Mom’s Graduation To Heaven

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Mom’s Last Moments

Many of you may have already heard that Norm’s mom took her final breath and then stepped into heaven to be with our Lord Jesus.  This occurred on Saturday afternoon, March 22.

Mom had been in hospital for about six weeks, fighting a bladder infection which was resistant to the antibiotics, and was struggling with some laboured breathing.  It was discovered that there was fluid building in her lungs and abdomen which they needed to drain off.  Testing of the fluid, plus more examination of her body revealed that mom had Stage 4 cancer throughout her intestines.

Mom was moved quickly to a hospice after that.  We had been wanting to talk with mom on the phone, but time zones and communication challenges had not allowed that for us.  But on our early Sunday morning here in Papua New Guinea, one of our cell phones alerted us to a message.  It was from Norm’s brother who said time was now short for mom.

We were able to get through this time on our phone and via speaker phone were able to say our last words of love and goodbye to mom.  Jill sang “Yes, Jesus Loves You.”  God gave us that opportunity to reach out to mom, and then five minutes after our call, mom took her last breath and then graduated to heaven.

Norm’s brother Murray sent a text back later and wrote, “Yesterday, we were a complete family again during the final moments. Blake held the phone close to Mom’s ear while I held her hand and studied her face closely.  There was an almost imperceptible reaction to your voices and your song – like an internal struggle to hear.  She stopped breathing a few minutes later.  I thought you should know this.”

Our niece Becky wrote this about that special moment,

“When I saw her at 2, her eyes were closed, and her breathing still laboured, but when I sat beside her and held her hand, I felt her try to respond, and her eyes flicked open 3 times. This was around the time that Murray got you on the phone. I know my Dad has said that he believes Granny heard you. I will tell you that I KNOW she heard you.

The peace that washed over the room as you spoke to her and as Jill sang, it was different than how the room felt before. As Jill was singing, I heard Jesus speak, “I am coming soon now.” It amazed me that within moments of hanging up that phone call, her breathing suddenly changed, it slowed and her eyes became heavy and peaceful. And just like that, she walked with Jesus into glory.

The presence of God in that room was like nothing I’ve experienced. He loves us so much, that He knew Mom’s wishes was to hear your voices and your wishes were to share your hearts with her one more time. He honored that, and I just love that about Him. Your voices were the balm to her heart, and I am forever grateful that the Lord had compassion to allow for that beautiful transition to be the way it was.”

Mom is now free from all the restraints and decay that we all experience in our mortal bodies.  Now she is liberated to a new and eternal life of joy inexpressible as she now inhabits her heavenly home.  God did give us this beautiful moment to say goodbye here.  But it won’t be that long before we are saying hello once again to each other when we too will graduate into our eternal home with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Celebrate with us this passing of a great woman of God, Mavis Elizabeth (Knight) Weatherhead, whom we affectionately call “Mom”.

Norm & Jill Weatherhead
Missionaries to Papua New Guinea

Mavis Weatherhead

Love, Obedience and Joy Go Together

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John 15:1 – 17

As I studied this passage, I was fascinated by how there seemed to be a repetition in what Jesus was saying to His disciples, that what He said in verses 1-8 were echoed or expanded in verses 9-17.  This really should not come as a great surprise though, for we must remember that chapters 13 to 17 of John’s Gospel all took place on the last evening that Jesus spent with His disciples before He was crucified.

If you or I knew that we were just about to die, then I’m sure that we too would want to be very clear to our family and friends that they hear and understand our last wishes.  And to make sure that they really heard us, we too would probably repeat the most important parts again to them.  It seems to me that this is what Jesus did.  And to help see this, I have paired the verses together from the two halves.  Jesus said:

1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

Both God the Father, and God the Son love you and I very much.  God tenderly cares for us as the Master of a beautiful garden.  It is a love relationship that ties us to God and God to us, and we must choose to remain in that relationship to experience His love.

    

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

Here we see that love and obedience go together.  Jesus modeled for us what obedience to God looked like, and showed that this is the path to experiencing God’s love.   When we truly love God, we desire to obey Him.  If we refuse to live in obedience to Him though, God will remove His watch care over us, and may allow painful events (pruning) to shape our lives to bring about positive growth in our lives.

