Disobedience Wipes Me Out

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Hard Road Journey – Part 4


The last article in this series which looked at Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” was entitled “Trouble Around the Bend“.  That article dealt with the idea in chapter two that it is imperative that we try to “commit to strict obedience”.  Now what exactly is he talking about  when he says this.

Basically, I see this as a call God’s gives to all His people.  And in this call, God is asking us to look to Him and by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, His Son, then we mark out a path that is straight and will not deviate from doing God’s will, doing what we know to be true and right.  It is when we take our eyes off of Jesus and start deviating from the path, and for sure when we start taking side roads which branch off from the one true straight path, that our lack of strict obedience turns into deliberate disobedience, and this ultimately causes us pain, grief and remorse.

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What I want to reflect upon now is the last section of Atteberry’s book in chapter two.  For all of us who are believers in Christ, the question isn’t whether or not we are committed to following Jesus, but rather, how well are we following Him.  We know the Scriptural injunctions of “love God…love your neighbour”, “in everything give thanks”, “don’t worry about what you will eat, or what you will wear”, “rejoice, and again I say rejoice.”

To do all of these well, we would need to follow Atteberry’s advice that we be disciplined to walk in strict obedience, and the hope that he puts before us is that if we can do this, then we will carry a lighter load on our journey.  What he means by this is that we will not need to unnecessarily carry extra weight from regrets, worries, negative self-talk, guilt, etc.  I think his comparison of an undisciplined person to an over-accumulation of junk is a good one.  He says:

Junk accumulates.  And it doesn’t just accumulate in our garages and attics and closets and underneath our car seats.  It also accumulates in our lives.  In our minds and our hearts.  I’m talking about worries and burdens and fears and frustrations.                                 (p. 22)

Let me give you a simple story that can illustrate this point that when we do not commit to strict obedience to follow what we know to be right, then we unnecessarily cause ourselves pain and add a heavy load to the road we are walking.

I still remember the day my mom told me that I needed to be home by 6 p.m. for supper, and “Don’t be late!”  I went for an afternoon bike ride.  And like most kids, I lost track of time and before I knew it, I was much too far away to get home on time.  So now I felt guilt knowing I had disobeyed, and fear for the discipline/punishment that was bound to come.

So I pedaled for all I was worth thinking maybe, just maybe, I would get home on time.  I was one block away from home and I attempted to jump a curb to cut across a little grass area.  But my forward speed was greater than my lift, my front tire hit the curb hard and I and the bike made a tremendous somersault into the air and landed in one bruised and broken pile.

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I managed to carry my bike and limp home but I was 20 minutes late.  I did get my well-deserved lecture for being late.  My supper was cold.  My TV privilege was taken from me.  My bike rim was smashed.  And my body sported nice bruises for days to come.  I was mad.  But I had no one to blame except myself.  If I had been obedient to the simple request to be home on time in the first place, then I would not have added all the extra pain and emotional baggage of guilt, fear, shame and frustration.

The point my dear friends, is that more often than not, the path of obedience that is set before us, whether it is from God, our parents, our employers or anyone in authority over us, is usually not that difficult.  And when we accept the boundaries placed upon us and act responsibly to obey them, then even when the path seems hard, it is usually not unbearable.  But when disobedience is added to the already difficult road we are on, then we find the path unbearable.

Let us then commit to a life of obedience to God and not add to our troubles.  And we will find in the end that the path was in fact easier to bear than we thought.  And God himself, who rewards those who obey Him, will supply the help and strength we need to walk through this difficult journey that we have found ourselves walking along.

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Joy In The Lord

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Reflections From Philippians

Last week I finished checking the book of Philippians in the T. language of Papua New Guinea.  It went so smoothly during the sessions that it only took two days to completely check and revise the translation.  I think one of the reasons for this is that I, like many others, find Philippians to be such an uplifting and encouraging book.  It has been nicknamed “The Epistle of Joy”.

There is no doubt that joy is a major theme of the book.  In just four short chapters, Paul uses the word “rejoice” nine times and the word “joy” five times.  And then for good measure, he adds in “thankfulness” and “to give thanks” once each.  So if you average this out, Paul talks about joy or thankfulness every six verses all the way through this epistle.

No wonder most people feel so good after reading the book of Philippians.  Paul is bursting with encouragement and positive feelings.  And as Christians, we too should take this attitude with us wherever we go.  But what is so amazing about Paul’s attitude is when you take into consideration the context within which Paul wrote this book.  Let me reflect on three aspects that come out of this book.

