Persevering With God’s Help

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The following devotion comes from my friend, Pastor Jim

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I am sitting at the desk in the office when the noise makes me jump. I should be used to the familiar “pop” on the window, but I am not. Another bird has collided with the window glass.  I wonder what it must be like to be flying along and all of a sudden the world ahead of you slaps you in the face.  It looks like the path ahead is clear, but just when we begin to think it is smooth sailing, “POP”!  We are knocked to the ground.

I do not have to wonder very long before I realize that so many of us know what that experience is like.  As Christians, we often face trials, but as James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

These trials may be tests of God, the work of Satan, or just life. These have the potential to make us better individuals.  We add fertilizer to our fields and gardens so we may yield a better product. Our suffering is like fertilizer – it feels horrible, smells terrible, and we cannot wait to wash it off.  [NW – as a city person, this sounds disgusting, but I know from talking to farmers and those who grow plants and small back yard gardens, that this is true.] 

I remember the very first time I sat on top of a horse.  I was in second grade and needed my dad’s help climbing into the saddle.  Her name has escaped my memory, but I remember she was beautiful and, in the mind of a young boy, she was huge.  I sat in wide-eyed wonderment as she took a couple of steps.  I was unsure of my place in the saddle, but then she took a couple more gentle steps and the thrill of riding hit me.  I have not had another opportunity to ride since that summer, but the memories of it are still in the forefront of my mind.

The term meek has been a difficult word for me to grasp, but I can now relate it to a broken horse; power and strong will that are directed for a purpose.  When we face stressors and crises, we do not have to feel like we are alone and spiraling out of control as we attempt to fight our situation using only our own strength.  When we are meek, we realize that God is in control.

When we humbly decide to take our place in His plan, then we too will be placed among the meek.  We can be pillars of example to the world as we overcome our difficulties by the grace of God, and not our own strength.  These words are easier to write than live.  I pray my will and strength are like that gentle horse I rode as a child.  May I be meek, focused, and reliant on God.

As we grab a hold of the reins of Christianity, we cannot help but realize we do not always understand God.  How can we?  As finite beings, we are nothing compared to His infinity.  If we can remember to simply pray that we do not lose any of the benefits of our trials, then we will grow.  We will become better apprentices of Christ with a better grasp on the reality of our station in life.  But, equally as important, we will become better examples to the world.

Sympathy and empathy are powerful tools to be used to nurture others.  If we do not persevere through our suffering, not only do we lose out on an opportunity for growth, but so do the people around us.  When I pray for others, I ask above all else that God be glorified through the situation.  May His will not be lost as He carries us through our trials.  May we recognize the situation as belonging to Him – being under His magnificent power – and use it for His glory and honor.

One of God’s many ministers,

Jim

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In this devotional thought, Jim provides us with two very good illustrations.  What I gained from this was that our lives can be hardened and unproductive (or meaningless) unless we allow the Farmer (whom I take to be God) to break up the hardened soil, and even allow Him to use the difficulties and trials of life to be sprinkled (fertilized) into our lives, so that our lives will be able to produce a harvest of good fruit.

The second illustration talks about us riding through life, as on the back of a horse.  If we try to pull hard on the reins of our lives, or try to force our animal (our lives) to be directed by our own brute force, we are more than likely to end up galloping off in the wrong direction, or worse, we are dumped onto the ground and our lives end up quite ruined and possibly seriously injured.

No, what we must do is to give the reins of our lives over to Jesus, submit to His Lordship, and He will tame the wild animal of life that we ride on and through His power and divine direction and providence, we find ourselves being led to the place of security, rest and spiritual nutrition.  As Jim mentions above, that takes a spirit of true humility, meekness and trust.  But know this, our God will never fail to give us what we need, if we entrust ourselves wholly to Him.

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Knowing God’s Truth

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A Devotional Thought from Great Commission Ministries

written by Sharon Harms

Searching

“One of the dogs in my house is obsessed about playing fetch.  He is a very mellow, 9 year old Australian shepherd.  Mellow that is until you take a tennis ball out. This dog will chase a ball forever. You throw it, he brings it back, you throw it, and he brings it back. He never gets tired of playing with a ball.  You throw it and he searches until he finds it and brings it back to be thrown again.

