A Valentine About My Josephine

I fully agree with the truth of the proverb that says “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22 (KJV). Here’s why: once a man findeth a wife, from then on she findeth all the things he hath lost.”

I don’t know if all women have a gene for finding things, but my wife, Jo, sure does.

Seriously, though, I fully agree with Solomon who collected all these proverbs that, as another version has it, “Find a good spouse, you find a good life—and even more: the favor of God.”

Jo signing up for life together with Jack

Jo signing up for life together with Jack almost fifty-five years ago

I can vouch for that since I have an excellent wife with whom I plan to celebrate our fifty-fifth wedding anniversary at the end of next month.

The favor of the Lord is not just evident in that she finds the things I have lost, she helps calm me down when I am frustrated or feeling harassed and ready to “lose my mind.” Although we have lived and worked together for well over half a century, we differ from each other. What upsets me does not affect her in the same way, and as she asks questions, she brings clarity to my thoughts and feelings.

She also encourages me when I am feeling dejected, fearful, or without energy. She reminds me of duties and commitments I have made, and talks over decisions I must make in my work and ministry life.

Back in 1937 when my father and mother were married the minister elaborated on the oft-quoted verses from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (NIV).

Their marriage exemplified the truth of these verses as my parents lifted each other up during sixty-two years of marriage, which included the birth of six children, the death of one in infancy, five years of danger and oppression in Nazi-occupied Holland and five more years of hard work without progress. This led them to decide to leave their families and emigrate to Canada where they went through seven more years of poverty, hard work, and loneliness, during which time the family moved house eleven times in three different cities.

My parents often talked about these verses and, although they were not part of our wedding ceremony, Jo and I have had them in mind, and practiced them all our lives. We, too, left our families and traveled to Brazil to serve as Bible translators. And we, too, endured economic stresses. And, during our years there, we moved house thirteen times in eight different cities, towns and villages.

As I think of these times, I think of Jo as the “Proverbs 31 wife” who is worth far more than rubies. Jo brings me good and not harm all the days of her life. I have full confidence in her. While I was on an assignment in the West Indies, she sold our house and bought another without me seeing it until a month later when I drove the moving van up the driveway. She speaks with wisdom to me, our daughters, our grandchildren and their friends. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman like Jo who fears the Lord is to be praised. I honor her for who she is and what she does. No wonder I love her.

Thank you, Lord, for your favor in helping me find my wife, Jo.

God-Stories–A Powerful Weapon Against Satan

How About A New Story?

My teenage friends and I rolled our eyes as the elderly gentleman rose from his accustomed side front pew. As usual, he half turned to face the congregation, leaned his left hand on the back of the pew in front of him, as he always did, and began his testimony . . . again. We had all heard his conversion story from sixty years ago so many Sundays, we could have recited it for him.

I wanted to ask him, “Hasn’t God done anything for you recently?” but I had been a Christian only a few years, and now, I was learning how to be a well-behaved member of our small evangelical church.

True, some members of the congregation did stand and tell of recent answers to prayer, but for the most part, “giving your testimony” meant telling the story of how you came to repent of your sin and turn to God for forgiveness for the first time.

We do need to tell the story of our spiritual rebirth, but we need to realize that this birth starts a whole new life, filled with other God-stories—answers to prayers, amazing coincidences, needs He met, healings and special guidance. Our lives as believers should be overflowing with stories that bear witness to others of God’s work in and through us.

People Listen and so do Spirits
But not just to people. Spiritual beings are also listening. Angels give praise to God along with us as we tell our God-stories. The “other side” is listening too. Satan and his evil spirits hate hearing about God’s power in our lives. When we tell what God has done for us, Satan will do anything to shut us up. Why? Because our God-stories are weapons: powerful Satan defeating weapons.

How They Overcame Satan
Check out the scene in Revelation 12:11 which describes a large number of Jesus-followers who overcame Satan. How did they do this? By telling everyone about what God had done for them, through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. They were powerful witnesses against Satan and for God. They made God look so good, and Satan look so bad that he killed them. Yes, they were martyrs. That is why the word “martyr” comes from the Greek word that means “witness.”

Our testimonies, our God-stories of God’s actions in our lives are powerful Satan conquering weapons. What a pity that we don’t hear them regularly in church! No, not the same old story every Sunday, but new God-honouring, Satan crushing stories.

