Happy About Serving God Full-time

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This article will probably be shorter than most.  “Why is that?” you might ask.  Putting it simply, God has allowed me the privilege to be so active in the mission work we are doing over here in Papua New Guinea that I find it is getting harder to carve out time for my article writing.  Normally, there would be the next instalment of the Bible study on the Gospel of John right here, instead of this short personal article.

But let me tell you what I have been up to this past week.  It’s really quite exciting when I think about it.  First of all, I am involved with a team of men who speak the Tay language in PNG.  We are checking the translation of James, 1 & 2 Peter into their mother tongue.  I am the consultant who comes along at the end of the translation process (after they do the rough draft, village check and exegetical check of the books), and I listen to an oral back translation of the material and asks lots of questions.  We want to make sure that the translation communicates well and is accurate to the Greek New Testament.

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The second thing that has been keeping me busy for a few weeks now is to sit down with many people here in the PNG Branch of our mission and have meetings with them.  Now that may not sound very exciting, but we talking about BIG ideas in many of these meetings.  We are looking at ways of how we can continue doing Bible translation, Literacy and Scripture Use among over a dozen languages here in PNG.

The second reason that I am in many meetings these days (mostly lunch meetings with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) is that I will be assuming a position of leadership within our Branch very soon.  At our annual meeting in January, I was elected to become the next Director of Language Affairs (DLA) who oversees all the linguistic projects that we are involved with within the country.  This position will begin officially on May 1st, but I have already begun doing some of the work of this position.

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Finally, one more thing that I am involved with each week, is to hold a Bible study with all the national men who may be in town at the time.  These men put in long hard hours just like all of our missionary translators doing the work of translating the Scriptures into their languages.  But most of them have never had the opportunity to go to any Bible College, and may have very little background on the whole message of the Bible.

So it is my privilege to prepare studies of various biblical topics each week and have a time of learning and sharing with these men.  We read verses from the Tok Pisin Bible (the trade language of PNG) to see what God’s Word says about the topic, and then go around the room to see if people are understanding what Scripture says.  This Wednesday we will conclude a three-week series on “Who is God?” and “What is God like?”  Praise God for these committed workers of God who want to learn more and more about Him.

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So that is what my weeks are looking like right now.  I have a very full plate of activities here in PNG, but I am filled with joy in what I am doing for the Lord.  It was not that long ago that I wondered if I would have the strength and ability to do much for God any more.  But God has been so good to me.  He began last summer to increase my strength and tolerance of being more active.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am doing what I am doing by the grace of God.

Well, I said this would be a shorter article.  And it is slightly.  But I am just so excited about what God is doing in me and through me to advance His Kingdom work over here in PNG that my fingers just keep flying over the keyboard.  There is so much more to say about all this, but I will need to take the time to make separate articles about these things.  And then you too will be rejoicing along with me at the marvellous things that God is doing to reach the nations with His Word, and transforming their lives.  Stay tuned, there will be more to come.

Praise God

Jesus Heals To Show God’s Power

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John 9:1 – 12

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!” 10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” 11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!” 12 “Where is he now?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he replied.

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Chapter nine of John’s Gospel is a very long and intricately woven story, but it is still one single story.  It does reveal the power of God working through Jesus.  But more importantly, it will show us the progression of faith of the man who had been blind, as well as the progression of disbelief and rejection of Jesus’ healing ministry by the Pharisees.

It is very significant that the one who was born physically blind would end up being the one who could see spiritually.  And on the opposite side, the Pharisees, who were the primary religious teachers in Jesus’ day, are shown that they who ought to have recognized Jesus for who He really was, were in fact the very ones themselves who were spiritually blind.

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When Jesus and his disciples noticed a man who had been blind since birth, the disciples asked a question that reflects the beliefs of a great many cultural groups.  Especially in non-western countries, and in animistic societies like what we lived within Papua New Guinea, many people believe that sickness is the direct result of some sin or wrong doing.  Since this man had been born blind, they naturally assumed that either the parents or the man himself were guilty of some sin.

I found an excellent quote in the Translator’s Handbook on John which considered Jesus’ response to the question:

Jesus’ answer to the disciples then becomes a rejection of their belief that the man’s blindness was due either to his parents’ sin or to his own sin, but he makes no judgement as to the reason that the man was born blind. He simply says that the man’s blindness offers an opportunity to show God’s power at work in him, and that Jesus himself has come to reveal that power at work in history.

