Faith In Spite Of Suffering

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Turning Suffering Into a Testimony

Sad as it is true, life is filled with pain.  Unfortunately, many crises in our lives are not of our own doing, but have come about simply out of the unfortunate circumstances of life.  At other times, our suffering does come at the hands of others and so we have no control when it strikes us.

One of my readers of “The Listening Post” has shared confidentially with me about how hard her life has been, but she has a great testimony of faith and trust in God.  It is her desire to have her testimony shared so that it can be of encouragement to others who may have gone through similar experiences.  I will call her Shelly for the sake of her privacy.  Let me summarize for you Shelly’s story:

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“When I was a little girl, my Mom gave me away.  I have been in Foster Homes and badly beaten. I had no one to care for me.  But through everything, God was there.  At age 3, my Dad got me back.  He worked in the coal mines.  He pulled me from a burning house.  I was almost killed in two house fires and a car wreck, but God was there.

“I grew to 6 years old and had to take care of my 2 year old sister.  I cooked and cleaned and had to learn on my own.  I had stayed with my cousins who were ages 13 and age 3.  This was the second house that caught fire.  My Dad came running up the street and pulled me out, but my two cousins did not make it out.  But God was there for me.

“In 1982, two days before my graduation from school, I was sexually assaulted.  I went to the Counsellor’s office who listened and she went to the principal and they helped.  I suffered a lot in that last week of June.  But God helped me through.  There was one woman who treated me like her daughter who helped me, and when I visited her one day, I saw the picture of her oldest son.  I fell in love and so the woman called him up and told him a Christian girl wanted to meet him. 

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“He came to see me, and we fell in love at first sight.  We went together for five months and in November we got married.  But then he got sick in January and went into a hospital.  It was snowing a lot and I had to thumb a ride to the hospital in the middle of that winder storm.  The snow was up to my knees.  But I kept my faith, and God took care of us.  I knew that He was with us. 

“My husband got well and came home from the hospital in March.  He got well, and I got pregnant and gave birth to a son on December 18.  We walked everywhere, going to the stores, and to the doctors, or wherever.  We lived in a small trailer.  In ’87 I became pregnant again, and then two weeks before time to give birth I was in a car wreck.  On May 6, I gave birth to a baby boy, but he died.  It took three doctors to bring him back to life.  God had his hand in it.  He was my miracle baby. 

“Jobs were hard to get so we moved a couple time.  My brother committed suicide, but before he did, he tried to kill me and my two sons.  God was our shield and protected us.  I had some more pregnancies after that time, another son in ’92, but then lost twin girls.  We had to move a lot across Texas for my husband to find different work.  God was there and helped him find work. 

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“We did go to one church while in one town in Texas.  My son got in trouble and went to jail for 6 years.  The church turned us away, but I still knew God was with us.  Then we found a good church in Waskom, Texas and we stayed with them and the town there for eight years.  I helped out in the church, I cleaned it and handed out cards and sent birthday and get well cards.  But then we got a letter from the city that put us out of our home and on to the streets.

“The trailers in this park were not moveable and the owners were selling the land where we rented.  They wanted to build on the land.  Our pastor tried everything he could to help us.  But none of the plans succeeded.  So our church gave us a going away party.  Well, a week before this my husband called his dad who found us a trailer to live in Charleston, West Virginia.  We did not have money to move.   But our church took up a collection and we got enough to make the move. 

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“We got there in November, but the trailer had no water or heat for one month.  But God was still there.  I still have my Lord and Savior.  We were there for one week and we were looking for a good church.  And God brought us to a wonderful church.  We went in and the next thing we knew the church welcomed us with open arms, as if they were waiting for us to arrive.  WOW!!  Our God is awesome. 

“Within a week I was going to the quilting ministry group.  The church loved us and they helped us with almost $500 so we could get our water and electricity turned on.  God is so Great.  We are still Christians who are living for our Jesus.  We have helped many young people and took them off the streets and into our home.  We gave them food and shelter.  And many days now, God keeps blessing us.  Our church in Texas loves us and still misses us.  And the church here loves us too.  My life is great with my God, and His blessings keep on coming.”

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Thank you Shelly for sharing about your faith, telling us of how much you love God and God loves you, and how you show the compassion of Jesus to others who are in need.  May we all learn from you how to be stronger Christians ourselves.  Amen.

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“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 Loves The People

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“God Loves Them More Than We Ever Could!”

There are at least 850 language groups in Papua New Guinea. It could be a lot higher than this, depending on how the term “language” is defined. The reason I keep coming back to PNG is to help the people of these various language groups get the Bible translated into their languages. I don’t know the story about most of these groups, but I do know the stories surrounding a few of them.

The general approach for running a translation project of our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, has been to allocate a trained Western missionary to go and live among the people and to learn their language and culture. Once the missionary has achieved a high enough level of proficiency in knowing both the language and culture, then he or she is granted permission to go ahead and begin doing the actual translation of Scriptures.

