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Day 35: A Call to Prayer

December 26, 2013 Cape Coral, Florida —

Our youngest daughter hummed, sang, and listened to Christmas music from October until at least yesterday. Yesterday, the Christmas story was read, prayers were prayed, turkey eaten, presents opened, time shared with loved ones.

Today feels different. The Holy Spirit has been pressing on my soul for some time now to be really prepared for 2014 in a number of areas. I and Angela see both challenges and opportunities in the coming year and are vibrant with anticipation of what God has in store for these coming days. It is critical that as we prepare and anticipate God’s work in the days of 2014, that we call believers to pray with us. We need to live in the shadow of the Almighty. We need to call on his name. We need to experience ongoing answers to pray that all might behold His glory.

Would you pray with us in the coming days that:

  • We will recognize God’s leading and be able to know the difference between His plan and our desires (when they are not the same).
  • We will have God’s wisdom in planning and in executing the plan for developing ministry partnerships.
  • We will be equipped and ready in every way to depart for Papua New Guinea in July 2014.
  • Our Somau Garia co-workers will be protected from the attacks of the enemy as they continue to draft Acts, James, etc. in preparation for our return.
  • We will be fully submitted to Christ in all things as we proceed toward the goal of living and working, once again, in Papua New Guinea.
  • God will continue to grant grace and mercy as our family is dispersed to colleges, jobs, and callings.
  • God will grant us new financial partners even before the close of 2013.
  • God will raise up the prayer team He is designing for us.

Thank you for praying with us. Our heavenly Father is pleased beyond measure when we put our trust in Him in prayer.

What will our daughter be doing in the coming months? She will still be singing, humming, and being enthusiastic, but I think it will be praise songs from church, hymns played on the piano, and enthusiasm about making the trip across the big pond to Papua New Guinea. I hope, too, that of all her enthusiasms, she will also be praying.

Blessings, friends!

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Day 33: The Birth of Hope

simeon holding Jesus

Simeon was an old man, holding out on death by holding onto a promise that was made to him by none other than God himself. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, ministering and watching. The Holy Spirit was on him and the Kingdom of God was at hand as he took the baby in his arms,

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to you word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Anointed and prophesying, Simeon gazed into the realm beyond time and space, seeing in Jesus’ face the eternal. At once he saw baby and salvation. In those baby blue eyes he saw light and revelation for peoples living at odds with God. Raising the child in his hands he saw the glory of Israel. For all eyes to see, there was the child whose coming was prepared in the sight of all peoples: even eastern star gazers and scroll readers, looking for the One born King of the Jews.

Tears soak my beard. This Son is my savior, my king, my light, my hope. This hope was revealed to Gentiles, too–my ancestors were Welsh-Irish, not Jewish. What life would I have had if Jesus’ father hadn’t swept him away to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous wrath? Had Jesus not offered himself in my place, I would have suffered the horror of eternal separation from God.

Wet beard, bleary eyes, full heart, I, like Simeon, can hold this child before you and proclaim that salvation and revelation and light and glory has come!

I have a friend in Papua New Guinea named Ezekiel. He was already in his thirties when I came to know him and he’d been advocating for literacy, Bible translation and awareness since he was a school boy. He actively waits for the day when the word of God will be available in his heart language. “Active waiting” for Ezekiel means plodding day after day, drafting, translating, checking, sharing, preaching, teaching, leading: moving people toward the Bible and moving the Bible toward the people.

A few years back he became exceedingly ill and spent months in the hospital. Though weakened in body, his zest and gusto remain full strength. Though he fights constant pain he continues to work on translation, preparing for the day when we can revise, check, and publish the fruit of his labor.

Imagine the day when, like Simeon in the temple, Ezekiel will be able to hold up the New Testament with wonder in his eyes, and say,

“God’s word was prepared before the eyes of all the people. Within it you will find revelation, light, and glory. Within it you will find hope and consolation.”

You must pray with us that this day will come when our brother will be able to depart in peace, having accomplished the God’s grand purpose of his life.

Prayer and Provision Opportunities
Stay informed and inspired to pray for the Somau Garia translation team by clicking here. If you’d like to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out to get our boots on the ground in Papua New Guinea and get moving forward on finishing translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, click here to visit our Donate page where you will find instructions on how to do so.

Blessings!

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Days 31 & 32: Pythons in the Path

Living in New Guinea has forever changed my walk.

