Faith Is Putting Words Into Action

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What Is Faith – Part 6

This will be the last article on this miniseries about “Faith”. We have learned about a lot of important truths in this miniseries that I have based off of a series of sermons preached by Leon Fontaine. He reminds us that faith comes from hearing God’s word, every Christian possesses faith, which is a matter of the heart, and that God really wants the very best for you and me, His children. (You can click here to go to the site where you can download past sermons as podcasts.)

In this article, I want to expand what I wrote about in Part 2 entitled, “The Facts About Faith.” There is great truth in the idea that words carry power. It is well known in Modern Psychology and in Counseling that words can be used to build up people or to cut people down. There is a positive effect upon people when they are complimented and encouraged, and there is a negative effect on people when they are criticized or ridiculed.

But there is a lot more that goes on in our use of words than just making people or ourselves feel good or bad. We should not analyze the power of words and simply on the psychological or emotional level. We need to realize that there is a spiritual level, or a spiritual reality, that can be tapped into when we speak. Again, let me state emphatically that I am not referring to the magical or ritualistic use of words.

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Listening to Leon’s sermon, he says that words literally function in three realms. The first is the physical realm and can be seen in something as simple as a person saying something embarrassing and then turning beet red. At a deeper level, when a person continually speaks negatively, that person is dumping chemicals throughout their body which will affect their mood and can lead to depression.

Words function secondly on the mental realm which is also at the emotional level. Loving words can build a person up and they both think and feel good about themselves. But as we know, too often, words are used spitefully and in a hurtful way which can destroy a person’s self-worth and identity. Even though the words that are spoken are often not true, when they are accepted as true by the person, then they become true.

And that leads us to the third level, namely that words function within the spiritual realm. It is at this level that a person sees himself or herself as God created them to be. It is at this level that we see God, life, and reality from God’s perspective as presented to us in Scripture and not as others around us might suggest, or what we may have been taught to believe within ourselves.

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What I am suggesting is that the words that we speak are a reflection of what we think and truly believe. And, as is well known within both secular counseling as well as in Christian counseling, you will ultimately experience what you believe. Therefore, if you are a negative minded person and speak negative words, then you will undoubtedly experience negative things within your life.

The opposite of this is just as true. If you are a positive minded person and speak positive words, then you will experience positive things within your life. In James 3:3-5 it says:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

A truth that can be surfaced from these verses is that we can determine the direction and the future of our lives simply by the words that we speak. For some, that could be a scary thought. I would like to suggest instead that this is an opportunity presented before each of us. With God’s help, and a positive attitude and beliefs on our part, we can in many ways control the outcome of our lives.

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Here is an interesting fact to consider: we can talk out loud at a top rate of about 150 words per minute, but our minds which are constantly thinking are “talking to us” at a rate of about 1300 words per minute. It is in this latter group that we get what they call “self talk”. So the question is, what is it that we are telling ourselves about God, life, and ourselves.

Let’s get real practical now then as we conclude this series on faith. The things that we put in our heart feed our minds, and our minds are constantly speaking to us. So have we accepted negativity and disbelief into our hearts? Then that is what we will feed our minds and what we will speak into our lives. We must not allow ourselves to do this.

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The solution then is to fill our hearts, even saturate them, with the truths about God such as His love and mercy and grace, all of which is found within the pages of Scripture. And that is where we started this series, namely that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Then as we discover the wonderful promises in Scripture meant for us, we must speak those promises into our hearts and into our minds and so by faith see them become realities in our lives.

In the 30+ years that I have been a missionary and minister of the gospel I have found the spiritual truths that I have presented above to be very real. My prayer is that you too would be able to walk this walk of faith and see God work in your life the same ways that I’ve seen him work in mine.

Thanking God Through The Pain

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Praising The Lord

Life can be difficult. Life can be painful. How should we respond? How do you respond when life just wears you down? There are lots of ways that we can respond, but let me suggest that the best way is to praise and thank the Lord. And for those of us who are musically inclined, carrying around a song in our mind, in our hearts and even on our lips can be a very good thing. Here is a chorus that came to my mind:

I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
Learn to seek your face, and the glory of your grace,
I want to praise you.

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For the second and third verse of this chorus, you substitute the word “love” and then “serve” so that we sing “I want to praise you Lord… I want to love you Lord… I want to serve you Lord”. This is a very simple chorus, but it certainly can affect your attitude and your outlook on life. Now let me give you the background of what happened in these past few days so that you can see why this song would be such a powerful song for me.

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Two Sundays ago, I had what I call a “fatigue episode”. Many of you may already know that I deal with a muscle disease on a daily basis. If not, you could go back and read my article from last July entitled “God and My Muscle Disease,” but make sure that you read the next article entitled, “Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary.” From these articles, you will be able to appreciate the challenges that I face, but also how God has become more real and more special to me.

Anyways, let me tell you about Sunday. In the previous week, the muscles in my legs had become more and more tightly knotted up. This would make it difficult to sleep and so it was getting harder to recharge my internal battery. I was able to take a long afternoon rest on Sunday, but when I woke up, I found that I had great difficulty in getting my arms and legs to move. I had literally “fatigued out”.