We who are followers of Jesus need to tell our God-stories to each other for encouragement, and to those who are not yet believers to let them know God can and does act in people’s lives.

A Fifteen-Year-Old Photo

Six of our Grandkds Telling Stories Over a Cup of Tea

Six of our Grandkids Telling Stories Over Cups of Tea

Fifteen years ago they were little kids telling stories. Now they are telling even more stories. Our youngest grandson is now seventeen; the five granddaughters range in age from nineteen to twenty-two years old. Each of them can tell a dozen stories of what they experienced while overseas on mission service trips. They have all been to Mexico and Brazil. Some have been to Guatemala, some to Pakistan, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. Some have lived for months in Australia. One worked on a Mercy ship for three months serving countries on Africa’s east coast—God-stories galore. And they have many more stories of God’s dealings in their everyday lives

Whenever I speak in public, I tell plenty of personal God-stories—what God has done for me, through me, or sometimes in spite of me. As I greet people at the door afterward, they often say, “Thank you for telling those stories. Isn’t God wonderful?” I smile and imagine Satan’s groan of pain.

What has God done in your life this past week? Have you told anyone yet? The angels are waiting to compose a song of praise about it. Satan hopes you’ll just keep quiet.

“I’d Rather Be . . . .”

In January of 1966, I loaded my pregnant wife and our two toddlers into an old Volkswagen van and drove 6,600 kilometres (4,000 miles) from Edmonton, Alberta, to Wycliffe’s jungle survival training camp near the Guatemalan border in the south-eastern tip of Mexico.

Jack Reading in Canela village mid-1970s

Jack Reading in Canela Village mid-1970s

The Eye Opener
As part of our three-months-training, we were told to record everything we did each day for a week on 24-hour time sheets, marked off in 15 minutes segments. The totals at the end of that week staggered us. Of that week’s 168 hours, the number we spent in training sessions, private study, and assigned academic projects were amazingly few. Hours for recreation and entertainment were zero. The rest of our waking time was maxed out with chopping wood, hauling and boiling water, preparing food, washing clothes, and keeping the rain out of our makeshift shelter. Work, work, work, just to keep ourselves fed, clean, and minimally rested. I was deeply frustrated.

Not Much Has Changed
Today, more than fifty years later, I still get aggravated at how much time I need to spend in work other than what I want to do. If I had a bumper sticker it would read “I’d Rather be Writing.” No, I’m not chopping wood or hauling water. I do, however, resent the time I must spend in mastering the computer programs I need to keep me effective and organized in my writing and speaking ministry. Then there is the e-mail to keep up with, the book publishing and marketing, and financial records. Aaargh!

God’s Three-Point Plan—First Part
What is God’s plan for our ministry and work life? First, He has given each of us different embryonic talents and latent abilities which we develop through diligent practice. He also bestows spiritual gifts like faith, evangelism, insight or service. When we work within the area of our native abilities and spiritual gifts, we enjoy our work which motivates us to work at it more. Eventually, we become very good at it.

The apostle Paul urged Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV). God gave us our abilities and spiritual gifts and wants us to develop and use them fully in ways that make Him look good.

In my case, I’d rather be writing, or speaking to a group, or teaching at a seminar, or reading in order to increase my effectiveness in these ministries. But what comes along with that for all of us? All those little jobs that make us feel like we are a pair of pliers forced to do the work of wrenches or hammers. These jobs don’t fit us, we’re not good at them and we don’t enjoy doing them.

Second Part
God has made us unique, but He designed us to live inter-dependently, in partnerships as a community, each of us operating in the area of our strengths, not only meeting our own needs but reaching out to meet the needs of others. This directly contradicts our North American culture which glorifies rugged independence and the pride that comes when we can personally meet all our own needs. I remember when a fellow Wycliffe missionary who loved numbers did all my Brazilian accounting chores for me while I wrote Canela stories for her to tell on furlough.

Third Part
The third part of God’s plan deals with times when we are forced to work in an area of weakness when we feel like we are the wrong tool for the job. That’s when we need to pray, “Holy Spirit, please give me the power and self-discipline to do this job well.” It’s a prayer based on the rest of what Paul wrote Timothy, “. . . the Spirit God gave us . . . gives us power . . . and self-discipline” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV).

Work in the area of your native abilities as much as possible, work interdependently within a community, and trust God to give you the power and self-discipline to see you through every situation.

Working with His giftings, with His people, and together with Him. A good three-point plan!