The Practice Of Forgiveness

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There is no doubt that we all understand that it is important to forgive others.  We may not always feel like we want to forgive others who have wronged us or offended us.  But then we have to accept the forthright bluntness of the word’s of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 verses 14-15, right after He taught His disciples how to pray to God the Father.  Jesus says:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We have plenty of material and many sermons that tell us the importance of forgiving others.  But what I think is more helpful for most of us today is seeing in person or at least hearing about real situations that exemplify and flesh out what forgiveness looks like.  That is why the following message written by a close missionary friend of mine caught my attention.  I hope that it encourages and challenges you like it did for me.

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When You Hurt Someone

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”   Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

“An email I wrote last month hurt someone I love. I was in a hurry and I carelessly communicated the exact opposite of what I meant to say. For weeks my friend carried the burden of thinking I was angry at her when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another friend finally wrote and bravely, lovingly confronted me with my seemingly rude, uncaring words. I was shocked and could not imagine how I could have been so terribly misunderstood.

Until I found and read that email from her perspective. Ouch. Ever done something like that? To quote an Accenture billboard, “It’s what you do next that counts.” I firmly believe that mistakes like mine can actually strengthen relationships if what you do next is to ask for forgiveness – as fast as you can.

Don’t make excuses or try to avoid humiliation. The Bible says, leave church and go! The truth is we only avoid hurting others if we keep our relationships shallow. Misunderstandings, purposeful angry words and other hurtful things will happen and they will change the relationship, for better or worse.

In the last month I listened to a preacher confess during a sermon that he let his long work hours hurt his marriage, and I heard an elder in a different church confess that he spoke hurtful words when his preacher came to him with a problem. Both of these godly men quickly made things right with the person they hurt, and when they realized that their sin involved more than just one person they publicly confessed it – in tears.

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 What an impact that must have had on the two congregations to have that pastor and that elder make their public confession and to ask for forgiveness in such an open way.  Wow!!  I’m sure that it was not easy for them.  But the personal peace they must have felt after taking care of this issue of the heart, plus the relationships that are repaired are worth the risk.  This reminds me of what happened in our village in PNG in 2001.

For six months I had been holding a “Bible School” program with people under our house.  (In PNG, most houses are built up on posts due to the flooding of the river, the chickens and dogs that run underneath, for good shade, etc.)  Our area back then was almost completely a Catholic oriented region.  At the end of the six months of Bible teaching, I challenged the people to consider making a public declaration of faith in Jesus and mark it with adult baptism in the stream behind our house, if they felt God was asking them to do that.

We did have three baptisms that were witnessed by most people in the village.  I thought this was a tremendous event for the sake of the Kingdom.  But about a week later I was “chastised” by some leaders of the village Catholic church and told not to preach or teach the people any more.  I knew that theology was a big part of the reason for this, but I also realized even more importantly that in this Papuan consensus-and-discussion culture, I had offended the leaders simply by not asking them to be involved with the overall decision making process that occurred.  I believe that if I had, they very likely in the end would have been happy to see these individuals making a stand for the Gospel.

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Very quickly I went about to restore these wounded and broken relationships by doing the culturally correct Papuan action.  Namely, Jill and I cooked a huge rice and tinned meat meal and invited the leaders to a meeting where I could apologize to them.  Not for the baptisms, but rather that I had not respected their village leadership.

At the end of the meal, the other correct thing to be done to show full forgiveness and acceptance of one anther was to shake hands with each other.  This then marked the end of the “wrong”.  And you know what?  The regional Catholic Bishop just happened to be there that night, and he shook my hands and said, “I am so glad you are in this village and teaching the people about God.”  Wow!  So restoring our relationships restored me to a place where the Catholic leaders even approved of the teaching and evangelism I was doing.

I am grateful for this reminder from my friend about practising forgiveness.  May we all follow this example and see relationships restored, lives impacted, and God glorified through it all.

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Thanking God For Language Tutors

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Language Tutors Teach Us More Than Just Language

One of the first things that missionaries will need to do once they arrive on the mission field is to do language learning.  It is rather obvious that if one is going to hope to minister to people of a different culture that learning the language of those people is necessary to be able to communicate with them and so be able to minister to them.

There are a number of ways in which a person can go about learning another language.  In our western culture, it is quite common for us to attend lectures and have a professor teach a large class of students who are all learning this new language.  On the other hand, some people prefer to learn the language on their own at home and listen to audio lessons and study a book.

