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What Dr Livingstone Presumed


Photo by: O.F.E.

Many of our generation probably know little more about a legendary African missionary, doctor, and explorer than the smile of “Dr Livingstone I presume?” While some question the historicity of those actual words, they apparently were reported by the New York Herald Newspaper in 1869. The Herald had sent Henry Morton Stanley to Africa to search for Livingstone, and Stanley himself reported them in a letter to the Herald when he finally located and introduced himself to the only white man in the region.

A fascinating article in BBC online, however, goes on to tell a far more amazing story. Recognizing the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone, the news service draws from the work of author Stephen Tomkins and his book, “David Livingstone: The Unexplored Story.”

While there is much in the article that will probably cause it to be forwarded and read around the world, I found most compelling Tomkins’ account of an African Chief who may have been one of Livingstone’s only converts.

As the article relates, Livingstone himself had discounted the chief as an utter failure after discovering that the chief had gone back to one of the many wives that he had divorced, at Livingstone’s prompting, to convert to Christ. Author Tomkins suggests that upon being found out, the chief  “repented, and told Livingstone: “Do not give me up because of this. I shall never give up Jesus. You and I will stand before him together.”

Yet as the article relates, the missionary did give up on him and left for the north to continue his celebrated exploration and mission.

The rest of the story, if accurate, is eye-opening. Tomkins goes on to say that years later it turns out that “In the estimation of Neil Parsons, of the University of Botswana, [the chief] did more to propagate Christianity in nineteenth-century southern Africa than virtually any single European missionary”. Yet, “For European missionaries [the chief]was a frustrating puzzle,”… (for a number of reasons) “a half Christian and a half heathen”.

If you have access to this BBC online article, I think you will find it as interesting and provocative as I have. Once again, it raises questions about the immediate expectations (including moral and cultural demands) that western missions have been known to put on the message of Christ—and the failure that has been presumed when “newborn converts” fail to live up to the missionaries’ expectations.


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66 Responses to “What Dr Livingstone Presumed”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    My dad was an avid reader and loved to share his discoveries with me, one such discovery was this; “there is nothing as dangerous as a little education.”

    The premise being that a *little education* is just enough to get you in over your head.

    How then does this concept relate to Christianity?

    Before there was a *Bible* men and women learned of Jesus by word of mouth and the laying on of hands and receiving the Holy Spirit.

    Was the receiving of the Holy Spirit meant to provide special ability to decipher Scripture that most did not even have, or was it so as to receive Jesus into their being’s and so receive salvation?

    Is the receiving of the Holy Spirit only restricted to one or two actions or is the transformation an awakening of God in every area of ones life by way of accepting Jesus as Lord.

    It would seem the universities and seminaries of the world have already blended their world into their *knowledge* of what it means to be *Christian* and then present that standard to the unsaved world.

    I think it good that God is patient with mankind in this area, or else He may erase us all and start over again.

    I find it amusing that some will accept and agree with Sechele’s adaptation of Christ into his society all the while condemning Constantine for it.

    I wonder how smart most of us feel this morning.


  2. Bill says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends!

    I don’t know how smart I feel this morning, Steve. But I’m always up for a lively discussion.

    You wrote:

    * It would seem the universities and seminaries of the world have already blended their world into their *knowledge* of what it means to be *Christian* and then present that standard to the unsaved world. *


    This is why I often rail against doctrine, theology, liturgy, and what I perceive to be heavy-handed, authoritarian tactics to conform Christians into the likeness of, say, *. Or *. Or *. Or *. Or *, for that matter. Any time we try to standardize what it means to be a Christian — what a Christian should look like, talk like, listen to, eat, drink, read, do, etc. — I believe we do the Holy Spirit a grave disservice…and, ultimately, short-circuit the work God wants to do in a person’s life.

    If God wanted all Christians to look the same, He wouldn’t have given us free will in the first place. He would simply have set up the first McChristian franchise and started churning out “billions and billions” of clones.

    You wrote something extremely profound, with massive implications:

    “Before there was a *Bible* men and women learned of Jesus by word of mouth and the laying on of hands and receiving the Holy Spirit.”

    Long before the Bible, people were getting saved and becoming disciples of Jesus. In fact, the question is still debated: “What about the people of the Old Testament who only had the *promise* and *hope* of Jesus, a coming Savior? Are they saved?”

    In my opinion, the Bible has probably done as much to turn people away from God as it has to being people close to Him. Why? Because before the Bible was codified into two or three dozen translations, and safely contained by hundreds of theological opinions and doctrines, people simply loved to hear the story. Human beings love stories. (Or, to use a Donald Miller term, people love “Story.”)

    If you tell people the story of the Bible, the ebb and flow, the millennia-spanning scope, they get it. They’re enraptured. They want to be part of the story themselves.

    When you hand them a Bible and tell them it’s time to put aside the wonder of the story and start filling up their heads with doctrines, creeds, beliefs, theologies, dos and don’ts…you lose them. Then they can become anything from converts to * Church to clones of *. Or *. Or *. Or *. Or *. Or your local pastor. They become contentious. And proud. And stiff-necked. And divisive. They squeeze the living crap out of the wonder and magic of the story…and live by the law as they perceive it.

    In other words, I believe we have created an anemic, powerless, McChristian version of what Jesus talked about, and what the Bible reveals in the sweeping story of redemption. And we’ve done it by removing God and the Holy Spirit from the equation and telling people “THIS is what it means to be a Christian. Do it, and you’re one of us. Don’t do it, and you’re going to hell.”

    Two quick final comments:

    1. The blog entry today reminds me of the book “Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road: Exploring a New Path Between Two Faiths” by Paul-Gordon Chandler. That’s the story of what happens to Muslims who try to become Christians. They’re expected to leave behind all of their Islamic traditions, most of which are caught up in their culture and their personalities. So Muslims who become Christians don’t do it. They remain Muslims while worshipping Jesus.