Growing up, I suppose that the only time I really paid attention to how I (or anyone else) walked was when I was impressed with someone and wanted to imitate them. I remember in the early eighties when my brother returned from service in the Army. He had been taught to march properly, how to fight, how to be intimidating. He looked pretty spiffy in his dress uniform. I wanted him to teach me how to do push ups and PT and how to walk like a soldier. I even inherited a pair of his combat boots, which I wore to school. (This is the verbal equivalent of one of those old school pictures with over-sized glasses, acne, and big hair.)

He moved on and I grew up some. One summer I worked at the same factory as my Dad. At work Dad moved walked briskly, eyes ahead. No meandering. No loafing. It was different than at home, kind of inspiring. I packed a lunch like his, watched as he did his job; tried to be like him. He was a lot tougher than I. I lasted about a week and moved onto something really challenging: sacking groceries at a supermarket. Watching my Dad made its imprint all the same.

Then I was the Dad. I took my wife and two little boys to the second largest island in the world (next to Greenland). Gone were wide sidewalks and manicured paths through the woods I knew at state parks back home. We had arrived in the Land of the Unexpected. The paths here were steep, slick, narrow. Overgrowing them were vines, thorns, razor grass. Crawling over them were carpet pythons, scorpions, death adders, centipedes, tree pythons, and leaches. To walk these paths required a different gait, a different posture, fixing your eyes on your feet and the path, rather than the scenery all around. And that was only in the daytime.

When night fell, it was better just to not plan on walking away from central village areas. Occasionally it was necessary. In 2000, my friend Chris and I hiked throughout the length and breadth of two language areas, collecting word lists, writing observations, and trying to decide whether or not these folks were good candidates for placement of missionaries. What turned out to be the final day of the hike, we arose before sunrise and were hiking by six, eating and drinking on the trail. We were keen to get home that day and pushed hard, crossing three major mountain ridge lines and covering about 18 miles. In one day! (My one moment of glory.) We reached a village in the Somau Garia area about five in the afternoon, still needing to hike another three-and-a-half to four hours. Darkness fell.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

It’s hard to see snakes in the dark. Our Maglites put some light on the trail ahead. Better. We could now see movement in the brush. We could see wet, slippery spots in the trail. We could see the edges of the mountain. We could see the turn in the path. We could see all that we needed to see.

The Psalmist writes in 119:105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The lamp of the Word is a needful thing in a darkened world. The dark is teeming with  creatures intent upon stopping us in our tracks.

As a believer, I have two great resources (among others) to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil. First, Jesus himself claimed (John 14:6):

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except by me.

His is an illuminated path, smooth and straight.

Second, I have the Word of God, as quoted above.

Many Somau Garia walk a darkened path, without God and without hope. Their resources are few to none. In their heart language, they have the Gospel According to Mark. Praise the Lord that this important piece of Scripture is available to them. Yet, it exists without the context that people depend so much upon to understand the whole counsel of Scripture. How will they overcome the darkness? How will they know the Way? How will they see ahead?

God has seen fit to send Angela and I back to Papua New Guinea to finish the task of translating at least the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. This is one sure way to provide at least the possibility that they might come into a life transforming relationship with the Father. I’d like to invite you to join with us in this great adventure.

Giving Light
If you’d like to join us in prayer for the transformation of the Somau Garia people, click here to drop me an email informing me of your commitment to pray along with us. If you’d like to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out, click here to discover how you can donate to this vital work.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought or two. How has your walk been changed by the Word of God lighting your life? Do you allow the word to be a lamp for your feet and light for your path? How has the Word changed your walk?

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Day 30: Compelled

It is easy to over-simplify missions and missionaries, reducing the mission and those doing it to the lowest common denominator. For example, supposing that every missionary is exclusively motivated by the Great Commission is a mistake. I once knew a lady who characterized missionaries as people “who like to use the church’s money to take extended vacations.” I’ve heard others paint missionaries as social misfits who couldn’t make it in a real job so they moved overseas where they could be weird at a distance. I’m sure that these folks had their reasons for their views. Maybe the missionary they knew only spoke of the Great Commission. Perhaps they met an unscrupulous missionary who wasted lots of money on frequent, expensive vacations (doubtful, but possible). Perhaps they knew a missionary that they thought was absolutely odd. I’ve known a few :-).

