Church Leaders United Together in Papua New Guinea

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The 2013 Madang, PNG “Power In The Word” Conference of Church Leaders

“We (the churches) need to work together. The days of having our own independent ministries and not joining together in ministry are over.” — Madang Pastor

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One hundred twenty-six church pastors and leaders from seventeen church denominations came from all over Madang province to attend the “Power in the Word” conference hosted by the Crossroad Baptist Church. The conference was organised by the Madang Pastors Fraternal with help from PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA), Pioneer Bible Translators and SIL-PNG.

The conference began with a focus on repentance and a time of prayer for the churches, communities and the nation. The next three days were filled with sessions that encouraged and strengthened the leaders. These sessions helped the leaders to see new ways of using the Scriptures in their churches. Topics such as “Power of the Word”, “Using the Vernacular Scriptures”, “Oral Bible Storytelling” and “Preaching and Praying in Tokples” proved invaluable to the pastors.

Other sessions focused on overcoming trials facing the churches. Presentations on “Hindrances to Using the Word”, “Melanesian Spiritism”, “Disunity” and “Western Humanism and Secularism” challenged the leaders to face the issues in their churches with the power of the Word. There were also practical sessions led by representatives from Christian Book Melanesia, Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship, SIL-PNG, Faith Comes by Hearing and Youth with a Mission.

    

Participants were highly interested in the presentation about Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT), a program that equips national pastors and leaders in PNG to effectively use translated Scriptures in church ministries. Church leaders in Madang town want to take the training so that they can share it in the rural areas surrounding Madang.

The conference generated a feeling of unity among the pastors and leaders as they saw the need to work together. The “Word” was seen as the common denominator for all churches and denominations—and the translated Word was seen as the best way to express God’s truth to the hearts of those in their congregations.

“There was a great respect for the vernacular and it was often stated that the power of God’s Word is most accurately expr aessed in the vernacular.” — Jim Tomlinson

                                

This church conference of pastors and leaders all coming together to praise the Lord and profess their need for more unity and cooperation among national Papuan churches is most exciting to us.  This is an answer to our prayers of many years, to see the national churches come alive and not just see the magnitude of the task of evangelizing their own people group and others, but also to really start taking on this task, and doing it arm-in-arm with leaders of other denominations.

Even more incredible is that fact that many of them are now clearly seeing that evangelization of their people will be much more fruitful if they use translated Scriptures in their own language.  Putting it another way, Bible translation is now being seen as essential for pastors and leaders to more effectively do evangelism among their own people.  And the spirit of unity which swept through the group was certainly an awesome thing to experience.  Almost makes you think of what it was like in those early days when the Holy Spirit broke forth during the Day of Penetost and the church exploded in very incredible ways.

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As I now begin my long journey from North America back to Papua New Guinea, I am excited to think of the groundwork with has already been laid down by all these faithful Papuan pastors and leaders.  It is very obvious that God is moving among them, no matter what their denominational flavor they may be, to bring them all to their knees in repentant spirits and to hold one another’s hand in the sign of Christian unity over there.

This will definitely be a real boost to the work which I do in PNG.  I have a burning passion to train nationals to learn the “Principles of Bible Translation“, guide them in other skills and knowledge they will need, and then send them back out to their villages to do Bible translation among their own people.  There are so many stories that tell how the task of Bible translation so very often ends up with the result that the translated Word of God grabs hold of their own hearts and we see the lives of the translators become transformed for Christ right before our eyes.

So as I said above, I am very eager to get back to PNG and to see what great and awesome things God has done during these four months that I have been away.  And I am excited about the fact that a real passion for Bible translation has now begun among these churches.  Christ himself said that the gates of hell could not prevail against the church.  Now think how powerful and effective the changing of lives will be when we see more and more church support being put into the Bible translation movement that is representative of what our mission does, Pioneer Bible Translators.

Jesus Gives Us Supernatural Peace

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John 14:22-31

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.

                                

One of the greatest desires that almost all people in the world share is the desire to see us have peace in the world.  One of the funny lines in “Miss Congeniality” is how shocked people are at the tough things that Sandra Bulluck would want to see happen if she were chosen the beauty queen of the pageant.  No one applauds, until she adds on to the end, “Oh, and world peace.”  But no matter how hard we try to work things out between two parties, whether they be two individuals or two nations, peace seems so often to be so very elusive.  We never quite seem to be able to reach this goal.

One of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols is “Silent Night“.  In this carol, we get a sense of the holiness of the baby Jesus, and we who are mortal stand in silent awe worshiping the new King of Kings.  The song ends with us wishing Jesus to “sleep in heavenly peace.”  It is said that during World War 1 when it came to be Christmas Eve, men from both sides of the war stopped shooting and started singing “Silent Night“.  The cold weary soldiers from both sides could hear the other side singing the song, one side in English, and the other side in German.  For just an instant out of that terrible four year war, there were voices from opposite camps being raised to wish for heavenly peace.