    

You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

As Christians, we must allow Christ to rule completely in our lives.  And we establish and maintain this relationship through regularly spending time in the Bible, God’s Word.  As we drink in the riches of His Word, we will experience such tremendous joy in connecting and communing with God.

    

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

All that we think we accomplish in this world mean nothing though in the light of eternity.  We need to pursue actions that have eternal significance, such as loving God and others, even as the cost of our own lives.  God will reserve our reward for us in heaven which will never be destroyed.

    

Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

All of us begin as broken, sin corrupted people whom God cannot tolerate in his holy presence.  We all deserve to be cast into the fires of hell.  But then God showed His love by sending Jesus to become one of us.  And Jesus showed His love by taking the punishment for our sin.  He then elevates us, who believe in Him, from being slaves to sin to becoming children of God and brothers and sisters to Christ.  Praise God for His great love.

    

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

When we make that choice of accepting Jesus as the Lord of our lives, the things that He wants become the things that we want.  We begin to know God’s mind on important matters, and so when we ask for things from God, it is not out of our own selfishness that we ask, but rather a desire to see the Kingdom of God advance in the world.  Therefore, what we ask for will already be within the will of God and He will naturally want to give us those things that we are praying and asking for.

    

When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

17 This is my command: Love each other.

The final result is that we will be true disciples, that is, as we follow Jesus, we will become like Jesus, and this will bring honor to God.  In practical terms, we will love others just like Jesus loves others, and was willing to die to demonstrate the love of God to the world.  Wow!!  What deep truths are contained within this passage.

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What Truly Loving Someone Looks Like

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John 13:31-38

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

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

                                

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 5

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In the article two weeks ago, I mentioned that I struggled quite a bit during my first long-term period of being a missionary.  That was when I was serving with Teen Missions and my summer experience turned out to be 18 months in length as I kept extending my time with the mission group.  There were so many new issues to deal with, both cross-culturally and in the relationships I had with my fellow missionaries.

It is now coming up to 35 years for me of being involved in mission experiences, so I guess you could say that I am a “veteran” missionary.  I think I can say that I have grown quite a bit over the years and am able to handle the hard issues that a missionary faces on a regular basis.  And yet at the same time, there are some things that don’t change.  Life is still challenging on the mission field, the Enemy does not let up on his assault, and people can still be difficult to work with.

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I just recently shared with some of my colleagues that there are times when it is good to have a focused time of prayer and fasting.  This would be true when we seem to be facing difficulties that are physically and emotionally challenging, but also when we sense that there is spiritual opposition and/or oppression that is coming against us.

I reminded the group that fasting was a spiritual discipline that was regularly practiced by God’s people throughout the Old Testament period and has continued up until today.  As you might already know, Jesus Himself did not say, “If you fast…” but rather “When you fast….”  One of my translator resources said that “the three primary expressions of piety [for Jews] were charity, prayer and fasting.” (Translator’s Handbook on Matthew for Mt. 6:16-18)

Fasting is normally considered to be a voluntary abstinence from food for the purpose of dedicating one’s self to a time of prayer and drawing close to God.  I certainly recommend this practice as a way to face the difficulties of life and the attacks of the enemy.  James 4:7-8 aptly ties two important spiritual truths together: when we resist the Devil, he will flee from us, and when we draw close to God, He will draw close to us.

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We are encouraged in Scripture to have faith in God, to worship Him and be a praying people when we face difficult times.  James 5:13-15 mentions all of these things as a means to deal with sicknesses that can hit us and sins that we may have committed.  We are also encouraged in Scripture to do battle with our spiritual enemy, the Devil.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to understand that many battles we face in life may be spiritual in nature and must be dealt with spiritually.

There are so many more verses that could be mentioned in this whole topic of learning how to stand strong and do battle against the forces that hit us and wear us down.  We must always be ready in our prayers to fight against sickness that disables us, sin that entangles us, and Satan who want to destroy us and our faith in God.

