Being Obedient to God

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Who Am I?  Part 22

In the last two articles of this series, it is quite obvious that our family was going through a difficult time. Our older son Eric had to go through 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy to overcome his leukemia, our younger son Glen was restricted from having friends over to keep the house germ free for his brother, Jill was juggling being a mom and studying her nursing refresher course, and my mission work kept me traveling across country and also caused us to move twice for me to teach at different Bible colleges.

This certainly was not what we had expected for our lives as we thought we would live in Papua New Guinea for many years as we engaged in doing a Bible translation in a remote village of PNG.  As I shared in earlier articles, being a Bible translator was a dream of mine ever since I was a teenager.  And Jill too had desired to be active in mission work just as long as I had.

So one of the issues that Jill and I wrestled with, in addition to the worries we carried concerning Eric’s health, was what would be our future role in mission work.  I don’t recall where I first heard it, but the concept had been ingrained in me for a long time that as a Christian, either I was to be sent as a missionary, or I was to be a sender of others to be missionaries overseas.  Send or be sent was the message I believed.

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I asked God to help me be faithful then as I traveled across Canada as I worked for our mission as a missionary recruiter.  But my wife knew my heart and the way God had made me better than I did at this time.  Both of us went in 2004 to the annual recruitment and training week of Pioneer Bible Translators which is held in Dallas each June.  And while there, Jill asked the current Branch Director of East Africa if there was anything I might be able to do.

This simple question opened up the door for me to travel to East Africa later that year and join a few others as they made a Prayer Journey through a portion of that country where they were based.  I was also able to teach a Phonetics course to about 40 national men and women who were interested in becoming Bible translators to their own language groups.

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When I returned from this trip, the question was raised whether or not our family might become a part of the work over there in East Africa.  It would mean uprooting the family again.  We would need to sell our house as we looked at being gone for up to two years, or longer.  Jill and I would need to get some additional training in Dallas since they really needed some administrative help in that Branch.

Each one of these actions would carry their own challenge for us.  But as a family, we felt that God was not only opening this door of ministry opportunity, but was in fact calling us to do this.  And so agreeing as a family to be obedient to God to follow His leading, we put our house on the market and planned to hold a large garage sale.  Jill and I believed that if God was behind all this, then He could certainly orchestrate the sale of all our things.

And you know what?  Our house was barely even listed officially on the real estate web sites when a very good offer was made on it.  I think from the time we placed the house on the market to the late hour at which we signed the sale document was only 3 1/2 days.  So then we had our garage sale planned for just before leaving Calgary, and we sold almost everything (except the kitchen sink as they say), including all of our beds.

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The last six months of 2005 was spent in Dallas as Jill and I went through a course called Management Development Orientation Course (MDOC).  This turned out to be crucial training for us as we found out just before going to East Africa that all of the Directors of the Branch very much needed a furlough break and PBT was needing some veteran missionaries to help fill the gap over there.

As it turned out, I became the Acting Director of the Branch for over a year, and Jill was handed the responsibility of running the Finance Office for most of the 18 month period that we were over there.  This was quite incredible when you think about it since Jill was trained as a nurse, not as a business or finance manager.  But she had an amazing ability to manage the financial accounts, and after only getting about three weeks training, Jill showed that she could organize the system and run that office very efficiently.

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Meanwhile, I too found that a heavy responsibility was placed on me to oversee all the work of the Branch.  The national translation programs continued to make progress, oversight of fellow missionaries and interns was handled, and relationships to national employees and their work with us were maintained.  The work was exhausting, but I am glad that God saw fit to use us to help hold the Branch together during a critical period.

I must admit that the work did take a toll on the family though, as Eric felt that it was best to do his Grade 12 studies back in Canada.  And as this left Glen on his own a lot, then he too wanted to return to Canada, and did so a year later.  Neither decision was done without prayerful agreement in the family.  But the life we had as a family in PNG when they were younger could not be recaptured in our time in Africa.  But that is just the life cycle for us all.  And so my next article will look at Jill and me becoming parents to college-aged children.

The Purpose of Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 3

This is the third article in this short series on “Prayer”.  We first considered the Power of Prayer.  Most believers today will say that prayer is powerful when offered in faith. (See James 5:16)  And yet many Christians in the West often seem surprised when God does answer a prayer in a dramatic way, or perhaps I should say, they aren’t too surprised if their prayers are not answered.

This led us to consider the next important lesson regarding the Passion for Prayer.  If prayer is viewed as just a daily routine that one does just before each meal (i.e. saying “grace” at dinner time) or is to be practiced mainly when a terrible crisis confronts us, then no wonder some people do not see the great privilege we have to go to God in prayer and be more active and passionate in our prayer life with God.

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This brings us then to the next important topic on prayer, which is to consider what is the purpose of prayer.  Now I would venture to say that if we did a large random poll of the general population, we might find that one of the most consistent answers we would get when asked what the purpose of prayer is, would be that people would say it is to ask God for something or for Him to do something.

