Psalm 19:12 “Who can discern his errors?”

[My inner being, below my consciousness, is largely inscrutable and opaque to me. In there I unknowingly sin with wrong motives, wrong attitudes and wrong desires.

These sins are from my flesh, from the inherited residue of sin from past generations, from the subtle working of the devil, from input from the world–and from my giving in to them.

These sins are there—but their penalty has been paid in Christ’s death and resurrection, praise be to you. So we can pray, along with David, “Forgive my hidden faults” and know that we are forgiven.

As I spend time in worship (giving you, Lord, honor for who you are), you are slowly increasing the depth of understanding of what’s in my inner being–showing me more and more of these hidden faults. Then I can knowingly confess and reject them and instead obey you in these areas.

Praise you for your persistent, patient and powerful work in my life.]

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Psalm 19:11

Psalm 19:11 “By [The ordinances of the LORD] is your servant warned;”

[They reveal danger, show us how to avoid evil and protect us from our own wrong desires. We must pay attention to your warnings, for it is up to us to obey what you have revealed.]

“in keeping them there is great reward.”

[Not just preservation from danger and disaster, but immense rewards come from obeying your commands, Lord. These rewards are both for now and forever: peace, joy, strength, wisdom, grace, love, positive relationships, fulfilling significance and purpose, security both for today and for eternity, continual growth and many others–an ongoing stream of your goodness being poured out on your children who love you with all their heart and strength, mind and soul.]

Today, Lord, help me to care deeply about what you think in all my decisions. Guide me in doing what will last forever, making plans based upon your perfect and pristine Word, rather than on my own feeble and faulty reasoning.

May I wholeheartedly, consistently, confidently, humbly exalt and obey your Word in every area, every situation, every thought of my life so that I may constantly give you an ongoing flow of glory and honor, O Lord Jesus, my Shepherd and King.

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More Autobio

More autobio

After moving into our new home in Pa. we began the process of getting settled into our new situation. As usual, I moved ahead quickly and began to work in the company’s office earlier than Barbara was ready for it.

Although she had been fully in favor of this move to the US, the adjustment was very hard for her. She had left behind a multitude of friends of many nationalities, a rich teaching ministry, a clearly defined role as a leader’s wife, and not least, the local culture she had come to love.

Here in the US, she had no clear role, no teaching opportunities and a suburban culture where neighbors rarely showed themselves except for occasional glimpses when they waved at us from a distance

This was so different from the hospitality-rich situation we’d lived in for the last thirteen years. It took her a whole year to adjust. When she and Nat felt the loss of their past life, they would play the music, drink the tea and cry a little together.

In contrast, my role as assistant to the Director was clearly defined and I jumped right into it. We basically acted as administrators and pastors for all the overseas workers. Along with another coworker, the three of us divided up the twenty-one countries in which we had workers. Barbara and I were responsible for the countries from Egypt to Tajikistan.

When I arrived at the office, it had no email, so I signed up for Compuserve (one of the first internet providers) to speed up communication. Since the office telephone system did not support connections to the internet, I would spend two to three hours in the evening doing email correspondence at home.

I want to humbly share that the foundation of our work was intercession, so I persisted in the practice of praying regularly for all those within my spiritual responsibility.

Whenever there has been a shift in my assignment, I have made a corresponding shift in my prayer list. While in our former country, I prayed for each of our workers six days a week, and each day I had different requests for each one. I did not pray through my list on Sundays because serious intercession is hard work and I took a rest from it on Sundays.

This list had expanded over the years as we got to know more about each person and his or her needs, weaknesses and strengths.

Now that I had a larger area of responsibility, the individual workers in our former country dropped to a lower level of priority on my prayer list. At the top now were the leaders in each country for which we were responsible. I prayed for each leader six days a week. Individual workers in each country also were prayed for next, but only on two days a week–there were too many to pray for each of them every day. I now also included as priority the staff in the home office.

