Wednesday, August 31, 2016

John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides

John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, an autobiography edited by his Brother

Paton, J. G., & Paton, J. (n.d.). John G. Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides: An autobiography edited by his brother.

In the 19th century, John G. Paton embarked on a journey as a missionary to the New Hebrides, which is known today as Vanuatu. The autobiography (published by Banner of Truth) that Paton started and his brother completed is one of daring, commitment, and fortitude. It provides an example for those of us that are walking day to day with the struggles of this world to strengthen our resolve, improve our prayer lives for our children, to embrace the challenges of sharing the gospel with those that are not like us and to be forever inclined to the work of the Lord.

John Paton was born into a solid, Christian family in 1824. His early life in poverty was followed by cutting his missionary teeth in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland. However, it was the cannibals of the South Seas that beckoned him away from the isle of Europe to the island east of the coast of Australia in the South Pacific. Paton’s voyage was not the first missionary foray to the island as John Williams and James Harris had both attempted the evangelical work with the natives. Both missionaries  were clubbed to death after only a few minutes on the island. Paton would face similar attempts on his life.  Although faced with many heartaches, loss and sickness, Paton devoted his life to making Christ known to the cannibals in this distant South Pacific land.

A cursory timeline of Paton's life on the island is incredibly dire and foreboding. Paton and his wife arrived on the island on November 5, 1858, he had his first child on February 12, 1859 and he watched his wife die less than a month later on March 3, 1859. Three weeks to the day of his wife’s death, his infant baby died, and the mourning husband and father laid both family members to rest in a grave dug by his own hands. Paton’s solitary life continued with only his trusted dog sleeping by his side each night to warn him of possible danger from the cannibals who lived in the bush in the woods right next to his home.

Besides the near devastating family loss, other events tormented Paton in his work and made sharing the gospel difficult. One of the most extraordinary days transpired when one of the wild chiefs of the region followed him around with a loaded musket pointed at his head for several hours. Paton responded by continuing to work and speaking to him with kindness in between prayers for his safety to the Lord. Paton was sure that the prayers  were answered as the Lord restrained the chief from shooting throughout the day. In response to the many hardships and blessings Paton encounters in the wild he states,  "I spoke kindly to him, and attended to my work as if he had not been there, fully persuaded that my God had placed me there, and would protect me till my allotted task was finished. Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done” (p. 117).  His prayers are a sound tribute to our Father above in the midst of terrible difficulty.

Danger was continuous. On another evening, a native, Ian, held a dagger to his heart as Paton silently prayed  for what seemed like an endless period of time that the tip of the knife which rested next to his heart would be withdrawn.  Once again, Paton’s prayers were answered as he was allowed to run away to safety. On another occasion, Paton was forced to hide from searching natives for ten hours in the top of a tree. Paton poignantly describes the alarming peril of time in this way:

Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. (p.21).

Throughout the Bible, other Biblical characters faced similar hardship with great joy. As I think of Paul sitting in a Roman prison as depicted in Philippians 1, I am encouraged by his example. Paul demonstrates great spiritual maturity which is an example for us all. I want to follow the example of one John G. Paton and be as committed to the task at hand as those that risk life and limb for the sharing of the gospel. Today, this sacrifice happens on a regular basis around the world while we live in a life of seeming comfort here in the United States. Lord, help me to be a Paul and a Paton, excited for the work that we face now and will face in the future. Let  me be filled with contentment and be a source of encouragement like Paton and others who know hardship and yet suffer well.

Note: John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, an autobiography edited by his Brother is on Pastor Clint's recommended list and is on sale in our bookstore.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Athletic Perfection

What is athletic perfection?  An undefeated season? 100 yards rushing average in football?  Throwing a perfect game in baseball?  Are these accomplishments really perfection?  

In Matt 5:48 Jesus says “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Is Jesus saying he expects me to hit every free throw in the next basketball game?  Will he be pleased if I do?  No, remember Jesus looks at our heart, our attitude, and our motivation.  He is not checking our stats and our win-loss record!  In the Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus redefines for his listeners what perfection is.  He says sin, or missing perfection, is not just in your actions, it is in your thoughts, your attitudes, and your heart.  Jesus isn’t concerned with our stats on the playing field.  He is concerned with what is in our hearts and minds as we play.

At Hickory Grove we strive to know Christ and make him known through athletics.  We want to exalt him at every opportunity we can.  We want to win games and hang championship banners as much as any other school, but we have goals beyond that!  I believe if our only goal is to win we have set our sights too low.  I think Jesus in Matthew 5:48 wants us to shift our focus onto our hearts and minds as we compete.  We should be thinking his thoughts and be motivated to glorify Him through our play. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for man.”  We need to stop focusing just on our physical performance but also on our internal performance!  

As Hickory Grove athletics move forward into the 2016-17 school year, we will strive to have athletic perfection.  No matter what the scoreboard says, we will strive to live out Colossians 3:23 and have our attitude and hearts focused on the right thing.  We are not going to take down our scoreboards, but we know that true athletic perfection lies beyond the scoreboard.  

Athletic Director

Jim Rhodes- Athletic Director