In a way, this is a valid answer, for they are recognizing that God is the source of power to be able to grant these requests in the times when we are in need of something or there is a crisis in our life and we need help.  But if this is the only answer a person gives, it is so woefully inadequate as a response for it is basically a self-centered response which goes beyond asking for what we “need” to us asking for the things we “want”.

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As I did in the last two articles, I will summarize some of the key ideas and points that were presented to us in the Sunday School lesson time that I attended last month at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  And here is the Overview that was included for us at the top of the lesson:

This lesson is to help us see that prayer is not intended to help us get what we want, but rather, it is the means by which we know God’s will.  Even as we pray for God to provide the resources to reach more children, more youth, more adults and more families for Christ, we do so seeking His will.  The real purpose of prayer is actually for God to get what He wants!

The context for this Overview above, as well as the whole series on “Prayer” is that Crossroads is about to launch a building campaign to construct a huge Children’s and Youth’s Activity Center.  It could so easily be interpreted that the church leaders just want another big building which they hope will impact the lives of young people.

But from all I hear, it would appear that God has opened up so many doors into the lives of people in their community, that the only way to focus the potential of these open doors is through the use of a large central building.  Put in this context, it is God’s direction and providence, not the desires or ambitions of men, that is the key impetus behind this building campaign.  This distinction will help us to understand the following key points that our teacher touched on in our lesson.

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Key Point #1:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Build a Relationship With God.

In Psalm 42, the writer reveals with a heartfelt honesty how discouraged and downcast he is feeling.  We don’t know all the circumstances of what was happening, but he appears to be far from the Temple in Jerusalem where he was free to worship and pray to God.  And he longs desperately to return there to continue doing that, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (v. 1) The greatest joy of a human ought to be like the Psalmist, to desire to be in the presence of God.

Key Point #2:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Acknowledge Our Dependence Upon God.

We think that we are in control of our lives.  That is so untrue.  Circumstances of life and even just the forces of nature show us that is not true.  And so we are a people characterized by great anxiety.  Scripture tells us though in Philippians 4:6-7 to not be anxious for anything, and God will grant us supernatural peace.  And Matthew 7 tells us that God is like a great loving Father who will not be cruel or stingy to His children, but will be generous to us when we put our trust in Him.

Key Point #3:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Get Our Needs Met.

This point must not be taken out of context, such as quoting Jesus in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  We still must pray within His sovereign will.  And even more important, we must distinguish the difference between our true needs and our wants as I mentioned above.  So taken within context, Matthew 6 makes it clear that when we seek God and His righteousness (doing all God says is right to do) then God will provide us with our basic needs, such as our food and shelter and clothing.

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There is so much more than could and needs to be said about the purpose of prayer.  But I do hope that this has been helpful to all who read this article.  Let me just say in closing that as you look at the three points above, you will notice that we start with God, put ourselves under His authority and Lordship, and then end with humble requests concerning our real needs which ultimately come from Him.

Missionaries & Language Learning


How To Learn a Language in 6 Easy Lessons

Tomorrow should be an interesting day.  I’m thinking about the students that I have been working with for the past two months.  From the middle of August until the middle of October, I taught seven students a course called “Introduction to Linguistics”. These students are some of the new recruits we have in our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators.  They are preparing themselves to serve in support roles in different field branches or projects that PBT has around the world.

The introductory linguistic course covered quite a wide array of topics such as: grammar, phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. All of these topics are so important to the ministry of Bible translation that each one of them is a full course by itself when a person pursues advanced linguistics. But in this introduction class, we would just scratch the surface of each topic, just enough to expose these students to the main concepts. (I did feel bad at times for the students as they would just start to understand the topic, and then I would teach the next topic, and throw their minds back into the fog.

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What is significant here is that for most of these students, they would be involved in some support role on the mission field, not a primary linguistic role like in Bible Translation, Literacy Work or in Scripture Impact. This is not to say that what they will do is unimportant or second-class.  On the contrary, some of them will do Church Planting, Branch Administration, Missionary Care, etc. Some women may focus their energies on raising the family, doing home schooling and supporting their husbands who are the linguists.

The truth of the matter is that every missionary is just as important as any other missionary, because every person is a member of the team and vital to doing their part to see that the Scriptures are being translated, churches are planted and lives are being transformed.  Therefore, as a veteran missionary and a staff member of our international office in Dallas, it is my desire and my goal to help equip all of our new missionaries the best that I can so that they will succeed well when they eventually go to live in their field of assignment overseas.

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The first course is finished now and I am proud of all the students who worked hard and did well learning the principles of linguistics.  What they need to do now is to apply these principles to real language learning experiences, which will be the focus of the next course.  What is real fascinating, and encouraging to the students, is that by learning these basic principles, they should be ready to learn any language spoken in the world.  In fact, I did a demonstration for them on the last day to show them how true this is.