So there I was lying in bed and mentally saying, “Okay body, wake up!” First came my left hand, and it was kind of fascinating to watch it wave around. Then I would look at my right hand, and it just lay there. Next came my legs, then both hands, and finally my full arms. It took me over 45 minutes to fully get out of bed. I took it really easy that night and the next day, as it was clear that I had done too much in the previous week and needed to recharge my battery.

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Two days after this, I was able to get my regular massage therapy done on my legs and this has helped tremendously to allow me to rest and sleep better so that my internal battery would not be so run down on the following day. But I must say that the massage sessions are extremely painful as the therapist has to slowly work deep down and muscle by muscle to work out those tight knotted areas.

What I think is really worth sharing though, is the discussion that I had with a colleague of mine on the day after my “fatigue episode” and also with the massage therapist. Both of them wanted to know what I had thought and what I had felt during that time period. I will admit that part of me got worried, but I also had a very interesting conversation with God.

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When I realized that most of my body would not move after I woke up, part of me wondered about the idea of how I would respond if in fact I was paralyzed. And the answer that came immediately to my mind was this: “Well, at least I’m alive.” Then my hand moved, and I thought, “Thank you Lord. At least I have one hand now that works.” And it continued like this until I was finally able to get out of bed.

And so I shared this experience and my thoughts with my colleague and with my therapist. Even now, with all the restrictions and the barriers that this muscle disease has imposed upon my life, I am finding more and more each day that I am thanking and praising the Lord for what I can do, and not focusing in on what I cannot do.

There I was then, three days after having this fatigue episode, and as I was thinking about the Lord the chorus that I included above came to my mind. As Scripture says, our days are numbered and there is nothing that we can do to add to the number of our days. But we can choose what we do with our days. What I think is important is that we realize that we are just passing through this life. In fact, this life is the training ground for how we will spend our lives in eternity.

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I think that it all comes back to the attitude, and it reminds me of the simple poem that says:

Two men stuck behind prison bars;
One saw mud, the other saw stars.

As for me, I choose to be like the second man. How about you?

Worshiping God Is Good For You

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Worship On The Way – Part 1

Do you remember when you were young and you were told, “Okay, it’s time for church.” Did you ever respond with, “I don’t want to go today.” Or perhaps you just thought these words. For those of you who are reading this and are parents, perhaps you hear these words from your children today. If we are honest though, I think that all of us have had many Sunday mornings we just don’t feel like going to church.

But is that bad? Is that wrong? Can’t we worship God by ourselves at home? Actually, we may be on the wrong track of thinking altogether. Let me back up and ask the question, “What is worship?” Answering that question could take pages and pages to answer. And it is true that we can and should worship God individually, but I want to talk in this article about the importance of our corporate worship of God.

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We are starting chapter 10 of our book study of “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted To Travel” by Mark Atterberry. Mark has been a preacher for many years, and so it would seem quite natural for him to advise people that it is important to come to church and worship corporately with other believers. After all, isn’t that the “normal practice” of Christians?

To think like that is to misunderstand the purpose of corporate worship. Going to church is not about attendance and ritual, but is about experiencing God. There is something powerful in the gathering together of believers to jointly lift up the name of God in praise, and there is something very humbling to bow together as a corporate body in prayer, recognizing Christ’s Lordship over all of our lives.

Now back to where we started, the idea that sometimes we do not “feel” like going to church to worship God, have you considered that it is in these exact moments when we feel the worst and life is difficult that we should make the extra effort to get out to our local church? Even with all its warts and wrinkles and problems, the church is the place where we can receive the help that we need. Atterberry gives us some good points in his book why we should continue to gather for corporate worship.

1.  Worship Nourishes Your Relationship with God

Think for a minute what it would be like if we never gathered with other Christians and worshiped God together. Do you think that we would be strong enough to be able to resist the temptations that are in the world around us? Would we get in the practice of setting aside some time every week to put our full attention and focus upon God?

My guess is that it would not take very long before God became less and less a part of our lives. Atteberry cautions us on this very point as he shares from his experiences over the years by saying this:

I’ve heard all the arguments from the I-can-be-a-Christian-without-going-to-church crowd, but I’ve never seen any evidence that their claims are true in my experience, every time a Christian drops out of church and abandons corporate worship, he starts sinking spiritually. Maybe not the first day or the first week, but eventually. I can’t recall a single exception.  (pg. 130)

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The best analogy that I can think of that points to the truth of what Atteberry talks about is that of a small cooking fire, such as they use in the villages of Papua New Guinea. They take little twigs and sticks and work up a fire, but they only put the tips of each stick into the center of the fire. Slowly they push the burning sticks into the center to keep the flame on the tips of each stick at a constant height and temperature.

