Outrageous Mercy

The Glory of God in the Gospel-Centered Life


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The Three Wives of David Livingstone

The Three Wives of David Livingstone

EVERY CHRISTIAN FACES THE DANGER THAT a goal, or relationship has become idolatrous. It can happen to the best Believers. How would we know that this has happened? The answer is simple. We will begin to compromise God’s will to serve the idolatrous focus. David Livingstone is a good example. Most students of history think of Dr. Livingstone as an explorer, but if you had asked him he would have answered, “I am a missionary. Yes, I explore, but I do so for the sale of the gospel.”

Livingstone is best known for his meeting with Henry Stanley in 1871. Livingstone had disappeared into the heart of Africa. No one knew if he was dead or alive. The editor of The New York Herald sent Stanley to find him. At their first contact Stanley famously said, “Doctor Livingstone I presume?” 

Livingstone was a great man. He embodied the concentrated focus that is at the heart of masculinity. One day he wrote in his journal, “I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.” He was faithful to that determination. Even though he didn’t achieve all of his purposes in his lifetime, most were achieved after his death. 

But like all men he had weaknesses. In fact, this strength was his weakness. At times his focus was so strong it caused him to compromise God’s will.[1] The same can happen to anyone. 

The Explorer

He was the first European to penetrate and map Africa’s unknown interior. It was called the dark continent for good reason. As late as the mid-nineteenth century the center of Africa’s map was blank. The civilized world knew nothing about Africa, and millions of Africans lived with no knowledge of the gospel or the outside world. Moved by compassion Livingstone focused with great intensity on his first great goal—exploring and mapping Africa’s interior so that Christian missionaries could follow. 

But this godly ambition had one obstacle—marriage. In 1845 he married a missionary daughter, Mary Moffat. Stationed in south central Africa together for the first seven years of their marriage, she bore him five children. Four survived, but one died in infancy. 

Meanwhile, Livingstone put together an ambitious plan. He would explore and map south central Africa, the area just north of the great Kalahari Desert. Estimating that it would take two years, he sent Mary and the children home to England. However, two years morphed into four. David had disappeared. Mary had no idea where he was. She didn’t even know if he was alive. 

During those four years Dr. Livingstone travelled close to 5,000 miles on foot through the unexplored wiles of subtropical Africa. He was the first man to traverse the continent from east to west. He discovered and mapped the Zambesi River, including Victoria Falls. He was attacked and mauled by a lion, befriended native tribes, drew detailed maps, suffered from the symptoms of malaria over twenty times, and kept an exhaustive scientific journal of all that he saw and did. 

But during his four-year absence Mary and his four children suffered greatly. Mary was profoundly lonely and socially isolated. She and her children also suffered from poverty. So great was the stress that Mary, a missionary daughter, turned to alcohol in her husband’s absence. 

He returned to London a national hero. After reunification with his family, he published his journals, the income from which lifted them out of poverty.

Even though back in London and reunited with his family, Livingstone was uncomfortable. He loved the solitude of Africa even more than London or his family. So, when an opportunity to return and open the Zambesi River to navigation came up, he jumped on it. European civilization, and especially the gospel, would follow. This time Mary, determined not to be left behind, sailed with him. 

Zambesi Expedition

He now he had three goals in mind: the dissemination of the gospel; the elimination of the African slave trade; and the discovery of the location of the Nile’s headwaters. Summing it up, one African historian wrote, “Livingstone had three wives, but none of them were women.”[2] In the words of another biographer, “His myopic commitment to Africa began to tear his family apart.”[3]

As he and Mary sailed down the west coast of Africa they discovered that she was pregnant with their sixth child. Livingstone left her at Cape Town, promising to return. But once again, two years turned into four. Desperately lonely, and feeling profoundly rejected by her husband, Mary went in search of him. She arrived depressed, addicted to alcohol, and angry at God for the neglectful husband that he had given her. A few months later, she contracted a fever, probably malaria, and died. Livingstone was brokenhearted. Too late, he confessed his sinful neglect of his wife. 

Was Livingstone’s focus on exploration and missionary work admirable? Absolutely. He was single-minded about his life’s work, and the long-term benefit to Africa has been substantial. The British buried him in Westminster Abbey, an immense honor, given only to men of great national importance. 

You can argue, however, that his ambition eventually became idolatrous. He probably should have stayed single. But, he didn’t. He made marriage vows to a wife, and he should have fulfilled them, if necessary, at the expense of his ambitions. “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved his church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  Tragically, our hero loved his calling and work more than he loved his wife and children. 


The moral is simple. Although Livingstone was a great man, his relationship with Christ did not always control his focus on the goal at hand. 