The demonstration I did is called a “Monolingual Approach” to language learning. Imagine for a moment that I found myself in a linguistic/cultural setting where I could not speak any of the peoples’ language, and they could not speak any of my language. Also, let us assume that the language of this other person is not written down, and so there are no grammar books or any other instructional books available to help me learn this language. How would I even begin to communicate with this person?

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This was the scenario I painted for the students at the beginning of my demonstration. I told them that I would only speak the village language that I learned while we lived in Papua New Guinea, and the person helping me with the demonstration would only speak Russian. Through the use of gestures, repetition, and physical objects, I would prompt my helper to speak and then I would write down whatever I heard her say on my flip chart.  In a matter of 45 minutes, I had many sheets of paper filled with all of the expressions that I had elicited from her.

The next task was to analyze what I had written down, and by comparing the various phrases and sentences that I had gathered, I was able to “understand” some basic concepts about Russian.  I had discovered that Russian is like English in their general word order. Namely, the subject of a sentence goes first, the verb comes in the middle, and objects of the verb go last.  I had found a number of different pronouns, a handful of concrete nouns, and a few verbs.  I also had elicited a large number of different sounds from all the words and could then begin making the initial orthography, or alphabet of the language.

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The students were fascinated and impressed by this demonstration.  But more importantly, they all saw how it really was possible to take the principles of linguistics which I had taught them to be able to learn a foreign language.  Thankfully, there are very few places in the world today where this kind of scenario will happen.  There will almost always be some speakers of the target language who will be bilingual in the official world language that the country uses, like English, French, Arabic, etc. Or at least they will know the regional trade language of the area.

Before closing off this article, I must answer the question that I’m sure someone must be thinking.  Why would we go to all this trouble of learning these minority languages of the world?  Actually, the purpose is clear: we want to be able to translate God’s Word into their language.  So the answer is also simple: all people understand and communicate best in their mother tongue, the language they first leaned while growing up. And so Bible translators, and good support staff, must be linguists first if they want to be successful missionaries.

Talk About Your Dreams For God

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Keep Your Dream Alive – Part 1

“Can you remember a time before you landed in the wilderness when your dream seemed to be on the verge of coming true? Were you excitedly making plans and working hard to prepare for a lifetime of happiness? Did you feel as if you had the world by the tail, that all the pieces were falling into place and nothing could stop you? Are you now feeling dazed and confused, wondering what in the world went wrong?”

This is one of the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11 of Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“. There have been many other chapters in this book that have contained great words of wisdom and advice, such as: travel along your hard road with good, trustworthy friends; expect detours but keep on walking; trust God, go at His pace and worship Him as you travel along. But this chapter seems to me to be written especially for me and my family. Let me explain.

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In a previous article, (“A Stricken Father“), I tell about the joy of finally becoming a Bible translator, and then experiencing the pain of watching my son suffer a major illness and being pulled out of our translation project in Papua New Guinea. Our story gets better as we were able to return to overseas mission work in 2006. We served with Pioneer Bible Translators for a year and a half in East Africa, but we didn’t quite capture the same level of joy and fulfillment that we had experienced in PNG. Before we left Africa in mid-2007, I had been in dialogue with a number of our PBT leaders in Canada, the United States, and also some of our overseas Branch Directors.

As a result of these discussions, a very exciting picture of opportunities and possibilities begin to emerge. My Canadian Board and I talked about me helping to recruit, organize and expand PBT Canada. The Dallas office wanted me to come periodically to train new missionaries, just like the East Africa Branch wanted me to train national men and women to do Bible translation.

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The door to PNG opened up again as they invited me to come over and be trained to become a translation consultant and check Scriptures before they were published. This would open up the possibility of coming annually or semi-annually to PNG and work with many different translation projects. There was even one more fascinating role that the new President of PBT-US had asked me to consider doing, to act as the facilitator to help open a new country for field operations in South Asia.

As the year 2008 began, it seemed to me that God had arranged all of the skills I had and the training and experiences that I had gone through, to put me in a place where I would be used by God as a Bible translator and linguist literally in countries and continents all over the world. Two months later though, in March 2008, the symptoms of my disease began to manifest themselves and in just six weeks I went from being a globe-trotting translator to not being able to walk across my living room floor. All my dreams and hopes of this promising future were shattered and almost died.

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Let me turn the focus off of me and turn it now on to my two sons. In these past few years, they too have had some of their own dreams and hopes, which up until recently were also seemingly being thwarted. My older son went to Bible college and was nurturing a dream of working with children and teenagers. He talked of possibly completing a degree and then working as a Youth Pastor. Unfortunately, he did not get a lot of encouragement from some people to pursue this dream,.

But even more significantly, the post-cancer fatigue that he is experiencing is limiting him right now from working at any full-time job. My younger son, as you may have read from previous articles, had held for a long time the hope and dream of entering into the Canadian Army. He believed that he was meant to have a military life and career.

It was offered to him in September 2009, but in a moment of doubt and not feeling ready at age 18 to be a soldier, he passed on the invitation. Upon more reflection for six months, he decided that the Army was for him, but positions were filled by then and for more than a year there wasn’t even any hope given to him that he would get another invitation.