    2. If you want to know the power of Story, pay attention to two things: (1) The Story Bible, which is selling millions of copies and generating tremendous excitement among pastors and laypeople alike. The Story is even a Christmas concert tour, now. People love story, which is why The Story Bible is a smashing success, and (2) The History Channel’s The Bible miniseries, which is insanely popular (despite a few liberties taken with the accuracy of the narrative). The book on which the miniseries is based is everywhere, selling like proverbial hotcakes. The reviews on Amazon about the book generally all say about the same thing: “We were moved to tears by the story.”

    Here’s the bottom line: I think our job is to tell people the story…and then let God do His work in their lives. The more we add to that, the worse the lives of new disciples are going to be.

    Obviously, these are just my opinions. You may accept them or reject them as you see fit. I make no claims of authority, truth, or even accuracy. I’m just one guy sitting at Panera Bread, watching the disgusting snow fall in blizzard-like fashion on this late-March morning.



  3. SFDBWV says:

    Bill, Amen, amen and amen. Mart may have actually ferreted out some good thinking this morning.

    I also am very burnt out of this winter weather which seems to just keep hanging on. We had about an inch of ice accumulation yesterday and awoke to 2.5 inches of fresh snow.

    That translates to more shoveling and plowing and a nagging disagreeable temper.

    I’m having a cabbage roll and coffee for breakfast between the exercise regiment Matthew has in place, and enjoyed your comments very much.


  4. remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends –

    I had not heard of Chief Sechele before, though everyone has heard of the caricature of David Livingstone. The impression that comes from “common knowledge” of the Livingstone/Stanley meeting is that Stanley rescued the missionary from a fate worse than death. He is depicted in cartoons finding the dear doctor in a cauldron over a fire in his pith helmet.

    Having combed though the Acts of the Apostles these past months, I think immediately of the magician Elymas on the island of Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-12) Paul curses him, and in so doing converts Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of the area. But, we do not hear what became of the magician. Paul declared him a “son of the devil and enemy of all righteousness,” among other things! Paul himself converted many all over the known world. We do not know what became of this Bar-Jesus fellow on Cyprus. Seemingly, Paul “gave up on him,” as Livingstone did Sechele. Perhaps both missionaries presumed that no fruit could come from their disappointing disciple.

    The Gospel itself has an active character — it is a living thing. I am impressed that Sechele learned to read, then taught reading of the Bible among his people. That alone, even in the presence of his own failings, planted seeds of faith that took root and could well explain the revival taking place in Africa at this moment.

    While we do not baptize a sinful lifestyle, we are called to build upon what we find among the peoples we visit – whether in the next county or across the big blue ocean. Missionaries sent to S. Africa found that the people already had daily prayers together. Awesome for a people Livingstone had abandoned.


  5. remarutho says:

    Hello All —

    It seems to me reading a Bible translated as well as can be done into your own language unleashes the power of the blessed Holy Spirit wherever you are. It takes some faith to open the Bible — and once opened the faith of the reader grows. No one can capture and domesticate the power of the Word made flesh.


  6. BruceC says:


    While I agree with some of what you say I think you throw a large blanket on area that cannot be so easily covered. In other words throw too many into the same pot. Doctrine? Is it good or is it bad? How does one know? Do we not compare it with the Word to decide so? Do we not consult with Scripture to test things as the Bereans did? It is good to tell the “Story” but we need to make sure it is told truthfully.
    And yes; we do need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the churches. But that is also the same Holy Spirit that inspired the authors to write the Bible. In order that we may know how to become as much of a clone of Christ as is humanly possible.

    Soli deo Gloria!

  7. Bill says:


    Thanks for your comments and questions.

    You wrote:

    * Doctrine? Is it good or is it bad? How does one know? Do we not compare it with the Word to decide so? Do we not consult with Scripture to test things as the Bereans did? It is good to tell the “Story” but we need to make sure it is told truthfully. *

    Whose doctrine?

    By which theologian/pastor/leader/author?

    *? Charles Spurgeon? *? John Calvin? *?

    Is it doctrine that leans toward predestination? Or universalism? Toward charismatic displays of the spirit? Or less flamboyant worship? Does it take a political stand? or is it apolitical?

    People compare doctrine to the word all the time — and get different results. If you doubt that, open the phone book under the heading Churches. Look at all the denominations. Or walk into a Christian book store and spend 10 minutes browsing the shelves. How many different doctrines do you see there?

    I contend that there is no one doctrine or one creed or one right view. There are countless. As many as their are denominations (from Catholic to Charismatic).

    All agree on the Story, though:


    In the beginning, God…

    The world became screwed up…

    For God so love the world that…

    Jesus saves…

    Jesus is coming back…


    Regardless of one’s particular opinion about doctrine, those elements are virtually uncontested across all denominations.

    Aside from those key points, what else truly matters? What else about the Story does one need to know to tell others and get them excited?

    I am NOT suggesting we throw out the Bible. I AM suggesting we spend less time trying to make people conform to our image and far more time just letting people get it themselves and allow God to lead them as He sits fit .

  8. poohpity says:

    Where did that one story come from if not from the Bible? We can read it for ourselves or listen to what others have gleaned from it. Jesus taught from the Bible although it was not referred to as that then but it was scrolls of the Law, the history, and the writings of the prophets they did not have printing presses then. Then the newer parts were added, those who spent time with Jesus, the Gospels. History of what happened in starting the church and letters written to fellow believers. Then the final revelation of what will be. It may not have been called the Bible back then but that does not take away from what it was the Words of God and the testimonies of those who experienced a relationship with Him.

    Mart, you are so right about how the first missionaries demanded the folks to live up to their expectations with moral and cultural demands. It happened here in the US as well. I would go to my grave with a grateful heart knowing that someone has read the Bible and got others to do it because of something I said or did.

    In the article it said that the chief’s Bible was thread bare and then he was able to translate into his peoples language. He seemed to not give them a list of don’ts and do’s but directed them to share in his love of the Lord by studying His Word which is the foundation for anyone.

    I find it so rude that they picked on his apparent flaws which name me one Christian alive that does not have them. Some things are just more in your face but most of the things we do are really matters of the heart and they are hidden from the naked eye. I am not saying that how this chief lived was either right or wrong but he directed his people to the Lord not to him.

