The Lord Will Get Me To Papua New Guinea

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We Make Plans – God Has Different Plans

I felt so sure that once I got on the plane in Calgary, that everything would go smoothly until I reached my destination of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Who would have guessed that a) the flight crew were late coming in from Vancouver to start up our plane; b) that a snow storm would happen the moment we sat down in the plane (which meant a delay of de-icing), and c) more unusual (actually weird) was the fact that the flight attendants could not agree for 45 minutes whether there were 81 or 82 passengers on the plane (that delayed us at least 45 minutes)

So… I missed my connection to the Qantas long flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia.  Suddenly I was faced with making rapid changes and new arrangements to get new flights and some lodgings booked in both Brisbane and Cairns down under.  I have to admit that I let the situation get the best of me for a while as I complained, and then worried about how this would all get worked out.  I took my eyes off of Jesus for a short while, and I found fear and anxiety replaced my normal peace of God in my heart.

There are a number of things that I have realized, now that I have time to reflect on all that happened.  I hope I can express well in words what I want to pass on to others of how we who are Christians can better handle difficult situations that can confront us in life.  Let’s look then at how I did react, and how I could have reacted to the situation.

Takeoff

When I first booked all my flights, to get me from Canada to Papua New Guinea, one of my first concerns was to try to save money.  Now there is nothing wrong with being wise stewards of our money.  Jesus gave many teachings and illustrations on this topic.  But I added some pride and self-reliance along with my sense of “frugality”.

It is true that my health has been much better in the past six months, and this in part led me to think that I could do the 30 hour trip from Calgary to Port Moresby, PNG in one long day of traveling.  I realize now that I was kind of proud of myself that I was going to do the long haul on my new found strength, and had not really asked the Lord about the wisdom of this.

And then, as we sat and waited and waited on the plane in Calgary, ready for take-off, I found I got more and more anxious about the possibility of missing my next plane.  “All my efforts of my planning and scheduling will get ruined,” I thought.  We did make it to Los Angeles, but with all the effort of people getting me my wheelchair assistance from one terminal to the other, I arrived 15 minutes after they closed the check-in desk, even though the plane had not left yet.

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So it was when I finally recognized that I was trying so hard to make my plans and solve this crisis in my own strength that I gave the situation over to the Lord.  And then things actually did start to fall into place. I was going to be okay from LA to Brisbane as Qantas just switched my ticket to the next night.  And I was able to book my Australia to PNG flights with air miles, so that I paid only 1/10th of what a new ticket would cost.  And with Jill’s help, I was able to get bookings as two nice hotels in Brisbane and then Cairns.

The neatest part was that some good friends from a very long time ago heard about my situation and they emailed me to let me know they could pick me up at the airport in Brisbane and take care of me for a few hours until I could check in at the hotel.  That was very special, seeing as I might have had to wait four hours in the hotel lobby until I got a room.

Better yet, we spent those few hours together sharing wonderful stories of how God has taken care of us all over the years.  And we shared testimonies of how God has worked through us all to bless other people.  What a special time of sharing that was for me, and for them too they told me.

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So now a few questions.  Did God create the crisis as a penalty for my independence from Him?  I don’t accept that one as that makes God to be a God who punishes people if they step out of line just a little bit.  Did Satan and his forces of evil send this “attack” against me?  No, I doubt it.  But he certainly could be behind me taking my eyes off of Jesus.

Was I supposed to learn something from the situation?  Very probably.  Or at least I would hope I learn from each situation in life.  I do know that God promises us peace in the midst of storms.  (And I was forgetting that.)  And He promises to bring good out of every situation.  (That came true as I spent a wonderful day with dear Christian friends in Brisbane that would not have happened if this crisis had not happened.)

There is more I could say, but this gives you an idea of how my last couple of days have gone.  More importantly, it tells you that I am doing okay and God is taking care of me and the various details of rearranging my trip to PNG.  As Scriptures says, I made plans, but God had better plans.

