The Practice Of Forgiveness

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There is no doubt that we all understand that it is important to forgive others.  We may not always feel like we want to forgive others who have wronged us or offended us.  But then we have to accept the forthright bluntness of the word’s of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 verses 14-15, right after He taught His disciples how to pray to God the Father.  Jesus says:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We have plenty of material and many sermons that tell us the importance of forgiving others.  But what I think is more helpful for most of us today is seeing in person or at least hearing about real situations that exemplify and flesh out what forgiveness looks like.  That is why the following message written by a close missionary friend of mine caught my attention.  I hope that it encourages and challenges you like it did for me.

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When You Hurt Someone

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”   Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

“An email I wrote last month hurt someone I love. I was in a hurry and I carelessly communicated the exact opposite of what I meant to say. For weeks my friend carried the burden of thinking I was angry at her when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another friend finally wrote and bravely, lovingly confronted me with my seemingly rude, uncaring words. I was shocked and could not imagine how I could have been so terribly misunderstood.

Until I found and read that email from her perspective. Ouch. Ever done something like that? To quote an Accenture billboard, “It’s what you do next that counts.” I firmly believe that mistakes like mine can actually strengthen relationships if what you do next is to ask for forgiveness – as fast as you can.

Don’t make excuses or try to avoid humiliation. The Bible says, leave church and go! The truth is we only avoid hurting others if we keep our relationships shallow. Misunderstandings, purposeful angry words and other hurtful things will happen and they will change the relationship, for better or worse.

In the last month I listened to a preacher confess during a sermon that he let his long work hours hurt his marriage, and I heard an elder in a different church confess that he spoke hurtful words when his preacher came to him with a problem. Both of these godly men quickly made things right with the person they hurt, and when they realized that their sin involved more than just one person they publicly confessed it – in tears.

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 What an impact that must have had on the two congregations to have that pastor and that elder make their public confession and to ask for forgiveness in such an open way.  Wow!!  I’m sure that it was not easy for them.  But the personal peace they must have felt after taking care of this issue of the heart, plus the relationships that are repaired are worth the risk.  This reminds me of what happened in our village in PNG in 2001.

For six months I had been holding a “Bible School” program with people under our house.  (In PNG, most houses are built up on posts due to the flooding of the river, the chickens and dogs that run underneath, for good shade, etc.)  Our area back then was almost completely a Catholic oriented region.  At the end of the six months of Bible teaching, I challenged the people to consider making a public declaration of faith in Jesus and mark it with adult baptism in the stream behind our house, if they felt God was asking them to do that.

We did have three baptisms that were witnessed by most people in the village.  I thought this was a tremendous event for the sake of the Kingdom.  But about a week later I was “chastised” by some leaders of the village Catholic church and told not to preach or teach the people any more.  I knew that theology was a big part of the reason for this, but I also realized even more importantly that in this Papuan consensus-and-discussion culture, I had offended the leaders simply by not asking them to be involved with the overall decision making process that occurred.  I believe that if I had, they very likely in the end would have been happy to see these individuals making a stand for the Gospel.

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Very quickly I went about to restore these wounded and broken relationships by doing the culturally correct Papuan action.  Namely, Jill and I cooked a huge rice and tinned meat meal and invited the leaders to a meeting where I could apologize to them.  Not for the baptisms, but rather that I had not respected their village leadership.

At the end of the meal, the other correct thing to be done to show full forgiveness and acceptance of one anther was to shake hands with each other.  This then marked the end of the “wrong”.  And you know what?  The regional Catholic Bishop just happened to be there that night, and he shook my hands and said, “I am so glad you are in this village and teaching the people about God.”  Wow!  So restoring our relationships restored me to a place where the Catholic leaders even approved of the teaching and evangelism I was doing.

I am grateful for this reminder from my friend about practising forgiveness.  May we all follow this example and see relationships restored, lives impacted, and God glorified through it all.

