God’s Assignment – Part 3

2 Comments

Expect Great Things From God

This article picks up where I left off a week ago which you can read here.  I felt rather discouraged when I left PNG in October, 2010.  I had thought that our plan for a five-week trip to Papua New Guinea would be sufficient time for us to be able to check the Gospel of Matthew in the W. language.  But with me needing at least 4 days to travel there and 4 more days to come back, plus an adjustment period of a few days, we really only had about three weeks to do the work.

And normally, that would have been plenty of time.  But as I wrote last week, there were the issues of illnesses and deaths that cast quite a shadow over our work and caused us to end our checking sessions earlier than planned.   So we only finished checking 20 chapters of Matthew.  And in light of this, Jill and I started asking ourselves different questions.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

One of the first questions we asked was, “Should I (Norm) try to plan a longer trip so that I can accomplish more, or at least do the same amount of work that I would normally get done after two short trips to PNG?”  It certainly would be financially smarter to do one long trip, rather than two short ones, because of how much airline tickets cost just to get there.

Another question we asked ourselves was, “Would my health hold up and could I manage well if I came to PNG for a longer visit?”  And related to that, “If Jill were not able to get all the time off to be with me on a long trip, could we get enough resources and help from people put in place to allow me to live and work over there without Jill?”

And so we weighed out these questions, while at the same time we considered the requests from the Branch for me to come back in early 2011 to help do the consultant checking on a number of New Testament books.  I was asked to help finish the book of Matthew in the W. language, then check up to as many as five Pauline epistles for a second language, and then the book of Hebrews in a third language.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My decision was to say “Yes” to all these requests, for I knew how difficult it was to get consultants to do the checking sessions.  But considering that there were only about 13 weeks for me to get my prep work done, and there were 39 chapters to check (mostly epistle material), the chances were slim that I could do all the preparation before I headed over there.  I knew I would have to make some choices based on the priority and checking dates of each project.

So here is what I decided.  Even though it would be the last material checked, I prepared my comments and questions for the first 10 chapters of Hebrews.  It is a very fascinating book, and I really had no idea how difficult and complex it would be.  It took me over a month to prepare these 10 chapters.  I figured that the last three chapters could be worked on once I got to PNG.

Then I switched to doing checking preparation on the other epistles (Eph., Phil., Col., Philemon, and Jude)  for the T. language group.  Now by just looking at my weekly average of doing prep work, I was certain I could do the first three epistles before flying down under.  Philemon and Jude would have to wait until I got into the country to finish them.  And as for Matthew, I knew the translation team quite well by this time, and so I told them that I could work with them without having the written VE (Vernacular-to-Englush) texts.  I would depend on listening well to an oral back-translation of the text.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so the checking sessions started on February 3rd with the T. language team.  It was amazing to see how quickly we were able to do the checking of the three larger epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians).  It took roughly two days to check each book.  Mind you, the average length of all the chapters of these books is about 25 verses.  So that means we were checking on average about 8 verses per hour.

The team wanted to get back a bit early, so we didn’t try to check Jude or Philemon.  They will have to wait till later.  That gave me a two-day rest before working with the W. language team on the last 8 chapters of Matthew.  And again, we did the work in just over 6 days of work.  Did you know that Matthew chapter 26 (75 verses) and chapter 27 (66 verses) are the 2nd and the 5th longest chapters in the New Testament?

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

After spending a month in the highlands of PNG, then Jill and I flew down to the main city of Madang on the north shore where our mission office is located.  We enjoyed a few days of rest and a bit of relaxing beside a swimming pool, and then I dove into the checking sessions of Hebrews with the A. language team.  It was delayed slightly, which didn’t surprise me, as it is always so difficult for the nationals to walk, float, drive or even fly out of their villages to get to town.

Since this was the first time I worked with this language group, I allowed up to 12 days to get the entire book checked.  And again, God gave us all the strength, wisdom and insight to check and revise the material in just 8 days.  This allowed me to get some other language catch up work done, and to get rested before I started my long journey back to Canada.