All of this is true, but we must not keep our attention focused solely on the negative side of this great battle that we are in.  If we were to only think about the challenges and difficulties that we face when sickness, sin or Satan come at us, then we probably would end up feeling spiritually fatigued all the time.  I believe that we must also have our focus centered in on the positive side of the victory that is provided for us in Christ.

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When we face great difficulties (whether physically, spiritually or emotionally), we need to pray like Elisha did for his servant when the vast armies of Aram were totally surrounding the city they were in.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see the “REAL” reality of the battle.  God heard that prayer and suddenly the servant saw the vast army of God’s angels who would win the battle for them.

We also need to have our minds opened and attuned to God’s way of thinking.  Romans 12:2 says that we must no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world.  That means that when it is natural to worry, to be afraid, to seek for power, wealth or fame, we are acting in a worldly way.  Instead, the verse says that we can be transformed people when we have our minds renewed by God, and then we will see and understand how good God’s will and God’s ways are and we will be able to follow in that path.

The third part of our selves that we need to focus in on to have a victorious life is to open up our hearts to the full measure of the love of God.  Read Ephesians 3:16-19.  Paul is praying that we all might come to understand just how broad, deep and wide the love of God is for us.  And when we do immerse ourselves into His love, accepting all that the Father has done for us and will do for us out of that love, then Scripture says that our inner being, our heart and soul, will be strengthen by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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So what am I saying in all of this?  I do understand that all of us will face difficult periods in our lives due to the effects of sickness, sin in the world, and the attacks of Satan against us.  But we must not keep our attention focused in on just these problems.  We need to open up our eyes, our mind and our hearts, not physically, but spiritually, to see the victory that God through Christ has obtained for us.  And then we need to walk in the power of that victory as a transformed person, able to overcome these discouragements by our faith.

Sunset Cross

And Jesus Wept

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John 11: 28 – 37

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 

31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.  32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

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33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind manhave kept this man from dying?”

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In the last article, we took a brief look at one of the most powerful statements that Jesus ever spoke.  He declared, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life.”  This is such a profound and deep theological truth.  One of the major worldviews among western people today is that we live within a closed system, that there is no God, that life began as just a chemical process over great millennia of time.

But Jesus’ words greatly challenge this worldview.  He claims that He is the true source of Life.  And Scripture backs up this claim.  Take a look at what John said in the first chapter of his book, realizing that “the Word” is a reference to Jesus who came into the world:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John is not alone in this view of Jesus being the source of all life.  Paul puts it very clearly for us in Colossians chapter one:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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This is all important background as we see what happens in our passage above.  When Mary heard the news that Jesus had come and was nearby, she immediately got up and ran out of the house to go and meet Him.  The people thought that her action was a reaction to the grief she was feeling over the loss of her brother.  Yes, she was experiencing grief, but with Jesus’ presence now, I believe she had hope that Jesus could make a difference in the situation.

It’s interesting that the words she spoke to Jesus were identical to that of her sister Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  But Mary is also not trying to challenge Jesus or be critical of Him.  In fact, we see Mary demonstrating both faith and worship as she fell at Jesus’ feet while speaking to Him.  And then we see what we may have been expecting all along, Mary breaks down and weeps for the loss of her brother.

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What happened next is very powerful.  Jesus was deeply moved by the emotional pain that was displayed, not only by Mary, but by so many of the people who were also there at the time.  And their grief touched His heart.  And Jesus wept.  When we realize as we stated above that Jesus was the Author of Life itself, then it is extremely significant when we read, “Jesus wept.”

This statement, “Jesus wept,” is so instructive.  There are many false opinions and beliefs around that even if there is a God, that He is not a God who cares.  No, Jesus demonstrated for us that He shares in the pain of someone else who is suffering emotional pain.  And we learn about the heart of God by looking into the heart of Jesus, who was God in the flesh.

And this statement, “Jesus wept,” is also so comforting.  Jesus was so completely human, sharing in all of the range of normal human feelings.  I know that He understands me and my emotions.  He can identify with where I am emotionally.  And being God, He is not only fully aware of what my emotional needs are, He will be able to come and help meet me at my point of need.

