A few weeks ago my family and I were watching the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, is wrestling with whether to arrange the marriage of one of his daughters to the local butcher, a much older man named Lazar Wolf. There is drinking and talking and eventually singing and dancing as Tevye consents to Lazar’s proposal (it is a musical after all). The song they belt out? To Life.

Tevye’s life is centered in family, tradition, faith and troubles. These are the elements that make up the lives of many believers. Family makes life bearable. Tradition brings order to our values. The God in whom we put our faith carries us through our troubles. In Tevye’s life, though, community is the framework within which all these elements find their truest and most valuable expression.

I have spent much of my adult life in and around Uria Village, on the slopes of Mount Somau in Papua New Guinea. Cultural differences abound. But there are four broad categories we share in common: family, tradition, faith, and troubles. We have different ways of reckoning family (we value the nuclear family, they the extended [much like Tevye]). Our traditions are different, but are still traditions. Expression of faith depends upon the person or family. Troubles are troubles.

What is Life?

Despite the differences, we all grapple with the question, “What is life?” The Somau Garia have no single word for “life”, but a collection of idioms that hint at life’s meaning. Westerners, especially Americans, talk of “the good life”, referring to ease or wealth or amassing goods, or holding power over others. Experience teaches us that these are hallow pursuits that end poorly–no matter how fun the journey seems.

Satan waves shiny trinkets before our eyes to draw us away from true treasure. If he can distract us just long enough to derail our faith, values, traditions, families, or communities, he has won a battle in this great war.

There is no short way to answer “What is life?” Perhaps we might just catch the slightest essence of its meaning by looking a few passages from the Bible. If we catch just a whiff, we might gain some advantage over our adversary, trumping his lies with capital “T” truth. We might cast off the temporary for the lasting.


A few Old Testament passages might enlighten us. Consider the following:

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Genesis 2:7, NLT

From a lump of dirt God formed a magnificent, complex being, made not only of flesh and bone and blood, but also of soul and spirit. Paul later refers to our bodies as “tents” that we inhabit while on this earth. So there is one kind of life in the body, but there is more to us than just body.

Ezekiel has a rather strange vision of a valley filled with dry bones. Despite its strangeness, we gain insight about the nature of life from it.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Ezekiel 37:4-6, NLT

Notice the consistency in how the beginning of life is referenced. In Genesis God breathes life into Adam’s nostrils. In Ezekiel prophesies that God himself will put breath into the dead, dried up, rotting bones and they would not only have sinews, muscles, and skin but that they would stand on their feet, comprising a vast army! What was dead he would make alive again. What was a chattel house of death would become a living army that would make his name known.

Dead and Raised

Paul writes in Colossians that we were dead in our sins and that we were buried with Christ when we were baptized (2:12). Just as we were once dry bones, dead and wasting away in our sin, God himself buried us in the grave and raised it to life by faith. When he raised us, he didn’t bring us back to life to leave us in the same condition that caused us to be death, he raised us by his mighty power and gave us all that we need for eternal life and godliness. He took our sin away and made us stand in grace.

Satan would have us believe that our ongoing failure and sin defines us. He is a liar. We are defined by the life, death, resurrection, and ongoing priesthood of Jesus Christ. We stand in that place of unmerited favor where God our Father loves us, disciplines us, and makes us holy so that we might know him (and make him known).

Lasting and True

Jesus prays for us in John 17, saying to the Father:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3, ESV

So death is marked by slavery to the demands of the flesh, the world, and the devil. It is characterized by lying tongues, sexual immorality, unbridled anger, malice, hatred, covetousness, idolatry and a multitude of others. Death is characterized by a single characteristic that encapsulates them all: selfishness which might also be called devotion to self.

Life is marked by love, compassion, humility, patience, generosity, forgiveness, and a knowledge of God–not knowledge about God, but knowing him in the deepest and truest sense. It’s an intimate knowledge that is shaped by respect, honor, obedience, affection, and love. It is a selflessness that finds its completion in God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.

