2013 In Review – Thank You Dear Readers

Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

What Truly Loving Someone Looks Like

1 Comment

John 13:31-38

31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” 37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

                                

This short passage is packed with tremendously powerful truths.  I pray that I will do justice to them in this short article.  There are three key concepts that I will try to unearth here for you who are reading this.  I see Loyalty, Glory and Covenant-Love.  Each of these could take many pages to explore as a topic in and of themselves, but let us here try to understand at least the core of each of these concepts.

I find it interesting in these few verses that we start with Judas, the one who will betray Jesus, and end with Peter, the one who will deny Jesus.  Judas, as we know from a previous article, was willing to sell out his friendship and loyalty to Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver.  Later, when Judas finds out that Jesus will be crucified to death, his remorse and guilt overpower him so that he threw back the silver and went out to hang himself.

Peter, who so often was the bold spokesman for the group of disciples, is once more also very brash when he so arrogantly declares that he would be willing to die for Jesus.  We find out later that Peter is not really even half the man he bragged he was, as he does in fact deny knowing Jesus three times.  From these two men, we see that Loyalty is a tough attribute to demonstrate when life presses in and our egos get in the way.  How can we avoid these pit falls?  Let’s look at the next important concept.

    

There is no doubt that a key word in this passage is “Glory”.  Jesus used it four times in just two sentences.  So it must be an important concept.  But what exactly is “glory”?  I have to say as a Bible translator, that this word “glory” has given me more trouble than any other biblical term in trying to really understand first what it means in the Greek sentence, and then try to translate it into tribal languages.

“Glory” could refer to the brilliance that exudes out from a Heavenly Being, i.e. “His glory shone around Him.”  It could refer to our act of reverence, as in “We will give him glory”, and so could be translated as “honor”.  It could also refer to character, saying just how wonderful He is, such as, “Isn’t he glorious.”  And there could be even more nuances to this key word.

I could write many pages then about the deep spiritual meaning contained within verses 31-32.  Instead, I would like to try to simply expand the sentences, with some added explanation.  There could be other ways I’m sure to interpret these verses, but this will be my attempt:

“The time has come for the Son of Man [Jesus] to enter into his glory [to show His true nature as the Son of God], and God will be glorified [will be praised and honored] because of him. 32 And since God receives glory [praise and honor] because of the Son [how He was obedient to His Father’s will], he will soon give glory to [will magnify, will exalt] the Son [by raising Him up from the dead and placing Him at His own right hand up in Heaven]. 

    

Can you see now just how much spiritual and theological truth is packed into those two sentences?  And the application of these truths, that the Father and the Son exist to glorify each other, leads us to the most significant application of this truth.  The main reason why Jesus came to earth, to live among men, to die on a cross, and then to conquer death by being raised again to life was so that the Covenant-Love of God could still be experienced by us, who by nature are sinful and unholy people.

John 3:16 tells us quite plainly that God so loves every man, woman and child, that He sent Jesus to die on behalf of all men, and so the love which God has always wanted to share with people can once again be fully experienced, since Jesus removed our sin and thus the barrier that separated us from God.  That’s what truly loving someone else really looks like: being willing to die in order to save the other.

And that is now the last and the greatest commandment that Jesus brings down to mankind, firstly to his disciples.  We who would love God, and accept Jesus as the one who can save us from sin and death, must also demonstrate Covenant Loyalty-Love to our Christian brothers and sisters.  Only this kind of supernatural love, acceptance and forgiveness among Christians will have any attraction and impact on those who are still spiritually lost in this world.  So go ahead now and do as Jesus said, “Love one another!”

enw_gospelofjohn_black2

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

Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice

Leave a comment

John 12: 20 – 28

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The passage right before the verses above described for us the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem.  The crowds proclaimed that their Messiah, their King, who had come from the royal line of King David, had just entered into Jerusalem.  They were all ready to proclaim Jesus as their Royal King of Israel.

No doubt this caused a great stir among the people, for the local residents of Jerusalem as well as those who were visiting there to celebrate the Great Feast of Passover.  Our passage here starts out then with some foreigners, some Greek-speaking men who had come in from some outlying area or some distant land and they hear reports about Jesus.

They wanted to meet Jesus, but notice who they approached first?  They went to Philip, who probably came from a Greek culture background himself since he had a Greek name.  So these men took the path that made the most sense to be able to gain an audience with Jesus – they approached Philip who would be sympathetic to their request to meet this very famous man – the Man who could do the miraculous.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Jesus’ response though did not line up with this desire of the people who wanted Him to become their new King on earth.  He does declare in verse 23 that it is finally the time for people to know who He is exactly.  His favorite term for Himself “The Son of Man” contains both the idea that He is God’s Son, and also the idea that He is truly a man who had come to live among us.

And now He says that the time had come for Him “to be glorified”.  It is always hard to translate the word “glory”, but each time we do, we learn more about what it means.  Within this context, Jesus was saying that it was going to be revealed just how “wonderful” and “glorious” the true nature of Jesus really was.