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Now I need to ask you to consider your relationship to Jesus.  Have you come to recognize that He is God, who came to live among us as a human?  I pray you have.  That is a good place to start.  Have you bowed in recognition before Jesus as the Son of God, like Mary did so long ago?  That is the path that leads to eternal life with God as Jesus stands as our Saviour, redeeming us from our sins against God.

In this article though, I want to suggest we go one step further.  I encourage all of us to see Jesus as our Friend who will stand by our side in life and who will empathize with us in our times of greatest need.  We all know how important it is to have someone to turn to when our hearts are grieved.  Wouldn’t it make sense to turn to the One who made our hearts?  Just remember these words, “Jesus wept.”

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Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 1

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Leaving Loved Ones Behind

As you listen to the stories from missionaries, it is easy at times to think, “Wow, what adventures they have had.”  We must remember though, that missionaries are also just ordinary people like you and me.  And for those who are going overseas for the first time, especially when they go with children, it can be quite a scary enterprise for them at first.

In these next articles, I want to take excerpts from what one couple wrote about their experiences and feelings just before they left the United States, and what happened for them in their first week of cross-cultural living and learning.  One thing to note, this family went to France first to do language learning before heading to West Africa to serve with Pioneer Bible Translators.

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Let’s listen in on the thoughts of the wife just before they headed to France:

Me: God, I’m scared. I’ve never been scared like this before now. What’s up?

God: What are you scared of, little one? Are you afraid to go?

Me: No, it’s not that. Ok, well, yes a little bit but mainly it’s just that things are going to change here at home while I’m gone. I know some of the folks I’m saying goodbye to…well, it’s probably going to be the last time, God.

God: Yes, that’s true.

Me: And the rest, Lord. Will they come to know you? Will they hold Your word dear, Lord? Will they persevere through the really tough times? Will they continue being faithful to You? These concerns are why I’m afraid, Lord.

God: “I am”, Child.

Me: I know, God.

God: I am God, Child.

Me: Ok, Lord.

God: I love you. I love them, too. Okay?

Me: Ok, Lord.

Me: Hey, God?

God: Yes?

Me: Thanks. But I’m still going to miss them.

God: I know. I made your breaking heart. I love you, dear one. And don’t forget about your secret weapon.

Me (chuckling): What’s that?

God: From anywhere in the world, in any circumstance, you can always pray to me about them. I love it when you pray!

Me: Ok, God. Right now could you make my husband quit snoring so I can sleep?

God (chuckling): When would you take the time to pray if I didn’t wake you up at night?

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Isn’t it interesting that the concern that lay the heaviest on this mother’s heart before taking her family overseas, which included young children, was for those whom they would be leaving behind in the States.  I know she must have had some concerns for her family’s welfare and what lay ahead, but her greatest fear concerned what would happen to those left behind.

I’ve talked to other missionaries over the years about how hard it has been to be away from their home country, and quite a few have mentioned the idea of how difficult it is to have to say goodbye to family members and relatives.  But for some, it is not themselves that they are most concerned about, but rather people like the parents and grandparents.  We do forget sometimes about the emotional cost there can be for those who let their children and grandchildren go off to the mission field.

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I think perhaps this emotional and geographical separation for me and my family was not quite as difficult for all involved when we first went to Papua New Guinea in 1997.  Jill and I had been on a number of short-term mission trips to various countries already, and we had been training for mission work for a very long time.  In some ways, I think our friends and families rejoiced along with us when we were finally able to head over to PNG for our first three-year term.

That does not mean that the pain of separation never happened to us.  In that first year term, we learned of the death of a very close elderly friend who had befriended our young boys like a grandmother.  Before we left Canada, she handed each of our boys a large envelope.  In it were tiny wrapped presents which they could open, one for each day of the first few weeks that we were gone after leaving Canada.  That meant a lot to us.  We were sad that the boys would not see her again.