1.  Joy in His Location.

You do not need to read very far to realize that when Paul wrote this book he was in prison.  We do not know exactly when Paul wrote this letter, so we do not know if this imprisonment was his final time in Rome, or if it was an earlier imprisonment.  But we do know that it is because he faithfully preached the Good News that he was put there, and that Paul saw that this was the new ministry that God was calling him to, namely to preach Christ to other prisoners and to his captors. (v. 1:16)

Now I don’t know about you, but I think I would be hard pressed to “be joyful” if I were thrown into prison without just cause.  And prisons back then were nothing like the clean and modern prisons we now have today in North America.  And further, Paul lived under the constant threat of death from day to day.  He tells the Philippians that he is glad he could minister to them spiritually, even if it meant he would be “poured out like a drink offering”, i.e. be executed. (v. 2:17)

2.  Joy in His Situation.

Now to understand how Paul can be joyful in his location, I think we need to understand the joy he had in his situation.  In chapter three, Paul takes time to briefly describe what his situation was before he met Christ.  He had all the right credentials (a circumcised Jew of the tribe of Benjamin who spoke pure Hebrew), had all the right training (a legalistic Pharisaical zealot) to make him believe he was “righteous” in God’s eyes.

But after meeting Christ, his situation changed completely.  He came to know that righteousness does not come from arrogant obedience to the law, but from a relationship with God based on the example of the humility of Christ to whom we bow the knee and declare to be our Lord.  (vv. 2:5-11)  As Paul says, everything in this life has little value “compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  (v. 3:8)

It is this perspective, that there is an eternal spiritual life to be had, that makes life in this world look both pale and also bearable.  So if we are enjoying the “good life”, it does not compare to the eternal riches of the next life.  And if we find life treats us terribly, we also know that it is for just a little while that we will endure such difficulties.  And so Paul can view all situations in the following way:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  (v. 4:12)

3.  Joy in His Vocation.

This is not to say in any way that Paul did not struggle with life and what was happening to him and around him.  He tells his readers quite plainly that there are others who are imitating his ministry of “preaching Christ” out of envy, rivalry and a desire to cause Paul even more grief while he is in prison.  True, there are some whom he says preach Christ well out of a love for Paul.  But Paul says, what does it matter, as long as Christ is preached.  (v. 1:18)

And further to this, we also see Paul wrestled with the idea of “maybe it would be better if God just took my life.”  No doubt, Paul had to have some moments of despair and depression.  Others seemed to be trying to destroy all the good that he had done.  His life in chains was a terrible daily ordeal.  I don’t think we could blame Paul to think of the joy of leaving this life of misery to be with the Lord in eternity.

But instead of giving in to his despair, Paul looks outside of himself and looks at what opportunities still lie ahead of him to serve his Lord by serving others.  He says these poignant and emotional words:

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.

Philippians 1:23-25

Dear Readers, may you be encouraged by the words and the attitudes that Paul has put before us to be an example of how we ought to live our lives as Christians.  May we all be content to live our lives for Christ wherever He has placed us.  And may we be willing to lay down our lives for others for the benefit or their souls.  May we all live for Christ, until the day He will take us to our heavenly home.

Amen!

Pray For “My Brain”

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Who Am I?  Part 4:  Apology

I received some helpful feedback from one of my readers about the article I just posted on Feb. 19th.  I went back and read my article and noticed that if taken by itself, it could come across as being rather egotistical.  Someone could read this and think, “Gee, this person sounds pretty arrogant.”  Now I will admit that I used to be an arrogant person, but I don’t believe that is true anymore today, and I really don’t want any of you to think this about me.

Now I believe that the basic facts are there in the stories.  One thing I didn’t tell you was that because of me, my Grade 5 teacher had to put a lock on the cabinet for the extra homework sheets.  : )  But I did not include those stories just so people could “ohhh”  and “ahhh” at me and praise me for how smart I was.  There are two main reasons why I included that article in my blog site, and I want to make sure that these two points are clear.

First of all, with encouragement from my wife and others, I began last November to write out “my story”.  So the last article about my achievements is simply one part of a larger life story.  And within the context of my life, there was a time that I pushed myself to be a high achiever and was proud of myself when I got those results.  But God has been at work in my heart for a long time now to be more humble in nature, and to give the credit and honour for achievement back to the Lord.

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Secondly, I am looking at my life now with the advantage of hindsight.  As a young man, I thought that I could go out and conquer the world, just like most other young people.  And I especially thought at that time what a great thing it was that God had blessed me with a sharp mind.  But now in the later part of my life I am seeing this blessing from a completely new angle.  The muscle disease which has reshaped my life in so many ways has now shown me how gracious God has been to me.

God, who knows all things in advance of when things will occur, He had it in mind all along that I would be engaged in this ministry work of Bible translation.  He also knew that I would be hit with this Muscular Myopathy in 2008.  Since then, almost all of my major muscles, but primarily my legs, have been affected and have lost significant energy and strength.  Thankfully my major internal organs have not been affected at this point.  And for the most part, I think I can say that my brain has not been too affected either.

And yet, there are times now that I seem to struggle to keep my attention or focus on a task, and after a few hours of doing translation, I find my body and mind can become quite tired.  Then I need to rest for an hour or so to get the energy to keep going with the checking sessions.  And so I have wondered at times, what would I be like if my mind had not been as strong and as sharp as what God had given to me?  Would I have been able to continue doing Bible translation work?

