What Happened To Norm?

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I’m wondering if this is a question that has been in anyone’s mind recently.  Although I should qualify this question.  I know my family all know where I am.  And many of my friends know what I am doing.  But for those who are not in the category of “Norm’s family” or “Norm’s friends”, for those who have been visiting The Listening Post or are subscribers to the blog, this question may have come up.

Why would I raise  this question?  Well, for all those who are following me on this devotional blog site, it should have been noticed that the frequency of articles coming out has been declining over the past year.  Back in 2011 and 2012, I was writing three articles every week: to share about all the missionary experiences I have had over a lifetime, to walk through a Christian book chapter by chapter, and to do a Bible study on the Gospel of John.

But since the beginning of 2013, I was only able to write two articles a week for about half a year, and then it became only one article a week.  And then suddenly there were no articles for the past few weeks.  Oh no!!  Did that horrible monster called “Writer’s Block” come up and attack Norm!  Or did the “fount of knowledge” simply run dry for him.

    

Nah!!  Nothing so ordinary as that.  The simple truth is that God has been so good to allow me to be more active for Him in ministry over here in Papua New Guinea, that there really is so much to say, but so little time to sit down and write about it.  There is an interesting universal law at work here I think, which goes something like “The universe cannot stand having a void.”  The idea is that when there is extra space, something will fill it up.

We see this in normal day living.  When a family lives in a small house, the rooms, cupboards and storage spaces all get filled up.  Now what happens when this same family is able to move into a much larger house?  In almost every case, within less than a year, you will still find all the rooms, cupboards and storage space are still all filled up.  How is that possible?  Simply this: we like to fill up our space.

    

Now consider with me this universal law from a Christian perspective.  What happens when a Christian gives freely of their time, their talents and their treasures (money or material possessions).  It is said that a person “can never out give the Lord”.  And this is very true.  When we give some of our money or material possessions away in order to help others or to advance the work of God, it is so often true that God will turn some situation around and bring back an awesome material or financial blessing in return.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  We should never give with the sole purpose or intention of getting something from God.  God does not operate this way.  For Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7)  But the Bible also says that when we give, it will be given back to us by God in “good measure, pressed down and running over”.  (Luke 6:38)  When we give of what we have (in any form) then God will fill back up our emptiness with the abundance of His overflowing blessings.

    

So what has all this to do with my question at the beginning  of “What happened to Norm?”  Well, when the muscle disease first hit me back in 2008, I suddenly found my world shrank down to place very tight boundaries on what I could do in life.  In many ways, my space of existence during the day was not much more than the easy chair recliner in my living room.  But thankfully, I could still do some of my mission work on my computer, and the Internet became my doorway through which I could go to access the rest of the world.

Slowly over the past two years, Jill and I have together been challenging those boundaries by faith, and we made longer and longer trips over to Papua New Guinea so that I could sit in another reclining chair and do the consultant checking of translated Scriptures that is happening among many Papuan languages.  So as we challenged and expanded those boundaries, God filled up the space with more ministry activity.

This expansion of my space and physical abilities (in spite of what the doctors have been telling me) has been an exciting journey of faith.  And it culminated in January 2013 when I was chosen and elected by the Members of our mission group here in PNG to become their Director over all the Language Programs.  Wow, isn’t God amazing.

    

So for the past 8 months, I have been on quite a steep learning curve to know how to fulfill my role as the Language Director, overseeing 13 translation and literacy projects within our Madang Province.  Pretty much every little corner of free space I had before has become full of very exciting ministry work among the peoples of PNG.  And it is because of this that I have reduced down to writing only one blog story each week.  And I do hope that they are meeting some need in your life.  I pray that my articles can be used by God to fill you and to bring healing and joy to you as well.