After a while I found that praying for so many people so frequently actually fractured my thinking and my emotions. So, I divided my everyday list in half, praying through one half one day, the other half the next. That made it much more manageable.

This ongoing shift in the ordering of my prayer list has had a positive side effect on me: it keeps my praying fresh. To enhance this I also vary the way I use the list. Some days I only praise God for what He is doing in each person’s life, a statement of faith in a prayer-answering God.

Other times I pray my list from the bottom to the top or from the middle out in both directions. I work hard to avoid becoming ritualistic in my prayers, to avoid the legalistic feeling that praying through my list makes me a better believer, or more righteous, or better than others. The list is simply a tool to assist me in being more effective in joining God in His work.

Also, each week I use what I call my “blanket prayer” for all those on my list for that day, “covering” them with God’s biblical desires . Most of these blanket prayers are passages of Scripture. Here are some that I use, and which you may want to use in your own intercessory prayers:

Psalm 1: Be a fruitful believer
2 Pet 1:5-7: Use what God has provided
James 3:17: Have heavenly wisdom
1 Cor 13: Have Agape love
Gal 5:26: Have growing fruit of the Spirit
Ps 143:8-10: Surrender
Ph 4:8: Thinking Truth

Prayer is not easy for me by nature. Being a Connecticut Yankee, I grew up with a strong work ethic that put value on doing things. Prayer was not visibly “doing something” according to this value system, so I had to struggle against the emotional push to “get to work” instead of spending time in prayer.

One thing that helped me to overcome this natural negative view of prayer was to combine intercession with an activity. We lived three miles from the office, so I began to walk to work several days a week, praying throughout the hour it took to get there.

That helped to keep my prayers fresh, kept me in shape and kept me from spending money on gas. At the end of the day I would catch a ride home with another worker, so it also provided time for good fellowship.

God has multiple reasons for prayer. One of them is that He uses it to change us. Through this growth in my prayer life, God was in the process of setting me free from my natural narrow and legalistic views, bringing me into an eternal, spiritual perspective on what is truly important and foundational.

As I pray for others, especially as I pray Scripture for them, the Holy Spirit brings new insights, convicts me of sin, gives direction, deepens my commitment and changes my desires. Intercession is one way to spend time in the light of God’s presence and that always brings transformation.

Prayer is also in one sense a statement of our weakness and an acknowledgment of God’s power. By spending time in intercession we admit that we are not capable of handling life on our own, even though it may appear to others or ourselves that we can. We are weak; embracing that fact in prayer plugs us into the infinitely rich power of God. Intercessory prayer is our response to God’s invitation to join Him in His work.

Picture: my sister and mother with Barbara

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Psalm 19:9b

Psalm 19:9b “The ordinances of the LORD are sure”

[There is no shakiness, no uncertainty, no doubt in your Word, Lord. What You command and reveal is absolutely true, fully trustable and entirely correct. We can have confidence in, rely on and rest in all that you reveal to us by your Word.]

“and altogether righteous.”

[There is no sin, no wrong motive, no dark side, no hidden evil, no selfishness, no imbalance in your ordinances, Lord. They are purely, positively, powerfully right. We can always bank on them, for your promise is to “lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3).]

Psalm 19:10 “They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;”

[Your ordinances are better than money in any form, for they last forever. Plus, they are perfect, they are pure, they cannot perish, they are positively, immeasurably valuable, and they are vast beyond conception. Much greater in value than gold—and much easier to transport from one situation to another!]

“they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”

[In revealing Truth, your ordinances bring to us the sweetness of life, the nectar of joy and a taste of heaven. And all we have to do to receive this sweetness is to obey what we know to be true, which comes from your Word.]

Lord, help us to value your Word above all things here on earth, reading it every day, heeding the truth inside, needing the wisdom it gives. Thank you for giving us your thoughts on paper to lift off and store in our hearts!

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Psalm 19:9b

Psalm 19:9b “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.”