This is how we are to be in our Bible: Searching the Scriptures.  Act 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  There are so many false religions in the world today.  When we hear something, we need to go to the Bible to see if what we hear has any truth to it or not. 

How do you evaluate sermons and teachings?  The people in Berea opened the Scriptures for themselves and searched for truths to verify or disprove the message they heard.  Model your life after the Bereans – search the Scriptures for the truth.  John 16:13 “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.”

The truth into which the Holy Spirit guides us is the truth about Christ. The Spirit also helps us through patient practice to discern right from wrong.  As my dog chases after a ball, chase after the Truth. Always compare what you hear with that the Bible says.”

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What a great picture this is: just like Sharon’s dog would hunt after and dig for the ball, so we as Christians ought to hunger after knowing God’s Truth and dig at it until we find it.  Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, since we live in an age where we expect instant service for everything, and in some ways, we don’t work hard for anything.  Hmmm…..do you think it’s time to change this?

Now I want you to know that I am saying these words to myself as well.  For the most part, each morning as I have my breakfast, I open my Bible (actually I turn on my Kindle) and read the day’s Scripture according to my 2-year reading plan.  Many days, I see some wonderful truths contained in the verses I’ve read.  But to be honest, there are probably too many days that I simply read the passages, and then mentally put a check mark on my daily “To Do” list.

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I know it was not always like this.  In fact, the period before when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior was a very intense time of searching the Scriptures.  In one of my early articles, “For My Tears, Jesus Died”, I wrote about how I came to know for the first time that God was real.  What I did not tell you is what I did in the following months.

It was September when I went to that Youth Conference and God started tugging at my heart.  I had been attending church on and off throughout my growing up years.  But now I had more reason to be looking into the Christian faith to see if what was being preached and taught about the Bible and about Jesus was true.

At that time, our church was looking for a new pastor, and the President of the nearby Bible College was often filling in to bring the sermon.  He seemed to me to be a wise and knowledgeable man, and so I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at the time.  I would listen to the sermon and write down all the questions I could think of.  Then after the service I would stand there asking the preacher to answer all my questions.

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When I think back to that period of my life, I laugh at the image of a little 12 year-old boy standing in front of this adult and bombarding him with questions.  Thankfully, this man was very patient and did his best to give me good answers.  I did this for almost six months straight.  And at the end of that time, I was quite satisfied that the Bible really was true, and Jesus was who He said he was.

Now you might think that this was all just an intellectual investigation that was going on between me and the man.  But that would be true only if you were a nearby observer looking at what was happening on the outside.  On the inside, the more I talked with the preacher, the more that he answered my questions from Scripture, the more my inner spirit resonated with what was said, and I knew the message had to all be true.

It’s sort of like what happened to the two men on the road to Emmaus after they had been talking with Jesus for quite a while.  When they recognized Jesus, and after He disappeared, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”  That was what it was like for me in my discovery process of making Jesus my Lord.

Now the challenge is to rekindle this inner desire to search the Scriptures daily with excitement and anticipation.  I believe that if we can come to the Bible and appreciate that it is “alive and powerful” as it says in Hebrews 4:12, then we will eagerly want to spend time in the Word of God.

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God’s Lessons in Pain & Forgiveness

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Who Am I?  Part 13

Undoubtedly, 1989 was a year that held great blessings as well as times of great difficulties.  You can see this even by just reading the titles of the last two articles in this seriesWho Am I?.  I reflected on the idea of me being like a prodigal son, (one who tries to walk independently from his Father with disastrous results), and then shared the joy I had of being a new father.

It is certainly by God’s grace that I was able to be there at Eric’s birth, considering that I had been so ill that I was mostly on bed rest for the three months before my son’s birth.  And wouldn’t you know it, I got a job shortly after his birth and within three weeks I put my back out and was on bed rest for another three months.