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This is the place at which I found myself in 1998. I had learned enough of the local village language by then that I could move forward to be doing translation. It wasn’t long before I was digging into Mark and translating it, and by the end of January of 1999, we had a rough draft translation of Mark. But there were still a number of important checking sessions that we would need to do.

We would need to do the Village-level community check, Exegetical check, Advisor check, Spell check, etc. before we could do the final Consultant and Comprehension check of a translated book of Scripture. All of these are critical checks we have and need to use to help assure us that this translation is: 1) Natural to native speakers; 2) Accurate to the original Greek or Hebrew text; and then 3) the translation is clear and carries a high degree of understandability or comprehensibility.

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Let me tell you what happened next for us, our family and our project. We thought we would be working in our project for the next 15 – 20 years. So on our first furlough back to Canada, I built an 8’ by 8’ by 4’ wooden crate to send back to PNG with all of our most important possessions in it. We were able to retrieve the crate through customs here, and set up our things within our village house. But 18 months later, we found ourselves heading to Australia, and then back to Canada, seeing as our son, Eric, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Undoubtedly, what happened with Eric was one of the most difficult events that we had ever had to experience. We ended up walking away from our house (abandoning almost all of our possessions), we lived with the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to our son, and we felt the pain of having to desert the people.

It has been on my heart many times to ask God for us to return to serve among the people group with whom we lived and served. But God seems to have had different plans for them. What was most difficult for me to handle, was the fact that we were 3 weeks away from doing the final Consultant Check on Mark. After revisions, the book would be ready to be published.

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What confused me in my faith at that time is why God helped us make such good progress on the book of Mark, only to stall the publication of the book about two years. We were so close to finishing and publishing Mark. But from this perspective now, 10 years later, it seems to me that the people were not ready to receive the book, and the message of the Gospel. But I think they are ready now.

Just like Jesus told the disciples that the “field was white unto harvest”, so too, I see how there has been more preparation time, and maturing of these peoples in being open to God and being ready to hear and obey God. We wish that translation work would proceed forward without any problems or delays. But we have to believe that God in control of all things (including language Projects).

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It was someone else then who went in to do the final consultant check on the book of Mark. It’s only natural that I would have liked to have been that person who carried the published book across the finish line. But that is my human flesh speaking. What we have to remember is that God loves these people more than we ever could. And so He will make sure that they get His Holy Word, whether that is through us, or through someone else.

Even now, I know of two projects where the primary missionary is not able to be the one-on-one advisor to the language group that God has so laid upon their heart. One man agreed last year to be the “Acting Director” for the Branch to take care of important administrative decisions. And the other man has put his full-time attention towards being the Finance Administrator for the Branch. These are huge sacrifices, and I believe God will bless them for the decisions they have made.

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But let me share in closing what one of these colleagues said when we thought it was a shame that he was not able to work on the language project: “I know that God loves the people in this one project, but He also loves all the people of these various projects. And when I do my work in the main office, as much as I would love to go back to doing translation with this one team, the work I do now has significant impact on 12 teams.” How true, that God’s loves is always greater than we can ever picture or imagine.

My Life Testimony – Pt. 1

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 1

 Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now.  I would like to share in a few articles the questions that I was asked, and what answers I gave to the editor of that magazine.  My hope is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q1:  What kind of child were you and what did you dream of becoming at the time? How would you describe yourself as a young adult? Could you share one of the episodes in your early years that hint toward your future dedication to God?

Many people would describe me as a bright young child, and I was usually at the top of my class at school.  I was adventurous and independent from the time I was 11, always exploring the hills around Calgary where I grew up (a city of 3/4 million people), riding my bicycle for hundreds of miles inside and outside of the city.  I even loved to crawl through sewer tunnels.  (Read “Tunnels, Caves & Claustrophobia” )  I got into trouble with the police once, but that taught me the importance of honesty.  (Read “Caught by the Police” )

I was almost 12 when I first really heard the Gospel message about Christ at a big Youth Conference.  I had many questions, and then early in 1973 I was baptized and gave my life over to Jesus to be my Saviour and Lord.  (Read “For My Tears, Jesus Died” Nov. 18, 2010)  When I was 14, I heard a missionary speak at our church, and from that moment on, I felt that God was calling me to be a missionary myself one day. 

