What It Takes To Check Translated Scriptures

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This week I am to start the consultant checking of Mborena Kam books of James and Jude.  These happen to be a couple of the hardest books in the New Testament to translate, as there are many places where we really do not know what exactly they are talking about.  That is where commentaries are so helpful.

These two books will be the last books of the NT to check for the Mborena Kam.  Praise God for that.  I think it should only take us about 3 days or so to check the 108 verses.  Then I want to work with the team to help them start to pick maps for the back of the Bible, such as Paul’s three missionary journeys, and a map of the Middle East during the time of Jesus.  Then I want them to choose Bible illustrations for culturally difficult passages.

    

Take Mark 1:6 as an example, where someone might ask “What is a camel?”  This is important, because John clothed himself in the “hairs of the camel” and so we put a picture of a camel in the text.  Then the team needs to choose a phrase in the Tok Ples (their village language) that helps to describe what the picture is all about.

Another task that I hope to do with the Mborena Kam in this two week period is to work with them on running all of the Scriptural “Checking Tools” which we have.  We are so fortunate to live in this day and age where we have so many powerful computer programs which can assist us in our work in tremendous ways.

I will ask the team to “Run the Basic Checks”.  These checks look at such things as “Are quotation marks being used consistently throughout the NT.”  Often they will find the errors where there is an opening quotation, but they cannot find a closed quotation marker.  And so the verse is marked with a “Missing Component” mark.  Other basic checks are the use of punctuation, Capitalization, paired words, etc.  You’d be amazed at how many times there was an extra space put between the last word of a sentence and the punctuation that closes the sentence.

    

In addition to spending many hours reading the book verse by verse, holding discussions as to whether something has been added in that should not have been, or something has been left out that needs to be put back in, we often need to do what is called  comprehension checking.  This is where the consultant (me for example) writes up hundreds of notes and questions to ask the team, and waits then to find out what kind of response they will get to the consultant’s question.

Some questions are usually simple ones, comprehension questions, like “Where did Jesus go, was it upstream or downstream.”  (This directional sense is very important in many language groups.)  Some questions simply deal with missing information.  It is not that difficult while one does translation work that your eyes get tired, and they can skip ahead in a verse and leave something out.  These errors are easy to find and fix.

    

There are other more complex issues to deal with, such as when some extra-biblical material has been added to the text.  Does this material get deleted, simply because we do not find that these words are not found in the original Greek documents.  What we have to realize though, is that these documents of the Bible were written by men from within one ancient cultural world and world view that many of the people to whom they were written, already shared the same culture and worldview.

That leaves the Scriptures to be wide open with misunderstanding for people today, since the understood, implicit information that  the 1st Century Jews and Christian would have, is not understood by us.  And so there are many places where we take this culturally understood implicit information and we bring it up to the surface and make it explicitly clear for any reader of any time or culture.

We also check for consistency among verses with similar wording, and we also look at how consistently the people are using special Key Terms, like priest, Sabbath, temple, prophet, etc.  In many cases, these key terms can be translated in identical ways.  But this will not be the case in many times, since context and work usage is so important.

When the word is used as a subject of the sentence, or the object of the sentence, or has some aspect of possession of another item, then many languages use special suffixes or prefixes to show how the work is being used grammatically.  We need to keep an eye on sentence syntax and grammar to know if the word is spelled right, and is fulfilling its purpose within the sentence.

    

There are just so many aspects involved in trying to produce the very best translation that is accurate to the original languages of the Bible (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), that has gone through translation principles to make it flow in natural village language style, and most importantly, that the message is clear to all those who hear it in their own mother-tongue language.

So please be praying for me and the Mborena Kam team as we finish the last official consultant checked books for their New Testament.  But we are not done yet.  Pray for us as we work through all of the other tools and checks to make sure no Scriptural errors have made it into the final form of their Bible.

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Love, Obedience and Joy Go Together

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John 15:1 – 17

As I studied this passage, I was fascinated by how there seemed to be a repetition in what Jesus was saying to His disciples, that what He said in verses 1-8 were echoed or expanded in verses 9-17.  This really should not come as a great surprise though, for we must remember that chapters 13 to 17 of John’s Gospel all took place on the last evening that Jesus spent with His disciples before He was crucified.

