The Bomb That Did Not Explode

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It is always exciting to read a suspenseful story.  It’s quite something else if you are a part of that story.  For most of who are involved in doing mission work, the exciting stories usually have to do with some experience that we have had while living overseas doing our work somewhere in the mission field of the world.  But the following story, which just came out in September 2013, has to do with something that happened over 50 years ago.  Read Linda’s story:

                                

Powerful Providence

A radio news item caught my ear last week and quickly had my full attention. It was not about a current event, but rather something that happened 52 years ago. A recently revealed secret US government document showed that on January 23, 1961 an atomic bomb was accidently released from an American B-52 bomber over Goldsboro, North Carolina. It was 260 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. [i]

The errant bomb was equipped with four safety switches to prevent detonation in an accidental release such as this. The first three switches failed to operate. The fourth, a very vulnerable low-voltage switch was the only thing that kept that bomb from detonating and decimating the US eastern seaboard.

My parents, brother and sister were living in Jacksonville, North Carolina on that day, just 70 miles from Goldsboro. The blessed event of my birth in Jacksonville, North Carolina in December 1961 obviously would never have happened if that fourth switch had malfunctioned like the other three switches. I believe God made sure that last switch worked. I believe He saved us.

    

Really Linda? You think that was about you? Well why did God save your family but He didn’t save the people who died at the mall in Nairobi last week? Or those who died from the earthquake in Pakistan this week? Or the people who are being killed in Syria and Afghanistan right this moment? I honestly don’t know. I don’t understand. But I do know for certain it is God’s will for me to be serving Him in Africa in September 2013.

It was His providence which orchestrated many events in history to make this possible. He could not accomplish His will of sending me to East Africa if I had never been born. So yes, I believe that one of the myriad reasons His hand was on the switch that day was because of my calling. I remember the stories of God’s providence throughout the Bible, and I believe He is the same today as He was in those days – willing and able to do what it takes to accomplish His perfect plans.

    

That is just how my mind works and how I live my life – I believe. I trust God; I rely on Him and know that even though I will someday die, no one or nothing can take my life unless and when He decides for it to happen. You see, my life belongs to Him and no one else; not to even me, because I gave it to Him. So what is my part in all of this? To cling to God’s grace, love, provision and mercy; to listen to His Spirit and to say yes to whatever He asks of me.

You have a part in it too. I long to hear you (yes you) say to me, “… we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:11b-12 (NASB)

                                

I would have to agree that one of the great mysteries of our world is that we can never know why some good things happen to certain people, and bad things happen to other people.  We would want to conclude from our own human reasoning that good things should happen to good people, and bad things should happen to bad people.

But the Scriptures do not support this idea.  In Matthew 5:45, it says, “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” [ii]  In other words, God will allow both good and evil things to be distributed to all people, though not necessarily in proportionate amounts.  Our family has felt that it has carried more than our fair share of crises: a pregnancy death, considering the option of bankruptcy, our son getting leukemia, and now I deal daily with the family genetically inherited mitochondrial disease.

The question we must all ask ourselves is this, “In light of what has just happened, how should we respond?”  Jill and I learned an important life skill statement to help us through.  It says, “Given this…then what?”  All of us will experience many experiences in life.  When we find we are in the middle of a very difficult life situation, we could get angry, but that almost always back fires on us.

    

We could choose to simply accept the situation as being out of our control, but I would contend that this is self-defeating as I believe that there is always some action we can take, under the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of course.

And so that leaves me with the saying, “Given this… then what?”  We will all need to realize that there is the possibility of happening at any time.  Our response to this is not to get angry, but simple decide what the most appropriate action would be, and then to do it.  And Linda, I’m so glad that that bomb did not go off, for then I would never have had the privilege to be able to call you my friend.  Blessings upon you.