The surprise comes is in the next sentence.  We should expect that someone who is the Majestic Son of God, who had just been publicly acclaimed to be the King of Israel, and who will now at this point reveal the true identity of Himself to the people, we would expect Him to ascend the throne in Jerusalem.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Instead, we see Jesus speaking out one more time in metaphorical language.  He states that a seed by itself is nothing.  To be something of great value, it must be dropped into the ground where the seed will figuratively “die” as it breaks into small pieces.  But from these broken pieces, many roots can shoot out of this one seed and actually bear much food for the people.

You see, Jesus’ path forward required Him not to go forth in a victory march towards a throne, but to walk the road of shame and suffering, and to die on the Cross, in order to win people back to God.  Jesus recognized that those who would follow Him, must be ready to fully give up their lives and souls to God, and count the things of this life as being of such low worth compared to the promise of eternal life with God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is not to say that it was an easy thing for Jesus to make the decision to give up His life on our behalf.  We see Him in verse 27 wrestling with this decision.  If it was possible to fulfill the will of God without having to actually die on the cross, I believe Jesus would have chosen that path.  But He has barely asked this question of God when He also states the answer – He knows that this was the path that He must walk.

And so Jesus asked God for something else: He asked for God to reveal His true and glorious nature.  And God’s voice answered back that He already had and will again do just that.  What was He referring to?  I believe it refers to how God showed His awesome power in resurrecting Lazarus (from John 11) and how He would raise Jesus from the dead (John 20).

The promise and the challenge for us are in verse 26.  If we truly want to serve Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we are to follow in His footsteps.  So we must also be ready to lay down our lives for God.  That is the challenge.  The promise is that we will be with Him where He goes.  And where will that be?  By the side of God in Heaven for all eternity.  Praise God!  Praise the Lord!

enw_gospelofjohn_black2

2011 in review

Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Looking Ahead By Faith

Leave a comment

Who Am I?  Part 26

And now for the final chapter.  This has been quite a journey.  We started together way back in January of this year, and now 12 months later I am ready to tell you how the story ends.  But wait, it’s not really the end, because I am believing that there are many more exciting years ahead of fruitful service for the Lord.

This topic of “Who Am I?” has been a series of snapshots of what has happened in my life from birth until the present moment.  There certainly have been lots of interesting events and winding trails in my life as I look back over the past 51 years.  There have been some truly awesome moments of breath-taking adventure, and there have been a number of mind-numbing “sloughs of despair”. One thing for sure, you cannot say that our lives have ever been dull.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In many ways, it is quite appropriate I think that I am writing this last Saturday personal journey story on the night of Christmas Eve.  Over 2,000 years ago, while the world in stillness lay, the angels in heaven were holding their collective breathes as they waited in glorious anticipation of the Christ Child to be born.  From that moment on, the world would never be the same as the Messiah came from Heaven to live among us, teach us about God, and provide a way for men to be reconciled once again back to God.

Now please don’t read this wrong.  I am in no way trying to compare my life to the Life of Jesus who is my Lord.  Heaven forbid that I should ever dare to think so highly of myself.  No, I am just a fallible man as much as any other, and I count it as a sacred privilege to be called by God to serve Him in the mission work He has given me to do.  Rather, it is the idea of there being an air of expectation that I want to use as a catalyst for this final article in this personal series.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As I look over my years of ministry for God, I almost feel like it could be compared to a grand symphony arrangement.  In a great music score, you have a flowing thematic harmony of many instruments that lead you along the main story line of the arrangement.  That is what my desire to be a missionary can be compared to, which has been a central part of my very being since I was a young teenager.

Then as the music continues, you find select instruments rise above the main melody.  There is excitement created by the violins, the darting whimsical nature of the wind instruments, the foreboding danger triggered by the beating of the drums.  All of these sounds carry you further into the story, raising you to new heights, and casting you down into deep dark corners of your mind.  That is what my many years can be compared to: one moment, a thrilling adventure, and the next moment, a heart-wrenching event that crushes the soul.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 But wait.  The philharmonic evening has not been finished yet.  There is a pause, a moment of silence, the tinkle of the little silver triangle.  Then a murmuring beat from a drum, the cautious entrance of the violins, the pipes and the horns and the flutes are poised to join in to the chorus.  We can sense the excitement building as we realize that there are still some upbeat moments and great crescendos to come.

And that is pretty much where I think my life is right now.  I’ve crossed the desert, I’ve forded the river, I’ve scaled the mountain, and just around the bend I expect to see the fantastic vista to open up to me as I look ahead to the new adventures that still await me.  The message that I delivered in quite a few sermons to some of our supporting churches this past summer was, “God is not finished with us yet!”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What a great feeling that is.  Of course I know that God loves me and is always with me.  Then add to that the fact that God is still choosing to use me and work through me to impact peoples lives around the world.  He continues to give me strength for each day so that I can still be involved in Bible translation projects in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea.  This past four months, I have lived and  worked in Dallas and helped to teach new missionary recruits.  Two years ago, I thought my life of ministry was over and I was all used up.

