Shipwrecked Faith

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Shipwrecked Faith

Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. Isaiah 63:17 

“Wander from your ways” is powerfully descriptive as we consider how easy it is to move away from a right relationship to God. It doesn’t take effort to drift. You just quit trying. You lose focus. Staying close to God requires effort. We’re not talking about earning our salvation…that is not dependent upon our effort, but upon God’s grace. Maintaining and nurturing the relationship will mean giving ourselves to prayer, the Word, fellowship, and worship.

How many have shipwrecked their faith, not by deliberate rebellion, but by drifting away through inattention? Wandering aimlessly through life, we miss the Lord’s presence and His power to transform. Might that even be a picture of the 21st century church today as we wander away from the firm commitment to daily seek His face?

Oh God, forgive my tendency to wander away from You. I get so caught up in daily activities, that I find myself off doing my own thing and not paying attention to You. Like the hymnist I find myself saying, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

–By David Butts, author of The Devil Goes to Church (Combating the Everyday Attacks of Satan)

Posted 3 Oct 2011

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This recent devotional thought from “Connections” has come at a very timely moment.  Yesterday, my younger boy, Glen, began the first day of his Army Boot Camp training.  Over the next four months, Glen will be subjected to all the brutal rigors, intense discipline and strict authoritarianism that goes with entering into the life of being a soldier.  He will need to be strong and also well-disciplined to keep his spiritual life maintained and healthy.

So am I concerned or worried about Glen?  Naturally!  That is, as a father, I will of course be concerned about his physical well-being and safety as he trains to be a soldier.  But I have committed my son into the hands of the Almighty God.  And I will be sure to pray for him every day, even as I also pray for my older son Eric, and his young bride Esther, every day.  As a Christian man, praying for my wife and all my children each day is as normal and natural as breathing air is, and is just as important.

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What is of greater concern to me is Glen’s emotional / psychological and spiritual health as he starts to enter into this world of the military.  In a number of conversations in the past with Glen, it became clear to me that God had placed this desire within him to walk this path.  I’m sure there will be some trying moments for him in the coming months and years ahead of him, but I do believe that Glen has a solid faith in God and a strong will to hold his ground if and when he is challenged.

But it is not so much the blatant and obvious challenges to his faith that I worry about for Glen.  No, it is more the quiet, subtle, slow drifting away from one’s “first love” for Jesus (as Revelation 2:4-5 puts it) that concerns me and has the possibility of causing a shipwreck to his faith.  But not just to Glen, to any of us who do not choose to place a high priority on our commitment to maintain a regular and healthy relationship with God.

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Let me restate one sentence from the devotional above that I think is the most important one:

“Maintaining and nurturing the relationship [with God] will mean giving ourselves to prayer, the Word, fellowship [with other Christians] and worship.”

This points to the importance of having an inner motivation to be proactive and disciplined about maintaining our relationship with God.  It will not be easy for Glen in some ways, since the Army will in many ways control every aspect of his life at first.  but he will get weekends off at some point, and he will have some personal time he can use to focus on his prayer life and devotional readings once he finishes Boot Camp.

I can say all this, because I once was where Glen is now.  The differences now are that I was a Reservist in the Canadian Navy for a year, while he will be in the Regular Army for the next four years.  But we have an agreement that I can phone him up or email him at any time and ask him if his faith is still “strong” and still “secure”.  (You can read my words to Glen in the article “Strong and Secure For God.”)

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This brings me to a natural concluding point and question here.  It is great when a person publicly declares that he is a Christian.  But is that person’s faith truly grounded well in God and in His Words, so that no external force would have the strength to knock them down in their faith? Or are they hiding in the crowds of people who appear to make them strong but are empty and brittle like the bamboo stalks can get to be.

And now it comes down to you, the reader of this article.  How would you say that your faith is doing?  Is your faith strong;  is it really secure?  Please, please do not drift slowly away from God, and risk the danger that you may experience having your Faith shipwrecked.  Amen!