If you or I knew that we were just about to die, then I’m sure that we too would want to be very clear to our family and friends that they hear and understand our last wishes.  And to make sure that they really heard us, we too would probably repeat the most important parts again to them.  It seems to me that this is what Jesus did.  And to help see this, I have paired the verses together from the two halves.  Jesus said:

1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.

Both God the Father, and God the Son love you and I very much.  God tenderly cares for us as the Master of a beautiful garden.  It is a love relationship that ties us to God and God to us, and we must choose to remain in that relationship to experience His love.

    

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

Here we see that love and obedience go together.  Jesus modeled for us what obedience to God looked like, and showed that this is the path to experiencing God’s love.   When we truly love God, we desire to obey Him.  If we refuse to live in obedience to Him though, God will remove His watch care over us, and may allow painful events (pruning) to shape our lives to bring about positive growth in our lives.

    

You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

As Christians, we must allow Christ to rule completely in our lives.  And we establish and maintain this relationship through regularly spending time in the Bible, God’s Word.  As we drink in the riches of His Word, we will experience such tremendous joy in connecting and communing with God.

    

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

All that we think we accomplish in this world mean nothing though in the light of eternity.  We need to pursue actions that have eternal significance, such as loving God and others, even as the cost of our own lives.  God will reserve our reward for us in heaven which will never be destroyed.

    

Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

All of us begin as broken, sin corrupted people whom God cannot tolerate in his holy presence.  We all deserve to be cast into the fires of hell.  But then God showed His love by sending Jesus to become one of us.  And Jesus showed His love by taking the punishment for our sin.  He then elevates us, who believe in Him, from being slaves to sin to becoming children of God and brothers and sisters to Christ.  Praise God for His great love.

    

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

When we make that choice of accepting Jesus as the Lord of our lives, the things that He wants become the things that we want.  We begin to know God’s mind on important matters, and so when we ask for things from God, it is not out of our own selfishness that we ask, but rather a desire to see the Kingdom of God advance in the world.  Therefore, what we ask for will already be within the will of God and He will naturally want to give us those things that we are praying and asking for.

    

When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

17 This is my command: Love each other.

The final result is that we will be true disciples, that is, as we follow Jesus, we will become like Jesus, and this will bring honor to God.  In practical terms, we will love others just like Jesus loves others, and was willing to die to demonstrate the love of God to the world.  Wow!!  What deep truths are contained within this passage.

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New Territory For God’s Word In South Asia

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In this article, I want to share with you a story about a missionary who conducted a linguistic and anthropological survey through a region of South Asia where the “Bimble” people live.  Come along and experience what it is like to reach into new territory for God and learn, as this author said, “The whole trip was an experience in Almighty God’s ability to overcome all the problems that come our way. It started out as any trip to South Asia usually does, long hours in the air, stomach troubles, and the blazing heat. But then things got interesting with map, phone, and personnel issues.”

                                

“Maps of the area where the Bimble live are not exactly the best. In fact you can call them abysmal and not be wrong. Road and villages are not shown unless they happen to be right on or connected to the “national highway” (I use that term in the most liberal sense). So David had to figure out a way to create a map of his trip.

He found a great program that would work on a cell phone and created roads on Google maps, tracked the locations he visited, and roads he travelled. With this and the help of a local doctor friend, he was able to find villages where he could do his survey. Unfortunately, the phone David had would not work on his Mac so he had to travel several hours to get a phone that would work.

Once he had the phone, it did worked well and was even used in the survey to play some sound clips for the participants. We hope that we can use the map to help other workers in the area to find the villages that David visited. “

    

“Regrettably, David had some trouble finding surveyors to work with him. It should not have been a problem except that the people that were supposed to help him cancelled just before he arrived and he had to find new people (one just got married and the other was in charge of testing that week). The first replacement he found seemed perfect, until they had to suddenly leave to the capital.

With only days to go David now had no team and he needed to find four new people. The lady that was leaving to the capital found three replacements. Then our friend in the Jowai Jacen D’Cannith (a fellow linguist, whom we could not have done this survey without) found us one more local person and he was training her.

The wonderful thing was that in the end the four (later five) replacements were excellent choices since they even had family and friends among the Bimble that were able to help David in the survey. Just shows you that as always the Lord Almighty knew what He was doing.”

