Adventure On My Way To Papua New Guinea

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PNG, Here I Come!

So….  The taxi came right on time and I got to the airport by about 8:40.  I went to the self-help machine and everything seemed to be going smoothly, my passport scanned nicely, and I got my Boarding Pass and luggage tag printed out.  Then I looked at the Boarding Pass and it said that boarding would start at 4:20 p.m  YIKES!!!  Did I get my information mixed up??

So I quickly went over to the ticket counter and got the attention of an Agent.  I asked, “What happened to my ticket?  I sure hope this printed wrong!”

“Oh,” he says.  “Yes, there is a mechanical problem with the plane and it will be about 6 hours before we get a replacement plane flown in.”  YIKES AGAIN!!

So as calmly as I could, although my bass voice may have been closer to soprano… 🙂  I explained that I had five flights to catch over the next 65 hours and I really couldn’t afford to get bumped off schedule on the first flight.

“Oh,” he says.  “Well, there is a plane going to Los Angeles right now.  In fact, if I hurry up here, I have two minutes to get you rebooked before we get locked out and I can’t process any more passengers.”

    

So I said, “Oh, ok.  Sounds good.  Can you do that?”  (Meanwhile, prayers are fervently going up to the One who is really in charge.)

So there we were, trying to beat the clock and not get locked out.  And without even breaking a sweat, and smiling the whole time, he did it.  I was in the system.  Of course there was no time to ask for wheelchair assistance.  And so off we went at a trot, the agent with a limp (he looked about 65 years old) pushing the cart to get me through Customs, and me hobbling/bouncing along on my two arm crutches.

The Agent was not able to go any further than the last security scan station, so I hoisted my laptop strap up over one shoulder, and my carry-on duffle strap over the other shoulder.  And you can guess where the Gate was for my plane.  Yup, it was number 25, the very last one on the concourse wing.  🙂  I got there, checked in to make sure I was still in the system, confirmed that, sat down in a nearby wheelchair, and off we went to get me boarded on the plane.

And so started my first leg of my three day journey to Papua New Guinea.

    

It was kind of unfortunate that we didn’t have another 60 seconds at the check-in counter at Calgary, as I might have been able to ask Air Canada to tag my big suitcase all the way to Brisbane.  But I figured that God would help get me and all my luggage from Terminal 2 to Terminal 7 in Los Angeles.  No problem!  After all, He got me on to that ready-to-fly plane in Calgary.

Now the young man who was my wheelchair attendant at LA was not so positively inclined as I was.  Actually, he had trouble figuring out how to push me with one hand and pull my suitcase with the other hand.  We managed to go down, up and out of the Terminal without too much difficulty.  And guess what vehicle was just pulling up to the curb as we got out the door.  Yup!  It was the Handi-Van Shuttle bus.  I knew they have some here in LA, but you usually have to wait about 20 minutes.  But it was not this day!  😀

And off I went around the horseshoe airport and over to Terminal 7.  The woman driver was so helpful.  She even turned off the vehicle, and helped me get my luggage all the way in to the ticket counter area.  But she felt bad that I was there so early (being 12 Noon) and my next flight to Sydney wasn’t until 10 p.m.  She told me I’d have to wait in this chair for a few hours until they could help check me in.

But by now, I’m thinking, “Hey, this day is going pretty good.  I think I’ll see if I can be blessed again with a nice surprise.”

So I walked over to a nearby United Agent and asked when early check in would begin.  “Well,” she said, “you can start checking in 10 hours before flight time.”  So guess what time it is?  Yup!  It’s 12:10, and I can go check in now.  Yippee!!  🙂

    

Checking in went real smooth.  I got my suitcase tagged all the way to Brisbane, via Sydney.  He then told me to go take a seat and a wheel chair person would come for me at some point.  So I figured, “I’ve got some time until they come.  I think I’ll have a little Yoghurt.”  And guess what?  By the time I had found the yoghurt, my spoon, and sat down, I looked up and “Presto” there was the wheelchair person.  Gulp, gulp, gulp.  That is definitely the fastest I’ve ever eaten yoghurt, and not regretted it later.  😉

And zooommm!!  We were through Security and on to the other side.  She asked me what my gate number was, but it didn’t even have it printed on the Boarding Pass, because I was so early and there was no way to know what gate the plane might actually arrive at.  But that’s okay.  I told the woman that I wanted to go sit in the “United Club Lounge” where it is comfortable, you can do email, and often get food and snacks there.