So now we are reflecting on the questions that I wrote about above.  Are longer trips better?  How would I do health-wise?  What should we plan for future trips?  I think you can see that things definitely went well.  And the future holds great promises, of which I will write about next week.  So stay tuned.  🙂


Advertisements

Best Movie of 2009

Leave a comment

The Battle For Pandora

I love to watch movies.  Jill and our kids love to watch movies.  We have so many good memories of watching hilarious side-splitting movies, and nail-biting action/thriller movies, and well done just-for-fun animation movies.  And of course we all can appreciate a good romance story.  So when they came out with a movie that had all of these aspects, plus fantastic cinematography, there was little doubt in my mind that we had just seen the best movie of 2009.

Which movie do you ask?  Well, Avatar of course.  At least in my opinion it was the best movie of the year.  But then I checked online for what others were saying about the movie, and three of the top movie rating sites put Avatar easily within the top 10 movies of the year.  Here are some of the comments from the movie critics:

  • Avatar is the BIGGEST movie of 2009. There is literally NO other movie that in any way, shape, or form that could conceivably be bigger. Why? First, it’s the first theatrical movie written and directed by James Cameron since Titanic, i.e. the highest grossing movie EVER. Second, by all reports, Cameron has spent the better part of a decade prepping for Avatar and has allegedly completely reinvented 3D technology to make a blow-you-through-the-back-of-your-seat experience that will remind you why watching DVDs will NEVER replace the glory of seeing a movie up on the big screen. Third, it’s a massive scope sci-fi epic, a genre that Cameron does extremely well (i.e., Terminator 2 and Aliens).   (www.movieretriever.com)
  • Avatar is the event movie of the decade, a film you absolutely must see in theaters – in digital 3-D – to believe. Cameron employed technology created just for Avatar, and the end result is a groundbreaking, spellbinding, brilliant piece of art.   (www.movies.about.com)
  • You’re probably already tired of hearing about how “James Cameron has completely revolutionized filmmaking” with his 12-years-in-the-making 3D extravaganza. Well, sorry to say it, but he kind of has. ‘Avatar‘ is the first movie in which 3D is seamlessly integrated into almost every scene to eye-popping and, frankly, gorgeous effect.   (www.blog.moviefone.com)

And another thing that I found out about while surfing the net to find out more about how well this movie succeeded, is that it has taken the lead for the highest-grossing film ever produced.  It was in 1997 that Cameron produced Titanic and it grossed worldwide over 1.8 billion dollars.  But Avatar blew right past this record by making almost 2.8 billion dollars so far, and it is still going.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So why would I write an article about this movie?  What does a fictional story about the battle between humans and the native Na’vi have to do with my life and work as a missionary to Papua New Guinea?  Aren’t we suppose to go to the movie theaters to be entertained?  Or is there a connection between Hollywood and real life?  Well, to help answer these questions, let me copy here a summarization of the movie from IMDB (Internet Movie Database):

When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge’s intentions of driving off the native humanoid “Na’vi” in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland.

In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora. Written by The Massie Twins

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When I saw this movie, I couldn’t help but think about the contrast between the peoples of Papua New Guinea and the powerful industrial companies who have come to the pristine country of PNG and destroyed the land and cheated the people out of their own natural resources.  It is deplorable what some outsiders have done to the land and the people of PNG.

And what about the missionaries?  Where do they fit in?  I’m sure there are always going to be some examples of bad missionaries, but I would like to contend that most missionaries are similar to Jake in that they identify with the people and love the people and want to help them protect their culture and land, not destroy it as some anthropologists claim.

Of course we must also recognize that there are some significant differences when we compare missionaries to Jake.  Missionaries are motivated by the love of God and the desire to help meet the spiritual needs of people, as well as their physical and emotional needs.  And whereas Jake, by the end of the movie, went totally “native”, we as missionaries recognize that while many parts of local culture are good and need to be preserved, there is still much in all human cultures that needs to be challenged and transformed in light of the truths found in Scripture.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so I found myself captivated by this movie.  All too soon the theater lights came up.  But for a few hours, I was transported back to the times our family lived in a remote village of PNG.  I loved the people there.  It was a beautiful world, and yet also a tragic world.  Parts of their local culture was evil (with their sorcery and animistic beliefs), but then some of our Western ways are evil too (our commercialism and individualistic capitalism).  I just pray that as the missionary caught in the middle, that I was able to make a difference for good among these people, and that they might have a better life here, but an even better life hereafter for those who turned their hearts towards God.