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Now when I say I hurt my back, that is an understatement.  I’m pretty sure now that the three-month illness must have weakened many of my muscles.  Then, the job I got was to work alongside young offenders and juveniles in trouble to show them how to get work and integrate well into the regular world.  So one day we were to sweep gravel off a pavement and that required us to stoop low and get our brooms under a bunch of parked cars.

The work that day was definitely a “back-breaking” job.  That evening I was extremely stiff and sore.  I went to bed early, but woke up as I tried to turn over.  To this day, I can still “feel” the muscles in my lower left back tear apart and immobilize me in pain.  To be honest, I don’t know how Jill got me out of bed and helped me get to a doctor.  Immediately I was referred to a special physiotherapist clinic which worked with me as an outpatient for three months until I could fully walk and move again without further damaging my back muscles.

As you can possibly imagine, I was on the edge of real serious depression, seeing as half of 1989 I spent on my back in bed.  But I must say that God was gracious to allow me to be well on the day that Eric was born, and having a little baby boy in my life was the ray of sunshine and joy that pulled me through the first half of that year.

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During the summer and early fall, I found that landing a job was quite difficult and believe it or not, I tried to earn a salary going around and selling dictionaries.  It was a good thing that my physiotherapist was able to fix me pretty well, because walking around from store to store and house to house with a 20 pound dictionary all day is no easy task.  (Okay, maybe it was only 15 pounds.)

What I really wanted to do was to be involved in Christian ministry again.  Somehow I had lost my focus on my lifelong dream to be a missionary.  Part of that I think is that I felt I needed to find a job at home to help take care of my family of three now.  And we wanted Jill to be able to stay at home with Eric as long as possible.

After sending out many copies of my resume, a day came when we were invited to a church in western Canada to interview with the elders for a Youth & Associate Pastor position.  The interview went well and we were invited to serve in that church.  I was excited that once again I would be able to engage in full-time Christian work.  Little did I know that just one year later, I would be asked to leave and that I would experience a deep wounding of my soul that would last for years.

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When I started working at the church, I threw myself into the work: leading the Youth Group, training teachers and leaders, doing home visitation and small group ministries, and starting a Children’s Church program.  I felt like this was what I had trained for, and I worked hard.  And yet at the same time, I also worked at being home for Jill and our newborn son as much as I could.

So it came as quite a shock when I was called into a special elders meeting and asked to resign from the church.  Quite literally, they pulled out their black notebook and recited back to me all the things that I had done wrong in the year I had been with them.  Ouch!!  They actually kept a record of my “wrongs”?  (That doesn’t sound like 1 Corinthians 13 does it?)

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Now, without going into the details, I’ve thought a lot over the years about the things I was told that night.  Was there some truth in what they accused me of?  Yes, there probably were times that I came across as arrogant.  And I’m sure there were some people who I had offended for some reason.  And there were other points on their list that had a kernel of truth in them.  But could the elders have handled this better?  Most assuredly.

But the damage was done.  And so we moved away from there.  It hurt terribly for a long time, but even this wounding was used by God I believe to make me more into the person that God wanted me to be.  Whether it was this experience, or maybe it is just because I’m older now, but I believe I try harder in my ministry work to be more sensitive to and to listen better to those whom God has called me to serve.

It’s not easy to be humbled or hurt.  Whether we feel we deserve it or not, there is always some lesson or truth that God is trying to teach us out of every situation.  It’s been over 20 years since that incident, and I have forgiven those whom I believe had not treated me fairly.  But then the Bible tells us that we are to forgive and let God handle justice if need be in His own way and in His own time.  I pray that I will never forget that lesson.

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We Need to P.U.S.H. With God

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“I Don’t Understand, God.”

To be really honest, there are times when I have felt that I am not getting anywhere in life, or in my vocational career as a Bible translator.  It has seemed like many times, we just get moved and settled down into a given location and are at a specific level of my vocation, and then we are uprooted and have to start all over again.

