God Directs the Feet of a Missionary

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James and Lisa serve in West Africa as missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators. In a newsletter written April 16, 2011, James shares an exciting story about how they have experienced God at work in West Africa. He writes:

I’d been feeling for some time that God wanted me to go visit a certain town a few hours north of us. I knew there are people there who don’t like what we do, and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to meeting them. Also, I thought a certain thing needed to happen before I went, and as it hadn’t happened I felt OKAY waiting.

Meanwhile, I’d been wanting to get back up to the town where we prayed for all the mute people a couple of months ago. I wanted to get some Scripture up there and was pretty sure they’d let me sell some in their weekly market.

So yesterday, Thursday, Lisa, [our daughter] Laura, and I went to sell. Normally, selling 40 or 50 pieces of Scripture at a market is considered a pretty good day, but this was the first time we’d done it on our own and for some reason I packed several times that much.

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Things are a little different here. You have to ask official permission to do things like this. I decided to start at the top, by stopping at the regional capital and asking the governor. He’s not usually there, but he was this time. He was OKAY with us going, but informed us the weekly market in the town to which we were heading wasn’t on Thursdays. It was on Sundays. How embarrassing. I’d gotten the market days mixed up!

So there I was, way up there with a carload of Scripture and no market! I asked him if there was a town in his jurisdiction that held their market on Thursday. It turns out the only one was – you guessed it – in the town I’d been putting off visiting. So off we went, now in a new direction, on what you might call a “cold call.” We’d never been there and didn’t know anybody there. But we had that excited-but-slightly-creeped-out feeling that God was putting something together in which we were about to play a part, and we were trying hard to convince ourselves that we felt good about it.

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We found the road and picked up a hitchhiker on his way to the market. When we got there he took us to the local leaders, as we needed their permission too. But things didn’t go really well at first. They wanted to see what we would be selling before they gave permission, and even afterward they didn’t seem very enthusiastic and I wasn’t sure they were going to let us sell.

Then one of the leaders who’d been quiet spoke up. Six years ago while working in another town, he’d met a white guy who carried books from town to town. He asked if I knew him. Of course I did! It was my trekking partner! That changed everything. Because of his testimony regarding the character of my friend, they let us sell.

There were probably two thousand people at this market, and I think every one of them came by to watch us set up and find out why we were there. Often in markets like this people are so afraid of what others might think that only the very bravest will approach our table. But not this time. As soon as we explained that we’d brought books of God translated into their language, things got crazy. We were surrounded by a crowd of people four to five deep the whole time we were there!

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We sold so much Scripture so fast we literally couldn’t keep track of it. With our still feeble language skills, we couldn’t have given the explanations, answered the questions, and done the transactions quickly enough to keep up, but no problem. God took care of that. Three older men came by (one was even in uniform!) and did crowd control for us, strategically positioning themselves around the table.

Before long they too were selling for us, carefully making sure we witnessed each sale, and telling people what the different books were. It was all we could do to keep the money off the table and scripture on it…. As we drove out of town, I saw a man reading some Scripture he’d just bought to six or seven others.

On the way home we tried to figure out how much we’d sold. Our best estimation was that we’d sold between 350 and 400 books! (I’ll bring more next time.) We got home just as our friends here were gathering for our mid-week prayer meeting. What a treat it was to report what God had done: how He’d used my fumbling of dates to get us up there in the first place; how He’d arranged to have the governor turn us in a different direction en route; how He’d arranged to have someone at the leaders’ meeting who knew my friend; how He’d sent the three older guys to help us; and most of all, how He put hundreds of pieces of Scripture in the hands of people for the very first time, and all of it in their own language.

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After an amazing story like this, what can we say except “Praise God.”

  • Praise God for how He worked in ways far beyond what James and Lisa thought or imagined.
  • Praise God for how He got a reluctant missionary to the very place where He had prepared the people to eagerly receive portions of Scripture in their language. Pray that much spiritual fruit will result in the lives of all those who are now reading the truth of God’s Word for the first time.
  • Pray for God to abundantly bless this family in their continued ministry for Him. Pray for Him to protect them from burnout as the stresses of living in such a remote area are many.
  • Pray for all PBT missionaries to be open and obedient to God’s leading, even when it seems a little scary to do so.
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God is To Be Praised!

