God’s Plans For Training National Translators

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“Go To PLAN B!”

[Editor’s Note: the following story and petitions for prayer were written in August, 2010 by one of our career missionaries who live in the town of Madang, Papua New Guinea. ]

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“Flight cancelled! Flight cancelled! Another flight cancelled. All of our scheduled small plane and helicopter flights to Madang were cancelled due to rain and clouds on that day in July. Oh no! That was the day national translators were due to come in from the bush [Editor: the remote jungle regions of Papua New Guinea] for the Village Checking and Back Translation Course. So what did we do? We switched to Plan B!

We loaded the truck from the Nobonob Training Center with those who came in by PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) along with our Madang PBT staff and helpers and headed on up the hill to Nobonob. With only half of the students and teachers available for the first day of the course, the classes were combined and all the students began translating the five shellbook series ‘How the Jews Live’, which had been scheduled as a Saturday elective. This series of books provides cultural information that will assist the national translators in understanding foreign concepts found in the Bible.

The following day, the rest of the students and teachers arrived at Nobonob, and we were able to split the group into the planned two sessions and proceed with training that will hopefully enable national translators to progress beyond the rough draft stage of translation on their own and improve the quality of the vernacular translations they bring in for consultant checking.”

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Gratitude For Great Helpers

“We are grateful to Wycliffe Bible Translators for renting us their Nobonob Pacific Orientation Course facilities located on a beautiful hilltop location not far from Madang. We were also thankful for them providing meals for some 60 participants for this three week course. Though official plans have been drawn up for PBT’s proposed national translators’ housing in Madang, we do not have space for such a course as this, which involved national translators from nine different language groups. Please pray that sufficient funding will be available to begin construction on this project this fall or early next year.”

[Editor’s Note:  By faith, last year in 2011, the members of our PNG Branch of Pioneer Bible Translators made the decision to go ahead and construct a two-story building in Madang.  This facility will have 10 rooms with two beds each, two family rooms, and two large conference size rooms for teams who are working on Bible translation projects.  Praise God for the funds that have come in to have it mostly paid for.]

“We also rejoice that a former PBT translator was able to come from the U.S. to serve as a mentor for one of the language teams. He and our summer mission interns mentored several language groups. The interns also performed a myriad of other important tasks including a great deal of data entry and presentation of devotional thoughts in Tok Pisin, the trade language of PNG, which all of the language groups present could understand. The interns had worked hard to learn as much Pidgin as they could during their brief stay in PNG villages prior to the course.”

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Farewells & Prayer Concerns

“Our eleven summer interns returned to the USA August 10th, along with one of our Short-term Assistant ladies who oversaw most of the logistical needs for the Branch. Her service this past year has proved invaluable, and with her gone, that will leave a big hole in the operations of our Branch. But we pray some of them will eventually return to serve again with us here in PNG. Please pray with us about this.

Please also be praying:

  • That those who attended the Village Checking and Back Translation Course will be able to put their newly learned skills to good use.
  • For sufficient funds to construct our much needed National Translators’ Housing here in Madang
  • For our summer interns and the Short-term Assistant while they are back in the United States. Continue to pray for God’s guidance as to where and how they will serve Him.
  • For continued success in recruiting new workers to help complete the task of providing God’s Word for the Bible-less peoples of the world. The needs of our mission staff here in PNG are great.”

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[Editor’s Closing Note: there was certainly a lot of logistical details that went into the planning and execution of this program to bring 41 national men and women, and 21 missionaries and summer interns together to have this training course.  Things often go wrong in all that we try to do here in PNG, simply because of the rugged nature of the country and the unpredictability of the weather.

But we have lots to be praising God for now at this point.  We have a good number of national Bible translators who have had some training to get this task done of bringing God’s Word to the people of PNG in the language of their hearts.  It is a slow process and there is much to be done in doing a translation of Scripture as you will see in the next part of this two-part article.

And we also are constantly praising God for all the people who pray for this ministry of Bible translation in PNG, and those who support the work we do financially.  Without their help and God’s sustaining hand, we would not be able to accomplish this task for Him.  Together, we are all a part of a large team who are committed to bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.]

