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An Altar in the Wilderness

There exists a deep sense of displacement in many of our hearts. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a tent to live in, but we are looking for a city with foundations, built by God. While we walk in the shadows of the dark valley, the enemy sneaks along the hillsides above us, spying and sniping, trying to kill us before we reach the open country. We are easy targets. We carry the Light through this strange country we wander in.

We do not, however, wander aimlessly. There are waypoints in the wilderness. Consider Isaiah 19:19: “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt.” In New Testament language, we might say, “Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This prophecy provides hope for the future and spiritual principle for the present.

As you journey, look around you and you will see people with strange customs, alien affections, and selfish pursuits. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, who worship all sorts of things. In ancient Egypt it was the Nile River or frogs or fertility. Today the gods have different faces, but the affections of the worshipers are the same. Whether by ritual or sorcery or science, fallen mankind desperately tries to control all that threatens or promises to promote.

We, too, face fear, but God has not forgotten us in this wild country. He has allayed our fears by releasing us from the overwhelming need to control all. He has given us an altar outside the camp , where Jesus suffered in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. In so doing, He has changed our affections, transformed our customs, and made our pursuits transcendent instead of transient. We have lost our place in this world, becoming pilgrims, aliens, and strangers.

We have become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts. This is our mandate, our role, our place. To paraphrase (or personalize) 1 Peter 2:9: “But we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are living witnesses of Jesus’ sacrifice, his resurrection, his ongoing intercession, his call to draw all people to himself.

Do you, too, feel your displacement in this world? What altar to you sacrifice at? Are your affections, customs, and pursuits the same as or different than those around you? Are you pursuing eternity or time? Are you a sign to your generation? A witness?

Take these questions before God in prayer … then go out and shake the gates of Hell today!

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You Can Still Shake the Gates of Hell When Things Don’t Go As Planned

You Can Shake the Gates of Hell

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the Lord.”

– Isaiah 55:8

In the West, we highly value productivity — or at least the appearance of productivity. We Western Christians all too often herald the expectation of productivity as a core value of following Jesus. Many of us believe that our life in Christ is only valuable if there are attendant measurable, attainable results (products)—or the appearance of them. Many of us even stake our identity in this idea.

What happens when God the Father decides that our dependence upon productivity is a huge hurdle to our growth in maturity and Christlikeness? How do we respond when God’s highest purpose for a season may very well be to teach us to deal with frustration, waiting, desperate praying, or trusting that there is real activity in the other realm that eyes cannot see?

I am a Bible translator in Papua New Guinea. My family and I live in a mountain village that gets upwards of 200 inches of rain a year. Mountainsides slide. Roads erode. Floods flow. The nearest city is over 60 kilometers away and is sometimes blocked by all of the above. Used to these realities, the locals here are … patient, easygoing, not concerned with speed or efficiency. Survival is enough.

These realities are disruptive, as are the questions. In the moments when this world is caving in on my expectations and the flesh is tired of waiting, the enemy goes to work on my sense of self-worth and accomplishment. He knows all too well how to use the expectation of productivity against me—and perhaps you, too.

Satan wants us to lean into our efficiency, to depend upon our productivity as a means of earning God’s affections. He wants us to think that if our productivity is interrupted by cancer or car wreck or even living in the developing world, that our faith is worthless and our position in God is null and void.

If you want to shake the gates of Hell, don’t take the bait. Don’t allow the adversary to convince you that the substance of your life is pent-up in getting things done efficiently any more than it is in the abundance of your worldly goods.

My college-aged sons and I were walking between villages a few months ago. We were talking about life and what we had planned for that day. We had made very efficient and productive plans for that day, but we instead found ourselves hiking and talking.

Our original plans thwarted, we asked God for his plan. The answers to that prayer took us to the house of a man who was sick and needed to be encouraged. They took us on a journey that would help establish a program board to streamline the work of translation among the Somau Garia people. God’s efficiency is about building people and his kingdom rather than merely giving us a personal sense of accomplishment.

The enemy hates it when we respond to frustration with prayer; when we choose to trust the Unseen rather than wallow in despair of what is only dimly seen. His designs for our destruction are thwarted when we surrender to our Father and his plans.