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On the mission field though, it is much more common to have a native speaker work closely with one person, or perhaps as many as five people.  The students/missionaries will need to memorize new vocabulary and important grammar rules, just like in our classroom model, but much more time is usually spent on practical language production.

We have found over the years that this tutor/learner model has helped greatly to equip missionaries to become actively engaged in the new language faster than the traditional classroom teacher/student model.  And as a side benefit, the missionaries have also often become good friends with their tutors.  Listen to the story of one missionary as he tells us about his language learning experience.

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Jeffrey…He was the meek and ever smiling teacher/tutor.  He was so kind and patient with us in our drills.  Patient to try to answer our questions and patient to wait for us to catch up on our lessons after being out with sick children.  His favorite saying was “Bwana anaweza” (God is able).  He said it and meant it. 

As we got to know Jeffrey, he began to share more about his life.  His dad died when he was young so he was raised by his older brothers who were very harsh with him.  He had worked hard to be educated through form 4 (equivalent of about high school sophomores) and was desiring to go back for more school to become a teacher. 

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Jeffrey seemed to reflect the light and love of Jesus.  He invited us to his church.  He felt a little ashamed because they didn’t have a building.  When we went, we found a building made of sticks for walls but a full tin roof.  The words of the sermon and songs were Swahili, but the passion for the word and praising God reached beyond Swahili.  Jeffrey led most of the songs from his seat and he sang amazingly well.

Jeffrey was blessed to have a bicycle.  He lived a couple of miles from campus.  Every day the students had a 2 and a half hour break for lunch but our teachers had preparation sessions during that time.  So many days he didn’t have the time to go home for food or the money to get something on campus so he would just wait until afternoon tea break and eat as much as possible then.  He didn’t complain, he was just thankful for the snack. 

Jeffrey did a great job of teaching us the language.  But we believe that the most important lesson that he taught us was this, “Bwana anaweza.”  God is able to do more than we could ask or think.  He is able to take us frail humans and take care of us and use us for His glory.  He does it every day with Jeffrey. 

In this young man, of about 20 years, God exhibits that He is able to salvage the life of a boy raised in poverty within a hateful environment, in a country that is not the “land of opportunity”.  Yet each day Jeffrey shares the love of Jesus with others through his patience, kindness, smiles, songs and words about the Lord.  We pray that God will continue to bless Jeffrey with hope and someday the education and career that he desires.

                                

This story brings back many memories for me of the early years that our family spent in our village in Papua New Guinea.  There were a few men living there who were truly gifted in their language, not only just as native speakers, but as someone who had a natural gift to be able to help us to learn to speak their language.

We did not have any textbooks as we learned the village language, since their language had never been written down before.  Instead, we would carefully write down on paper the words that we heard, and then we would practice over and over again with our language helper until we would get it right.

Our language tutors were also so loving and patient with us.  And many of them became our best friends in the village during the time that we lived there.  They knew that we had come to learn their language in order to translate the Bible into their language.  And they so wanted this to happen, that they patiently helped us so that we could communicate with them, but not just our words, God’s Words.  What a joy to live among and to serve these wonderful people.

The Beginning of Missionary Life

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One of our fellow PBT missionary couples wrote a in their monthly newsletter in 2010 a summary of the experiences they had during the first year that they were on the mission field in East Africa.  It is truly amazing all the things that they did.  Enjoy their story, and then I will write about a few things that I recall from our first year of living in Papua New Guinea.

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Reflecting on our first year on the field as full-time missionaries, I recall both triumph and trial but through both evidence of the hand of God at work in our lives. Here’s a snapshot of the last year:

We arrived on September 17th, went through basic orientation to life on the field, attended language school for 2 months, spent a month living in a village to further our culture and language acquisition, became involved in branch and community life, attended our first Branch meeting, participated in two consultations, took on responsibilities as exegetes and taught in the annual training all the while continuing in our language learning with the help of several tutors.

    

Those are the facts, these are the feelings we’ve experienced:

We have felt excitement over the distribution of Scripture portions, discouragement due to the complex and challenging task that we still face and feel inadequate for, and hope for the transformation of a culture. We have experienced several bouts of parasitic and bacterial dysentery, skin issues and other consequences of physically adapting to a new place and climate. We feel relief over being spared from malaria this first year.

We have felt a sense of accomplishment as we successfully communicate something in a second language! We have felt encouraged by our team-mates and national co-workers. We have ached over our longing to be with our families back in the States. We have rejoiced over babies being born to friends and colleagues and grieved over the loss of parents and even children.