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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I will tell of the kindnesses of LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. Isaiah 63:7

All too often, our faith is man-centered, rather than God-centered. We think it’s all about us, when it always has been and always will be about Him! In this verse, Isaiah is focused upon God and His kindness to His people.

Isaiah demonstrates for us a marvelous way of staying God-focused. He committed himself to speaking of the kindnesses of the Lord. God had been good to His people as His deeds demonstrated, and Isaiah was going to make sure that the Israelites were aware of this fact.

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Are you telling others how good God has been to you? Are you aware of the “many good things” he has done for you? Speak it out! Let yourself hear yourself telling others of the kindness of God. This will keep your focus in the right place.

Father, thank You for your loving kindness toward me. You are so good. You have blessed me with Your Presence and awesome love. Give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life. I want to speak of Your loving kindness with clarity and boldness.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod. Click on the link for more information on this resource.

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Tonight I am sitting in my hotel room and I am reflecting on the devotional thought that my friend David Butts has written above.  It is wonderful to be able to pause and to think about the “many good things that God has done for me.  Actually, there are so many wonderful blessings I have received from the Lord over the years, that I would not be able to write them all out in one article, or even in 100 articles.

That, in fact, is a big reason why I write articles three times a week for The Listening Post.  There is just so much that God has done for me.  And when a memory of some outstanding experience comes to me, or when I read devotional thoughts from others, or when I read a passage from the Bible and the power and the joy of His Word comes through to me, I find myself now quickly jotting down the thoughts and then going to the computer to write up another blog story.

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One line that catches my attention from David’s devotional above is the one, “[Father] give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life.”  Up until this last year, I was very reluctant to pursue this idea of writing down “my story” with others.  Part of me felt that this was rather egocentric and arrogant to talk about me.

I have had to get over that feeling.  I’ve come to realize that in most cases (as long as I am writing carefully and prayerfully) that when I do share stories about me, that in fact I am really sharing stories about God who is the One working in and through me.  I must admit though, that even as I seek to honor God and be a blessing to others through my blog writing, that I am being blessed by the feedback I get after an article is published, and just knowing that many hundreds of people are visiting my site.

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One other thing that I would like to mention in this article in which I am wanting to lift up God and praise Him for His goodness is in regards to my health.  I do talk in many stories about my muscle disease (a mitochondrial myopathy) and I want to be careful that people don’t think I am complaining or that I am upset at God for Him “giving” this disease to me.  Even if I used milder words such as “God allowed this to happen,” people might think I am still upset at God.

On the contrary, I have many reasons to praise Him for His goodness, especially with regards to my condition.  Normally, this muscle disease shows up in puberty and the person’s muscles and body strength and energy do not develop properly.  My sister had this disease (it is a genetically inherited condition from mother to children) and she was weak from the time she was 12.  Due to health complications, she died of congestive heart failure in 1992.

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But consider how gracious God was toward me.  I had a very active and healthy life until the disease hit me three years ago at age 48.  So I consider it an act of His grace that He allowed me to have 36 years of good health from my teenage years till now.  And this disease could have flared up in 2007 when our family was still in Africa, but God waited and held it off for 8 more months.  Then I lost my ability to walk normally while living at home in Calgary, which is also where my geneticist works who diagnosed me and is a world-class specialist for this muscle disease.

No, I am determined to remember always that God is good and shows his loving kindness to those who love Him and obey Him.  So if I keep things in proper perspective, specifically if I can remove the focus away from me and turn the focus on God, then I will gladly “be bold and courageously tell others” how good God has been to me.

God Supplies Our Needs

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Who Am I?  Part 14

In the last article that I wrote out part of our life journey, I ended on the point that people can and do treat us unfairly in life, but that we need to be able to move past the pain and be able to forgive those who hurt us.  (Read the story here.)  Having to leave the church was a very difficult experience.  And when it first happened, my immediate thought was “What do I do now?”