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Even in our modern western culture, I do not think that we have a good and proper understanding when it comes to acute sickness and suffering.  Many people ask, “How could a loving God cause, or even allow, such terrible things like the pain and suffering we see in the world?”  Jesus does not really address this question, and I think maybe we should not either.

Instead, we need to accept that part of living within a fallen world means that most, if not all people will experience some terrible forms of suffering and loss in their lifetime.  The question really is what do we do when we encounter these kinds of circumstances.  In the life of this blind man, Jesus saw that He had an opportunity to display the power of God, which is certainly greater than any kind of sickness.

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This brings me to Romans 8:28, which I have referred to in other articles:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I’ve written in many of my articles about my older son and his journey through his cancer years of his leukemia, as well as my present journey over the last four years of my muscular disease called Mitochondrial Myopathy.  But in all these difficult years, I never asked the question of “Why did You allow this to hit my son or happen to me?”

Rather, I have taken the promise of Romans 8:28 that God will bring good out of every situation for those who love God, no matter how bad the situation might look.  If I had the time and the space, I would be able to tell you how true and real this promise is, for we saw time and time again God’s goodness and His power coming through our health situations to bless us and to bless others around us.

So what is your belief about pain and suffering?  Is God an evil and uncaring God?  Or can you see the hand of God in the midst of the suffering, revealing the power and the goodness of God towards those who know and love God.  If you have not experienced this, perhaps it is because you have not taken the first step to invite God and His love into your heart.  I encourage you to do so friend, and then I pray you would experience God’s grace and power in your life as I have in mine.

* 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.

God Looks On The Inside

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John 7:14 – 24

14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”

20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

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In the section of John chapter 7 just before this passage, we saw that Jesus was trying to keep a low key profile.  As some would say today, it looked like he was trying to “fly under the radar”.  It must have been difficult for him seeing as the annual “Feast of Tabernacles” was meant to be a joyous time for all Jews, and especially in Jerusalem.

And then suddenly during the middle of the week of celebration, we see Jesus marching straight up to the Temple and beginning to teach.  I wonder what was going on in his mind.  Could it be that he saw the shallowness and superficiality of the faith of many of his countrymen and he wanted them to come to know his Father like he did?  Or more probably, he could no longer stand the hypocrisy and the abuse of religious power that the Jewish leaders exercised over the people and Jesus finally had to speak up against this.

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The encounter that followed was very dramatic.  Jesus taught with great boldness concerning God and His Kingdom and the people were amazed at this.  They saw that his message was full of spiritual power, but they had always been led to believe that a person had to go through the Rabbinical schools (their form of theological seminaries) to have such power and authority to teach and preach like Jesus did.

But Jesus points out that religious pedigrees and positions are things that are important to men, but not to God.  What is really important is to lead people back into a living relationship with God.  Even if it means pointing out the sin in one’s life that is keeping that person away from God.  Jesus knew that his teachings struck at the hearts of those selfish hypocrites of his day, and he calls them out to the table by stating that they even have it in their heart to kill Jesus, and thus kill his message that would convict them.

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The truth is laid bare when Jesus revealed their hypocrisy over actions done on the Sabbath.  They claimed that no one could do any work of any kind on the Jewish day of rest.  And yet they had the command of God for circumcision, which was older than the Law, that they said allowed them to break the Sabbath rest.  In other words they used one law to break another law.  And they felt quite justified in their rigid legalism.

On the other hand, Jesus did a tremendous act of compassion by healing a lame man on the Sabbath.  But rather then praise Jesus for his action, they accused him of breaking a religious law.  To God, this is so absurd!  To allow a religious rule to overshadow meeting the needs of hurting people goes against the very nature of God.

Jesus pointed out what the real issue was when he said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”  Whenever we put the focus on conformity to external behavior (which is what legalism is all about), we lose sight of what is really important, the true condition of the person’s heart.  It is not difficult for a person to do “all the right things” and still be miles away from God in his heart.  But if a person’s heart is pure and open and receptive to God and His grace, then all his external actions will match the inner beauty of his heart.

