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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We Have Found The Messiah

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John 1:35 – 42

Introducing Others to Jesus

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). [1]

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Our last two articles have focused our study in on John the Baptist.  In this study, we will see the focus shift now from John to Jesus.  In this Gospel, we do not have very many words of John recorded for us, but here we see him repeat once more one of the most important messages that he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  (Read the last article to understand this expression.)

We do not know how long John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness, but we do know that he had gathered some followers who were called “his disciples”.  Now it was time for John to introduce his disciples to Jesus.  And when he identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus.

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That takes a lot courage and humility to pass the spotlight off of yourself to shine on someone else.  It could have been very easy for John to want to hold on to his followers.  But he didn’t.  Actually, it was his own followers who had trouble with this shift.  If we jump ahead to John 3:22 – 36, we see that John’s disciples were jealous of the new attention and success that Jesus was having.  But John’s response in verse 30 is, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

So two of John’s disciples decided that they wanted to become apprentice-pupils of Jesus.  This was the common practice of that day.  If you wanted to advance your knowledge about God and the Jewish Law and Old Testament teachings, you would look for a Rabbi (a learned teacher) and attach yourself to him as a disciple, more literally an apprentice.

These two men spent the whole day with Jesus.  Right up until the late afternoon (4 pm).  It must have been quite exciting to hear Jesus teach, for the very first thing that one of them did, namely Andrew, was to go out to find his brother and tell him that he believed that he had found the Messiah, the man whom God had chosen to save the people.

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The reaction of Andrew is quite a common response for many people when they first encounter Jesus and take Him as the Lord and Saviour of their lives.  There is an excitement and a burning need to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for them in their life.  For those of us who have known Jesus as Lord for a very long time, we may have forgotten what those early moments were like for us.

I still remember though a special night in my life when I was about 14 and was still relatively new in my faith, only two years or less.  My parents took me on a weekend campout to attend a Square Dance rally.  Some people brought their motor homes and campers, others put up large tents to sleep in.  The big dances for the adults were usually in the evenings, which left us kids free to hang out and have fun in the tents together.

Fairly early in the evening, one of the kids asked me something about me going to church, and I responded that yes, I did believe in Jesus and what the Bible had to say.  Well, this generated quite a few questions which I gladly answered.  If I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would take the time to search my Bible to find an appropriate answer.  This spontaneous evangelistic moment and small group Bible study went on through the night until about 3 a.m.  I had never felt so invigorated in my young spiritual life as I did during that night.

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As I reflect back on that night of sharing my faith with about 10 other kids crammed into that tent, I can also see in my mind the same kind of excitement that Andrew must have felt.  We actually do not know much about Andrew in Scripture.  He is kind of one of those silent disciples of Jesus.  But he will forever be known as the one who brought Peter to Jesus.  And we know from Scripture just how much impact Peter had on the beginnings of the early church once Jesus got a hold of his life.

So let me encourage both you and me.  Knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is a wonderful thing.  But introducing others to Jesus is what it is all about.  And who knows what God might do in the life of that person that we lead to Jesus.  Maybe that person will become a modern day Peter.  I pray that would be so.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:35–42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Presenting God First

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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His Mission…Our Mission

Pray for God’s kingdom to come! The disciples must have asked Jesus how to pray. After coaching them on their motives for prayer, Jesus told them to pray like this: “Father, Your name be praised and honored. Your kingdom come and Your will [Your mission] be done” (Mt. 6:9-10, italics and paraphrase mine).

Jesus, the son of God, tells us to pray for God! For His glory, His name, His fame, His kingdom, and His mission. God desires our praise. He wants us to participate in His mission of a blessing for all peoples (Gen. 12:3-4) as He establishes His kingdom today on earth and forever in heaven.

So, pray for God to call out His laborers into His harvest fields more than ours. Pray for the establishment of His Church, more than our mission organization or denomination. Pray for the reputation of His name, more than our recognition. It is no accident that the most effective missionaries are often standing in the background, not upfront in the spotlight.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to convince unbelievers through His teachings more than our clever arguments. Pray for new believers to obey His commandments more than our traditions. Pray for the new church to find answers from His Word, more than our words. When we pray like this, He inevitably will surprise us. After all, it is His mission. And He will accomplish it.

–Adapted from Chapter 66 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (Strategic Prayer for God’s Mission and Missionaries by Mike Barnett).

Posted: 24 Oct 2011

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I totally agree with the message presented to us in this devotional thought.  So often we get caught up in our plans, and have our own agendas to which we ask God to bless and be actively involved with.  But that really is in essence putting us first and God second.  It must be the other way around.