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But God has been very gracious to me.  My heart’s desire ever since I was a teenager was to be a Bible translator.  It took quite a while before I finally got to the field, but from 1997-2002 our family was able to live in a remote village of Papua New Guinea to learn the language and start translating Scripture into their language.  For a family medical reason, we had to leave the field and be in Canada until 2005.  Then we spent a year and a half in Africa helping one of our field branches doing administrative support work.  So finally I was ready to start doing more translation work in PNG by 2007.  I got the training to be a translation consultant, and then my disease hit in 2008.

For three years now I have been struggling with the physical limitations of this disease.  And there were many moments when I wondered if my work for the Lord was over.  But with Jill’s help, and the support of many others, God has been revealing quite clearly to me that He is not finished with me yet and is still able to use me in this important area of translation checking.  And I am so thankful that it is for the most part a task that requires mental energy and not too much physical energy.

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So God in His wisdom gave me a good mind, not so that I would have something to boast about, but He did this in preparation for this time when I would need to have a clear mind to do His work.  In another article I will tell you all that is involved in doing Bible translation consultant work.  But suffice it to say, there are many times when I need to be able to think and talk about Scripture in at least three, and sometimes four different languages.

So just like Paul says, “our bodies are wasting away”, so I am learning to live with a disease which is limiting me in the physical realm.  But while I am still able to and God gives me the strength, I will commit my body to do the work of God, but even more so I will commit my mind to doing the Lord’s work.  My request is that you would all pray along with me that God would heal my body.  But if not, pray even more so that God would protect my mind so that I can continue doing this work for Him for many more years.

God Gave Me This Mind

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Who Am I?  Part 4

Until very recently, it seemed to me (and to others) that I was always in school studying something.  You could say that I was one of those “perpetual students”.  Now that I am more mature (i.e. I am past middle age and heading toward the next category), I am quite content to engage in the work the Lord has given to me to do and not to be too concerned about trying to reach one more academic achievement.

But for most of my earlier years of study, I was always pushing myself to get the highest possible grades.  I would not let myself be satisfied for anything less than an A if it were possible.  I don’t think that I felt any parental pressure to have to be such a high achiever.  And even though there were always one or two others at the top of the class to compete with, it was never done out of rivalry or spite.  It was simply fun to feel we were in a race that ultimately we all won (i.e. being A+ students).

In fact, I viewed school from the very beginning as something “fun” to do.  When I finished my homework assignment ahead of time in class, I often went up and asked the teacher for more homework.  Why?  Because it came to me easily and so it was always fun to find the right answers.

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One slightly embarrassing story comes from when I was in Grave Five.  Math back then, and through all the school years, was my favorite subject. The teacher would hand out new math problem sheets for us to work on in class, and then take home if we didn’t finish them.  Well, you can probably guess the first part.  I almost always finished the sheets before the end of the class session.

So what was a boy like me to do?  Well….from my perspective, I did the most logical thing, considering how much I loved to do math problems.  The next period after Math was Recess, and all the students and teachers would go out of the school and would be out on the playground area.  Yes, you guessed it.  As soon as the teacher lest the room, I went over to the cupboard with math supplies and helped myself to as many as I could.

Now stop for a minute.  I do not want you to think that there was some dark criminal side to me or that I was going to try to steal the answers before an exam.  Or that I would pass on the sheets I found and market them on the black market to other under achieving students.  No, my whole purpose in stealing the math sheets was simply because I loved math, and I felt the teacher had not given to me a challenge that was big enough for me.

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A similar situation arose for me in Grade Nine, the final year for our Junior High School (or Middle School).  Again, the situation happened in the Math Class.  We would be given homework which we could start in class and then finish at home.  But for me, I almost always finished the work in class and still had spare time on my hands.

It was at that point that I has some options as to what I could do about this situation.  And the teacher tried his best to help me grow in my skills in math.  He decided to let me go ahead and start into a Grade Ten Calculus and Trigonometry course book that I would basically teach myself in the subject.  And yet I still finished the material too fast and did what most young boys did back then.

I began to socialize with others (especially with the girls) and got into great conversations, told jokes back and forth that were quite funny, and generally was a grand distraction to the class. Finally, out of exasperation, the Math Teacher had to yell out in class as me, “Weatherhead!  I don’t care if you read a book in my class, or go to sleep on your desk.  I don’t care if you come early to class or late to class.  But I do care about the fact that you are constantly distracting my other students.  Do whatever you want, but just leave my students alone.”

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Well, Grade Ten was not must better for me, as I kept catching on so fast to all the materials of all my subjects.  The Social Studies teacher finally suggested that I don’t come to class, but instead go find the biggest library in Calgary and spend study time there for 10 weeks.  So once I got her permission on the topic, I went out to research it and came back in 10 weeks to do an oral report on what I had studied.  And that is what I did.  I holed up in the underground “Special Collection Archives” of the Calgary Main Library and made a report on the early explorers who opened up Canada, like the Voyageurs.   Pretty cool, eh?