As a missionary, I will tell you that missionaries are as different from one another as any group of people. Some missionaries are exuberant, some reserved; some boisterous, some edgy; some excitable, some unflappable; some quiet and deliberate, others spontaneous; some deeply thoughtful, others reactive; some mature, others immature. Missionaries are people, broken, in need of a Savior, dependent upon God’s grace and mercy. One quality I think most missionaries share is reflected in Paul’s comment found in 2 Corinthians 5:

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

In my opinion most missionaries I’ve ever served with (this is a personal observation) are profoundly grateful that Jesus died for them and furthermore, raised again. Because of that, at least on some level, they no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them. This doesn’t make missionaries perfect in their ability to lay self aside. They struggle with this reality as much as anyone. It does reflect their motivation for going and doing and being, though. While the Great Commission does come into it for most, the love of Christ that caused him to sacrifice himself for us is likely more personal, more intimate, more compelling and is more likely to carry a person through dark days than is a mere command.

Don’t miss the importance of being compelled by Christ’s love. Consider what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Sobering words, aren’t they? These words drive us beyond the surface of legalistic pietism and onward toward a life transforming spiritual worship–offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Going to the mission field, being separated from home and hearth, missing holidays and family events and whatever other of our favorite things mean nothing if they are compelled by some reason other than love.

Will our love be perfect? Of course not. Missionaries are not perfect people. The quality of our love, our willingness to lay self aside and embrace Christ’s sufferings, indeed, the needs of others, is in the process of being perfected. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, the quality of our love will become more His and less ours.

What compels you as you consider the missionaries you know and the missions you or your church support? When you pray for your missionaries or write checks to support them, my prayer is that these are acts of living sacrifice; acts of worship. The joy and warmth that accompany loving Jesus in this way will not be supplied by other motivations or means.

I am overjoyed when I consider the love being shown to Jesus as we worship him together in prayer, in generosity, and living sacrifice. Thank you for loving him with all your heart! Thank you for worshiping Him! Thank you for walking with us toward renewed service in Papua New Guinea. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.

Shalom!

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Days 28 and 29: The Call, the Community, and the Crucible

William Carey, the "Father of Modern Missions"

William Carey, the “Father of Modern Missions”

Perhaps you’ve heard of a missionary named William Carey. He was a poor cobbler in 18th century England, married to an illiterate woman older than he. While he was not cobbling (making or repairing shoes), he studied the Bible, engaged in service, and thought deeply. He lived in a time when the idea of going overseas for any reason other than colonialism was considered mad. Yet the more he studied, the more he became convinced that taking the gospel to the lost was the central call of the New Testament church. And to Carey, it meant taking the gospel to the lost among the rest of the world, away from rural England.

He sailed for India in the waning years of the 18th century and would discover the high price to be paid for following the call. The community within which he moved in India opposed his work greatly–not just the Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims—but also the East India Trading Company who feared that his work would interfere with their profits. He moved to the interior to avoid being deported, into malarial areas where heat, fever, and sickness was as common as rain.

Over the years he established schools, translated the Bible into several languages, planted churches, wrote books, established a press, a mission, and taught Oriental languages at a university. He also lost three wives (his first went insane years prior to her death). He constantly endured sickness and opposition, watched his mission split and be rejected by his denominational mission board, and lost all of his manuscripts (including several Bible translations, polyglot dictionary (that he had authored), and books) in a warehouse fire while he was away from the mission station. Not surprisingly, his self-described spiritual gift was “plodding”.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

There are a group of Somau Garia men scattered throughout the foothills of the Finisterre Mountain foothills who face three furies in their lives: the call to translate the Scripture into their heart language, the alternate support and opposition of their community, and the crucible of spiritual, social, and physical pressure to cease and desist. One of the leaders spent an extended period in the hospital with tuberculosis in his bones–resulting in a somewhat debilitating physical condition that he now lives with constantly. He went from being a vigorous, energetic man to being comparatively frail. Yet he continues to draft, to ask for help in checking the translation; to keep it moving forward. When I talked with him in September, he said, “We need to hurry and get the translation done. Who knows how long either of us will live? We must finish.” Need I say more? The translators’ resolve to continue the work has caused societal discord as old ways and new clash.