“Oh,” she says, “but you’re not a First Class passenger.  I don’t think they’ll let you in.”  And I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m on a roll here.  Let’s go ask them and find out.”

So we went over to the Lounge and I asked if I could buy a Day Pass, and he said, “Sure! Come right on in.”  Yippee!!

And so began my journey back to PNG where we learn to expect the unexpected.  But isn’t that where God shows up the best?  Especially for those who trust in Him.

    

The Lord Will Get Me To Papua New Guinea

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We Make Plans – God Has Different Plans

I felt so sure that once I got on the plane in Calgary, that everything would go smoothly until I reached my destination of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Who would have guessed that a) the flight crew were late coming in from Vancouver to start up our plane; b) that a snow storm would happen the moment we sat down in the plane (which meant a delay of de-icing), and c) more unusual (actually weird) was the fact that the flight attendants could not agree for 45 minutes whether there were 81 or 82 passengers on the plane (that delayed us at least 45 minutes)

So… I missed my connection to the Qantas long flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia.  Suddenly I was faced with making rapid changes and new arrangements to get new flights and some lodgings booked in both Brisbane and Cairns down under.  I have to admit that I let the situation get the best of me for a while as I complained, and then worried about how this would all get worked out.  I took my eyes off of Jesus for a short while, and I found fear and anxiety replaced my normal peace of God in my heart.

There are a number of things that I have realized, now that I have time to reflect on all that happened.  I hope I can express well in words what I want to pass on to others of how we who are Christians can better handle difficult situations that can confront us in life.  Let’s look then at how I did react, and how I could have reacted to the situation.

Takeoff

When I first booked all my flights, to get me from Canada to Papua New Guinea, one of my first concerns was to try to save money.  Now there is nothing wrong with being wise stewards of our money.  Jesus gave many teachings and illustrations on this topic.  But I added some pride and self-reliance along with my sense of “frugality”.

It is true that my health has been much better in the past six months, and this in part led me to think that I could do the 30 hour trip from Calgary to Port Moresby, PNG in one long day of traveling.  I realize now that I was kind of proud of myself that I was going to do the long haul on my new found strength, and had not really asked the Lord about the wisdom of this.

And then, as we sat and waited and waited on the plane in Calgary, ready for take-off, I found I got more and more anxious about the possibility of missing my next plane.  “All my efforts of my planning and scheduling will get ruined,” I thought.  We did make it to Los Angeles, but with all the effort of people getting me my wheelchair assistance from one terminal to the other, I arrived 15 minutes after they closed the check-in desk, even though the plane had not left yet.

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So it was when I finally recognized that I was trying so hard to make my plans and solve this crisis in my own strength that I gave the situation over to the Lord.  And then things actually did start to fall into place. I was going to be okay from LA to Brisbane as Qantas just switched my ticket to the next night.  And I was able to book my Australia to PNG flights with air miles, so that I paid only 1/10th of what a new ticket would cost.  And with Jill’s help, I was able to get bookings as two nice hotels in Brisbane and then Cairns.

The neatest part was that some good friends from a very long time ago heard about my situation and they emailed me to let me know they could pick me up at the airport in Brisbane and take care of me for a few hours until I could check in at the hotel.  That was very special, seeing as I might have had to wait four hours in the hotel lobby until I got a room.

Better yet, we spent those few hours together sharing wonderful stories of how God has taken care of us all over the years.  And we shared testimonies of how God has worked through us all to bless other people.  What a special time of sharing that was for me, and for them too they told me.