This reminds me of how Jill and I went about raising our financial support as we prepared to head over to Papua New Guinea in 1997.  During the three years prior to our departure to PNG, we had made contact with a number of friends and churches throughout Canada asking them to support our Bible translation ministry.

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We were very pleased that so many people took an active interest in our work, and God did raise up a good number of financial partners to help us.  But it was quite clear by the Spring of ’95 that we would not have enough support from just our Canadian contacts.  So we wondered if we might be able to present the message of our work and our need of financial support to some American churches.

The problem was that we did not have any real leads on who to contact, except for three men I had become friends with while in Seminary in Illinois and who were then ministering in different churches in Illinois.  I called them up, and they were quite happy to have me come and preach in their churches, and to talk about the ministry of Bible translation.

That was great!  We now had three opportunities placed in front of us in Illinois to present our desire to work as missionaries in PNG.  We took that as an indication from God that we should look to God for more open doors to be presented to us in Illinois.  But how?  I didn’t know anyone else in Illinois to ask.

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So this is what Jill and I did.  We took the “Directory of Ministry” book of our church’s background and found there were over 500 churches of our movement in Illinois alone.  So we prayed and asked wisdom from the Lord as to which churches to be contacting.  And God impressed upon me to look to the small churches, ones with 150 members and less.

That led to a list of about 130 churches still.  But we were trusting God that He was in control of all this.  And I prayed then to ask what message I should write in the letter, since none of these churches knew anything about me.  But then I realized, the message was not to be about me, but about God, and His Kingdom, and His mission work.

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And that is exactly how I wrote the letters I sent to the churches.  I presented God first, reminding the pastors and elders that God is a Missionary God as we see Him reaching out to lost mankind by His grace.  Then I explained about this key strategy of Bible translation, a means by which we could reach lost people with God’s Word in a language they could understand.

Then finally, I talked in my letters about the desire that Jill and I had to become missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators so that we could be active in a mission in PNG that helped to bring people back to God through translated Scriptures.

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So then I sent off the letters to those 130 or so churches, putting God first and ourselves last.  And I asked if we could come to present this message to the congregation on a Sunday morning.  And you know what happened?  Out of the 130 churches, 28 of them said, “Yes, come and preach in our church.”

And from those 28 churches, about a dozen of them helped support us financially to send us to PNG in 1997.  And 15 years later, there are still half of these churches who still support the work we do in this Bible translation ministry.  And do you know why I think they still support us?  Because we continue to present God and His work first, and ourselves last.  And I believe that is how it ought to be.

Speaking Words Of Praise

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The Plinky Question for this week is:  “Remember that one time on the bus, when…”

Oh yes, I certainly do remember.  My mom and I were going somewhere in town, and seeing as we did not have a car, we naturally caught the local transit bus.  I was the youngest of the four children, so it was not unusual that I was taking the bus alone with mom as my siblings were either in school, or were old enough to be at home alone.  So taking a bus was a part of life, and meeting people on the bus was also a part of life.

Now when we would get on the bus, mom would pay for the ride and walk down the aisle to get us a seat which would leave me to take my time to slowly walk down the aisle and greet people as I went along.  You might think that I am, and was, an extrovert, always greeting people.  But actually, I am an introvert who is, and was, fascinated by people.  And so I would “socialize” while at the same time I would “analyze” all the people I met.

This would take me quite a few minutes.  And on this particular day, since the bus was mostly full in the front, my mom found a place for us on the bench at the back of the bus.  By the time I had finally got to the seat and was about to sit down, the driver had to slam on his brakes for some reason.  Meanwhile, I had pulled my head down a bit in order to sit down, and guess what happened.  The sudden deceleration caused me to fly forward, but since my head was down and I was a small boy, I literally rolled like a bowling ball all the way up the aisle and landed beside a very surprised bus driver.

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Before I continue with this story, I want to interject a thought which I just read from the site “Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life which I get every day:

Nurturing the Fruit of Praise

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36, NASB).

Praise is reshaping our lips (and our living) around the glory of God. We use our words for everything else. We practice speaking for work, for school, for interacting socially. We must also practice (and that sacrificially) to honor God with our words. The text speaks of the “fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Fruit begins in a blossom; then it takes time to become full-grown and ready for harvest. Fruit doesn’t develop quickly, but over time, given the right conditions—the right soil, the right moisture, the right amount of sunshine, the right amount of care, pruning as needed, just enough fertilizer—all this and more. The fruit of praise must be nurtured and cultivated in the garden of obedience.