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Jesus Suffered So That We Might Live – Pt 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 9

In John 10:10, Jesus tells his disciples (and by extension He tells all of us too) that He came into this world in order that people might truly live and have an abundant life.  Most Christians understand that this refers to the renewed spiritual life we can have with God once we accept Jesus as our Lord and have our sins forgiven.  But that is not all that Jesus is talking about.

Sadly, there are still many believers in Christ who have accepted Jesus into their lives, but also believe that there still must be something that they must “do” to really experience complete forgiveness of their sins.  This wrong thinking not only robs the cross of Christ of its full meaning and impact, but it also robs the person of experiencing the fuller life which they can live in the freedom that has been purchased for them on the cross.

    

 Max Lucado points out very well in chapter five of his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” that we tend to hang on to our faults and mistakes and that this is like putting on old clothes that declare “We are sinners!”  And since we are the ones who keep putting these old clothes back on, we think that it is also up to us to “do good” to be able to remove these old sins and faults.

Listen to how Lucado sums this up on page 83:

Welcome to the vest system.  Hard to hide it.  Harder still to discard it.  But we work at doing so.  Emphasis on the word “work”.  Overcome bad deeds with good ones.  Offset bad choices with godly ones, stupid moves with righteous ones.  But the vest removal process is flawed.  No one knows what work to do or how long to do it.

When we really understand the message of the Bible as it speaks about how we are all flawed and sinful people (see Romans 3:23), we also come to realize that there is nothing that we can do to fix this and become righteous people in God’s sight.  That is the bad news.  But the good news is that we don’t have to “do” anything, besides accept Christ and His death to be our substitution for the penalty for sin (see Romans 6:23).

    

Hooray!  Wonderful!!  We can’t take off our dirty rags of sin, but Jesus can!!!  That’s great news.  And it gets even better.  Lucado says on page 87:

You can remove your vest.  Toss the thing in a trash barrel, and set it on fire.  You need never wear it again.  Does better news exist?  Actually, yes.  There is more.  We not only remove our vest; we put on His!  He is “our righteousness”  (1 Corinthians 1:30).

How incredible and amazing is God’s love!  When we were sinners, God still loved us (see Romans 5:8), but as a holy God, He could not bear to look at us in our state of sinfulness.  If that were the end of the story, then God would have to leave us abandoned and forsaken, something that happens all too often in families today.

But as Jesus was dying on the cross, not for any crime or sin that He had committed, He took our sins upon himself (read Isaiah 53:12) and exchanged his robes of righteousness with us so that we could be considered holy by God.  In that brief but climactic moment before Jesus died, as He carried all of our sins to the grave, He exclaimed “God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Jesus allowed himself to be forsaken at that moment in order that we might no longer be forsaken by God.

    

At that moment, we passed out from under the curse of sin and death and entered into the light and life of God.  As I said near the beginning of this article, this life definitely refers to the gift of eternal spiritual life with God as people freed from captivity to sin.  But Scripture also promises us so much more richness of life while we are still living on this earth.

Perhaps the word that can sum it up best is the word “freedom”.  By placing our lives under the authority of Christ, He releases us so that we are free from sin, free from the power of Satan, and even free from self as we are so apt to keep ourselves bound to our old habits and behaviours that trip us up and end up creating more misery in our lives.

    

Once we embrace all of this, then we can truly live.  We will live to love our neighbour, to love our God, and even properly learn how to love and forgive ourselves.  It is at this point that we will then begin to really experience great family lives, great marriages, and great friendships with others.  At this point, we will be content and even prosper in our businesses and careers in life, because God’s blessings will be upon us.

And then when the end of our lives do come, we will graduate from a great life here to a fabulous life there.  As Lucado says, our names will be “written in the Book of the Lamb.  Not in pencil marks that can be erased, but with blood that will not be removed.  No need to keep God happy; He is satisfied.  No need to pay the price; Jesus paid it ALL!

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Faith to Believe The Impossible

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John 4:46 – 54

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.

