living words

29 06 2013

On Fridays in my Russian class I’m learning words about God, слова о Боге.  Yesterday, we reviewed last weeks theme, which was words about the Bible.  My teacher asked me to say sentences following the patter, “The Bible is _____.”  I’d already covered things such as, God’s word, absolute truth, a historical book, the history of redemption, and the book inspired by God’s Spirit, but when I tried to say the Bible is the living Word, her response was, “We don’t say that.”  I told her I thought there is a phrase like that in the Bible, at least in English, and we made part of my homework finding the phrase—which I couldn’t remember then—and finding its equivalent in Russian.

So, what I was thinking of was Jesus and Peter’s conversation in John 6:66-69:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

When I found that passage this morning in English, I decided to try translating Peter’s response into Russian myself before looking it up.  Here’s what I came up with, mistakes and all:

Симон Пётр ответал ему, “Господь, кому мы поидём? У тебя есть слов вечной жизни, и мы поверили и узнали, что Ты — Святый Бога.”

Here are those verses in Russian, Евангелие от Иоанна 6:68,69, first from the widely-used, old Synodal translation (Синодальный перевод, translated 1813 – 1876), and second from the Russian Bible Society’s 2011 translation, Библия. Современный русский перевод, 2011:

Симон Петр отвечал Ему: Господи! к кому нам идти? Ты имеешь глаголы вечной жизни: и мы уверовали и познали, что Ты Христос, Сын Бога живаго.    [Synodal, 1876]

“Господь,” ответил Ему Симон Петр, “к кому мы пойдем? У Тебя слова, дающие вечную жизнь.  И мы поверили и знаем, что Ты — Святой Божий.” [Modern, 2011]

I got pretty close, but made a number of mistakes.  First, I forgot the “к” for the phrase, “к кому,” using the dative form of “whom” but forgetting that the verb of motion, пойдем, requires the “к кому.”  Second, I misspelled the verb, we will go, пойдем.  Third, though I got the Russian syntax of ‘You have” correct (horray!), in the present tense its not necessary to use, “есть.” Fourth, though I knew I needed a nominative plural ending for “words,” I confused genders and cases: слово is neuter nominative singular, so the correct plural would be слова, but somehow I was thinking the ending drops off leaving just the stem—слов, but that would be a feminine genitive plural ending—nonsense for what I was trying to translate. Fifth, I omitted the present participle of “to give”, дающие (giving), and simply rendered it as, “you have words of eternal life,” but that’s mostly because we haven’t learned any participles yet in class. Sixth, I used a past tense for “have come to know,” so said, узнали “we knew” and missed that this is a past action with continuing effect, but the Modern Russian translation uses the simple present, “to know.”  And last, I tried to render “the Holy One of God” with the nominative singular for the noun, “holy” plus the genitive singular for “of God”, but I used the wrong ending on for holy, Святой.  Technically, I translated Бога, “of God,” correctly, but apparently the Modern Russian makes the stylistic choice to use the adjective form of God, Божий, for which we don’t really have an equivalent in English (our word, “godly” is different because it describes people who are like God, whereas Божий only refers to God).

So, here’s my corrected translation, preserving my word order choice:

Симон Пётр ответал ему, “Господь, к кому мы пойдём? У тебя есть слова, дающие вечной жизни, и мы поверили и знаем, что Ты — Святой Божий.”

And just for the fun of it, I’m posting those same two verses in Greek.  It’s been 15 years since I’ve studied any Greek, but I just looked and saw that the older Greek New Testaments, like the Textus Receptus the KJV was based on, used the phrase, “Son of the living God” like the Synodal translation, but more recent Greek New Testaments follow the consensus of New Testament scholars in using the wording, “the Holy One of God.”  Here are the verses in Greek from both the NA/UBS and SBL online texts, ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:68-69:

ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ Σίμων Πέτρος· Κύριε, πρὸς τίνα ἀπελευσόμεθα; ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις, καὶ ἡμεῖς πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.