How To Stay Positive – Pt 1

3 Comments

Hard Road Journey – Part 7

In this month (on April 9th and 23rd), I will be summarizing the key points of chapter four of Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  To view the other articles that have preceded this, click on the blog Category Hard Road Journey.  For those who have asked where they could get this book, click here and you will go to a site that will help you obtain a copy of it.

Of all the chapters in this book, I think this is certainly one that I can really identify with.  Life is tough!  There is no disputing this fact.  People can disappoint; circumstances can change for the worst; crises, disasters and emergencies can occur without any warning.  What are we to do?  How do we face these challenges?  How do we even have the courage and the energy to even get out of bed the next morning and face these difficulties of life?

Atteberry’s advice in chapter four is to “Stay Positive!”  And that is exactly what I try to do.  In fact, you can call me “Mr. Optimist”.  : ) When something bad happens, one of the first things I try to do is to see if I can find something positive in the situation.   Perhaps there is a different angle or perspective to look at that will help me get through whatever difficulty I find myself in.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Actually, there is a funny little story that kind of highlights this.  Shortly after Jill and I had started dating, we told my dear old grandma about it.  She smiled and joined our hands together and then said something profound to us.  She said to Jill, “That’s good.  Because my little Norman usually walks about three feet off the ground and you walk about three feet under ground.  But as long as you two keep on holding on to each other, you will be fine.”

And over the years, I have seen this to be true.  But that does not mean that there have been no hard road journeys for me.  You can’t say that life has been easy for me, and so naturally I walk with a lighter stride and have a smile on my face.  In fact, I believe the exact opposite has been true in my life.

Not even going back to look at my childhood period of my life, since Jill and I got married in 1984, it seems that life or people have thrown us into one crisis after the other.  In no specific order, I have faced the following challenges, each of which could probably be, and might be, a story in and of itself:

  • Dealing with the loss of Jill’s first pregnancy at 29 weeks, and being thousands of miles away from our family and friends.
  • When Jill was pregnant the second time,  I had an illness that was complicated by some drug allergies and I really thought I was going to die.
  • I experienced a loss of a job, which caused a delay in becoming accepted with a mission group.
  • Our finances seemed to be bad enough that I thought we might have to consider the option of bankruptcy.  (If not for the help of my parents, we may have had to.)
  • My son had leukemia which led our family on a 3 year cancer treatment journey.
  • I now have a muscle disease that causes extreme levels of fatigue and high levels of pain.

There is more that I could add here to the list of challenges we have faced over the years.  But you know, I think most people can sit down and write their own long list of hard-road-journey experiences.  The reason I have shared my list is to let my readers know that I can identify with someone who says, “I’m going through a rough period right now.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The question then is not, “Will I experience difficulties in life, or not?”, but rather, “What do I do when I encounter difficulties in life?”  Actually, I think Atteberry has it right when he labels difficulties as “battles”.  And he hit the nail on the head when he says, “There will be many tough battles you’ll have to fight as you travel your hard road, but none will be tougher then the battle to stay positive.”  (pg. 41)

Now let me pause and ask a related question.  If we find it too difficult to stay positive, then what is the other option left to us?  And every answer I come up with is negative.  We could get angry, or we could get depressed, or we could try to run away and avoid the problem.  There are lots of things that we could do, most of which are not very helpful.  But perhaps the most common reaction for people, including me, is that we will grumble and complain about our “lot in life”.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is part of what Atteberry focuses on in the first half of chapter four as he examines the difficult journey that the Israelites experienced during their period of wandering in the desert.  Again and again they found themselves in extreme situations, and what was their reaction?  Grumble and complain.  At first it looks like they were complaining against Moses, but in reality they were complaining against God.

And this is the danger of not having a positive attitude in life.  Ultimately we are shaking our fist at God, and again I think Atteberry has it right when he says, “Nothing will drive a wedge between you and God, nothing will stem the flow of His blessings into your life, like a complaining spirit.”  (pg. 42)

These are very challenging words from the author.  But do not let this discourage you, his words are meant as a loving plea and a warning.  He moves on to give us some excellent advice on how to stay positive in the second part of chapter four.  So stay tuned, in two weeks I have some great thoughts to share with you.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

God’s Assignment – Part 2

1 Comment

Part Two – Translation Consultant

There have been many times that people have asked me, “So what kind of work do you do?” to which I reply, “I do Bible translation consultant checking work.”  And often the response I get to that is, “Oh!” as they look at me with very little comprehension.  And then they change the topic.  I don’t blame them for this reaction.  Even I have difficulty at times to adequately explain what I do so that people who know me can understand what exactly it is that I do.  So let me try to explain here.