–Taken from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka

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Now back to my bus story.  What happened to me certainly caught the attention of everyone on the bus.  After all, it’s not every day that you see a little boy roll down the aisle like a bowling ball.  Everyone was so concerned and worried for me.  But hey, I was just a little boy!  So I quickly bounded to my feet, dusted off my clothes, and went down the bus for the second time and greeted everyone and said hello.

I wish life could have always remained that simple.  And I wish I could have retained that personality of mine of being a “socialite introvert”.  But life suddenly became hard for me once I entered Elementary School, where being “nice” to everyone is not always appreciated.  In fact, for a number of reasons, I became the laughing-stock of the class and was regularly picked on by kids both in my grade and from some who were older than me.

The result of this was that I painfully learned the lesson in life, that it was better to be quiet and not say anything to anyone.  The budding skill I had on the bus to be kind to strangers and say something nice to others was squashed in public school.  By God’s grace though, He came and found me in Grade 7 and I was able to use words of praise and thanks once again as I began my journey with my best friend, Jesus.

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But with regards to people, it took me a lot longer to relearn the skill and the joy that I had begun as a child to reach out to other people and try to bring a smile to their faces.  In fact, even into my middle 30’s I was not as tuned into people as I ought to have been.  And my narrow world of self-centeredness hindered me from really seeing and appreciating people around me.

It wasn’t until we lived in the village in Papua New Guinea for five years that I really learned how to sit down with someone for hours and talk about basically nothing.  But just being willing to sit there and let people talk, I was finally once more maturing my blossom of being others-centered.  And now I find it easy once again to say hello to strangers, and to try to leave them with a smile on their face.  One thing has changed though.  I have no desire to do any encore of rolling down the aisle in front of others.  🙂

Remember the Good Moments

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Who Am I?  Part 15

Two weeks ago I made brief comments about how God provided for our needs, even if the situation was less than ideal.  One thing is for sure, God did take us out of a bad situation and He did provide a new setting where we could be a family and be active in ministry.  (You can read about the last chapter of my life story by clicking here.)

Unfortunately, it did not last a long time.  From the time I was interviewed until the time I left for Prince Edward Island driving another U-Haul truck was just less than two years.  On the one hand, I could say that it was a good thing, as moving to PEI ultimately led me to discover and join Pioneer Bible Translators.  On the other hand, I can look back with regret and consider this church experience as the next one of my great failures.

And yet, even as I say that, I know that neither statement is completely true nor completely false.  As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  I do know that at the one year mark there was a Board meeting to decide if they would keep me on as the minister for another year.  The vote was “yes”, but it was not a majority vote.  Nine months later, I decided that this was not the place for me to stay.  So what really happened?

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The history of the church is a bit fuzzy now for me after all these years.  I can tell you that this church was built in the mid 1800s and was the first church of our movement to be built this far west in Canada (Manitoba was considered “Pioneer Country” at that time).  The stone work and the wood crafting was phenomenal, and it had an overarching balcony over the main sanctuary that allowed for a capacity of over 250 people.  It was considered a grand church in its day.

There had been some great preachers there over the years, but as is the case for most small towns, the number of attending members continued to decline over time.  By the time I came for my interview, the church had an average attendance of 25 people.  It was rather sad to see such a grand hall be so empty looking, not just during the week, but even on a Sunday morning.

When I was interviewed by the Search Committee, I expressed my desire to come and be a Preacher / Church Growth Evangelist.  It was very evident that the members of the committee were quite excited about this prospect.  They recommended me to the church at large, I preached on Sunday, and then flew back to Alberta to await their decision.  It came back within a few days – they voted unanimously to hire me.

And so in December of 1990, we arrived and stayed in one member’s house while they did the finishing touches to remodel the suite that took up most of the church balcony.  One month later, our second son Glen was born and we moved soon after that into the suite.  There is no doubt in my mind that Glen’s birth and then living as a foursome in the small but quaint balcony suite were the most positive aspects of life for us at that time.

It didn’t take long though to see that the energies I was attempting to pour into revitalizing the church were meeting some opposition within the small group.  Of the few families that were left, there was one “clan” still there who had some powerful people, at least in terms of their opinions.  I came to realize the truth of a saying that one of our Bible College teachers used to say, “The young are out to change the world; the old are out to change the young.”