    

After this “War to end all Wars“, it wasn’t long until the globe plunged into the dark times of World War 2.  Only a few years later there was the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, and even that bizarre 6-Day War between Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.  Highly precise technological weapons took us to a new level of killing strategically in the Gulf War, which was closely followed by the Iraq War.  Today we are deeply concerned that a return to barbarism may happen with the threat of chemical warfare by the gov’t of Syria against its own people.

Our deep sense of a lack of peace does not have to be created just through the wars between men.  In recent days, we have seen that Mother Earth seems to be at war against us as well.  In this month alone, which is only 17 in so far, we have heard of the raging fires damaging communities in Syndey, Australia, Hurricane Ingrid is bearing down on the east coast of Mexico and could cause thousands of people to evacuate the area, Mount Sinabung in Indonesia has just erupted and has caused many thousands of people to evacuate that area, and most recently we are seeing and hearing of the great devastation being caused by the flooding waters in Colorado.

    

Where can a person find peace in a world like this?  Jesus says that He is able to give us peace, and then he qualifies it by saying it is “a peace of mind and heart” and “the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give.”  Jesus knows that there are of these terrible things happening in life, the brutality of man against man, and the true insignificance of man when he comes face to face with an angry “Mother Nature“.  But Jesus’ peace is not something external, which might cause a temporary ceasefire between enemies.  Not does Scripture promise us that the assaults upon man from nature will decrease and become better devastating.  Romans 8:20-22 tells us that the created world too is under God’s curse, due to the sins of men, and it is broken and fallen apart, and the world awaits the day that God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Instead, Jesus offers to all those who will believe in Him and will obey all the things that He asks of them, they will experience true joy and a supernatural inner heart peace, no matter what the external circumstances might be at the time.  For when we are truly in love with God, then Scripture tells us that we will be accepted and loved back by God, which is worth more than any precious item that this world could ever offer.  And He will send His Teacher, His Comforter and His Advocate for us who will help us remain pure and to stand in our place and make our defense before God whenever He saw someone being caught in sin.

So what kind of peace are you looking for: temporary man-made peace (based on rules of conduct), or eternal God-made peace which helps you get through this life, and prepares you for the eternal life you will have when He is ruling in your heart.

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A Journey Through The Jungle For God

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The Solar Powered Notebook Project – Pt. 1

Imagine that you would like to write a document on your computer.  You leave your home and drive to your office, sit down at the computer and start typing.  You print a copy of the document and take it over to your boss for him to look it over.  He says it is really good, but notices four places that you need to make some corrections.  So you go back to your office, sit down at the computer again, and within a few minutes you have made the corrections and can print out a revised form of the document.  In all, this takes perhaps as long as a few hours.  By the end of the day, you feel good about what you have accomplished and drive home to your house and relax for the evening.

Now imagine that you are a national Papua New Guinean who is involved in a Bible translation project.  You have heard that a few men in other projects have a laptop computer, but that is the exception rather than the norm.  It is now your time to leave your village house and slowly make your way towards Madang, where the main office is for Pioneer Bible Translators.  I say slowly, for it might take you anywhere from two to four days to reach the office.

    

First you will need to get up early, before the sun has begun to peek out over the mountains nearby.  You grab some cold food, left over from last night’s meal, and start your brisk walk through the lush tropical jungle that surrounds your village.  You are used to walking for many hours along the narrow jungle path, greeting friends in other villages along the way.  Some of them even help you by sharing a little bit of their starchy sago flat breads as you go along.

But then you pass the boundary of your tribal group and now you are walking through a neighbouring language group, one which has been hostile to yours for many years.  You do not feel safe, you pass through or around their villages as quickly as you can, and you keep on walking along the trail, slick and slippery from last night’s rain.  You even need to push through streams that are up to your waist, or find a fallen tree to ford some of the swollen rivers.

After many hours, you come to the larger river where you will have to wait for a ride to go downstream.  There is no “public” transportation out here.  You simply have to wait until a motorized canoe or dugout comes by which still has room in it for you and your backpack.  Sometimes you are very fortunate and only have to wait for a few hours.  Sometimes there are no rides available and you have to stay there by the river for one or two days.  This time there was no ride on the first day, and so you make a rough bed among the banana leaves and underbrush, praying that no snakes or wild pigs will disturb you at night.

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The next morning you dip in the river to clean off, but within an hour you are hot and sweaty once again as you swelter in the jungle heat.  The Lord answers your prayers though, and you only have to wait two hours to get a ride on a motorized canoe.  It glides along the crocodile infested river with only about two inches of the side of the canoe being above the water, but the gentle breeze feels good on your face and skin.