I can say this quite literally, seeing as Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and in that time we have moved 55 times to live in another residence.  We have lived in 7 Provinces of Canada, 2 States in the USA (multiple times in each), and at least 7 countries from the Americas, to the Pacific Islands and Australia, to Africa.  We have lost count of how many times we have either sold all our belongings to go live somewhere else, or lost our belongings due to sudden moves across the world.

Even now, we can feel discouraged as we look at what is happening.  God did provide a lovely 3 level condo for us in 2008.  A month after we moved in, my symptoms hit and living in the 3 level home became very challenging for me.  So we were led back to buy a simple 1 level condo right across from the hospital where Jill works.  But we need to be released from the first mortgage, and it looks like it would be at quite a loss for us.

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And now God is asking me to move to Dallas in August up through mid-December and Jill will stay back here in Calgary.  We have plans of getting together once or twice in those four months, and we have a number of ways to phone or Skype each other for free so we can talk to each other every day if we want to.  But that does not mean it is going to be easy to do this.

And yet, we see God’s hand in all of these matters.  We fail to understand His will behind some of these things.  But we believe that He orchestrates the important matters of our lives, and our response is to simply obey.  And my optimism and my hope tells me that later on, one day we will look back and be able to see what it was all about.  But for right now, we do what we believe He tells us to do, and leave the whys and the wherefores into His hands.

A friend sent me this recently and I believe that not only does it contain some real wisdom, but even while I was reading it, I saw God use it to minister to me in my current life situation.  See if it might also be speaking directly to you at where you are at.

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P.U.S.H. – and God appeared.

The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t moved.” Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, “Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough.”

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That’s what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.  “Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?

Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock.”

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At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just a simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong… just P.U.S.H.!

When the job gets you down… just P.U.S.H.!

When people don’t react the way you think they should… just P.U.S.H!

When your money is “gone” and the bills are due… just P.U.S.H!

When people just don’t understand you… just P.U.S.H.

P= Pray

U= Until

S= Something

H= Happens

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Are You Longing For His Return?

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Are You Longing For His Return?

Posted: 04 Jun 2011 12:00 AM PDT

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:10–14)

The passage says, “…as you look forward to the day of God.” Are you looking forward to the return of Jesus? I think a lot of Christians are afraid to say no to that question. They instinctively know that the answer should be “yes, of course I’m looking forward to His return.” But in our heart of hearts is that really so? Are we longing for His return?

If we are not looking forward to the Lord’s return, we will not be serious about prayer that prepares us for that great event. We will never make the effort to give ourselves to the awesome issues of intercession that can usher in His appearance again on planet Earth if we are not looking forward to it. We must move into a place of eager anticipation and expectation.

–Taken from Prayer and the End of Days (Praying God’s Purposes in Troubled Times) by David Butts. (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource).

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This devotional raises some good questions?  Are we really ready for the return of Jesus to earth?  I feel similar to the author here, that I’m afraid that even Christians might not be ready for that day.  I’ve been in conversations with other believers and talked about Christ’s return, and jokingly they have responded by saying things like, “But I want to get married first!” or “Oh, I’ll never see my grandchildren.” or even “But I want to see the world first, like go to Tahiti or Fiji or…”

Now I think that these people, when they stop to think about it, will see just how ludicrous it is to want to experience what they deem to be a “great event”, when the greatest event of all of Time itself will be the return of Jesus.  When Jesus comes back, true justice will be established; pain, sorrow and suffering will never be experienced by those who are followers of Jesus; and we will have all of eternity to enjoy every possible experience that we want to pursue, and many more that we have never even thought of yet.

But the greatest joy of all will be to see Jesus face to face, and to be able to come into the very presence of God.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  It is truly beyond words to express the completeness, the wholeness, the pure joy it will be, to be there with the God of the Universe, and to hear Him call us by name and tell us how much He loves us.

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In a recent article, I examined Matthew 24:14 and spoke about how our mission work of translating God’s Word into the languages of the world could very well be a key instrument in bringing about the return of Christ.  I really do believe this to be the case, and that is why I am so committed to being involved in the Bible translation ministry.