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And that brings us to some important application here.  Let us be very slow to judge and condemn another person simply on the external behaviors that we might see.  We must instead take the time to get to know that person and what is going on in the inside of him or her.  We do not need to promote conformity to rules to be the basis of thinking that person is right with God.  We need to help nurture a person’s relationship with God.  That is a heart issue.

In closing, let me remind us all that Jesus gave a stern warning to us in his analogy that we might have a plank sticking out of our eye (metaphorically speaking) while we judge someone else’s sin (which he compared to as a speck of dust in their eyes).  Let us clean up our own heart before we think we can help clean up someone else’s heart.

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

“For God So Loved The World” – Pt. 1

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John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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It is possible that this single verse has had more impact on the world than any other verse in the Bible.  Contained within these few words, the entire message of the Gospel, or Good News, is laid out for us.  It is truly amazing how broad and how deep the spiritual message is of this one verse.  And if you asked most people to tell you what their favorite verse is, or what verse they learned to memorize first, the answer for many people is John 3:16.

In many ways, this verse is the foundation for one of the most popular Christian pamphlets of the ’70s and ’80’s.  It was called “The Four Spiritual Laws“.  The message of that pamphlet could be summarized in four words: 1) God; 2) Mankind; 3) Sin; and 4) Jesus.  The message was: “God existed, and then created Mankind.  But Mankind sinned and became separated from God. The only solution to this problem of sin was to send Jesus, the Perfect Man/God who died on the Cross to make a bridge so that men and women could come back to God.

To appreciate the spiritual depth of this verse, I want to slow things down and have us take a look at each of the important words and phrases of this verse.  I pray that all who read this will not just see the beauty of this magnificent verse of Scripture, but will take the Message to heart and let Jesus be the Lord of their life.

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“For God…”

  • At the end of verse 15, Jesus had just told Nicodemus that if any person would put their faith in Him, the Son of Man, that person would then have eternal life.  Many scholars think that vv. 16-21 are now John’s words as he reflects back on the life of Jesus.  Seeing that there existed this unpassable chasm between God and mankind, God decided He would have to do something to bridge this gap.  We could translate these words, “And so thus God…”  It is always God who acts first for our benefit.

“For God so loved…”

  • If there is any one single truth about God that people need to understand, it is that God is a God of love.  1 John 4:7-8 tells us that Love comes from God, for God is Love.  Far too many people have an image of God up in heaven, either as an old man who is not interested in nor involved in the affairs of men, or they see God as a punishing God who stands by with a big stick to hurt us and make us suffer when we sin.  This is as far away from the truth as a person can get.  GOD IS LOVE!!

“For God so loved the world…”

  • It is also wrong to think that God shows favoritism, or is just the “God of the Jews”.  The word ‘world’ here does not have anything to do with geography, but refers to all of mankind that fills the world.  The love of God is meant to be Universal in its scope, so that any person who wants to can be able to come back to God.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…”

  • Some versions say that God gave “His only begotten Son,” which sounds like the Son was “born” from God just like we give birth to our children.  A more accurate translation for the Greek word here is “his unique” or “his only one of a kind” Son.  What is truly amazing about the love of God for mankind is that God could have chosen many other ways to show His love for us, but He didn’t.  There was one and ONLY ONE Son of God. 
  • The Son, who also shares the nature of Godhood, was intricately bound to the Father and the Holy Spirit in a triangle of pure love for each other.  Read John 17:20-26.  And yet, God gave His One and Only Son over to the world and allowed Him to die so that we might live.  Such sacrificial love.  God did that for you and for me.  What amazing love!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him…”

  • In this phrase, we see once more the love of God.  When sin was about to enter the world, God could have prevented it…that is if God had created us to be robots without the option of free will.  But even after sin came into the world, God has never forced Himself upon us.  God is the perfect gentleman, and He patiently waits for anyone who will come to Him in faith and believe that Jesus can forgive us our sin once we willingly repent of sin and accept Him as Lord.  Have you done that?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

  • When I see the word ‘perish’ I see the picture of a person out at sea and about to drown.  If the person goes back under the water one more time and not come back up, then that person will perish.  But if someone reaches out and lifts him/her up, then that person has just passed out of death and into life. 
  • That is what happens when a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour of their life.  That person is no longer in danger of eternal death and separation from God; that person will live forever in heaven with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

So my friend, what is your response to John 3:16?

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.”