Are efficiency and productivity negative values? Of course not. Ministries like Bible translation are too great a task to finish without employing these values. But we dare not confuse the outcome of a set of work habits with fruit born of the Holy Spirit. Shaking the gates of Hell is done in the Spirit, by fruit born of Him and effort made through the strength of Christ—especially when things don’t go according to our plans.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 7

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 7

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God . . .” –1 Thessalonians 1:9

Somau Garia culture is populated by numerous “bush gods” who hold many devotees to this day. Fear reigns supreme in many peoples’ lives. Ask God to break through barriers of old bondanges and allegiances to false gods. Pray that through coming into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus, fear will flee and our friends will walk in freedom and joy.

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Please Pray–May 20, 2014

There is movement in heavenly places, as there has been for some time in regards to making the New Testament accessible to the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea. There has been more visible evidence of that movement in our lives lately. Momentum is building and things are starting to move forward at a healthy pace here. It is more important than ever that we bring prayer to bear on this season of ministry–as we ramp up to moving overseas.

Sunrise, first day of the week, Atlantic Ocean, Florida coast, rejoicing in the Lord.

Sunrise, first day of the week, Atlantic Ocean, Florida coast, rejoicing in the Lord.

  • Pray that God will continue to make us aware of churches or groups of people that He wants to join us in this historic opportunity to make the New Testament accessible to the Somau Gare people.
  • Pray that we will exercise wisdom and discernment in knowing how best to convey the blessing, opportunity, and benefit to the Kingdom of God in seeing this through.
  • Pray that there will be no hindrance to getting on the field this year.
  • Thank God for allowing us to see the movement in the heavenly places and to be encouraged by it.
  • Thank God for moving in the hearts of men and women, in churches and families to provide for this vital need.
  • Thank God for showing us the full extent of his love in both the death of Jesus–and his resurrection.
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Prayer Update–April 22, 2014

Prayer Update Website Default Photo

There is so much to sort out in the mind, heart, and spirit when considering the resurrection of Jesus. Without it our faith is futile. Without it we have no hope. Without it we are to be pitied above all men. There are other aspects of His resurrection that are less discussed generally. Try this one on for size:

for God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

In the resurrection of Jesus:

  • we have been given the Spirit
  • we have been empowered
  • we have been equipped to love
  • we are able to control ourselves–living beyond our passions

Furthermore,

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful. (2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV)

What must we fear if we have died with him? We have victory over death through Jesus Christ: the sting of death is removed and is not the bitter pill it once was. We are no longer obligated to slavishly obey every whim of our bodies–whether that be lust or gluttony or laziness or gossip or fear or arrogance . . . We are free!

Why share these thoughts in a prayer update?

When I write the words “Pray With Us” I’m inviting you into an activity that marks you as dangerous to entities in heavenly places. The oft quoted passage is appropriate here:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God . . .  (Ephesians 6:12-13, ESV)

Believer, you must understand that Jesus has made a spectacle of these spiritual forces when He walked out of the grave. He rules at the right hand of Almighty God, riding the white horse to victory, treading out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. We are sent forth in the name, authority, and majesty of Jesus Christ not to kill and destroy and subdue, but to conquer evil in love, purity, and spiritual power.

When you pray in alignment with the Father’s heart, you are wrestling against echelons of evil, arrayed in the whole armor of God, marching to victory.

We together must pray, must call upon the name of the Lord, must leap into the fray in the name of Jesus Christ the Risen One and shake the gates of hell in Jesus’ name!

As you pray,

  • Thank God for imbuing us with the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and death in Jesus’ name.
  • Thank God for His compassion and longsuffering patience with the nations; that He has provided a means for them to come into relationship with Him.
  • Thank God for calling us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Pray specifically for Bible translation efforts in Papua New Guinea:

  • Pray that there will be unity across ethnic boundaries–that Christians of different people groups will work together in Jesus’ name and for his glory.
  • Pray that expatriate missionaries will exercise great wisdom and discernment in serving both Jesus and the peoples of Papua New Guinea–that God’s word will be made accessible to all.
  • Pray that the Father will protect and provide for the teams that are intensely involved in the Bible translation ministry.

Mount your white horses, take up the weapons of your warfare, and fearlessly bring the battle right to the gates of hell!

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Please Pray–March 11, 2014

There are basically two areas that I’d like to suggest for prayer today.