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And so for three years, everyone in my immediate family (including my wife who has had her own dreams unrealized) has had to walk by faith and not by sight, trusting in God that He will one day bring our dreams to fruition. What helps us as Christians is that we believe these dreams of a more fulfilling future have been planted within us by God Himself who designed us to be this way.

Atteberry is right in his introduction of this chapter as he recounts the life story of Caleb in the Bible in that his dreams were only deferred, pushed into the future, not defeated. Remember how Caleb had been one of the 12 spies who surveyed the land of Palestine, the land which flowed with milk and honey. But because of the sin of the people, it would be 40 years until Caleb was able to claim the promise of this portion of land.  And so we will pick up this message in keeping your dreams alive in Part Two which will be published in two weeks from now.

The Passion For Prayer


“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 2

I hope that those who read this article would have already read the first article in this short series on Prayer. (If you have not, I encourage you to click and read “The Power of Prayer“.) Before we can even begin to talk about having a passion for prayer, we must first believe that God hears our prayers and answers these prayers. Putting it in another way, if we do not believe God exists, or if we do believe He exists but don’t believe prayer accomplishes anything, then we would have nothing to be passionate about.

In some ways, we have another chicken-egg dilemma, the question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. At least that is how some people seem to operate. The Bible supports the view that “believing is seeing” (see Hebrews 11:6 and also John 20:29). But many people live more on the principle of “seeing is believing”, and when they don’t see God answering a prayer the way they think He should, then they question the practice of prayer and even question God Himself.

So as I continue in this article, I stand on the conviction that God exists, He hears and answers prayer, and praying is not only the normal thing for a Christian to do, but it is quite an exciting activity to do. Now let us dive into this second study on prayer. Again, I am summarizing some of the key points that were shared in a Sunday school teaching session at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.

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OVERVIEW: “This lesson is about the need to develop a true passion for prayer. Prayer is our source, the course of success, the secret to life, our supply and our strength. But an effective, powerful prayer life comes only when it is our priority. Our priorities reveal our passion.” (Taken from the outline handed to us in the Sunday School classroom.)

One of the Key Text passages for our study was Acts 6:1-4. The church in Jerusalem was mightily blessed by God in those early months after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. They grew rapidly as many thousands came to believe in Christ to be their Savior and Lord. The only problem when any group experiences rapid growth, is whether or not the leadership of that group is organized well enough to manage all of the people. And in Acts 6, it is apparent that some people, the Hellenistic Jews (Jews who grew up outside of Palestine), were not getting their portion of daily food rations.

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When the complaint became known to the Apostles, the leaders of the early church, and proved to be a valid complaint, the leaders had to make some important decisions. Now pause here and ask yourself what you would have done in this situation. I know what I would have been tempted to do. I would have called in the various other leaders, plus the key representatives of the disenfranchised group and we would have probably reorganized the activities and responsibilities that each person had. Then over the coming weeks and months we would convene more meetings to see that everything was running smoothly.

Not so for the Apostles. They did recognize the importance and seriousness of taking good care of all the church members. But they quickly delegated this responsibility to other capable leaders. But for themselves, they stated quite clearly that their two most important tasks before God and on behalf of the people were to preach the Word of God and to pray. It was their strong conviction, their passion, that their true source of personal strength and power in ministry was directly dependent upon the continued practice and commitment to prayer.

What I find interesting and dismaying at the same time, is that many of us profess a personal faith in Christ and also believe in the principle that prayer is important, but few of us actually practice the spiritual discipline of prayer. And I include myself when I write this. We give our mental assent to this truth that prayer is powerful and important. And it’s not that we don’t pray at all, but are we really passionate about praying? As the Lesson Overview puts it, have we made prayer a real priority in our lives?

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In a recent article, “Giant Step For Bible Translation“, I shared the excitement we all felt within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, as we dedicated our first permanent home office building. This structure is symbolic of the rapid growth we have experienced in our personnel, going from 182 career missionaries in 2006 to 322 career missionaries right   2011. And the growth is not slowing down. In fact, the goal for the next six-year plan (2013 – 18) is to try to double our mission again to reach the point of having 800 career missionaries.

So what has made the difference? Hard work? Certainly! And an optimistic spirit and better skills in recruitment and retention of missionaries? That also has a part to play. But if you were to ask Greg Pruett, our current President of PBT, he would say, “Prayer is not just A strategy for seeing global mission work accomplished; Prayer is THE strategy.” And not only does Greg live out this principle in his life, he has also proven the truth of this principle in what God is currently doing in and through the ministries of Pioneer Bible Translators.

My question to you and I then is this:  Have we made prayer a priority in our lives?  And how do we know what are the priorities of our lives?  Basically, whatever we spend most of our time and energies upon, and especially whatever we think most about, those things are our priorities.  As for me, I’m not a super prayer person, but I do wake up each morning thanking Him for a new day, and then throughout the day, I often lift up a prayer concerning the events and people who come to mind.  How about you?  Do you have this kind of commitment to be a “People of Prayer”?  I hope you do.