Then we heard the news of the death of one of Jill’s most special uncles.  He and his wife had truly been the patriarch and the matriarch of the clan of families that made up Jill’s side of our family.  What a loss that was to us.  And finally, we got the news that my father was diagnosed with throat cancer and would probably not have long to live.  We made arrangements for me to go see dad for two weeks.  He died just as I rejoined my family in PNG, but they never got to say goodbye to him.

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This is one of the realities of missionary life.  Even with the advancement of telecommunications and rapid airline travel, we still find as missionaries that we get caught on the other side of the world when critical events happen to those whom we love back home.  So what do we do about that?

Praise God that we do now have the technology to get email, just about anywhere in the world.  And the explosion of cell towers around the world means that we can talk with family and friends almost at the push of a button.  But the most important thing, as portrayed in the humorous dialog above, is knowing that God loves our loved ones even more than we do.  And so we trust Him to watch over them.  And I rest assured that He can do a better job of that than we ever could.  So, thank you God.  Amen.

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“For God So Loved The World” – Pt. 2

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John 3:16 – 21

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

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In last week’s study, we examined in detail verse 16 above, which is probably the most well known and most loved verse in Scripture.  Now I want to take a look at the larger context of this passage to show how John sees spiritual reality in terms that are very black and white.  As such, we will see that there are two sides that are complete opposites of each other.

In these six verses, I see at least four pairs of spiritual opposites: life vs. death; salvation vs. condemnation; light vs. darkness; and obedient deeds vs. evil deeds.  In John’s theology, there are these two clear and completely opposite realities.  There is no middle ground.  The question as we go through this is to ask ourselves “Which side are we on?”

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The first truth is that in Jesus there is spiritual life.  Apart from faith in Jesus there is spiritual death.  I encourage those who have not read Part 1 of this two-part article to click here and see what I wrote about verse 16.  It is very important for a person to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is there a God, but that He loves each and every one of us so much that He let Jesus come to die in our place so that He could offer spiritual life to us.

Verse 17 goes on to tell us that the very purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to bring us the gift of salvation.  Before Christ Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin there was only the sure consequence of condemnation awaiting all of us.  But Christ came to free us from that condemnation.  By putting our faith in Jesus, His righteousness becomes ours, and in God’s final day of Judgement, God will be able to say to us who believe, “Not guilty!”  What an amazing gift of grace.

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The third comparison is made between “light” and “darkness”.  John is not talking about the physical properties of light and darkness, but the spiritual realities of good and evil, truth and deception.  In chapter one, we saw how John the Baptist spoke out about “the light that was coming into the world.” Later in this Gospel (8:12), Jesus will say this about himself:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

One of the properties of light that can apply both in the physical and the spiritual realm is that light has the ability to reveal or expose that which is dark.  And light always overcomes darkness.  The question for us is whether we are attracted to that Light, or are repelled by that Light.  Those who are hungry to know God will draw close to the light, but those who want nothing to do with God will shrink away from spiritual truth.

And it is in this attraction or repelling that the true nature of our character comes out.  Those people who are attracted to God will want to do the things that please God.  Perhaps a better way to translate verse 21 would be something like, “But whoever follows after the truth of God will come to the light and in so doing will clearly show that he was obeying God.”

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There is one more important linguistic aspect to these verses that I want to make sure that none of us miss.  The majority of the verbs in this passage, specifically those that refer to the actions of people, are written in Greek in the present tense.  Not the past tense, i.e. “those who did…” and not in the future tense, i.e. “those who will do…” 

But it is not enough to just translate the verbs in the simple present, i.e. “those who do…” as if obeying God or rebelling against God is a one-time event in our lives.  No, this passage should be translated in the present continuous, and in that way this passage has much more punch to it.

In other words, it is the people “who are continually and habitually doing the things that are evil, and are constantly living their lives in spiritual darkness and in rebellion against God who experience spiritual death, both in this life and certainly in the life to come.”

But for those “who are continually and habitually coming to Jesus, the Light of the world, and who constantly are seeking to please God through their acts of obedience to Him, they are the ones who have entered into spiritual life and salvation from the condemnation that sin brings.”

So my friend, which side are you on?  If you haven’t already, I urge you to accept God’s love and receive Jesus into your life so that you can truly live.

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