But as soon as they pull out one stick from the fire, the small flame at the tip of the stick almost immediately goes out. Now they can swing the stick to keep the red ember at the tip still hot, and if they just laid the stick to the side even the ember would burn out. But as soon as they put the stick back into the fire, a flame will again immediately burst forth at the tip of the stick.

The church can and should be our place to keep the flame of our spiritual lives alive. When we go back out into the world from our place of corporate worship it is up to us to keep our spiritual embers alive throughout the week. Then when we come back to worship together with our fellow believers we infuse some more spiritual vitality in our “fire” for the Lord.

2.  Worship Guarantees Your Protection

Consider Ezra 8:22 which says, “Our God protects all those who worship Him, but His fierce anger rages against those who abandon Him.” This was spoken by Ezra to the king of Persia just before Ezra and many other of the exiled Jews began their five-month journey through dangerous territories on their way back to Jerusalem. And we know from Scripture that they in fact did make it safely there.

In a similar way, when we worship God corporately there is a spiritual reality to the idea that we are drawn in under His over arching protective care. Some would suggest that we simply gain psychological and emotional strength from our gathering together with others. But it is my belief, that when we gather together in worship we do not just add to one another’s spiritual strength and vitality, but we multiply our spiritual strength through the bonds of our Christian unity.

I think I will tie off this article at this point and pick this up in two weeks with part 2 where Atteberry gives us two more good reasons to worship God.  This article has meant to be an encouragement to you in your Christian walk, and I hope that I have been able to do that.

God Wants The Best For Us

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What Is Faith – Part 5

In our study of “Faith” so far, we have looked at some important foundational truths such as that faith comes from hearing, specifically hearing the Word of God, that faith is a matter of the heart not of the head, and that all Christians possess faith. The issue with many Christians I think, is whether they exercise their faith and what they believe they can do by faith.

Let me say this in another way. On the one hand, there are some Christians who after they have accepted Christ by faith, live their lives by the strength of their own hands and the power of their own intellect rather than calling upon God in faith to deal with the issues of this life. On the other hand, there are some Christians who “use” their faith to deal with everything in life.

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It is my opinion that the former group of Christians have not really understood the words of Romans 1:17 which state, “The righteous will live by faith”. That is, we are to exercise our faith on a regular basis involving the daily activities of our lives. But the latter group of Christians I believe, will many times inappropriately apply the promise given by Jesus when he says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Surely there must be a middle ground between these two positions. And after listening to the next sermon about faith delivered by Leon Fontaine, I have found some very helpful points that I would like to pass on to all my readers. My hope is that we could all share the belief that is expressed in the title of this article, namely that “God wants the very best for us.” What amazes me and even distresses me is that there are still many people who believe God is a vindictive God or an uncaring God. But I will have to wait to address this in a future article.

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So let’s begin with this premise that God is a loving God and in fact does want the very best for us. Does Scripture support this idea? Two verses that immediately come to mind are Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” and John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” We must be careful though, in how we interpret these two verses.

The promise given in Psalms is not to be taken as a blank check to allow us to wish for and get anything that our heart desires. We must put the stress on the first half of this verse and realize that our primary activity is to “take delight in the Lord”. When we do this, we will find that our heart aligns itself with the heart of God and the mind of God. And so we will find that the things that we will desire will be the same things that God desires. So the emphasis in this verse should not be on our physical or material well-being, but must be spiritually oriented in its application.

The caution on the other side though, is that we may over spiritualize the promises of Scripture. And so some people will interpret John 10:10 as only referring to our spiritual life, and think that this verse is just talking about the wonderful life that we will share with God in heaven throughout all eternity. The truth is that in this verse Jesus is most certainly talking about the quality of life that we will experience here on earth.

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What I especially liked in Leon’s third sermon about faith that I listened to was the idea that “every Christian gets a measure of faith to start with from God.” We then have a choice to either exercise this faith, which will cause it to be strengthened and to grow, or not to use this faith and allow it to lay dormant and possibly even to wither away. It would be like the parable of the Talents, where those who used well the resources given to them by their master would receive more, and the one who buried his Talent lost even the one that he had.

Let us tie this in to another important topic in Scripture. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the gifts that God has given to every believer. And then in Ephesians 2:10 he writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It would seem to me that whatever God has called us to do, and gifted us to do, God will have also granted us sufficient faith to be able to fulfill all that he has asked us to do. The example that Leon gives is that of young David. God had planted faith within him, and David had nurtured it and grown it to believe that his God could do great things through him. And when he encountered the giant Goliath, that faith within David rose up to meet the challenge, and as we know he was victorious.

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And so, what about you? Do you believe that God would want you to experience a better quantitative and qualitative life right here and now?  What helps me to believe that this is possible is to picture God’s nature and his resources for us are like a flowing river, always fresh and never depleted. This goes against the picture that some have that God’s nature and resources are like a pie which is cut up into small slices and carefully distributed to some individuals until it is gone.

I challenge you then  to read the New Testament and see whether or not my picture of God is contained there. And if God is truly a loving and generous God as I suggest, then align your thoughts with Him, rise up in faith, exercise your “faith muscles” and see what great and mighty things that he will do in you, for you, and through you.

