibals, the captain finally gave the order to set the sails. Hudson went to his stateroom to pray. Shortly, a knock sounded at his door. The captain's voice asked, "Are you still praying for wind? If so, you'd better stop. We have more wind than we can manage."

When Hudson went up on deck, he learned that the ship had been only 100 yards off shore when the wind began to blow. If the captain had not set the sails before Hudson began to pray, it would have been too late.

Hudson Taylor went on to become a missionary of great faith. In spite of a lot of sickness, he worked for God in China until he died at the age of 73. He was the first Protestant missionary to go to inland China and organized the China Inland Mission Society to take the gospel to the 400 million Chinese who had never heard about Jesus.

Hudson and his missionaries dressed and lived just like the Chinese. They didn't want anything to stand in the way of telling them about Jesus. They trusted God to supply all their needs. Hudson used to say, "Nothing is too trivial for us to take to a father." And that is how he prayed--like a child talking to his Heavenly Father.

Hudson used to give food to the poor and needy until even he had no more to eat. Other missionaries thought he was crazy, "living hand to mouth," they said. "Yes," Hudson would say, "from God's hand to my mouth."

One day the cupboard was bare, and their money was gone. Hudson and his coworker tried to sell things to buy food with no success. They began to pray. While they were still on their knees, the servant ran in. "Teacher! Teacher! Here are letters!"

The mail had come in days before it was expected, bringing money from a friend in England. Their Heavenly Father had not forgotten His children.

Stories like these nurtured my faith as a young person. I too have seen God's miraculous answers to prayer in my life. I have told many of them in my blog posts and will continue to write more.

What stories have nurtured your faith? I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Three Tips to Answered Prayer from George Mueller

One of the mightiest men of prayer from the 19th Century was George Mueller. (See his story in my previous post.) In the last sixty years of his life (he lived to be 92 or 93), he received through prayer alone the English equivalent of $7,200,000.00 by the 1924 value of the dollar.

George Mueller  (1805-1898)
That money enabled him to build an orphanage of five large buildings that cared for and educated more than 10,000 children, establish 117 schools which offered Christian education to more than 120,000 children, sail around the world on a missionary evangelistic tour, and support Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, and other faith missionaries.

Here are three of his prayer practices that brought such phenomenal results:

1.  He searched the Scriptures for a promise that covered the situation. 

Before Mueller prayed for anything, he first searched the Bible for a promise that covered his need. According to R. A. Torrey in The Power of Prayer, sometimes Mueller searched for days before he presented his petition to God. When he found the promise, he'd place his finger upon it, and begin to plead that promise. He always prayed with an open Bible in front of him.

As James 4:3 says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (NKJV). But when you pray the will of God, you receive what you ask. That is why Mueller always received what he asked for--because he would pray the will of God as expressed in God's promises.

2. He always meditated on Scriptures before prayer.

Mueller discovered that after meditating on Scripture, he experienced a more meaningful prayer time.
He experienced the truth of what William Bridge, a Puritan writer, said: "Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both is without blessing."

According to Donald S. Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Christian meditation, that is, thinking deeply on Scripture, is "the missing link between Bible intake and prayer." He believed that the secret to George Mueller's prayer life was his discovery of the connection between meditation and prayer. After meditating on Scripture, he was more able to experience a meaningful prayer time.

3. He never gave up until the answer came.

Mueller prayed for two years before God sent him enough money to build the first home to house 300 children. He prayed for seven more years for enough money to construct the next two homes. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Mueller did, and he never gave up!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Man Who Knew How to Pray

It was time for breakfast in the orphanage at Ashley Downs, England, but there was no food. Not only was there no food in the kitchen, but there was no money is the home's account.

A small girl, whose father was a close friend of Mueller, was visiting in the home. The director, George Mueller, took her hand. "Come and see what our Father will do."
Dining Room at Ashley Downs

In the dining room, long tables were set with empty plates and mugs. Mueller prayed, "Dear Father, we thank You for what You are going to give us to eat."

Immediately, they heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood the local baker. "Mr. Mueller, I couldn't sleep last night. Somehow I felt that you had no bread for breakfast, so I got up a 2 o'clock and baked fresh bread. Here it is."

Mueller thank him and gave praise to God. Soon, a second knock was heard. It was the milkman. "My cart has broken down in front of the orphanage. I want to give the milk to the children so I can empty the cart and repair it."

Why could George Mueller pray with such confidence? Because God had taken care of the children many times previously.

George Mueller (1805-1898)
George was born in Prussia (now Germany). His father gave him a lot of money, but George spent it in "riotous living," just as the Prodigal Son in Jesus' parable. One night, a friend invited him to a meeting at a house. George didn't know it was a prayer meeting. As he listened to the Bible reading , he felt conviction and repented of his sins. For this first time, he felt true happiness. He studied for the ministry and went to England as an evangelist.

