The Nourishment of Jesus Brings Eternal Life

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John 6:41 – 59

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

 48 I am the bread of life. 49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 

56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

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This is perhaps one of the hardest section of the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, the disciples said themselves in verse 60, the very next verse after this passage, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it.”  With that said, I would like us to consider what it is exactly that makes this passage so difficult to understand.  And if we can figure some of that out, then let us try to find an application for our lives.

As I looked over this section of John 6, I saw at least three things that Jesus was stating that would have caused conflict between Him and the religious leaders of that day.  First, He claims to have divine origin, i.e. that He came to earth from heaven sent by God.  Secondly, much more than the physical food which Moses had brought done from heaven, Jesus claims to offer spiritual bread from heaven.  And thirdly, He makes an outrageous claim that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live forever.  Wow!!  Well, let’s look at these in more detail.

    

His Origin: when Jesus stated, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”, the Jewish leaders immediately saw in this figurative language that Jesus was in fact claiming to have come down from heaven himself.  That was the same as claiming to be divine in origin, equal to God.  For men are “created” and born into this world; only God can originate from heaven and come down.

His Offer: as all good Jews know, Moses was a great prophet who was able by the power of God to bring down the daily manna, the wafer-like flakes that could be made into bread, while the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after coming out of their slavery in Egypt.  The Jews also knew that this manna-bread only lasted a day and had to be collected each morning, and ultimately all of their forefathers died in the wilderness, or after they settled in Canaan.

But Jesus says that He can offer “bread from heaven” which will allow a person to live forever.  If that is not bold enough, Jesus also stated that He himself is this “bread” that brings spiritual life to people.  He asked His listeners to believe, that is to believe that He has come from the Father in heaven, and can offer spiritual life and will raise that person up into new life after death.  Wow!!  Quite the offer.

    

His Outrageous Claim: to top it all off, Jesus boldly stated to His listeners, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ”  This must have sounded rather crude and offensive to those who first heard these words of Jesus.  Imagine now for a minute what this must sound like to a person born in Papua New Guinea where they have just come out of the practice of cannabalism.

But we know that Jesus often used hyperbole (exaggerated figurative language) to drive home a point.  What Jesus was saying is that we who would receive eternal life from God must be totally consumed with knowing and having Jesus in our lives.  In other words, Jesus’ teachings and His life given for us on the cross are the only true source for spiritual nourishment for us and result in providing eternal life for us.

    

The Conclusion: what must we do then, my friends?  We must recognize Jesus as God who has come to earth, accept His offer to be our spiritual “bread”, and be so intimately involved with Him that He becomes our true source for spiritual nourishment, leading us to an everlasting life with God in heaven.

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The Year of Jubilee

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[Editor’s Note: the following letter came to me just last week from a colleague of mine working with Pioneer Bible Translators in Tanzania, East Africa.]

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Year of Jubilee

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. – Leviticus 25:10 KJV

On December 9th, I looked out of a hotel window in the capital and saw the British frigate Somerset that had arrived for Tanzania’s 50th birthday celebration. In 1961 something seemingly impossible happened – an African country achieved complete independence without a war of independence. The UN Protectorate of Tanganyika applied for independence and actually got it! The British administration peacefully handed over Tanganyika’s governance and a nation was born on December 9th 1961.

On the other side of the world, I was a baby girl being born that same day. I think of this concurrence as the first prophetic event of my very blessed life. As Tanzania and I begin this year of jubilee, I invite you to join me in praying for consecration for me personally and also for this country that I love. Let’s proclaim spiritual liberty for all those throughout this land who are in spiritual bondage. God bless Tanzania!