[What we do out of our great reverence for you will be pure and positive, as well as lasting forever.

To obey Truth because we love you is something that will have significance for all eternity. Even if it is a tiny, one second act (rejecting grumbling and instead offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving; or rejecting self-pity and instead thinking truth), it has eternal consequences.

Every decision is potentially a glory-giving, grace-displaying, goodness-granting opportunity–even if it’s internal and no one else knows about it but God.

It is a possibility in which we can fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to bring honor to Him. This perspective can change our motives , moving from desiring to do what is natural, to bringing glory to God by revealing Him to those around us through our actions and reactions.

Help us, Lord, to make multiple “pure and enduring forever” decisions today, based on our awe and fear of you, and thereby bringing more and more honor to you!]

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Psalm 19:9

Psalm 19:9 “The fear of the LORD is pure,”

[To obey you, Lord, out of reverence, awe and fear takes us in the direction of genuine holiness. It moves us away from the selfish pollution of the world, our old sin nature and the wiles of Satan.

To obey you moves us towards fearing you–that is, caring deeply what you think about our issues and actions, our thoughts and words–while helping us fear the negative consequences of following our own reasoning.

To fear you, God, not man, to obey you while rejecting the fear of man–this leads to purity. The “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25).]

And purity leads us to wisdom: “The wisdom that is from above is first of all pure, then peace-loving, sweetly reasonable, approachable and submissive….” James 3:17. When these qualities are present and growing in our lives, we will be profitable in our knowledge of Jesus, useful for Him in His Kingdom. It all starts with purity!

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Psalm 19:8b

“The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:8b

[Your Word shines like the noon day sun, showing us the way, illuminating what is right and wrong, falling with power on our path so we can know what could cause us to stumble, where to step and what to reject]

As it says in Proverbs 4:18-19 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

We can know what to avoid: do not lie; do not steal; do not commit adultery. And what to do: be faithful; be kind; forgive; love by obeying Truth; find your delight in God; do what is best; pray all the time.

There is no question about many things. And where it is not so clear and simple, you wholeheartedly give wisdom to discern and live in integrity.

Help us to walk in your light today, seeing and circumventing the traps that the world, the flesh and the devil have set for us. May we, by living in the light of your Word, be more than conquerors with you.]

Barbara’s 81st birthday today!

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Psalm 19:8

Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the LORD are right,”

[You, Lord, make the lines clear: this is right, that is wrong. And praise you that you do it as much in principles as in particulars, like, “honor your father and mother,” which can be lived out differently in different cultures.

Then you present us with the wisdom to know how to apply these principles in various situations in our lives, giving us guidance in the grey areas. “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God….” (James 1:5)]

“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.”

[Knowing what is right and wrong brings security, for having clear boundaries lessens the stress of decision making—you never have to struggle about robbing a bank or not! Knowing truth brings joy, one of the pleasures you desire for us to have in growing amounts.

As you, Lord Jesus, said in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Joy is there, offered to us for the taking–we just need to take your Word seriously, reject the tendency to complain and choose to live the truth that knowing Jesus is enough for joy.

Such joy does not come from circumstances (as happiness does) but from our relationship with you, which will never be altered from your side–meaning joy is always available, no matter how we may feel.]

Our part in joy is to trust: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace AS YOU TRUST in HIM….” Let’ not be like this suspicious dog, but rest in God’s goodness!

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Psalm 19:7b

Psalm 19:7b “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,”

[Your revelations are absolutely right, fully true, totally correct and therefore we can rest in them. Even if people take some verses out of context and twist them to their own purposes, that does not negate the genuine wisdom stored up in your statues for those who handle and understand the Word of God correctly: taking it at face value and in full context.]

“making wise the simple.”

[We are all foolish in our natural, fallen selves, especially in the light of your deep and wide, full and powerful wisdom. In comparison with you, Lord, we are all very simple minded. Especially in the light of your complexity, your creativity, your designing all aspects of the universe with deep detail and wide wisdom.