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So now a few questions.  Did God create the crisis as a penalty for my independence from Him?  I don’t accept that one as that makes God to be a God who punishes people if they step out of line just a little bit.  Did Satan and his forces of evil send this “attack” against me?  No, I doubt it.  But he certainly could be behind me taking my eyes off of Jesus.

Was I supposed to learn something from the situation?  Very probably.  Or at least I would hope I learn from each situation in life.  I do know that God promises us peace in the midst of storms.  (And I was forgetting that.)  And He promises to bring good out of every situation.  (That came true as I spent a wonderful day with dear Christian friends in Brisbane that would not have happened if this crisis had not happened.)

There is more I could say, but this gives you an idea of how my last couple of days have gone.  More importantly, it tells you that I am doing okay and God is taking care of me and the various details of rearranging my trip to PNG.  As Scriptures says, I made plans, but God had better plans.

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God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 17

If I were to ask you the question, “What is it that most concerns you?”, I’m positive that your answer would fall into at least one of these categories:

  • the economy, and specifically your job, or lack of a job, personal finances and debt
  • your health, involving fitness, sickness, dieting, medical coverage and more
  • your relationships,  spouse, children, dating partner, parents, or combination of them
  • your possessions, like how to get them, safeguard them, and upgrade them
  • state of the world, including war, poverty, crime, pollution, the ecology, etc.
  • deep questions, like is there a God, what’s life all about, what happens when we die

There are probably other categories that I could add to this list, but I think these six would cover the majority of concerns that most people think about and are anxious about.  Whatever it is that we might be worried about, there is one common element that weaves its way through all of these areas of life.  Namely this: uncertainty.  None of us can or ever will know what will happen in the future, and that can lead us to frustration and anxiety.

For many months now, I have been writing articles on the topics that Max Lucado has included in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  In chapter nine, Lucado does an excellent job of helping us to realize that even though we often fail to understand what is happening in our lives and why they are happening to us, that God is still in control of the situation and is at work all the time to bring good out of the situation.

On page 137, Lucado writes this:

We know…. There are so many things we do not know.  We do not know if the economy will dip or if our team will win.  We do not know what our spouse is thinking or how our kids will turn out.  We don’t even know “what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).  But according to Paul (in Romans 8:28), we can be absolutely certain about four things.

Lucado goes on to state what those four things are, and I will summarize what he has to say to us.  Let me quote Romans 8:28 here so you have the context in front of you.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The first thing we know is that “God is at work…”  This immediately counters two negative positions, the idea that there is no God (Atheism), and the idea that while He may have created the world, He is no longer involved with it (which is called Deism).

No, God is very much at work in our world.  And the good news is that “God is at work for our good…”  This will counter a number of negative ideas about the character of God.  Some people think God is a punishing god, sitting up in heaven with a big stick and just waiting for us to step out of line at which point He will whack us.  Neither is God an ambivalent god who doesn’t care about what happens in our lives.  But He also isn’t a bigger version of Santa Claus who panders to our every wish and whim.  Rather, God is actively seeking to do that which is going to be for our very best, helping us where we most need help.

     

The third thing that Romans 8:28 tells us is that “God is working for the good of those who love Him…”    I will repeat what I said above, that God is not a punishing god.  But on the other hand, God is definitely seeking to bless and reward those people who have committed their lives to Him, to live in obedient service and worship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  That does put the responsibility upon us to be actively seeking to please our God.  And the neat thing about God and His blessings is that as we share the blessings that God gives to us with others, the more that He ends up blessings us.  When we become a conduit of His love, then we end up experiencing even more of His grace and love.  Isn’t that fantastic!!!

Finally, the last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that “God is at work in all things…”  If we truly believe this, then we can face any circumstance or situation in life.  When things are just clicking along and everything seems to be falling into place, we can thank our God who is actively bringing about these wonderful blessings in our lives.  But then when things are not going well, even in the most challenging moments of life, we can be confident that God will do all He can to bring good out of that situation, no matter how terrible it might be.