 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

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Over the past month, we have been looking at the encounter that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman living in Sychar in the Province of Samaria.  Actually, we should say it the other way around, the Samaritan woman had an encounter with Jesus when she went to get water at the well.  And what an amazing, incredible encounter it was.  This woman went from social outcast to the town evangelist and from a woman of shame to a woman of faith.

As we conclude our thoughts on this event, I think that Jesus must have been very refreshed from this encounter with the woman and the people of that town.  He and his disciples had come there tired, hungry and thirsty.  But after ministering there for those few days and seeing so many people come to a faith in Him, I really believe that Jesus probably left there with a lighter feeling and an encouraged heart himself.

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But then Jesus moved on, and so must we in our study of the Gospel of John.  Jesus returned back to the town of Cana in the northern province of Galilee.  Recall in chapter 2 how Jesus had demonstrated his divine power by turning water into wine at a wedding.  That was a miracle.  Or as John writes, it was “the first of his signs”.

Before we go on, let’s make sure that we are clear about something very important.  When Jesus turned the water into wine, this was not some “parlour trick”, it was not “magic”, nor was it meant it any way to be a performance whereby people would recognize Jesus as the “Miracle Man”.  No, there was a very important reason for when, why and how Jesus did miracles.

As amazing and wonderful as miracles are, like the blind being able to see and the lame being able to walk again, miracles were never meant to be the focus of attention.  Rather, miracles were to point to the One who was able to do the miraculous.  That is why John calls them “signs”.  The miracles were to point people to Jesus, and to open their eyes and their hearts to believe in the Doer of the miracles.

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Knowing this will help us to see why Jesus seems so frustrated and irritated when this official greets him at Cana and asks for Jesus’ help to heal his very sick child.  As a parent myself who has seen a son suffer from leukemia, I can really identify with the father’s one great request, “Lord, please heal my son!”  But it is not our pleading and begging that will get the attention of Jesus and the answer we want.  It is faith in Him as the Great Physician.

Notice what happens next.  The official is desperate to have Jesus come to his house to take a look at his son.  Perhaps he thought that if Jesus could just see how much suffering the child was going through, then maybe He might heal the boy out of compassion.  But what does Jesus do?  He tells the father to go, and that the boy will live.

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Now here comes the critical moment in this story.  The father could have kept begging Jesus to come, maybe even taking his arm and trying to pull him along with him.  But no, this is the true moment of decision.  Does the man have enough faith to take Jesus at his word?  Can he actually believe the impossible, that simply by speaking a word, Jesus has the ability to heal his son?

And you know the rest of the story.  The man does have faith.  He goes home to find his son well.  And it is made quite clear that the healing happened at exactly the time that Jesus spoke.  Or should I say, it happened at exactly the time that the man demonstrated his faith by accepting Jesus’ word that the boy would live.

What we have here is a story that teaches us what true faith is all about.  Hebrews 11:1 says it so well, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Without any real tangible evidence in front of him, this man believed the impossible, and believed in the One to whom he was speaking.  And this miracle, this “sign” led not only this man, but his whole household into a faith relationship with Jesus.  Now that is a miracle.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Bible Translation In The Digital Age

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Making Advances in Bible Translation Through Technology

Pioneer Bible Translators, with whom we work, just sent out their May “E-News”, an electronic newsletter to keep people updated on what PBT is doing around the world.  The first article, reprinted below, immediately grabbed my attention as I too have seen over the past two decades just how much our work is being affected positively by the electronic technological revolutions of our day.

Thankfully I was not doing Bible translation in the time period where the translators had to do everything by hand or slow and sloppy typewriter copies.  When our family went to the small village in Papua New Guinea in 1997, we brought along our massively heavy IBM desktop computer and full-size desktop monitor.  What a beast of a machine.  And if we didn’t have good solar power days, then we still had to rely on doing some work by hand.

As you read the opening paragraph, you will see it mention the use of a box filled with cards.  In the earliest days of Bible translation work, they literally used 3” x 5” recipe or blank cards, and would file them by categories and by alphabet in their shoeboxes.  When one of the breakthrough computer assisted translation tools was created, they decided to lovingly call the translation software, “Shoebox”.