Please pray. God is at work. Angela and I live morning, noon, and night with the call pressing in on our hearts. Our dreams are populated by visions of the Somau Garia celebrating the coming of the Word in their heart language. These visions meld with the vision painted in Revelation 7:9, filled with faces from every nation, tribe, people, and language gathered around the throne and in front of the Lamb, on their faces, worshiping. We are in the throng alongside our Somau Garia brothers and sisters.

Please pray. Pray that God will continue to build a supportive community around us, supporting and sending us to Papua New Guinea, in order that we might be with our friends daily, working diligently toward getting this work done as soon as possible. Please pray that the larger Somau Garia community will stand behind the translators, the literacy workers, the teachers, the families who give themselves to this work. Please ask God to catalyze the community to support these folks.

crucible

Please pray. Pray that as we endure the crucible, we can, like Carey, plod. Pray that as we endure spiritual opposition here and now, that our Father will empower us to overcome and stand in the evil day. Pray that as we get our boots on the ground in Papua New Guinea, we will withstand the pressure and squeeze of the crucible. Please pray for our Somau Garia co-workers, that they will be able to withstand the crucible, as well, to overcome the enormous pressure that they live and work under.

Prayerfully Consider Partnership
Please pray, asking God what part you might have in this call, this community, even this crucible. He does not ask his people to go without supplying the goers with senders. Anyone engaging in high impact ministry can expect diabolical opposition. It is a given. Pray that God might help you count the cost. If, in your prayers, you feel that God is asking you to join the prayer team, click here to drop us an email so that we can plug you into the prayer team. If you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators financially in sending us out, clicking here will send you to our donate page where you will find how PBT handles donations.

Thank you for prayerfully considering your part in this vital ministry.

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Day 27: Treasure

Imagine being intimately connected to the most powerful people in your country–people who have the power to give you access to vast wealth, insider deals, government contracts, and protection in dangerous days. Imagine having untold millions at your disposal to put to use to make yourself even more wealthy. Then imagine 1,200 faces: hollow eyes, skin pale and bodies emaciated, pleading with those hollow eyes for mercy and rescue. You can either hoard the wealth and live for yourself or rescue 1,200 people from certain death. This was Oskar Schindler’s dilemma. If you are acquainted with the now famous story of Oskar Schindler (1982 novel Schindler’s Ark1993 movie, Schindler’s List), then you know that Schindler chose the lives of 1,200 Jews over his own life.

Schindler was known as a serial adulterer, an opportunist, a dedicated Nazi who was even a Nazi spy who was jailed in 1938 on charges of spying for the Nazi government; not exactly a paragon of moral uprightness. Yet he chose  to risk his own life to rescue the Jews who worked in his factories. Schindler’s use of treasure ceased to be conspicuous consumption and became conspicuous compassion.

American Christians face a similar dilemma, though I doubt we recognize it as such. We have vast resources and opportunities. We have been given much material wealth to steward and yet we all too often confuse stewardship with ownership. The propaganda organ of the world system, a.k.a. mass media, pushes us to spend and spend and spend on ourselves. Pressured, we flip out our little plastic gods and spend even more. After all, we deserve the best. We quickly become the object of statistics like those reported by nerdwallet.com:

The average US household credit card debt stands at $15,279, the result of a small number of deeply indebted households forcing up the numbers. Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes  $7,128 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,279.

These examples should give the Christian pause for reflection. The Christian should consider:

  • The cumulative effect of continual exposure to the maniacal message given by the world system through mass media
  • The negative impact of being financially enslaved to indebtedness
  • The negative impact that both continual media exposure and enslavement to indebtedness have on our affection for God, his Kingdom, and his priorities for our treasure.

Consider a few passages that relate to these reflections:

  • Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (1 Peter 4:7, NIV1984)
  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34)
  • You are not your own, you were bought at a price. . . (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

How does Schindler’s story or the average American credit card debt relate to missions or Bible translation? Every dollar spent or charged represents an opportunity to choose to be aligned with God’s priorities for our stewardship of resources or to be aligned with the world system’s priorities for our stewardship. James is clear, “Friendship with the world is enmity toward God.” Every time we make this world’s priorities our own by choosing alignment with it, we choose to befriend the world system. Every time we choose to allow God’s priorities to be my priorities for stewardship, we choose to befriend God.

Schindler stared into the eyes of 1,200 Jews and risked everything to rescue them from the gas chambers.