God’s Little Detours – Part 2

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The Value Of Detours

This is the second article that I want to talk about this concept of encountering detours in life.  And let’s face it, the question is not whether we will encounter detours, but what to do when we encounter detours.  In the last article, I mentioned that we will all have good moments, and that we must treasure those moments and count them as blessings. And now I would like to suggest that we even consider the detours of our lives to be blessings and to treasure them also.

This is exactly the kind of attitude that I sensed as I read the second half of chapter 9 of Mark Atteberry’s book entitled, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel”.  For those who have been reading these “Hard Road Journey” articles, I would like to suggest again that this book is certainly one worth getting and reading many times.  (You can click here to find out how I can help you to get this book.)

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Let’s look then at how Atteberry considers detours in life to be helpful:

1.  Detours Can Train You

One of the first things that Atteberry does in this part of the chapter is to make a distinction between “to teach” and “to train”.  I thought that this was quite good because there is an important difference between the two concepts. You can hear about something, watch something, and even study something, and that might “teach” you something important. But until you have gone through an experience, you have not really been “trained” to be able to handle that experience.

I shared with many people of the strong interest that I had in Bible translation work since the time that I was age 16.  Then, when I tell them that I was 36 years old when our family went over to Papua New Guinea to start working in a translation project, people often ask the obvious question, “So what did you do in those 20 years?”

And I will respond, “Let’s see, I did some short-term mission work in Central and South America. I went to Bible school, then got married, then carried on and went to seminary. After that, I did about five years of pastoral ministry. Then there were some in between years where I felt a little lost and God was teaching me some lessons in humility. And also, we started a family and began raising our two boys.”

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I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to ministry work, and especially Bible translation work, I can be very passionate about it. Almost to the point that you could say I become so absorbed or obsessed with it that I can lose perspective with regards to other people or other important things in life. But I would never say that those 20 years between the time that I first thought about being a Bible translator until when I finally got onto the field were wasted years.

This came home to me in a powerful way in 2007. I was in PNG and attending a course to train translators to become Bible translation consultants. We were trained to listen well, ask good questions, be patient, be sensitive to cultural issues, know how to exegete Scriptures well, offer suggestions but not be forceful about it, and much more.

By the third week of this course we had had opportunities to sit in and watch experienced consultants work with other missionaries and the national speakers to check their translations. We were also given opportunity to lead sessions ourselves. When the teacher of this course asked me one day how it was going for me, my reply was, “Everything in my life up to this point now make sense to me.” And I still believe that is true: my theological training plus my years of pastoral ministry plus my village experience as a translator had honed me to be able to be a good translation consultant.

2.  Detours Can Test You.

But just when I thought that everything was now in place for me to be traveling the world as a Bible translation consultant and trainer, that was when my muscle disease hit me and its symptoms flared up. In February of 2008, I had just returned from PNG after doing six weeks of intense consultant sessions and some training sessions. I literally went from running through airports to barely being able to walk across my own living room floor.

As my health deteriorated that year, I slowly released one responsibility after another of the many international tasks that Pioneer Bible Translators had asked me to be involved in. By the spring of 2009, I was hardly doing anything at all, except feeling sorry for myself. And I felt like my ministry work and even my life was coming to an end.

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Praise the Lord, God showed me that there were still many things that I could do and that if I leaned on him and trusted him for my daily strength, He would empower me to continue to do this translation consultant work. What I’ve come to realize is that while there may be many things that I would like to do, I am to focus in on this one thing that I can do and which God still wants me to do.

Many people who are aware of my muscle condition have commented to me how amazing it is that I am still able to do this work. I could let this go to my head, but instead, I point to God and say it is by God’s grace and grace alone that this is possible. I will close this article was a very good quote from Atteberry on page 124:

Make up your mind that you’re willing to learn whatever the experience is ready to teach you. And remember that your character is being put to the test. People are watching and will be influenced for better or worse by what you say and do.

Transforming Lives With God’s Word

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What is Pioneer Bible Translators?

I have mentioned the name of Pioneer Bible Translators many times in my articles, the mission agency that I am a member of, but I have not given much background on it.  So I thought I would share something that our current President, Greg Pruett, said in one of his articles.  He sums up some of the primary distinctions of our mission and what we hope to achieve through prayer and the power of God.