    I am so grateful that we do not have to live up to missionaries expectations or how anyone presumes we should live but how One who died for me while I was yet a sinner and does not force Himself on no one but has an open door policy to everyone. How can we know all that was done and who our Jesus is if we do not read the Bible. Why depend on someone else to teach us about it all when we can read it for ourselves.

    The only smart people there are are those who know they are life long students of the Master.

  9. Bill says:

    Actually, pooh, the story didn’t come from the Bible. At least most of it didn’t.

    It came from thousands of years of prophets and camp-fire tales and God’s intervention through the generations in the Old Testament era.

    In the New Testament era, when Jesus walked the earth, it came from Jesus. And his disciples. And people telling people. Stories.

    The Bible didn’t start to be written down until decades after Jesus died and rose again.

    The Bible wasn’t officially codified for a few hundred years after Jesus died.

    So in all those hundreds and hundreds (and thousands, really) of years between “In the beginning, God…” and when the Bible was codified into 66 books, the people only had bits and pieces. They had oral tradition. They had an occasion writing from a prophet.

    What kept it all moving forward was Story. People telling people, generation after generation.

    Today, we’ve lost Story. Today, we have the Bible — and we think we know it all.

  10. BruceC says:

    But that “story” was written down as men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to do so. Hence we have a written “story” that can translated into almost every language so others can get the “story”.

    I have read several books on the Iroquois Indian Confederacy from my area of New York. They too passed on their traditions orally from one generation to the next. They never had at that time a form of writing. All they had was wampum which was beads arranged in a belt to tell a story or as a sign of treaty. So when the Europeans arrived and the trade between them began and enlarged it only took several generations and the old ways they lived by(tool making, etc.) disappeared and there was no written record. Today some things of that era are sketchy because of this.
    I cannot even imagine what it would be like today if we knew most things because of oral traditions.

    ” In the beginning, God…

    The world became screwed up…

    For God so love the world that…

    Jesus saves…

    Jesus is coming back”

    Just wondering if you could expand on that a little.

    There are some denominations that disagree on who Jesus was. That is if you call them a denomination or not. Some IMHO are not.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  11. poohpity says:

    Bill, I was almost certain I said the story came from scrolls and was not referred to what we call the Bible today. I believe in the bible and it’s accuracy. So in your opinion I have wasted my time reading the Bible and should read every author under the sun and what their take on it is? You once told me you did not have a proclivity against the bible because you owned so many copies of different translations and became what seemed to be very defensive but from what you have written it sounds as if you do. I am a bit confused.

  12. poohpity says:

    Bill, so are you saying that Moses did not start writing?

  13. BruceC says:


    My brother; I know what you mean about “burnt” out on winter. This time of year after being teased with some very nice days it is easy to feel that way. I guess that’s why so many Great Northern Snowbirds go south and never come back! LOL! We got about 5″ of very wet, heavy snow. I went out and used the blower but had to be careful because the heavy, damp air makes it more difficult to breathe with emphysema. It was about 35 deg. too. It’s easier on my breathing (and arthritis) when it is cold and dry. I just have to be sure not to over-extend myself and get in trouble. I have done that before and it is an awful feeling not being able to breathe. Your entire body struggles. A few times all I could say was “Lord!”; because I thought I was going home. But He helped me! PTL!!
    Would all please pray for Geoff from my church. He is an usher along with me and he has to have a stent put in one of his arteries. He is only in his mid 30’s and has a wife and son. If it doesn’t work he will have to have open heart surgery.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  14. Bill says:

    Pooh, I meant the New Testament started to be written down a few decades after Jesus was on this earth, and the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments) didn’t become the official Bible for a few hundred years after that. We both know people in the Old Testament era wrote things down.

    Frankly, you guys already know how the Bible came to be. I’m not saying anything new.

    Bruce, I don’t think I can expand on that at all. It is what it is. I just touched on a few “highlights” of the Bible to give you an idea what I was talking about. I have no clue what “the Story” is to other people. They may pick other key elements and tell the tale their way.

    I think you guys are missing my point.

    There’s an element to the Bible that’s missing today. Yes, we have the Bible in its entirety. No, the people before the fourth century or so did not have the Bible in its entirety. Yes, the people of the Old Testament era didn’t have the Bible at all. Just scrolls, as Pooh noted.

    Yet, the story persisted. God’s people knew something and/or someone was coming. They told stories of battles and miracles. They memorized the scrolls. They told stories generation after generation.

    And that’s all they had to go on. But they held it close to their hearts and kept it alive in their minds.

    I’m not sure that kind of knowledge of The Story is prevalent today. We know verses. We know doctrines. We know theologians. We know pastors and teachers. We know how to “use” the Bible to cure diseases and provide guidance/direction.

    But can we tell the Story in such a way that even a four year old would get it? Or a Ph.D.? Do we excite people with the basics? Or do we inundate them with the lists, doctrines, theologies, denominations, and teachings — and then tell them they’re going to hell if they don’t believe our version?

    I’m suggesting that the popularity of The Story Bible and the History Channel miniseries on the Bible is due to people craving Story. They’re tired of doctrines and divisions and theologies. They want the basics. They want the STORY, man. They just want to know that God created everything, that He loves us, that Jesus died for us, and that He’s coming back.

    Please don’t oversimplify what I’m writing, or overanalyze it. I’m not always the most concise when it comes to expressing myself. So I apologize for obfuscating the issue. And I certainly don’t want to spin off Mart’s blog entry in an aside that doesn’t address what he wrote.

    I’m merely saying that the Bible is just as much a tool of division as it is a lamp unto one’s feet. I think we major in the minors regarding it, and fail to see the big, sweeping, Jesus-is-all-and-in-all STORY of the thing, from Genesis to Revelation.

    Or, to put it another way, if we didn’t have the Bible, and we needed to “witness” to someone, could we get that person “saved” without it? If we were in a remote area with no Bibles at all in someone’s native language, yet we continued to tell the tale, embody Christ, demonstrate love, live out what we believe to be true…would we be a solid disciples/teacher?