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Then when I was 16, I was in the Royal Canadian Reserve Navy for a year and the ship I was on docked in Lima, Peru.  I knew of a missionary family that our church supported and was allowed to go visit them for three days up in the mountains at Cuzco, Peru.  They were working at translating the Bible into the Quechua Indian language.  I was fascinated by this and knew that was what I wanted to do one day.  (Read “God Spoke Through People” to see how I was influenced to be a Bible translator)

To answer your question about an episode in my early years that showed my dedication to God, let me paste a paragraph from an article that was just published on Feb. 23, 2012.  This article called “Introducing Others to Jesus” is part of my Bible study article on John 1:35-42 where Andrew gets Peter and introduces him to Jesus.  Here is what happened for me in 1975:

“I still remember a special night in my life when I was about 14 years old and was still relatively new in my faith, only two years or so.  My parents took me on a weekend campout to attend one of their Square Dance rallies.  Some people brought their motor homes and campers; others put up large tents to sleep in.  The big dances for the adults were usually in the evenings, which left us kids free to hang out and have fun in the tents together.

Fairly early in the evening, one of the kids asked me something about me being a Christian, and I responded that yes, I did believe in Jesus and what the Bible had to say.  Well, this generated quite a few questions which I gladly answered.  If I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would take the time to search my Bible to find an appropriate answer.  This spontaneous evangelistic moment and small group Bible study went on through the night until about 3 a.m.  I had never felt as invigorated in my young spiritual life as I did during that night.”

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Q2: When was your first serious encounter with God? Was it the big conference that took place when you were 11, or sometime much later? Could you describe that special moment in details?

Let me expand on what I said above.  The article “For My Tears, Jesus Died” definitely tells about the beginning of God working in my heart.  I will add to that story here:

“Although there was much that was good about my childhood, in my elementary years (ages 6-11) I was not accepted by many other children (largely because I was so smart and liked to read books instead of going out to play sports) and I encountered many bullies who would beat me up.  My parents were busy, my other brothers were much older and not around in my school.  I felt very alone and in my childish perspective I thought that no one loved me.

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“And so in Grade 7, when I went to that Youth Conference, I was in the midst of over 500 young people, and yet I felt completely alone and unloved.  I had shed many tears over the physical and emotional beatings I had received from others around me.  Then I heard that song, that it was for my tears, my tears, that Jesus died.  WOW!!

“And so I thought, could there actually be Someone who really loved me?  And it was because of the truth about His love that I was drawn to God.  For almost 40 years now, I have known that love of God.  Even through all that we have experienced of difficult times, and the trials and tragedies of life, I have never doubted that God truly loves me.”

A Little Piece of Paradise

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Bitter Sweet Memories

Here I am, looking out my window at the luscious velvety green rolling hills of the Aiyura Valley up in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  There are some puffy white clouds sitting lazily within the gorgeous blue skies above.  I am once more living here, if only briefly, in what I consider to be one of the truly peaceful little places of Paradise here on earth.

Those were the thoughts I had while I was at the mission base again up in the highlands of PNG.  I was doing the translation consultant check on the Gospel of John for one of the language groups there.  The missionary couple that work in that project are friends of ours and are also fellow Canadians.  They graciously opened their home for me to live with them for the three weeks that we worked together.

In that quiet moment, I thought back over the many years that I have come and gone and done mission work here in PNG.  And especially when I have been at this highlands base and get reflective, I see all the good times, and the not so good times.  But in all of these times, God has been there.  Allow me now to share some of these with you.

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The PBT mission house is located in one of the corners of the center where it is a sharp dip down from one of the more major roads to our side road area.  The roads are not paved, so they are dusty and bumpy when it is dry, but muddy clay and slick when it rains.  That does not phase the children here though as they play their various games on the center whether on the grass sides or on the rock-strewn dirt roads.

We will never forget that one day our son Glen decided to try to ride one of those stand up foot scooters down the steep curving road near the PBT house where we were.  I think he would have been fine, except for the anxious shout from Jill who said, “You be careful son!”  That is when he looked up and the front wheel hit a rock.  Glen went flying off the scooter and landed on his chest and slid down the road.  Oh, we wish he had been wearing a T-shirt that day.  Yowwee!!  Gravel and skin are not a good mix.

I also remember the times that I was done my work and Eric was nearby and it just felt like having a “father-son” moment.  We would go across the lower road to a little grassy knoll that overlooked the beautiful valley.  We would talk about nothing and everything, whatever seemed to be the most important thing to talk about that day.  And we connected in a powerful way in that place of quiet and peace.

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And then came the fateful day in 2002.  Eric had found a place for himself in the International School there on center.  He had presented a good case for leaving the village and starting his Grade 7 up there and to live in one of the Youth Hostels.  He had made some friends, and he felt like that was where he belonged.  The other three of us in the family had gone up there to spend some time with Eric before we went back down to the village where I would continue the Bible translation work.

But a nagging string of little illnesses caused us enough concern that we had Eric checked one more time.  The blood work looked suspicious and we suddenly found ourselves packing up overnight and heading to Brisbane, Australia instead of to the village.  It turned out that Eric did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which sent us all on a three year road of chemotherapy treatments.