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Faith Is Rewarded

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What Is Faith – Part 3

During the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to a sermon series on “Faith”.  My plan for the article for today was to continue writing out my thoughts and summaries of what I was learning from this sermon series.  But something incredible happened this week that I just have to share with all of you. It is a story about how pure and persistent faith can overcome the obstacles that stand in our way.

This story concerns my younger son Glen, and is the answer to prayers that we have been praying for many, many months. In a previous article ( which you can read here), I wrote about this strong desire that my son has had to be able to join the Canadian military, specifically the Army. And finally, two days ago, Glen found out that he had in fact been selected and will head off to Boot Camp as soon as they phone him and tell him what those dates are.

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To appreciate the magnitude of how great an answer to prayer this is, I will need to go back and give you a lot of the background details that led up to this moment. It was while our family was working in Africa in 2006 and ’07 that our son first entertained the idea seriously about joining the military. When we came back from Africa, and while Glen was doing his last year of high school, he was involved with the Army reserves.

He found that fascinating and really enjoyed those weekends when they would go out on squad exercises, but it was too difficult to manage schooling and involvement with the military at the same time. So he put the idea of the Army to the side, finished high school, and then went on and completed a year of Bible college.

As soon as he finished that one year certificate though, he went down and immediately applied to join the Regular Forces of the Army. There was the normal bureaucratic hoops and paper trails during that summer of 09, but by September, Glen was offered the opportunity to join at that time. And he knew that this was what he wanted, but part of him felt that he was not quite ready and so he passed up that invitation.

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One year later, our son was not only a year older, but just a little bit more ready to enter into the world of the military. He was told that he needed to start his application again, and all of us were quite surprised to find that there was a job freeze on the military and that he would be put on a waiting list. This began the long road and test of faith for all of us.

Now I want to pick up the story from my perspective as a father. When Glen first started talking about joining the military, as a parent I naturally felt very concerned and worried for him. After having many talks with him, and after much thought and prayer, I arrived at the place where I felt okay about his desire. In fact, there came a day that God not only gave me peace about this decision, but also a conviction and assurance that this was the right thing for Glen to do.

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Over this past winter and spring, all of us in the family were actively praying that God would open up the door again for our son to be accepted back into the military. And every time that I talked with Glen, both of us felt that we needed to believe that it would happen, even though it seemed like all the odds were against it happening.

It seemed like every time that Glen would phone the military, he would get different answers as to whether there were positions available are not. Then about two months ago, we got our hopes up when Glen was called in for an interview (which went well) and he also passed the medical exam. But weeks went by and there was no news.

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Finally, it looked like a breakthrough when a few weeks ago he was told that he was on the “Merit List”. The next thing we heard was that there were 80 applicants for the remaining 20 positions. What an emotional roller coaster we were all on, but again, we stubbornly chose by faith to believe that God would open the door and allow Glen to be selected.

Then I remembered something that I had just heard and written about in last week’s article on faith. The speaker, Leon Fontaine, presented the idea that there are obstacles (i.e. mountains) in our lives, and that by faith we should speak, literally speak against these mountains to be removed. Again, this is not the idea of using words like magical incantations. But rather, it is a bold proclamation coming out from within of the faith that you hold to be true.

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And so, when they told us last week that this Tuesday was going to be the final day of selection, I felt empowered and emboldened within my spirit to lay claim to the biblical promise of Psalm 37:4, “Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I knew that Glen had committed his ways to the Lord, and I also knew that God had given me in the past the peace and the conviction that Glen should join the military.

Throughout the morning of Tuesday then, I not only prayed to God, but I prayed out loud to God to let this be the day that Glen would be accepted. What a great relief and joy I felt then, when Glen phoned at two o’clock in the afternoon to let me know that yes indeed, he had been one of the 20 who were selected to be accepted.

All I can say now is, “Thank you, thank you God!”  Just like the parable of the persistent widow, You showed us once again that when we have persistent faith in You, faith is rewarded.

My Prayer To God

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I’m Heading to Dallas to Serve My Lord

Surreal!  That is the word that best describes how I feel right now.  I’m sitting in the plane at the end of the tarmac, waiting our turn to taxi forward and then take off on this flight to Dallas, Texas.  I have been on so many flights to places all over the world, but this one is very different.  This time I am going on an extended trip without my wife, Jill.  And I have said my good byes to my children (two sons and a daughter-in-law) not knowing when the five of us will be together again.