Interestingly enough, it was the middle-aged clan members who showed resistance to trying new ideas and welcoming new people as I worked at growing the church.  In fact, the hand full of old singles ladies and I got along very well.  I recall with great fondness how I would hold my mid-week Bible studies, working our way from Genesis to Revelation, and it was the same 4 or 5 old ladies who would come out and catch my vision and passion for teaching God’s Word.

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I believe it was when I moved the piano to the side and introduced some choruses while playing my guitar that was the beginning of the end for me there.  The “power players” resigned from helping with worship, and the older people were not able to lead or assist.  And so I was left alone in that ministry.  Jill saw the end coming, and hung on with me for a number of months more.  It ended up that she moved with the kids first to PEI while I stayed to end my 2-year commitment to them.

In between the beginning and the end though, I do remember the family moments we had there.  And there were some young couples that we really bonded to while there.  And certainly our “Old Ladies Bible Study” held precious moments, and I still use some of those materials today.  I haven’t mentioned about the outreach I had with a friend in town for a year to young people at a  Christian drop-in center.  Some of those young people gave their lives to Christ.  How precious is that?

And so I have a choice.  I can remember this 2-year experience as one of my great failures, where not only did the church not grow, but a few years later had to close its doors.  Or I can remember the special intimate times I had with family, and with dear old saints, and with brand new young Christians.  So you tell me, what really happened there?  I may not have built up the church building in that town, but I do believe I helped build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those people who mattered most to me.  That is what I will remember most.

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Remembering The Works of God

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What Are You Remembering?

Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them… Isaiah 63:11

“Recalled” is a powerful word. Especially in this situation, the recollection of what God had done in the past led to a revival among the Lord’s people. It is so easy to forget the amazing works of God. That’s never more true than when we get caught up in our own desires and ways. Forging ahead in our self-centeredness and sin, we forget all God has done in the past. So it was with the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s day.

Now, however, God stepped in to punish their sin. Disaster ruled the day. The presence of God seemed far away. Sin didn’t seem so fun. Bit by bit, they began to remember that things used to be different. There was a time when God had led them through the godly leadership of Moses. There was a time when the Holy Spirit was present and made a real difference in their lives as individuals and as a nation.

Remembering past moves of God can be powerful. It can stir us to repentance and longing for a renewed sense of the presence of God. What are you remembering today?

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Father, thank You for the gift of memory, and for stories that have been passed down through the generations about the ways You have moved in the midst of Your people. Thank You for stories of revival from the Great Awakening in the United States and beyond. Lord, would You use those stories to stir within our hearts a desire for similar awakenings? Help us, Lord, to remind each other of Your work in days past, and of our great need today. May we recall those things that You would have us meditate on and pray over.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod (Thirty Days of Prayer Toward Awakening the Church)

The devotional thought above comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

Posted: 16 July 2011

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I must agree with my friend, David Butts.  It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the events and the affairs of our daily lives that we forget about God.  It seems to me that the older I am getting, the more complicated my life has become, and the more distant God seems to be from me at times.  But of course, the real truth is that God has not moved away from me, as much as I have moved away from God.

The second thing that I agree with is that it is good to remember.  In fact, as we get older, our lives get replayed more and more in our minds and in our conversations.  We often say, “Do you remember….”  Our lives are like a super long highway.  It stretches from a dim past (our infancy) to a distant future (when our life will reach an end) and it contains innumerable check points or posts that mark interesting and significant events.  The closer we are to the end of our road, the more memory signposts that have been erected.

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Many of these signposts mark events that we have accomplished or experienced by ourselves.  Such as the day we hit a home run in our neighborhood ball game, or when we graduated from high school, or we experienced our first kiss, or had an employer say they were proud of our work.  But there are also many signposts that have been planted in our lives by the very hand of God Himself.

My life was spared when I didn’t drown as an infant, or when I landed on a flat spot after falling off a mountain cliff, and when I was held up at knife point by a mugger.  And God spoke to me through a song at a Youth Conference and began melting my heart.  He smiled on me and filled me with His Spirit when I was baptized.  And he empowered me to fight off the demon within a prostitute who stood in my way, and used me to cast out an evil spirit from someone who was demon-possessed.

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As I remember these kinds of incredible experiences, I do realize that many of these events took place while I was much younger, in my teens up through age 30ish.  Now I am over 50, and I feel more tired and worn out some days, and it is not just because of my muscle disease.  Life simply seems to wear us all down.

And yet, I think we should try to resist this.  Has God changed?  No, of course not.  It is said of Jesus, who is just as much God as the Father is, that He does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8).  Therefore, we should expect that the God who impressed us with His holiness, amazed us with His acts of power, and infused us with such joy and His overwhelming love when we were young ought to still be able to do that in us today when we are much older.