A Hunger For God

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Everyone knows that the human body needs food and water to survive.  And the body has its own natural ways to signal us that it is in need of sustenance.  You know what I am referring to: the stomach growls, the throat is parched, and we feel weak and light-headed. And just like the physical body needs physical nourishment, so also our spirits need spiritual nourishment.

Actually, it is not quite as straightforward or simple as that. We do not stay healthy by simply eating any foods, but rather, we must have balanced or healthy meals for our bodies to be healthy. In the same way, we must be concerned about what we feed our souls, making good choices regarding what we say “yes” and what we say “no” to in our lives.

Consider what is written in this devotion which comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Relentless Pursuit

It is no accident that one of the great spiritual disciplines of the Church is to fast. When we fast, we become acutely aware of our physical hunger. That physical hunger can lead to a spiritual hunger as well. Christians today are returning to fasting and prayer as a means of waking us up to our great need for the presence of God. It may be that we will need to fast from other things than food in order to restore our spiritual hunger.

There may need to be a slowing of our hectic lifestyles that are crowding out our time with the Father. We may need to fast from some forms of entertainment to devote time to seeking the Lord. Those heavily involved in ministry may need to say “no” to that which is good, in order to seek that which is best. We may even need to reevaluate our family schedules.

Tommy Tenney, in his devotional, Experiencing His Presence; Devotions for God Chasers, prays a prayer that we all may need to use daily to build our hunger for God:

“Lord Jesus, my soul aches at the mere mention of Your name. My heart leaps for every rumor of Your coming, and each possibility that You will manifest Your presence. I’m not satisfied with mere spiritual dainties. I’m ravenously hungry for You in Your fullness. I’m desperate to feast on the bread of Your presence and quench my thirst with the wine of Your Spirit.”

May hungering and thirsting for God drive us to a passionate, relentless pursuit of Him.

–Taken from the article Hungering and Thirsting for God by Dave Butts.        Posted 21 Aug 2011

The idea of fasting from physical food in order to be able to concentrate one’s attention upon God is not a new idea. It is a very biblical idea. In fact, this practice of abstaining from food in order to commune with God goes back at least as far as to the time of Moses. While receiving the commandments from God on Mount Sinai, Moses very likely went without food or water for 40 days.

It is possible that the reason Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before he began his ministry was that it was meant to be a parallel to Moses. Both Moses and Jesus had been sent by God to declare the truths of God to the people and to form a new people for God. If that is the case, we must consider a 40 day fast to be the limit for these two very unique and specially called men of God.

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There is not enough room in this short article to go into detail about the biblical practice of fasting. But let me just say this one thing that I feel does need to be mentioned. You may recall in the book of Matthew that Jesus does refer to fasting in his famous “Sermon on the Mount”. What is most interesting in Matthew 6:16 – 18, is that Jesus did not say “if you fast…” He said, “When you fast…”

Now I wish that I could say that I have been able to develop the spiritual discipline of fasting from food so that I could then devote more time to communing with God. And perhaps I may still be able to achieve that. One of the reasons that fasting has been very difficult for me to consider is that during my teen years and 20s, I struggled with hypoglycemia. God has cured me from that (and you can read about the story here) but I still have to watch my eating habits carefully.

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But take a look again at what is suggested in the devotional reading above. There are many other things that we can “fast” from. There may be other areas of our lives that are controlling us too much, or at least are diverting our attention away from God more than they ought to. I would challenge all of us to examine our lives  to see where this would be true.

Pray to God about this, and you may be surprised at what God reveals about your life and what He might ask you to give up and give over to Him. I was very proud of my son who told me at one point that he felt his Xbox was controlling him too much, and he put it away for over a week. I’ve heard of others who will go on a “fasting” period from Facebook.

These are just a couple of examples to consider. So how about you? After praying, has God shown you one area perhaps that you may need to take a “break” from? You may think that this would be too difficult to do. But I believe that if God has shown you an area of your life to give over to Him, He will also give you the strength to be able to do so. May God bless you richly in your hunger and pursuit after God.

Living A Missionary Life

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Who Am I?  Part 19

As you can see, this is the 19th article in this series called “Who Am I?” It has been an interesting exercise for me to summarize the most important events or moments in my life, and I hope that you have been enjoying this journey along with me. Many of these articles dealt with single moments or events that shaped or changed my life in a dramatic way.

This article will be quite different in that I want to try to summarize the five years that I spent as a Bible translator living in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. In some ways, this is almost an impossible task. There are so many interesting stories that I could tell you about these years that I will probably need to set up an entirely new series of articles to run throughout 2012.

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What I will try to do then, is to give you a large overview of these years, as well as my general impressions of the time that we spent as a family in our home in the jungle. One of the first things that people would often ask us is “What was the climate like there? Do you have seasons over there like we do back home?”