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15 Years in Africa

When I was in Bible College, I was shocked to read the statistic that 75% of missionaries serve no more than one field term (usually 3-5 years). How could I believe that my dream of spending decades overseas would come true? But I did believe. And it did come true, and still is coming true in fact, despite the little I have to do with it. If it were up to my abilities, health and moods, I would not have made it to Africa in the first place, and I would definitely not be listening to monkeys partying on my roof in January 2012. What is the secret of my success? God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV

Lord willing I will arrive in Florida at the end of February to begin what we call “temporary home assignment.” In addition to my heavenly home, my heart has two earthly homes, and other than trip preparations and deadlines, I transition easily between Tanzania and the USA. I don’t often think of my life as being apart from either place. Neat, eh? It is just another example of God’s grace and blessings.

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As I read this letter, it brought home two important spiritual truths for me.  The first is the fact that we live in a world where there is the reality of war, and even though peace treaties may be signed between different parties or nations, that peace can often be a very fragile peace.  We have just passed the Christmas season, which speaks of the hope of “peace on earth, and goodwill toward all men.”  But that kind of true peace can only be found in Christ, not a human agreement.

The other spiritual truth that hit me was the reality that we who are committed to serving the Lord in mission work abroad will often find the same thing as my colleague, that our definition of “home” becomes much bigger.  As stated above, we find ourselves to “be at home” in the places where we work overseas, while still being attached to our friends and families “back home” where we grew up.  And then as we think about it, we also realize that this world is not our true home, but in fact Heaven is where our heart truly is.

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You know, I think that is one of the neat things about being a missionary.  As we continually cross back and forth between our home where we minister abroad and our home back in the country we grew up in, we can often find that the attachments we may have had toward material objects greatly decreases.

Rather than investing in “things” of this world, we find there is a greater joy when we invest in people, wherever they may live.  And that is what our Christian faith is all about; it’s about having a relationship with God and others that is most important.

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I will say that I too am very pleased that there is a structure and the will to have peace in this part of the world where our family also had the privilege to serve God.  But we did live there for 18 months and saw that there are still many problems within the country, just as there are in any country.  Violence, crime, poverty and an unwillingness on the part of many people to submit in obedience to the true God above.

What is exciting is that there is still relative peace and freedom to bring the Good News of salvation to those who need to hear it.  PBT has been able for many years to bring the translated Word of God to a number of language groups in that region of the world.  And that is the key to bringing true freedom to all who have been in bondage to sin.

And so my final word is to say thank you to my colleague who has been faithfully serving God and the people of East Africa for more than 15 years now.  My prayer is that she will find herself refreshed and renewed as she spends time with her American friends and family so that she can  soon return to living among and ministering to her African friends and neighbors.  And may we all be open to be renewed in our hearts by the God above, the true Author of peace for the world.

Jesus – The Eternal Word

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John 1:1 – 5

The Word of Life

1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2From the very beginning the Word was with God.  3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

This is a grand opening to this book, the Gospel of John.  It is very interesting to see how each Gospel (the Good News) begins from a different perspective in setting the background to the glorious entrance of Christ, who came as a baby and lived among us as the man named Jesus.

Mark begins his story with John the Baptist, whose preaching prepared the hearts of people to receive Jesus.  He came and was baptized by John to lead us by example to show the importance of being fully submitted to God.  Then we see Jesus being fully tempted as a man by Satan, but Jesus wins victory and shows that He will be the right Man to save all of Mankind from sin and Satan.

Luke takes us back at the start of his Gospel to the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  He narrates for us the simple and humble beginnings of the One who is King by having simple shepherds witness this divine birth in a lowly stable.  Matthew takes us back even further by starting his Gospel with a long genealogy to show that Jesus came from a line of kings, all the way back to King David, and was also the Successor of Faith having descended from Abraham himself.

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Of the four Gospels though, John takes us back the furthest of all.  He takes us back, not to the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, and not even back to the beginning of the creation of the world.  No, John takes us back before the beginning, before there was even Time itself.  And in that place where only God existed, there also existed the Word.  And contrary to some philosophies and religions, this was not some impersonal or mystic force, but the equally divine and creative Second Person of the Trinity of God.

We start to see the personal side of this One who is called “The Word” in verse two.  Greek has three gender endings on most nouns – masculine, feminine and neuter.  This “Word” that was with God from before the beginning of time is written as a masculine noun, which implies a “person”, not an abstract “thing” was there with God in the beginning.

