Beyond the Gates of Splendor

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

Five families in the early 1950’s moved to Ecuador to reach the isolated Waodani tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in history.  Although at first they found acceptance they would soon meet hostility and eventually death.

60 years ago today – January 8, 1956 – Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in the Curaray River of Ecuador.  The courage of these men was deep, but too few recall the courage of the wives and children they left behind.  After their death, members of the slain missionaries’ families returned to the same tribe to live among them with the same aim of reaching them with the Gospel.

They did…

…and nothing has been the same since.

The world called the death of these 5 missionaries a ‘tragic nightmare’ but Elisabeth Elliot, wife of deceased Jim Elliot, was not convinced and wrote a book about the events that took place called Shadow of the Almighty (title coming from Psalm 91 seen above).  She was convinced that the death of her husband was a glorious reminder that God is a refuge for His people, not from suffering and death but a refuge from eternal death.  The world learned a lesson that day.  That the Gospel, the precious Gospel of Christ, is worth dying for, and those who love Jesus always walk (even in dark times) in the shadow of the Almighty.

A documentary of these events was made called Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which prompted the making of the motion picture The End of the Spear), Nate Saint’s young son Steve grew up and founded his own missionary organization (ITEC) taking his father’s place as a missionary himself, and last but not least Jim Elliot’s journals were gathered and published for all read.

We now know the story, and are grateful for it.

John Piper has written a wonderful piece describing the significance of these events, I encourage you to read it today (click here).

Also the entire documentary (that is worth your time) is on YouTube (click here).

Here are a few quotes from Jim Elliot to take to heart today:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be. These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

“There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

“Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

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Jim Elliot: He Was No Fool

jim-elliot-photoMany of you may recognize the name Jim Elliot because he died a death that made the news.  He was killed by the tribe he was trying to reach with the gospel.  Since then, God has opened doors within this tribe and now, largely thanks to Jim’s witness (along with his friends) the gospel has triumphed in this tribe.

But the reason why he has influenced me so much is because of his journals, published later by family members.  As David Brainerd’s diary moved my soul, Elliot’s journals moved them deeper.  The real groans and longings of a man desiring to be closer to God are like aloe to the sunburnt soul.  It not only describes the personal love between this man and Jesus, it describes how that love calls us out to those who don’t know Jesus. I still love picking up this journal every now and then to get a window into the soul of a man who walked with God.  It has changed my life.

Here are a few pickings out of the journals for you:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself.  For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths.  Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies.  I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be.  These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit.  O’ that it could!  The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.”  The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred.  Lord, have I wandered so far?”

Jan 25, 1948 – “There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

Jan 29, 1948 – “God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

Feb 2, 1948 – “Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

Feb 16, 1948 – “Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

September 20, 1948 – “I am Thine at terrible cost to Thyself.  Now Thou must become mine — as Thou didst not attend to the price, neither would I.”

Over above everything though, was one quote that has long stuck out as the mission statement of his life.  Here it is:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Jim Elliot was no fool, are you?

Why I Love Jim Elliot

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself.  For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths.  Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies.  I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be.  These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit.  O’ that it could!  The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.”  The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred.  Lord, have I wandered so far?”

Jan 25, 1948 – “There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

Jan 29, 1948 – “God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

Feb 2, 1948 – “Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

Feb 16, 1948 – “Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

Attending to the Price

Jim Elliot is one of my heroes.  Why?  Because of stuff like this.  On Monday September 20, 1948 (eight years before his martyrdom at the hands of the Auca Indians of Ecuador) he penned this in his journal:

I am Thine at terrible cost to Thyself.  Now Thou must become mine — as Thou didst not attend to the price, neither would I.

Amen.

When Are the Last Days?

2 Timothy 3:1 says, “But know this, in the last days, you will have hard times.”

The question concerning me for this verse is, “Okay Paul, I get you; but when are the last days?” Have you ever wondered that? After studying through this, I have come to the conclusion that we are in the last days now, presently. This means that I do not agree with the “Left Behind” view that we are waiting for a rapture to come and usher in the last days of the world. Why do I think this? Three big and clear reasons:

a) Genesis 49:1-10. Israel (Jacob) says in 49:1 that he is going to tell his sons what will take place in the “last days”. What does he tell them? In 49:8-10 he has some interesting things to say about Judah. He says that Judah will be praised by his brothers and have ultimate victory over his enemies. Then in 49:10 Jacob says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet. Until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Follow me here: a scepter is a ruling instrument that a king would hold in his hand. Jacob is saying that Judah will always have this scepter, so Judah will always reign as king. The ruler’s staff is another term for scepter and Jacob says it will never depart from between Judah’s feet. ”Feet” in the OT sometimes refers to the penis, the male reproductive organ. So this means that the “seed” of Judah, or the offspring of Judah, which comes from his penis, will always reign with the scepter. Then the strange part comes “…until Shiloh comes…” Who is Shiloh? The NIV does a great job here and leaves the Hebrew exactly as it is found, “until it (the scepter) comes to whom it belongs.” This means that in the last days (49:1) the ruling scepter of Judah shall come to whom it belongs. Who has come from Judah to rule? JESUS! Jesus is the One “to whom the obedience of the people shall be.” This will happen in the last days Jacob says, so therefore, we are now in the last days, because Jesus has come and He holds all authority (Matt 28:18-20), He holds the scepter.