My Wife: My Best Friend


He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

This is going to be a great week. I am going to go on a holiday with my best friend, my wife. Jill and I have been married now for 27 years. In all these years, I can only remember having 2 one-week holidays alone together with her. Many months ago, we gave in to a good telemarketer and bought one of those fancy resort hotel packages. That, plus using some air miles, will allow us to take this one-week holiday of fun.

This does not mean that Jill and I have not had many great adventures together. And I suppose the word ‘holiday’ can be defined in different ways by different people. In our years together, Jill and I have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Australia, East Africa, the main 48 continental states of the US, and every province of Canada except Newfoundland.

In almost all of these cases though, our travel experiences to and through these many countries have been necessary moves due to my schooling or our jobs or the missionary work that we have done either with Teen Missions or Pioneer Bible Translators. So we have definitely seen a lot of the world, but it has mostly been rushing to get from point A to point B.

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Although we have faced many challenges and difficulties over all these years, and the constant traveling seems to move us back to square one again financially, I have few regrets about all that we have done. The stories about how Jill and I met and then years later became married will have to wait until a future article, but there are a few interesting things that I would like to highlight here now.

As any normal guy, I had some experiences of dating other girls when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Some relationships I took quite seriously, and some were just for fun. But like the proverb quoted above, I felt that finding a good woman to be my wife and partner in ministry was something to be very careful and sure about. Being born in 1960, my famous saying regarding marriage was, “24 in ’84 and not before.”

And I almost made it. Jill and I did get married in 1984. But due to a number of factors, we got married on my grandmother’s birthday of May 11th, instead of waiting until November when my birthday was. Actually, I seem to recall that we talked mostly about being married in the summer. What I do remember clearly is that when I proposed to Jill, I told her that I would probably never be rich monetarily, but besides my love for her I could give her two things: my name and lots of adventure.

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And considering what little I could promise to Jill, it does say a lot about her by the very fact that she did say yes when I asked her to marry me. We had actually known each other for three years by that time. Jill had even lived at my parents’ home on and off over those three years, and because of the many late night conversations that we had, especially about missionary work, we had grown to become good friends before we dated and then became married.

And it has been like that for all these years. We have always been each other’s best friend, traveling together, talking together, and just doing things together. It seems like we have always been there for each other, and that is why being apart from each other these few months while I am in Dallas helping PBT is not as easy as we are making it look. It reminds me of a cute story about an elderly man whose wife had just passed away.

The elderly man was taking a road test to validate his driver’s license for another year. At the end of the test, the instructor reluctantly failed the man and said to him, “You did very well on most of the road test, but every time you had to turn left at an intersection you failed to look to the right to see if there was any traffic coming.” The elderly man replied to the instructor, “That’s because for over 60 years my wife would say to me, ‘All clear on the right dear.’ ”

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That is kind of how it is for Jill and me. We have now both been married for longer then we were ever single. It is just so comfortable and natural for us to want to talk to each other every day. And so I am very thankful for our modern technology like e-mail and Skype which allows us to be in touch with each other so much.

But there is a deeper level at which we connect. We pray for each other. And this is not just the basic mealtime prayer of “Dear God: please bless Jill and Eric and Glen and our friends and our church, and thank you for the food. Amen.” For me, and I’m sure for Jill too, we value our relationship with God and our relationship with each other much more than this superficial religious prayer.

No, when I pray, I really put some thought into what Jill is doing that day and that week (and I also do this for our boys).  I believe that God is a very loving and personal God, and so I talk to Him about all the things that are most important to me.  Like my family.  Like my wife.  I believe that God really does want the very best for those whom I love.  And so do I.  And why wouldn’t I.  Jill is not only my wife, she is also my very best friend.

Being A Missionary Recruiter

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Who Am I?  Part 21

The last article in my life journey story ended with the announcement of my son’s diagnosis of leukemia and our departure of our family from our mission work in Papua New Guinea. The first chemotherapy treatments for Eric occurred in Brisbane, Australia since it was necessary to start treatments as soon as it was possible. It was five weeks before the first window of opportunity presented itself for us to take Eric back to Canada and to continue with his treatments there.

Those early days in Brisbane and our trip to Canada deserve their own story, and I hope to tell that in some future article. I will relate one part of it though so you can get an idea of what our family was going through at that time. When we left PNG,  we barely had time (actually less than 24 hours) to pack a few suitcases. What happened next occurred both in Brisbane and then also in Calgary. Here is how it played out.

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Upon landing at the airport, we immediately took a taxi to the hospital. The four of us in our family, along with our eight suitcases, went up to the Admitting Desk and announced our arrival almost like you would do when you check in at a hotel. The hospital had already been alerted to are coming, and so the chart was already there for Eric. The nurse, or attending clerk, would go over the admitting papers and confirm all of our personal information. We did well on all of the lines until she got to one of them.