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There are many other important truths given to us in this powerful introduction that we must make sure we do not miss.  Not only was this eternal Word “with God”, but verse one tells us that “the Word was God.”  This is one of the greatest paradoxes and mysteries about God.  How can one God consist of two Beings?  (Actually three when we add in the Holy Spirit.)  Yes, this is a mystery.  And yet this is what the Bible claims.  And if the Bible fails to be true here, then it is in danger of falling in every other area of truth.  I’ll come back to this.

Another important truth in this passage is that the Word was intimately involved in the creation of all that we see in the Universe.  True, it is God who created the Universe (read Genesis chapter 1), but here we learn that it is through the Word that all things came into being.  In other words, the Word was the Agency through whom God himself caused all things to exist.  (Jumping ahead, we know that Jesus is the Word spoken of here, so we now know that Jesus Himself was intimately involved in creating us and everything around us.)

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Back to this puzzle about God being Three-in-One (the Trinity).  There is an analogy in nature itself that is helpful for us to understand this concept.  A brief description of light is shared in the book “Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations” which says:

Science tells us that light is constituted of three rays, or groups of wavelengths, distinct from each other, no one of which without the others would be light. Each ray has its own separate function.

The first originates, the second formulates, illuminates or manifests, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Mysterious and yet very simple at the same time.  Just as we can accept that there are different components that make up light, but altogether is still just one light, so too we can accept by faith that God is three Persons with different kinds of interaction with us, yet God is still only One in nature and reality.

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One other quick insight on a truth here is in the contrasts found in vv. 4 and 5.  The Word is the source of life and light, which are the complete opposite of darkness and death.  We learn in other verses that Satan, the demon ruler of Hell, is the source of darkness and death.

So we have right here at the beginning of this book a sharp contrast and battle shaping up between the life-giving Word who illuminates us with all that is spiritually true, and the death-dealing demon lord and his realm of darkness.  But praise God, we are told that the Word is forever shining (present tense verb) and Darkness has never been able to put out that life-giving source of life, who is Jesus.

Hallelujah!!  What a great way to start this book.

The Purpose of Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 3

This is the third article in this short series on “Prayer”.  We first considered the Power of Prayer.  Most believers today will say that prayer is powerful when offered in faith. (See James 5:16)  And yet many Christians in the West often seem surprised when God does answer a prayer in a dramatic way, or perhaps I should say, they aren’t too surprised if their prayers are not answered.

This led us to consider the next important lesson regarding the Passion for Prayer.  If prayer is viewed as just a daily routine that one does just before each meal (i.e. saying “grace” at dinner time) or is to be practiced mainly when a terrible crisis confronts us, then no wonder some people do not see the great privilege we have to go to God in prayer and be more active and passionate in our prayer life with God.

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This brings us then to the next important topic on prayer, which is to consider what is the purpose of prayer.  Now I would venture to say that if we did a large random poll of the general population, we might find that one of the most consistent answers we would get when asked what the purpose of prayer is, would be that people would say it is to ask God for something or for Him to do something.

In a way, this is a valid answer, for they are recognizing that God is the source of power to be able to grant these requests in the times when we are in need of something or there is a crisis in our life and we need help.  But if this is the only answer a person gives, it is so woefully inadequate as a response for it is basically a self-centered response which goes beyond asking for what we “need” to us asking for the things we “want”.

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As I did in the last two articles, I will summarize some of the key ideas and points that were presented to us in the Sunday School lesson time that I attended last month at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  And here is the Overview that was included for us at the top of the lesson:

This lesson is to help us see that prayer is not intended to help us get what we want, but rather, it is the means by which we know God’s will.  Even as we pray for God to provide the resources to reach more children, more youth, more adults and more families for Christ, we do so seeking His will.  The real purpose of prayer is actually for God to get what He wants!