Let me back up for a minute and explain what is happening for all of us in our family, and then I want to write out a prayer to God.  Many of our friends receive either or both of our monthly ministry email updates and our weekly prayer & praise emails.  And there are a good number of people who read my blog and know what we are doing.  But for those who are reading this article and are not yet connected to us on a regular basis, I invite you to become a Subscriber to this blog (on the right-hand side), or write a comment to me to request to receive our weekly or monthly email updates.  (The Comment will be kept private.)

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It really is exciting what God is doing in our lives right now.  I will comment on my family first, and then tell you why I am on my way to Dallas.  Both of our sons are in their 20’s now, and are on the verge of stepping forward into their vocational choices of interest.  Eric has his Graphic Arts Design Diploma and we are all praying for and believing that he will find an entry job in this field.  At the same time, our second son, Glen, is just one phone call away from entering into the Canadian Armed Forces (Army).

I should stop here to mention more about this interesting direction that Glen is taking.  As far back as 2006, Glen has had an interest in joining the military.  There was an opportunity for him in 2009 to join but he was not feeling ready at that time.  But last year and this year, he really felt a strong conviction that this is where God was leading him.  Amazingly, there were no openings for Infantry Soldiers and many other trades during this time.

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Still, Glen continued to apply for a few different positions within the Army, and either the position would close again, or his paperwork seemed to get “lost”.  But Glen persisted, and prayed, and waited, and kept believing that this was God’s direction for him.  When asked by people why he wanted to join the Army, he would say, “I want to help defend the defenseless people of the world.”

About two months ago, we got excited that some positions were finally opening for real.  Then last month, Glen had an interview and passed the medical test.  Still we got no follow-up call that he was accepted.  I prayed that God would give Glen an answer before I flew to Dallas.  And can you believe it?  Five hours before the flight, Glen was told that he is on the “Merit List”, which means that he is basically accepted, and that within a matter of days or a few weeks, he will be called to go off to start his Army Boot Camp.  (Thank you God for answering our prayers.)

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This will mean that Jill will be the one who stays in our condo back home by herself.  I knew the day was coming when Glen would leave home, and I saw how God was lining things up for me to do my ministry work down in Dallas.  I have felt very concerned for Jill, and so I was very glad when God provided a neat solution to her situation.  In the midst of us praying about me going to Texas, Jill was offered a full-time position at her hospital and in the same unit where she is currently working.  And to fill the rest of her time, an opportunity has presented itself for her to do some studies in International Health at the Master’s level.

So what about me?  Due to my health (which you can read about here), it is clear to us that I am better able to live and function in hotter and more humid climates.  Summer time and the coming Fall in Dallas would certainly qualify for this kind of necessary climate for me.  And the blessing from God is that I will be able to do my Bible translation consultant work even better while living there.  And since the international office of our mission (Pioneer Bible Translators) is in Dallas, they have asked me to help teach some introductory linguistic classes to a number of our new missionary recruits over the next four months.

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In light of all of these things, I want to lift up my voice in praise and prayer to the Lord God, my King and my Father:

“Father God, I thank you for Your loving care and kindness that you show to me and to my family, whom I love dearly.  I thank You for choosing to use us to minister to the world through the careers that You are providing to all four of us in this family.  May we be Your hands, Your feet and Your mouth to all whom You cause to cross our paths.

“I do ask You Father to look after my family while I am away.  Be our Guide, our Comforter and our Protector.  As our family gets scattered to many places, let us hold each other up in prayer and keep us connected across the miles.  I know You will do this, and I praise You for hearing my prayer.  In all things, we give You the honor and the glory.

In Christ’s precious and holy name I pray.  Amen, and Amen!!!

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Strong And Secure For God

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Some Advice For My Son

I have two sons.  And I am very proud of both of them.  Against many odds, they are outstanding young men of God.  It breaks my heart when I hear stories of preachers’ kids and missionaries’ kids who turn their back on the Lord when they become an adult.  As a missionary family, we have taken our two sons, Eric and Glen, literally around the world a few times.  In the midst of constant change, two things have remained strong:  their love for each other in the family, and their love and commitment to God.