The question that stumped all of us was this one, “And what is your local address?” We heard the question. We looked around. We looked down at our luggage. Then we looked at the nurse again and said, “Here?” And that was the beginning of the next three years that we all now refer to as “The Cancer Years”. Not a very promising start, was it?

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Obviously, our primary focus in the years of 2002 – 2005 was to take care of Eric as he went through his 33 months of chemotherapy. Those were very difficult years for all of us, and for a lot of different reasons. But God was very good to us in many ways, and many people were very kind and helpful to us as we walked along this road. And certainly our faith in God and our love and commitment to each other in the family were also what helped us to survive those years.

But for me personally, I was faced with a huge issue that had no immediate answers for me when we first got back to Canada. I had to answer the question of, “So what do I do now?” I had prayed for, and prepared for many years to be a Bible translator. And in the previous five years to this moment, I had actually been involved in translating Scriptures into the N. language of Papua New Guinea. But now what was I going to do?

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The decision of what to do with me was partly taken out of my hands. The leadership at our international office conferred with the Board members of Pioneer Bible Translators of Canada and made a decision which they felt would be in our best interest. We were immediately “unassigned” as members of the PNG Branch and were reassigned to be staff members of our Canadian PBT organization.

What was positive though, was that this did give me something to do. I was asked to become the Director of Recruitment for PBT of Canada. (Isn’t it funny how we like to give ourselves titles?) And so in the midst of these difficult health years for Eric, suddenly I was given a sense of purpose again, and all of us need that in life, don’t we?

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For over two years then, God took me on trips all over Western Canada in order to publicize our mission and to try to recruit new members. At the same time I taught Greek and Missions courses for one year in a Bible College in Calgary, and then the next year I taught New Testament studies and Missions in a Bible College in Regina, Saskatchewan. (You never know where you’ll end up when you commit to serving the Lord, do you?)

This wasn’t exactly what I had planned to be doing as a missionary, traveling across Canada to do recruitment.  But if PBT of Canada was going to really stand up as an independent mission organization, then it would have to grow by getting new members.  It was in 1994 when God put the vision in my heart to see PBT-C be born, but by 2002, Jill and I were still the only missionaries in the mission.

There were some seeds planted in a few individuals and couples during my two years as Director of Recruitment.  Just like the parable of the four kinds of soil, I did see that many people showed little interest, some showed rapid interest but fell away later, and still in a few others there was receptive soil to the idea of becoming active with our mission group in Canada.

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Well, that is a quick overview of what happened for our family and how my ministry work for the Lord took a different turn. Many other things have happened to our little mission in Canada. Suffice it to say that our Canadian Board has become strong and quite active lately. And Jill and I are not the only missionaries now who are a part of PBT-C. Not in every case, but in some cases, I’m glad to know that I had a small part to play in that.

The Power of Prayer


“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 1

While I have been in Dallas for these past two months, I have been attending Crossroads Christian Church in the nearby city of Grand Prairie, Texas.  I have enjoyed the worship and the teaching at this church.  The membership is in the thousands, and so they offer three morning services as well as having a Wednesday night teaching service.

It can be difficult for me to attend church with the muscle disease that I have, but thankfully the building is relatively flat, including their main sanctuary.  In the sanctuary they have very comfortable theater style padded chairs that don’t hurt my legs.  The church also offers multiple Sunday School teaching classes during each service.  Again, I am thankful that their smaller Chapel room, which can seat over a hundred people, has nicely padded pews. So I have been able to attend a class in there too.

Right now, the church is proposing an amazing building expansion that will focus just on Children’s Ministries.  It is a huge step of faith to believe that they can accomplish this over the next year, but it has the potential to reach thousands of kids in the surrounding areas.  And so they just had a church-wide emphasis on prayer.  I would like to share the summaries of the lessons taught on prayer over the next four weeks in my Thursday postings.

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Lesson Overview:  “Jesus never questioned whether or not if believers should pray. In Matthew 5:6, he said, “When you pray…” Paul knew how essential prayer was. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul reminded believers to “pray without ceasing.” Still, most believers will tell you that they do not pray enough and many will confess their lives are almost completely without prayer.”

The key text that our leader focused in on during this first lesson was Acts 12:1-19. The background to the story in this chapter is that the church in Jerusalem was flourishing well in the months that followed after Christ’s death and resurrection. The Jewish political ruler at this time was another King Herod and he tried to keep the Jewish leaders happy as well as the powerful forces of Rome which occupied and governed Palestine.

In order to do this, King Herod started to persecute the early church and even had one of its leaders killed, James the brother of John. This pleased the Jewish leaders, and so King Herod went on and had Peter arrested and put in jail. This galvanized the Christian believers into action as we can see from verse 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Let’s now consider the main points that we can learn from this story in Acts 12.

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1.  “They were praying for the impossible.”