The context for this Overview above, as well as the whole series on “Prayer” is that Crossroads is about to launch a building campaign to construct a huge Children’s and Youth’s Activity Center.  It could so easily be interpreted that the church leaders just want another big building which they hope will impact the lives of young people.

But from all I hear, it would appear that God has opened up so many doors into the lives of people in their community, that the only way to focus the potential of these open doors is through the use of a large central building.  Put in this context, it is God’s direction and providence, not the desires or ambitions of men, that is the key impetus behind this building campaign.  This distinction will help us to understand the following key points that our teacher touched on in our lesson.

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Key Point #1:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Build a Relationship With God.

In Psalm 42, the writer reveals with a heartfelt honesty how discouraged and downcast he is feeling.  We don’t know all the circumstances of what was happening, but he appears to be far from the Temple in Jerusalem where he was free to worship and pray to God.  And he longs desperately to return there to continue doing that, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (v. 1) The greatest joy of a human ought to be like the Psalmist, to desire to be in the presence of God.

Key Point #2:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Acknowledge Our Dependence Upon God.

We think that we are in control of our lives.  That is so untrue.  Circumstances of life and even just the forces of nature show us that is not true.  And so we are a people characterized by great anxiety.  Scripture tells us though in Philippians 4:6-7 to not be anxious for anything, and God will grant us supernatural peace.  And Matthew 7 tells us that God is like a great loving Father who will not be cruel or stingy to His children, but will be generous to us when we put our trust in Him.

Key Point #3:  The Purpose of Prayer is to Get Our Needs Met.

This point must not be taken out of context, such as quoting Jesus in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  We still must pray within His sovereign will.  And even more important, we must distinguish the difference between our true needs and our wants as I mentioned above.  So taken within context, Matthew 6 makes it clear that when we seek God and His righteousness (doing all God says is right to do) then God will provide us with our basic needs, such as our food and shelter and clothing.

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There is so much more than could and needs to be said about the purpose of prayer.  But I do hope that this has been helpful to all who read this article.  Let me just say in closing that as you look at the three points above, you will notice that we start with God, put ourselves under His authority and Lordship, and then end with humble requests concerning our real needs which ultimately come from Him.

The Passion For Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 2

I hope that those who read this article would have already read the first article in this short series on Prayer. (If you have not, I encourage you to click and read “The Power of Prayer“.) Before we can even begin to talk about having a passion for prayer, we must first believe that God hears our prayers and answers these prayers. Putting it in another way, if we do not believe God exists, or if we do believe He exists but don’t believe prayer accomplishes anything, then we would have nothing to be passionate about.

In some ways, we have another chicken-egg dilemma, the question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. At least that is how some people seem to operate. The Bible supports the view that “believing is seeing” (see Hebrews 11:6 and also John 20:29). But many people live more on the principle of “seeing is believing”, and when they don’t see God answering a prayer the way they think He should, then they question the practice of prayer and even question God Himself.

So as I continue in this article, I stand on the conviction that God exists, He hears and answers prayer, and praying is not only the normal thing for a Christian to do, but it is quite an exciting activity to do. Now let us dive into this second study on prayer. Again, I am summarizing some of the key points that were shared in a Sunday school teaching session at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.

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OVERVIEW: “This lesson is about the need to develop a true passion for prayer. Prayer is our source, the course of success, the secret to life, our supply and our strength. But an effective, powerful prayer life comes only when it is our priority. Our priorities reveal our passion.” (Taken from the outline handed to us in the Sunday School classroom.)

One of the Key Text passages for our study was Acts 6:1-4. The church in Jerusalem was mightily blessed by God in those early months after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. They grew rapidly as many thousands came to believe in Christ to be their Savior and Lord. The only problem when any group experiences rapid growth, is whether or not the leadership of that group is organized well enough to manage all of the people. And in Acts 6, it is apparent that some people, the Hellenistic Jews (Jews who grew up outside of Palestine), were not getting their portion of daily food rations.