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God Loves Ordinary People – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 2

Every second Saturday of each month this year, I will be writing an article about this book by Max Lucado called, “GOD’S STORY, your story.” The first article per month will be an overview and my reflections on what is in the chapter for that month. The second article will pull out some of the questions from the back of the book. Listen to what Lucado’s intentions are for this section:

This guide is designed to help you reflect on God’s Story, Your Story and take action on the ideas contained in the book, to see how your own story fits into the grand plot of God’s story. Each chapter guide has questions to consider on your own or with a group devoted to discussing the book. Have your Bible handy in order to dig into the Scripture verses noted.       (p. 173)

There are certainly enough thought provoking questions and action points included within each chapter study guide to keep a person or a small group engaged in learning and growing more spiritually. It is not my intention to copy out these entire study guide sections. Rather, I will pick out a few questions from each section and reflect on them in my articles. I pray that you may find my reflections helpful and stimulating to your own spiritual growth.

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Chapter 1: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….

ORDINARY MATTERS

Question #4: Discuss how it might be reassuring that Jesus was “normal” and like you in many ways? How might it be reassuring to know he is unlike you in other ways?

I think what bothers me most about my own Christian walk is the great number of times that I blow it and I do not act in a godly way. This can be simple things like not wanting to talk with the person next to me on the plane, or turning my head away when I see the beggar on the street corner. It’s much more serious when I allow myself to become angry with someone else, when I allow lustful thoughts to dwell in my mind, or I become proud or arrogant.

It’s at these times that I remember that Jesus was just as much a human as I am. I’m sure there must have been times when he was exhausted from all his ministry work that he really didn’t want to see another person. I know that he got upset with the disciples often. And he must have had some struggles as a man in a world that had many attractive women around him.

But we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” And in Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” How wonderful it is to know that Jesus understands exactly what we are going through, and that he can help us get through it.

Question #5: Think about an ordinary person you know who has been a giver of extraordinary grace. What motivated that person?

When I think about someone who was quite ordinary by human standards, but was also a person of great humility and who demonstrated a wonderful spirit of compassion and service to others, I think of my Grandma. At a very young age, Grandma Knight determined that God was calling her to be a missionary to China. She went there in the 1920’s as a single woman, which speaks of her deep commitment to follow God wherever He would lead her.

She married my grandfather while in China, a British man who loved God but who she would say was a bit of a “stuffed shirt with a stiff collar.” But Grandma loved him, and served him well as a missionary wife. And she also served well the many demanding needs of a mission compound up to and through the beginning years of WW 2 over there, before they were recalled to Canada.

Then when my Grandfather became a minister in western Canada, Grandma would faithfully type out his sermons and patiently listen to him practice. They did this for many years. When Granddad died, Grandma continued to serve others by volunteering thousands of hours of service in our Calgary hospitals. And why did she commit her life to such service to God for all these years? Because she loved Jesus and she loved others, and she knew that by putting the love of God into action, others would come to see and know God too.

Question #7: In what ways do you need God to “dwell” with you this week? (See John 1:14)

This may sound bad, but I need an extra measure of God’s grace in this coming week and throughout the next month to really love these national men from Papua New Guinea that I am working with. We are working on the translation of the Gospel of John into their language.

The work of translating the Bible verse-by-verse into another language is very tedious and demanding. Most days, I find it to be a great joy to work with the Papuan people on these translation projects. But there are also many frustrating days where the heat in the room is not just the hot sun beating down; it can be easy after long days to let tempers flare and frustrations stop our progress.

So I ask for all who read this article to say an extra prayer for us as we work on this translation. We are hoping to smooth out a good translation of John in a six week period. Then it will be ready for the last consultant check before being published. Pray that I remember the goal: getting the Word of God into the hands of the people here in PNG.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

We Have Found The Messiah

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John 1:35 – 42

Introducing Others to Jesus

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). [1]

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Our last two articles have focused our study in on John the Baptist.  In this study, we will see the focus shift now from John to Jesus.  In this Gospel, we do not have very many words of John recorded for us, but here we see him repeat once more one of the most important messages that he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  (Read the last article to understand this expression.)

We do not know how long John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness, but we do know that he had gathered some followers who were called “his disciples”.  Now it was time for John to introduce his disciples to Jesus.  And when he identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus.

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That takes a lot courage and humility to pass the spotlight off of yourself to shine on someone else.  It could have been very easy for John to want to hold on to his followers.  But he didn’t.  Actually, it was his own followers who had trouble with this shift.  If we jump ahead to John 3:22 – 36, we see that John’s disciples were jealous of the new attention and success that Jesus was having.  But John’s response in verse 30 is, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

So two of John’s disciples decided that they wanted to become apprentice-pupils of Jesus.  This was the common practice of that day.  If you wanted to advance your knowledge about God and the Jewish Law and Old Testament teachings, you would look for a Rabbi (a learned teacher) and attach yourself to him as a disciple, more literally an apprentice.