    To bring this back to Mart’s blog, if we didn’t heap expectations on others, try to wedge their square-peg lives into round-theological holes, would we and they be better off for it? Would we give God room to grow in people if we didn’t try to force them to be like us?

    I think so. And I think we accomplish that not by filling people’s heads full of doctrines and theologies and lists…but by telling them the Story and then letting God work in their lives.

    Jesus is the Word made flesh, right? If so, why don’t we demonstrate the Word in our lives as we go about our business, interacting with people? Why do we have to let the Bible speak for us? Shouldn’t we BE like walking Bibles to people?

  15. Bill says:

    Here’s another way to look at the matter…

    If generations and generations of people in the Old Testament era were able to grasp what was going on just from oral traditions and occasional prophets and a few scrolls (let’s say the books Moses wrote), and if that was enough to keep them together as a people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years…

    Then why aren’t we more cohesive and unified even though we have the entire Bible in our hands, perhaps 4-5 of them on our shelves?

    Do you see what I’m getting at?

    THEY had little to nothing to go on. WE have the entire Bible on our Kindles and iPhones and carry it around nearly 24/7.

    Yet, people today are starved for Story. Why? What’s missing?


    And this is the big question of the day…

    Are we looking at the Bible all wrong, expecting it to do what it was never designed to do, reading into it that which isn’t there, or reducing it to anemic impotence because of how we’ve sliced and diced it into hundreds of doctrines and theologies and endless lists of Dos and Don’ts?

    I don’t have the answers. But I know enough to know something doesn’t add up.

    So I ask the questions.

  16. remarutho says:

    Hello All —

    It seems to me Scripture in Botswana and Scripture in Our Town USA have completely different dynamics.

    Probably, if a member of Chief Sechele’s community was sour on the community and the behavior of his/her fellow human being and was suffering from spiritual malaise, he would ask, “So, when did you stop dancing?” A spiritual question there and a spiritual question here are mighty different.

    Maybe we don’t do enough dancing.


  17. Bill says:

    “Maybe we don’t do enough dancing.”

    Maru! I absolutely love that!

    You may be right.

    Thank you for contributing this comment. It made my day.

  18. billystan454 says:

    As a member of the body of Christ, my opinion is simply put, how can we expect anyone anywhere to understand Christ’s teachings, or the story of Moses, or Joseph, or Daniel. We cannot expect people from different cultures to understand what we are saying to them if we are not attempting to bring it to them in an understaning way. Or, to use different words the Bible does not change people do. If I were to tell a Martian about God and the wonderful story of His creation, I could not even to expect him, her (doesn’t matter)to even understand language like I do. It is really all that different when taking the message from God’s word to Eskimoes, or Native Americans; I could go non, and on with just that. I guess what I am trying to say is this why does it matter which brand of Christianity a person agrees with and chooses to follow, the most important thing is do they know Christ Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
    One last thing, I do not intend to challenge, ridicule, or enrage anyone but if were to take an honest look at Christianity in America we would see it as one can of beans syaing they are better than that other can of beans. There is no place in the Bible where it tells us the this doctrine will sell better because it tastes better, smells better or has more pizzazz.

  19. poohpity says:

    Bill, I guess a lot of the questions you pose only you can answer for yourself.

    When I have told the stories of the Bible to those who have never heard them before it was told to them so that even I could understand them and what is pertinent to their lives. I prayed and ask God for guidance and wisdom. For instance when I was in Africa before we went I had to prepare the stories because I was going to deliver them to several different villages but the common thread was there. I had to study their culture before I went so that I would know about them and that alone shows someone cares. I told them about God and all that was created and that they were all so special to Him then hearing the cry of oppression in Egypt just like they were living with the Apartheid but God had heard them and is sending many to help. Then I asked them if any had ever done anything they got in trouble for and that God came born in a straw bed just many of them live and would take the punishment for them to make them right with God. All this was done through a translator. I was right below Botswana.

    billystan, I think the faith of those in Africa was so much richer it seemed to me than many here in the USA. They were more dependent on God here so many trust in their own abilities, strength, knowledge and wealth. You can not fill someone with somethings when they feel they already have everything. There they crave the Word of God just like they do in China and other countries that they are denied to have a Bible, to them it is like having Gold. Wouldn’t it be nice if many of us felt that way too.

    Today it seems the missionaries have learned mush from the mistakes of those that came before them. Like in Papua New Guinea the missionaries went in to learn about them, their culture and language. They began translating the Bible into their tongue and waited for them to ask about God before they shared their beliefs with them. They showed the care and concern the Lord has put in our hearts for that people group rather than just being a statistic. Those that went there lived with them and shared gardening techniques and many other things they had to do to survive. Their children grew up with them. Bottom line they had learned from the mistakes of former missionaries. Just to think Paul had already showed us how to do it when he shared knowledge of the platform the Greeks had made to the Unknown God.

  20. phpatato says:

    Bill Thank you for contributing your comments today. I relate to what you are saying because I live..keep it simple-stupid.

    I’m an army brat. As such, it is safe to say that I didn’t grow up in one church. Mom and Dad took us to a / any / church within the army base region that preached Jesus as God’s Son and His redeeming work on the cross. It didn’t matter what name was on the front door because honestly, at that point, beggars can’t be choosers. Because of that varied background, I refuse to wear a hat that says “Hi, I’m a Baptist” on it, or Presbyterian, or Free Methodist or Salvation Army…..I simply refuse to label myself. Why? Because I believe


    In the beginning, God…

    The world became screwed up…

    For God so love the world that…

    Jesus saves…

    Jesus is coming back…


    That is simple enough for a 4 year old to understand and it provides incentive to a person with a PhD to dig in. Simple-stupid. Take that anywhere. Plant that seed – Story – and then rest in the assurance that God in His love and His wisdom will water and provide the right nutrients to the listener to bring forth life. And if He wants your continued involvement , He’ll let you know.