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Greg wrote this a year ago, and sets the backdrop of what PBT is all about by starting with this story:

The passion in his eyes drew my full attention. I could tell from the sheer concentration on my friend’s face that he was about to make a once-in-a-lifetime statement: “I can’t imagine any way to explain how grateful I am. For as long as I live, I will never be able to tell you the thanks I have in my heart for this New Testament in my own language.

Sometimes I think about it at night. I used to read the Bible in English or in French, and I could understand a little bit, but now when I read this New Testament, the meaning just comes right into my mind.” Pioneer Bible Translators’ ultimate aim, our vision, is to strive together with our partners for the day when God’s Word will be transforming lives in every language on earth.

Greg then goes on to share the core values of PBT:

The Need

Every person on earth has the right to a Bible that he or she can understand. Jesus said that people cannot truly live except by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Yet 350 million people —speaking more than 2,200 languages—are completely Bible-less, without access to even one portion of Scripture. Another one billion people do not yet have a New Testament available in the language they understand best. How long will they wait to encounter the story of God’s love for them?

Our Roots

Pioneer Bible Translators started discipling the Bible-less in 1976. With our roots in the Restoration Movement, PBT is committed to practicing unity in the body of Christ with Scripture as the sole authority. We promote the restoration of the unity of the Church by mobilizing Christians to work together on the basis of obeying the clearly taught, essential elements of Scripture while allowing for a wide diversity of opinion on matters that Scripture does not make clear.

We seek to mobilize believers who are able to unite around reading and obeying the Bible and making it accessible to people who do not have it. Today, Pioneer Bible Translators bridges the gap between the Church and Bibleless peoples, translating the Word into the heart languages of unreached people to transform lives and grow thriving New Testament churches.

Our Strategy

Pioneer Bible Translators…
• Disciples the Bible-less peoples
• Mobilizes God’s people everywhere
• Provides enduring access to God’s Word
• Maximizes the impact of Scripture to grow the Church

We give our utmost to fulfill the Great Commission through the power of the translated Word of God.

We aspire to help people without God’s Word impact their context with Scripture, equipping them to translate it into their language and use it to transform their community. We consider our ministry among a people complete when a network of churches is using Scripture to grow and multiply. We put together whatever team is needed to help a language group go from Bible-less to Bible impact.

We Send…
• Translators where there is no Scripture.
• Church planters where there is no church to use the Scripture.
• Literacy workers where the people cannot read.
• Community development specialists where the people are closed to Scripture in order to show Christ’s love.
• Skilled support specialists —teachers, builders, administrators and more—to accelerate the mission.

Our Future

If the momentum of the Bible Translation movement continues to build as it has for the last 30 years, then over the next two decades we and our partners will start all the translation projects needed in the world. By 2050, we could live in a world where the New Testament has been translated into every viable language. We are now recruiting and training the generation of missionaries that could leave behind them a world in which the New Testament exists in every language!

If Jesus doesn’t return before then, they will tell their grandchildren, “Kids, it wasn’t always like it is today. There was a time when not everyone could have the Bible in their language.” We in PBT are giving our lives to leave that legacy. But it’s not enough to crank out Scripture—we want the Bible to transform lives.

That’s why we are now planning for our future by asking the question, “What does PBT need to become—what do we need to bring to the Bible translation movement—to see a network of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply in every language group on earth in the coming decades?” If this generation rises to the challenge, the goal is within our reach! God has placed it within our reach.

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These are exciting days for sure.  I have been part of PBT for 16 years now, and I have seen it grow from a small mission with two offices rooms and about 100 missionaries working in primarily three regions of the world, to a mission that is based out of two building (one just brand new), and has over 300 missionaries working in countries all over the world.

How could such a transformation happen?  Only by the grace of God and the power of prayer.  And as Greg says, the purpose of our existence as a mission is not to grow the mission, but to transform the lives and hearts of individuals in every distinct culture and linguistic group of people around the world.

Stay tuned as I share much more from this point forward about Pioneer Bible Translators.  Both in my “Who Am I?” personal life journey stories, as well as current day happenings in this mission.  But in anything I write, ultimately, I want to give all the honor and glory to God who is doing these great things through us who are merely His servants.  Praise be to God.

Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary

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God And My Muscle Disease – Part 2

In the last article, I wrote out some of the history of this family inherited genetic disease called MELAS 3243, which falls under the general heading of being a Mitochondrial Myopathy.  In simple terms, this means that the mitochondria (the energy production part within all of our cells) do not function properly for me.  My muscles produce limited amounts of energy each day, so I constantly battle with fatigue which can happen quite fast, depending on the level of activity I am engaged in.  Along with this, I battle constant pain which increases with activity and when I fatigue.

This can be quite challenging at times and can greatly affect me at the most inconvenient times.  I recall the time when we went as a family to the church’s Christmas Eve service.  I had been moderately active during the day (getting presents wrapped), and there was certainly more excitement in the air as our family of five engaged in our annual fun time of cooking sugar cookies and decorated them with different food-colored icing .  I had my nap, then we drove slowly through neighborhoods to see the Christmas light decorations and ended up at our church for the 11 p.m. service.

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The service was beautiful with some Christmas carol singing, a short message, and then a time of silent reflection on the birth of Christ.  Now a strange-funny kind of thing about my disease.  It doesn’t just affect my muscles, but an emotional moment (whether bad or good) can also drain my energy.  So when it was time to leave, a family member had to push me uphill to get out of the auditorium.  I started to go slowly across the foyer on my arm crutches thinking I could make it to the car outside.

But then a friend stopped me to say hello and wish me a Merry Christmas.  Well, what little energy I had left was used up in that short 5-minute visit.  Suddenly my friend asked me, “Do you need to sit down?”  She saw me going white and starting to wobble.  I nodded yes and she ran and got a chair behind me just as I collapsed into the chair.  Thankfully I have never yet actually fallen, but there have been some close calls as I can deplete my energy so quickly, sometimes within as short as 15 minutes.

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Now consider what I have just written, and then consider what God has been able to do through me in these past three years.  During these three years that I have now lived with this disease, God allowed me the privilege to travel five times over to Papua New Guinea to be able to continue doing Bible translation checking.  And each trip we’ve taken, we extend it a little longer, to see how my body will do.  I went from four or five-week trips to a seven week trip, and this past Feb/March it was a nine week trip.

Admittedly, it is very hard on me to travel half way around the world.  But God has set up a great routine for me.  I fly to Los Angeles and take a day room at a Sheraton hotel to sleep 4-5 hours before going back to the airport to catch the midnight flight to Brisbane, Australia.  In Brisbane, I taxi to a family run motel and the couple know me so well, they take me straight to the handicapped room.  They have a small kitchen behind the office and when I wake up later, they cook a home-made meal for me.  Then in Port Moresby, PNG, I stay in a mission guesthouse who also have great staff who take care of my every need.  And throughout every airport, I get fantastic wheelchair assistance.  Thank you God!!!

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Now three exciting things have happened recently.  This last January I helped lead a week-long orientation class for our mission on a college campus in California.  Going from -40 C (also 40 below zero in F.) to a balmy +10 C (+50 F.) prompted me to ask my US mission colleague if he thought there might be any work for me to do if I was to say, come down to the Dallas office area during the cooler Fall and early Winter time.  One week later, I got a call telling me that at least two departments were fighting over me and asking how soon I could come to Dallas.  (I have my ticket and will be leaving Aug. 9 until Christmas to help with training and mentoring new missionary recruits for our mission.)

Secondly, at the end of this last trip to PNG, I told the Directors that the trip was very successful as I was able to finish checking 5 New Testament books for 3 different language groups.  So now we are lining up at least three, maybe four projects for me to check during the Jan-April period.  This will allow me to get completely out of Canada’s winter months, which is wonderful, considering that the colder it is, the more pain I am in, but the more hot and humid it is, the less pain and muscle cramping I experience.

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But then a third ministry option was offered to me as well.  We have a team of nationals in a Southeast Asia country, plus a veteran missionary who lives in the States for most of the year, all of whom are very computer savvy, and are able to send all their files and notes electronically to me so that I can check them while living remotely anywhere in North America.  I was told that when we finish checking and then publish the NT in this common speech (Plain Text) trade language, we will have the potential to impact the lives of over 200 million people with a text that they can read and understand in their hearts.