Whatever the language, and in spite of my mistakes and misunderstanding, I’m deeply grateful that Jesus has the living words, and gives them to us by his Word and Spirit.


Sinclair on the gift of the Spirit

2 12 2012

On page 71 of his book, “The Holy Spirit” (IVP 1996), Sinclair B. Ferguson reminds us of the incredibly close connection between Jesus and his Spirit:

We have seen the same point made by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45. Christ has become ‘life-giving-Spirit’. Having the Spirit is the equivalent, indeed the very mode, of having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Christ indwelling us so that we are united to him as he is united to the Father.

It is in this sense that John sees the difference that Pentecost signals in the ministry of the Spirit. Now, as the bond of union to God, the Spirit indwells all who believe as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a development of epochal proportions. The Spirit who was present and active at Christ’s conception as the head of the new creation, by whom he was anointed at baptism (Jn. 1:32-34), who directed him throughout his temptations (Mt. 4:1), empowered him in his miracles (Lk. 11:20), energized him in his sacrifice (Heb. 9:14), and vindicated him in his resurrection (1 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 1:4), now indwells disciples in this specific identity. This is the meaning of our Lord’s words, otherwise impossible to comprehend: ‘It is for your good that I am going away’ (Jn. 16:7).

Or as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

difficult histories and a living hope

27 04 2012

Welcome to Pidvysoke

Imagine yourself driving across Ukraine.  Its larger than Texas, and most of the roads are akin to the secondary highways in Germany or America; you won’t find many Autobahn or Interstate-class highways.  As you enter each village, you’d typically see the town name on a simple white sign, and when leaving you’d see the same town name on a black sign.  In 2009, I saw bunch of the white “welcome to ____ ” and black “you’re leaving ____” signs as my team leader and I drove through a number of little towns outside Kiev, through thirty to forty kilometers of flat wooded pine forests, on our way to Klavdiievo (Клавдієво) where the Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Kiev was holding classes.

Later that week I saw the same white signs welcoming me as I walked up the stairs to enter the Chernobyl museum in Kiev.  Countless Ukrainians lives were changed forever when catastrophe struck reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear plant April 26, 1986.  The museum told the story of the disaster, and cataloged the responses of people worldwide.  If you’d been there with me, you would have seen a diorama of the disaster, models of the town and the plant, paintings and poetry by Ukrainian artists reflecting on the ruins and the radiation, newspapers headlines from global cities, and letters children sent to Ukrainian kids from all over the world. You’d see photography exhibits of deserted villages in the exclusion zone today, a bright-red doll against a grey wall, abandoned where children left it, books laying open on people’s tables, or dishes left from interrupted meals. Leaving the museum, as you exited down the staircase that brought you in, you would see those familiar black “you’re-leaving-town” road signs, except there was a bright red slash through each village: obliterated, you’ll never see them again.

names of villages near Chernobyl

villages you'll never see again

Even today, twenty-six years later, the effects of the radiation from the plant are on-going, and a new construction project is underway to build a new sarcophagus to cover the ruins of the explosion and the old crumbling sarcophagus.  The works of man’s hands often crumble, and the best of our intentions can end in disaster.

The Chernobyl disaster is only one event.  Ukrainians have faced a long, difficult history.  Three Ukrainians I met may give you a brief glimpse of Ukrainian’s bitterness:

  1. A early thirty-something carpenter from eastern Ukraine, and a non-Christian, told me in 2009 he wasn’t proud of his country: “We’ve longed for freedom for hundreds of years, but after 18 years of freedom, we don’t know what to do with it and we’re not better off than under the USSR.  In the west, they say they’ve got culture and cafes, but in the east, we build things!” He was bitter, looking for hope.
  2. A twenty-something Ukrainian guy who’d worked as a life-guard in Boston, also not a Christian, told me he was upset by the high levels of corruption he saw in business and government in 2009, and the way people didn’t care for the environment.  Yet when he has kids he wants to raise them in Ukraine, because he said most Ukrainian kids are still care for their parents when they’re older, but in America once kids are 18 they ignore mom and dad. His cynicism was real.
  3. Ukraine has been divided east and west along ethno-linguistic and religious lines since at least the time of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth and the Russian Empire in the sixteenth century.  In 2007, one of my English students, a university student from L’viv in patriotic west Ukraine, told me her rock band only sings Ukrainian language songs, and if she hears people speaking Russian on the street she’ll tell them to quit speaking Russian–this is Ukraine.  Her ethnocentrism was understandable, but ugly.