But to answer the last question as to why I have not written a story for almost a month now is mostly due to a much simpler reason.  Jill still works back in Canada as a nurse, and her income helps us to live on two continents.  Well, Jill was able to use her vacation time to come over for three weeks.  And what great three weeks they were.  After not seeing Jill for nearly two months, you can understand and forgive me that I did not write a new article for you.  Besides the “urgent” aspects of my job, all my eyes could see was my fair maiden Jill.  But starting yesterday, she flew back to Canada again.  So I hope I will not disappoint you  now to get at least one new article posted every week…..(at least until my darling Jill shows up again in February.)  😀

Staying Busy For The Lord – Pt. 1

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“Wow!!  It is the middle of May already!”  It is easy for me to think these words as it is hard to believe that I have been in Papua New Guinea for four months now.  This is the longest I have stayed overseas doing mission work since our family left East Africa six years ago.  And I will be in PNG for two more months before I take a break and go home to Canada to be with family and friends.

There is no question that I have been “staying busy” since I landed in Madang in January.  Or as some might say, I have been “staying out of trouble”.  J  I am sure that the people who have been regularly reading my articles here on The Listening Post have noticed that I have slowed down on the number of articles I have written.  For over two years, I was posting three articles a week.  Then by the New Year it went to two articles.  Now I hope to post one new article each week, probably on each Thursday.

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“So what has kept me so busy?” you ask.  Let me tell you about the wonderful things that God has done and is doing in and through my life.  First though, let me remind you and any new readers as to why it is so amazing that I am very active right now in PNG.  The short story is that an illness flared up in my life back in 2008, a genetically inherited disease called Mitochondrial Myopathy, that impacted me to the point of forcing me to use walking poles or arm support crutches to walk around even very short distances, like 100 yards.

My life changed drastically at that point, having just come back from PNG and having to run through the airport to catch my next plane.  But just as dramatically, and in a positive way, I am now walking around our mission office over here in Madang without any difficulties, and have even been able to walk a couple of blocks down to a supply store, without needing to use any support device whatsoever.

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 “So what brought this about?” you ask.  Two important things: the power of God, and the power of prayer.  In July of last year (2012), Jill and I had travelled down to the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada to speak in three churches and to tell them about the mission work we do each year when we visit PNG for a couple of months.  It was exciting to share with them about the great work that God is doing through the ministry of Bible translation among the people groups of this tropical Pacific island.

When I was finished preaching and ready to leave the pulpit to go sit down in the audience, the pastor or elders of these three churches stopped me and said they wanted to pray for our work and for my health.  (Oh, and by the way, I normally could only stand up to speak for about 25 minutes, but these churches let me speak for almost 40 minutes straight.  And I found I didn’t even need to hold on to the pulpit for support.)

Summerside Sermon

So these church leaders asked me to stay at the front and had Jill come forward so that they could pray for us.  What was so cool was that in each of these churches, they felt very strongly prompted to call all the elders up and to lay hands on us and to specifically ask of God to bring healing into my life.  And guess what?  Within days, I found I was able to walk around a little more than before, and with less and less dependence upon my poles and crutches.  Hallelujah!!  Praise the Lord!!!  J

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Jill and I were certainly overjoyed to see this reversal of my symptoms, which doctors have been telling me would not happen.  But what doctors forget or do not recognize, is that we have the Great Physician on our side, and nothing is impossible for God.  The real question for us last summer was, “So what does God have in store for us, seeing as He is returning good health to Norm after not being able to walk much for four years.”

It was just after this time that I began to have correspondence with some of our mission leaders and those over in Papua New Guinea who were considering who they might recommend to be the various directors for our PNG Branch.  After a period of praying, I wrote and said that perhaps I could help out in the short-term until others were ready for leadership or were back from their time of furlough in the States.

To my surprise, the committee came back and asked me to consider letting my name stand to be nominated for the position of “Director of Language Affairs” (DLA).  Wow!!  What an honor that was, and at first we did not know if we should have me say “Yes”.  It would mean spending much more time in PNG than the three months per year I was doing.  And it would also mean that Jill and I would have some periods of being apart, seeing as Jill is still working as a nurse in a hospital back in Calgary.

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Convinced that this was from God though, we did say “Yes,” to the nomination.  And in less than a week after I came to PNG in January, our Branch held their annual meeting and I was voted in to be their DLA for the next two years.  Woo Hoo!!!  The official date for the transfer of office would not be until May 1st.  But that was not the only thing I would be doing, preparing to become the DLA, which would keep me busy for four months.  Next article I will tell you what one of my exciting tasks is that keeps bringing me back to PNG.

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.

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