And if that is not enough, God has opened up this blog outreach which my wife, Jill, aptly calls my “Armchair Ministry”.  Considering that I spend most of my day, every day, propped up in a recliner chair to relieve the pressure and pain in my legs, it is truly amazing how writing down my stories and insights into Scripture has become a blessing to thousands of people in countries around the world.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so now I have arrived at my “Today” of my life story.  Lord willing, I will have many more “todays” to live, and to serve my God, and to pass on my stories to others to tell of the wonders and majesty of my Lord and King.  As I think about all that God has done for me, and will continue to do for me and my family, there is only one adequate response to give back to God.  I praise my God, and offer back to Him the well-known Christian Doxology:

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen!

Listening Post 1st Anniversary

2 Comments

Wow, can you believe it?  Exactly one year ago today I started to write articles for this blog site. And in that time, I published 162 articles.  Again a big “Wow!”, as I never thought I had that much stuff up in my head.  And seeing as most articles average around 1,000 words, then in the last year I have written 162,000 words.  Yikes!!  That’s a lot of ink, or should I say, “That’s a lot of keystrokes!”

The questions some of you may be having are, “So how and why did I start writing last November?” and “What has it all been about?”  These are excellent questions, and I too want to look back and reflect on this past year.  So let’s all journey back in time together and see what we find.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 The idea of writing goes back many years.  To be honest, I can’t really remember when it first happened.  But my wonderful mother began to suggest to me that I should write down all the interesting mission stories that I would tell her about which had occurred at some point in my life.

As a typical young man, I would just nod and say, “Thanks Mom, maybe some day.”  Part of me felt that there was too much ministry to do to slow down and take the time to journal on a regular basis.  And I really didn’t want to take the time to sit down and think back and write stories about the past.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But then a few significant things happened within the past few years.  My mother was still urging me to write down my “story”.  Part of me still thought that would be a bit egotistical to do that.  But part of me thought, “Well, I am approaching age 50, and it might be time to reflect on what I have done up to this point.”

Then, in 2008, I was hit with the full force of my muscle disease symptoms.  Within a year, I not only resigned all my responsibilities with our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, but I thought that my years of being a traveling missionary were over and done.  In fact, for a short while I wondered if my life was soon going to be over and done with too.

To say that I was a bit depressed in early 2009 would be quite an understatement.  But with time comes healing.  And then with the encouragement of my wife, Jill, along with supportive people in our Papua New Guinea Branch, the door remained open for Jill and me to still make some short trips to PNG so that I could continue working as a Bible translation consultant.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The second major health crisis came in 2010 and hit our PNG Branch Director.  In August of that year, she suddenly started to not feel well, and then her skin turned yellow.  She and her husband, Jan, immediately flew down to Australia to see what was wrong and were given the diagnosis of rare bile duct cancer.

The cancer was so far advanced, and in just over a month, our friend Jan had to say his last goodbye to his lifelong mate and best friend.  What amazed many of us was how open and transparent he was in his regular blog articles.  He had written for years, and shared his joy of life and living in PNG.  But now he poured out his heart through his blog writing.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And that was when Jill prompted me to consider doing the same thing, to write in a blog to express my thoughts and feelings about life, my disease, and my hopes to keep on doing mission work.  She knew that it would be therapeutic for me, even if I didn’t realize that myself at the time.  And so I did, starting on November 24, 2010, I began to write my story.

I look back and I can see that the early stories are a bit silly, rather self-focused, and did not have much in terms of a direction or purpose.  But within the first few weeks, I noticed that people were coming to read the stories I was writing.  And by the end of December, seeing that over 500 people had come to my site, I suddenly felt compelled to write with purpose.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Even as I continued to write “my story”, I found that in almost every case, I could see that God’s hand was upon me and has worked through me to touch others.  And as I have reflected on my life, I can see that for the most part, my life’s desire has been to glorify God and help advance His kingdom here on earth.

And so as I began writing in January of 2011, I mapped out many themes that people might find interesting, and would at the same time give glory to God.  Two year-long series have been “Who Am I?” with the goal of seeing how God has worked in my life, and the second is the Atteberry book to help us all travel the “Hard Road Journey”.

Other things have appeared on a regular basis, like short sermon series, regular sharing from a devotional site called “Connections”, and mission stories, either from my past, or what is happening currently.  And from so many people’s feedback I know that God is using these articles to be a blessing in people’s lives.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is a verse in Psalms that talks about “the world is watching us”, which reminds us that we are to be a testimony of faith to others as we live our lives and as people see us for who we really are.  I am humbled and amazed that in this first year of my blogging, that over 10,000 visits have been made to my site.

And so I guess my mother was right that I have a story to tell that others would be interested to hear.  And I thank my wife Jill who was the one who really prompted me to start this blog.  Most of all, I thank my God, who continues to work His miracles in me and through me and it is really His story I am telling.  And then I say thank you to my audience for your continued faithfulness in coming back to read these articles.

It has been a great first year.
Let’s all look forward to another good year to come.