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When the complaint became known to the Apostles, the leaders of the early church, and proved to be a valid complaint, the leaders had to make some important decisions. Now pause here and ask yourself what you would have done in this situation. I know what I would have been tempted to do. I would have called in the various other leaders, plus the key representatives of the disenfranchised group and we would have probably reorganized the activities and responsibilities that each person had. Then over the coming weeks and months we would convene more meetings to see that everything was running smoothly.

Not so for the Apostles. They did recognize the importance and seriousness of taking good care of all the church members. But they quickly delegated this responsibility to other capable leaders. But for themselves, they stated quite clearly that their two most important tasks before God and on behalf of the people were to preach the Word of God and to pray. It was their strong conviction, their passion, that their true source of personal strength and power in ministry was directly dependent upon the continued practice and commitment to prayer.

What I find interesting and dismaying at the same time, is that many of us profess a personal faith in Christ and also believe in the principle that prayer is important, but few of us actually practice the spiritual discipline of prayer. And I include myself when I write this. We give our mental assent to this truth that prayer is powerful and important. And it’s not that we don’t pray at all, but are we really passionate about praying? As the Lesson Overview puts it, have we made prayer a real priority in our lives?

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In a recent article, “Giant Step For Bible Translation“, I shared the excitement we all felt within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, as we dedicated our first permanent home office building. This structure is symbolic of the rapid growth we have experienced in our personnel, going from 182 career missionaries in 2006 to 322 career missionaries right   2011. And the growth is not slowing down. In fact, the goal for the next six-year plan (2013 – 18) is to try to double our mission again to reach the point of having 800 career missionaries.

So what has made the difference? Hard work? Certainly! And an optimistic spirit and better skills in recruitment and retention of missionaries? That also has a part to play. But if you were to ask Greg Pruett, our current President of PBT, he would say, “Prayer is not just A strategy for seeing global mission work accomplished; Prayer is THE strategy.” And not only does Greg live out this principle in his life, he has also proven the truth of this principle in what God is currently doing in and through the ministries of Pioneer Bible Translators.

My question to you and I then is this:  Have we made prayer a priority in our lives?  And how do we know what are the priorities of our lives?  Basically, whatever we spend most of our time and energies upon, and especially whatever we think most about, those things are our priorities.  As for me, I’m not a super prayer person, but I do wake up each morning thanking Him for a new day, and then throughout the day, I often lift up a prayer concerning the events and people who come to mind.  How about you?  Do you have this kind of commitment to be a “People of Prayer”?  I hope you do.

God And Me Through The Years

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The Plinky Question for this week is:
“Write one thought or sentence that summarizes each year of your life.”

This idea for an aricle caught my attention. I am now 50 years old, which seems to me to be a good place at which I could look back and survey the years that I’ve lived. I think this could be quite interesting, so let’s have a go at this and see what we come up with. What I will try to do is summarize my life in five-year blocks. I hope you also find this interesting.

Infancy

  • 1960: “It’s a boy!”  (Norman Craig Weatherhead enters the world.)
  • 1961:  Not much to say. (But wait until I become a linguist.)
  • 1962: “Guess what Mom? I can sink.”  (The day a lifeguard rescued me.)
  • 1963:  Little boys and puppy dog tails.  (The question was, who was chasing whom?)
  • 1964:  Droopy drawers and hanging out doors.  (Ask my mom about that one.)
  • 1965:  An early perfectionist.  (20 minutes to cut out the picture in kindergarten.)

Childhood

  • 1966: “I love reading!”  (Me, my Mom, and the Principal. Read the story here.)
  • 1967:  Canada becomes independent. (I rolled my centennial penny all the way home.)
  • 1968:  Sent home with a note.  (“You can’t tackle girls outside school and kiss them?”)
  • 1969:  Standing in the corner.  (“You mean I can’t speak out in class when I want to?”)
  • 1970:  Chased by bullies.  (Aha, that’s why I became a long-distance runner.)