So what am I saying at the end of these two articles that started with my disease and end with looking at all the ministry work God is placing in front of me to do.  Well, let me summarize it all in two sentences.  In the last two years, I was operating as a part-time disabled Missionary.  But now, by the grace of God, I am going forward by faith to operate as a full-time Holy Spirit enabled Missionary.

Thank you Jesus!  It is only through Your grace that all of this has been made possible.       To You belongs all the glory.


God And My Muscle Disease – Part 1

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After hinting at or mentioning my muscle disease in quite a few of my articles, I think I should finally sit down and explain in more detail what exactly this disease is, how it affects me, and where I think God is in the midst of all this.  As you read this story, please do not think that I know all that can be known medically about this disease.  Also, please do not think that I “have it all figured out” or that I am some kind of super-Christian who has overcome this and “walks in victory” every day.

The story starts back in the 70’s when my sister Lorna showed signs of weakness and fatigue as she went through puberty.  I still remember how as a teenager that she could not throw very far, nor run very fast, nor lift heavy items.  She got worse in her 20’s and found that she could not accomplish daily tasks like grocery shopping and doing the laundry.  After a string of illnesses, Lorna went down to Jamaica to join her husband who was trying to find work there.  She did well in the warmer climate, but reacted to aloe juices that she prepared herself.  She ended up in hospital with lung congestion which led to pneumonia, and her weakened heart finally gave out and she died at age 33.

Back to the 70’s, a neurologist tried very hard to find out what was wrong with Lorna.  My recollection was that they thought she had some kind of muscular dystrophy.  They decided to do a muscle biopsy on some of the family members which ended up including my sister and me, my mother and my grandmother.  With their limited genetic knowledge back then, they saw something a bit odd in my grandmother’s cells, something more in my mother’s cells, and a lot more in my sister’s cells.  My biopsy showed I had a little bit of something else odd, but they decided then that this was just a female to female inherited disease.

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Now jump ahead 30 years to March of 2008.  I had just returned back from Papua New Guinea after doing some Bible translation consultant checking work.  I had literally been running through airports in February and worked many 14 hour days with the men.  But in March, I began to ache in various places all over my lower body, and somewhat in upper limbs.  After just being home for six weeks, these aches and pains increased to where I was unable to walk across my living room floor.  Definitely time to see the doctor.

Well, one test led to many more tests, and they ran through all kinds of possible diagnoses from osteoarthritis to fibromyalgia to arthritic rheumatism.  Finally a neurologist (who happened to be the same neurologist my sister had seen 30 years previously) suggested that I might have the same disease that my sister had and wanted me to see a genetic specialist.  I did that, and he had similar thoughts on this and ordered for me to have a muscle biopsy.

The results of the biopsy came back in November of 2008.  My geneticist said that the results showed with 100% certainty that I had a mutation on one of the genes within the DNA of my mitochondria.  The umbrella name which my disease comes under is called Mitochondrial Myopathy.  Put in simple terms, mitochondria is the energy production part of your cell and is in all the cells of your body, but mine now do not work properly and so I cannot produce a normal amount of energy for my body like others.

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The technical name for the disease is MELAS 3243.  The letters are an abbreviation from “Mitochondrial Myopathy (muscle weakness), Encephalopathy (brain and central nervous system disease), Lactic Acidosis (buildup of a cell waste product), and Stroke-like Episodes (partial paralysis, partial vision loss, or other neurological abnormalities)”.  (Taken from Mitochondrial Disease Foundation website.)

Now not to panic anyone, although I may be susceptible to all of the above disease manifestation symptoms, it does not mean that I will actually experience them all.  In fact, I am probably mostly dealing with the fatigue and pain that comes from the lactic acid build up in my muscles.  (Imagine a marathon runner whose muscles are all cramped up and it looks like he is going to collapse due to exhaustion just before the finish line.  That is very similar to what I experience every day.)

So this disease has placed some severe limitations on my life.  On a very good day, I may be able to walk as far as 12 to 15 city blocks.  But due to pain, or fatigue, or both, on most days I can only walk about 2-3 blocks and I can only do this much if I am using my 4-wheel walker and go at a very slow pace.  And at home, I have to sit most of the day in a recliner chair to keep my legs up in a comfortable position.

There are in still many activities that I can do such as drive a car, help with the dishes, go to a restaurant or a movie theater.  But in most of these activities that are outside of the house, I have to use some kind of equipment to help me (walker, arm-clasp crutches or a telescoping walking pole).  I have in fact been labeled as “disabled” by my doctor and by the government which has provided a small disability pension.