And my answer would be, “Sure, we had seasons: there was Wet and Wetter!” Actually, it was not too bad in our area. It would receive about an average rainfall of 250 inches per year. There are some areas of PNG that can have 350 to 400 inches per year. The good news, is that we were not living within the “swampy” region. We lived at an elevation of about 200 feet, at around 7° south of the equator, in a low valley surrounded by distant mountain ranges.

The other good news was that there occasionally was a breeze to cool us off of the perpetual, year-round temperature of 90 to 100°F. The bad news was that the breeze was just the rushing front air that signaled the oncoming torrential downpour. If you were outside at the time, you had to decide if it was worth trying to run home to try to beat the rain. And if you were inside the house, your job was to run around to each room and unroll the plastic tarps and secure them tightly in an attempt to keep the torrential rains out of your house.

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Another thing that people often asked us about, was what the food there was like. One of my favorite sayings was, “Kick any tree, and a fruit will fall out.” We were able to enjoy such things as papayas, mangos, bananas of at least seven varieties, pomegranates, coconuts, watermelons, cucumbers, as well as lemons and lemonade from the four lemon trees in front of our house. And of course, all of us had to at least try eating a grub worm once. But most of our food and supplies would be flown into us on the little Cessna plane that would come into our village every 2 to 3 weeks.

The people though, were subsistent farmers who grew gardens and literally lived off the land and ate anything that they could find that was edible. Each year, they would go to a new section of the jungle and they would have to chop down all the trees, burn them, and then clear the land before they could plant their new gardens. Jungle soil is actually not very fertile, so they would have to slash and burn a new garden area every year.

It would take about 4 to 6 months before the gardens would produce their green vegetables and staples such as yams, taro, sweet potatoes, etc. They would be able to eat food from the gardens for about half a year. After that, they would simply forage for anything they could find in the jungle, as well as eat the starchy substance that they could scrape and squeeze out of the center of a sago palm tree.

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The final most obvious question that people would ask us was, “What did you do while you were there?” And the answer was, we did many things. We studied the culture, learned the language, built relationships with people, raised our elementary age children there, worshiped in the local church with the people, held singing and devotional evenings at our house, helped the people with some of their physical needs and medical needs as we were able to, and much, much more.

All of these activities were important, and we enjoyed living our lives with and among the people in our village. But none of these were the primary reason for us leaving the comforts of North America life and coming to live in the tropical jungles of PNG. First and foremost, our desire was to bring God’s Word to the people living there. And the means by which we would do this would be through the process of doing Bible translation.

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And so, while still doing all of these other activities, my primary focus was to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people. Bible translation is a very slow and methodical process, and often takes many years to be able to produce final written copies of some portions of the Bible. It is with great joy then, that I can tell you that by the end of our five-year period, we had completed the translation of the Gospel of Mark and it is now published and available to the people among whom we lived.

So this should give you an overview and a taste of what living a missionary life was like for us. I have many, many more stories about our time in PNG, and these will provide the material for me to be able to write many interesting articles next year. So stay tuned, there are lots of good stories ahead.

Where Does Faith Come From

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What Is Faith – Part 4

Here is a short summary of what we have learned so far about Faith in our little miniseries of articles. First of all, we know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) As an individual is exposed to the truth of God’s Word, a seed of faith is planted within the heart of that individual and by the grace of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that faith will grow and ultimately bloom when that individual makes an act of their will to choose to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The second thing that we learned, which almost seems too obvious, is that all believers then possess faith within themselves. But in a previous article we talked about how faith is like a muscle and needs to be exercised to stay healthy and grow stronger. So it is not a question of whether believers have faith or God, but whether or not they are exercising that faith.

A third thing that we have talked about with regards to faith, is that when we are truly exercising our faith, according to Mark 11:23, when we encounter major obstacles (i.e. mountains) in our life, we can speak out against that and have assurance that God will provide the means or the way for that mountain to be removed. Read last week’s article to see how God answered a major prayer request in our son’s life.

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Now I want to talk about where our faith actually resides. Pastor Leon Fontaine from Springs Church (Calgary) is right on when he says that “Faith is of the heart, and not the head.” To me, this is a crucial point since most of us in North America and Europe (and also now in some developing countries) have grown up in a highly technological age and exist in an evidence-based society. In other words, most people today would say, “Seeing is believing!” instead of “Believing is seeing!”

In our Western culture, it is very easy for us to try to deal with the many challenges and difficulties we face in life from a rational perspective. If it’s a financial issue we are dealing with, we try to work hard, spend wisely, and invest carefully. If it’s a medical or physical issue we are facing, we visit the doctor, take medications, and perhaps change our diet. Whatever the issue is we may be facing, more often than not, we try to deal with the situation first in our own strength.

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But that is not the way of Faith. Romans 1:17 tells us that “the righteous shall live by faith.” And I believe that here, and in other places in Scripture, when it talks about “living”, it is not just referring to our future eternal life with God, but also includes the idea of a full life here on earth. In John 10:10, in the Amplified Bible, Jesus says, ” I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

I think what happens for many people when things continually seem to go poorly in their lives, is that they see the obstacles that are there and decide that 1) the obstacles are too difficult to be removed, or 2) they don’t deserve God’s help, or 3) God would not care enough about them to help. But all of these are just excuses to not “live by faith” and are results of people thinking from their heads rather than believing from the hearts.