    

We have felt like children having to learn all over again how to speak, act and live in our new culture. And we have felt grown up after successfully learning how to feed ourselves and set up our home and drive on the left side of the road! All this and more has been packed into a single year of our lives.

God has not only seen us through but given us all that we need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be His witnesses. Our triumphs are ultimately His and the trials have served to deepen our dependence on Him. We are so grateful for the amazing support we have from the home front and the mercies of God which are new every day.

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For anyone who has not travelled outside of their own country, and I think especially for North Americans, it can be difficult to really appreciate all the challenges that missionaries face when they first leave their home country and culture and start their lives over within a new cultural context.  In those first hours and days, the missionary is bombarded with sights and sounds and oftentimes smells that can be very overwhelming.

Quite naturally, as missionaries prepare to go to the field, they will talk to those who will support them through their prayers and donations about the ministry work that they will do once they get there.  Pioneer Bible Translators helps to train and send linguists, church planters, administrators, and many other support workers to the field.  But we must never forget that these highly skilled people are still just ordinary people.  And we have experiences of joy and sorrow and fears just like anyone else.

    

It certainly was a big adjustment for me and my family as well when we first came to Papua New Guinea.  Jill and I had already had a number of other mission field experiences.  But when we came to PNG, we were also bringing our two young boys with us as well.  And just like any other parents, we worried for the safety and the health of our children as we settled into a small village in a remote part of the tropical forest of PNG.

I remember quite clearly during those early days how I would walk through part of the village and around the grass airstrip area holding on to the hands of my boys.  I would then carefully explain to them what the boundaries were of where they could go and where we did not want them to go. 

Those boundaries were pretty restrictive at first, since we had no idea yet of what to really expect.  But as we got to know the people and the area, and as we continued to experience God’s hand of protection and provision, we grew to love the people and the village where God had placed us.

    

The “missionary life” is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  But it is also not something that only those who are “spiritual giants” can do.  But leaving the safety of our own personal comfort zone to reach out to people who are hurting and don’t know Jesus yet is something that God calls all of His children to do.

You have probably heard about or seen the sign that hangs over the door on the inside of some churches, “Entering the Mission Field”.  The saying is cute, but it is also very true.  God calls all of us to be missionaries.  It won’t be easy for most of us.  Some of us may travel thousands of miles to respond to this challenge from God.  Some of us only need to step outside of our door.  In either case, God is faithful and He will help us to do all that He asks us to do.

My Life Testimony – Pt. 4

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 4

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. In this fourth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about the emotional and spiritual crisis that occurred when we were in Papua New Guinea and found out that our son had developed leukemia.  My prayer 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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Q7: Your biggest challenge at the time was when your son was diagnosed with leukemia in Papua New Guinea. How did you manage not to quit altogether out of grief? Where did you find God’s will in all this after those long years of your faithful service?

Yes, one of the greatest challenges to me emotionally and spiritually was when we were told to evacuate with our son out of PNG and go to Australia to get a diagnosis of leukemia for him confirmed.  Many of those months during the first year of his chemotherapy are still a blur to me.  Our son had to have 33 months of treatment, but the first 12 were what they called “the aggressive drugs” while the next two years were the “maintenance drugs”. 

During that first year, the job of the strong drugs was to literally kill off the new blood cell production right down to his bone marrow.  Then after that, the doctors used the maintenance drugs to slowly rebuild his blood system.

There were a few times in that first year that his blood counts went right down to zero and he was in danger of catching any other illness, even as simple as a cold or the flu, that could threaten his life.  So we lived at home and also at the hospital at times in a “quarantine” environment.  We are so thankful to God that He spared our son’s life, and we still believe that it was the prayers of God’s people that made the difference. 

In the first five weeks that we spent getting treatment for him in Brisbane, Australia, we had more than 500 emails from people around the world that had heard about our situation and were praying for our family.  Almost half of these came from people I had never heard of before.  Praise God that we are part of a larger Body of Christ as believers.

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What is interesting as I look back, is that I don’t ever remember asking God, “Why us? Why our son?  Why this illness?”  I do remember asking God, “Why now?”  We had finished all the checking on the Gospel of Mark in our village language except the final consultant check.  We were three weeks away from doing that when we got the diagnosis. 

This was also the time that followed immediately after the people of our language group went through a spiritual battle called “Cargoism” or “Cargo Cult”.  (You can read about some of this in “Satan is the True Enemy – Pt. 2“) We left the project, our house and most of our belongings in the village.  But I kept asking God, “Why didn’t you let us finish Mark and help the people at this critical time in their spiritual lives?”