Looking at Peter’s situation from a human perspective, there was really no hope of Peter being released. Remember that Jesus had been arrested, put on trial, and killed in less than one day. The text also implies that James was immediately put to death. And to make sure that no one was able to come and rescue Peter, Herod put four squads of four highly trained Roman soldiers to guard him at the jail. And yet, the church’s immediate response to the situation was to gather the believers and pray.

2.  “They were praying specifically.”

It is possible that the Christians prayed about other things, but the text is very clear that they were earnestly praying to God concerning Peter. Looking at the Greek verb here, we also learn that this was not just a single prayer offered up, but they were continually, constantly praying to God. This sounds similar to the “Persistent Widow” in the parable found in Luke 18:1-8. That passage teaches us about the importance of persisting in prayer and then seeing the request being granted. The question for us to consider is whether we practice this kind of praying.

3.  “They were praying corporately.”

Verse 12 of our key passage tells us that “many people had gathered and were praying.” I believe there is an important lesson to be learned here. Think about what we do today. When we hear about a critical situation that needs prayer, what do we often do? Nowadays, we will usually get the news through an e-mail or perhaps by a telephone call, which does make it harder, but is our first thought to gather with other Christians and to pray together about this matter? Sadly, it is not.

4.  “They were surprised at the answer.”

I think this is the most amazing aspect about this story. The church responded quickly, decisively and specifically in prayer when the crisis happened. God answered their prayers and Peter was standing at the door outside, but the people did not believe this report of the servant girl that Peter was alive and standing at the door. For me, this actually makes the story more believable because it shows how human the early Christians were.

This raises the biggest question of all for us as believers. When we pray, do we not expect God to answer our prayers? Are we perhaps more similar to Thomas then we care to admit? Remember how Thomas heard the reports that Jesus was alive but it wasn’t until he saw Jesus with his own eyes that he believed.

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Recall what Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” and also 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” And finally, grab hold of and believe what Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Dear reader, it is my hope that you will not only pray regularly to God yourself, but that you will seek out other believers to pray together with and truly experience the power of prayer.

Shipwrecked Faith

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Shipwrecked Faith

Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. Isaiah 63:17 

“Wander from your ways” is powerfully descriptive as we consider how easy it is to move away from a right relationship to God. It doesn’t take effort to drift. You just quit trying. You lose focus. Staying close to God requires effort. We’re not talking about earning our salvation…that is not dependent upon our effort, but upon God’s grace. Maintaining and nurturing the relationship will mean giving ourselves to prayer, the Word, fellowship, and worship.

How many have shipwrecked their faith, not by deliberate rebellion, but by drifting away through inattention? Wandering aimlessly through life, we miss the Lord’s presence and His power to transform. Might that even be a picture of the 21st century church today as we wander away from the firm commitment to daily seek His face?

Oh God, forgive my tendency to wander away from You. I get so caught up in daily activities, that I find myself off doing my own thing and not paying attention to You. Like the hymnist I find myself saying, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

–By David Butts, author of The Devil Goes to Church (Combating the Everyday Attacks of Satan)

Posted 3 Oct 2011

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This recent devotional thought from “Connections” has come at a very timely moment.  Yesterday, my younger boy, Glen, began the first day of his Army Boot Camp training.  Over the next four months, Glen will be subjected to all the brutal rigors, intense discipline and strict authoritarianism that goes with entering into the life of being a soldier.  He will need to be strong and also well-disciplined to keep his spiritual life maintained and healthy.

So am I concerned or worried about Glen?  Naturally!  That is, as a father, I will of course be concerned about his physical well-being and safety as he trains to be a soldier.  But I have committed my son into the hands of the Almighty God.  And I will be sure to pray for him every day, even as I also pray for my older son Eric, and his young bride Esther, every day.  As a Christian man, praying for my wife and all my children each day is as normal and natural as breathing air is, and is just as important.

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What is of greater concern to me is Glen’s emotional / psychological and spiritual health as he starts to enter into this world of the military.  In a number of conversations in the past with Glen, it became clear to me that God had placed this desire within him to walk this path.  I’m sure there will be some trying moments for him in the coming months and years ahead of him, but I do believe that Glen has a solid faith in God and a strong will to hold his ground if and when he is challenged.

But it is not so much the blatant and obvious challenges to his faith that I worry about for Glen.  No, it is more the quiet, subtle, slow drifting away from one’s “first love” for Jesus (as Revelation 2:4-5 puts it) that concerns me and has the possibility of causing a shipwreck to his faith.  But not just to Glen, to any of us who do not choose to place a high priority on our commitment to maintain a regular and healthy relationship with God.

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Let me restate one sentence from the devotional above that I think is the most important one:

“Maintaining and nurturing the relationship [with God] will mean giving ourselves to prayer, the Word, fellowship [with other Christians] and worship.”

This points to the importance of having an inner motivation to be proactive and disciplined about maintaining our relationship with God.  It will not be easy for Glen in some ways, since the Army will in many ways control every aspect of his life at first.  but he will get weekends off at some point, and he will have some personal time he can use to focus on his prayer life and devotional readings once he finishes Boot Camp.