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God Supplies Our Needs

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Who Am I?  Part 14

In the last article that I wrote out part of our life journey, I ended on the point that people can and do treat us unfairly in life, but that we need to be able to move past the pain and be able to forgive those who hurt us.  (Read the story here.)  Having to leave the church was a very difficult experience.  And when it first happened, my immediate thought was “What do I do now?”

It is exactly at this point that our faith must be strong and we remind ourselves of some very basic, but important biblical truths.  It is best if we have already memorized Scripture verses so that we can pull them up in these difficult moments.  But even if we can’t quite remember or even know what the Bible promises are, we have many good tools like concordances or Bible software which can help us pull up meaningful and relevant verses that help us to face the difficult trials of life.

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For example, consider some of these Bible promises:

  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deut. 31:6  (I believe the promise God gave to Moses and the children of Israel would apply just as well today to God’s people, the church.)
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matt. 28:20  (I believe Jesus’ last words to His disciples in this Gospel apply to us as believers today.)
  • “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”   Phil. 4:19  (Taken in context, Paul is telling the Philippians that with the same kind of generosity that they had shown, God would supply their basic needs in life.  So I believe by extension, that as we faithfully serve our God, He in turn will graciously supply our basic needs in life.
  • “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matt. 6:33  (And this confirms what I believe, that all our basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, will be met by God.)
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So while I served out the last weeks of my time at the one church, Jill and I prayed that God would supply us with a clear direction and a job opportunity that I would be able to move into quickly.  And that is exactly what God did.  Through word-of-mouth, I heard of another church that was looking for a minister.  I had a weekend without responsibilities in the first church and so we were free to fly to the city of the other church where I preached on Sunday and met with the search committee.

It was only a matter of days before the second church called back and offered me the position of their Pastor.  And so Jill and I and 18 month old Eric were able to pack up and leave one city and know already where we would be living and working next.  We did take one month out to attend a month long mission orientation course to evaluate our readiness for the mission field, but they said we should stabilize our family, take care of our debt load, and work on some basic communication skills to strengthen our marriage.  That may be a story for another day.

Oh and Jill was pregnant again.  This was now the third pregnancy where we ended up on the road to a new location while Jill was pregnant.  We have lots of funny stories that start with, “We were pulling a U-haul trailer with all our stuff and Jill was pregnant, and then….”  It really is unbelievable all the places we have traveled to and set up a home and started life and ministry over again.

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The city we headed to this time was Portage La Praire, a small sized city to the west of Winnipeg.  God watched over us as we traveled across western Canada with our U-haul in the middle of winter.  We stayed in one woman’s home to house sit it, and it was during this month that Glen was born.  Jill gave birth to him on January 15th, 1991.  The nurses were on strike and the Gulf War had just started.  Not a very auspicious beginning to say the least.

Meanwhile, the small congregation worked to fix up the little apartment that they had constructed years earlier in place of the upper balcony of the church.  Our living cost of rent was covered then by the church, but even with the salary they offered we found that I would have to work a second job.  Later on, when Jill was able, she worked at a part-time home care job.

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You can probably picture that this was a very challenging time for us.  And what did we learn in this time?  One thing for sure we learned is that to be able to eat, you must work hard.  Paul suggests that there is a direct correlation between our “daily bread” and hard work (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).  While working as a pastor, I also worked the night shift at a retail department store doing the restocking of shelves.

I didn’t mind the hard work.  And I didn’t mind too much the guys who like to poke fun at me.  Actually, I thought it a compliment when the guys would say, “Hey Rev., come over here.”  My Christian faith was evident to all, and sometimes that meant the dirtier jobs were given to me.  But it provided an income for my family.

And so the second important thing I reaffirmed was that God would make sure that our basic needs were always met.  Sure it was hard.  God has never promised us an easy life.  But by trusting in Him to direct us and supply us our daily bread, along with a willing spirit to work hard, we found that in the end, our family of four, tucked away in the church balcony, had all we needed, and that was enough.