                                

A small brown box sat on a shelf in our village home. Filled with note cards, that box represented years of study and work; it was a handwritten dictionary. It came to us from a missionary who had spent decades ministering in that area, learning the language by keeping a record of each word on a card. With pencils and manual typewriters, a missionary labored to bring the New Testament into a language for the first time. It was a daunting task, but that didn’t stop him.

In the past 30 years God has brought about a transformation greater than anyone could have imagined. Drawn by a vision to see God’s Word changing lives in every language, missionary teams from numerous Bible agencies have devoted their lives to translation all over the world. Of course, it wasn’t simply Westerners drawn into the task. As Christian communities around the globe grew, they themselves recognized the need for a Bible in a language they understood well.

    

While the numbers of translators and translation projects grew, their tools also expanded and became more and more powerful. Instead of relying solely on handwritten work, translators gained access to computers. Suddenly, drafting texts, making copies, checking spelling, and revising all became more doable tasks.

By 1996 the New Testament was available in the languages of 84 percent of the world’s population.[i] Now it is estimated that only 700-900 million people remain in the world without the whole New Testament in their language, of which 350 million have no Scripture at all.[ii] 

New technologies have not simply opened the door to faster progress in the translation task; they have also created new possibilities for communication. Today digital Scripture distribution is a reality. Downloadable over the Internet, print-on-demand, live streaming audio, and text via cell phones—these abilities will only grow in the coming decades, giving people unprecedented access to the Bible in whatever their situation.

Over the coming decades, if the people of God will mobilize more Bible translators, innovate ever greater technologies for the task, and give more resources toward Bible translation, we have the chance to make the greatest contribution toward obeying the great commission in history. Lately, missionary recruits have been flocking to Pioneer Bible Translators, and we are praying that God will continue to add to our team so that we can double our number of teammates again by 2018.

Our goal is to fill the gaps in the Bible translation movement so that we and our partners will see churches with Scripture transforming every language group by 2050. Your support of Pioneer Bible Translators moves us closer to this reality and we thank you!

                                

I too want to thank so many people and churches who have stood with me and my family over many years as we have worked hard to help get God’s Word into the hands of the people of Papua New Guinea.  We know that there are literally hundreds of people who pray for us and for our translation work on a regular basis.  We also know that we would not be able to do as well as we are doing in this ministry work without this prayer coverage.

I would also like to thank the many people who have helped us financially to do this work.  PBT is what is known as a “Faith” mission.  By that we mean that every missionary (including us) do not receive a guaranteed salary from our mission, but rather, we live by faith trusting that God will prompt churches and individuals to help support our work financially.  Presently, we are receiving only 75% of our projected budget, but we are still moving forward by faith that God will supply the need at the time we need it.

Perhaps God may be calling some of my “Listening Post” readers to join us as financial partners as well as supportive readers of this devotional blog.  If God has spoken to your heart about helping support our work as I have written so much about in these blog articles, please send me an email to norm.weatherhead@gmail.com  and I can let you know how you could become a partner with us in this important ministry.  May God bless you all as you read these words.

                                

[i]Wycliffe Bible Translators 1996. Bible Translation Needs Bulletin. Dallas, TX: Wycliffe Bible Translators.

[ii]Forum of Bible Agencies. Forum of Bible Agencies International, 2011. Available from http://www.forum-intl.net

Our 2012 Work With Pioneer Bible Translators

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What  We  Did  During This Past Winter

As Jill and I reflect over the past few months of activity, it is hard to believe that we travelled over 22,000 miles from Calgary, Alberta to Madang, Papua New Guinea and back.  That is almost the same as travelling once all the way around the world.  We have been doing this once or twice a year now over the past four years, and as far as we can tell, we believe that God is calling us to do this on a regular basis for many more years to come.

This past trip has been the longest one for us since our assignment in East Africa in 2006-2007.  Norm went over first to PNG in mid-January and came back home at the end of April, 3 ½ months in all, and Jill was able to join him for six weeks in the middle.  Part of the reason for Norm being over there so long was to help him get out of the cold Canadian winter weather which causes him to be in so much pain in all of his muscles.