It is exactly at this point that our faith must be strong and we remind ourselves of some very basic, but important biblical truths.  It is best if we have already memorized Scripture verses so that we can pull them up in these difficult moments.  But even if we can’t quite remember or even know what the Bible promises are, we have many good tools like concordances or Bible software which can help us pull up meaningful and relevant verses that help us to face the difficult trials of life.

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For example, consider some of these Bible promises:

  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deut. 31:6  (I believe the promise God gave to Moses and the children of Israel would apply just as well today to God’s people, the church.)
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matt. 28:20  (I believe Jesus’ last words to His disciples in this Gospel apply to us as believers today.)
  • “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”   Phil. 4:19  (Taken in context, Paul is telling the Philippians that with the same kind of generosity that they had shown, God would supply their basic needs in life.  So I believe by extension, that as we faithfully serve our God, He in turn will graciously supply our basic needs in life.
  • “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matt. 6:33  (And this confirms what I believe, that all our basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, will be met by God.)
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So while I served out the last weeks of my time at the one church, Jill and I prayed that God would supply us with a clear direction and a job opportunity that I would be able to move into quickly.  And that is exactly what God did.  Through word-of-mouth, I heard of another church that was looking for a minister.  I had a weekend without responsibilities in the first church and so we were free to fly to the city of the other church where I preached on Sunday and met with the search committee.

It was only a matter of days before the second church called back and offered me the position of their Pastor.  And so Jill and I and 18 month old Eric were able to pack up and leave one city and know already where we would be living and working next.  We did take one month out to attend a month long mission orientation course to evaluate our readiness for the mission field, but they said we should stabilize our family, take care of our debt load, and work on some basic communication skills to strengthen our marriage.  That may be a story for another day.

Oh and Jill was pregnant again.  This was now the third pregnancy where we ended up on the road to a new location while Jill was pregnant.  We have lots of funny stories that start with, “We were pulling a U-haul trailer with all our stuff and Jill was pregnant, and then….”  It really is unbelievable all the places we have traveled to and set up a home and started life and ministry over again.

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The city we headed to this time was Portage La Praire, a small sized city to the west of Winnipeg.  God watched over us as we traveled across western Canada with our U-haul in the middle of winter.  We stayed in one woman’s home to house sit it, and it was during this month that Glen was born.  Jill gave birth to him on January 15th, 1991.  The nurses were on strike and the Gulf War had just started.  Not a very auspicious beginning to say the least.

Meanwhile, the small congregation worked to fix up the little apartment that they had constructed years earlier in place of the upper balcony of the church.  Our living cost of rent was covered then by the church, but even with the salary they offered we found that I would have to work a second job.  Later on, when Jill was able, she worked at a part-time home care job.

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You can probably picture that this was a very challenging time for us.  And what did we learn in this time?  One thing for sure we learned is that to be able to eat, you must work hard.  Paul suggests that there is a direct correlation between our “daily bread” and hard work (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).  While working as a pastor, I also worked the night shift at a retail department store doing the restocking of shelves.

I didn’t mind the hard work.  And I didn’t mind too much the guys who like to poke fun at me.  Actually, I thought it a compliment when the guys would say, “Hey Rev., come over here.”  My Christian faith was evident to all, and sometimes that meant the dirtier jobs were given to me.  But it provided an income for my family.

And so the second important thing I reaffirmed was that God would make sure that our basic needs were always met.  Sure it was hard.  God has never promised us an easy life.  But by trusting in Him to direct us and supply us our daily bread, along with a willing spirit to work hard, we found that in the end, our family of four, tucked away in the church balcony, had all we needed, and that was enough.

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God’s 100 Blessings

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Last Thursday marked my 100th article published on this devotional blog site.  Who would’ve thought it was possible.  As in many aspects of daily life, it is truly by the grace of God that I am able to do the things that I do.  And so I pause for a moment in my writings and I lift up my voice (and keystrokes) to give praise to my God who has given me strength over this last year, and to thank some important people.