I told this story because every ambition, no matter how good, can be a blessing or a curse. The question is who controls it? The will of God or our passions and goals? We all know adults who were abandoned by highly successful fathers. I have interviewed pastor’s children who have sworn to never enter the ministry. Why? Their fathers loved their congregations more than their wives or their children. We all know businessmen that have done the same. 

But the greater problem for most Christians is not too much focus, but too little on the thing that really matters. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all of your strength.”

[1] Seethe excellent book by Jay Milbrandt, The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition 

[2] Elizabeth Isichei, “The Man with Three Wives,” Christian History Magazine, Issue 56, pg. 28

[3] Milbrandt, Jay. The Daring Heart of David Livingstone (p. 45). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

The Great American Divide (And What It Means For the Future).

The Great American Divide (And What It Means For the Future).

DURING THE CIVIL WAR, Abraham Lincoln, attempting to describe the American division over chattel slavery, quoted Jesus. No “house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25). Of course, the “house” Jesus had in mind was not civil government. Jesus had just cast out a demon, and the Pharisees accused him of doing it by Satan’s power. Therefore, Jesus responded, no “house (the Devil’s house) divided against itself will stand.” However, Lincoln was right. The principle applies to families, churches, and yes, even to civil government. 

Divided Over Religion

American is no less divided today. Before the Civil War, the issue was slavery. Today the issue is religion. That means there is no simple fix. It is not just going to go away. Our division is not just a national phase that will soon pass. Unless God radically intervenes, the divide will not go away. It will just get wider and wider until our religious divide shreds the fabric of our once stable civilization. 

By “religion,” I do not necessarily mean theism. I mean “worldview.” Worldview is just another word for religion. Whether one believes in a personal God or not is irrelevant. Everyone has a “religion”—a set of assumptions about reality, held by faith, not scientific fact. That is their “religion.” 

For example, the Atheist cannot prove that God doesn’t exist. He clings to this conviction by faith, not fact. The Philosophical Materialist cannot prove that the spiritual world does not exist. He also adheres to this by faith. Moral Relativism is not held by fact but by faith. No matter how earth-bound our thinking, all of us cling to a set of unprovable assumptions about ultimate reality, and we grip them by faith, not fact or science. Here is the problem. Most hold their faith assumptions unconsciously. Therefore, it is possible to be intensely religious and think you are not. We call this collection of faith assumptions our “worldview.”   

By “religion,” I do not necessarily mean theism. I mean “worldview.”

Culture is a people’s religion externalized. Or, culture is our collective worldview externalized, and every culture requires a shared dominant worldview. That worldview unifies the culture. As long as they are a minority and marginal, a culture will tolerate dissenting worldviews. But a culture cannot sustain two dominant, irreconcilable worldviews at the same time. Should that be the case, the culture in question will seek stability by expelling one of the worldviews, persecuting it out of existence, or destroying both it and those who hold it. “A house divided against itself will not stand.” 

This is our current situation. Two diametrically opposed and irreconcilable worldviews are contending for dominance. These are the blue and red worldviews frequently referenced in our media.  

Worldview Issues

The blue worldview thinks abortion is just the elimination of the “product of conception.” The red worldview considers it the murder of innocent human life. 

The blue worldview thinks the nuclear family is dispensable. The reds think it’s utterly essential. 

The blue worldview thinks the accumulation of trillions of dollars of government debt inconsequential. The red worldview considers it utterly irresponsible and a sure recipe for national financial ruin. 

The blues think gender is malleable, dispensable, and changeable. The red worldview believes God immutably assigns it at birth. 

The blue worldview believes that government is the solution to almost every problem. The red worldview assumes that government is a necessary evil. Because fallen men run it, we should restrict it to the smallest sphere. 

Two diametrically opposed and irreconcilable worldviews are contending for dominance.

The blue worldview dislikes the U.S. constitution and wants to alter it radically. The red worldview loves the American constitution and seeks to uphold it.  

Blues have little respect for the rule of law. The red worldview loves the rule of law. 

The blue worldview thinks the first and second amendments nonessential. Reds believe that they are indispensable to the American way of life. 

The blue worldview assumes that the ends justify the means. The red worldview believes that this is the sure recipe for despotism and unspeakable cruelties. 

One worldview thinks racism is systemic. The other believes that racism is not systemic, but that we have made great progress towards mitigating racial discrimination. 

The blues think people and civilizations are perfectible. The reds believes that man is systemically flawed, and that human happiness will only be maximized by embracing this reality. 

One worldview pursues socialism. The other believes that capitalism alone will provide the most happiness for the most people in a fallen world. 

The blue worldview distrusts the male sex and detests patriarchy. The red worldview believes that male leadership in family, church, and culture must be honored and promoted. 

America is Divided Between Red and Blue States

One worldview believes that the definition of marriage includes members of the same sex. The other believes that marriage is essentially and only between one man and one woman. 