    

“While training the new team, David learned a bit about how things work in South Asia. For example, time works differently there. If you tell someone to come at 0900 sharp, you can expect them at anytime from 9ish to noon. And that South Asians learn a bit differently then people in the West. Not worse or better just different. Though frustrating, this allowed him to understand the people far better and prepared not only the surveyors but him as well for the next few weeks.

In Jowai, they started their work on a local festival day and were able to use this as a way to meet people and get some surveys done. The local surveyor’s family and friends were enough to get the rest. The festival was interesting; it was like a massive game of football (the kicking kind not the American throwing version) with a ton of people.

Two neighbourhoods’ teams competed and the stakes were high. According to local beliefs, the side that scored the most got the blessings of the gods for the year. It was quite a sight, people hanging off walls and roofs to watch the game below being played in the slick muddy street by barefoot people falling all over themselves. Great fun!”

    

“Other villages were just as interesting but in different ways. In one they were welcomed by the headman but told they only had an hour to do the interviews since school needed to start in the building they were using. After David explained they would not be able to do it that quickly because they needed to interview about 20 people, the headman helped them move over to the market place he was constructing.

He later helped them go to the other side of the village where they were all followers of the Lord Almighty. It seems that in his village the two groups are split and each has their own headman. But they seem to get along so it was not a problem (David learned that was far more common than we had known before).

Later that week one of best surveyors started loosing her voice so David trained the driver of the Jeep to do the survey. It was a good thing he did that since she totally lost her voice the next day and could not come with them. The driver did a great job. In the end, things went well and David got the data he needed.

However, the most striking thing about this survey trip for David and his team as they travelled through villages and met people was that the people there had never heard about God in their own language. They had always been told that to learn things you have to know Rustar not Bimble. The only book in Bimble is a treatise on the local animist religion and it is hugely popular. Think what an impact The Lord Almighty’s Words in Bimble could have in this area.”

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God’s Word Comes To The Yalunka People

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Praise God for a Completed Translation of the Entire Bible

[Editor’s Note: Pioneer Bible Translators recently celebrated a significant milestone in our mission history.  PBT sent its first two missionary family over to Papua New Guinea back in 1976.  Thirty seven years later, the first completely translated Bible into the local people’s language occurred in West Africa among the Yalunka people group.  The story below comes from a woman who was there and made incredible observations throughout the Day of Dedication.  I know you will enjoy this story.]

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I was there as an observer. Up until this point, my closest tie to the Yalunka people was the many prayers I offered on their behalf and the numerous stories I heard about them from our president, Greg Pruett. Now I was privileged beyond words to witness these stories take on flesh before my very eyes as the Word of God came to life among them.

My eyes scanned the crowd of Yalunka men and women, hoping to absorb every snapshot of this historic moment – the dedication of the complete Bible in their language. It was actually the little things that stood out to me.

First there was the man who accepted the gift of a Bible with unbridled joy on his face. He didn’t glance up from the Word for the next 15 minutes or so, opening the book and immediately beginning to read. He then struck up conversations with those around him, pointing to the text and smiling. Although I couldn’t hear or understand his words, my heart sung with the realization, “He is Bible-less no more!”

Then there were the children, so curious about the many westerners who showed up for this momentous day. They were eager to hold my hands, have their picture taken and catch my attention with a smile. They are the first generation of Yalunka children to grow up with access to God’s Word in their language. As their parents become acquainted with and transformed by Scripture, so too, will they.

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I watched the Yalunka church leaders unload the boxes of Bibles in front of the crowd and set them down reverently on the table. They methodically passed them out to each group of visitors according to the size of the church in their area. Some men received one or two; others were given entire boxes of Bibles to take home with them.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, I choked up as these same men lifted the boxes to their shoulders and carried them off from the meeting place. I imagined the rejoicing of the saints waiting at home as the Bibles were delivered and could almost hear the sound of pages turning in church on Sunday as the pastor preached from the Yalunka Bible instead of the French.

I then observed one of our veteran missionaries open the Book, awe etched on the canvas of her face. I almost felt like an intruder on her private expression of praise for this long awaited day. She served for years as a literacy specialist among the Yalunka people, daily laboring to teach them to read so they could take ownership of the Scriptures once they were available. She placed her hand palm down on the pages of this Holy Book, closed her eyes and raised her head heavenward. The reverence in her countenance sang with mine, “They are Bible-less no more!”