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Walk With God

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Go At God’s Pace – Part 1

In this article, I will begin to look at Strategy #7 in Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  If you’d like to get a copy of this book, you can look at my article I wrote a number of months back about how I offer to help a person find Christian books.  (Click on “Good Christian Resources“.)  The title of this Strategy of how to handle life when you are going through a difficult period is “Go At God’s Pace”.

This chapter of Atteberry’s book may hold a wonderful promise for God’s people, but it is unfortunately one of the most difficult practices to do for any man or woman.  The Bible gives us an insight into what it will be like when we are with God and there is no sin to separate us any longer from God when we look at the opening verses in Genesis and the closing words of Revelation.

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In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we are given the story of the creation of the universe, the world and every living thing inhabiting it.  Then look at verse 8 of chapter 3 which says, “the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  Can you imagine what Paradise was like before sin entered into the world?  Just think, God would come visit Adam and Eve, and in that quiet and peaceful time of the day, they would just casually walk along side of the Creator of the Universe and have a good talk with Him.

But we know that sin did come into the world when both Adam and Eve made the decision to disobey God’s specific will and they chose to follow a different path, one which excluded God from their lives.  At that point, an infinitely impassable chasm of sin separated mankind from God, and with rare exceptions, men and women were no longer able to walk by the side and in the presence of God.

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But praise God, the Lord Jesus chose to give up his own divine rights and privileges and came to earth to walk as a man, and to die as a man.  This man, who had not committed any sin worthy of death, being pure before God, was in a place to offer the perfect sacrifice (His own body and bleed) as the payment for the sins of all people.  Subsequently, mankind once more had direct access to the Father God in Heaven.

The victory over sin was won for all mankind almost 2,000 years ago, but that does not mean that we will not still engage the enemy in smaller battles and skirmishes.  And that will continue until the Last Day.  The Day of the Lord will come and the Lord Jesus will return to reward those who have been faithful to Him, and to cast away into eternal punishment those who would not recognize Him, nor obey Him.

And it is at this point that the great promise of walking with God returns and becomes a reality once again to all the believers.  After eons of time, when the majority of men have turned away from God, and the true believers yearned for God, He Himself will once again let His followers be able to walk with Him as it had once been in the Garden of Eden.  This time, instead of walking with God in a garden, we will walk with in the Heavenly City of the new Jerusalem.

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Revelation 21:23-25 gives us a wonderful picture of what it will be like:

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

There are many more verses in Scripture that speak of this close intimate fellowshipping with God by walking with Him.  Genesis is full of it:  Enoch walked with God, and so did Noah, and Abraham, and Moses.  If you haven’t picked it up by now, the key word here is “walk with God”.  Now we need to pull ourselves forward a few thousand years and ask ourselves, what does all this have to do with our daily lives today.

We live in such a high-paced and busy world that we can barely slow down enough to talk to our own family members, let alone God.  And when we do find ourselves on a hard-road path of life, it is almost second nature for us to look for an instant answer, a quick fix, a short-cut solution.  But listen to what Atteberry says:

As a hard-road traveler, you’re no doubt feeling a strong temptation to try to hurry things along.  Believing that the end of your painful road is out there somewhere, you naturally want to hurry up and get there.  (p. 88)

But if we are going to let God really be the Lord of our lives, then we have to be willing to let Him bring about the answer to our dilemmas in His own time, not ours.  And we’ve got to learn to not try to “do it all ourselves”, for all of our efforts are futile if we rush forward and exclude God from our lives.  What we need to do is to slow down enough that we can truly be “walking with the Lord”, and so be walking within His will.

A final word of advice from Atteberry as we close off part one of this lesson on walking with God, “The key is still our willingness to be patient and wait on Him.  He wants to know that we are trusting in Him and not in our own strength or ingenuity.”  (pp. 93-94)

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