But whether our work will speed up Jesus’ return, or is independent of that great event, I want to always be prepared in my heart to meet my Lord.  And whether I die while I am engaged in doing this translation ministry, or if He should return before I die, I want Him to see me hard at work at expanding His Kingdom here on earth.  As cowboys used to say, “I want to die with my boots on.”

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There are two more verses that motivate me to be working hard for the Lord.  How wonderful it would be if Jesus came back while I am doing his work and to be told, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)  And then in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, it talks about those who have done nothing with their lives for the Lord and those who have served Him well.

It says the work of the former is like wood, hay or straw, while the latter person’s work will be like gold, silver and jewels.  So not only is it a joy to be serving the Lord, but we are given the promise of a heavenly reward when we offer our lives in service to Him while we are living here.  So what will your choice be?  Why not serve Him well now, and work towards His coming back, and be rewarded in eternity for your faithfulness.  That’s what I plan to do with my life.  And so can you.

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God Will Provide

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Trust God to Meet Your Needs

This article will finish off our study on Strategy #6, “Trust God to Meet Your Needs”, that Mark Atteberry gives us in his book “Walking With God on the Road you Never Wanted to Travel“.  (You can click here to read the article on the first half of this chapter in the book.)

I believe that this may be one of the most important strategies to adopt for any of us who are caught walking along a difficult path in life.  We must believe that God can and will meet our needs.

Certainly there are plenty of Scriptures to back up this belief, aren’t there?  Let’s name a few:

  • And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)
  • And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (John 14:13-14)
  • Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  (John 16:24)
  • Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8)
  • So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:31-33)

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These are just some of the verses that might come to mind for a Christian when we talk about God meeting our needs.  Notice that I do not say “wants”, but “needs”.  You can be sure that pretty much everyone would say that they want things which they think would be good for them.

Even if that is true, we still need to be careful to distinguish true needs from just our wants in life.  And when using Scriptures, we need to be careful not to take a verse out of its context and make it say something more than it is intended to say.

Take Philippians 4:19 and the two passages in John mentioned above.  I’ve seen people who have their “want” list and they quote these verses like a shopping list handed to God, with the expectation that of course God will grant them whatever they want.  (Oops, notice the word is “needs” and not “wants” in Philippians?)

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Looking at Philippians chapter 4 though, we see that the church in Philippi had been tremendously generous in how they had met the needs of Paul, whether that was material help or financial help.  And Paul is promising these believers that God notices the sacrificial giving of the people and that God will in turn repay their kindness.

And the passages in John, within their context, are referring to the disciples’ desire to understand who the Father was and Jesus’ words about Him having to leave them for a while.  They were lacking in spiritual knowledge and wisdom, but Jesus is promising to “fill the gap” of their understanding.  Thus Jesus says, “ask me for anything and I will do it.”

So let us put these three verses to the side, seeing as it is quite possible that there is more here than just us asking God to give us something.  Let us look at the Matthew verses.   Jesus’ words are pretty clear that God loves us even more than the best loving parent could, and as such, He will supply our basic needs in life and He also does desire to give us some good things in life.

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I have seen this to be very true for me in recent days.  Many of you know that I just came back from a week in Dallas where I helped teach the new missionary recruits who are interested in our mission.  The invitation has been given to me to move down to Dallas in August until December to teach more in-depth some linguistic courses to our new missionaries.

Due to my muscle disease, I told our office staff there that I could only live and work down there if I had a very comfortable chair.  In my situation, a comfy chair has become a necessity if I am to live and work with minimal pain.  And to get around the large campus, I have had to rent an electric scooter in the past.  So meeting these needs for one week would not be too difficult, but how about for 4 months?  Would God provide for my “needs” in order for me to do His work in Dallas?

Well….Praise God!!  He has once again shown that He can do “immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).  Not one, not two, but three comfy recliners have been made available for me to use in the Fall months.  Take a look at the picture of me enjoying this “gift from above”.