In my last article about being a Translation Advisor (read here), I touched on the issue of how important it is to check a translation carefully verse-by-verse.  Let me repeat again that the mark of a good translation is one that flows naturally (the way native speakers use the language), it is accurate to the original biblical text, and it is clear or understandable to the average person.  In other words, it communicates well the Word of God to people in their own mother tongue.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The work of a Translation Advisor is very difficult and it can go so slowly some times, but the same can also be said about the work of a Translation Consultant.  Go back and read the article “God’s Work Goes Forward” to see just how much knowledge and skill is needed to do Bible translation work.  And not only is the work slow and difficult, but many other factors of life can have an impact on the progress of the work.

The checking sessions I did last Fall, in September/October 2010, is a good example.  My assignment was to go over to Papua New Guinea and help check the translation of Matthew in the W. language.  I was fairly familiar with the book of Matthew, and so I thought that it would not be too difficult to get this book checked.  Little did I know what lay ahead.

The first thing that was a bit new for me was to start using the program called Paratext that I refer to in the article just mentioned.  Up until this time, in my preparation I would read some commentaries and translation helps to determine the meaning of a text, then look over the English back-translation, and then write out some questions on a pad of paper or typed into a Word document.

But now with the Paratext program which you can see above (from an Epistle project I did), I was able to do much of my studies electronically (looking over helpful resources) and write notes to myself in both the Greek text, the English Bible text, and in the back-translation text.  Do you see all those red flags?  Those are my notes that I can insert into the text and when my cursor hovers over the flag, I can see the question.  Pretty cool, eh?

It took me the month of August to get chapters 1-20 of Matthew ready.  A big reason why it went so slowly for me was that I was putting so many notes of clarification or comments from commentaries into the Greek text.  But now that they are there in my Greek text, I will be able to use these same notes to help me for future checking sessions with other projects.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Then right near the end of August, we heard the beginnings of some very bad news.  The Director of our PNG Branch had suddenly taken ill and was sent immediately along with her husband to Australia to find out what was wrong with her.  At first she has just been feeling a little off, but when her skin started to turn yellow, we all knew that it was something much more serious.  It turned out that she had a rare form of bile duct cancer and she was given only days to live.

So then, with only two weeks to go before we were to fly to PNG, we began to wonder if this trip would need to be called off.  We emailed back and forth with the missionary with whom we would be working to get his thoughts.  It was considered a likely possibility that he would have to go over to Australia himself to help the husband if our Director were to die right away.

But we were told to head on over anyways, and we would start the checking and see what would happen.  And even though we knew the situation was critical, it still came as a shock that she died on the very day that I started my trip to PNG.  So it was with a heavy heart that I went over to start the work of checking Matthew.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Once I arrived, we still kept our plans of holding the checking sessions.  But then there was a logistical problem with the small mission planes, so that meant our sessions were delayed from starting for two days.  But we got into the text and worked our way forward verse-by-verse, and chapter-by-chapter.  And things seemed to be going okay….until news from the men’s village came to us of a major outbreak of diarrhea and dehydration.

We were told that many people in villages where they spoke the W. language were being brought out to a regional hospital.  Even the Provincial Health Minister went in to see what was happening.  They were able to stop an epidemic (probably caused by stagnant water), but there were still a handful of deaths from this.

It was obvious that the key national translator (whose wife and child were affected by this illness) needed to go back to the village.  And the other men who were helping us in the checking sessions were pastors and they longed to go back to help minister to the people.  So our session was stopped the week prior to our target date.  We were only able to check 20 chapters of Matthew instead of the whole book.