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Finally, my eyes caught sight of a woman standing in the back of the crowd, pulling her ear and looking intently at the ground below. As she dropped down on all fours to look for her earring, I saw Scripture played out before me – the vision of another woman sweeping her entire house in search of a lost coin (Luke 15:8). In that moment, I heard the whispers of the Father, “I am searching for every lost Yalunka soul – every…single…one.”

As songs were sung in praise to God, as introductions of visitors from far away were made, as sermons were delivered and prayers prayed, my love and appreciation grew for the worldwide team who enabled this ministry among these beautiful people. We always describe the ministry of Pioneer Bible Translators as a team ministry, but the reality of this was never clearer to me than at that moment. God accomplished this work – our first completed Bible – through a team of missionaries, support personnel, donors and prayer warriors who each made sacrifices to see God’s Kingdom expand.

Together we look forward to the day when a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10). On that day, none present will be mere observers, but full participants in the coming of His glory.

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Prayer Requests

  • The Yalunka people now have the complete Bible in their mother tongue. Pray that these recently dedicated Bibles will be widely used. Pray that lives will be transformed.
  • We serve among 11 other people groups in this region whose Bible translations are in various stages of completion. Pray that the continuing work of our missionaries and national translators will be fruitful.
  • 
Our West Africa team has a critical shortage of administrative personnel. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send the right administrators and managers to serve here.

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Glimpses Of God In Papua New Guinea

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Pioneer Bible Translators’ missionaries have lived and served among the Aruamu since the mid-1980s. The people now have the New Testament in their language and the missionary translator who helped to see that happen is now working on the Old Testament with several national men whom she has trained to help insure the translation clearly communicates the meaning of the original Hebrew in a way the people would say it.

Last August, Pioneer Bible Translators’ Church Relations Director, Wendy Beerbower, went to help the missionary for a month doing whatever she and the national co-translators needed her to do so they could spend more time focused on the holy task of Bible translation. Below are some excerpts from the report Wendy wrote after returning home: She entitled it, “Glimpses of God.

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Through Prayer
He works at the Christian Bookstore next to the Pioneer Bible Translators’ office in Madang.  He’s young, short, slim, quiet, has a big smile and expressive eyes.  When he opened the meeting with prayer, I was blown away.  This man knew how to worship God!  “Alpha, Omega, one who sits on the throne,” he began in a soft voice.  “Exalted Father, Holy One, Creator of heaven and earth,” he continued, more strongly.  “The one who provides for us…”  He went on and on for several minutes, worshiping God, speaking more enthusiastically and loudly as he continued.  He moved on to confession, more quietly now:  “We humble ourselves before you Exalted Father, we are unworthy…forgive us…”  He eventually ended his time with the Lord.

I NEVER would have expected that prayer from this young Papua New Guinean man.  I had never before been taken before God’s throne in such an amazing way.  It’s wonderful to worship with brothers and sisters from different cultures.  How much I have to learn from them.

Through Worship
As one of the national translators led the translation team in worship this morning, I thought, “There will be many people from this language group worshipping around the throne in heaven!  They will be there!”  Revelation 7:9 is being fulfilled already for them as they worship God now.  “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

Through Work
Who could have known that after one week I would feel this way?  I had just sat in on a translation “checking session.”  Eighteen translators and checkers are going over the Psalms they have just translated into their language.  This check is to verify that the national translators’ rough draft accurately portrays what the Scriptures say.  The man who had translated this particular Psalm read his draft out loud. 

Then the translation consultant who had come to check it, and who had Bibles in three languages on his lap, asked the checkers (those new to the text) some questions to ensure that the passage was understood correctly.  The checkers answered his questions and were all intently discussing, answering, writing down notes or changes on their copies.  It was a beautiful thing to see–they were so intent on getting it right, just right. 

I barely know these guys and yet I love them!  I love them because they love God’s Word and they want to see the Old Testament completed in their language.  I love them because they are serious about the work.  I love them because they are my brothers in Christ.  It brought tears to my eyes to see such a committed team.  They want the translation to say what God wants it to say–nothing more, nothing less.

Through Commitment
It hadn’t rained in two months.  The gardens were extremely dry, but today, it poured for a number of hours.  It was a good soaking rain, the kind that would allow the men to turn their gardens tomorrow.