But God had not abandoned us.  Just like we quickly picked up Glen after his wipe out and tenderly treated his bruises and scrapes, we saw over those cancer years some wonderful ways that God sent us encouraging letters and prayers from others and gave us special moments for Eric that were only made possible because of his illness.  No, God does not abandon us, but He may change the path we are on.

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And I thought that was what was happening for me when God opened the door in 2007 for me to return to the mission base to get the training to become a Bible translation consultant.  I was so thrilled to be involved again with language projects, and this time I would help with the last check to be done before a book of Scripture goes to be published.

But immediately following my first trip to do consultant work in Feb. ’08, my own disease hit me and I have not been able to walk since then without experiencing pain and fatigue.  I thought my time of Bible translation work was finished when this hit me.  But I could never have been so wrong.  This is now the sixth time in four years that I have come back to PNG to do the consultant checking of a Bible translation project.

I don’t know why I feel that this mission base seems to be just a little closer to God than in other places.  I just know that it does.  And even though my family has experienced many bumps and bruises, and even life-threatening diseases which have been partly connected to this center, I still know that God is with us and loves us.  Maybe that is the point.  Through thick or thin, good or bad, God is still God and His loving kindness is always there.  We just need to open our eyes sometimes to see it.

Jesus: Giver of Grace & Truth

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John 1:14 – 18

The Word Became Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.1

Stop!  Listen!  God’s Word is speaking powerfully here.  What we know to be true, and have heard many times, is a very profound truth.  Nine short words that say so much.  In fact, a large part of the Christian message is contained within these words.  What are these words you say?  They are the first nine words of this new section we are studying, brief and succinct but very powerful:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

As we learned from our first study (John 1:1-5), the “Word” was, and is, one of the eternal Persons of the Godhead.  This Person, the Word, was the Agent through whom all of the created universe came into existence and became real in time and space.  And now we find out that this Eternal Word stepped into our time and space to become a real human being and to live among us.

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Theologically, this is known as the “Incarnation”, where God emptied Himself of His own divine nature so that He could take on the form of man and share in the specific culture and language of a first century Jewish person.  He came and “dwelt among us”, which literally means that He “put up his tent for the purpose of living with us.”  He wanted to become one of us so that as a Man, He would be able to help save all men.  Only as an Insider could He do this, not as an Outsider.

This is one of the most important goals we aspire to as missionaries.  Though we could never really compare ourselves to Jesus, who left Heaven to become a human, we too must be willing to leave all that is wonderful and comfortable back in our home countries to go and live among some of the poorest and most neglected peoples of the world.  This is called “Incarnational Ministry”, where we go live among the people as one of them, just as Jesus modelled for us.

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As we look at our Scripture passage above, we see that Jesus modelled much more for us as well.  John writes “we have seen His glory”, which is another way of saying, “we have seen how marvelous and wonderful He is.”  And what had those early followers of Jesus seen?  That Jesus was full of “grace and truth”.  Along with the word “glory”, we have in this short passage three of the most complex and theologically loaded words of this Gospel, and of the Bible.

According to Newman & Nida, in Section III of Apendix II, “the word ‘truth’  in this Gospel refers primarily to God himself, though it may be extended to include the revelation of God or a description of persons who respond to that revelation.”2  In other words, our passage above is telling us that Jesus had complete knowledge regarding the very nature of God the Father.  For anyone who wants to truly know God, that knowledge comes through Jesus.  And verse 18 says that in fact that is one of Jesus’ great ministry tasks here on earth, to help us come to know who God the Father really is.

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Not only did Jesus come to earth full of the knowledge of the nature of God, but it says He also came “full of grace”.  One way of translating “grace” is “loving kindness”.  Using this definition, we see that Jesus came not just to teach us the truth about God (which we so often compartmentalize on just the intellectual level), but Jesus came to demonstrate God’s loving kindness towards us.  This I think is even more important.  As they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

God wants to lavish His love upon us.  He sent His only Son (who would ultimately die for our sins) as His greatest act of love towards mankind.  So it is not surprising that in this short Scripture passage that speaks about Jesus coming to earth, and why He came to earth, that we find the words, “From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Putting that another way, when Jesus came to earth, He came to shower “loving kindness upon loving kindness” on us.  Another Christian term is “blessings”, and so we can read this as “we have received blessings upon blessings.”  Isn’t that truly amazing?  Jesus, the unique Son of God, loved us enough to want to leave his glorious home in Heaven to live among us, to reveal God the Father to us, and to shower wonderful blessings upon us.

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My questions, dear friend, as you read this article are these: Do you know Jesus? Have you experienced His amazing love and forgiveness of your sins?  Do you want to know Jesus and invite Him into your life?  Write back to me if this is what you want and need to do in your life.  God bless you.

1  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:14–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2  A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John. 1980, New York: United Bible Societies

Follow Where God Leads – Pt 2

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Daring To Believe God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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