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

There are nights when I wake, having dreamed in another language, seeing 4,000 men, women, and children in peril. Without the word of God in their heart language, they face an uncertain eternity. Angela and I are haunted by this vision of a people without access to real treasure, God’s Word, marching into eternity unprepared. This vision is double-edged, though. We are drawn along by the Spirit of God to obedience and pushed along by the possibility of eternal damnation of friends, neighbors, loved ones.

However, we cannot do it alone. Unlike Schindler, we have not amassed vast wealth to spend to rescue them. God has provided the Church, His Body, to resource this rescue, this alignment with the Great Commission in translating the New Testament into the language of their hearts.

Join the Team!
Is God drawing you? To pray? Join the prayer team and stand in the gap for these who need the Bible in their heart language. To provide? Join Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us to the Somau Garia people to complete the translation of the New Testament that we began in 1997.

Grace and Peace, Friends.

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Days 24 & 25: What Would You Risk to Find the Lost?

Lately I’ve been asking myself a simple, foundational question: “What does the New Testament say about what Jesus considers to be important?” Perhaps it could be stated differently: “What would Jesus risk (give) his life for?”

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing . . . I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15: 3-7, ESV

Allow me to restate this in the most plain terms possible: “Jesus is willing to risk me to find the one lost sheep.” Let that sink in for a moment. Any of us who have been lost and found, who walk in the Way according to the Truth filled with the Life, belong soundly in the company of the ninety-nine.  The parable does not say that He leads the sheep to safe keeping, to a sheep pen where there is protection, food, and warmth. Jesus says that the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the open country and goes to find the one. He risks at least some of the many to save the one.

The emphasis of Jesus’ parable is not on the leaving of the ninety-nine as much as it is firmly on the joy of finding the lost one. Even so, He risks the danger of leaving the ninety-nine in open country to rescue the one who is in immanent danger. The lost one is enormously important to Him.

If I align my heart with His, then I, too, must be willing to risk all to rescue the lost one from danger.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35, ESV

What would I risk to find the lost? What would you risk?

Looking ahead I have to consider Jesus’ words and count the cost. I have to daily be willing to risk the personal safety, agenda, and happiness of me and mine in order to complete the search-and-rescue mission Jesus has sent me on.

Our specific mission is to Papua New Guinea, to the Somau Garia people, to translate the New Testament into their heart language. Many Somau Garia will not know Him until they are able to come to know Him in the language that speaks to their heart.

Many of you have a call to these people, too, though it not be to physically be there, working alongside them in the day to day grind. Many of you have a call to risk yourselves in prayer, in providing resources to insure that each and every Somau Garia speaker has opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. What would you risk to find the lost?

Rescue the Perishing!
Please consider partnering with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending our family out  on a search and rescue mission to the lost ones among the Somau Garia. You can partner in prayer by clicking here. Your prayers are vital to success in this God-given, high impact mission. You can partner in financial provision by clicking here, which will take you to our donate page.

Please join us in the battle to shake the gates of hell in this generation!

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Day 23: Entering into Rest

Have you ever read these well known words from Hebrews 4:12-13?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Because these verses are plucked from their context, the fuller impact of what they are saying is lost. The prior discussion is about . . . rest of all things. The writer speaks of those who do not enter rest and those who do. Two conditions are specifically mentioned which characterize those who do not enter God’s rest: disobedience springing from disbelief. The writer exhorts the reader to make every effort to enter His rest.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

The writer indicates that those who did not enter into God’s rest saw the works, the miracles that He did in the wilderness and yet they longed to return to Egypt where, though their labor was heavy, there were leeks and onions in every pot. They trusted in their Egyptian slave masters more than they trusted in the Almighty, who had delivered them from the Egyptian army, who had fed them manna and quail, who had given them water from a rock. His tabernacle was in the midst of this people. They could physically see his presence and discern his leading. There was no ambiguity and yet the did not believe He would deliver them to the place of Promise. They hardened their hearts against Him and they fell in the wilderness. They did not enter the Promised Land, though their children did. They did not enter into the promised rest.

We walk in the wilderness today. Though we have the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures in our heart language, and perhaps the most advanced technology of any time or place, we are tempted to follow the world system to a falsely promised land of security and peace. We hear these promises at every turn. Yet, as believers, our inheritance, our security, our protector, our deliverer is not in Washington D.C., 10 Downing Street, the Kremlin, or Beijing. Our Deliverer calls us forth with Word and Spirit.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

What was it the Psalmist sang?