And regarding the scooter?  Guess what?  The company that has helped me in the past to rent from them had bad news; the competition has been so tough that they have gone out of business.  But before they did, they made a special offer to sell a very good used scooter for 1/5 the price of a new scooter.

If ever we have had doubts about me heading down to Dallas by myself to teach this Fall, this gift from above tells us that God definitely can and has met my needs.  And so I go forward by faith, and often, I find God is already there ahead of me.  Praise God for His goodness and His faithfulness.

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Walk Worthy of Christ (Phil. 1:27-30)

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Being a Christian in Papua New Guinea

Philippians 1:27-30  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

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In chapter one of Philippians, it is quite clear to us and to those to whom Paul wrote this letter that he was truly suffering for the Lord.  He was put in prison, simply because he preached the Good News about Jesus.  He never knew from day to day whether he might live one more day or be executed for his faith.

There were others who were trying to get the attention of people.  In so doing, they were stirring up trouble, and doing it deliberately to try to cause grief for Paul because of their envy over the fame and success that Paul had when he had been free and preached Christ.  But from every perspective, Paul believed that all these things were happening to ultimately bring people to Christ, and that Christ would in the end be glorified.

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What a tremendous example Paul set for the Christians of the first century.  He also wrote down very clearly how he expected Christians to live and work out their faith in the real world.  It was too early for him to know if he in fact would be released from his jail, or executed.  And so he hoped to come see the Philippians in person, but if not, he had the highest expectation that he would hear good reports about their unity of their faith.

There are two Greek phrases here in verse 27 which show us just how seriously Paul viewed how Christians’ ought to behalf themselves.  First of all, he tells the Philippian believers to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  This carries the idea of “acting like a good citizen”.  We know that part of the Good News is to announce the rule of God in heaven and on earth, so as good citizens of Heaven, our behavior is to matched the very nature of God himself.

The second idea is that believers should stand firm, shoulder to shoulder, and wrestle with and fight against those who would stand as enemies opposed to the truthfulness and internal unity of the message of Christ as it is contained in the Bible.  Paul promises that those who will make this stand will also experience suffering for the sake of the Gospel, just as Paul often had, and still did in their time, as he sat in that dinghy, dirty, awful dungeon.

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One of the most difficult things that I have had to do in my life was to go to our village in Papua New Guinea where we were actively involved in a Bible translation project and tell them our family would probably not be returning to the village.  Our son had just been diagnosed with cancer and was in the Brisbane hospital.  Jill and our other son were down there too.  And now I was coming to close out our house in the village.

Nine years later, our son is doing okay, and Jill and I are still involved in Bible translation projects.  But we have not been able to return once to the village in PNG.  At the time we ministered there, the only church in the area was the Catholic church.  They tried to hold meaningful services, but the message of salvation was not preached, and for the most part, the Bible truths were shrouded in mystery.

I have agonized like Paul in some ways over these years.  I have wanted at times to be able to go back there and administer the Words of Truth to the people.  I had thought many times, “Where would the people be at spiritually if our family had been allowed to return there?”  But as I have gotten reports from some men of the villages, it would seem that God has another plan in mind, and now is in motion.

Praise God!  There has been an evangelistic breakthrough in the past two years.  People are giving their lives to the Lord, many are being baptized, and small churches have sprung up in almost all of the main villages.  Understandably, some strong opposition has arisen from those that have remained in the Catholic church.  The test of this revival, I think, is going to be how the new Christians will respond to this opposition.

And this is how the message in this passage of Philippians can speak to this moment.  I hear how this new group of believers are uniting together to stand firm in what they believe.  What I hope to hear is that they will “conduct themselves in a worthy manner”.  They will need to live like Kingdom citizens here and now, and love their Catholic friends and neighbors.

Like I said, it is difficult to be separated by distance and circumstances from the people that we ministered to for five years.  But like Paul, I pray for them as God reminds me, and I yearn to hear of good reports of what God is doing among them, and that they are living for God.  Won’t you pray with me for them as well.  And may God be glorified among them.

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