Spring Forward Campaign

First regards our ministry partnerships. As missionaries serving with Pioneer Bible Translators, we compose a budget each year which is reviewed by mission leadership and either approved or not approved by our board of directors. It’s an interactive process that usually sees the initial budget tweaked and streamlined. Faithful stewardship of resources is one of our core values and one reason we appreciate the ongoing accountability of the budgeting process and PBT’s commitment to an annual audit, membership in the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, etc.

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

Currently, we have pledges that cover about 1/3 of our approved budget. Before we can leave for Papua New Guinea, we must be at or near 100% of our approved budget–so as not to get to Papua New Guinea underfunded, which has many, many negative results. In response to a strong conviction that God wants us on the field in 2014, we began the Spring Forward Campaign, an effort organized to increase our monthly pledges from 1/3 of budgeted needs to 2/3 of budgeted needs within the space of two months. We are asking God to provide the next 1/3 of our budgeted needs by May. Is God calling you to join the prayer and provision team? Click here to drop us a note or click here to visit the donate page.

Somau Garia Translation Committee

One of the major tasks that we had in the early days of our association with the Somau Garia people was training local Somau Garia speakers, most with little formal education, to do the work of Bible translation. Our team is a great picture of the way in which God uses people with all kinds of gifts and talents, in community, to accomplish His purposes. I bring formal training (like translation principles, exegetical skills, etc.) to the table. My Somau Garia brothers bring facility with the language, insiders’ knowledge of the culture, its history, and a great capacity for learning to the table. Each of the people we’ve worked with over the years has given sacrificially to see the translation of the New Testament into their heart language have even the slightest chance to become reality.

Todd and the SG men

Todd with Somau Garia Translators

Pray for God to protect each of these men from the deadly attacks of the enemy. They are threats to the diabolical kingdom and are generating threats to his grip on these people. Pray that their hearts will remain steadfast, that their energy will remain strong, that they will not give way to temptation or to despair as they draft. Pray that God will call them out and empower them for the ministry that He has prepared beforehand for them to walk in.

Thank you for interceding on our behalf. We are grateful for the prayer and provision team that God is assembling to insure that there will be a strong church among the Somau Garia people–whom He made for His glory!

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The Time is Now . . .

When I (Todd) was in Papua New Guinea last September, I spent time with people for whom God has given me a deep love, connection, and calling. He has inscribed them on the pages of my heart in a spiritual ink that will not fade with time and cannot be erased by the distractions or worries of life. As often as I’ve been tempted to turn away from this calling, God brings them to me in dreams, in reading, in off-hand comments made by people who are unwittingly used by God to remind me of this people made before time for God’s glory.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

When I am weary and fearful, God calls me to strength and courage and continually draws me to the place of remembrance. I cannot escape it. He calls me to a mountainside in Papua New Guinea and he floods this theater of the mind with faces etched by the tropical sun, voices of children and grandmothers calling after them, with the musty smell of the jungle in rainy season, with the course feel of calloused hands hardened by day after day of back-breaking labor. He reminds me of the high stakes of this calling by bringing visions of shamans making sacrifice for the recently dead, of faces covered in hot tears streaming down their chins, fear-ridden wailing as another young person has given way to tuberculosis or murder or any number of tragedies. Oh God, do not delay . . . allow us to be with them soon . . .

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

Angela and I feel that the Holy Spirit has kicked it up a notch in returning us to Papua New Guinea to finish the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. The urgency we feel is almost painful and we are noticing that every week we are having more dreams, more tears, more internal pressure to get there this year. The time is definitely now. There is no mistaking it.

We’ve prayed. We’ve talked strategy. We’re looking to God to move mountains to make this happen. In response to all this, we’re prayerfully laying an opportunity before you. We’re calling it the Spring Forward campaign and here’s the idea. We are at about 1/3 of the monthly pledges we need for Pioneer Bible Translators to allow us to return to Papua New Guinea. We are asking God to increase those pledges within the space of the next two months to 2/3 of monthly pledges needed to land us on the field. Here’s how you can participate in this campaign.

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

First, talk to God about it. Ask Him what He would like you to do to make the completion of the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament possible. Second, if He leads you to join the provision team, visit the “Donate” page by clicking here and decide which kind of donation you’d like to set up. Third, drop us a line to let us know of your intention to support Pioneer Bible Translators so that we can add you to our email updates, prayer updates, etc.