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. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.The sun will not strike you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

Oh, that Israel would have sang this song in the desert. Their disbelief did not allow them. What was it that sprouted such disbelief?

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hence we come to verses twelve and thirteen. The writer rightly points out that striving to enter rest is inextricably linked to allowing the word of God to do spiritual surgery in your life, by the Spirit, so that when our hearts will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The word of God roots out the deepest, most deceitfully hidden sin in our lives and exposes it. If we are not deceived by sin, by the word we are able to recognize it for what it is and to confess, repent, and lay it all down at the feet of him who is Lord of our hearts. Sin has no opportunity to harden if the Spirit of God and the word of God are continually tenderizing our hearts.

The importance of God’s word in faith and life, even in the ability to enter God’s rest, cannot be denied. Is it not vitally important, then, to insure that those lacking the word of God in their heart language gain access to it?

Grant Access to the Word!
You can be part of the process of granting access to the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea. Firstly, you can join a team of praying believers, crying out to God to provide his word to these people. To do so, click here to drop us an email letting us know of your desire to do so. Secondly, you can add financial resource to your prayers, enabling Pioneer Bible Translators to send us out to Papua New Guinea to finish translating the remaining twenty-six books of the New Testament. To join the provision team either on a regular basis or with a one-time, year-end gift, click here.

Thank you for reading and thank you for contributing to the process of granting access to the most vital resource in history of a people: the Word of God.

 

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Day 22: Grace and Truth

We bought a GMC Suburban for a few reasons: winter driving (ours is 4 x 4) and 8 seats plus cargo room to boot. Missionaries drive a lot of miles while in the U.S. and face a lot of different kinds of road conditions. Parents, what do you do on long road trips (sometimes spending days or weeks at a time traveling)? Playing the “silent” game only lasts for so long. The license plate game becomes the billboard game becomes “I Spy” . . .  Focus on the Family did our family a favor when they started producing the Focus on the Family Radio Theater series on compact disc. Utilizing professional actors, they dramatized beloved stories like Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. One of my favorites of all, though, was their excellent interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

The story, which takes place in early 19th century France, involves the tenuous relationship between Jean Valjean and police Inspector Javert. Valjean was a man given a 19-year sentence of hard labor for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread to stave off hunger. The story opens with Valjean, having been released on parole, being offered shelter by a Catholic priest. He receives the hospitality by stealing the priest’s silver and fleeing. He is caught by the police and returned to the priest. The priest disappears into a room and brings two expensive silver candle stick holders. Giving them to Valjean, along with the silver, he asks only one thing: “Take the silver and use it to become an honest man.” Broken, Valjean vows, “Another story must begin . . .” Slipping away into the night (and away from the police), he takes on a new identity and becomes not only an honest man, but one who lives a life of radical grace and generosity.

Javert acts only according to a sense of justice devoid of mercy. He is more a caricature than a character, considering Valjean’s 19-year sentence as appropriate for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread. He was completely blind to the transforming power of grace, believing that mercy perverts justice.

As much as the transformation of Valjean leaves a warm feeling in the heart, Inspector Javert leaves one feeling very cold. His character can be simplified into one word: “Yuck!”

Many cultures in the world operate by a system that would make Javert a very happy man. Somau Garia traditional culture is essentially a collection of taboos and rituals. Supernatural beings, including local, lesser deities, wild spirits, the recently dead, and other cavalier beings enslave these people in a system of laws and taboos that lead only to one reality: fear. Walking through the bush involves paying close attention to the taboos and spirits of that place. The slightest transgression must be corrected lest the spirits pour out inordinately harsh acts of wrath and punishment. Grace does not exist in this system. The system is characterized by a lot of guesswork and visits to the local shaman. Peace does not exist. Cavalier and contrary spirits can change the rules any time they like–without notification. In a word: “Yuck!”

Jean Valjean’s character is a beautiful picture of a man who experienced the power of two realities: grace and truth. The priest never indicated that Valjean was anything but a thief and a powerful, violent man. Yet, the priest knew that if Valjean were exposed to radical grace, God just might allow the old story to close, and allow a new story to begin. . .

John, perhaps said it best in John 1:17, “For the law was given through; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” A bit earlier in the passage, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.

True grace does not deny uncomfortable realities and doesn’t lead us to believe that we are not guilty. True grace looks our guilt in the eye and then deals with it–radically. Truth, the kind that brings us into intimate relationship with Christ, is revealed to us with clarity and detail in the Bible, which is best understood and obeyed when it is given in the language that speaks to our hearts.