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And where has God been in all of this you ask?  He has in fact been much more gracious to me than you might first imagine.  Three things come quickly to mind for me.  First, this disease which normally shows up in your teen years, did not show up in me until I was 47.  God gave me an extra 30 years of good health.  And we were not living overseas when this first started (I could have been crippled in Africa).  And in spite of the huge physical challenges I face each day, God has still allowed me to serve overseas on short mission trips to continue doing translation consultant work.

I want to say a lot more about how God is still working in and through my life, but I am going to leave that for the next article.  This is part one of the story.  Join me in a couple of days to read the rest of the story.

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God is To Be Praised!

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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I will tell of the kindnesses of LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. Isaiah 63:7

All too often, our faith is man-centered, rather than God-centered. We think it’s all about us, when it always has been and always will be about Him! In this verse, Isaiah is focused upon God and His kindness to His people.

Isaiah demonstrates for us a marvelous way of staying God-focused. He committed himself to speaking of the kindnesses of the Lord. God had been good to His people as His deeds demonstrated, and Isaiah was going to make sure that the Israelites were aware of this fact.

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Are you telling others how good God has been to you? Are you aware of the “many good things” he has done for you? Speak it out! Let yourself hear yourself telling others of the kindness of God. This will keep your focus in the right place.

Father, thank You for your loving kindness toward me. You are so good. You have blessed me with Your Presence and awesome love. Give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life. I want to speak of Your loving kindness with clarity and boldness.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod. Click on the link for more information on this resource.

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Tonight I am sitting in my hotel room and I am reflecting on the devotional thought that my friend David Butts has written above.  It is wonderful to be able to pause and to think about the “many good things that God has done for me.  Actually, there are so many wonderful blessings I have received from the Lord over the years, that I would not be able to write them all out in one article, or even in 100 articles.

That, in fact, is a big reason why I write articles three times a week for The Listening Post.  There is just so much that God has done for me.  And when a memory of some outstanding experience comes to me, or when I read devotional thoughts from others, or when I read a passage from the Bible and the power and the joy of His Word comes through to me, I find myself now quickly jotting down the thoughts and then going to the computer to write up another blog story.

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One line that catches my attention from David’s devotional above is the one, “[Father] give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life.”  Up until this last year, I was very reluctant to pursue this idea of writing down “my story” with others.  Part of me felt that this was rather egocentric and arrogant to talk about me.

I have had to get over that feeling.  I’ve come to realize that in most cases (as long as I am writing carefully and prayerfully) that when I do share stories about me, that in fact I am really sharing stories about God who is the One working in and through me.  I must admit though, that even as I seek to honor God and be a blessing to others through my blog writing, that I am being blessed by the feedback I get after an article is published, and just knowing that many hundreds of people are visiting my site.

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One other thing that I would like to mention in this article in which I am wanting to lift up God and praise Him for His goodness is in regards to my health.  I do talk in many stories about my muscle disease (a mitochondrial myopathy) and I want to be careful that people don’t think I am complaining or that I am upset at God for Him “giving” this disease to me.  Even if I used milder words such as “God allowed this to happen,” people might think I am still upset at God.

On the contrary, I have many reasons to praise Him for His goodness, especially with regards to my condition.  Normally, this muscle disease shows up in puberty and the person’s muscles and body strength and energy do not develop properly.  My sister had this disease (it is a genetically inherited condition from mother to children) and she was weak from the time she was 12.  Due to health complications, she died of congestive heart failure in 1992.

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But consider how gracious God was toward me.  I had a very active and healthy life until the disease hit me three years ago at age 48.  So I consider it an act of His grace that He allowed me to have 36 years of good health from my teenage years till now.  And this disease could have flared up in 2007 when our family was still in Africa, but God waited and held it off for 8 more months.  Then I lost my ability to walk normally while living at home in Calgary, which is also where my geneticist works who diagnosed me and is a world-class specialist for this muscle disease.

No, I am determined to remember always that God is good and shows his loving kindness to those who love Him and obey Him.  So if I keep things in proper perspective, specifically if I can remove the focus away from me and turn the focus on God, then I will gladly “be bold and courageously tell others” how good God has been to me.

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