There, he discovered many homeless children. As he prayed asking God what he could do for them, he knew God would help him provide a home for them. Although he had told no one of his plans, people began sending him dishes, furniture, bedding--all the things he would need to start a home for orphans, including money for rent and workers to help care for the children. And Mueller scrupulously sent receipts to all donors.

But more needy children kept asking him to help them. Soon, he was renting four houses and caring for more than 100 children. Neighbors began to complain about so many children.

Mueller began to pray for land in the country. For 35 days he prayed every morning that God would send him the money he needed. On the 36th day, people began to send him the money. In two years, he had built a home large enough to house 300 children.

Five new Orphans' Homes at Ashley Downs, England
More children asked for help. In the next few years, Mueller prayed for the resources needed to build a total of five homes that could feed, house, and educate 2,000 children. It took a lot of food and clothing to provide for that many children. When Mueller ran out of money, he'd pray. God never let the children go hungry.

My grandparents, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, often spoke of George Mueller. He never asked for money or financial support for his work of housing, feeding, clothing, and educating more than 10,000 orphans in his lifetime. In addition, he traveled around the world doing missionary work. He only prayed to God for the supply of his needs for his ministry.

My grandparents too practiced living by faith just as he did. As a young person, I read biographies of many great men and women of God--Martin Luther, John Wesley, Adoniram Judson, David Livingston, Mary Slessor, David Brainard, Dwight L. Moody, to name a few. My grandparents' stories and these stories of men and women of faith influenced me to dedicate my life to full-time Christian service too. And God has supplied all our needs.

How has God met your needs? I'd love to hear your stories.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Do You Smell Like a Rose?

I love roses! This year, the roses in front of my house have been flourishing. One bush that we thought was dead has been particularly spectacular. This spring, we pruned it down to a few inches. Soon, it put out new branches, and ten gorgeous roses bloomed on that one bush at one time.

Rose and bud from my garden
Recently, I came across a an interesting story about roses. At one time, the Balkans supplied 1,000 roses a week for the kings of Europe. Growers were required to go through a seven-year training period.

They learned that roses, to be at their best, must be picked between midnight and 3 a.m. but never when the moon was full. Roses must always be picked when it was the darkest. No flashlights could be used because any light would change their disposition.

So, how could the growers find the roses that were ready to be picked? By the full development of the fragrance!

G. Campbell Morgan, a well-known preacher of years gone by, tells of visiting in the home of a friend. In one room he always detected the fragrance of roses. One day, he asked his friend, "How is it that I never come into this room without smelling roses?"

His friend smiled. "Ten years ago I was in the Holy Land, where I bought a small phial of attar of roses. It was wrapped in cotton wool. As I was standing in here unpacking it, I accidentally broke the bottle. I took the whole thing, cotton wool and all, and put it into this vase."

That fragrance had so permeated the clay of the vase that it was impossible to enter that room without smelling the scent of roses.

A rose from my garden
Christ is called the Rose of Sharon. When He truly dwells in us, His fragrance will pervade and permeate our whole lives so that we are like a "sweet smell that spreads everywhere, [and] God uses us to make Christ known to all men" (2 Corinthians 2:15, NIV). The more time we spend in His presence, the more fragrant our lives become.

Just as the fragrance of roses comes to full development in the dark, it is in our darkest hours in the trials of this life that we give off the sweetest fragrance of Christ abiding in us. I want to remember that when hard trials come my way.

As rose petals are crushed, the fragrance is released. As the trials crush us, what is inside us becomes apparent to all.

When I am jostled or crushed, I want the life-giving perfume of Christ to be released from my innermost being? How about you?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Would You Have Signed It?

Two hundred thirty-nine years ago, 56 patriots signed the Declaration of Independence which gave us an independent nation--the United States of America. Who can recount today the high price they paid by signing that document?

Painting by John Trumbull of Signing of the
Declaration of Independence
History tells us that five of the signers were captured by the British and tortured as traitors before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War. Another had two sons captured.

Others lost their wives, their homes, and their fortunes and died penniless. Nine of the signers fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the war. One wealthy trader saw all of his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He had to sell his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

These men were lawyers and jurists, merchants, farmers, and plantation owners. They were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education.

They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. By signing, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Signatures on the Declaration of Independence
According to the Catholic Observer, 2,300 federal employees in twelve Washington agencies were shown a quotation from the Declaration of Independence without being told what it was and were asked to sign the document. Sixty-eight percent refused to sign. Some claimed the quotation was from, among other sources, the Christian Science Monitor and the Communist Manifesto.

Would you have signed it?

Freedom is not free. It costs dearly. Brave soldiers are still dying for our freedom. What are we doing to keep it?

Jesus died for our ultimate freedom--from the chains of sin and death. "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1, NIV). Are we standing firm?