Finally, in Grade Ten, I was recommended to attend an experimental school in Calgary.  It was an independent studies program.  You signed yourself into the school each morning, and then you decided which topic you wanted to study for the day and went to that dept and worked on course modules.  I really excelled there and sped through the material so that I did Grade Eleven & Twelve in less than a year and a half.

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In addition to all this, I made application for and was awarded four major scholarships to University.  Two small grants were from the Alberta Govt, one was from the University, and the biggest one was the four-year tuition grant from Texaco, Canada where my father was an accountant.  Only 5 of these scholarships go out each year, and I was presented with one of them.

So what do I think about all this, now 30 years later.  All I want to say is what Job said who put it this way, “Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?”  The obvious answer is: God!  He is the One who made each of us who we are today.  As for my part, I say to God, “Thank you God for giving to me this mind.  Now I give it back in service to you by doing this work of Bible Translation consultant checking.”

And so I end this article with a sense of humility and praise to God for how He made my brain.  I offer it back to Him now in my service to Him.  May He in all things be given the honor and the praise.

Prayers For Translation Checking

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It is mid-February and we are in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.  In the first two weeks of being here, I have been able to finish the consultant checking of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians in the T. language.  One verse that really created a strong image in our minds of how as Christians we are joined with Christ and together with each other is Ephesians 4:16.

Part of my work as a consultant is to look at the language’s translation to see if it is both accurate to the Greek, but still communicates well in the vernacular language.  See what you think about part of this verse that was prepared for me from the T. village language text back into a reverse English text:

“And we are his skin/body hand parts foot parts.  He causes us, and we all reflexive reflexive [individually] stick to him, and are joined together like with ligaments/tendons and are one skin/body.   And he causes us, and we stick to each other and love each other.”

Isn’t it wonderful that God’s Word can speak powerfully to any people group in the language of their heart?  What a joy to see the Bible come alive to these people of Papua New Guinea.

But not only are these books now checked, portions of them will be used very soon. Here is what the missionaries who work with the T. language wrote in their recent update:

Praise that all the men finished the consultant checking…In addition, just this past weekend I finished writing the scripture use course on unity (a course the T.  people have requested). The beauty of it is that there are so many Scriptures from Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians in this course. In these courses, if we do not have a particular verse translated yet, I use the Melanesian Pidgin Bible (a PNG trade language).

God’s timing is perfect in having those three books ready and available in Tay to be used in such a practical way (and though I’d like to say we are that organized, we did not plan the prep of the unity course and the completion of those books to coincide ;-)…that was totally a God thing!). The unity course will take place during our visit to the village in March.

The next checking session for me will be from Feb. 17-28, when I will work with the missionary and the men from the W. language.  Our goal is to finish checking chapters 21 – 28 of the Gospel of Matthew.  On the last trip here to PNG, I had worked with the W. language team, but due to some illnesses on the team, and some deaths of people in the village, we had to cut short our checking sessions.

Please pray that we will be able to complete the book this time.  We have 8 days to do the eight chapters. One of the men who is coming has not been well, so pray for complete healing for him. The missionary’s health has also been challenged for the past few months, so pray for him as well. And as is always our request, pray for the translation to be accurate, to communicate well in the language, and to be natural in terms of how the people use their own language.

Thank you for your prayers. I am doing pretty well. Certainly the weather of the PNG Highlands agrees with my body more than the frigid cold temperatures back in Canada.  But when I tell people that I function better in warmer climates, often I get the response, “I think that’s true of most people”.  : )  At least my pain levels are lower and more tolerable. Please also continue praying for a clear mind and additional strength for the coming days of checking.

Looking ahead, on March 1st we will fly to Madang and have a few days break before I will start my third consultant checking session. This time it will be with a missionary woman and her team of the A. language. Pray that the men will be able to get into Madang as at this point there are difficulties with their transportation from bush to town.

And for all who have prayed for my wife Jill, she arrived safely here to join me 12 days ago.  She has done some language data work during her time here with me.  And as always, she is a great help and partner to me.  Having her with me is a joy, and she is able to help with so many little things around the house that I am unable to do, especially when I am doing these translation sessions.

Thank you for your continued partnership with us as we work among the peoples of Papua New Guinea.

As His Servants,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead

“Get Dirty for God!”

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Teen Missions International

This is the symbol that changed my life.  As you can see on top, they have a great logo: Training Tomorrow’s Missionary Today. This ministry, Teen Missions International , has literally trained and sent thousands of teenagers around the world to do missionary work.  It was the belief of the early founders of TMI, such as Bob & Bernie Bland, Gayle “Widder” Will, and Bob & Betty Lane, along with others, that it was not necessary for young people to finish college before God could use them in His Kingdom Work.

And so TMI was born in 1970, and within a couple of years, the first team of a few leaders and about 15-20 teenagers went down to Mexico for a summer and did a construction project to help the local missionaries and nationals living there.  And God blessed Teen Missions so much, that by the time I went on my first summer mission with TMI, they were sending out about 50 teams made of up usually 5 leaders and up to 30 teenagers to places of ministry all over the world.