One of the purposes of The Listening Post has been to “tell my story” of all the adventures I’ve had over a lifetime of faith and Christian experiences.  But really, it is much more about trying to tell God’s story as I reflect on what He has done in me and through me, and to remember all the incredible people who have touched and influenced my life.

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My gratitude goes first to my immediate family who gave me a home and a place to explore faith as a child.  For many years, my mother took all us kids to church and Sunday School and some seeds of the Gospel were planted.  My sister, who went to be with the Lord in 1992, brought me to Youth Group and helped me to see that church was more than just “Religion”.  My Grandmother’s missionary life and her firm faith were an anchor for me.  My brother’s salvation story as an adult showed me God’s incredible grace.

Leaders in the Christian faith held out a lifeline for me as I wrestled with faith and an unfriendly world.  The caring of Youth Group sponsors, the deep exposition and teaching of God’s Truth by powerful preachers, and the wisdom and knowledge of Scripture of my many Bible College & Seminary teachers grounded me in my faith that has lasted a lifetime.

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And then there all the many Christians I have met around the world in my travels.  In Central America, I’m thankful for a small church gathering in Panama that looked after me while my shipmates wasted themselves and wanted me to join in their sin.  In Honduras, and Dominican Republic and also in Brazil and Mexico, I saw the tireless efforts of career missionaries, and it strengthened my resolve to follow in their steps.

In Scotland, Tanzania, South Africa and Vanuatu I met simple everyday Christians who exuded the joy of the Lord, and I knew that my faith was not some North American ornament or oddity, but a deep down real life experience of a relationship between a humble human being and the God of the Universe.  Every time I have shared a meal together, prayed with or met in worship with one of these precious saints, I knew that I was part of a much bigger picture, the universal body of Christ.

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Above all, I have had the privilege to live and visit some very remote parts of Papua New Guinea where one feels like he has truly gone to the “ends of the earth”.  God took a Canadian mountain boy and placed him into the hot sticky jungle lowlands to learn how to live with very little and teach him how to love his tribal neighbors.  I had the opportunity to speak the Words of God to a people group who truly “hunger and thirst” for divine truth and forgiveness from God.  How I thank God for all the years He has allowed me to live out my faith in that remote location.

And even these past three years of living with a muscle disease has been a time of drawing me closer to God.  I have had to learn to depend on Him more than ever before, to truly “walk by faith”.  I have seen now how God has used me to bless others these past few years in ways that I never could have imagined possible before.  And so I thank God for allowing me to have a voice and a message and a continuing ministry in Bible translation, in spite of this illness.

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Of all the blessings of people and events that I hold dear, there remains one tremendous constant in my life for which I am thankful, and is a big reason for having this devotional blog ministry.  It is being married to Jill, my life partner and cheerleader who continues to let me dream big dreams and who encourages me to keep on pursuing the ministries I am involved with.

Jill has been by my side now for 27 years now.  She knows the joys and the heartaches I have experienced in ministry over three decades.  And she saw the pain and darkness I was falling into when this disease hit me.  I believe God led Jill to encourage me to write so that I might remember all that God has done in me and through me, and to speak from my heart.

And so for eight months now I have had this wonderful outlet whereby in telling my story I get to tell His story.  Many people have written to me to say what a blessing it has been to read these articles.  I am thankful for that, but I want to say that this blog ministry has been medicine for my own soul and a healing for my own body.

It could be so easy in a situation like mine to just waste away in this living room recliner and let this disease take my life.  But God has been gracious to let me remember so many blessings that He has given me throughout my life, that I eagerly come back time after time each week, ready to tell you another adventure and let you see God and His goodness through my life story.

So for those who have touched my life, I say “Thank you!”  For those who say that I am touching their lives, I say “Isn’t God good!”  And to God I say, “Thank you Lord for letting me count my blessings, one article at a time.”