All is Christ

Have you ever written a love letter? It is common to include the phrase, “You are my life.” It means that a person lives solely for the beloved. Paul reminds us that Christ is our Beloved, the one for whom we live:

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4, ESV

God breathed life into us. He gave us a body, soul and spirit. He knew our frailty in being made from dust and, knowing we would fail and fall into sin, created us anyway. He breathed life into us. Having died and been buried with Jesus Christ, he breathed life into us a second time.

For the believer, life is being raised with Christ, hidden in Him, joined to Him, adopted through Christ into God’s family. Life is a transformative experience where we are invited to put off death and put on life. As Paul writes, Christ is our life.

The Hard Road to Victory

You want victory over the adversary? You want to make his name known throughout the nations? You want to shake the gates of Hell in your generation? Live in the reality that this earth and these years are merely temporary. Live with eternity in view. Put off the obscenity and absurdity of this generation. Put on Christ.

After all, Christ is your life. How can you live any other way?


Clear Voices

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

John 1:11


We live in perilous times. Truth is considered by many a personal choice. The lines blur between reality and fantasy as people are bombarded by fake news, revised versions of “history”, and augmented reality devices become widely available and sought after by the masses. The glut of untested and undocumented information creates an atmosphere of confusion. People are losing their capacity to discern truth from error.

Nothing New Under the sun

Similar confusion existed when the long promised Messiah arrived on earth in a little town called Bethlehem. Rome had conquered the world, administrated by men like Pontius Pilate who famously asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Cities were completely given over to idolatry, sensuality, and self. Slavery was the technology of industry. Mob rule ensued when the economy was threatened (or was perceived to be threatened).

Closer to the Truth

Standing in high relief against the vice of the Roman world were the Jewish people with their laws and traditions and worship of the true God. Yet they were divided. Some Jewish leaders thought that political upheaval was the answer, hence the Zealots. Others thought that strict adherence to the Law was the answer (Pharisees). Their authorities abused this conviction by adding law upon law, making it impossible for anyone to live “righteously”. Sadducees were something like Jewish nihilists, teaching that there is no resurrection, only the grave. Despite so many competing voices, there was great anticipation that God would send his Anointed One, the promised Prophet, Priest, and King.

Most thought he would be a political deliverer who would restore Israel to her former glory, as in the days of David or Solomon. Though they held the Holy Scriptures in their hands, they did not discern well. They interpreted reality (and prophecies) through the lens of their own aspirations, dreams, and desires. Their idea of a Messiah was not God’s idea of a Messiah.

So when Messiah arrived, they neither recognized nor received him.

A Clear Voice for Grace and Truth

One clear voice emerged to set things straight: John the Baptizer. John was eccentric, a prophet in the truest sense. He lived apart in the wilderness. He ate whatever he could find in that arid land.  He called people to turn back to God, baptizing and preparing a people for the arrival of God’s Promised One. He did so fearlessly.

Photo courtesy of

But being a prophet can be dangerous business. Truth alienates (and often angers) those ducking for the shadows. Truth tellers push the keepers of the status quo to the limit. Pharisees and Sadducees make odd bedfellows, yet they united against both John and the One he was preparing for.

In an age of confusion, though, people look for clarity–especially when it comes to the will of God. Ordinary people were drawn to John because he both understood and taught that Jesus’ mission was to be “the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.” Who will declare this good news to our generation?

Your clear voice is needed

We need many John the Baptizers in our generation. We need clear voices calling out above the din and roar of partisan politics, social media, and personal comfort.

Will you be a clear voice in your generation?  Will you risk looking weird, wild, and wooly to speak Truth? Our generation will never find clarity in this chaos if we don’t bring it.

Take a risk. Shake the gates of hell by standing out in high relief from this generation as “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Lead people to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  

Jesus is mounting his white horse, adorning himself in white robes, taking up his sword and preparing to come. We dare not delay.

Will our generation receive him?


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!


Day 15: Hungry and Waiting

The “old” gardens were nearing the end of their food bearing. I had noticed a general fidgetiness in Uria Village and I was beginning to get the picture. While there was plenty to eat, there was little of the main Somau Garia staple, taro, left in the gardens and folks were eating other things. All the same, people complained about being “hungry” and ready for the new gardens to be ready to eat from. I wondered what to expect next . . .

taro leaf

One afternoon my friend, Wilip, sauntered up to our house. He looked pleased with himself and clearly had something he wanted to tell me. Stepping close to me, grinning, he shared, “The taro is almost ready. I think we are going to feast next week. We’ll let you know.” The tenuous waiting began. The fidgeting increased.

