Iâ€™ve been reading J.P. Morelandâ€™s superb book Kingdom Triangle, which was recently released by Zondervan. He begins with this true story by the missionary doctor to Zaire, Africaâ€”Helen Roseveare. Though itâ€™s a bit long for a blog, it is very inspiring.
One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.
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We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.
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A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. â€œ. . . and it is our last hot water bottle!â€ she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,â€ I said, â€œPut the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.â€
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The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. â€œPlease, God,â€ she prayed, â€œsend us a water bottle. Itâ€™ll be no good tomorrow, God, the babyâ€™ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.â€ While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, â€œ. . . And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so sheâ€™ll know You really love her?â€ As often with childrenâ€™s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, â€œAmen?â€ I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, arenâ€™t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
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Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nursesâ€™ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanasâ€”that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, â€œA brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!â€ I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, â€œIf God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!â€ Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, â€œCan I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so sheâ€™ll know that Jesus really loves her?â€
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed Godâ€™s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African childâ€”five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it â€œThat afternoon!â€ â€œAnd it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.â€ Isaiah 65:24 (The story is found in Roseveareâ€™s book Living Faith published by Bethany House in 1980.)
After giving this story, Moreland then asks: How does one interpret such an account? The answers will be different for the naturalist (â€œthatâ€™s just a fabricationâ€), the postmodern (â€œthat may be your truthâ€), and the Christian (â€œthatâ€™s wonderful and inspiringâ€â€”or perhaps â€œwhy donâ€™t those things happen in my life?â€). Naturalism, postmodernism, and Christian theismâ€”these are, according to Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, the three worldviews competing for our allegiance in the West.
With no minced words, Moreland incisively exposes the weaknesses and hollowness of naturalism and postmodernism. Not only are they false and faulty; they are â€œthinâ€ and lacking the resources for a robust, drama-filled life. Whether we are simply biological organisms that fight, feed, flee, and reproduce or are empty selves with shallow relationships and consumeristic pursuits, these positions both fail in providing the grandeur and excitement life in Godâ€™s kingdom can. We need to live a life larger than our own individual selves. The grandest of all stories is to know Godâ€”to live in accordance with Godâ€™s kingdom and His unshakable purposes and life-giving power.
To do so, one must enter into a â€œkingdom triangleâ€ mindset: to recover the mind, renovate the soul, and restore the Spiritâ€™s power. Moreland writes with passion and deep concern for Christians to be all that God calls them to beâ€”instead of dabbling in a half-hearted, unthinking, Spirit-less discipleship.
While weâ€™ve come to expect Moreland to write about the Christian faith as a knowledge tradition that is connected to reality (rather than an irrelevant, private hobby) and about the importance of spiritual growth through various character-transforming spiritual disciplines, this book strongly emphasizes the Spiritâ€™s miraculous, prayer-answering power. Chapter 7 (â€œRestoration of the Kingdomâ€™s Miraculous Powerâ€) is worth the price of the book itself. Moreland recounts one answer to prayer and divine miraculous intervention after another, many coming from Morelandâ€™s own experiences and from those whom he has known and personally interviewed. I was excited, challenged, and moved to go even more deeply into this realm of taking risks by taking Godâ€™s power more seriously. As one hymn puts it: â€œThou art coming to a King. Large petitions with thee bring. For His grace and power are suchâ€”None can ever ask too much!â€
I hope you too will be inspired by this practical, hard-hitting, but well-rounded book. Moreland has written a marvelous book for the church, and I pray that we will all take to heart the message of the Kingdom Triangle.