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You see, from a biblical perspective, the “heart” is the central core and the place of true existence for us as humans. And that is why Scripture tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” And Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The picture that I get from these verses is that our hearts are like gardens, which when taken care of well will produce beautiful growing flowers and plants and allows a sparkling and bubbling stream to flow out of it. But if we do not tend to our gardens well, and allow thorns, thistles, and weeds to overgrow it, then nothing good can come out of it. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

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So what does this all have to do with faith and our minds and our hearts? Our true existence is in our heart, but the things that we process and hold within our minds will eventually sink down to take root inside our hearts. Therefore, if we allow negative thoughts and ideas to continually be in our minds, or if we hold on to negative attitudes like bitterness, anger, critical judgments, etc., then over time, we condition our hearts to be a seed bed of negativity and doubt and unbelief.

Now that we know that faith comes from the heart and that the head influences the heart, we need to do like what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, to renew our minds so that we are not conformed to the ways of this world. Then, we are free to allow our garden within our heart to grow faith. But as with most things in the Christian life, this is not meant to be a one time event. Rather, this is meant to be an ongoing way of life for us.

God And Me Through The Years

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The Plinky Question for this week is:
“Write one thought or sentence that summarizes each year of your life.”

This idea for an aricle caught my attention. I am now 50 years old, which seems to me to be a good place at which I could look back and survey the years that I’ve lived. I think this could be quite interesting, so let’s have a go at this and see what we come up with. What I will try to do is summarize my life in five-year blocks. I hope you also find this interesting.

Infancy

  • 1960: “It’s a boy!”  (Norman Craig Weatherhead enters the world.)
  • 1961:  Not much to say. (But wait until I become a linguist.)
  • 1962: “Guess what Mom? I can sink.”  (The day a lifeguard rescued me.)
  • 1963:  Little boys and puppy dog tails.  (The question was, who was chasing whom?)
  • 1964:  Droopy drawers and hanging out doors.  (Ask my mom about that one.)
  • 1965:  An early perfectionist.  (20 minutes to cut out the picture in kindergarten.)

Childhood

  • 1966: “I love reading!”  (Me, my Mom, and the Principal. Read the story here.)
  • 1967:  Canada becomes independent. (I rolled my centennial penny all the way home.)
  • 1968:  Sent home with a note.  (“You can’t tackle girls outside school and kiss them?”)
  • 1969:  Standing in the corner.  (“You mean I can’t speak out in class when I want to?”)
  • 1970:  Chased by bullies.  (Aha, that’s why I became a long-distance runner.)

Early Teen Years

  • 1971:  Grade Sixers Rule!  (It’s nice to start the school year at the top of the school.)
  • 1972:  God becomes real. (Read here how God first touched my life.)
  • 1973:  Born-again.  (I commit my life to Christ and am baptized.)
  • 1974:  Special leaders.  (Thank God for Youth Group leaders who cared about me.)
  • 1975:  Love for math.  (Doing 10th grade algebra in my 9th grade math class.)

Later Teen Years

  • 1976:  Love for running.  (All the way to Calgary city finals in the 800 m race.)
  • 1977:  Jesus and me in the Navy. (Read about my faith under fire in this story.)
  • 1978:  A high school grad.  (With honors and scholarships to boot.)
  • 1979:  Up the Amazon.  (My first short term mission with Teen Missions Intl.)
  • 1980:  Full-time missionary.  (18 wonderful/challenging months with Teen Missions.)

Young Adult

  • 1981:  Bible college begins.  (Alberta Bible College – what a great school!)
  • 1982:  Learning pastoral ministry. (Youth group leader and church intern. Crazy!!)
  • 1983:  The famous “Sandwich”.  (How I started dating Jill.  I even made the bread.)
  • 1984:  I graduate, Grandma dies, Jill and I get married.  (What a week!)
  • 1985:  Seminary in subzero.  (Canadian Theological Seminary in Saskatchewan.)

Early Married Years

  • 1986:  Summer missions with Jill.  (Last year Dominican Republic, now Mexico.)
  • 1987:  Celebrate with Jill. (Jill gets her nursing diploma and sings on stage.)
  • 1988:  Church  planter?  (A valiant effort, but a “dry well” in Texas.)
  • 1989:  Our bundle of joy.  (Eric is born. Bring on those diapers!)
  • 1990:  Pain in the offering.  (Not wanted at a church.)

Finding Direction

  • 1991: “Is he the father?”  (Glen is born – 9 lbs. 14 oz. and 23 3/4 inches long.)
  • 1992:  Ministry in the Prairies. (God uses a city boy in a country church.)
  • 1993:  God humbles me.  (Read the full story here.)
  • 1994:  Love for biblical languages.  (Hooray for Lincoln Christian Seminary.)
  • 1995:  Training to be a Bible translator.  (Studying linguistics in Dallas.)