These two men spent the whole day with Jesus.  Right up until the late afternoon (4 pm).  It must have been quite exciting to hear Jesus teach, for the very first thing that one of them did, namely Andrew, was to go out to find his brother and tell him that he believed that he had found the Messiah, the man whom God had chosen to save the people.

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The reaction of Andrew is quite a common response for many people when they first encounter Jesus and take Him as the Lord and Saviour of their lives.  There is an excitement and a burning need to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for them in their life.  For those of us who have known Jesus as Lord for a very long time, we may have forgotten what those early moments were like for us.

I still remember though a special night in my life when I was about 14 and was still relatively new in my faith, only two years or less.  My parents took me on a weekend campout to attend a Square Dance rally.  Some people brought their motor homes and campers, others put up large tents to sleep in.  The big dances for the adults were usually in the evenings, which left us kids free to hang out and have fun in the tents together.

Fairly early in the evening, one of the kids asked me something about me going to church, and I responded that yes, I did believe in Jesus and what the Bible had to say.  Well, this generated quite a few questions which I gladly answered.  If I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would take the time to search my Bible to find an appropriate answer.  This spontaneous evangelistic moment and small group Bible study went on through the night until about 3 a.m.  I had never felt so invigorated in my young spiritual life as I did during that night.

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As I reflect back on that night of sharing my faith with about 10 other kids crammed into that tent, I can also see in my mind the same kind of excitement that Andrew must have felt.  We actually do not know much about Andrew in Scripture.  He is kind of one of those silent disciples of Jesus.  But he will forever be known as the one who brought Peter to Jesus.  And we know from Scripture just how much impact Peter had on the beginnings of the early church once Jesus got a hold of his life.

So let me encourage both you and me.  Knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is a wonderful thing.  But introducing others to Jesus is what it is all about.  And who knows what God might do in the life of that person that we lead to Jesus.  Maybe that person will become a modern day Peter.  I pray that would be so.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:35–42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

The Life of a Bible Translator

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What Life Looks Like for a Bible Translator In Papua New Guinea

[Editor’s Note:  The missionary in this story is a very good friend of mine and is one of the most gifted linguists and Bible translator that I know. She is not a large woman, but she really knows how to take care of herself out in the deep jungles of PNG.  She has been known to stay out at her remote village for up to six months or possibly longer at a time.  As you read her accounts of these few days, extend that out over a few months period, and imagine that many days look exactly like this.  Enjoy the article.]

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“That section heading says, ‘He put good [healed] the mother-in-law of Jesus and Peter. That’s not right is it?” said the preacher at the checking session. I had come back to the section heading because I was uncomfortable with having Peter as the name in the section heading and Simon as the name in the text, an approach used by some translations to help the reader understand that Peter and Simon are the same person.

I had almost forgotten to ask about the section heading, but I was definitely thankful that I felt compelled to go back and check it. Thankfully the translation problem was solved by adding a subject marker between the two names. They also decided to say “Simon” rather than “Peter”. After that was corrected, I breathed a sigh of relief because I definitely did not want Jesus to have a mother-in-law due to a grammatically ambiguous construction – a reading of the text that I would never have even considered.

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This was one of many interesting translation “bloopers” that we encountered as we checked the book of Mark, which is the first book of the Bible translated in the second dialect of the language I am working in. These last two months have been packed to overflowing with translation and literacy activities. The last check of Mark was completed in a remote village where we lived for a week in a house without walls and bathed in the muddy river (though I sometimes skipped the pleasure of going up and down the steep muddy bank to the river and hoping to come out cleaner than when I started).

While I was in checking sessions, my co-worker and some visitors from the USA who are considering the Bible translation ministry were busy collecting firewood, hauling water from a cleaner stream that was a long walk from the village, and cooking over an open fire. Without their encouragement and hard work, I would have lost a lot more weight than I did during that week of eating bananas, pumpkins and other garden produce in addition to some Western style food.

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On 8 January those three younger folks got up at 3:30 AM, hiked for several hours in the dark crossing log bridges and arrived shortly after dawn just in time for the baptizing of 34 men and women at a neighboring village. Praise God with me for these new Christians. Please pray that these young Christians will grow in their knowledge of God and be able to withstand a whole new set of Western-style temptations that they are facing as the Sogeram River area becomes more accessible to the outside world.