  21. poohpity says:

    Bill, regarding your 1:42pm post it was no different than it is today people want things their way. How God provided for them was not good enough they wanted to be like everyone around them. God offered one way to be and they picked the opposite. People today have the bible at their finger tips but it seems do not have the time to read it to many other things more important.

  22. poohpity says:

    Every 4 year old wants to know “WHY”. I do not believe there is anything wrong with having the few answers we are given and to the rest simply saying I do not know.

  23. Bill says:

    Pooh, this phrase is one of the most difficult for Christians to admit:

    “…simply saying I do not know.”

    Admitting that makes us look weak.

    I think there’s a lot more that we don’t know than we care to admit.

    Phpatato, brilliant. You nailed it. Thank you!

  24. poohpity says:

    Since everything in the Christian life is sort of topsy turvy being weak and gentle although to the world is seen as a negative to us it is really admitting the truth. That is when God does His best work through us and in us. I do not think it is only Christians who have problems admitting they do not know somethings that is just humanity in general, it is a pride issue.

  25. kingdomkid7 says:

    Simplicity has its virtue, I know. I can even agree that we can point to some regrettable history of spreading the gospel message in ways that may unduly strip others of cultural significance. At the same time, I could not sign on to any reduced message about Jesus that does not specifically mention the cross. The gospel is the power unto salvation, and the gospel message is that Jesus saves through the cross.

  26. Loomis says:

    It is amazing how we look back in time and judge people by our present values. Livingston brought many Christians to Africa who died sharing their faith. I doubt we match their courage.They had their faults, but they brought good things as well. Africa was a hard place to be at in their time. The contrast between cultures without Christ had to be hard to understand. I doubt today we can appreciate the efforts of early missionaries. They had to bridge the gap between exploitation and care. Part of their legacy would be schools, hospitals and many coming to Christ. Was there any missionary who was successful without the partnership with national people. Living stone was a pioneer, others learn from his strengths and weaknesses long before the BBC article.

  27. Mart De Haan says:

    I love the freedom you are feeling to compare thoughts on a difficult subject.

    At the same time, i decided to pull out some names of contemporaries in a couple of comments above to avoid making the issues personal. The points being made in those comments apply to anyone.

    On the wisdom and realism of knowing when to say “I don’t know”, I think it’s important to remember the theoretical and real distinction between necessary, probable, possible, improbable, and impossible implications of the words, story, and wisdom of the Bible.

    We need to pursue right doctrine (beliefs, thinking etc) and theology (knowledge of God) with humility and love for all. As indicated in the comments above both become toxic when they proudly and inconsiderately express possible interpretations and applications of the Bible as if they were necessary and absolute.

  28. bubbles says:

    Today is the first day of spring!

  29. SFDBWV says:

    Matthew and I had a long day yesterday; after his very strenuous exercise program and shower we were off to the grocery stores for an outing. It is a day trip of a few hours and so late (for us) when we got home so I missed the opportunity to share any more comments yesterday. I thought this subject to be a rich one and see by the participation it is.

    All of us are familiar with the adage “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” It is one of those attempts to say “if only” this that or the other happened things would have been better.

    Loomis is right to admonish any of us for looking backward and judging the actions of others, but it is in this view that we hopefully learn not to repeat their mistakes.

    Paul laid down the only doctrine we as Christians ever need to share with others “The Cross”. There is the story and there is the connection to countless millions of receptive souls waiting to “hear” it.

    The birth, death and resurrection of a man called Jesus…and why.

    There are so many religions in the world because God created hearts in mankind that have this longing to know Him, an empty longing about eternity, a nagging almost torment at ones soul that the story of Jesus fills.

    It is received in the hearts of many because it is the missing part of what their own spirits have been waiting to “hear” and when they do it all comes together they have become complete.

    This event isn’t a natural one but rather a *supernatural* one a *miracle* and it transforms the person in ways that can only be seen as such.

    I love this topic and will be around today more as there is much more to expand on.


  30. SFDBWV says:

    My apologies to *Byron* he is a clerk at Walmart in Keyser as I intended to tell you all this story at my first posting.

    Matt and I almost always go to Martin’s a “Giant” chain grocery store in Keyser when we go grocery shopping. Yesterday though we opted to first stop at Walmart and get his DiGiorno pizzas as they have a larger selection.

    As we finished checking out, the clerk at the register came around to the aisle put his hands on Matt and I and prayed for us. Right there in Walmart right there in front of all the others in view, never hesitating never wavering only praying with an honest and open heart.

    I loved it, thanked him and still get misty eyed as I tell this to you.

    I love that kind of dedication and unashamed faith and am privileged to have been a party to it.



  31. SFDBWV says:

    For those of us who remember Paul Harvey, we are familiar with his signature comment “Now for the rest of the story, page two.”

    Reading the comments I do not believe anyone is saying the Bible is irrelevant or a stumbling block to salvation and certainly I would not.

    Rather the Bible becomes the rest of the story. A history lesson from God Himself.

    Imagine a world where every *culture* of peoples could be allowed to be who they are, the only difference being their acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as being their pathway to God.

    Since we critique so readily all those who have went before us, let us not only learn from what we consider their mistakes, but try and see and understand why it was they made these mistakes. Then realize that we too possess those same characteristics to do the same and perhaps feel a little less judgmental toward them.

    Before Moses brought the *law* to the Israeli how was it that people * worshiped* the one true God?

    How did they *know* the One True God?

    Obedience to God’s law is a form of worship. I want also to say that being sensitive to hearing that urging from *Him* in our Spirit and obeying it is also worship.

    When Jesus came onto the scene what was it He *preached*? He said love your neighbor, do good unto your enemy, forgive others and by doing so you show love to God.

    He didn’t tell us to go into all nations and destroy their culture erase their history as a people kill those who oppose us, no He said go and make disciples of all nations.

    The thing is that in the conquest of Canaan the order of the day was violent, destructive and murderous.

    The *mistake* of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church was to copy the conquest of Canaan and used the *story* as instruction as to how to bring Christianity to the barbarian nations of the world.