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It was 1979 when I decided to go on a Teen Missions team.  I was only 18 at the time, and I wanted to go on a construction team to Brazil.  (You can read about how my faith grew even before I started the trip in the article “God Will Supply.“)  As much as the logo mentioned above caught my attention, i.e. “Hey, I’m a teenager and yet I can still go do mission work,” it was their other more famous motto that sold me on wanting to be involved.

The motto was, and still is, “Get Dirty For God“.  And every teen who went on a team received at least one T-shirt with this motto printed on it and would wear it proudly.  Now whether a person who saw this was just curious or possibly offended by this saying, one thing for sure, it caught everyone’s attention.

My understanding was that this motto had two mains ideas within it.  First, it was saying that there is work for God to be done, and we all must roll up our sleeves and pitch in and get the work done.  And then secondly, the isolated locations and the hard work involved in most of the projects resulted in each and everyone getting dirty from head to toe.  And as budding and growing Christians, we did not mind “getting dirty for God”, as we saw churches, orphanages, airstrips, etc. been built and lives changed through the evangelistic outreach which TMI also promoted on all of its teams.

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I need to back up though and tell you more about the beginning of each summer mission experience.  And after you read this part of the story, then you will understand even more how appropriate is their motto, “Get Dirty For God.”  Each teenager and leader must first go down to the swamplands of the Florida Everglades and make it through the two week Boot Camp orientation training.

Everyone lived in little two-men pup tents in their team designated area of the swampland.  That wasn’t too bad….until it rained and soaked everything and everyone.  (I actually saw one tent that had been set up on a 4′ x 8′ plywood board float part way though the Boot Camp.)  Revile was announced with a bugle over the loud speaker and you immediately got up and got ready to run the obstacle course.

There were the tires to jump through (the plagues of Egypt), a mountain of tires to climb (Mt. Sinai), go over a small end of a little lake on a rope netting (crossing the Red Sea), climb straight up and down a rope net that was about 30 feet off the ground (Jacob’s Ladder), swing across a moat, into which many fell in (the Slough of Despond), and other bizarre challenges.  The most daunting one was the last one, climbing over the “Walls of Despair”.  They were 12 feet high and you had to just use your bodies to get your entire team over the wall.  It was to help teach “teamwork”.


We found that the Obstacle Course developed team building, team bonding, and trust, as well as got out of shape teenagers back into shape.  There were of course many other courses given during these two weeks.  We learned how to have a Quiet Time with God, and were taught great spiritual truths by fantastic youth speakers and preachers.

The other main things that we learned were specific skills related to the work we would do for the other mission once we got to the field.  These included classes like steel tying (to make the reinforcement bars hold a shape until concrete was poured over them).  There was also wood-building classes, cement class, and other ones that gave the basic understanding of how to do construction.

Probably the most exciting part of Boot Camp was the evening rallies.  After we had cleaned up for the day, all the teams and leaders, plus staff members and visiting family would gather under the giant circus big top tent.  We were able a few times to pack almost 2,000 people in that tent, 1,500 of them being teenagers who were jumping up and down with joy as they worshiped God, and counted down the days until their team would leave and go fly to their country where they would work.

I’ll never forget those wonderful days when I was a kid and worked hard, and “got dirty for God”.  I had the privilege to do this four times: Brazil-Amazon guest house construction in ’79, Honduras-Country hospital wing extension in ’80, Dominican Republic-church building project in ’84, and Mexico-Christian camp expansion project in ’85.

What can I say to God except, “Thank You”.  Yes, thank you God for granting me these experiences and in each experience I found myself growing more in my faith and in the depth of my understanding of who God is.  Those commissioning services that sent us out from the Big Top Tents in Florida truly sent us with the power of God’s Spirit so that we were able to do some great Kingdom work in all different corners of the world.

Pictures Taken from TMI Official Website:  http://www.teenmissions.org

Trouble Around the Bend

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Hard Road Journey – Part 3

In Chapter One of Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“, he briefly touches upon the idea that there may be a reason for the terrible spot that you find yourself in now.  But even if there was an answer to the question of “Why am I in this mess?”, the more important question to answer is, “How do I get through this situation?”

It is this second question which Atteberry now deals with in all the remaining chapters of his book.  He gives what he calls “Strategies”, or you could call them road maps, to help you and I get through these difficult times.  So if we put aside the “Why” question, then we can focus on “How do we get through this?”  But before we look at Chapter Two’s strategy, Atteberry offers us a strong caution which I think we should heed.

It is an unfortunate truth that the very time when we need to make good decisions, we often make bad choices.  When people, the circumstances of life, or wrong things we do come and hit us and knock us down, we are in pain and we reach out for whatever we think will give us comfort or relief from that pain.  And many times, what we think will help us will in the end actually harm us.