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Proclaiming God’s Word in Papua New Guinea

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Many of my articles will talk about the 5 years that our family spent in a small remote village of Papua New Guinea (1997 – 2002) as these stand out as some of the best years we’ve had in our years of mission experience.  I have not said much yet about our older boy, Eric, and the battle he had with leukemia (he is doing okay today, praise God).  One consequence of Eric’s cancer was the need for our family to evacuate PNG to Australia, and then to Canada.  None of us have been back to our village in the jungle.

It was with great interest then, that I heard about the visit the summer interns for our mission would make to our village as part of their experience of PNG in 2009.  When I talked with them, they told me about their plans to share the Gospel by means of a digital recording.  I was so excited to hear of these plans.  Read the story from Delaina, one of the interns, and share in this wonderful experience.

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“The Proclaimer”

The day after our meeting with the 4 translators, Lindy and I took our laundry down to the shallow river to wash the clothes. (No electricity in the village means no washing machines.) We waded barefoot into the cool flowing water, filled up a large bowl, and added some powdered laundry detergent. After scrubbing each garment by hand, we would rinse it in the river, squeeze out the extra water, and put it in a net bag called a bilum that was hanging from a tree branch nearby. Later we would have to carry all the clothes back to the house and hang them on the line to dry. We could see that it was going to take most of the morning to wash all of the clothes, so we wanted something to do while we worked. Lindy walked along the path by the airstrip back to the house and brought the Proclaimer to where I was at the river.

What is a Proclaimer you ask? It is basically a big MP3 player, but instead of music, it has a recording on it of people reading the entire New Testament in Tok Pisin, the trade language of PNG. I suggested that we listen to the recording of 1 Peter, so Lindy and I continued scrubbing dirty clothes, but now we were hearing something that sounded a lot like this, “Mi Pita, mi aposel bilong Jisas Krais. Mi raitim dispela pas long yupela ol manmeri bilong God, yupela ol lain i stap nabaut olsem tripman long provins Pontus, Galesia, Kapadosia, Asia, na Bitinia.”

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Now Daniel, one of the national translators, lived right across the river in his village hut. His wife heard this voice coming from the Proclaimer and sat down on the bank to hear 1 Peter. After all 5 chapters had been read, she thanked us for letting her listen in, and she told us, “This talk is shooting my stomach,” which is their expression for saying, “What I heard really touched my heart.” We had brought the Proclaimer to the river to entertain ourselves while doing laundry and help us learn Tok Pisin, but God used His word to speak to that woman’s heart.

The story doesn’t end there. At 7:00 the next morning, I was working on getting breakfast for the team. I had just hauled 2 buckets of water up the stairs from the rain tank outside to use for cooking and washing dishes when I heard a cough coming from the front yard. I looked out and saw Daniel standing there waiting to talk to us. I had to wake Lindy up, and she went to see what Daniel wanted. We were amazed by his request. He said, “Can you bring the Proclaimer and come with me? There is a group of people waiting right now to hear 1 Peter before they go work in their gardens for the day.” Apparently Daniel’s wife had told her friends and relatives that they needed to hear what she had heard the day before.

We grabbed the Proclaimer and followed Daniel across the river to a cluster of huts where about 20 people were waiting. These people sat still and listened to all of 1 Peter and half of 1 Corinthians. That’s 12 chapters of the Bible! God was speaking to them through His Word, and again many people said, “This talk is shooting our stomachs!”

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Several times over the next week, groups of people from this village and even surrounding villages met outside our house to listen to the Bible on the Proclaimer. There was a group of over 70 people who came one day. That was almost the entire village! The last day we were there, a group of people sat for 3 solid hours listening to book after book of the New Testament, beginning with 1 Peter. They only left then because the Proclaimer shut itself off from lack of solar power.

And these are people who used to murder other people for money, who are still involved in witchcraft, and who don’t all get along with each other. But they came together to hear God’s Word because God was working in their hearts. We serve a powerful God, and if He can change the hearts of these tribal people in Papua New Guinea, He can do anything.