Now many years later, I believe I can see that the people were not ready to receive the book of Mark.  They had to deal with the cargoism within their group first.  Then over a year later, someone else was able to complete the consultant check on Mark and get it to a publisher and take it to the people. 

Ten years later now, there is a revival movement happening among the people.  I won’t say that God deliberately gave our son the cancer (that would be a cruel God to me), but He had all things in control and used the cancer years to bring about His work in His timing among the people.

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But for me, as I watched and waited with Jill over our son, I certainly had many moments of tears and fears.  Yet I hung on strong to the promise found in Romans 8:28 that promised me that “in all things” no matter what the circumstances were, God would bring good out of the situation and show us that His love for us had never changed. 

And we saw some amazing things happen during those cancer years.  Our son was chosen to be the cancer Spokes’ Kid for “Kids Cancer Care Foundation” in Alberta in 2003.  And God used him to speak about his own faith in God despite his cancer in meetings across the Province, on radio and on television.  He even gave a speech in Calgary at one of the biggest events of the richest people in Calgary, including the Mayor of the city, and in that speech he gave testimony about how God had sustained him and cared for him in spite of his cancer.

God allowed me to experience one more terrific blessing during those few years in Canada.  I was invited by one Bible College in Saskatchewan to teach Missions and Bible courses for one year, and then the next year I was invited by the Bible College in Calgary to teach Missions and Greek.  The staffs at these two colleges have mentioned that I had the opportunity to teach some of the best students they had had for years, and some of those students (and the staff) are still talking about these classes that I taught. 

So while I cried out concerning the lost people in the villages back in PNG, and I cried out over my son, God rewarded me by giving me wonderful opportunities to continue serving Him.  To me, that was a tremendous privilege and blessing from God.

My Life Testimony – Pt. 3

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 3

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. In this third article that includes portions of the questionnaire, I talk about the training that I have done to prepare me to do Bible translation, and what it was like when I went over to work in Papua New Guinea.  My prayer 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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Q5: Could you summarize the linguistic trainings you went through before becoming a Bible translator? Your childhood episode indicates that mathematics is also important in translating Bible. How so, and what other subjects and experiences are relevant to become a good Bible translator in your opinion? How many languages can you currently read and write?

I have had two years of formal linguistic training.  This includes courses such as: General Linguistics, Phonetics, Phonology, Advanced Grammar, Semantics, Translation Principles, Research into Papuan Languages, Basic Literacy Programs, and Computer Assisted Field Language Research.

Linguistics alone will not make a person a good Bible translator.  I have benefitted greatly by having three Bible and Seminary degrees.  What a good translator should have, I believe, it at least one year minimum of Bible college education.  Then add to that a working knowledge of biblical Greek and Hebrew, as well as experience in Biblical Exegesis. 

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You want a translator to be both linguistically educated and biblically knowledgeable to have a balanced translation.  (The reason why I mentioned that being good at mathematics is helpful is that languages can be analyzed systematically and rules of symmetry and structure found in them just like math has consistent rules and structures to it.)

Over the years I have learned to speak (in addition to my native English) Spanish, Tok Pisin (the trade language of PNG), Nend (the village language of PNG where I worked), and basic Swahili (for the time I was in East Africa).  I can also read biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Q6: How did it feel when you were first sent abroad to the mission field of Papua New Guinea? Was the branch office already established in your destination or did you have to start from the very beginning, befriending the locals first? How did you warm up/ communicate with locals at first? Any case of misunderstanding or hostility? What kind of wisdom did you gain through your efforts to resolve and reconcile? Do you have any interesting episodes regarding such case?

Before coming to PNG in 1997, I had already done summer mission work in Brazil, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Mexico.  So when we arrived in PNG, I felt like I was very much at home here and that this was where I belonged.  Over the many years, I have actually felt more comfortable being in these overseas countries and cultures than being at home in my North American culture.

Thankfully, the PBT-PNG Branch was well established by the time we came here.  The first missionaries for PBT came to PNG in 1976.  When we arrived, there was a good size office functioning in Madang, and we had over 10 language projects running in the country.  What Jill and I decided to do, rather than go out to the rural areas to start a new language project, was to go to a village in the jungle where a project had already been started. 