And for the most part, I think I am still in that same space.  I love to think back and remember what it was like stepping out in faith and going for the first times as a young missionary to different countries of the world.  I will soon be 51, and to be honest, I still get excited when I tell people that I am about to head out on another mission trip somewhere.  I’m getting older in body, but am still that small child who in faith has trusted God so many times to take care of me.  I now extend that to be me and my family.  And you know what?  I am sure that I won’t be disappointed.

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1987 – A Pivotal Year

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Who Am I?  Part 10

For those who have been following me in this series which gives a rough outline of my major life events, we come now to a pivotal year for both Jill and me.  It was 1987, we had been married for three years, and both of us had completed our studies for our vocations.  Jill received her Nursing Diploma, and I had finished my Master of Divinity Degree.  You can read about these things here.

After a number of years of education, some short-term mission experiences, some practicum work for Jill and some minor ministry experiences for me, we felt like we were ready to go out and make a difference in the world.  While still in school, Jill attended a hospital recruitment meeting and things fell into place, and the next thing you know we were packing a U-Haul to head to Texas.  In addition to this, Jill announced with excitement, “WE’RE PREGNANT!”

Now I must admit that I was more stunned than excited at this announcement.  But as the weeks and months crept along, I began to really warm up to the idea of being a father.  There were a few little snags in our paper work to cross into the States, which caused us to delay and stay with my folks for over a month.  So by the time we finally started out with our U-Haul, there was definitely 2 1/2 people ready for the adventure that lie ahead.

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We arrived in Port Arthur, Texas where Jill would work at a charity hospital (which the recruiter had promoted as a great place to work just off of the Gulf of Mexico).  He neglected to tell us that most of the bay area around Port Arthur was filled with oil refineries which blocked the view of the Gulf and blackened the port and town area around them.

But we were young, and it was an adventure in many ways for us.  And one of the first adventures for us was to find a church to fellowship with.  Having just graduated from a Christian and Missionary Alliance seminary, we looked for one of these in the area, but the closest C&MA church was 50 miles away in Baytown.  This wasn’t too bad, as it gave us time to talk and be together on the drive to and from Baytown each Sunday.

As a result of these visits we made regularly to this church, something very interesting happened.  I was approached one day by the pastor of the Baytown church and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a new church in Beaumont, the large city next to Port Arthur.  I accepted the offer as I saw this as a way to serve God.

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The excitement of this new ministry opportunity was almost immediately crushed as Jill and I experienced the most bitter of all events, the death of our child.  Jill was 29 weeks pregnant in October of 1987.  There was no warning and no indication of anything wrong.  One day our baby was alive and kicking hard, and then the next day there was no movement.

We couldn’t believe anything bad had happened, until finally after waiting anxiously for a doctor’s report, they informed us that the child had in fact died in the womb.  Because Jill was so far along, it was necessary to have her induced to deliver our daughter.  When it was over, we held our little Deborah in our arms.  She was over a foot long and almost looked like she was sleeping, except that she wasn’t breathing.

The doctors have never to this day explained to us what happened.  It was an inter-uterine death, but no cause could be found.  That day in October was the blackest day of our entire lives, and it continued to cast a shadow and have a negative effect upon us for many years after.  One wise person said to us, “The intensity of the pain will never really go away, just the frequency of it.”

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There is no doubt that we were in pain because of this event.  For many days there was a sense of emptiness in our apartment.  Jill took a few days off to recover physically.  The hospital and the doctors were so gracious to cancel our medical bills, so we were not hurt financially.  But the emotional and spiritual impact of this tragedy was very huge.

The church people in Baytown were so good to us.  Some of them visited us, or sent us flowers and cards.  The pastor visited us quite a few times.  And with his support and encouragement, we still went ahead and tried to lay down the foundation for a new church plant in Beaumont.  I think us moving from our apartment in Port Arthur to Beaumont was good for us.  But even after a year of hard work, this church plant also did not get birthed and it was closed down when we came back to Canada.

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Of all the different aspects of this major life crisis for us, there is one memory that stands out the most.  Jill and I had gone to the cemetery where we had buried Deborah.  We knelt down by the unmarked cross and held hands and gently cried together.  Then we sang a song together to reaffirm our faith and hope in God.

But while we were there, another woman came and knelt down by her child’s little cross.  Then she broke out into wailing and threw herself on to the ground and wept in great torment at the loss of her child.  Jill and I quietly left that woman to her grief, but we could leave the cemetery with the song still in our heart.  The song says:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

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