Understand that these aren’t just any gardens.  These are subsistence farmers – they live off the land.  If they don’t plant gardens, they don’t eat.  Once a garden is planted, they must care for it until harvest.  In the meantime, they slash and burn off another plot of land to prepare another garden, so that they can continue to grow and harvest food all year for their families.  This is their livelihood.

But the next day, instead of going to work in their gardens, eighteen men showed up to continue with the Psalms checking sessions in which they’d been participating all week.  Their commitment level was amazing.  Instead of going to their gardens to plant future food for their own families, they were here translating and checking God’s Word, preparing eternal food for their whole language group of 10,000.  Truly, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

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[Editor’s Note: It will be my privilege to work with these same men next month (March 4-15) to check their book of Exodus, chapters 1-24.  And then I will work with them again from April 22-May 17 to help check their work on Psalms 119-150.  It is exciting to work with a group that now has the New Testament in their heart language and now is working on trying to complete the entire Bible in that language.  Pray that God’s Word will continue to work at transforming this people group here in PNG.]

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A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

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In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

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In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 3

In Chapter Two of “GOD’S STORY, your story,” Max Lucado reminds us of how dangerous our true enemy is, whom we call “Satan”. Lucado gives us an overview of the great battle that occurred in the Judean desert so long ago between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is tempted to “look out for number one” (to turn stones into bread because He was hungry).

Then Satan encourages Jesus to show off His great powers and impress the religious people by jumping off the Temple pinnacle and having thousands of angels swoop in and rescue Him. And finally, Satan tries to bribe Jesus by offering to Him all the riches of the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.

But as Lucado says, “Satan just showed his cards. He wants worship. He wants you and me to tell him how great he is. He wants to write his own story in shich he is the hero and God is an afterthought.” (p. 50)

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What Lucado does very well in this chapter, is to give us a clear of how devious Satan is, and how much we must remain on guard against all of his crafty schemes and strategies to tear us away from God. In fact, as Lucado points out, the root word for “devil” which is a character trait of Satan carries within it the idea of “splitter” or “divider”. And he will use any means possible to do just that, keep us divided and separated from God.

This all reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ most famous best seller books called, “The Screwtape Letters.” In this book, the main character is Uncle Wormword, one of the senior demons of Satan, who (fictitiously) wrote letters to his much junior demon Screwtape, who happened to be his nephew.

What is fascinating about Lewis’ book is that he suggests that some of the best strategies of Satan are not the all-out-frontal attacks that we might expect. But rather, Satan often succeeds the best if we end up being complacent about our spirituality and do nothing to pursue a relationship with God. But if Satan must step in, he will use such sly tactics as materialism, self-centered egos, or just plain old busyness of life.

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Listen to how Lucado points out these very same thoughts on pages 42 – 43:

Distraction would work better. I hate spiritual focus. When you or one like you gazes intently on God for any length of time, you begin to act like Him. A nauseating sense of justice and virtue comes over you. You talk to God, not just once a week, but all the time. Intolerable.

So I’d perch myself on every corner and stairwell of your world, clamouring for your attention. I’d flood you with e-mails and to-do lists. Entice you with shopping sprees and latest releases and newest styles. Burden you with deadlines and assignments.

If I were the devil, I’d so distract you with possessions and problems that you’d never have time to read the Bible.

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I believe this last sentence of the quote above should be sounding an alarm for all of us who are believers in Christ. If we think that there is no time in our lives to read God’s word on a regular basis, then our lives are out of balance with what is truly important. Even worse, if any of us think we don’t need to be reading God’s Word as part of our daily and weekly lives, then Satan will find it that much more easy to bend us to his will, rather than God’s Word bending us to God’s will.

Here, let’s get even more clear and specific about who we are up against. Scripture describes Satan in the following ways (quoted from pages 45 – 46):

Serpent (Genesis 3:14; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)            Enemy (Matthew 13:25, 39)
Tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)               Father of Lies (John 6:44)
Evil One (Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13 – 14)                Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)
Dragon (Revelation 12:7, 9; 20:2)                               Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:5)
Prince of Demons (Mark 3:22)

These are only some of the names that are used to describe what Satan is like. I’m sure we can find much more in Scripture to tell us just exactly who our true spiritual enemy is.