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There was one where the missionaries had had to leave due to medical and personal reasons.  The Nend project was started in 1985 and the mission couple did the ground work there (building a grass airstrip and house, and publishing a Grammar Paper plus start a dictionary and part of the translation of Mark).  So when we went to our village, there was already a house and preliminary linguistics done.  This let me get a jump start on language learning, and after five years we had the Gospel of Mark translated and nearly ready to be published.

Because I took over an existing project, I “inherited” some friends and national co-translators.  But we all became good friends, and I made some new good friends of my own who have become excellent co-translators.  There are two major incidents that were very eye-opening and could have been quite dangerous during our time in the village. 

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The first incident I am thinking of is when a young boy died of cerebral malaria.  The father of the boy accused an old man of being a sorcerer and was going to go kill the old man with his axe. You can read the full story in “And The Angels Rejoiced” (Aug. 18, 2011).  Praise God that the situation was resolved peacefully with the two parties were reconciled to each other.  I am very thankful that God used me in this situation to bring about the reconciliation.

The second incident was much more serious and involved the entire language group of more than 2,000 people.  I mentioned this incident in an article I just posted “Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 2”.  When the former missionary came back after many years to visit us in the village, rumors based off of PNG legends began to circulate that he was coming back to distribute the wealth of Heaven in terms of material goods.

When this did not happen, the people became very upset and animosities and accusations went around that threatened to break out into a tribal war.  God used me in this situation to hold an all-night Bible preaching and teaching time to help correct the misguided thoughts and desires that believed Christianity and attachment to western missionaries would bring about material wealth in this life.

God Bless Papua New Guineans

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Matthew 5:1 – 12

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

                “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…..

These are the opening words to probably the most famous teaching of Jesus, the “Beatitudes”.  Jesus outlines for people of all ages and all ethnic groups the kind of character qualities that are displayed by those who are truly God’s people.  They are humble people and merciful to others.  They keep the peace between people and they demonstrate righteous living.

When these powerful words of Jesus get hold of the hearts of men and women, truly amazing transformations in their lives can and will happen.  Below are excerpts from a newsletter from 2010 of some very good friends of mine who have ministered for many years to a tribal group of people up in a mountainous area of Papua New Guinea.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

We are celebrating the increased level of hunger and thirst for God and his ways in the lives of the people. We witnessed that again recently while we were in the village in June and July. We held a third Scripture Use course, this one on money issues such as compensation demands, tithing, and serving God or wealth.

We were blessed to see the Holy Spirit challenging and convicting through His Word, and to hear the deep discussions with resulting commitments. Some declared their intention to give God a tenth of the money made from selling vanilla, coffee and other cash crops, or to share a tenth of their garden produce with church leaders and those in need. Pray for courage for the people to follow the Lord’s leading in these things.

[Editor’s Note: Almost all rural people of PNG are subsistence garden farmers who slash and burn a section of the jungle each year and grow vegetable plants and tubers (yam, taro, potatoes, etc.)  Most days are usually consumed with trying to find enough food to eat for that day.  So for the people to dedicate their meagre garden crops to God and to offer a 10% tithe of their food to church leaders is beyond incredible.  It is a generosity that comes from knowing the love of God in their hearts.]

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

God is at work shining the spotlight of his Word into the lives of these men and women with the resulting conviction of sin. And they are mourning and longing to repent and change. Alfons (not his real name) is one example. During a time of prayer, God brought to his mind the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He was gripped with the drama of the story of this son coming to his spiritual senses and returning to the father who welcomed him back with celebration.

It was a delight to hear Alfons say, “We need to return to God and His ways. He is waiting, waiting for us to welcome us back”. Alfons helped produce an illustrated Bible story of the prodigal son and is eager to use the story book to teach the Truth of repentance and resulting blessing to the people.

[Editor’s Note: There is nothing so piercing as the death wail that goes forth when someone dies in the village.  It is a shocking reminder to us all that death comes to rip apart people from their loved ones.  What is amazing to me here in PNG is that I have witnessed similar wailing when a person becomes convicted of sin and cries out in repentance to God over the sin that separates them from God.  But the Good News is that this death wail of repentance leads to new life with God for this person.]

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When God is at work challenging and transforming lives, there is also an increase in spiritual warfare. Those who harden their hearts and refuse to obey often persecute those who are following God wholeheartedly. We see that amongst the people here. Daniub (not his real name), our local preacher, asked us to pray for him before we left the village in July.