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At this point, we need to ask ourselves why we would choose things that we know are bad or wrong for us.  I believe Atteberry has got it right when he says we have an enemy, Satan, who sees us in our pain and brokenness and disguises lies as truth, and makes sin look attractive.  Regarding Satan, Atteberry writes:

He recognizes that people in pain will often grope for anything that hold the promise of relief, even if it’s temporary.  (pg. 17)

So how do we not make our situation even worse than it already is?  It’s not enough to say to ourselves, “Stop making bad choices and do what is right.”  There has to be something that is bigger than ourselves to help us to consciously and consistently choose to do what is right.  And so Atteberry challenges us in this chapter to “Commit to Strict Obedience.”

What does he mean by this?  I believe that we all do have something, or should I say Someone, to whom we ought to give our full allegiance.  It is God, and His Word contained within the pages of the Bible that will guide us in the path of right living and right choices. And it is when we commit to Him that we will find our path becomes straight and will guard our feet from slipping.

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This brings to mind for me an experience that could have literally cost me my life.  I mentioned in an earlier post (Impacting Others for Jesus) how I went down to South America while being part of the Canadian Navy.  When we got to Peru, I asked the Captain for a 3-day leave to visit a missionary couple that lived in the mountain city of Cuzco whom our church supported.

Amazingly he granted me my request and so I flew up to visit them.  While there, they suggested I take the train to go visit the world-famous ruins of Machu Picchu and I jumped at the opportunity.  The train ride was fantastic as we made our way from valley to valley through lush tropical mountainous terrain.  Then we took the local shuttle buses up the steep mountainside road which included 13 hairpin curves to get to the actual site of the ruins.

I wasn’t part of a tour group, so I used a tourist guidebook to help me traverse the ruins and find out all about its history.  What a fabulous day I had climbing in and around the old Incan city.  By mid-afternoon I was pretty much done, but then the guidebook told about taking the razor-thin trail from Machu Picchu to its sister peak called Huayna Picchu.  You can see in the picture below how steep the sides of the mountains are and how narrow the trail is between them.

The guidebook said that it was a difficult climb, but worth the effort.  I would have called the climb “dangerous”, but the view from the top was truly spectacular.  Then I realized that I would have to hurry to get the last shuttle.  Now the guidebook said, “Be careful on the trail, especially on corners.”  But I was more concerned about the time than my safety.  And at one corner of the descent, I was going a little fast so I put my foot down on the bush at the corner to slow me….but I discovered too late that the bush grew sideways out of the side of the mountain.

Suddenly I went out into empty space…..and landed on a flat ledge about 14 feet below.  I leaned over and looked at the river which was more than a 1,000 feet below.  In my foolishness, I did not listen to the words of caution in the guidebook.  And that mistake just about cost me my life.  I went more cautiously after that and did catch the last shuttle.

So what did I learn from that day?  And what am I still trying to learn today?  It is important to listen to the words of the Guidebook.  And as Christians, we have a special guidebook, the Bible.  If we will commit to listening to the message of God’s Word, then we are much more likely to find a straight path out of our current distress.  Will you commit along with me to being more obedient listeners to God’s Word?  I believe this is how we can lessen the pain and the struggle of our journey in life.

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Translating Ephesians

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Insights From Checking Ephesians

Earlier this week I finished doing the consultant check on the translation of Ephesians into one of the languages of Papua New Guinea.  It would take too long here to explain the process of doing a translation consultant checking session, so I will leave that for a future article.  What I would like to do now, and on each of the Thursday articles over the next seven weeks, is to share some insights that we have made into some of the verses of Scripture that we are checking.  Needless to say, in this limited space, I will only touch on a couple of the more interesting discoveries we have made.

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“In Christ”

This phrase, “in Christ”, is one of Paul’s favorite expressions to describe our state as Christians.  He uses this exact phrase 12 times in the book of Ephesians, and the idea of it is at least more than double that if you include phrases like “in Him” or “in whom”.  In other words, it is a very common phrase found throughout the book.  But what does it mean to be “in Christ”.

Most commentaries will use wording like “united with Christ”, or “joined with Christ”, and this is helpful.   But I love how the T. language handles this phrase.  It literally says “we who are stuck to Christ”.  To me, it gives the picture of us being super-glued to Jesus.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we do not have a casual “take-it-or-leave-it” relationship with Him.

It is more like we are “joined at the hips” and so what He wants, we want, and what He has (i.e. all the spiritual blessings of heaven – v. 1:4) we also have.  This is such a comforting thought to me.  The God that I believe in is not some distant deistic God who doesn’t care or involve Himself in our lives.  No, when we are “stuck to Jesus”, we have become partners and co-heirs with Jesus, who is the Son of God.