After a week of translation checking during which the river was relatively low, we clearly saw God’s answer to our prayers as the river rose several feet over night. As a result, we were able reach the bridge where the road crosses the river by 10:30 AM after only 4 hours of traveling by boat.

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After hauling all of the supplies to a village near the river, we only had to wait a few hours for a ride into town in the back of a small uncovered truck. During the ride in the crowded vehicle we were only rained on for about 30 minutes – almost a welcome relief from the hot sun.

We arrived in town about 3:30 and I was more than ready to take a hot shower and put on some clean clothes. My days of real “jungle” living are definitely numbered, but the checking session at this village was so good that I am hoping to repeat the same experience next year if we can complete the preparation work on Jude and Titus by the end of the year.

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Life “in the bush” as we say, is so radically different from the comfortable lives that we can live in North America.  Our missionary above speaks about sleeping in houses without walls (good for cool breezes, not so good for the mosquitoes, rats, flies, lizards and snakes that can come inside.)

She mentions cooking over open fires, hauling dirty water from quite a distance, having to walk many hours along the jungle trails, fording rivers and then having to endure the vagaries of the weather (which usually means you end up getting drenched in a downpour).

So why are all of us Bible translators ready and willing to live in conditions just these of my colleague, or worse?  Well, notice the joy that the co-worker and the visitors had when they got to the end of their hours long jungle trek?  They witnessed the 34 baptisms and celebrated in their new life in God.

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And for my missionary lady friend, these checking sessions are very rewarding.  And as she sees the national people really grasp God’s Truth in their heart language, she has already decided to commit to repeating these intense experiences again in the next year.

That my friend is what missionary work is all about: being willing to give up all [comfortable] things in order that we might be able to present the Gospel Truth about Christ, and that others might believe.

A Little Piece of Paradise

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Bitter Sweet Memories

Here I am, looking out my window at the luscious velvety green rolling hills of the Aiyura Valley up in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  There are some puffy white clouds sitting lazily within the gorgeous blue skies above.  I am once more living here, if only briefly, in what I consider to be one of the truly peaceful little places of Paradise here on earth.

Those were the thoughts I had while I was at the mission base again up in the highlands of PNG.  I was doing the translation consultant check on the Gospel of John for one of the language groups there.  The missionary couple that work in that project are friends of ours and are also fellow Canadians.  They graciously opened their home for me to live with them for the three weeks that we worked together.

In that quiet moment, I thought back over the many years that I have come and gone and done mission work here in PNG.  And especially when I have been at this highlands base and get reflective, I see all the good times, and the not so good times.  But in all of these times, God has been there.  Allow me now to share some of these with you.

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The PBT mission house is located in one of the corners of the center where it is a sharp dip down from one of the more major roads to our side road area.  The roads are not paved, so they are dusty and bumpy when it is dry, but muddy clay and slick when it rains.  That does not phase the children here though as they play their various games on the center whether on the grass sides or on the rock-strewn dirt roads.

We will never forget that one day our son Glen decided to try to ride one of those stand up foot scooters down the steep curving road near the PBT house where we were.  I think he would have been fine, except for the anxious shout from Jill who said, “You be careful son!”  That is when he looked up and the front wheel hit a rock.  Glen went flying off the scooter and landed on his chest and slid down the road.  Oh, we wish he had been wearing a T-shirt that day.  Yowwee!!  Gravel and skin are not a good mix.

I also remember the times that I was done my work and Eric was nearby and it just felt like having a “father-son” moment.  We would go across the lower road to a little grassy knoll that overlooked the beautiful valley.  We would talk about nothing and everything, whatever seemed to be the most important thing to talk about that day.  And we connected in a powerful way in that place of quiet and peace.

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And then came the fateful day in 2002.  Eric had found a place for himself in the International School there on center.  He had presented a good case for leaving the village and starting his Grade 7 up there and to live in one of the Youth Hostels.  He had made some friends, and he felt like that was where he belonged.  The other three of us in the family had gone up there to spend some time with Eric before we went back down to the village where I would continue the Bible translation work.

But a nagging string of little illnesses caused us enough concern that we had Eric checked one more time.  The blood work looked suspicious and we suddenly found ourselves packing up overnight and heading to Brisbane, Australia instead of to the village.  It turned out that Eric did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which sent us all on a three year road of chemotherapy treatments.

But God had not abandoned us.  Just like we quickly picked up Glen after his wipe out and tenderly treated his bruises and scrapes, we saw over those cancer years some wonderful ways that God sent us encouraging letters and prayers from others and gave us special moments for Eric that were only made possible because of his illness.  No, God does not abandon us, but He may change the path we are on.