The blue worldview is increasingly intolerant of any disagreement. The red worldview seeks to listen to and tolerate those with dissenting opinions. 

The blue worldview believes that men and women are biologically, mentally, and emotionally the same. The red worldview believes God designed the sexes differently, and that those differences should be honored and celebrated. 

The contrasts go on and on. 

Where We Are Headed

The blue and red worldviews are mutually incompatible. Therefore, American culture cannot continue in this tension. The gap between the two worldviews is as wide as the Grand Canyon and growing each year. Since the gap is religious, the solution will not come via communication or dialogue. But a resolution will eventually come. One of these worldviews will prevail. The bigger question is—how will this happen? I see only three possibilities—peaceful secession, civil war, or revival. 

First, peaceful secession. The blue and red worldviews dominate in the U.S. by geography. The Blue worldview dominates the Northeast, the West Coast, and the upper Midwest, i.e., Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. 

The West (excepting Washington, Oregon, and California), the South, and the Midwest generally share red worldviews. One solution would be for the peaceful secession of a few southern states—for example Texas. Other states would then follow and form a new nation with a dominant red worldview. Hopefully, it would retain our current constitution including a constitutional amendment prohibiting deficit spending except in time of war. That would leave the Blue worldview in control of the Northeast, the upper mid-west, and the three west coast states.  

In 1947 Britain gave India independence. But India was divided between Muslim and Hindu worldviews. While the British ruled, Muslim and Hindu peacefully co-existed. But when the British withdrew, violence erupted. Somewhere between 1 and 2 million died. India solved the problem by creating a Muslim nation, West Pakistan. About 6.5 million  Muslims moved from India to West Pakistan, and roughly 4 million Hindus moved from West Pakistan to India. Separation resolved the problem of two mutually intolerant worldviews. Could this happen in the United States peacefully?

Should secession not happen, I fear for the red worldview.   

What would happen if the blue states resisted? This is the second, and least preferable option—civil war.  Each Christian should carefully weigh the cost. Is the freedom to worship in peace and live according to your convictions worth dying for?  

Should secession not happen, I fear for the red worldview. The blues have shown every inclination to use the hob-nailed boot of control, intimidation, and violence to crush the right. The blue worldview controls the Federal Government, our academic institutions, Big Tech, our major corporations, and the entertainment industry. Do not be deceived. They will weaponize these institutions to silence, neuter, and enslave their opponents with the chains of political correctness. 

The last possibility is revival—a solution for which Believers everywhere should urgently pray. This should be our ultimate hope. With revival would come a massive outpouring of God’s Spirit on church and nation, converting millions. The converts would need to be numerous enough to restore the red worldview to cultural dominance. But for God, this is nothing. He is omnipotent. With God, all things are possible. 

This is what happened during the Great Awakening (1740-42). The average church in New England either doubled or tripled. 

No matter which of these options, or one I haven’t thought of, unfolds, we need to be ready for change. The current worldview divide guarantees that change is coming. 


I don’t want secession. I don’t want civil war. But even more fervently, I don’t want to be a slave to the blue worldview. I would rather be dead. Politically speaking, the United States is the world’s great hope. Solving our cultural division is about more than the U.S. Should we go down, there will be no resistance to a ruthless, aggressive, totalitarian Chinese state. So let us pray with Isaiah. 

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:1–4). 

If you have found this helpful, pass it on to your friends, neighbors, and relatives.


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This blog is about the gospel and how it influences every aspect of Christian life. Many Christians here the word, “gospel,” and think, that’s for beginners. I want to move on to the deeper truths. But this kind of thinking is a problem. Properly understood the gospel is the deepest truth in scripture. If you knew nothing about the Bible but the gospel, but knew it really well, you would have all the knowledge necessary for a life of godliness.

The gospel reconciles Old Testament and New. It is the center of the Bible. The Old Testament demonstrates the need for it . The Old Testament predicts it. Then the four gospels record the life and death of Jesus, the Messiah, which is the gospel. Last, the epistles look back on the gospels interpreting and applying them.

The gospel is also about ultimate issues. A display of the glory of God is God’s purpose for creation and redemption. The cross of Christ, the center of the gospel, is the greatest display of God’s glory in human history. It also displays the bankruptcy of man. In sum, the cross glorifies God and humbles humanity, and this is how it should be.

The gospel informs how married couples should relate, how they should raise their children, how they should relate to other Christians, why they should evangelize, and how they should conduct themselves in the market place. It’s all there for those who have eyes to see.

The gospel is the heart and soul of the Christian worldview. It explains how we got here, why life is often problematic, and the glorious hope that God has set before all true Believers.

These subjects and others, this blog will explore. Occasionally we will address culture and politics, but the main subject will be the gospel and its application.

If you have questions or concerns my email bfarley48@gmail.com

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