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Tested and Tried

Plato attributes the famous saying, “Know thyself” (Γνώθι σεατόν) to fellow Greek philosopher and mentor, Socrates. Socrates’ notion seems to be the preoccupation of the privileged, an activity of leisure. Not so. Consider what Paul had to say to the church at Corinth when preparing to visit them:
“Examine yourselves; to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
While Plato was using Socrates’ teaching to make some philosophical point to other philosophers, Paul was writing to ordinary people, some of them really messed up and in need of transformation, in order to give them means to remain strong in the faith, to make a daily choice to stand.
To examine and test one’s soul is no easy task. Says commentator Simon J. Kistemaker: “True faith is active and constantly forces Christians to test themselves to see whether Jesus Christ through the Holy spirit lives in their hearts. True faith testifies to intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3).” (Emphasis mine.)
Yet this intimate fellowship we have with the Father and the Son draws us into deeper, more challenging testing. This fellowship takes us beyond our own conscience, placing us in the domain of the Father’s testing us. Consider what is written in Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
When we examine or test ourselves, we find either affirmation that we are in Christ or not. When God the Father tests us, he humbles us, removes our mistaken ideas that we exist on the merit of our own strength and genius, to see whether or not we will still follow him when it doesn’t make us look good in the eyes of those around us. What pride can we possibly derive from being fed and watered and lead, helpless and needy?
We are prone toward pride and independence, are we not? Hence the warning in verses 17-18: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
It can be easy to become discouraged in times of testing, misinterpreting the purpose of the test. We can feel attacked, forgotten, isolated, devalued. We can fall into the Satanic trap of feeling less than zero. But, in this case, truth trumps emotion.
Deuteronomy 8:16 indicates that God humbles us to do us good. He can use broken, submitted, humble servants: those are qualities ascribed to Jesus’ time in the flesh, on the earth. Our pilgrimage is to become Christ-like is it not?
Should you choose to take up the mission to shake the gates of Hell in your generation, you must take up the habit of examining and testing yourself, to see whether or not you are in the faith. You must take up the habit of submitting to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Jesus might be represented well in this generation, that those who have ears to hear might receive the gospel, that those who choose to reject Him will do so not on the basis of ignorance, but having been informed of what they choose to reject. Friend, “Know thy faith.”


[1] Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Pg. 450. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.

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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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Get Your Prayer Guide Here

Prayer is a vital activity in advancing the Kingdom of God. Christians are called upon to be constant in praying for enemies, for governments, for authorities, for fellow believers, for open doors, for boldness, etc. Christians are called upon to be devoted to prayer.

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Even with all the Bible passages that direct us to pray, many of us struggle knowing how to pray enemies or governments or fellow believers or, as in our case, missionaries. Not knowing how to pray often kills motivation to try. Don’t give up! One helpful means of discovering how to pray is to use a prayer guide. Click here or on the image to download a prayer guide to assist you in praying for the people involved in the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament.

 

Thank you for joining us in making the scripture accessible to the Somau Garia people!

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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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Light from Broken Lamps

My friend, Lim, came sauntering up to the house one afternoon carrying an old kerosene lantern. He often stopped by to chat in the late afternoon. “Brother Todd, could you help me fix my lantern?”

Of all the skills I had to acquire to thrive in a jungle village, fixing leaky kerosene lamps wasn’t one. Like most Westerners, I’d probably just go buy another rather than fix it. They are relatively cheap. On the other hand, I might learn something. I suspected that he knew how to fix it, just didn’t have the stuff.

“Sure, Lim. What’s the problem?” “It’s leaking right here (he said as he pointed to the seam along the base.” “Any idea how to sort it out? I painted it last time.” The verb “paint” is about as ambiguous in the trade language as it is in English. We can speak of painting something with oil, paint, or even medicine when speaking of treating a wound. I was trying to figure out what he was getting at. We walked into my little workshop and started looking around. He picked up a can of paint: oil-based paint that becomes gummy when it dries. Clever. I never would have that of that one.

Outside in the breeze we started brushing paint around the bottom of Lim’s oil lamp. He grinned at me. I suppose he’d had similar experiences when trying to teach his children lessons that seem so straightforward to an adult. We set the lamp aside to dry and took up the real work of the day, talking about what was going on around the village, in Lim’s life, and eternity.

I’ve often thought of Lim’s leaky lamp since then. When you only make a few hundred dollars a year, kerosene is an expensive commodity. How sad and stressful it is to watch it drip down the side of your lamp and spill onto the ground, especially with such an easy, if unorthodox, fix.