Praise God

 


[ii] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers

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God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Ours

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Our Tour of Churches in Illinois

Two months ago, an idea came to me that it would be good to visit one of our supporting churches in Illinois.  What I mean by “supporting churches” is that the mission work that Jill and I do for Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) is supported financially by the donations that come in from churches and individuals who believe in the importance of the work we do.

The primary goal of PBT is to “transform lives through the translated Word of God”.  We believe that everyone has the right to read the Bible and learn about God and His Son, Jesus Christ in their own language.  But of the 6,900+ languages that exist in the world today, there are still over 2,200 languages that do not even have one verse of Scripture in their own language.

We strive then to make God’s Word available to these Bible-less people groups around the world.  In Papua New Guinea, where Jill and I have done most of our work, there are approximately 870 languages, and many of them do not have any portion of the Bible.  In fact, many of them do not even have a written alphabet.  It is up us as linguists to listen to their speech and create an alphabet based on what we hear.

Monolingual Approach

Above you can see me as I presented to a congregation in Pleasant Hill, Illinois, a demonstration that we call the “Monolingual Approach”.  What happens is that I will speak my village language that I learned in PNG, and an assistant will work with me who speaks another language besides English.  I have to draw out from my assistant words and phrases in their language by only using gestures or pointing at objects.

As my assistant speaks in the other language (and this time is was in Colombian Spanish), I write down everything I can in phonetic symbols.  After about twenty minutes of pantomiming and pointing at things, I have a chalk board full of words and phrases.  And from that, I can begin to construct a preliminary alphabet, and I begin to make some grammatical observations of  the language.

I have done this demonstration about 10 times now.  I’ve worked with assistants from various parts of Africa, as well as some who spoke Spanish or French.  And in 20 minutes, many people are quite amazed at how much information I have gathered and what I can say in repeating their language.  One time, after working with an African student, at the end of the seminary class he ran into the hallway and declared to a friend, “This man knows how to speak my language!”

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Now back to the story about me visiting a church in Illinois.  Two months ago, one small church in Illinois decided to send in a large donation.  Wow!  Praise God!  Now how could I adequately say “Thank you,” to them.  I realized that I would be down in Dallas for two months to do the preparation work for the upcoming trip to Papua New Guinea, and thought that it would not be too hard to jump on a plane and go visit this church in Chicago.

So I contacted the pastor of the church, and he thought it would be a great idea for me to come just after Thanksgiving and to preach about and present our work of Bible translation.  That sounds great, but then I wondered where I would stay for a few days after flying to Chicago and how I could get to the church, since my muscle condition prevents me from driving long distance.

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That’s when I remembered that I have a friend named Christian (what a fabulous name), who lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago.  I phoned him and asked if he thought it would be possible for him to help me with a place to stay and to be my driver.  Praise God, he was more than willing to help out.  He told me that he would do whatever I needed help with seeing as he is self-employed.

Then I asked him if it would be okay to visit more than one church, if they responded favorably to me coming to visit them.  Well, can you guess what happened?  That’s right, God had plans so much bigger than mine.  In eight days, I ended up speaking in three churches and in three small group gatherings.  They were all so eager to here more about this ministry of Bible translation.

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What is truly amazing is the interest in our work that came from a small country church all the way across the state, five hours drive from Chicago, that is near Hannibal, Missouri and is almost beside the Mississippi River.  They read one of my emails out loud to the whole congregation that I had sent to the church asking if I could come and preach and present our work.

When I heard back from the woman who is helping to do the admin work of the church, she said, “Everyone is so excited to hear that you are going to come.”  And then she prepared an article for the local newspaper to let the whole community around the church to know that I was going to come.  It was very cool to see it on their front page of the paper. Below is the copy of the newspaper article.  And all I can say is, “Thank you God for expanding the opportunities to speak for you.  And thank you to all who support this ministry work.”

Norm NewsPaper

* If you would like to know more about how you can pray for this work or to help support this work financially, please send me an email at norm.weatherhead@gmail.com .

