Thursday, August 9, 2012

No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his "desire to be a missionary."

One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was "throwing himself away as a missionary."

In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."

Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden's classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn't that he had lots of money. One of them wrote: "He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration."

During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: "Say 'no' to self and 'yes' to Jesus every time."

Borden's first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in a convocation about the students' need of "having a fixed purpose." After that speech, Borden wrote: "He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations." Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it began: "It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. I cannot say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have originated with Bill. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer after a brief reading of Scripture. Bill's handling of Scripture was helpful. . . . He would read to us from the Bible, show us something that God had promised and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance."

Borden's small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.

Borden made it his habit to seek out the most "incorrigible" students and try to bring them to salvation. "In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, 'Who will take this person?' When it came to someone thought to be a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill's voice would be heard, 'Put him down to me.'"

Borden's outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden's friends wrote that he "might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

Borden's missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said of him: "He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times."

Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to "realize always that he must be about his Father's business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement." Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, "he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before." He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."

William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

When the news of William Whiting Borden's death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. "A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice" wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Was Borden's untimely death a waste? Not in God's perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Not Talk Chicken?

I typically don't weigh in too much on topics as such, like the Chic-fil-a stuff, but due to my undying love of the chicken sandwich partnered with the best fast-food customer service there is, I simply feel that I owe it to the world to share my opinion (okay, slight exaggeration).

Personally, I think the discussion has gone a little bit overboard on both sides about whether it is right or wrong to eat at Chic-fil-a after comments that Mr. Cathy said when asked about his view of marriage. A lot of analysis went into the debate of whether Jesus would go be found at a Chic-fil-a or a gay bar yesterday. There were also debates as to whether eating a chicken sandwich did anything to build the Kingdom or not. The best response I saw was that Jesus would be at a gay bar passing out chicken sandwiches.

I would like to respond to the 'building the Kingdom' comment, but I will be brief. While I would not say that eating a chicken sandwich is 'building the Kingdom of God' I would say that it is good to know that when the rest of the world about to walk out, it is good to be in a Kingdom where you can know that when the world walks out you still have those brothers and sisters who will stand and say that we will love you anyway. Of course, it would be great if that was more often when our friends and relatives face crisis, that we stand with them when no one else will. If our response was to stand with and restore someone rather than ignoring an issue or even contributing to the issue at hand.

While I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, I do not think a heterosexual person deserves more grace than a homosexual. I know that there are not a lot of people who would ever say that they deserve grace more than another, but their actions might say otherwise. I do not deserve grace more than the alcoholic, the one who has fallen to the trap and is addicted to pornography, or one who can't beat negative self-thought and struggling with suicide. For anyone who has been burnt because someone got this wrong, I would like to say that I am sorry on behalf of the Kingdom of God, whose plan from the beginning was restoration, healing and wholeness, not more pain, isolation, and oppression.

With that being said, free speech is free speech. I am entitled to my opinion just as you are entitled to yours. However, differing opinions do not have to mean division and they do not mean a lack of love. So let's keep opinions as they are and move on in love. And certainly, eating a chicken sandwich at a restaurant that claims to have a 'Christian view of marriage' does not mean that I hate anyone who has chosen a different lifestyle. My goal is to love others just as Jesus loved the institution He called the church, for which He literally gave up His life. So my proposal is that we all put down our 'hypothetical weapons' and start loving one another in such way and seek wholeness and shalom (the way things ought to be).