     

As many of my readers already know, our family has faced many difficult and trying experiences in life.  I think of all the categories I listed above, I believe that critical health challenges are the hardest to face as those are usually the most out of our control events.  In our immediate family then, from 2002 – 2005, our older son went through three years of chemotherapy to battle against the leukemia in his body.  Then, from 2008 until the present, I have battled with my genetically inherited muscle disease that has limited my mobility and has caused extreme levels of pain.

And yet, for both me and my son, we have seen God’s hand upon our lives in special and powerful ways that we would never have experienced had we remained in good health.  And for both of us, who have remained strong in our faith in God, we have seen our lives and testimonies touch countless numbers of other people.  And in many ways, this has come about because we believe the promise within Romans 8:28, “that is all things, God works for the good to those who love Him.

     

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

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How Should We Pray To God

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There is a colleague of mine who reminds us weekly to send in current prayer requests and praise reports to her.  She then sends out the compiled list of our prayer/praise items to a large number of people who pray for all of us and the ministry work we do in Papua New Guinea.  Recently, she included in her reminder the following thoughts that someone else had shared with her.  I thought these were excellent thoughts worth passing on.  I will pick up on some of my thoughts after you read the six points below.

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“How Should We Pray To God”

1. I was reminded of James 5:17-18 which talks of Elijah praying and God causing a drought for 3 1/2 years and then he prayed for rain and it rained.  And we are reminded that he was a man like we are.  (Therefore pray! God is powerful.)

2.I was also reminded of James 4:1-3 where people don’t ask, so they don’t get, and then they ask but don’t get because they have the wrong motives.  They want it for their own pleasures and desires. (Ask with right motives.)

3. If we beg God, He might just give us what we ask for, but we might regret it later. Or at least others might. 2Kings 20:1-21:1 and 2Chron. 32:24-33:2 Hezekiah was told that he was going to die, but he prayed and wept and God healed him. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. Unfortunately, Hezekiah responded in pride. God was angry with him and he repented. But he messed up when the Babylonians came and he showed them all the treasures he had and the temple. When he died, Manasseh became king at the age of 12.  He was Judah’s most wicked king reigning 55 years.  He would never have been born had God not healed Hezekiah. (Make sure what you are asking for is what God wants, because you might otherwise get something you really don’t want.)

4. I thought of Paul in 2 Cor.12:7-10. He said God had given him great revelation, but then to keep him humble he was given a thorn in the flesh.  He asked God three times to remove it, but God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (God sometimes doesn’t give us what we ask for because He wants us to rely on Him and find our sufficiency in Him.)

5. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray and He said in Matt 6:9-13 the Lord’s Prayer which reminds us to ask for our “daily bread”. (Ask God for what we really need for the moment.)

6. Finally, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Jesus felt needs and asked if there was any way to avoid what he was about to experience. But He surrendered to God’s will and asked for the Father’s will to be done.)

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I was very impressed with what this person had to share.  So often I have read articles about prayer and there is much said about when and how often to pray, the body positions that can help us to pray and the kinds of prayers we can say.  But so much of this, while still helpful, seems to be focused in on the structure and physical elements involved in prayer.

But in these points listed above, I see so much clearer the reminder that we must have the right attitude when we come to God in prayer.  It is so important for us to remember just who we are and who God is as we approach Him.  Without denying the great importance that God places on each of us as individuals, I think it is still good for us to remember how very small and finite we are in this universe, and just how big and awesomely powerful our God is compared to us.

    

As I look into my current life situation, I am actually very grateful for being able to live with the muscular disease that I have. Of course it doesn’t feel very great many days as I battle fatigue and pain.  But my condition has brought me into a closer relationship with God than I ever had before.  It was in my days of sufficiency that I roared ahead in life and often forgot to include God in my daily affairs.  Now in my insufficiency, I seek out my God throughout each day, and I find He is not only there, but He meets me at my points of need so much more than I had even dreamed of.