There are so many things I could share about my boys, and with their permission perhaps I will in the future.  But today I want to tell you what is in my heart to share with my younger son Glen.  He has been interested in the military for quite some time, and in the last two years he has very much wanted to join the Canadian Armed Forces as a soldier.  Three weeks ago he got an interview and passed the medical exam.  They say they will call him up as soon as there is a position for him.

Naturally, as his parents, we are worried and concerned about what might happen to him while he is a soldier.  He may get killed.  As Christians though, we know death only leads to a better eternal life.  So we worry more about him being severely injured or psychologically scarred from his time in the military.  You can be sure that we will be praying for him every day to be physically and mentally well.

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There is one other area that is a concern to me, and that is how he will do spiritually.  When I first asked him why he wanted to join the military, he said he believed that was God’s will for him.  “Good,” I said, “but tell me why else you would join.”  And he amazed me with his answers.  First of all, he told me that someone needs to help defend the defenseless peoples of the world.  Wow, I thought.  That sounds just like what a missionary would say.

Then he went on to talk about being patriotic to his country, and the appeal of the Army being a place of camaraderie and a lifestyle rather than a job.  “And what about the lifestyles of some of the people in the military?” I asked.  “Will you be able to handle their language and their behaviors which certainly do not speak of very high moral qualities?”  And his response to me was, “But who is going to tell them about God?”  Wow, I thought.  Good point.

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And so here I am, thinking about our little boy going off to the Army.  (Even though Glen in 6′ 3″ he is still our ‘little boy’.)  I’ve thought a lot about what I would want to say to him as a good “word of advice” to him before he leaves home.  And what came to me was a quote that comes out of “The Lord of the Rings“.  Worried about the “Ring of Power”, Gandalf comes back and asks Frodo, “Is it secret?  Is it safe?”

So I’ve decided that with regards to his faith in God, I will ask Glen in coming years this question, “Is it strong?  Is it secure?”  My prayer and my hope is that Glen’s faith in God will always be strong and secure.  (Oh, and by the way, biblically speaking, ‘Christian hope’ is not just wishful thinking but is defined as “expectation with certainty”.

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To provide an image of what I hope for Glen, I am thinking of three kinds of trees in Papua New Guinea.  The first one is the bamboo tree.  It grows very tall and in large groves that have hundreds of them.  They are very secure because of their interconnected root systems and sheer number of them in a grove.  But hit one of them with a blunt force and it can shatter to pieces.

The second one is a coconut tree.  It’s trunk is thick at the base and feels as tough as iron when you hit it.  It is very strong.  But they can grow by themselves, and though they spread their roots very widely, there is very shallow soil there and they don’t grow deeply.  A terrific gust of wind has often literally blown over a coconut tree.

But there is one more tree (which I’m afraid I don’t know the name of) which is thick, tall, strong, has highly interlaced root systems, and has one more amazing aspect to it.  It grows fin-like supports at the base of the tree which make it just about impossible to knock down.  And the tree is so tough, that we had to drill holes in it before using nails or we would bend the nails.

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So I am going to tell Glen not to blend in too much with the rest of the men (like a bamboo grove) and think that he can still be strong in his faith.  No, he needs to still be involved in a Christian environment and attend local churches and try to find a Bible study group.  Even just making sure he has one other Army buddy who is a Christian.  As they say, “glowing embers burn brightly when put together, but take one out, and it will fizzle out and die.”

And then on the other side, I don’t want Glen to try to stand up by himself (like a coconut tree) and think he will be secure in his faith.  No, he needs to dig in his spiritual roots deeply by praying regularly and reading the Bible as often as he can.  Glen’s true security is being found “in Christ”.  There will be times he will feel alone, but I will remind him that God is always there, and he will never be alone as long as he abides with God.

“And so son, I love you.  And I am ready for you to be God’s man in the Canadian Army.           Go get ’em soldier.”     Love Dad