Translation Years

  • 1996:  Churches support our ministry.  (Getting ready and set to go to the field.)
  • 1997: “But it’s not the swamps!”  (We moved to a small village in PNG.)
  • 1998:  An official alphabet.  (The first thing published in the Nend language.)
  • 1999:  Death in the family.  (My father dies; we visit family and supporting churches.)
  • 2000: Hard at work.  (Translation on the Gospel of Mark goes forward.)

Difficult Years

  • 2001:  Bible school in the Bush.  (Teaching Genesis to Revelation in the village.)
  • 2002:  The Diagnosis. (Eric has leukemia and we return to Canada.)
  • 2003:  Chemotherapy and photo ops.  (Eric chosen as cancer’s Spokes Kid.)
  • 2004:  A good year.  (Teaching at Western Christian College.)
  • 2005:  Management training.  (Preparing to serve in East Africa.)

Transition Years

  • 2006:  Family choices.  (Eric returns to Canada for Gr. 12; three of us stay in Africa.)
  • 2007:  Back to Canada. (We help the boys with college and getting ready for life.)
  • 2008:  Another diagnosis!  (A muscle disease hits Norm and walking gets tough.)
  • 2009:  Slowly and carefully.  (Jill and I take one short mission trip to PNG.)
  • 2010:  Finding solutions.  (Wheelchairs, walkers, and recliners allow me to do work.)
  • 2011:  A step of faith.  (Norm lives in Dallas for 4 months doing translation work.)

And so there you have it folks, my entire life in one page. I found it quite interesting to think back over all the years and consider what the highlights were for each of those years. As you can see, God or ministry work (either in North America or in overseas countries) was a big part of many of these years. Of course there have been some discouraging times and difficult times. But for the most part, I can just about say that I found something positive in each and every year.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this overview of my life. Perhaps you may find doing something like this, writing out the summary of your life year-by-year, may turn out to be just as interesting and valuable to you as it was to me doing my own life history. In some ways, I think it comes down to our basic outlook and attitude in life. For me, I try to live by these words: “Giving honor and glory to God in all that I do.”

God’s Little Detours – Part 2

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The Value Of Detours

This is the second article that I want to talk about this concept of encountering detours in life.  And let’s face it, the question is not whether we will encounter detours, but what to do when we encounter detours.  In the last article, I mentioned that we will all have good moments, and that we must treasure those moments and count them as blessings. And now I would like to suggest that we even consider the detours of our lives to be blessings and to treasure them also.

This is exactly the kind of attitude that I sensed as I read the second half of chapter 9 of Mark Atteberry’s book entitled, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel”.  For those who have been reading these “Hard Road Journey” articles, I would like to suggest again that this book is certainly one worth getting and reading many times.  (You can click here to find out how I can help you to get this book.)

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Let’s look then at how Atteberry considers detours in life to be helpful:

1.  Detours Can Train You

One of the first things that Atteberry does in this part of the chapter is to make a distinction between “to teach” and “to train”.  I thought that this was quite good because there is an important difference between the two concepts. You can hear about something, watch something, and even study something, and that might “teach” you something important. But until you have gone through an experience, you have not really been “trained” to be able to handle that experience.

I shared with many people of the strong interest that I had in Bible translation work since the time that I was age 16.  Then, when I tell them that I was 36 years old when our family went over to Papua New Guinea to start working in a translation project, people often ask the obvious question, “So what did you do in those 20 years?”

And I will respond, “Let’s see, I did some short-term mission work in Central and South America. I went to Bible school, then got married, then carried on and went to seminary. After that, I did about five years of pastoral ministry. Then there were some in between years where I felt a little lost and God was teaching me some lessons in humility. And also, we started a family and began raising our two boys.”

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I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to ministry work, and especially Bible translation work, I can be very passionate about it. Almost to the point that you could say I become so absorbed or obsessed with it that I can lose perspective with regards to other people or other important things in life. But I would never say that those 20 years between the time that I first thought about being a Bible translator until when I finally got onto the field were wasted years.

This came home to me in a powerful way in 2007. I was in PNG and attending a course to train translators to become Bible translation consultants. We were trained to listen well, ask good questions, be patient, be sensitive to cultural issues, know how to exegete Scriptures well, offer suggestions but not be forceful about it, and much more.

By the third week of this course we had had opportunities to sit in and watch experienced consultants work with other missionaries and the national speakers to check their translations. We were also given opportunity to lead sessions ourselves. When the teacher of this course asked me one day how it was going for me, my reply was, “Everything in my life up to this point now make sense to me.” And I still believe that is true: my theological training plus my years of pastoral ministry plus my village experience as a translator had honed me to be able to be a good translation consultant.

2.  Detours Can Test You.

But just when I thought that everything was now in place for me to be traveling the world as a Bible translation consultant and trainer, that was when my muscle disease hit me and its symptoms flared up. In February of 2008, I had just returned from PNG after doing six weeks of intense consultant sessions and some training sessions. I literally went from running through airports to barely being able to walk across my own living room floor.