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And I thought that was what was happening for me when God opened the door in 2007 for me to return to the mission base to get the training to become a Bible translation consultant.  I was so thrilled to be involved again with language projects, and this time I would help with the last check to be done before a book of Scripture goes to be published.

But immediately following my first trip to do consultant work in Feb. ’08, my own disease hit me and I have not been able to walk since then without experiencing pain and fatigue.  I thought my time of Bible translation work was finished when this hit me.  But I could never have been so wrong.  This is now the sixth time in four years that I have come back to PNG to do the consultant checking of a Bible translation project.

I don’t know why I feel that this mission base seems to be just a little closer to God than in other places.  I just know that it does.  And even though my family has experienced many bumps and bruises, and even life-threatening diseases which have been partly connected to this center, I still know that God is with us and loves us.  Maybe that is the point.  Through thick or thin, good or bad, God is still God and His loving kindness is always there.  We just need to open our eyes sometimes to see it.

Jesus Is The Lamb of God

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John 1:29 – 34

“Behold The Lamb of God”

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”[1]

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There certainly were a number of things that were unusual about John the Baptist.  We know from the other Gospel accounts that John wore strange clothes (made out of camel’s hair) and he ate strange food (locusts and wild honey).  And then he was out in the wilderness for quite some time announcing, “Repent of your sins, for the Kingdom of God has come near,” and was baptizing people as a sign of their repentance.

And then Jesus arrived on the scene.  And what did John say: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  What an interesting saying.  And then note how John mentions that he had not known Jesus and who he truly was until God revealed it to him.  In fact, he says that the primary reason that God had called him to be an evangelist in the desert was for the very purpose of being able to identify Jesus as the Lamb of God.

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What does that mean, “Lamb of God”?  To appreciate the depth of meaning of this expression, we would have to go back and read much of the Old Testament.  It was made clear by God to the Israelite people as far back as their time of bondage in Egypt that they would be saved only if a lamb, a pure lamb, were killed and the blood of the lamb be put on the doorposts of their homes.  (Read Exodus 12:1 – 29.)

Over the many hundreds of years since God sent Moses to rescue the nation of Israel, each year at Passover the Jews would kill a lamb and eat the meat to remind them of God’s great salvation.  It was a great reminder of God’s love for His people.  But whether it was the lamb killed during the Passover, or the goats and rams killed on the Day of Atonement (sacrifices made to bring forgiveness of sins for the people), they knew that this was still just a temporary reprieve from the guilt of their sins.

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But there was still the hope and the promise that one day God would send a Deliverer who would rescue people for all time from their sins.  And that promise became real for John when he baptized Jesus.  John saw the Holy Spirit come down on Jesus and confirm for him that Jesus would be the One who would take away our sins once and for all.

Now speaking of the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus, I want to look at that for a moment.  Notice that it says the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven “like a dove”.  It does not say that the Holy Spirit was a dove.  And yet we have this picture of the Holy Spirit as a dove gently fluttering down and sitting on Jesus’ shoulder.  That is not the image I see.

We know that when people have God’s Spirit, it comes and fills them and empowers them to do whatever God leads them to do.  Whether it is Samson, David, Elijah, early Christians or you and me, Scripture talks about “being filled with God’s Spirit” and with this comes the power of God. Whatever John saw, I do think that it came down gently “like a dove” but I kind of imagine that it was much greater than our image which came down and then filled Jesus with the power He would need for the ministry that lay before Him.

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So as I look at these verses in John, I see a couple powerful theological truths here.  Let us not miss the fact that this passage gives us support for the idea of the Trinity.  We know that God (the Father) had sent John and spoken to him concerning Jesus (the Son) who would come, and upon whom the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) would descend.  A divine incomprehensible truth for us humans, and yet it is still a Truth of Scripture.

Secondly, we see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry begin in humble submission to John’s baptism (which He says in Matthew 3:15 was really submission to doing all that God requires of men).  But we also see that He will go forward filled and empowered by God’s Spirit for what lies ahead.  And ultimately His life and death and resurrection will prove, as John says here in verse 34, that in fact, Jesus is really the Son of God.

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And what does this passage do for us?  It prepares us for all that will come in the rest of this Gospel.  But remember, this is not to be just an intellectual pursuit of knowing about the life of Jesus.  It should be preparing us to know Him better as our God and as Saviour, the Lamb of God who would die us.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:29–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

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