And that is the point, I think, often when God “allows” difficulties and obstacles to come into our lives.  I believe that God wants us to slow down in our lives and humbly come to Him as our Maker, our Provider and our Sustainer.  That’s hard to do when we think so highly of ourselves and we seem to have no need for God in our lives.  And so God reminds us, sometimes gently, and sometimes not so gently, that we still need Him, and He needs us to come to Him.

My prayer for you my friend is that you too know this powerful God who loves to show His love and His mercy to us who are His created handiwork.  Let us come to God with a humble heart, and yet also come with expectant hearts that He will do great and mighty things in our lives.  Let us not presume too much, but also let us not assume that going to meet with God in prayer is optional for our lives.  Above all, let us let Him have His way in our lives.  You might be amazed at the wonderful blessings that lie in store for you as you remain obedient to Him.  May God bless you richly in Christ Jesus.

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

God Bless Papua New Guineans

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Matthew 5:1 – 12

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

                “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…..

These are the opening words to probably the most famous teaching of Jesus, the “Beatitudes”.  Jesus outlines for people of all ages and all ethnic groups the kind of character qualities that are displayed by those who are truly God’s people.  They are humble people and merciful to others.  They keep the peace between people and they demonstrate righteous living.

When these powerful words of Jesus get hold of the hearts of men and women, truly amazing transformations in their lives can and will happen.  Below are excerpts from a newsletter from 2010 of some very good friends of mine who have ministered for many years to a tribal group of people up in a mountainous area of Papua New Guinea.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

We are celebrating the increased level of hunger and thirst for God and his ways in the lives of the people. We witnessed that again recently while we were in the village in June and July. We held a third Scripture Use course, this one on money issues such as compensation demands, tithing, and serving God or wealth.

We were blessed to see the Holy Spirit challenging and convicting through His Word, and to hear the deep discussions with resulting commitments. Some declared their intention to give God a tenth of the money made from selling vanilla, coffee and other cash crops, or to share a tenth of their garden produce with church leaders and those in need. Pray for courage for the people to follow the Lord’s leading in these things.

[Editor’s Note: Almost all rural people of PNG are subsistence garden farmers who slash and burn a section of the jungle each year and grow vegetable plants and tubers (yam, taro, potatoes, etc.)  Most days are usually consumed with trying to find enough food to eat for that day.  So for the people to dedicate their meagre garden crops to God and to offer a 10% tithe of their food to church leaders is beyond incredible.  It is a generosity that comes from knowing the love of God in their hearts.]

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

God is at work shining the spotlight of his Word into the lives of these men and women with the resulting conviction of sin. And they are mourning and longing to repent and change. Alfons (not his real name) is one example. During a time of prayer, God brought to his mind the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He was gripped with the drama of the story of this son coming to his spiritual senses and returning to the father who welcomed him back with celebration.

It was a delight to hear Alfons say, “We need to return to God and His ways. He is waiting, waiting for us to welcome us back”. Alfons helped produce an illustrated Bible story of the prodigal son and is eager to use the story book to teach the Truth of repentance and resulting blessing to the people.

[Editor’s Note: There is nothing so piercing as the death wail that goes forth when someone dies in the village.  It is a shocking reminder to us all that death comes to rip apart people from their loved ones.  What is amazing to me here in PNG is that I have witnessed similar wailing when a person becomes convicted of sin and cries out in repentance to God over the sin that separates them from God.  But the Good News is that this death wail of repentance leads to new life with God for this person.]

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When God is at work challenging and transforming lives, there is also an increase in spiritual warfare. Those who harden their hearts and refuse to obey often persecute those who are following God wholeheartedly. We see that amongst the people here. Daniub (not his real name), our local preacher, asked us to pray for him before we left the village in July.

He is taking a strong stand in following the Lord, challenging people to give up their dependence on the spirits to help them. For example, many nominal Christians still turn to the spirits to seek healing in times of sickness. Daniub has challenged village leaders on this, and some are not happy. Pray for him and other bold Christian leaders as they lead in truth and love.

