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Archive for September, 2014

I’m now into my 6th and final week of this trip to visit churches. It’s been a trip filled with the Lord’s blessings at every turn. It’s not always easy to go from place to place and have to meet so many new friends, but always by the end of the visit, I feel like I’ve gained some good, long-term friends. I did another church picnic, this one being in the Fleetwood area. By the end of the evening, the people at Community Baptist Church had become people I really wanted to hang out with more. Thankfully, we had that opportunity when I reported and ministered the Word all day the next day at their church.

I headed toward the Pittsburgh area to be with Fellowship Baptist Church and the dear people there. I enjoyed spending time with two different families during the week. I even got to hang out in downtown Pittsburgh for a day. God has given me beautiful weather for most of this trip, so it’s been fun to put the windows down and open the moon roof in my Ford Escape and enjoy whizzing along up and down the windy, hilly roads of the Penn hills. Fellowship really wants to take me on for support, but they are just waiting on the Lord’s timing.

This past Saturday I went back toward the east to be with the believers at Calvary Baptist Church in Clymer, PA. I hadn’t been here since 2008 when I was on deputation. I was so encouraged by Pastor Jeffers’ comments just before I got up to preach in the AM service. He said that I was the kind of missionary whom he wished the church had taken on the first time but didn’t. He doesn’t want to miss this second opportunity, so he recommended me to the church. What a great way to be introduced! Plus, I was greatly strengthened by the non-verbal feedback I got from the congregation. You could tell they have a heart for the Word and the Lord by the looks in their eyes. Plus, they gave very positive comments after each service.

I have one more meeting for this trip, and it’s at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Mechanicsburg. Pray for the Lord to work in hearts, and ask Him to give me stamina to make it through this last week of travels.

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When I began this furlough trip, I thought I could somehow still maintain a fairly regular work routine of getting on my computer to keep up with correspondence (in the office I send around 30-40 emails per day and read even more than that). After a few weeks of struggling but failing to achieve that, I’ve finally accepted that furlough travels demand a great deal of flexibility. Sometimes I stay in homes that have no internet, but thankfully I can pull out a book to read for ministry. But then there are the times of fellowship that are very important to this trip. And then there are the unusual opportunities that come up–playing volleyball and ultimate frisbee at a church picnic (Duryea, PA), playing softball at a weekend men’s retreat (Elkins Park, PA), making dinner with the pastor for his family (Reading, PA), speaking in a school’s chapel (Berryville, PA), and getting dessert after church with a new friend (Frederick, MD). I have totally given up on trying to make sure I get at least 40 hours worth of work in each week (I’m pretty sure I am logging more than that)! But I’m thankful for the joy that the Lord has given as I’ve served Him on this trip and for the peace He’s given when I’m not able to keep up with the BI tasks that come my way. I’m actually just barely keeping up, but I’m definitely not getting ahead!

On the other hand, I finally had a number of quiet hours strung together that allowed me to finish two translation helps for translators who work on Habakkuk. At BI we like to prepare a “BI Model” of each book, which can serve as a “consultant-on-paper” when we are not able to be present. It guides them through difficult structures and other complexities in the biblical text. I picked Habakkuk, because it’s short so I thought I’d get through it rather quickly. I quickly came to discover that though it’s short, it’s not easy in Hebrew!

One thing I learned about the book concerned the key verse:  “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” The verse is beset with various complexities, but the most significant one in my mind is how to translate the word “faith.” The word could refer to a person’s trust (faith) or to his trustworthiness (faithfulness). I advised that though many versions use the latter idea (NIV, NET, NLT, CEB), the former is preferred because the more significant versions use it (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, RSV, NRSV). Actually, both ideas are probably in view here, since a person who trusts in God will also be a trustworthy person, because he will live according to God’s Word. This double meaning is probably in view in Heb. 10:35, where Hab. 2:4 is quoted. The idea of trusting is the meaning when Paul quotes it in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11, where the emphasis is on being justified by believing in God. In order to maintain the connection between all these passages, it would be better to translate Hab. 2:4 with “faith.” (By the way, I also learned that the supposed root meaning of “firmness”, as suggested by older works like Keil and BDB, is not quite as easy to prove as I was taught. Some believe that we should look to other Semitic languages to determine the root meaning, but one scholar noted that the Hebrew verb was probably used earlier than the other languages began using their similar words. Rather than looking for a common root idea behind the words in this group, it’s better to look at the usage of each word in the Hebrew text, which itself is not straightforward. In various cases it means “trust” and in others it means “trustworthiness.”)

I have also had time to do some reading in a book that is highly recommended for BI translation consultants. It’s The English Bible from KJV to NIV by Jack P. Lewis. It’s somewhat dated since Lewis published it in 1981 and then again in 1991, but it has a wealth of information. Lewis has PhD degrees from Harvard and Hebrew Union College. His book is positively reviewed by Bruce M. Metzger and D. A. Carson. Lewis has compiled a wealth of objective information on the major translations up to the NRSV.

