Serving The Lord In 2012

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Our Work For The Lord

To sum up what I did from January to April of last year, you could say I checked, checked and checked some more.  I had the privilege to work a friend of mine from our sister organization (SIL) on half of their Gospel of John in a Gulf Province language.  The preparation I did for their project came in handy as I then did the Advisor checking of John for the Akukem team in Madang.

To say that there were a number of challenges when we worked on the book of John for this second group would be quite an understatement.  Incomplete back translations, a late start date, uncertainty on who will arrive and work on which team, a potentially serious inter-clan conflict, and a dead hard drive are just a few of the exciting things we had to deal with.  As many would say, “Welcome to PNG.”

The men were very good to work with though once we got down to the business of checking the Scriptures, verse-by-verse-by-verse-by-verse.  You get the idea.  Including a brief break in the middle while I did more clean up work, it took us six long weeks to go through the entire book.  Our minds and bodies were worn out for sure, but our spirits rejoiced when we could say, “It is finished.”  We could pass the book along in pretty good shape for the final consultant check.

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The last consultant project I worked on in April was the book of Daniel for a third language group.  Believe it or not, it felt like a breeze after the long grueling sessions on John.  In fact, we checked all of Daniel in just a week and a half.  There were a number of “ahhhs” and “ohhhs” and widened eyes as we worked through the apocalyptic material, but the translation was good, and we all got a greater appreciation for the power and majesty of God who rules over nations and kingdoms.

Whenever I was doing consultant checking, Jill helped in the office and the publishing department.  She was able to help prepare questions for the E-1 curriculum which will help teachers to prepare lessons for their own vernacular preschool and Grades 1-2 education program.  She also helped with some Paratext coding for one of our completed New Testament projects, and then assisted me when I became fatigued or needed help with daily tasks around the house where we stayed.

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Then it was time to go back home to Canada.  I made the assumption that “home” would be warm when I got back to Calgary at the beginning of May.  Wrong!!  Oh well, it is Canada after all.  Jill and I celebrated our 28th anniversary on May 11th, and we decided that it would be nice to take a car ride out to the mountains, which are just an hour west of Calgary.  We had barely left the city limits when we both exclaimed, “It’s Spring!”  How did we know?  The orange construction pylons were dotted along the highway.

It was so nice to spend the Spring and Summer in Canada, with family and friends.  I stayed pretty close to home in Calgary and decided to pick up a hobby for the summer.  What did I do?  I retaught myself Hebrew after not using it for 19 years.  (There must be something wrong with me don’t you think, as I actually enjoyed reading backwards again in that strange Semitic font.)

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The other main summer activity for both Jill and I was to visit three churches in the Maritimes (two on PEI and one in Halifax) and then one in Calgary.  I would preach at the service hour, with Jill running the Power Point projection.  We would then talk with people after the services and meet in some homes to tell more about the work that we do for PBT-Canada.

At the end of October, I traveled to Dallas where it is warmer and more conducive to doing my translation checking preparation for my 2013 trip to PNG.  During November and December, I finished preparing my questions for Exodus chs. 1-24 as well as Psalms 120-150 for one group who have finished translating the New Testament.

In the middle of my time in Dallas, I was able to take a trip up to Illinois where I visited a number of our supporting churches.  I spoke in three churches and in three small group meetings over a ten day period.  They are all excited to see what God is doing in me (physically) and through us in the work of Bible translation.

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The big achievement for Jill last year was getting the acceptance letter from the Nursing Council in PNG and the Work Permit which provisionally allows her to do some nursing experience in PNG.  We do wonder if this is the beginning of us making a move towards living and working full-time here in PNG, or if we are meant to continue coming over each year for so many months out of each year.  This next trip will show us where this might lead.

I must mention an amazing thing that is occurring for me physically.  Ever since the churches in the Maritimes, and also Oak Park church in Calgary, prayed for me and Jill and for my healing, I have been doing better and better.  I am rarely using my arm crutches now.  I can walk around inside buildings without any assistance, and I am also starting to take short walks outside with only my pole or not even that.  I believe that God is incrementally healing me, and I am very grateful for that.  I believe He is preparing me for what lies ahead in PNG.