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“The Mystery that was Hidden”

Another word that is one of Paul’s favorites in the book of Ephesians is the word “mystery”.  This word shows up 7 times in the book, and it in itself is a bit of mystery when you first start reading the book.  Paul introduces the word in 1:9-10, and says that “God had made known to us the mystery of His will…which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment…

Paul goes on in the rest of verse 10 to explain what the mystery is, namely, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”  Even though this world and its course appears to be chaotic and meaningless to some, there is in fact a master plan which will all be revealed and order restored when Christ one day will come back to rule the world.

In chapter five, Paul talks about another “mystery”, and it is based on the picture of a husband and wife relationship.  Quoting from the Old Testament, in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  But then Paul says the mystery is the fact that what happens between Christ and His people is just like a marriage relationship.  There is a spiritual union that happens between Christ and the Church that is just as mysterious as the spiritual union of a husband and wife.

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But chapter three is Paul’s best use of the word “mystery”.  He uses the word four times, and he is so excited about the wonder of the mystery that had once been hidden but now is made known, first to him and then to us through Paul.  He says in verse two and three that people should know God had given the task to Paul to make this mystery known, and after reading his words, they too would understand the insight Paul has into this great mystery.

He then goes on in verse five to state that the mystery “was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”  And by this time, after waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, you want to scream out to Paul, “So what is this great mystery?”

I almost believe that Paul did this deliberately, to tease us along for quite a few verses, just so that we would catch the full impact of what this mystery is when he finally revealed it to us.  And the key verse to this chapter, and to much of the entire epistle is found in verse 6 of chapter 3.  It reads:

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

When we reflect deeply on this, it is truly amazing that after many millenia of bitter hatred and wars fought between those who were Jews, and those who were not Jews, it is amazing that peace and unity can be found for them in Christ, and together they will share the eternal blessings of God.

It is for certain that in Jesus’ day that such a statement of God’s will, namely the “breaking down of the walls of hostility” between these two ethnic groups, would have been quite a revolutionary thought.  But what is really profound is that God had intended from the beginning of time to bring peace to those who are by nature bitter enemies.  And if God can do that for the Jews and non-Jews, then God can do that between any two hostile groups today.  So let us pray that this peace of God, by means of the Gospel, can truly be known by all peoples today, and that all would see His unfathomable love for all mankind.

The Leading of God’s Spirit

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“Does God Speak Today?”

I have heard this question, and been asked this question, many times.  Often when someone asks this question the person is really asking, “Does God speak audibly to people today?”  And that is somewhat of a loaded question.  If the person asking the question has not had this experience and is skeptical, then if anyone says, “Yes, God speaks to people today,” the questioner might yet just write that off as simply “poppycock” or think that those who say God speaks to them are more likely fringe or fanatical Christians.

On the other hand, if the person asking the question has not had this experience and is asking it as a sincere question, then if anyone says, “Yes, God speaks to people today,” the questioner might ask, “Why then is it that God has never spoken to me?”  And from this perspective they can get the sense that there must be something wrong with them, that they are in some way an inferior Christian to those who claim that God has actually spoken to them.

Personally, I believe that the question itself or at least the interpretation of the question is wrong.  That is, to hear the question, “Does God speak today?” and to interpret it so narrowly to mean, “Does God speaks audibly to people today?’ is misleading.  We do know from Scripture itself that God speaks to His people, but He most often does it in ways other than just audible form.

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We accept this as true, for Scripture says in Hebrews 1:1-2a,

In the past, God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son.

The writer of Hebrews is referring to the fact that God came down in human form in the person of Jesus, and through His teachings, recorded by the Gospel writers, God has spoken to us, and continues to speak to us through His written Word.  Scripture even says about itself that God’s Word is interactive within people, and thus we can say that God is still speaking to us today:

The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.    Hebrews 4:12


And then we also accept that we have the Holy Spirit within us (1 Corinthians 6:19 ) and by means of His Spirit, God communicates with us today:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.    John 16:13

What a wonderful promise this is to know that the Holy Spirit that lives within us can communicate with us on important issues of truth and life.  Isn’t it wonderful that God’s Spirit can teach us truth to live by, especially with regards to the meaning of Scripture.  But I believe that the Holy Spirit can also lead us in day-to-day activities of life.

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Let me give you an example from my life.  When I was 19 and living in Florida and working with a group called Teen Missions, I woke up out of a dream and had a strong impression that I should go visit the Bible bookstore that was nearby.  I didn’t really know why I had this impression, but I followed what I considered to be the leading of the Spirit.

So I was walking up and down the aisles of the bookstore and finally a woman came over and asked if she could help me with anything.  I said no, and that I was just “browsing”.  But within my spirit I felt that it was very important that I find the “right” book and buy it that day.  I think I spent over two hours wandering all around the store.

Finally, just before it was closing time, I slowed down in this one section and carefully read the title and back cover of each book on the shelf.  Then suddenly, when I picked up this one book, it was like an electric shock went through my body and I knew that this was the book I was supposed to buy.  I knew within my heart that God was directing me by His Spirit to make this purchase.