Yet there is a source of hope in the face of Ukraine’s harsh realities.  When God’s people were captive in exile, thousands of years ago, God answered Daniel’s prayer in an impossible situation, sparing his and his friends lives, and giving a promise about the growth of God’s kingdom: a stone not cut by human hands would grow and fill the entire earth, smashing the empty kingdoms we set up (Daniel 2).  That living stone is growing in Ukraine, not by the works of human hands, but by the grace of God.

Two out of every three Ukrainians may be atheist, but the gospel of Jesus’ grace is growing, changing hearts and attitudes in the people of God.  The third person above, one of my former English students, was also a follower of Jesus.  When I asked her if she only worships in Ukrainian, she said that she’s happy to worship in Russian, English, or Ukrainian, because God is the God of all peoples.  That’s the living hope of the gospel, the growing stone of Christ, beginning to crush her ethnocentric-kingdom and replace it with a heart for the world.  As Bono sang, “… Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

Christ himself is the living stone (1 Peter 2), and because he lives I have hope in the face of Ukraine’s difficult history and hard present.  He’s called me to serve there and is calling you to pray and give to send me.

light reflections

7 01 2012

Ambrose of Milan

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” – John 1:4.  Earlier this morning I was playing a few hymns at my piano, and stumbled across this ancient hymn by Ambrose of Milan, 340-397.

O Splendor of God’s glory bright,
From light eternal bringing light,
Thou light of light, light’s living Spring,
True Day, all days illumining:

Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
In lasting radiance from above,
And pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
On all we think or do today.

And now to thee our prayers ascend,
O Father, glorious without end;
We plead with sovereign grace for pow’r
To conquer in temptation’s hour.

Confirm our will to do the right,
And keep our hearts from envy’s blight;
Let faith her eager fires renew,
And hate the false, and love the true.

O joyful be the passing day
With thoughts as pure as morning’s ray,
With faith like noontide shining bright,
Our souls unshadowed by the night.

Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies,
Let him, our perfect Morn, arise,
The Work in God the Father one,
The Father imaged in the Son.

His hymn was set to WINCHESTER NEW, which I assume was a new version of WINCHESTER in Hamburg back in 1690 when it was included in the Musikalisches Handbuch.

Tunes may come and go, lyrics may be translated from 4th century Latin to 20th century English, but the light of Christ shines through the ages.  Pray that I will increasingly reflect Jesus’ glory while I’m raising support here in Chattanooga, and when I reach Kiev.

Support raising

21 10 2010

Does the Bible provide a basis for supporting missionaries?  I believe that there is strong biblical precedent for support raising:

  1. A group of women provided for Jesus out of their means (Luke 8:3).
  2. The apostle John commends believers for their faithfulness in sending brothers out for the sake of the name in a manner worthy of God (3 John 5-7).
  3. Paul rejoiced at the Philippian’s concern for him when he received their gift, because it showed the fruit of his investment of the gospel in their lives (Phil. 4:10,17).

What are some other benefits of developing ministry partners who will give and pray for me as prepare to serve in Kiev?

  1. Raising financial support provides a concrete opportunity for me to learn to trust God more fully, it is another way of confirming the Lord’s calling in my life, and it gives others in the church the joy of partnering in the work the Lord has called me to.
  2. In Malawi, there is a Chichewa proverb that says, “Giving is investing.”
  3. Finally and perhaps most important, by establishing direct connections between me and supporting individuals and churches, support raising builds a network of prayer supporters, and this is crucial for the work God is calling me to and the growth of the supporting churches and believers.