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A Response To “Power Comes From The Holy Spirit”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit”.  This article is part of my Bible study series on the Gospel of John.  Part of the article focused in on verse 39 of chapter 7 where John comments that “the Spirit had not yet been given.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raises a good question.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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Not arguing with your scripture quotes, but how is it that long before Pentecost, various OT prophets were operating in the Holy Spirit with massive power and miracles. It seems that the Holy Spirit was always there for those who sought Him. The OT account seems to contradict Jn7v39. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

I comprehend where you are coming from, but I keep finding anomalies to the plain statement that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus had ascended.  i.e. Proverbs 1:23 ‘Turn you at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.’

This seems to be quite plain (and present tense) in its meaning, and I don’t buy that there is some difference between pouring “unto” and pouring “into”. Added to which it is an open statement to any reader, not just some OT Patriarch.  I also read some other OT verse the other day saying similar. I have sneaking suspicion that anyone who desired God’s Spirit would never have been refused OT or NT.

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There is no question that God’s Spirit was active long before the day of Pentecost.  We have God’s Spirit involved in the creation of the universe in Genesis ch. 1.  And there are many key people who were empowered by the Spirit of God (Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah to name a few).

What many people do not understand is that the Spirit of God was given only selectively to some of these key people that God was empowering to do His work during the OT period.  During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit did come down and empower Him, just like the OT judges and prophets.  But the Holy Spirit had not yet been released to all believers yet.

In fact, Jesus himself stated in John 16:7 that the Holy Spirit could not come to help believers until Jesus had ascended back up to Heaven.  This is a divine mystery, but it would appear that God decided to limit His direct involvement in the lives of people with only one Person of the Trinity at a time.  But there will come the day when we all who believe will be with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when we are resurrected into the new heaven and the new earth.

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Let’s take a closer look now at some of the specific times in the OT where God’s Spirit empowered people, and consider the verse our friend pointed out in Proverbs 1:23.  I did check the Hebrew for this verse and taken just by itself, הִנֵּ֤ה אַבִּ֣יעָה לָכֶ֣ם רוּחִ֑י, it can be translated “Behold, I will pour out to you (pl) my spirit.”  In biblical studies and linguistics though, we must always look very carefully at the context in which we find a verse.

Proverbs 1:23 just happens to be part of a larger section (Proverbs chs. 1-4) that deal extensively with the topic of “Wisdom”, and also comes within a unique section of verses in chapter one of vv 20-33.  In this short section, “Wisdom” is personified (which may or may not be a reference to God), and it is Wisdom who starts to say, “I will pour out my….”  So should we translate “ruach” as “Spirit” or something else?

The Translator’s Handbook says:

Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction. Translations differ considerably in this line. NAB has “pour out to you my spirit,” NJPSV “speak my mind,” NJB “pour out my heart,” GECL “I open to you [plural] the treasure of my wisdom.”

It seems best to understand “my spirit” (my thoughts) in terms of what characterizes Wisdom, who is the speaker here. Her essential characteristic is wisdom, and therefore we may say something equivalent to TEV “I will give you good advice” or SPCL “I will fill you with wisdom.”

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Okay, so what about the many other places in the Old Testament where it is quite clear that “God poured out His Spirit” upon His people, or “the Spirit of the LORD came upon them.”  Using word searches like “the Spirit of God”, “God’s Spirit”, and “My Spirit”, I found roughly 50 verses in the entire Old Testament.  With the exception of a few verses which refer to God giving His Spirit to all people, and which are very likely references to the distant future, i.e. in or following the time of Christ, or the end times, almost every other verse was connected to key people and leaders of Israel.

The people to whom God poured out His Spirit were almost exclusively upon Moses and the leaders of his time, upon Judges like Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.  Then we see special anointing upon the kings of Saul, David and Solomon.  Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the great prophets, from Azariah to Isaiah, Jerimiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, plus prophetic passages that speak of Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-3 and Joel 2:27-29.