    Attempting to force Christianity by fear of death not by the liberating transformation the new birth brings by way of the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

    I will try and stay on my train of thought as the day moves along; it isn’t easy to do so when interrupted as much as I am. If I trail off I apologize…forgive me.


  32. poohpity says:

    Steve that is so true when you said, “Attempting to force Christianity by fear of death not by the liberating transformation the new birth brings by way of the receiving of the Holy Spirit.”. I have found in my own life as well as watching other Christian folks that it seems we go through a season where after we have accepted Christ and read the Bible we try and force the way we make a choice to live on others. Also go from a grace filled existence back to following laws and expecting others to do the same, legalism. It is like a see-saw.

    I have found that eventually we come to a center as we mature not that I am there yet but I soon hope to be where my beliefs are more consistent with a person who trusts people into God’s hands. It takes letting go of control and I am almost sure that may be the point Livingstone may not have gotten to yet. Changing peoples lives is God’s job by taking away what we once lived to that new life you were speaking of Steve. This journey is a process and I do not think we are finished until the time when Jesus Christ returns.

    He has patience with us all the while being faithful to not forsake us and hopefully one day we will behave that way to. Not expecting perfection but seeing progress.

  33. SFDBWV says:

    Good thoughts pooh; how is your friend coming along?


  34. billystan454 says:

    Poohpity, Thank you for comments related to my post yesterday. Yes we do need to gain knowledge of a people group before attempting to share Jesus Christ with them. I have never been outside the boundries of the United States, But even in the boundries of the little city I live in the varience of customs and values varries imensely.Their are Latin American cultures, Southeast Asian cultures,And African American cutures just to name a few. I would be the babbling fool often found in Proverbs if I tried to talk with these people groups without knowing something about their culture. And honestly it is my beliefe that in America many good, honest people are trying to bring people to the foot of the cross from any of these groups without getting to know the culture.
    I do not know if it is true or not, but I have heard that leading with a hand out as a greeting in Arab nations is a grevious insult. The reason relates to bathroom issues, and if it is true, I can very much see why they would feel that way. A line from a song from the way back machine comes to mind, “I’ve got to get to know you.” We cannot serve any of people groups by innocently insulting them because we did not do a little research first.
    Love to all and God bless,

  35. poohpity says:

    Thank you for asking. He is still not doing very good they may put a permanent tap into his side for draining. It would really help if he would take his medication as directed even if it takes a hundred trips to the restroom in a day. It seems silly to go to the doctors then do what we want anyway and I am not immune from that either. Gosh that fits right in with direction from the Lord then doing what we want anyway. Go figure, sad how human nature works! Then we wonder why the consequences seem so bad and blame God. That is what is so amazing about His grace.

  36. BruceC says:


    I liked what you said about trying to change entire cultures. In the colonial days of North America in “my neck o’ the woods” the competing forces of the French and the RC Jesuits and the English with the Anglicans and other protestant groups were trying to woo the Indians to their side and felt no remorse in using faith to do it. Right up to and beyond the F&I War.
    In the process the Native Americans basically lost their culture and their lands all in the name of some king and mostly greed. It reminds me of “nation building” in our time. We just need to present Christ in love to these people wherever they may live. As they want to know more then Bible teaching will follow. As far as their culture is concerned; I think they themselves may change of their own desire. If not, it really doesn’t matter as long as it does not come into conflict with the basics of Christ’s teaching. I think back to the movie “Tip of the Spear”; IIRC.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  37. poohpity says:

    When my son got home from work went to check on dad and had to call 911. Not breathing well oxygen stats at 83. Thank you for continued prayer. :-(

  38. remarutho says:

    Prayers going up, Pooh. God is faithful. Maru

  39. SFDBWV says:

    Some years ago I began a journey to find *the* doctrine that best fit my understanding of Scripture and relationship with God. The journey took me to the very beginning of *church* as we know it the churches Paul and Peter are credited with establishing, “The Eastern Orthodox Religion.”

    Religion is the key here as when you read their tenets they are the very same as any of us would say we are in belief and relationship to Jesus of Nazareth.

    As you look deeper into their full doctrine it is also *rich* with *tradition*. Their architecture and dress become a part of worship, their rites and the placement of cups, candles, tables, the tablecloths everything in their church buildings all connected to traditional worship. It is all very fascinating to me as someone *new* to it.

    The basics are all there, it is the time honored traditions that are alien to me, then there is that one stumbling block that I have in their doctrine and it is the same as with the Roman Catholic Church; their prayers to Saint’s and especially to the Virgin Mary. They even have their own *Pope*.

    In looking at this story of Dr. Livingstone and what he considered his failure especially concerning Sechele.

    What Dr. Livingstone and most of us do is we bring Christ, but include baggage, our baggage.

    What is obvious to me is that the culture of the people in the area of the world we know as Turkey, Russia, the Balkans, even areas of Iran when they became Christians their culture became Christian and so reflected it.

    Sechele did the same, but Livingstone wanted Sechele to become English along with becoming Christian.

    Do you suppose Jesus wants us all to become Jewish?


  40. Mart De Haan says:

    Steve, I like the way you are thinking.

    Trying to see not only what is important, but what is most important; trying not only to see what is right but what is most right; trying to see what in our own baggage is not only good, but good for God and us.

    Even the morality of God can be used either to bring us to Christ– or to keep us and others away from him.

    Thankfully, as in Sechele’s case, God is greater than our baggage.

  41. SFDBWV says:

    Thank you Mart, it is amazing what we can squeeze out of us if we take time to thing about things.

    3 more inches of snow this morning, and a promise of this kind of weather up through mid April.

    If I spoke Robin I would tell you all what they think of it as they fly back and forth across my back yard looking for a place to land.


  42. remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends —

    It seems to me that while we are not confined to our own cultural expressions of what is “religious” or what is “spiritual,” we largely choose the familiar ways (words, gestures, movements). So it was with Livingstone and so it was with Sechele. It is fascinating and amazing to see the working of God’s Word in the midst of the peoples!