b) Hebrews 1:1-2. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us through His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also, He made the world.” Do you see it? God did speak to the fathers, the OT Israel, in many ways, but now, in these last days, speaks to us through His Son. God speaks to us through Jesus now, therefore we are in the last days.

c) Hebrews 9:26. “Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the end of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Who was sacrificed for sin? Jesus. When did this happen? On the cross. Notice how the author of Hebrews says this happened at the end of the ages? Therefore, we are in the last days now.

Why does this matter? Because we are in the last days now, we should expect things to be hard, difficult, violent, and dangerous for believers. These things should be a normal part of our everyday lives. Jesus promised we would have it trouble in John 16:33. If I am not feeling the tension and danger in my life because I’m a believer, I have to ask one question: Do I fit in too well with this present world? The world loves it own, and if it loves me, than I am not being a witness for Christ! If I am a witness for Christ, the world would hate me, as it hated Jesus. Have I not lived by the gospel clear enough to show the world what I am?

Listen to Jim Elliot:

The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

Jim Elliot’s Brother, Bert: The Hero You Don’t Know

10734383-largeA helpful piece from Trevin Wax on the brother of the missionary we all know.

Last month, I had a conversation with Michael Kelley about his book, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Michael tells the story of Bert Elliot, brother to missionary Jim, as an example of what faithfulness over a lifetime looks like. For those of us who are not “meteors streaking across the sky,” it serves as a reminder of how we can be a steady light for the gospel no matter where God has placed us.

Jim Elliot, the Missionary

The story of Jim Elliot has been told and retold with good reason: It’s an amazing account of unswerving courage and faithfulness to the gospel. He was a standout both academically and athletically during his days as a student and was presented with opportunity after opportunity to go and do most anything he wanted to be.

But as his education continued, Jim became convinced of God’s will and purpose for His life—to push back the darkness in the world by preaching the gospel where it had never been preached before. So he began his preparations to spend the rest of his life sharing the gospel with the previously unreached people of Ecuador known as the Auca.

Elliot, along with four other missionaries, began making contact with the indigenous people through a loud- speaker and a basket to lower gifts from their airplane. After several friendly encounters, they made plans to visit the people they thought they had befriended.

But on January 8, 1956, the missionaries were attacked and killed by a group of ten warriors from the people they were trying to share the gospel with. Elliot’s body was found downstream in the river, along with those of the other men. His life purpose and vision was immortalized by his journal entry for October 28, 1949, which expressed his belief that missions work was more important than his life. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

It’s an amazing story that sent ripples through the Christian and non-Christian world. Life magazine published a ten-page article about the missionaries. Jim’s wife, Elizabeth, not only published two books about her husband but continued the work among the very people who had killed her husband. Thousands upon thousands of people were not deterred by the danger but instead committed themselves to the work of the gospel overseas. Few events in modern history have been used more powerfully by God to send people out into the world for the sake of the gospel.

Perhaps you have heard the story; you may have even read the books or seen the movie. I have; in fact, the quote above is written on my wall.

Have You Heard of Jim’s Brother, Bert?

Jim Elliot’s story is a familiar one, but have you heard of Bert? I had not. But by God’s grace, I have now, thanks to a message given by Randy Alcorn fifty years after the men died on the beach in Ecuador. Bert is Jim Elliot’s older brother. He’s the one who isn’t famous.

He was a student at Multnomah Bible College in 1949, and he and his young wife were invited by a missionary to come to Peru and join the work there. Other than an occasional furlough, there they have stayed. Now in their eighties, they are still there.

According to Alcorn, if you Google Bert, you find less than seventy entries. But over the years, Bert and Colleen have planted more than 170 churches. And when asked to reflect on his brother, Jim, Bert’s response is stirring: “My brother Jim and I took different paths. He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.”

Bert was not. He did not go streaking through the sky. Nobody lined up with their telescopes to watch his life. Instead, as Alcorn puts it, he was the faint star in the distance that faithfully rises night after night, always there. Always faithful. Always doing the same, boring thing.

Streaking Meteors and Faithful Stars

In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that. We will instead be faint stars—husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. We will be accountants and teachers, business people, and students. We will go through life, day after day, doing very much the same thing tomorrow that we did today.

The important thing for us to remember is that we are needed. There is a great need for people willing to chase the little donkeys of life, not because it’s exciting but because they believe in the constant presence and purpose of God. There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.

Rise and stand. Then tomorrow, do it again.