The name of the book was “Explore the Book” by Sidlow Baxter.  In one volume, it gave a good summary and background information on every book of the Bible.  I bought the book and began to use it along with my devotional reading of the Bible.  For at least the next two years I used this book as an excellent companion to the reading of each book of Scripture.  It was amazing how much I learned, and I used the book as foundational background material for many Bible study groups that I led over the years to come.

I still have the book in one of my boxes.  And every time I come across it, I think about how the Holy Spirit “spoke” to me and guided me to find it in that Christian bookstore.  I learned from this experience from an early age to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  So I believe that I can honestly say that God still speaks today.  But it may be in ways that we may not expect.  We must remain ready though and be attuned in our spirit to see His hand and to hear His voice in whatever form it may take.

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Impacting Others for Jesus

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Part 1 click here.

Part 2 click here.

Part 4 click here.

Who am I?  Part 3

The man was beet red in the face and shook his fist near my face when he yelled at me, “You Bible Thumper!”  But then he backed off and calmed down when he saw that he was not going to get a reaction out of me.  And then he said the most interesting thing.  He said, “I’ve seen Bible Thumpers and Holy Rollers in my day, but you….you’re different!”  And then he just shook his head and walked away.

Now I kind of doubt that many people could guess where this little stand-off took place.  I was 17 at the time, and I was in the bunk areas of the HMCS Saskatchewan, a destroyer in the Canadian Navy.  Previously, from age 13-16, I had been a part of the Sea Cadets, which entailed going down to the navy base in Calgary each Wednesday night, and then had the option of going to navy boot camps on Vancouver Island each summer.

Those were great years, as I proudly wore the uniform, marched in a number of important parades as part of the Cadet Navy Band, and got to spend summers on the west coast of Canada while I was still young.  Then, when I heard that a person could join the Reserve Forces as long as they turned 17 by the end of the year, I immediately joined up in March of 1977, eight months before I turned 17 in November.

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Much of the Reserves was like the Cadets, except that now I was in an adult world.  I worked hard that Spring and qualified for summer boot camp training again on Vancouver Island.  After surviving Boot Camp, I opted to stay out there, and worked in the naval dockyards for the rest of the summer.  Then the big moment came at the end of August.

An officer came up to me and asked if I would like to join the crew of a destroyer and be a part of a fleet maneuvers exercise for ten weeks.  We would sail from Victoria, British Columbia all the way down the west coast of the Americas making stops in San Diego, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama City, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), the Galapagos Islands, and Long Beach (Calif.)  So I phoned home to Calgary and said to my parents, “I’m heading to Peru with the Navy, but I’ll be back for Christmas.”  And they said, “Okay, see you then.”  : )

So at age 16, I sailed the ocean blue and saw the world, or at least a part of it.  And I loved almost every minute of it.  I’d been in Cadets, and then Reserves, for almost four years and now I was finally sailing on a large ship bound for adventure.  (Funny thing is, when I got back to Calgary, I quit the Navy, because all I really wanted was a chance to go out to sea, and I did that.  Then it was time to pursue my calling into missions.)

Back to my experience on the ship.  It was hard work, but I felt alive.  And spiritually, I felt like I could connect with God out on the ocean in a way that I couldn’t back home.  Which is kind of funny because of the 200 crew members or so, I only knew of three Christians.  One was the chaplain, one was a low ranking sailor at the other end of the ship whom I didn’t see much, and the third was the XO (Executive Officer, second in command.)

So spending time with God was pretty much a solitary journey for me.  When off duty, I would often sit near the stern and sing hymns and songs to myself.  When in port, I would go alone to try to find a church in the area.  And when I woke up each day, I would sit on the edge of my bunk and pull out my Bible and read from it for a while to give me some good things to think about during the day.

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What I didn’t do was to tell people I was a Christian.  I didn’t have to.  It didn’t take too many mornings before someone noticed me reading my Bible, and then everyone knew I was a Christian.  And that is when all the jokes, and ridicules began.  And of course I was always given the dirtiest job assignment to do.  I was even almost pulled into a prostitute house twice, but God saved me in those moments.  And for the most part, I never raised my voice or spoke back at these men.

Now I’m not saying I was a pushover or a pansy.  When I was mistreated, ridiculed or given dirty jobs, I would stand there and look them in the eyes for a minute or two to let them know I was a man inside who could stand his ground, but then I would turn away and go with a smile or a tune on my lips and go about doing my job.

And that’s what led this other man to confront me on the day we docked back in Victoria.  He had called me so many names, and tried to get me to drink, to smoke, to swear, to lay with a woman, but he had not succeeded.  And he had not broken my spirit.  And through all this, I rarely ever said a word.

And this was more than he could take.  He loved to argue with those “Bible Thumpers”, and he loved to mimic and ridicule those “Holy Rollers”.  But he didn’t know what to do or what to make of this quiet, yet strong, devoted Christian young man.  I realized then, when he said, “You’re different!” that it was a compliment.  Not to me, but to Jesus who was living in and through me.  I saw that by not saying a word, I had the opportunity to impact someone for Jesus.

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