[Editor’s Note: One of the hardest aspects of our work in bringing the people of PNG into a deep personal walk with Jesus is the wide spread syncretism here.  Although there has been a lot of mission work done in PNG over the past 150 years, Christianity is more of a veneer that coats the surface of their lives, while underneath many of them are still heavily steeped in the practices of animism.

For all who read this article, I ask you to pray for the people of Papua New Guinea, that they would not see Christianity as one more form of magical rituals to perform in order to be safe from the evil spirits that surround them.  Pray that the people will give their hearts to Jesus and let the Truth of God free them from their bondage to sin and to the lies of Satan.]

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The Blessing of Sharing

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Active in Sharing Your Faith

Paul prayed for Philemon: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6).

What in the world was the connection between being active in sharing his faith (the context of this passage is sharing faith with believers—not witnessing to unbelievers) and Philemon understanding all he had in Christ? When we share with others what Christ is doing in our lives (or when we hear others share the same with us) three things happen:

1. Our faith grows. We gain a deeper desire to love and serve the One who is doing all these powerful things. We gain more faith and experience more of Jesus Christ’s reality. We also keep our eyes open for things to share.

2. We discover more about who God is. The more we share or hear others share, the more we learn about God’s attributes. We come to know Him as our Provider, our Rock, our Comforter, our Peace-Giver, our Protector, our Strong Tower, our Deliverer. We learn exactly what Paul wanted Philemon to learn—what he had in Christ.

3. God’s blessings continue to flow. When we regularly share, thus giving glory to Jesus Christ, I believe that God works overtime in our lives. He wants to give us more to share, so we give more glory and fame to His Son. So it is a cycle. See God work; learn something about God; share it; see God work more; understand more of God’s nature.

[In light of what we have just read from this devotional thought above, take the prayer offered below and think of a fellow Christian whom you would want to be bold in their faith and so share the same knowledge and blessings that Paul wanted Philemon to experience.]

Father, please work mightily in ____________________’s situation. Reveal more of Your nature and character to her (or him). Father, I pray that ____________________ would understand all she has in Jesus Christ: the depth of His love; the comfort, power, and enablement of Your Holy Spirit. Let Your Spirit bubble up in her so it would overflow into others. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

–Taken from Praying like Paul (Learning to Pray the Kingdom for Those You Love) by Jonathan Graf

Posted 22 Aug 2011

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One of the wonderful paradoxes of the Christian faith is that the more you give it away, the more you have to give away.  Just talk to the person who prepares a Sunday sermon, or a Bible study, or a special song to be sung at church, and you will often hear them say, “I got so much more out of that myself as I studied/prepared to share what God had given to me.”  The simple fact is that when we seek to bless others, we in turn are also blessed by God, and in an abundant measure.

The Scriptures say this in Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Let me put this in a way that I’m sure all of us can identify.  You know how when you buy popcorn at the theater, you bounce the bag on the counter to make it settle into the bag and there is room to put more in the bag?  Well, that is what “pressed down, shaken together and running over is all about.  God will put more back into our “generosity bag” every time we give from the heart to bless someone else.

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I know that I can testify to this biblical principle.  Perhaps one of the best examples I can think of was when I offered to hold a kind of “Bible School” in our village.  There is a long story behind this and I will share that on another post one day.  But suffice it to say that there was a spiritual crisis in our village after one of their leaders from the local Catholic Church died.

I had just been blessed in the previous summer to lead a 6-week Bible survey course in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.  So while I was saddened at the loss of a friend, I was eager to share the Bible knowledge I had with the people.  They enthusiastically agreed to let me hold a Bible training week once each month for six months to teach them what the Bible was all about.

It is hard to express in words the joy I experienced in sharing my knowledge of Scripture with the local people there.  And I was so blessed to see the spiritual vitality in so many of them come alive.  The translation work got a real boost as my national co-translators really dug into getting some Scriptures translated.  And I believe that the foundation for the current church revival that is happening may have come out of our Bible school program.