Still, we praised God for what we were able to accomplish.  So the rest of the work, and the rest of the story, would have to wait till later.  Stay tuned next week for the continuation of “God’s Assignment For Me.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

God’s Traveling Team Pt. 4

1 Comment

God’s “Little Rascals”

For those who are keeping track of my articles, it is easy to see that Teen Missions International is a mission group that had a very big impact on my life.  This is the seventh time I have written an article that is about or refers to TMI, and this is the fourth in my little series that describes what life was like being part of a traveling mission team for God.  This article is specifically a follow-up to the last one where I talked about my year with the TMI Staff Travel Team.

In that last article, I wrote primarily about all the places we traveled to and some of our experiences along the way.  But I think it is worth going back to that year and telling some stories about the people who were the members of that team.  Just like I have fond memories of the people who were part of the Fall Travel Team and how we had special nicknames for each other (read here), so I have also decided to compare the Staff Travel Team to some funny characters.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now our Staff Travel Team was a little different from the Fall Travel Team in that while we did have a few nicknames given to some members, we did not have a clear parallel like being the Seven Dwarves.  We did call Henry “Amigo” since he was from Mexico.  Julie was called “Jules”, and Bill Rambo was called “Rambo” (which fit seeing as he is big and tough like Sylvester Stallone…haha).

As for me, I was called “Stormy”.  Now when I tell people this, one of their first thoughts is that I got this from my last name “Weatherhead”.  But that is not the case.  (Actually, my dad was also called “Stormy” and it was because of his last name.)  And when he heard that I was being called “Stormy”, he was a little upset that I had “stolen” his nickname.  But I assured him that was not the case.

No, my nickname of “Stormy” comes from a shortened form of my full nickname “Stormin’ Norman”.  And you know it is actually quite funny that I should be given this full nickname, because for those people who know me, I have a personality that is anything but loud, turbulent, or fierce weather.  (Now I’m not saying I don’t get angry at times, but generally I am an easy-going kind of quiet guy who does not want to ruffle feathers.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But I can still hear “Rambo” calling out my name when I would come into the room.  “STORMIN’ NORMAN”, he would say.  And then when he felt like he needed to do some exercise, he would yell over and say to me, “STORMY, come here.”  And I knew what would come next.  I would stand up real stiff and Bill would grab me with his two massive hands and he would literally lift me up and do arm presses with me up to the ceiling.  (Say, maybe I should have called him “the Hulk” or “the Thing” from Fantastic Four.)

But we all had so much fun together in that 12 month period of living so close together.  In fact, some of us really bonded well with at least one other member of the team.  So “boisterous” Bill always had “perky” Paul chumming around with him.  I tell you, those two were always up to something. 🙂 And Julie and Joni were inseparable at times.  Henry (the Mexican) and I (the Canadian) bonded as the “foreigners” of the group.  And then we had a romance go on during the year between Henry and Sandy, the leader of the girls, and who started as the leader of our group until we were assigned an older couple to lead our group.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So given all this information, I sat down a few weeks ago and I decided that our Staff Travel Team needed a special kind of nickname, just like we had for our Fall Travel Team.  And after a period of reflection, it came to me.  I now know what to call our group.  Just like the Fall Travel Team was called “The Seven Dwarves”, so now I am going to call our Staff Travel Team “God’s Little Rascals”.

Now I realize that I am starting to get a little old, but I am not so old that I really remember the original TV series “The Little Rascals”.  But I knew enough from the 1994 movie version (which included great adult actors like Mel Brooks, Daryl Hannah, Whoopi Goldberg and George Wendt) that I knew I had hit it on the nail.  And this is how the team parallels the movie:

  • Spanky is the man’s man and the president of the “He-Man Women Hater’s Club”.  He later learns to like the idea that girls are “okay”.   (Bill)
  • Stymie is the club’s vice-president who stands beside the president and supports all the plans and ideas of the president.  (Paul)
  • Alfalfa is the very good friend of Spanky, but who secretly loves Darla, something forbidden by the club rules, but in the end, he gets his girl.  (Henry)
  • Darla is the leader of the girls, who causes all kinds of mischief around the boys, and is the object of Alfalfa’s affection.   (Sandy)
  • The Twins are two girls who follow Darla and who think all boys are silly.  (Joni & Julie)
  • And then for me, I would be Froggy who has a high-pitched croaking voice, but is one of the boys who comes up with good ideas for the club.