I was particularly struck by various comments he made about the KJV. I was already familiar with various archaic uses of certain words: “meat” for “food”, “conversation” for “lifestyle”, “prevent” for “come before”, “suffer” for “permit”, etc. But I didn’t know just how many word meanings had changed, and I realized I wasn’t actually detecting the change in all cases as I use the KJV. I didn’t realize that “wealth” actually meant “welfare” in certain passages (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:24), nor that “wealthy” meant “happy” rather than “rich” (e.g., Psa. 66:12). “Advertise” meant “advise” (e.g., Ruth 4:4), “apparently” and “evidently” meant “clearly”, “sometimes” meant “formerly” not “occasionally”, “by and by” and “presently” meant “at once”, “instantly” meant “earnestly”, “anon” meant “immediately” and not “after a time”, and “comprehended” meant “overcome” (Jn. 1:5). “Virtue” had a broader meaning than it does today, but I was probably focusing on the modern-day meaning and misunderstanding “virtuous woman” in Prov. 31:10 (until I learned Hebrew!). I didn’t know the words “minish”, “astonied”, “clift”, or “pranse.” I didn’t comprehend that when Paul said “I know nothing by myself”, he meant “against myself” (1 Cor. 4:4). I misunderstood the Pharisee when he said, “I gave tithes of all that I possess”, when he actually meant “all I acquire” (Luke 18:12). One misunderstanding that I did catch, though, is how many Christians speak of Jesus’ “broken body,” but that’s based on a textual reading of 1 Cor. 11:24 that contradicts John 19:36 which says “a bone of him shall not be broken.” Another misunderstanding that has become quite firm in the Christian tradition is reflected in the song, “In the Sweet By and By.” As I noted above, “by and by” means “immediately”, not “afterwards” or whatever the song is communicating. Another song issue is “Are you washed in the blood?” which is based solely on a minority reading in Revelation 1:5 (“washed”), though other manuscripts have “loosed.” Lewis points out that this is the only possibly place where persons are spoken of being washed; elsewhere, it is the saint’s clothes that are washed in the blood (e.g., Rev. 7:14). I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Lewis’ book is well-worth a reading for those who, like me, have grown up on the KJV. We need to understand what we are reading!

Back to deputation/furlough activities…. I had a great time at Calvary Baptist in Elkins Park, PA, last week on Wed. I really enjoyed reconnecting with that church. I was also able to have a meeting with a Pakistani man who wants to get the Bible into Punjabi, his mother tongue. We’ll see where the Lord takes that possibility! Last Sunday I reported at Calvary Baptist in Lancaster, PA, and enjoyed being back with Pastor Jewers and his congregation. I swung by Harvest Bible Church in the evening to reconnect with friends and then returned to Calvary for a Sunday evening cookout. On Monday I headed down to Frederick, MD, to spend time with Pastor Ramler and other friends at People’s Baptist Church. I continued farther south and west to Berryville, MD, on Thursday to see Pastor Wright and his people at Keystone Baptist Church. I enjoyed speaking in the school’s chapel this morning.

Tomorrow I head back to PA to be with Community Baptist Church in Fleetwood. I get to enjoy another church picnic tomorrow and then will take all the services on Sunday. It’s been a joy to reconnect with so many friends!

 

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I thank the Lord for another wonderful weekend of edifying fellowship and good ministry opportunities. First Baptist Church in Lebanon, PA, has been supporting me since 2010. I enjoyed getting connected with Pastor George Mackey and his church. It’s always a little unnerving for a missionary, though, when there is a change of pastor, but this change turned out quite nicely. Brian Fernett, my friend from graduate school came up from Florida a year ago to begin pastoring this church. What a blessing it was to reconnect with him and his three fun children. We had a great time of fellowship together!

I also enjoyed the fellowship with his church. I got to give them an experience at the picnic of what it would be like to not have the Scriptures in their language. I gave a lesson from Proverbs 2, but I used my French Bible and translated on the spot into English. The people really seemed to get a good feel of how difficult it is for those to whom we supply the Scriptures in their own language!

In SS I gave a semi-technical lesson on translation complications, but I definitely tried to keep it simple. I preached on the need for Bible translation in the AM service and reported on my ministry in the afternoon service. I got to use my French with three Haitians who were visiting that morning, so that was a lot of fun. They are all Catholic and just up here for a few months; two were visiting a Baptist church for the first time.

Pray for good ministry at Calvary Baptist in Elkins Park tonight!

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My time of reporting to churches began with a great start. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Pastor John Conover and Victory Baptist Church in Reading, PA. It’s always a blessing to preach to people who are eager listeners to the Word of God. During the afternoon service, many testimonies were given of the people’s love for their church family. How refreshing it was to see that sweet spirit in these turbulent times! Those Christians who are minimizing the importance of the local church are depriving themselves of God’s primary means of encouraging fellowship! How can anyone make it without a supportive body of believers surrounding you to help you through this life?

I got a quick nap and then headed toward the Scranton area for a meeting at Independent Bible Church in Duryea, PA. The people there also demonstrated a great interest in the Word, and I felt especially boosted up by the Spirit as I preached. One lady told me with tears in her eyes after the service how she was encouraged by the message that I gave. Praise God!

Since I’m sticking around the Reading area this week, I get to minister to the AWANA youth at Victory on Wednesday. But not before enjoying a church picnic here in Duryea today!

I thank God that a fourth church has invited me to speak at their church during my time in PA! That’s four new churches that don’t currently support me. Keep praying for the Lord to increase my support in His time.

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