Missionaries, especially in the kinds of remote areas where many Bible translators work, can be isolated for months at a time. Spiritual nurture is rarely external. Maintenance of the inner life can be costly and precious. Stress mounts: sometimes cultural; sometimes emotional; sometimes interpersonal; as often as not physical (sickness). Whatever the cause, the lamp of life tends to spring leaks and the precious flow of Oil drips out the bottom instead of feeding the flame.

The servant of Jesus must pay attention to the condition of the vessel. Where are there leaks? How large? Can I plug them or do I need help? Where can I find help? The servant’s life must be filled with the life-giving flow on a regular basis, lest the light dwindle to mere shadow.

Following are a few Bible verses that may help fan the flame and give the servant an advantage.


I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2, ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer 0f faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”–James 4:13-16, ESV

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 9

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 9

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” –1 John 4:18

The long history of false gods and bodange to shamanic religion has created a fatalistic fear in Somau Garia (and many other Melanesian) culture. There is an ever-present fear of reprisal for breaking taboos. Examples of reprisal: being waylaid and consumed by demon monsters en route to the place of the dead, sudden death while sleeping, sickness, or ruined crops. Ask God to break through the barrier of fear to establish the reality of his love for the Somau Garia people.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 8

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 8

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions . . .” –Galatians 5:19-20

All mankind has at one time lived in the flesh. Where idolatry (e.g, bush god) worship is present, a priesthood of those gods’ devotees is also present. Among our closest neighbors lived five shamans (people who use ritual to manipulate the non-physical realm)–some claiming to do good, some evil. Ask God to break through the barrier of sorcery and the bondage it creates in peoples’ lives. Ask God to set the Somau Garia free of bondage, freeing them by the Truth of the Word.

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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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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 6

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 6

“The word of God is living and active . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”–Hebrews 4:12

Garia Mark for Web

The Gospel According to Mark (see above) has been available in the Somau Garia language since 2007. Ask God to break through the ignorance of his word, his character, his power, his salvation by means of this slender little book. Ask God to break through the barriers of illiteracy  and inaccessibility to his word that these precious men, women, and children might know Him who died for them.

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Temptation and Prayer

One habit that Angela and I picked up when we moved to Papua New Guinea in the 1990’s was to always watch the path at our feet when we walked anywhere. Paths in rural Papua New Guinea are not wide, cement sidewalks or elevated boardwalks through wet areas. Because we lived on a very steep-sided mountain, our paths were (and are) narrow, stony, slick, steep, and snaggy. A person tends to watch the path rather than looking around at all the scenery. The scenery is taken in when drinking water or sitting for a bit of a rest.

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Jesus’ followers watched him walk the snaggy paths of temptation. He handled people who hated him, doubted him, those who tried to manipulate and use him, and tried to try and trick him into doing something that they could use against him. The disciples watched him handle both popularity and rejection with unshakeable character—and without sin.

Read the above texts. What do they say to you about temptation and prayer? Very early in Jesus’ three year ministry, he taught his followers to pray, concluding with, “And lead us not into temptation.”

On the other end of those three years he gave a similar directive—on the night he was betrayed. Entering the Garden of Gethsemane he instructed the disciples: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Walking several yards further, he dealt with his own temptation in prayer. In prayer he chose to make the horrific journey to Golgotha. Returning to his followers, he found them sleeping, “exhausted with sorrow.” He knew what was about to happen. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” They would need to have been strengthened in prayer to endure the coming hours.

Stress, fatigue, and sorrow can all take their toll on our ability to resist the temptation to fall into worry or anger or hate. Western culture cultivates these three realities. We are pushed to excess in all. It is a diabolical strategy to break us down and make us vulnerable to sin—to push us over the edge. Missionaries face these realities in a rather magnified way on a daily basis.

How do we overcome, friends? “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Notice Jesus does not exhort his followers not to fall into sin. He exhorts them not to fall into temptation (the gateway to sin). There are three main sources of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the devil. As we live in the context of the world, within our own skin, and in an adversarial relationship with the devil, we must continually be in prayer. One of our ongoing prayers must be that we will not fall into temptation. If we find ourselves in the place of temptation when we are tired, stressed, and perhaps sorrowful, if we have not lived in an attitude of prayer, we are more likely give way to sin. How do we overcome?

  • Go, sometimes alone and at other times with like-minded believers, to a solitary place of prayer.
  • Determine not to leave that solitary place until you have surrendered your will to the will of the Father. Your flesh will oppose you. The world will oppose you. The devil will mock you. Don’t give in!
  • Call on God to work his will in your life at the crisis point.
  • Receive God’s grace and sufficiency to overcome.

By God’s grace, by his Spirit, by his Word, by his power we will shake the gates of Hell!