As my health deteriorated that year, I slowly released one responsibility after another of the many international tasks that Pioneer Bible Translators had asked me to be involved in. By the spring of 2009, I was hardly doing anything at all, except feeling sorry for myself. And I felt like my ministry work and even my life was coming to an end.

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Praise the Lord, God showed me that there were still many things that I could do and that if I leaned on him and trusted him for my daily strength, He would empower me to continue to do this translation consultant work. What I’ve come to realize is that while there may be many things that I would like to do, I am to focus in on this one thing that I can do and which God still wants me to do.

Many people who are aware of my muscle condition have commented to me how amazing it is that I am still able to do this work. I could let this go to my head, but instead, I point to God and say it is by God’s grace and grace alone that this is possible. I will close this article was a very good quote from Atteberry on page 124:

Make up your mind that you’re willing to learn whatever the experience is ready to teach you. And remember that your character is being put to the test. People are watching and will be influenced for better or worse by what you say and do.

Faith Is Rewarded

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What Is Faith – Part 3

During the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to a sermon series on “Faith”.  My plan for the article for today was to continue writing out my thoughts and summaries of what I was learning from this sermon series.  But something incredible happened this week that I just have to share with all of you. It is a story about how pure and persistent faith can overcome the obstacles that stand in our way.

This story concerns my younger son Glen, and is the answer to prayers that we have been praying for many, many months. In a previous article ( which you can read here), I wrote about this strong desire that my son has had to be able to join the Canadian military, specifically the Army. And finally, two days ago, Glen found out that he had in fact been selected and will head off to Boot Camp as soon as they phone him and tell him what those dates are.

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To appreciate the magnitude of how great an answer to prayer this is, I will need to go back and give you a lot of the background details that led up to this moment. It was while our family was working in Africa in 2006 and ’07 that our son first entertained the idea seriously about joining the military. When we came back from Africa, and while Glen was doing his last year of high school, he was involved with the Army reserves.

He found that fascinating and really enjoyed those weekends when they would go out on squad exercises, but it was too difficult to manage schooling and involvement with the military at the same time. So he put the idea of the Army to the side, finished high school, and then went on and completed a year of Bible college.

As soon as he finished that one year certificate though, he went down and immediately applied to join the Regular Forces of the Army. There was the normal bureaucratic hoops and paper trails during that summer of 09, but by September, Glen was offered the opportunity to join at that time. And he knew that this was what he wanted, but part of him felt that he was not quite ready and so he passed up that invitation.

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One year later, our son was not only a year older, but just a little bit more ready to enter into the world of the military. He was told that he needed to start his application again, and all of us were quite surprised to find that there was a job freeze on the military and that he would be put on a waiting list. This began the long road and test of faith for all of us.

Now I want to pick up the story from my perspective as a father. When Glen first started talking about joining the military, as a parent I naturally felt very concerned and worried for him. After having many talks with him, and after much thought and prayer, I arrived at the place where I felt okay about his desire. In fact, there came a day that God not only gave me peace about this decision, but also a conviction and assurance that this was the right thing for Glen to do.

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Over this past winter and spring, all of us in the family were actively praying that God would open up the door again for our son to be accepted back into the military. And every time that I talked with Glen, both of us felt that we needed to believe that it would happen, even though it seemed like all the odds were against it happening.

It seemed like every time that Glen would phone the military, he would get different answers as to whether there were positions available are not. Then about two months ago, we got our hopes up when Glen was called in for an interview (which went well) and he also passed the medical exam. But weeks went by and there was no news.

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Finally, it looked like a breakthrough when a few weeks ago he was told that he was on the “Merit List”. The next thing we heard was that there were 80 applicants for the remaining 20 positions. What an emotional roller coaster we were all on, but again, we stubbornly chose by faith to believe that God would open the door and allow Glen to be selected.

Then I remembered something that I had just heard and written about in last week’s article on faith. The speaker, Leon Fontaine, presented the idea that there are obstacles (i.e. mountains) in our lives, and that by faith we should speak, literally speak against these mountains to be removed. Again, this is not the idea of using words like magical incantations. But rather, it is a bold proclamation coming out from within of the faith that you hold to be true.

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And so, when they told us last week that this Tuesday was going to be the final day of selection, I felt empowered and emboldened within my spirit to lay claim to the biblical promise of Psalm 37:4, “Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I knew that Glen had committed his ways to the Lord, and I also knew that God had given me in the past the peace and the conviction that Glen should join the military.

Throughout the morning of Tuesday then, I not only prayed to God, but I prayed out loud to God to let this be the day that Glen would be accepted. What a great relief and joy I felt then, when Glen phoned at two o’clock in the afternoon to let me know that yes indeed, he had been one of the 20 who were selected to be accepted.

All I can say now is, “Thank you, thank you God!”  Just like the parable of the persistent widow, You showed us once again that when we have persistent faith in You, faith is rewarded.

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