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As a footnote, let me say this.  It is wonderful to hear how excited the people were to hear Scripture in Tok Pisin, the trade language.  But this is a second language that they learn as they grow up.  Try to imagine the pure joy in their hearts (or in their stomachs) that they would experience when they hear the Word of God spoken in their mother-tongue language.  I’ve seen that joy, and that is why I am a Bible translator still to this day.

Walk With God

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Go At God’s Pace – Part 1

In this article, I will begin to look at Strategy #7 in Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  If you’d like to get a copy of this book, you can look at my article I wrote a number of months back about how I offer to help a person find Christian books.  (Click on “Good Christian Resources“.)  The title of this Strategy of how to handle life when you are going through a difficult period is “Go At God’s Pace”.

This chapter of Atteberry’s book may hold a wonderful promise for God’s people, but it is unfortunately one of the most difficult practices to do for any man or woman.  The Bible gives us an insight into what it will be like when we are with God and there is no sin to separate us any longer from God when we look at the opening verses in Genesis and the closing words of Revelation.

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In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we are given the story of the creation of the universe, the world and every living thing inhabiting it.  Then look at verse 8 of chapter 3 which says, “the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  Can you imagine what Paradise was like before sin entered into the world?  Just think, God would come visit Adam and Eve, and in that quiet and peaceful time of the day, they would just casually walk along side of the Creator of the Universe and have a good talk with Him.

But we know that sin did come into the world when both Adam and Eve made the decision to disobey God’s specific will and they chose to follow a different path, one which excluded God from their lives.  At that point, an infinitely impassable chasm of sin separated mankind from God, and with rare exceptions, men and women were no longer able to walk by the side and in the presence of God.

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But praise God, the Lord Jesus chose to give up his own divine rights and privileges and came to earth to walk as a man, and to die as a man.  This man, who had not committed any sin worthy of death, being pure before God, was in a place to offer the perfect sacrifice (His own body and bleed) as the payment for the sins of all people.  Subsequently, mankind once more had direct access to the Father God in Heaven.

The victory over sin was won for all mankind almost 2,000 years ago, but that does not mean that we will not still engage the enemy in smaller battles and skirmishes.  And that will continue until the Last Day.  The Day of the Lord will come and the Lord Jesus will return to reward those who have been faithful to Him, and to cast away into eternal punishment those who would not recognize Him, nor obey Him.

And it is at this point that the great promise of walking with God returns and becomes a reality once again to all the believers.  After eons of time, when the majority of men have turned away from God, and the true believers yearned for God, He Himself will once again let His followers be able to walk with Him as it had once been in the Garden of Eden.  This time, instead of walking with God in a garden, we will walk with in the Heavenly City of the new Jerusalem.

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Revelation 21:23-25 gives us a wonderful picture of what it will be like:

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

There are many more verses in Scripture that speak of this close intimate fellowshipping with God by walking with Him.  Genesis is full of it:  Enoch walked with God, and so did Noah, and Abraham, and Moses.  If you haven’t picked it up by now, the key word here is “walk with God”.  Now we need to pull ourselves forward a few thousand years and ask ourselves, what does all this have to do with our daily lives today.

We live in such a high-paced and busy world that we can barely slow down enough to talk to our own family members, let alone God.  And when we do find ourselves on a hard-road path of life, it is almost second nature for us to look for an instant answer, a quick fix, a short-cut solution.  But listen to what Atteberry says:

As a hard-road traveler, you’re no doubt feeling a strong temptation to try to hurry things along.  Believing that the end of your painful road is out there somewhere, you naturally want to hurry up and get there.  (p. 88)

But if we are going to let God really be the Lord of our lives, then we have to be willing to let Him bring about the answer to our dilemmas in His own time, not ours.  And we’ve got to learn to not try to “do it all ourselves”, for all of our efforts are futile if we rush forward and exclude God from our lives.  What we need to do is to slow down enough that we can truly be “walking with the Lord”, and so be walking within His will.

A final word of advice from Atteberry as we close off part one of this lesson on walking with God, “The key is still our willingness to be patient and wait on Him.  He wants to know that we are trusting in Him and not in our own strength or ingenuity.”  (pp. 93-94)

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