Early Teen Years

  • 1971:  Grade Sixers Rule!  (It’s nice to start the school year at the top of the school.)
  • 1972:  God becomes real. (Read here how God first touched my life.)
  • 1973:  Born-again.  (I commit my life to Christ and am baptized.)
  • 1974:  Special leaders.  (Thank God for Youth Group leaders who cared about me.)
  • 1975:  Love for math.  (Doing 10th grade algebra in my 9th grade math class.)

Later Teen Years

  • 1976:  Love for running.  (All the way to Calgary city finals in the 800 m race.)
  • 1977:  Jesus and me in the Navy. (Read about my faith under fire in this story.)
  • 1978:  A high school grad.  (With honors and scholarships to boot.)
  • 1979:  Up the Amazon.  (My first short term mission with Teen Missions Intl.)
  • 1980:  Full-time missionary.  (18 wonderful/challenging months with Teen Missions.)

Young Adult

  • 1981:  Bible college begins.  (Alberta Bible College – what a great school!)
  • 1982:  Learning pastoral ministry. (Youth group leader and church intern. Crazy!!)
  • 1983:  The famous “Sandwich”.  (How I started dating Jill.  I even made the bread.)
  • 1984:  I graduate, Grandma dies, Jill and I get married.  (What a week!)
  • 1985:  Seminary in subzero.  (Canadian Theological Seminary in Saskatchewan.)

Early Married Years

  • 1986:  Summer missions with Jill.  (Last year Dominican Republic, now Mexico.)
  • 1987:  Celebrate with Jill. (Jill gets her nursing diploma and sings on stage.)
  • 1988:  Church  planter?  (A valiant effort, but a “dry well” in Texas.)
  • 1989:  Our bundle of joy.  (Eric is born. Bring on those diapers!)
  • 1990:  Pain in the offering.  (Not wanted at a church.)

Finding Direction

  • 1991: “Is he the father?”  (Glen is born – 9 lbs. 14 oz. and 23 3/4 inches long.)
  • 1992:  Ministry in the Prairies. (God uses a city boy in a country church.)
  • 1993:  God humbles me.  (Read the full story here.)
  • 1994:  Love for biblical languages.  (Hooray for Lincoln Christian Seminary.)
  • 1995:  Training to be a Bible translator.  (Studying linguistics in Dallas.)

Translation Years

  • 1996:  Churches support our ministry.  (Getting ready and set to go to the field.)
  • 1997: “But it’s not the swamps!”  (We moved to a small village in PNG.)
  • 1998:  An official alphabet.  (The first thing published in the Nend language.)
  • 1999:  Death in the family.  (My father dies; we visit family and supporting churches.)
  • 2000: Hard at work.  (Translation on the Gospel of Mark goes forward.)

Difficult Years

  • 2001:  Bible school in the Bush.  (Teaching Genesis to Revelation in the village.)
  • 2002:  The Diagnosis. (Eric has leukemia and we return to Canada.)
  • 2003:  Chemotherapy and photo ops.  (Eric chosen as cancer’s Spokes Kid.)
  • 2004:  A good year.  (Teaching at Western Christian College.)
  • 2005:  Management training.  (Preparing to serve in East Africa.)

Transition Years

  • 2006:  Family choices.  (Eric returns to Canada for Gr. 12; three of us stay in Africa.)
  • 2007:  Back to Canada. (We help the boys with college and getting ready for life.)
  • 2008:  Another diagnosis!  (A muscle disease hits Norm and walking gets tough.)
  • 2009:  Slowly and carefully.  (Jill and I take one short mission trip to PNG.)
  • 2010:  Finding solutions.  (Wheelchairs, walkers, and recliners allow me to do work.)
  • 2011:  A step of faith.  (Norm lives in Dallas for 4 months doing translation work.)

And so there you have it folks, my entire life in one page. I found it quite interesting to think back over all the years and consider what the highlights were for each of those years. As you can see, God or ministry work (either in North America or in overseas countries) was a big part of many of these years. Of course there have been some discouraging times and difficult times. But for the most part, I can just about say that I found something positive in each and every year.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this overview of my life. Perhaps you may find doing something like this, writing out the summary of your life year-by-year, may turn out to be just as interesting and valuable to you as it was to me doing my own life history. In some ways, I think it comes down to our basic outlook and attitude in life. For me, I try to live by these words: “Giving honor and glory to God in all that I do.”