I can say all this, because I once was where Glen is now.  The differences now are that I was a Reservist in the Canadian Navy for a year, while he will be in the Regular Army for the next four years.  But we have an agreement that I can phone him up or email him at any time and ask him if his faith is still “strong” and still “secure”.  (You can read my words to Glen in the article “Strong and Secure For God.”)

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This brings me to a natural concluding point and question here.  It is great when a person publicly declares that he is a Christian.  But is that person’s faith truly grounded well in God and in His Words, so that no external force would have the strength to knock them down in their faith? Or are they hiding in the crowds of people who appear to make them strong but are empty and brittle like the bamboo stalks can get to be.

And now it comes down to you, the reader of this article.  How would you say that your faith is doing?  Is your faith strong;  is it really secure?  Please, please do not drift slowly away from God, and risk the danger that you may experience having your Faith shipwrecked.  Amen!

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Worshiping God Produces Good

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Worship On The Way – Part 2

Two weeks ago, we began looking at the importance of joining together with fellow believers and worshiping God corporately. Many people will agree that when we worship God together with others that we can connect with God and therefore build our relationship with Him to be even deeper and stronger. And when we stay in connection with God, it is not unusual to find that God has put a bubble of protection around us to help us get through the coming week and all that it has in store for us.

These are the first two reasons that Atteberry gives for us to maintain our corporate worship of God in his book “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel.” In this article,  we will consider two more reasons for going to a local church and worshiping God. We will come to see that worshiping God produces good not only within us but also has a positive effect on those who may be watching us.

1.  Worship Improves Your Outlook

Somehow, this reason for worshiping God with other believers in the local church should be rather obvious, and yet for many this is not the case. When we feel sick or tired or depressed or just frustrated with life, you would think that going to church would be a “pick-me-up” and so a positive thing to do. But instead of going to fellowship with other believers and coming out feeling better about life, I have talked with many who have believed that going to church would not help them, and so they stay home and often their mood or situation gets worse.

I do recognize that there are some places and some times that this will be the experience one might have, but it is my experience that this is the exception, not the rule. Personally, I think we need to check what attitude we have before we enter a church, and also try to determine what it is that we expect to find when we go to worship. Consider Atteberry’s words here:

I will tell you right now that if you go with the right spirit to the right church, and open your heart to God, you will come away with a brighter outlook on life. I don’t care how bleak and dismal your world looks when you walk in, worship just has a way of infusing our hearts with hope.  (pg. 136)

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Certainly in this ideal picture that he paints, we are bound to come away feeling more positive than when we first entered into worship. And immediately I can hear some people telling me, “But you don’t know our church!” And they’re right, I don’t know what negative things may be happening in their church. Perhaps it may be time for them to consider being in a better fellowship in order for them to experience God were positively.

But notice that I underlined three things within that quotation. Often, people will equate the “right” church with the “perfect” church. And as long as there are people involved with church (which is obviously the case) we will never be able to find the perfect church here on earth. As the saying goes, “A church is not a sanctuary for Saints, but a hospital for Sinners.”

More importantly, the other two important aspects in this quote have to do with you and me personally and are within our control. What is our attitude when we go to church? Is our heart truly open to receive a word from the Lord? In other words, if we go to church openly and honestly seeking God, we will find Him and be renewed and refreshed. Even in poor church situations we can still have these encounters with God, and that alone is a good reason to continue going to local churches to worship God.

2.  Worship Enhances Your Witness

Here is one last thing to consider as we talk about reasons to go to church on a regular basis. Think of all of the activities and behaviors that you display throughout a week and ask yourself this question, “What things do I do that people can see and will clearly know from it that I am a Christian?” Being nice to others is good, showing consideration and love is very good, but you do not need to be a Christian to show these kinds of attitudes and behaviors.

On the other hand, going each Sunday to a local church is a clear signal that you identify with that church, and it is assumed that you would in fact be a Christian. Now we do know that just going to a church does not make a person a Christian; believing in Jesus and accepting him as Lord and Savior of your life is what makes you a  Christian. Still, going to church regularly is a form of witness to your faith.

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This is how our family felt while we lived in our village in Papua New Guinea. There was a local church there, but it was based mostly upon ritual and form that had been imported by foreign missionaries decades earlier. There was not very much life in the church, and very little understanding of faith and the Gospel. But to not attend that church would send the wrong signal, and would likely have a negative impact later upon our credibility as “Christians”.

So even though we felt that was the “wrong” church for us, we still went with open hearts and a desire to seek God and worship Him. And you know what? We often still had a personal encounter with God, and the people appreciated us coming and identifying with them. This allowed us to build our relationships with the people and to impact them later in our ministry to them.

So there are some very good reasons for all of us to continue attending our local church, to worship God and fellowship with others. It pleases God, it can lift us up, and it can have a positive effect on others. Any one or all of those are good reasons for us to worship God corporately.

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