While there, Norm was able to complete the consultant check of the second half of John in one language.  Then he did the Advisor Checking of John in the Akukem language which took two months.  The third project was to do the consultant check on Daniel for the Aruamu who are now working on the Old Testament.  Jill was able to help with some curriculum revision work and also assist with some administrative tasks in the office.

A  Closer  Look  At  The  Work  Of Bible Translation

So what does a Translation Consultant or Advisor do when checking a translation of a book of the Bible?  It is hard to summarize in just a few words, but basically we go through a translation verse-by-verse, checking to see if the text accurately reflects the message of the New Testament Greek, or Old Testament Hebrew.  We also make sure that the translation sounds natural in the language of the people and communicates well.

Sometimes we wrestle with special terms such as “The Passover”.  We usually use a descriptive phrase.  So is it “the Big-Day-to-remember-when-God-passed-over-the-people-and-now-they-remain-good” or is it “the Big-Day-when-God-freed-His-people-and-they-are-good”?  But now some groups know the OT background of the Exodus story and they are starting to use the pidginized English word “Pasova”.  Choices can be difficult.

Of course there are some funny bloopers that can happen in translation work.  Like when the one group tried to use “the big head men” as a term for “Jewish authorities.  But one man said that sounded like “big pumpkin-headed people”.  So we decided to call them the “the head men” which means the “chief leaders”.

It may take weeks or even months to check every verse, but the goal is to present the “clear Word of God”.

 All  The  Blessings  And  People We  Are  Thankful  For

It is very clear to us that God had His hand upon us and the work we were doing over in PNG.  Many people had asked us before the trip if we thought Norm would do well for so long on this trip.  Other than dealing with the usual fatigue and pain that he has, Norm did not get sick throughout the entire time, and only missed two half days of work in the three month period.

We are so grateful for the hospitality of Carl & Pat Whitehead who let Norm stay with them and moved his recliner chair into their living room so that he could do the checking work for them and their language team.  In two weeks time, their book of John was checked and is now ready for publishing.

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On Valentine’s Day, Norm flew down from the highlands to Madang where our PBT office is, and then greeted Jill who had just come into the country to be with him and to help in the PBT office. What a blessing it was to be together for those next six weeks.

And we are so very thankful for all the people who kept us in their prayers and who faithfully gave donations to make it possible for us to go to PNG and do this ministry work.  Without such faithful support for us and this work, it would be so much more difficult to do all this.  Together, we are all one great big team of God’s people who are working to get the translated Word of God into the hands of the local people of Papua New Guinea.

Where  Do  We  Go  From  Here

We now know that God has indeed opened up the door for Norm to continue serving as a translation consultant and we just got the news that Jill has been granted her Working Permit for PNG.  She should be granted her long-term Entry Visa in the next few weeks.

We’re not quite sure what this will mean for Jill, but it does open up the door to do more than volunteer help when Jill comes over with Norm on these trips.  We do ask that you pray with us for wisdom for this.

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During the next 4-5 months we will both be in Calgary as Jill continues her work as a nurse at the hospital here and Norm will work at home on a variety of translation projects.  Thank goodness for the Internet, right?

In the Fall, we will probably look at Norm spending about six weeks at least in Dallas where our Int’l headquarters are for PBT.  He cannot function well physically in colder weather, so we are thankful that he has the option to work at projects while in Dallas.

For us to be able to keep going ahead with all that we see God laying before us, we will need more people to consider becoming financial partners with us in this ministry work.  We have done well so far in the first half of 2012, but in part that has been because of some special donation gifts.  Realistically, we are operating right now at about 75% of our ideal budget.  We ask all who read this newsletter to consider responding to the address below to become partners with us in this work.

* You can write to us at norm.weatherhead@gmail.com if you would like to know how to become a financial partner with us in this ministry work of bringing God’s Word to the people of Papua New Guinea.

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