Every day thereafter clan leaders would head off into the bush to their garden plots, checking the taro, no doubt salivating at the prospect of pulling the new crop of taro and holding perhaps their biggest feast of the year–the Taro Feast.

As I stood back and watched the activity day after day, I couldn’t help but think of a greater hunger that many of these people felt, but as yet were unable to articulate. Life is dangerous in a culture where you not only must deal with the living but also the recently dead, the totem spirits, and the gods that are believed to inhabit and rule the area. It’s tricky business keeping it all in balance. There is an underlying hunger (even cultural theme) that revolves around safety and security–whether that is food, spiritual steadiness, or peace in relationships.

Garia boy holds Book of Mark

The next generation of the Garia holding the Word of God in their hands.

One of the primary elements dealing with security is access to the Word–the ability to pick up a Bible in a language that speaks to the heart and drink in the promises, the encouragement, the correction, the exhortation, the teaching, the example, the Life that is revealed there. Easter of 2007 we dedicated and distributed the Gospel According to Mark in the Somau Garia language. One down, twenty-six to go.


Secure the Future!
You can play a major role in a secure future for an entire people. You can join the prayer team, crying out to God on behalf of these people, made in God’s image, precious to Him, by clicking here. You can join the provision team, adding financial resources to your prayers by clicking here. Your partnership with Pioneer Bible Translators through your prayers and gifts can help get our family back on the field in Papua New Guinea, translating the Somau Garia New Testament, giving the Somau Garia opportunity to respond to the Good News.

Blessings, Friends!




Impact: 40 Days of Prayer

Prayers Over the Pacific

The airplane was somewhere over the Pacific. It was dark, we were into the tenth hour of a fifteen-and-a-half hour flight and I was restless. Running through my mind  was this notion of 40 Days to Freedom. I was thinking of the prayers that had been lifted heavenward on our behalf and were being lifted even as sped across the Pacific at 500 knots. How would God answer these prayers? Would we see immediate impact or would this be a season of seed planting? What did God have in mind for this time, this journey, this group of praying people?

I slid the questions into an unused corner of my heart and went to sleep for a while. I would grab them later when I could put them to use.

Prayer Along the Road

Fast forward to a bumpy road in the mountains of Madang Province. Though it was early the sun was already hot. The greenery whizzed by on both sides of the truck as we made our way toward Uria. The questions started jiggling loose and flopping around in my consciousness as we bumped through potholes and rough spots in the road. Memories flooded my mind at every turn in the road and through each pass in the mountains. “How will you answer these prayers, Father?” Kablooey. Flat tire. In the middle of nowhere. Probably wasn’t my idea of answered prayer. A group of road workers happened by a few minutes later, jacked the truck up and changed the tire. We started rolling again. Flop. Swish. Flop. Swish. The rhythmic thumping and hissing of another flat tire–no spare this time. We sat on the edge of the road. I whipped out a mobile phone and texted my wife in the U.S. “Have people pray. We are stranded.” The prayers went out. Pray-ers prayed. Along came a truck filled with people who recognized me–they were wontoks (one-talks); Somau Garia friends. They loaded up our driver, our blown out tire, and were off to town. A few hours later we were back on the road to the village.  Those flat-tire prayers were impactful. I believe that the prayers offered gave extra oomph to what was discussed, what was decided, even in setting up conditions so that Jesus’ name will be honored when we return and get moving with the translation again. I also believe that a younger generation of Somau Garia speakers will be engaged and involved in the process of translation and literacy because of answer to those prayers and perhaps even due to the delay in starting the meeting caused by the tires blowing out.