    As Anne Lamott recently put it: “Help! Thanks! Wow!” God is profoundly Love, Mercy and Truth. The whole human race is able to “get it.”


  43. remarutho says:

    Correction: The whole creation is able to get it. There I go thinking small again. :o) Maru

  44. foreverblessed says:

    This is such a good topic, about our expectations of our fellow christians!
    It is also an very hard topic, because many things that are unlawful according to God’s moral laws, are not being defeated in a person’s life once he has become a christian. Having many wives is not God’s way in the New Testament. But there are many things in our own lives that are not in line with God’s way of life: gossiping, cheating, looking at the dark side of life…
    The problem we had before we were Christ’s will come back. It is a battle field, till we have conquered it in Jesus’s power.
    “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…” Prov 24:16

    Here it does not say that the righteous will not fall, they will, 7 times, meaning more then once or twice. So God has calculated that things will go wrong, and He knows we will learn from our mistakes and become more convinced to choose His ways along the line.
    But I have to learn to see through God’s eyes, how He sees when a fellow christian is going in the wrong: as a stepping stone to step on in newness of life, in Christ’s living Life,

  45. poohpity says:

    foreverblessed, I have read in the NT that Paul suggested elders and pastors were to have only one wife but I do not know if that is really something that was suggested to all. I know Solomon knew that many wives is what turned him away from God to worshiping their many idols and cautioned that practice. Is it something we are commanded to do or is it something we have adopted as a commandment and tried to force others to live by?

    I think that may be the possible point do we really know and then do we force others to live a way we have chosen to live in our own lives. Have we written as the Pharisees did in Jesus time more rules than there really is?

    It sounds like the chief was hurt because Livingstone deserted him because of his behavior, like giving up on him rather than remain faithful as God remains faithful to us when we make a choice to go our own way. I do not know what I would do if God turned away from me every time I messed up and did not welcome me back when I came running to Him. Can you imagine when one of our friends did something we thought was wrong then we stopped being their friend. That would be conditional love. The condition being if you live the way I think you should live then you can be my friend.

    Jesus was still a friend to Judas knowing he was going to give Him up for silver and Peter knowing he was going to deny Him.

  46. SFDBWV says:

    Foreverblessed you are right this is a good and important topic for us to explore and develop.

    Some cultures have within their acceptance the ability for men to have multiple wives, as much I would suppose as they can afford. They are required buy their own cultural standards to take good care of them as well.

    I am talking about culture here not *religion*.

    Jesus tells us this is not the way God intended for man to live, but never is it said anyone would not be accepted for salvation because of it or go to hell because of it.

    Just as some people live in an abusive relationship with an ogre of a husband, yet never divorcing them because they are told it is not acceptable under God’s teaching; no where is it said that you would not gain salvation because of it or go to hell because of it.

    As a divorced lady once told me, even if remarrying is considered adultery it still is a forgivable offence.

    Religion in some areas of the world give dominance of the man over the woman as a result they are *given* sanction by their religion to beat their wives, that kind of religion is contrary to Christianity in its entirety, there I believe one may have a righteous reason to say their behavior is wrong.

    What we must be very careful and cautious of is not in the blending of culture with Christianity, but rather the blending of Christianity with other religions.

    A very snowy day and still only 18 degrees f. at noon…Sigh!


  47. phpatato says:

    Oh Steve please send those robins on their way…pointing them north to come up my way. I will shovel out a spot in my backyard that they can land in. :-) I hear the song of birds other than chickadees now. Spring must be here???

    Deb prayers going up for your friend. It sounds like he is going through what my mom did. Her 02 sats dropped very low as well. She carried around a portable oxygen tank on her wheelchair from then on, after the first time it dropped.

  48. poohpity says:

    He is in ICU. There is fluid in his lungs and just got diagnosed with congestive heart failure as well. They will do another paracentesis today. I can not even drive to go up to the hospital because of my knee. I am feeling very, very sad today. I should go out and at least try to drive, where there is a will there is a way.

  49. remarutho says:

    Blessings on you Pooh!

    Sometimes prayer is being still — sometimes getting up and going…I’m just saying. Perhaps a friend will do the driving.

    Heard a good word this week: “God’s commandments are like a mirror.” We look into the commandments and see that we need to change — do it better — clean up a little. In the morning, we look into the mirror to see that our own hair needs a good brushing.

    In His Grip,

  50. poohpity says:

    It is just hard to ask when so many have such busy lives and you do not want to be a bother. Thank you for the good words.

  51. BruceC says:


    Prayers on the way for all.

    Good news today! Geoff; the one I asked prayer for, is okay! I picked he and his wife up at the hospital to take them home around 1:00pm. He said they did not put in a stent because once they got in there they realized it wasn’t needed. He just has to go to the doctors more often and get his BP under control. Please pray all works out for him.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  52. BruceC says:

    There are many things in our culture that I hope never get blended into Christianity.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  53. bobbys says:

    Just a couple of words from the old guy. It is not our job to change a person. That job belongs to The Holy Spirt. Remember what Paul said about one plants the seed and another waters but it is God that makes it all come together and grow. As for what a Christian should be and look like, follow what the Bible teaches and you will be on track. We all know that there are many standing at the pulpits each Sunday leading folks away from the Cross not to the Cross. It is important to learn what The Bible has to say. Thank you for lisening.

  54. poohpity says:

    Bruce, the sad thing is there is much syncretism in Christianity today and not many are even aware of it, that is the very, very sad thing.

  55. remarutho says:

    I agree, Pooh and Bruce — I weep for the little ones waiting for a rabbit bringing eggs. There is no crucifixion bunny — only the Son of God pouring himself out for us. Maru

  56. BruceC says:

    Pooh & Maru,

    I know what you mean about things like the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunts, Yule logs, etc., etc. But what I really meant by our culture blending or seeping into Christianity is the values of todays culture. Our Pastor is doing a series of how the culture is seeping into the church and like water in the basement it can weaken the foundation. He had some statistics from a survey that was done. I will try to find a link in the near future. It is amazing how many things that some Christians believe is okay that are in conflict with the Word.
    Look at our culture today and its values and look at what we see sometimes in Christianity and you can see where it seeped in from.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  57. BruceC says:


    Snowy and cold here again with overnight temps the last few nights in the single digits and flurries. Seems like winter would like to hang on like a bad habit.
    But soon spring will break forth. I can remember times when spring came so fast it like going from cold to hot in a few short days. Then everyone said “These nasty bugs!” LOL!