He is taking a strong stand in following the Lord, challenging people to give up their dependence on the spirits to help them. For example, many nominal Christians still turn to the spirits to seek healing in times of sickness. Daniub has challenged village leaders on this, and some are not happy. Pray for him and other bold Christian leaders as they lead in truth and love.

[Editor’s Note: One of the hardest aspects of our work in bringing the people of PNG into a deep personal walk with Jesus is the wide spread syncretism here.  Although there has been a lot of mission work done in PNG over the past 150 years, Christianity is more of a veneer that coats the surface of their lives, while underneath many of them are still heavily steeped in the practices of animism.

For all who read this article, I ask you to pray for the people of Papua New Guinea, that they would not see Christianity as one more form of magical rituals to perform in order to be safe from the evil spirits that surround them.  Pray that the people will give their hearts to Jesus and let the Truth of God free them from their bondage to sin and to the lies of Satan.]

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Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 4

As mentioned two weeks ago, at the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences. 

                                          

Chapter 2: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU KNOW SATAN’S NEXT MOVE

Question #1: This chapter talks about the distractions of “possessions and problems.”  Share with the group the distractions you seem to encounter most — distractions that keep you from engaging the story of God in Scripture.

Most people know that the ministry work I do is Bible translation.  Our family lived out in a remote village in Papua New Guinea for five years.  During that time, I learned the language and culture of the people, and helped to get the Gospel of Mark translated into their language.  Thankfully, I had a basic word list, a grammar paper of the language and some notes on Mark from the man who had started the language project years before we got there.

In light of all the resources I had, it still surprises some people at how long it still took us to finally finish and translate Mark.  The reason is that there is so much more involved than just doing translation when you live out in these remote villages.  The translator before me also built the house we lived in out of hewn and planed timbers from trees in the jungle.  That was nice, but the upkeep seemed to be never ending.  In those five years, I also learned to become a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, a small engine mechanic, and much more.

I found then that this nice home out in the jungle often became a distraction from what I had come to PNG to do, to give God’s Word to the people who had never had the Bible in their language before.  But I know I spent a lot of time making sure that our own family was safe and secure and comfortable, while all around me the national people were living in small huts made out of jungle material that usually fell down in about five years.  I would not call this a direct scheme of the Devil, but I do have to be honest that my “mansion” was a barrier between me and the people.

Question #2: What kind of personal attacks does the Enemy plot?  How does he attempt to divide people?  Have you seen the Devil at work?  Do you tend to underestimate or overestimate the Devil’s activity?

Let me continue now to give some other background to our life in the village that shows how Satan has been (and still is in places) very active in dividing the people and attacking them with lies that destroy people’s lives.  One legend that is popular in PNG is the creation story.  In this story there are two brothers who either through their positive creative energies, or through their negative battles for supremacy, created the spark of life and the world came into existence.

The story continues with the elder brother leaving the younger brother on this island called PNG.  The older brother was going to go out into the world and discover all the riches and treasures and wisdom that the world contained, while the younger brother was left behind with nothing.   But the legend says that one day the older brother would come back and be reunited with the younger brother and share all the goods (called cargo) and the secrets to obtaining them.

Interestingly, some of the PNG legends end by saying that the older brother, when he came back, was a white-skinned man.  So…imagine what some of the people in the villages around us thought when the translator before me was going to come back after being away for almost ten years and join me in a “return celebration”.  Word went out, and immediately the legend rumours were ignited and it was thought that this other translator and I were finally going to tell the secret to get the “cargo” or material possessions of this world.

    

What’s sad is to realize that many of these people who live in this remote area have seen many “rich white people” come with huge amounts of clothing, food, amazing gadgets and objects with them.  And we never seem to “work” for what we have.  (Sitting at a desk over a laptop all day is work??)  And they never see us use money out in the bush.  We would just ask over our two-way radio for more goods and supplies, and presto, there they were on the next plane.  No wonder they thought we knew the right “magic”.

The end result from our big “celebration day” is that we had a wonderful reunion with our friend who came out to our village.  But none of the villagers received this magic cargo from the skies.  And this produced such heated arguments that it almost started an inter-tribal war.  Thankfully, I had been told what was going on, and I was able to hold an all-evening teaching/preaching time of explaining that these pursuits for material wealth do not come from God.  These evil desires come from Satan.

That is what we need to remember most.  The material objects themselves are not evil, but in Satan’s hands they become so if our focus is twisted to be only pursuing after them, instead of pursuing after a better relationship with our God.  How easy it is to let the things of this world distract us from seeking after our God.  Our true enemy in all of this is Satan.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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