* You could also follow me on Twitter or on Facebook.

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

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In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

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In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

Hot, Cold, & Serving God

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Revelation 3:15 – 17  

 Jesus speaks to the church at Laodicea

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus, this One who humbly walked among men and would not “bruise a broken reed nor snuff out a smoldering wick”, was now giving a stern warning to the believers at Laodicea, a first century church founded in Asia Minor. Jesus was warning them that if they did not change their ways, they would be in danger of being rejected by Jesus. And not only would Jesus reject them, but he would do so in quite a violent manner.

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So this raises a huge question. What was the problem with the Laodiceans? What terrible things had they done to deserve this warning? As I look at this passage of Scripture, it seems to me that Jesus was just as concerned with what they weren’t doing as with what they were doing. When it comes to spiritual matters, we must stand up for what is right in God’s eyes as well as reject and resist the things that are not right in God’s eyes.

But the Laodiceans were neither hot nor cold. They were (spiritually speaking) lukewarm. Had they adapted (or should I say accommodated) themselves to the secular society around them? Is it possible that they were no longer advocating godliness in their daily lives, and were tolerating ungodly behaviors and attitudes of those around them? Hmmmm…. This does not sound a whole lot different from the way things are here for many Christians and churches today in our Western culture and society.

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Now hot and cold are generally thought of as being opposites. And most people tend to like one or the other, but not both at the same time. At least this is true when it comes to drinking beverages. We drink hot coffee or hot chocolate at the beginning of work days and when it is winter. We drink cold drinks or chilled sodas when we want to relax and when it is summertime. But few of us would enjoy drinking lukewarm coffee or Coke at any time of the year.

The same is not true when it comes to temperature and climate. We will do all that we can do to stay warm in frigid weather, and to cool off when it is blazing hot weather. Believe me, I have seen both. I remember our first winter in Manitoba when it was -45 Celsius (-49 Fahrenheit) or worse for over six weeks. And I also remember how terribly hot it was when we were living in the village in Papua New Guinea. During the first six months, I would lay on the floor of our house for over an hour after lunch panting for air and leaving a pool of sweat on the floor around me.

But given enough time, I did acclimate myself to these extreme temperatures. What used to bother me before, became “normal” for me. And that is the danger of sin and ungodliness for us today. If we allow ourselves to be continually exposed to things that don’t please God, or we don’t actively pursue the things that do please God, then the end result is that we can become spiritually lukewarm. Let us take care or may find Jesus ready to reject us just as He was about to do to the Laodiceans.

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There is one more aspect that I would like to explore in this article. Namely this: whenever we do sense God is calling us to serve Him in some way, we should not be surprised if He takes us out of our comfort zone. I still think it was rather ironical that God called me, a person who grew up in the high, dry mountains of Western Canada, to serve him in a low swampy and humid, tropical region of Papua New Guinea. After five years in PNG, I became accustomed to the heat, but then God moved our family back to Canada.

Four years later, we were ready to return to PNG, but this time God sent us east rather than south. We ended up serving with our mission for a year and a half in East Africa. More recently, Jill and I had anticipated spending more time together as a couple seeing as one of our boys is married and our other son was accepted into the military. But apparently, God wanted me to serve Him in Dallas while Jill stayed home back in Canada. And in just over a week, I will be heading to PNG to work on some Bible translation projects. Thankfully, Jill will be able to join me for about half of the three months that I am over there.

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In all of our travels though, I can honestly say that God has taken good care of all our needs. And I have sensed His presence in all we have done. Perhaps we are the lucky ones, for in our constant travels we have had to depend on God and trust Him. Perhaps we have been able to avoid some of that slipping into mediocrity in our spiritual lives that can come through the experiences of simply settling down and blending in to the general cultural environment that is all around us. In either case, may God help us all to stand up for his truth and impact others around us. May we be either hot or cold, but never lukewarm.