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  58. SFDBWV says:

    Bruce yesterday’s high was only 20, it snowed all day and is as I type now, not a lot of snow just a continuous onslaught of the six sided miracle we call snow.

    I agree snow isn’t that unusual for March, but snow every day is and these deeply cold lows aren’t all that common either. Last years early warm weather is missed.

    I remember seeing a story about an experiment the Russian scientists did aboard the International Space station some years back whereas they put mosquitoes outside of the environment of the space station and upon reintroduction to a hospitable atmosphere they had survived the stark cold and oxygen less extremes of space.

    Having said that the idea that cold weather kills off *bugs* is just a *myth* so when the warm days of summer finally get here we will just have to suffer them and know that God created them a lot tougher than most of us humans.

    It sure is hard for we people to be *content*.

    I also agree with your comment concerning the *counter-culture* merging with our *Christianity*.


  59. SFDBWV says:

    “E Pluribus Unum”.

    “Out of many one”.

    Trying to find a purely American culture “is like a box of chocolates” you never know what you’re going to find.

    When we look for the ideals of things around us, this is the one thing that has the greatest potential for America that we can be a mixture of peoples, cultures and even if I may not like some of them, religions.

    The Christmas tree, Easter egg and Easter bunny has its origins in a culture far into the past well before America was settled and founded.

    The beauty of each of them is that Christ is shown through these cultural celebrants that the renewal of spring is shown as the rebirth of men’s hearts, the resurrection and a celebration of Jesus Christ. None does discredit to the other.

    We see with our eyes, but perceive with our hearts. What is it we see when we see a Christmas tree or children on an Easter egg hunt or even when we see the annual Easter Bunny on parade?

    We see what is in our hearts.

    We seek the things that are in our hearts. What do we see when we find a cultural celebration of winter and spring used as a way to proclaim Christ?

    Is it a blasphemous insult to God or insult to what we presume?

    I say let all of creation spring forth in celebration of Jesus Christ and not force a little child to feel guilty for enjoying the Easter bunny, Easter egg or the excitement of a Christmas tree.

    No “bah humbug” from me.


  60. remarutho says:

    Good Morning All —

    It seems there is always seepage of some sort! We are, after all, frail human beings. The metamorphosis of a caterpillar is a classic Easter theme. One of the most beautiful insects (except for the bee) emerges from the transformation of a lowly grub in the tomb of the chrysalis. Very cool.

    When Jesus is scorned as a silly legend and the equinoxes and solstices are claimed as holy moments, the balance is sagging, as far as I can see. The Gospel message keeps going out in forms that trigger the imagination and the love of every age.

    Bug repellant and honey! The Lord God made them all!


  61. BruceC says:


    I remember years ago when I used to hunt turkeys every spring. How I would sit against a tree and wait for the sun to come up. I would listen to nature come alive. Some of those mornings it was cold. But usually it began to warm up and at times quite a bit. I would hear a crinkling, crunching type of sound all around me. Then upon looking down I could see the insects crawling out from under the very dry leaves; soon to be trying to bite me! LOL! Kind of reminds me of how the enemy can “crawl out” of some of the most unusual places to annoy or attack us.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  62. SFDBWV says:

    Bruce hunting turkeys is the most skillful hunting I know of. For all the jokes about how stupid turkey’s are they are the most difficult animal I know of to hunt. They aren’t easily fooled nor are they rash or careless, quite the opposite.

    When I was a lot younger my dad taught me how to call turkey with just my voice, later he broke down and bought a box caller, but I always had better luck without it.

    I even called in a few hunters, which of course I quickly identified myself to and they got mad thinking I had run off their turkey.

    Some hunters I know use dogs to hunt turkey, it is illegal, but that doesn’t stop illegal hunting.

    Funny that after all those years of hunting them, now that I don’t they just walk into my back yard and eat.

    I am in a cold enough climate not to have the tick problem other area have, we have them, just not as bad. I always loved falling asleep setting in the hollow of the ground where some old tree had fallen, in the fall of the year. The smell of the woods and earth, that warm sun and the quiet yet noisy sounds of nature.

    Yes Satan is a subtle liar, but so is mankind and the worst person they lie to is themselves.


  63. poohpity says:

    If we tell our children about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, what will happen when we tell them about David and Goliath? My hunch is once the lies start they will continue until we have ourselves convinced about fantasy land because reality is hard in some instances to accept. But the truly miraculous things like the butterfly or the complexity of how the human body works has not got enough Hollywood in them to take our breathe away. The daily miracles of everyday life, the things we can give heart filled thanks for like God wanting a relationship with us has hardly no merit anymore because we have transferred Santa Claus to thinking that is how God works.

  64. poohpity says:

    Steve, you are so right that “the worst person they lie to is themselves”. Taking an honest estimate about ourselves is the hardest thing to really do but the best thing that could ever happen to us for our eyes to be open to truth. That reminds me of that movie, “A Few Good Men” when Nicholson said to Cruse, “truth, truth, you can’t handle the truth”. Most of the time it is really really hard to admit to truth but a harder time to accept it.

  65. remarutho says:

    Hey Pooh!

    Do I have to say it? =0) No bunny rabbit ever laid an egg! Platypus lay eggs. I love the spring season because it is empirical evidence of God’s faithfulness to the whole earth. Agree thoroughly that truth can be difficult to take. Perhaps that is why human beings embellish and even avoid the truth of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus to New Life.


  66. bobster says:

    As bielevers we are all spiritual schisophranics , I am so thankful for the book of Romans chapter 7.

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