Spiritually Dangerous Attitudes

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Read Hebrews 10:26-31

It is not certain who wrote the book of Hebrews.  But many believe the author was writing to Jewish Christians.  There are points throughout the book where it is clear that these Christians were enduring hardships, even persecution for their faith.  The author wants to strengthen their faith, pointing out just how superior Jesus is to key OT figures, and even more superior to angels.  He demonstrates time and again how much better the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood is than to the limited and temporary Old Covenant build on the sacrifices of animals year after year.

But there is one more concern that the writer touches upon a number of times throughout the book, namely the fact that there is the danger of Christians turning away from God and rejecting all that was once held to be true.  He speaks quite bluntly about this in the passage quoted above, Hebrews 10:26-31.  It is hard to believe that a Christian would ever turn his or her back on God, since they have, as the author puts it, “received the knowledge of the truth.”

The question some might ask is, “was this just ‘head’ knowledge, and so that person was never actually saved?”  No, the wording here speaks of not just knowing facts about God, but rather it speaks of someone who has had “a deep experiential relationship knowledge of God.”  There can be no doubt that person had been born again and was a child of God.  So what happened?

The key is in the wording of the actions of the person.  In verse 26, the verb speaks of a person who “deliberately and habitually chooses to sin against God.”  This attitude is expanded in verse 29 where the person has “trampled underfoot the Son of God, treated as unholy the blood of the covenant, and insulted the Spirit of grace.”  Put in simpler terms, the person has decided he wants nothing more to do with Jesus, he has considered the sacrifice of Christ as being meaningless, and speaks out against God and considers Him to be a God of wrath and punishment, not a God of love.

I’ve pondered this many times, and tried to figure out how a person who loves God, could become a person who hates God.  And I think part of the answer lies within the very nature of human culture, whether it be Western or non-Western culture.  Our attitudes towards God can be so negatively influenced by our culture that the results are that our beliefs are correspondingly incorrect.  And this can cause a person to start the walk of faith, and end up at least ignoring God, if not outright denying God in their lives.

In the more developed countries, where we also see the most blatant forms of materialism and consumerism, God is treated more as a Bargain Warehouse Operator, or an Emergency Medical Service Provider.  In the former case, whenever we have a need (whether it is a felt need or a real need) we turn to God and ask (perhaps demand) God for it.  And when God does not provide, we begin inch by inch to turn away from God, and we rely on self-dependence and see God as irrelevant.  Or in the latter case. when a crisis of any kind come upon us (physical, medical, financial, marital, etc.) we cry out to God demanding, begging, pleading with Him to do something.  But when the situation does not resolve itself the way we think it should, we get angry with God and shake our fist at Him in defiance, and our hearts get hardened to the idea that God could ever be a loving God.

But come back to Hebrews 10 with me and see how the passage concludes.  Verse 30 speaks of a God who knows all things, and He will ultimately judge all things and all people.  If life, circumstances, or especially other people have mistreated you or harmed you in any way, God himself says, “I will avenge.”  We must trust in and wait patiently for His justice.  But better than justice, we can know His grace, for God says in verse 17 with regards to us who believe in Christ and ask forgiveness for our sins, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”  And the Hebrew writer gives us this encouragement in verse 23, “…for He who promises is faithful.”

In conclusion, let us not judge God by the circumstances of our lives, which change day by day.  Is God real?  Yes!  Does He answer our prayers?  Yes, though often in ways we did not expect, or necessarily understand at the time.  But let us be careful not to let our hearts become hardened in our attitudes against God.  So often it is not one thing that starts this slide into unbelief and disobedience.  It is a lot of tiny slips, when we tried to control the circumstances of our lives instead of patiently trusting and believing that God could and would work out the situation.  We must believe that He is for us, and not against us.  Or we will find ourselves to have become enemies of God.