For five hours you sit in a cramped position in the canoe until you get to the connecting point of where a road had recently been made through this region.  There are vehicles that regularly come along this road on the way to Madang, but most of the vehicles are already full of people.  So once again, you wait on the side of the road until you can flag down a vehicle that has room to squeeze in one more person.  But it’s too late in the day, and you must make a place to sleep by the side of the road and hope that no robbers will come to steal your things as you sleep.

    

On the third morning, you watch as many vehicles go by.  Finally, a large flatbed lorry comes and stops at one point and you tell the driver you are going to Madang.  He sets a price, which you agree to pay, after of course you get some money from the PBT office in Madang.  You then hop up in the back of the flat bed and hang on to the side railing as you and about 25 other people stand face-to-face with another.

The ride only takes about three hours, but your legs are tired from standing for so long and enduring all the potholes which the vehicle hit.  You feel sure that the driver was making sure to hit every one of the potholes as you went down the highway.  And once you get off the flatbed, it is good breathing fresher air than the foul body odour of all the people crammed in beside you.

    

At long last, you make your way up to the front door of the Pioneer Bible Translators’ office.  They let you in and welcome you as you finish your three day journey to town.  You sign in to receive your bed sheet, towel, plate, cup and spoon, and get a small supply of food from the office, and then head back across town on a public transport van to go to the National Coworkers House to catch up on sleep.

Tomorrow you will return to the office and for 2-3 weeks you will work with a missionary advisor as you enter in the text of the Scriptures which you had translated while you were out in your village.  After doing all the computer work you can in town, you bring back the PBT supplies, head out across town to find a ride on a vehicle, and begin your three day journey back to your village.

Jesus Would Never Abandon His Followers

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John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

                                

Jesus gave these encouraging words to His disciples on the last night that He shared a meal with them before He was killed upon a cross the next day.  It is very clear throughout the whole evening of this Last Supper that the disciples really did not know what was going on right then, nor were they ready for what would happen next.  They were clueless.  Jesus knew this, and so He gave to them all of these precious promises.

Let’s make a list here of the wonderful promises that awaited the disciples beyond the crucifixion of their Lord, once He had risen from the dead.  Jesus told them:

    • The Father will give you an Advocate/Helper who will never leave you.
    • The Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will live within you.
    • I, [the Son of God], will never abandon you as orphans — I will come to you.
    • You will see Me again.
    • You also will live again [both physically and spiritually].
    • You will know that I, and the Father, and you will all be united together.
    • I will love you.
    • I will reveal Myself to you.

    

It was very important that Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to the disciples that night, for it was only a few hours later that Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to die upon a cross.  I’m sure that the disciples must have gone through some very agonizing emotional and spiritual conflict when their great Master was killed.  Truly, they would have felt as if they were abandoned, that they had become spiritual orphans.

These words of Jesus though, were not meant to apply just to these early disciples long ago.  Notice how Jesus ends his talk with promises for “those who love Him”.  This moved the scope of Jesus’ talk beyond the scope of just the Upper Room, and is meant for any person throughout history who has come to know who Jesus is, and has accepted Him as Lord and Saviour of his/her life.  We too can receive all of these same promises which Jesus gave to his first disciples, for we too who believe in Jesus are also His disciples today.

    

I can testify to the truth of these promises which have been real to me in my life.  When I accepted Jesus into my life at age 12, it was not just some mental assent to a doctrine about Jesus.  No, I had come to know Jesus as a real Person in the months that I spent reading the Bible to discover Truth.  I knew that when I put my faith in Jesus, that He indeed did send a Comforter to help me and guide me in the path of righteous living before God.

In addition to the inner prompting from the Holy Spirit as to how to live my life and what choices to make, I often also have felt the presence of Christ being with me.  I knew that when I gave my life to Jesus, that He would be my companion and Friend in life.  And that was something very huge for me, as my growing up years were difficult and lonely in so many ways.  And yet I never ever really felt alone, as I knew I could always talk with Jesus, and He would comfort my heart and heal my emotional wounds.

    

Now there are still many people who do not accept Christ or believe in God who would say that “religion is an emotional crutch for those who are psychologically weak”.  I take offense at this statement as I cannot deny all the times that God has acted in my life in very real ways that could never be explained away as some “psychological delusion”.  But there is one part that I have to agree with here in that statement.  “Religion” is not the answer.

You see, “religion” is for the most part, man-made rule and rituals that have been developed over time by those who want to control and define the “spiritual”.  This was the great problem of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who could not accept Jesus because He did not fit within their narrowly defined ritualistic set of rules.

But Jesus did not come to set up new rules.  In fact, these “commandments of mine” that He spoke of were not really new.  His two great commandments were “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”, and “to love your neighbour as yourself”.  What Jesus was offering was not rules and rituals, but genuine relationships of men with God, and with each other.

    

And so I ask you, “Where are you my friend in your spiritual life?  Are you still pursuing rules of religion in the hopes that God will accept you?  Or are you basing the future salvation of your soul on a relationship which you have built with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?  I pray that you are doing the latter.”

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