(Henry, Joni, Bill, Julie, Paul, Sandy, Norm)

So there you have it folks.  You now have been included into the special group of the TMI Staff Travel Team.  What a great year it was to live our lives together and both serve the Lord as a team, but also become such great friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.  And after 30 years, we are still in touch with each other and consider each other very good friends.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

A Disciple For Jesus

2 Comments

Who Am I? Part 7

In the last article in this series, I talked about the year I spent traveling with the 1980 Staff Travel Team of Teen Missions.  That year was a very formative year for me as a young Christian, and I am so thankful to God that He allowed me to have those incredible experiences.  My faith was challenged and rewarded in so many ways, there has never been any doubt in my mind ever since then of the existence and the goodness of God.

There were also many opportunities for me to share the good news about Jesus: speaking with people in all the churches we visited, teaching the teens during our weekly classes which were a part of the summer mission, visiting local churches in the hills of Honduras, and having regular devotional periods with the others who were a part of the Travel Team.

In all of these experiences, I came to know and be certain of the basic truths of the Gospel, such as God created and loved all of mankind, but mankind rebelled against God and rejected Him.  This resulted in mankind being eternally separated from God by our sins because He is a holy God and cannot allow anyone tainted by sin to be in His presence.  But thanks be to God, His only Son Jesus came to earth as a man, lived a perfect sinless life, yet died on a cross and so gave His life in exchange for ours.  This opened the way for us to be purified and once more come into a fellowship relationship with God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As wonderful as all of this was during that year, I found that there was something missing in my life.  I knew my Lord and Savior, Jesus, but at the same time I realized that there was so much about Him, and the Word of God, that I didn’t know.  I had some incredible experiential knowledge about Christ and the Holy Spirit of power, but I did not have a deep knowledge about all the truths about God and what the Bible says and means.

It was because of this great lack of knowledge that I found I had a strong desire to attend Bible college.  Part of me said that I was quite capable of reading my Bible and doing my own study of Scripture.  But another part of me realized that I would be foolish to think I could do it all on my own, and that I ought to take advantage of the knowledge of skilled Bible teachers.

And so it was within days after coming home from Scotland, the last place that our Travel Team had its ministry, that I enrolled in Alberta Bible College.  This is a college that is a part of the same Christian heritage that I was a part of, and the wonderful thing was that it was also in Calgary, my home town.  Actually, it was on the same street as my parents house, one mile away.  What a wonderful blessing that was for me.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so in January 1981, I became a Bible college student.  At first, my thought was that I would just take one year of college, just so I could get a little more knowledgeable in the Scriptures.  And I must say that I did not have the best attitude toward the other students, and even some of the professors back then.  You see, I had “been to the mission field”, and so I “knew” what missions and ministry was all about.  That was my first year.

The second year came and went and I don’t know if my ego had learned much more in the area of humility.  In fact I must admit that I was rather proud that I was at the head of the class.  I had mastered the art of being a student.  But in spiritual terms, I don’t know if I had really learned a lot about being a “disciple” for Jesus.

The way that I viewed life at that time was this: I am a student, and if I work hard and study well for exams, I will “ace” the material and come out on top.  Even though I was studying the Bible, I was not getting the message that “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Matthew 23:11-12)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It wasn’t until my third and fourth year of Bible college that I started to understand that followers of Jesus are meant to “serve each other out of love”, and that ministers of the Gospel are to offer their lives of service as a sacrifice out of a willing and humble heart.  We are not meant to think of ourselves as better than any one else, or that others “owe” us anything as we serve them.  As Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  (Matthew 10:8)

So I think it would have been so much better for me, and others, if back then I had thought of myself as a “disciple for Jesus” rather than a “Bible college student”.  The latter seems to inherently carry the idea of knowledge, prestige, self-sufficiency.  But being a disciple of Jesus speaks more about simply being a humble, obedient learner who remains under Christ.

I can’t say I have yet completely learned this lesson.  But that’s the beauty of it.  God has never asks us to be perfect in this life.  Quite the opposite.  We are called to live a life of simple, humble obedience that is a life-long process.  In that sense, I am still a student in the spiritual classroom of Jesus.

How about you?  Do you feel you have “graduated” and learned all there is to learn about God?  Or are you allowing yourself to still remain under the supervision of Christ and are looking forward to His next lesson in His School of Life?  May we all remain good disciples for Jesus.

Newer Entries