Prayer With Impact

A week later I found myself in Tiap Village, where Aruamu is spoken, talking with the Lord. “Father, how will you answer prayers in this place?” No flat tires here. Events were less mundane. As I was preaching one evening, some young men were sitting together somewhere up the village, away from where we were gathered. They were absolutely astounded at what they had heard. “How is this guy reading our minds?” they were saying to each other. As we prayed and I preached the Holy Spirit was doing his work of conviction. He did this consistently. In four nights of preaching, nine were baptized and over 250 were prayed for as they responded to the conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. A common theme emerged in the responses: a call to unity of the believers; to stand together and go forth with the Good News.

Thank You

The Father honored your commitment to pray (and some of you fast) for forty days. He responded to your cries by moving in the deep places of hearts and cultures to make an ongoing impact. Thank you for your partnership in these days of wonder.


Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 37

September 16 (Day 37) — Today is Independence Day for Papua New Guinea. This is an afterglow day, really. Many attending the crusade will be walking home or catching a PMV back to Madang or elsewhere. Pray that the blessing that began here will accompany each person wherever they go. Pray that this will be but a beginning of much good to come. Pray for thanksgiving to ring out from this place. Pray for sustained power in the preaching, in the testimonies, in the casual conversations, in the story telling, in Proclaimer sessions . . . Pray for God to do something remarkable here.



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 36

September 15 (Day 36) — Today is the final day of the crusade, with preaching morning and evening and general Sunday afternoon activities—naps, soccer games, story-telling, etc. Pray for renewed energy for all involved. Pray for a tidal wave of spiritual renewal and revival to roll across the Aruamu today. Pray for an outpouring of God’s Spirit today. Pray for healing for the sick. Pray for freedom for the prisoners. Pray that blind eyes will be opened. Pray for the proclamation of the Word, the year of the Lord’s favor, the victory of the Savior, the life of Jesus. Pray that this day will begin an ongoing and sweeping revival, a gurgling fountain of God’s life flowing into many streams out of Tiap and into the lives and communities wherever the believers who go out from here return to.



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 35

September 14 (Day 35) — The crusade has been going for a few days now. People continue to arrive. At writing, it is expected that there will be as many as 800 in attendance at the crusade. Today is women’s day and there are all sorts of workshops and events for Aruamu women to participate in. Todd is continuing today with leadership workshops and discussions. Pray for God’s hand to be on Todd’s mind and heart as he interacts with the Aruamu leadership. Pray for opportunities to show God’s unique power and the power of the cross in the daily life and leadership of each leader in attendance. Pray for the preaching of the Word this evening. The theme for this week is Free in Christ (English translation). Pray that as Todd preaches this evening, many will follow in the triumphal procession of Jesus from death to life, from bondage to freedom in Christ. Pray for breakthrough in the hearts of those who are attending, that they will know what it is to have Jesus shepherd their hearts, heal broken relationships, bring children home from wandering in sin, establish households as sanctuaries of peace and God’s Spirit.



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 33

September 12 (Day 33) — Today the crusade begins. Pray for all involved in the events of the day. Today is the dedication for the Aruamu New Testament in recorded digital audio format (.mp3). This is a landmark day for those Aruamu who cannot read or write, for children, for mothers who want their children to hide God’s Word in their hearts. The New Testaments will be available on mini-SD cards that fit cell-phones sold in PNG and on a specialty device called a Proclaimer ( that is powered by solar panel, hand crank, rechargeable batteries, or AC power adapter (talk about versatile!). Pray today that many will be compelled to listen, to buy an SD card, or to join a listening group gathered around a Proclaimer. Pray that this will be a watershed event in the lives of many Aruamu. Pray also for Todd as he preaches the first message of the crusade this evening. Pray that his preaching will be anointed and that the Holy Spirit will cut the listeners to the heart. Pray that many will pass from death into life in Jesus tonight.



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 32

September 11 (Day 32) — Wednesday. Today Aruamu speakers will be traveling to Tiap for the meetings. Ask God to give ample divine appointments and coincidences today. Pray for Todd to connect at a heart level with Aruamu leaders, translation team members, and villagers. Pray for opportunity for Todd to reconnect with friends. Pray for clarity, spiritual sensitivity, and physical stamina for Todd. Also ask God to help Todd to rest well while here. Pray for his heart to be clear, pure, and singly-focused for the coming days of preaching and ministering the word.