The Somau Garia have had but a taste of the gospel in the language of their hearts–The Gospel of Mark, in circulation since Easter Sunday, 2007. Twenty-six books remain to be translated. Truth remains to be grafted into the hearts of the Somau Garia. The transforming power of the gospel is only a few short years away from being accessible.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

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Day 21: The Pregnant Virgin, the Tabernacle and World Mission

Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s words. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” She couldn’t decide whether or not this was a welcome greeting. If she was troubled by these words, she would have been more troubled by the words to come, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” She was chewing on it. Perhaps after a moment, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary was clearly an obedient daughter of Abraham, yielded to the Lord and yet she was given some information by a supernatural being that was at once troubling and puzzling. Her worldview, her character, her sense of morality all railed against the idea that she would become pregnant–she was unmarried and would never willingly cross that line. Yet, her obedient and loving heart toward Elohim would not allow her to dismiss this message outright, so she asked the question. The answer was tender and gracious: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.”

This response ministered to Mary’s heart on many levels. The imagery of the response would have brought to Mary’s mind the imagery of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” Exodus 40:34-38, ESV.

The cloud was overshadowing Mary’s life on the outside, the fire of his glory within her womb. The imagery reinforced to Mary: “The Lord is with you in holiness, in glory, in power, and in leading.” Shortly thereafter Gabriel revealed another comforting fact: “Your old cousin Elizabeth, though she’s been barren her whole life, is pregnant in her old age. Nothing is impossible with God.

This passage seems to dispel a number of misunderstandings about taking the gospel across cultural boundaries:

Myth #1: A person will always interpret God through the lens of their own worldview.

Worldview exercises a powerful influence on how we think and how we interpret that which is hard (or impossible) to explain. However, Mary, while considering the implications of her worldview, listened to the angelic message and evaluated it based upon God’s character and promise. In the end, she behaved counter to her culture/worldview in obedience to God.

Likewise, each of us or those to whom we go can choose to evaluate situations that are puzzling based not merely on reason alone, but also on the evidence of God’s character and promise. God’s character and promises are revealed in His Word. The crux of the problem for many peoples, especially those who do not have access to the Word in a language that speaks to their heart, is that this revelation remains largely concealed to them. They cannot take it in and so they are left to their presuppositions about life. The message from Gabriel to Mary was given in the context of an extensive familiarity with the Old Testament. What of these unreached peoples? Will they be able to step outside the worldview in lieu of revealed Truth?

Myth #2: God will only work through what we deem to be reasonable and respectable to accomplish his purposes.

How reasonable or respectable is it to expect an unmarried virgin to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah? Wouldn’t it have made more sense not to shame this favored, obedient daughter of Israel rather than expose her to the shame she endured as everyone assumed that her “angel” story was a fabrication designed to cover up out-of-wedlock fornication? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make his coming a little bit more culturally acceptable? Clearly God had something different in mind.

Wouldn’t it have been more reasonable, even respectable, to simply take a Somau Garia speaker from among them, either give him the gift of interpretation or send him off to school somewhere in America or Europe and return him to Papua New Guinea to translate the Scriptures? What sense does it make to send American, urban, bookish Christians to do this job? Clearly God had something different in mind.

Myth #3: Our service will be without trouble, our obedience easy and reasonable, his purpose in any particular situation clear.

Mary didn’t seem to react that Gabriel was there, but was troubled that he was there with a message from God for her. It made her uncomfortable and afraid. Her obedience exposed her to the shame, derision, and rejection as she faced sneers and gossip and even the possibility of stoning as Nazarene society assumed that she was wrongly pregnant out of wedlock.

Most of us find that Jesus’ later promise that that there would be trouble in this life to be true. Obedience usually costs us something. While his general purpose is clear, his specific purpose can be rather vague. This is no less true for those obeying the call to translate the Bible. It is also no less true for those Papua New Guineans who choose to work with us. They face troubles, rejection, and opposition on a regular basis.

I will close this post with Gabriel’s observation: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

God can and does break through our worldview, our reason, and our method to establish and fulfill his Kingdom purpose. He enables us to live outside of our experience to bring his plan to be. His purpose will not be thwarted. Aligned with his purpose, we can shake the gates of Hell!

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