Thank you for prayerfully considering God’s desires for your involvement in this ministry of getting the word made available to the Somau Garia people in their heart language.

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4 Marks of a Praying Person

Ever hear the names James Hudson Taylor or George Mueller? If not, I encourage you to read James Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ by Roger Steer or  George Muller: Delighted In God (HistoryMakers)  (also by Steer). These men were pioneers in and exemplars of what is known as faith missions. While they would tell the story of China (Taylor) or of Bristol’s orphans (Mueller) they resolved to never ask man for money to support their works: they would appeal to God alone in prayer for their sustenance.

As a Bible college student, their stories captured my imagination and have provided boundaries for my spiritual growth ever since. After reading Taylor’s story, I began thinking and praying on the theme of becoming a praying man rather than a man who simply prays when it is quite convenient. I began to wonder, “What does it mean to be a praying man rather than a man who prays merely from desperation or in a casual, nonchalant way?” Is there a difference?

I believe that there is.

  1. The praying person’s basic orientation is toward God rather than toward earth. Their belief system is rooted in the notion that God can and does respond to prayer and intervene in the affairs of mankind. They place a high value on God’s transcendent purpose over mankind’s schemes.
  2. The praying person is emotionally and spiritually tied to an unobstructed fellowship with and dependence upon God. The person who prays casually likely finds most satisfaction and affirmation elsewhere.
  3. The praying person interprets suffering through the filter of God’s character. The casual pray-er may interpret God’s character through the filter of suffering (How can God be good when he allows me to suffer? for example).
  4. The first priority and strategy of the praying person is prayer. It is often an afterthought to the person who prays more casually. (Well, all we can do now is pray . . . ho hum.)

While spiritual gifting might cause some to be more oriented towards prayer-as-lifestyle than others, we are all called to live a life of prayer and devotion to our Father. Consider the following exhortations from Scripture (ESV):

I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Mark 1:35: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Matthew 26:39: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Colossians 4:2: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (NIV reads a little differently and is how I memorized it originally: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”)

It is likely that we are all somewhere on the continuum between being the ideal praying person and the more casual prayer. Don’t settle for a mediocre prayer life. If it is your desire to shake the gates of hell and turn the dying toward Life, rid your life of that which distracts you from hearing God’s voice, turn your eyes above where Jesus sits at the right hand of God, fix your thoughts on Jesus, and give yourself to prayer. Your generation needs men and women of God to be fully His!

 

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What’s a Life Worth To You?

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VyFca-V4cc[/tube]

The Spirit of God continues to draw our hearts across the Pacific to a mountain village on the side of Mount Somau. Please pray for our preparations and, if God be drawing you too, come alongside us as a financial partner . . . Visit the Donate Page to learn how.  Blessings, Friends!

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Please Pray, January 21, 2014

Posted next to my computer monitor is a gentle reminder that prayer is the primary strategy of our ministry. I need this reminder day by day. It is far easier, when I’m not being intentional, to formulate a strategy or initiate a campaign or write another email or letter. It is more humbling to admit that it is God who opens doors, enables connections to be made, who nourishes and protects and advances. Quiet prayer doesn’t stroke my ego so much as furious activity.

I’ve been writing today. I wrote a letter to include in receipts. I wrote an email circular to go out to those who have committed to pray for our ministry. I wrote an article on prayer that is elsewhere on this website. I’ve spent time in prayer over all these matters and I have found myself close to the end of my work day not having written this post. Just as I need a regular reminder to pray, I humbly submit this to you as a gentle reminder to pray . . .

As You Pray:

  • Ask God to grant wisdom and discernment each day. We need God’s gracious hand to be upon our ministry as we continue to build a prayer and provision team to under gird our ministry to the Body of Christ, to the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea (Bible translation), and to you.
  • Ask God to open doors that we might have divinely appointed opportunities to raise awareness about what God is doing around the world and that we might inspire some to become involved in missions. Pray also that God might use those appointments to provide financially for our ministry with Pioneer Bible Translators.
  • Ask God to continue to prepare us for a hoped-for return to Papua New Guinea in 2014.
  • Thank God for providing for our needs month-by-month.
  • Thank God for new prayer partners that have joined us recently.
  • Thank God for providing life-changing opportunities for our two oldest children, both sons.

Thank you for partnering with us in prayer! If you’d like to correspond with us you may do so by clicking here. Blessings!