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So what is the point of all this discussion? Namely this: if we are to really understand how the story of our lives fit into the bigger story of God’s life, then we need to also realize that while we are in this life, and this world, Satan too is a part of that picture. We should not be taken by surprise as much as we are when bad and terrible things happen. There is an author behind all this — Satan.

What we need to do is to follow the example that Jesus gave to us when He faced off with Satan in the wilderness. We must be confident of who God is. We must continually be reading God’s Word and putting it into our hearts so that we have the spiritual tools to fight back against Satan. And we must trust that God can and will bring us through these times of spiritual wilderness experiences as well as the spiritual battles that come our way in life.

An excellent preacher I know has said that research into spirituals habits show that reading the Bible up to three times a week shows little improvement in the overall wellbeing of a person (emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise). But those who read the Bible on average four times a week or more, have better marriages, families, church experiences, general health and success in business. So what are you waiting for. Get out your Bibles, turn to God, and resist Satan and his ways. He is the Enemy.

[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.

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.

Bible Translation Team Work In Africa

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[Editor’s Note: the couple in this newsletter had only been in their country for a few months, and yet you will read how quickly they get very involved in the work.  This tells us two things: a) the people in East Africa are very spiritually hungry to see the Bible translated into their own mother-tongue, and 2) this article shows that there is so much work to be done, but not enough workers to get all this work done.  And that is a good reason to be in prayer. ]

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Our Lives At A Glance This Month.

We have completed three weeks of consultant checking for Romans and Galatians in 10 languages.  Two expert consultants guided us through these books as we assisted translators in making necessary changes to their drafts to be consistent with the original Greek and maintain understandability.

We have also just been a part of our first branch meeting and we were so encouraged by the unity of our team and where God is directing this work.  During the meeting, we took on responsibilities for doing exegetical checking in two of the languages in the cluster. This along with our other current responsibilities will keep us quite busy! 

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PBT partners with another Bible translation organization here in East Africa which is responsible for training national translators. We will be teaching in this annual training which takes place this August after which we will be involved in another consultation. We have much to do to prepare for these events!

We have recently lost some financial commitments. We now have commitments for 81% of our budget goals. This does not jeopardize our ability to stay on the field but remaining at this level will limit our ministry opportunities in the future.  Please pray with us that God will continue to meet all our needs here on the field.

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No Condemnation

One of the amazing aspects of our job includes digging into God’s word on almost every level imaginable, from the grammatical to the theological. For two weeks we delved into the book of Romans doing our best to understand the meaning of the text and guide translators in making tough decisions about how to render certain terms and ideas in their language. 

The book of Roman exposes the Law for what it is – inadequate to save us because of our sin. And as chapter 8 says, “what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”  And because of this, there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! This is the life-saving, freedom-giving message that people are waiting to hear and read in a language that speaks to their hearts. Praise God that very soon the people represented by these ten languages will have access to these words of truth!

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A Team Effort

We are so privileged to be a part of an ever-growing team! This team includes fellow PBT missionaries serving in various areas of literacy, Bible translation and Scripture use, support personnel who see to our logistical needs, nationals who work to take care of our homes and facilities so that we are freed up to do translation work.

It also includes a partnering organization which facilitates many of the steps in the translation process, national translators, exegetes, as well as members of each language community who read and review the translations. This task could not be carried out without all of these individuals and what an awesome pleasure to see our team act as the body of Christ with each member exercising his or her own gifts.

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We have begun to settle into our roles serving as exegetes for two of the languages in the cluster and possibly a third in the future. My wife is also working in the area of linguistic analysis and I offer my talents as a ‘techie’ and musician to meet branch needs.

Still we retain the role of ‘learner’ as we continue in our language and culture learning. Please pray for our team, for unity, for exponential impact as we work together, for the binding of Satan as he would love to render us ineffective through division and for us as we continue to negotiate our roles in the team.

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What a great story!  There is no doubt that this couple are excited about what they are doing in their ministry work for the Lord there in East Africa.  And by reading this story, you can see that there is a lot involved in getting the Bible translated into another language.  It also takes a lot of team work as you can see from what they wrote.

In a week from now, I will share a portion of another story that this couple wrote which speaks more about this annual training program that PBT is a part of which helps to equip nationals to also become Bible translators.  God is doing great things through people like these missionaries.  And He is also doing fantastic things through the national men and women who are partners together with us in this global task of getting God’s Word into the hands of all people in their heart language.

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