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So as we enter December and approach the Christmas season, let me ask you this question: is sharing your faith in some form a part of the presents you will be giving away this year?  But let’s not limit this just to Christmas.  Have you considered ways that you might be able to share of the blessings you have by being in Christ to be part of what you do in 2012?  For your sake, as well as for others, I hope that it will be so.

Follow Where God Leads – Pt 2

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Daring To Believe God

In our last article on this topic of “Follow Where God Leads“, our author, Mark Atteberry, advised us to think and pray through the opportunities that present themselves to us.  If we have been wrestling through a difficult period in our lives, and then an amazing answer to our problems shows up, we still need to read God’s Word, pray to receive peace from the Holy Spirit, and listen to the advice of godly people to be sure this is what we should do next.

Now if the answer is “Yes”, then by all means, go forward and enter into the blessings that God has put in front of you.  It is at this point that we must exercise both faith and courage to believe that this “present” is from God.  Unfortunately, some people can become paralyzed at this crossroad and not move forward.  Either the person believes that the gift is too good to be true, or they believe that they are not worthy of the gift, and they decide to punish themselves for some reason and don’t take the gift that God is offering.

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On the other hand, the very opposite can happen for some people when they see what looks like their “promised land” flowing with rich opportunities and bright futures.  A person can be so captivated by the wonder of what lies ahead, that he or she throws caution to the wind and dives into the new experience without taking any precautions against heartaches or disappointments.

What Atteberry says is that we need to “cross our Jordan” and enter into our “Promised Land” with care, still paying attention to the details of the people and the events that we are encountering on the other side. Realistically, we may have come out of a difficult period of our lives, but that does not mean all of our troubles are suddenly over.  He goes on to say:

You can never let your guard down, even after you’ve left the wilderness.  You may feel as though you’ve stepped into a utopian paradise and left your troubles far behind, but that will never be completely true this side of heaven.                (pg. 163)

This is good advice to follow.  And I wish I had paid more attention to this principle before our family headed over to Africa in 2006-07.  Prior to this, our son had developed cancer, which meant leaving our mission work in Papua New Guinea.  We all experienced the hardships and heartaches of the three-year-long cancer journey.  I felt lost in what I was supposed to be doing in ministry.  We weren’t even sure if we would be able to return to doing overseas mission work. (You can read about this is my “Who Am I?” series.)

Then we were approached with the idea that we could go over to one of our Branches in Africa and help out.  Great!  Wonderful!  An opportunity to return to the mission field.  Now I would be helping out in the administration of the Branch, instead of doing translation work.  And Jill would be doing a lot of work in the Finance Office, instead of being involved in literacy or Scripture Impact or home schooling our high school boys.  But hey, we would be back in mission work.

Perhaps one of the greatest oversights I made was to think that we could recapture what we had as a family living in Papua New Guinea.  But living in an African city of a 1/4 million people, with nationals paid to be your house guards, and thinking we could learn Swahili in just a few weeks, was nothing like living in a small, rural PNG village where we at least knew the trade language. All of this and more led to great disappointments and pain instead of the Mission Paradise we had expected.

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But does that mean that because we had a terrible experience when we tried to return to a life overseas that we should just forget about ever trying again?  Not at all.  Atteberry himself gives us one more important piece of advice when we are emerging out of our wilderness experience and are on the edge of entering into a new “Promised Land” experience.

Atteberry says we are still to be characterized as people of hope.  It doesn’t really matter if we have had one, or two, or a hundred bad experiences in the past.  We know from Scripture that God is a God of love, and that He is a giver of all good things.  Just as God went before the Israelites as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of light by night to lead them all the way to their promised land, so God will go before us and lead us too into a better life.

Now does that mean that things will suddenly get better for you tomorrow, or next week, or next year?  I don’t know what God has in store for you.  But even if it is not fully realized in this life that our troubles and trials will be overcome, we do know that in our life to come with Christ in eternity that we will see the end of every hardship and heartache.

Just like Paul, we hold on to these promises from Romans chapter 8:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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