Do you want to join my team as I build toward the borderland?  You can pledge a monthly gift or donate a special gift, and to stay up to date, you can sign up for my newsletter.


18 06 2010

While driving home from work today, I caught part of a sermon on the radio.  The preacher emphasized that we are all under the sovereign authority of the LORD God.  The preacher directed my attention to Exodus 34, where the LORD tells all the men of Israel to assemble before him three times each year, recognizing that real manhood is not the absence of authority, but the recognition of and submission to the sovereign rule of Jahweh, the God of the covenant.

I read Exodus 34 after dinner, after praying that the Lord would stir my heart with his grace and with the incredibly good news of what he has done for all peoples in Jesus Christ.  The priority in that chapter seems to be God, his merciful character, his glory, and his commandments.  Moses face and skin were shining so brightly from God’s presence that most of the time he wore a veil, except when he was telling the people what God had said.    God’s law points to the priority God should have in my life: absolute, first priority, and far too often God is not my priority.

However, the reflected glory faded and Moses would need to talk to God again for it to shine more brightly.  It isn’t until Jesus that we really glimpse the glory of God.  Moses’ face shone with reflected glory, but in Jesus we have the fullness of God, veiled in human flesh.  The Spirit of Christ opens our eyes to his glory, to his grace, to his purposes in our lives.  2 Cor. 3:16-18 tells us the Spirit shows us Jesus’ glory and transforms us to look more and more like him.  It is this glorious ministry of the Spirit–his work of making us more like Jesus–that gives us hope.  The Spirit of Christ turns me, re-aligns my heart, increases my longing to enjoy and embody Jesus, to give him first priority in all I do.

When I am a bit discouraged after an evening of getting voicemails when I’d hoped to schedule support-raising meeting with people, I should remember the mercy of God and not loose heart.

When I am unfaithful and waste time doing things other than support-raising when I’ve scheduled it (good things in their own right, but not as distractions or procrastinations), I need to turn from my priorities to the priorities the Spirit of Christ gives.  I should seek joy in the grace and glory of God and prioritize my life to point other people to Jesus, the source of solid joy and lasting treasure.

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

why giving matters

2 04 2010

Some people I’ve had conversations with about my being a missionary raising support for serving overseas have questioned whether individuals should give to support others in missions. There are lots of reasons why giving matters, but I want to look at just one: how giving benefits the giver.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me … Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” – Philippians 4:10, 17, 18.

Paul is excited because he sees the Philippians’ gift as a sign of their spiritual growth. He understands that our hearts follow our treasure, and opening our wallets often indicates what we really value. Follow the money. Paul sees that the gift they sent indicates they are partnering with Paul’s ministry to make Christ known where he hadn’t been proclaimed: they are excited to see God’s kingdom growing, and their giving demonstrates their partnership in the gospel.

Two quick observations:
(1.) The fruit increases to their credit. Giving in response to Christ given for us in the gospel increases our joy in Jesus. Paul sees that in a real sense, the Philippians actually benefit more in giving than Paul in receiving.
(2.) The gift is offered to God, not to Paul. It is “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” As Paul followed the Lord’s call in his life, his real needs created opportunity for the people of God to offer gifts back to God by giving to meet Paul’s needs.

So, what does this mean for me as I invite you, my friends, to partner financially in sending me to Kiev? This time of support raising is ministry, not simply fund raising. I am seeking to give you and others the opportunity to grow spiritually and increase your joy in Jesus by giving to support his work in Kiev. I am providing you with an opportunity to worship God with your wallets. So pray and consider giving to support me in Kiev.

Because people are ultimately giving to God, not me, I am free to tell you about the opportunity to partner with me in the gospel and not worry about whether you’ll “reject me” or not. After all, its not about me, but about what God is doing. Perhaps you’re giving to some other ministry–great! God gets the glory. Perhaps you are not able to give because of pressing family needs or job loss- that’s ok, but please let me know so I can pray for your real needs. God works all things for his glory and for your good, if you love him. I have the joy of reminding you how Paul closes the passage above:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Philippians 4:19,20.