The bottom line is that God empowered special leaders of Israel (judges, priest, kings and prophets) when God needed something specifically to be done.  But otherwise, the people of God back then were not fortunate to experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers have access to today.  There is no doubt that we are very privileged to live in the age of the Spirit, who has been  given to all believers after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Thank you God!

Bible Translation Bloopers

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Head Hunting & Pumpkin Heads

There are quite a few steps involved in getting the Bible translated into another language. In between making a rough draft translation and the publication of Scripture are quite a few levels of checking and revising that are needed to be done. As we work with the people who are native speakers of the language, misunderstandings and mistakes can be made.

For this very reason, we must sit down with the national translators and go over the text verse-by-verse. In this checking process, some rather strange and funny translation stories can emerge. Below is one account by one of my colleagues in Papua New Guinea. She was working through the story of the beheading of John the Baptist in the book of Matthew.

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“This is just a general term for cutting. Can we use the special term that we have for cutting around the base of the skull to remove the head?” asked the national translator of the project. I thought about it for a second and didn’t see any major problem with using their special term for the decapitation of John the Baptist – it would definitely make it more vivid.

After I gave a slightly hesitant “yes” answer, he went on to explain that their ancestors along with the folks from a neighboring language group used to go up the Ramu River on regular raids taking captives and collecting heads. I had heard about the reputation of this group from another source, but I didn’t realize that the raiding included head-hunting. I think the national translator was a bit tickled by my obvious discomfort.

When I questioned them some more, they assured me that the head-hunting had all ended before World War II. They had just grown up hearing all of the stories and enjoying the notoriety that this had given to their language group. For over four weeks, the translation team and I were cloistered away in the conference room during the work week as we worked our way verse by verse through the book of Matthew.

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On the days in which we ran into major problems and only completed 20 verses, I despaired of ever getting done, but then there were days when we were able to complete 2 chapters. In the process we found lots of “bloopers” both big and small. Here is one of my favorite ones.

When we reached Mat 5.29 — “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” — I asked the checkers to demonstrate the verse and they got it right, but they really struggled and kept saying that something was wrong with the translation. Finally, one of the checkers was able to identify the “turn” verb as the source of the problem and the national translator started laughing when he understood the problem.

He then demonstrated by doing a pirouette and said that the person was hit on one side of his face and then did a pirouette and was hit on the other side. Somehow I don’t think the pirouette was part of the original story, though I could imagine Jesus laughing at this version of the story.

Praise God with me that this translation project is now one book closer to having the entire NT checked.

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This past month, I have had the privilege to do the Advisor Check with a different group of national translators on their translation of the book of John. We too spent hour after hour for four weeks looking at the text. We would start at the verse level, then go to the sentence level and phrase level, and then even look intently at individual words and terms.

Things were moving along in our checking, and then something really funny happened. We had already dealt many times with the special term “the Jews”. In John’s Gospel, about half the time this term does refer to the people of the nation, and so we would translate it as “the Juda people”. But the other half of the time, John uses the term to refer to the Jewish authorities.

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To handle this in the pidgin trade language, I had said that this could be translated as “the big men of Juda” or the “head men of Juda”. Well, at one point the team had thought I had doubled this up and had said, “the big head men of Juda”. They hadn’t said anything for a few days, but on one day, one of the men thought about this term and burst out laughing.

This man shared his funny thought with the other men in his village language and then they all burst out laughing. It took them quite a few minutes to stop laughing and finally the one man was able to get control of himself and tell me the joke. This is what he said:

“If we translate this term the way you have described it, when the people hear this, they will wonder, ‘What kind of strange men are these?’ They have never seen people that have really, really big heads!”

When he said that, he put his hands about two feet apart, and then the humour of the joke hit me. If we doubled up the expression with both “big” and “head”, then they would be “big-headed men” and it would conjure up the idea of men walking around with heads the size of large pumpkins.

Needless to say, we changed the translation to say, “the head men of Juda”. Even though the Jewish authorities were the enemies of Jesus, we did not want people to think that they were stranger than they already were. And thankfully the national translator caught this one. That’s why we do all the checking that we do.