Facing the Unthinkable–Three Realities That Will Change Your Life

The lights in the cabin were dimmed. The almost unnoticed sound of air slipping over the skin of the airliner reminded me that I was at 40,000 feet. I sat, bleary eyed along the rear bulkhead, reading light on, notepad on the tray in front of me. It was Father’s Day and I was suspended between heaven and earth separated from my children and facing an unthinkable tragedy–I was going home, alone, to the U.S. to help my family bury my father. There were no words to pray. Sitting numbly in a stupor, I pressed pen to paper and began to write. “The last words my dad ever said to me were, ‘I love you, son. . .'”

Uria Village, PNG

The sun rises over Uria Village, Papua New Guinea

Mountains across the valley emerged from the darkness as dawn approached. Fog flowed through the valley below us, a great white river that would disappear soon enough. The friar bird began singing his morning prayer as did the dozens of Papua New Guinean neighbors encircling our house. I listened to the cadence of my wife’s breathing and of the gentle words of caring friends outside. Though we had lived in Papua New Guinea only a short time, my health was mysteriously failing. Why? Our friends were crying out to heaven for answers.

A different night a line of flaming torches flickered against the mountainside. People were descending into a maelstrom of violence and hatred, ready to burn, to kill, to revenge. Sin had to be dealt with, swiftly and severely, shame mitigated, respect restored. The torch bearers thought that someone in our village had performed a revenge-killing on one of their relatives and they were coming to make war. We were caught in the middle of friends who were suddenly at war with one another.

Loss, sickness, and violence. Three threads of my New Guinea experience. Why were they so frequently present? What was I to learn about shaking the gates of Hell from these harsh realities?

First, I learned that in even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations, I do not come to God with answers–I just come to God. I learned that I don’t have words, most of the time, to adequately express the loss, the hurt, the frustration or the fear. I learned that there is Someone to help me with all that.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27, ESV)

Second, I learned that in even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations, God is with me. I know this, in part, because the Son submitted to the most inhumane, brutal torture and murder, in order that I would not be charged and executed for my wrongdoing. I know this in part because when He was undergoing life in a human body–the temptation, the taunting, the torture, the rejection, even death–he experienced more of the unthinkable that I could ever imagine. Therefore, He is qualified to empathize with everything I’ve experienced. He takes that experience and prays with understanding for me.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Third, I learned that even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations serve to make me more like Christ and are used by God to make me more than a conqueror. They are used to make me fit for heaven, to be purified in the inner man, to be holy as He is holy. They are normative Christian experiences, not exceptions. They do not separate me from Him, they deepen my dependence upon him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:35-38, ESV)

These three truths transform my heart and mind, stealing me away from fearful, tentative tendencies, making me into a fearless, intrepid intercessor who intercedes along with the Holy Spirit and the Son, shaking the gates of Hell, causing rumblings in heavenly places, risking all for the honor of being called “son” by the Creator, Conqueror, and Counselor.


Please Pray — January 15, 2014

What a privilege it is to be invited into the throne room of grace. We are taught by the writer of Hebrews that Jesus is able to “save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, ESV)

I invite you to draw near to God, believing that God has both the power and the will to do what he promised, and to pray in alignment with his promises. I also invite you to follow Jesus’ lead and make intercession not only for our family, but for the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea, with whom we minister.


As you pray:

  • Ask God to grant us boldness, courage, and wisdom as we make known the call God has placed upon us to return to Papua New Guinea to finish the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament.
  • Ask God to continue to open the eyes of our hearts more and more to who He is and who we are in Him, that we might reflect His character brightly and clearly.
  • Ask God to increase our financial support day by day as we make preparations to return to the field. We are setting July 2014 as a target date and have a long way to go before achieving that goal.
  • Ask God to protect our Somau Garia brothers and sisters from the attack of the enemy of our souls, to preserve them for ministry, to keep them for the task that lies ahead.
  • Thank God being a promise-keeper, for promising One who would reconcile us back to Him, even while we were still sinners and worthy only of death.
  • Thank God that He is using this time to purify, teach, and establish our hearts more firmly on the Rock of our Salvation.
  • Thank God for his ongoing faithfulness, especially in days when all seems . . . impossible.
  • Thank God for Somau Garia co-workers who have not given up, despite fierce opposition.

I’m thanking God for each of you who will join us in prayer today. Thank you for risking all for Jesus.

Promise and Prayer
By the way, for an article on Promise and Prayer, click here.

Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Epilogue

Thank you for praying with us during the last 40 days. Please pray the next few days as you remember; my travel won’t conclude until late Sunday night. Pray also, friends, that we’ll be able to tell the story well when Todd gets back from Papua New Guinea. Blessings!

Be watching for photos and updates in the coming days. It’ll take a few weeks to get things organized (after some significant sleep) and get the stuff up on the site. Thank you and blessings!



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 38

September 17 (Day 38) — Tuesday. Heading into Madang, God willing, today to rest and prepare for the journey home. Much has been accomplished. Pray today that Todd will have good conversations with the missionaries he has yet to get acquainted with, with old friends, and with co-workers. Pray that Todd will have strength, clarity, and ability to wrap up responsibilities in Madang before leaving on Saturday. Pray for God’s grace and mercy to rest on each word, each conversation, each encounter, that Todd will be a blessing and encouragement to all that he encounters. Pray for the Aruamu today, that the experiences of the crusade—the workshops, celebration, worship, and preaching will leave a lasting imprint on the heart of each attendee. Pray for a powerful move of the Spirit in each life.



Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 16

August 26 (Day 16) — Monday. August is drawing to a close. Todd is boarding his flight to Papua New Guinea today. Ahead is the unknown. Six years away from Papua New Guinea is a long time. Todd and Angela’s emotions will be swirling today, a mixture of anticipation and butterflies fluttering around in the stomach. Pray for the travel to the airport, for Todd’s luggage, safe passage, and timely connections. Pray that as Todd progresses toward Papua New Guinea, he will be filled with the confidence that comes through the Holy Spirit. Pray with him that even as he flies, God will be preparing the way and moving his angels and people to create divine appointments. Pray for God’s anointing on this time.