Just think of the structure of a cell, as complex as any city, complete with systems of communication, transportation, manufacturing and garbage disposal!

And who can understand the power that holds together the positive protons in the nucleus of an atom? Who can know the paths of the stars? Who can know what is right in every situation? Only you, Lord God–and you have graciously revealed a portion of that wisdom with us in your Word.

Praise you for your generosity in sharing some of your deep, wide and powerful thoughts with us! Help us today to admit our simplistic approach to life, to reject it and to embrace instead your rich, multifaceted wisdom.

This means submitting ourselves to your Way, your Word, your Wonderful love–doing good to our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, blessing those who harm us, giving thanks in all things. May you thus be honored in our lives.]

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More Autobio

After we moved to Pennsylvania, Nat was still a pretty lazy student and was happy that he didn’t need to work at all his freshman year. His German school education had already taken him quite a bit beyond his classmates who all thought he was brilliant because he knew so much more than they did.

He and Josh had the advantage of having lived in three cultures, speaking three languages, and having traveled through much of the Middle East and Europe. In addition, from an early age they had avidly read the National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Ranger Rick and many other books full of facts which cumulatively gave them a grasp of a wide range of information.

At one point Nat’s history teacher called us in and said, “I have never met a freshman who knew so much about the world and understood its significance. But, could you get him to write more than one-sentence answers on his essay tests?” Nat might know a lot, but he had no real motivation to use it.

However, the Lord had plans to wake Nat up, using running as His primary tool. With Nat’s natural talent being developed under his coach’s good training, he began to win races, and found he liked that. He began to realize that putting effort into reaching goals could be a worthwhile endeavor. He began to study more, do more around the house, and most importantly, began to grow spiritually.

Josh had a spiritual antenna from the time he was small, making a decision to believe when he was small. Nat, however, was interested in other things. But, when he turned sixteen, Nat decided he wanted to be baptized. This decision brought a very deep surrender in him, triggering a lot of spiritual progress. He then started using his status as a successful runner as a means of sharing his faith with others at school.

He later told us that in high school his running fueled his spiritual life, while in college his spiritual life drove his running.

Nat realized he needed to lay down the foundations for his personal faith. He had been riding on ours, but needed his own. During his sophomore year Nat researched and wrote a paper to help him sort out the relationship of the Bible and science. He entitled it, “Why I am not a Monkey.”

Then when he had to present a position paper for English during his senior year, he chose to polish up this paper and gave it a better title. His classmates laughed when he announced his subject, “How I Know That Evolution Is Not True.” But when he presented it, they were fascinated and the student evaluators gave him an A.

His teacher, however, was not so impressed, giving him a lower mark. She asked, “If God created the world, then where did he come from?”

Nat, who normally doesn’t think well on his feet, was helped by the Holy Spirit to reply, “As Stephen Hawkins and his associates pointed out, both the universe and time have a beginning. Since God lives outside of time, He doesn’t need a beginning.”

The teacher, not knowing how to respond to that, turned to the class and said, “OK, next paper!”

After graduation, Josh went back to Germany for one year of scriptual school in German. He enjoyed it so much that he stayed on for the full three years, doing the equivalent of a four year American university. He then went on to get a Masters from an international university.

Josh has a great capacity to grasp spiritual concepts and this was obvious when he returned home after his training. One of us would ask him a spiritual question and he would give us a “twenty-page answer!” He is now one of my major resources when I have to research answers to such questions.

Following his high school graduation, Nat also went to Germany to a different scriptural school, which was taught in English, but stayed only for one year. He then attended Edinburgh University in Western Pennsylvania where he majored in running and art.

During his time there he was able to go to the National Championships in cross country four times and once with the track team, participating at a very high level of competition.
And amazingly enough, he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Not bad for someone who had been such a mediocre student! When we asked him how he accomplished that, he calmly replied, “I just did enough to get an A in every class!”

Picture: Nat in one of his intense college meets

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