Thursday, August 31, 2006

Biblically Measured

“The purpose of knowing Scripture is not to help us get a 100 score on the heavenly entrance exam. It is to help us become equipped for good works.”
John Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted

For the Eskimos of northern Alaska, having good trails and following them is essential to survival. The vast land-–many areas of it without any natural landmarks–proves difficult to navigate. In a snowstorm, even people familiar with a trail could get lost and freeze to death. So, trails are marked by tripods-–each with at least one piece of reflective tape.

The language spoken in this area has a word that means, “to follow” or “to obey.” It’s the word used to describe people following the trail marker –they obey them in order to arrive safely where they want to go. When the trail beneath their feet is impossible to see, thy can always trust and follow the markers.

When Bible translators working in this language couldn’t find a word for “doing” that matched the meaning of “doing God’s will” they turned to this word that means follow/obey. John 6:38 in their heart language says “I have come down from heaven not to follow My own will, but to obey the will of Him who sent Me.” This makes it clear that following God’s trail is what the Christian life is all about. Where are these trail-markers found? In God’s Word. It is essential to survival.

1 Timothy 3: 14-17
“…so you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God.”

2 Timothy 3:14-17
“…(scripture) straightens us out and teaches us to do what’s right.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

He turns my mourning into dancing...

“We are above all things loved—that is the good news of the gospel…To come together as people who believe that just maybe this gospel is actually true should come together like a people who have just won the Irish sweepstakes.”
Frederick Buechner in The Longing for Home: Recollections and Reflections

Awkward and clumsy, our feet are too big for our legs and words mumble-flop out of our mouths as if our tongues have been anesthetized. While the “popular” kids are dancing, we fully expect to be left sitting on cold folding chairs. But this time it’s different. The Lord of the Dance has invited us to an eternal celebration in His honor. And he didn’t ask us to come and sit on the sidelines – He called us to be dancin’ fools at His party.

We are a people who admittedly and rightly deserve rejection – but instead, we are loved extraordinarily and eternally. The psalmist declares that this love is better than life itself. As we grow to know this love, we long for time with the Lover of our souls whose song of grace and truth makes all the earth sway in worship. We jump. We sing really loudly. We raise our hands. We lie awake at night thinking about all the ways He amazes us. Finding ourselves deeply satisfied by His love, we sing songs of celebration.

Johan Sebastian Bach was once asked how he could play so beautifully. He replied that he didn’t play the music; it played him. In the same way, the follower of Christ–the beloved and forgiven child of God–lives a life of worship moved by the Spirit of God Himself living within. It is the Spirit that teaches us to dance despite our big feet and clumsy nature. As we forget ourselves and see Him more clearly, this jubilant expression is less and less an event and more a way of life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Here is one story I heard recently: The "G" translation team in (a country in Africa I'll not name) was checking 1 Thessalonians when one of the mother tongue checkers exclaimed, “I go to church every Sunday and listen to the Word of God being read, but I don’t understand it nearly as well as I did just now when we read from this "G" translated Scripture. This is wonderful!”

I frequently hear stories of an individual who loves Jesus and has been serving Him for many years. Then the day comes when they read or hear God’s Word in their mother tongue for the first time. Consistently, their response is extraordinary, even though often simple.

One woman from Asia described it by saying that reading the Word in the national language is like eating a banana with the peel on, while reading it in the mother tongue is like eating a peeled banana -- sweet and good.


When I was a kid I believed that God liked me especially well. It often snowed on my birthday (early in November) I had an uncle named Elmer who would play secret agent with me whenever I would ask. Need more evidence? My mom & dad loved to have company over for Sunday dinner – especially people who would laugh a lot and tell great stories (college students from local schools, missionaries home on furlough, and their own friends from seminary days). And what about this: I never had a shortage of Crayola crayons or No.2 pencils or college lined notebook paper. And in our house, when life gave us lemons, we scooped ice cream and got out the Hershey’s syrup.

My view of God has changed – as has my view of myself. I find it more difficult to believe that God loves me as much as He does. His extraordinary and extravagant love overwhelms my imagination, even on my best days. I also now know that His love for me is no more and no less than His love for any other person He created.

"For God loved the world so much, he gave is one and only Son..."

Monday, August 28, 2006


In Dr. Lamin Senneh'’s book, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West, the author makes a pretty clear case for the foundational importance of Bible translation.

Senneh, a native of Gambia and professor at Yale Divinity School, answers the question of why Christianity has flooded Africa and Asia. He suggests that mother tongues—native languages as a means of translating the Gospel—were the catalyst for such change. The importance of mother tongue translation is found in the fact that the "New Testament Gospels are a translated version of the message of Jesus, and that means Christianity is a translated religion without a revealed language." Senneh builds on this premise, showing translation as a benchmark of the Christian Church.

He further involves the reader in discussion on the importance of mother tongue translation of the Bible, citing interesting facts such as the Bible adopted into its canon the indigenous names for God. Interesting argument. I'd never thought of it myself, that's for sure.

Rather than having a faith dictated to them, anyone (but especially the minority language speaker whose language, along with the rest of his culture, has been used to "prove" his low status) with translated scripture has a sense of pride—a sentiment born from the notion that God cares about them so much, he can speak to them in their own language.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Remember Bob Dylan’s declaration that you’ve “Gotta Serve Somebody?” Long before that, Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other or be devote to one and despise the other.”

We serve what we love, and that service IS worship. Genuine service points others to the one being served and away from the one serving. (I’ve been watching old British mysteries and learning a lot about servants.)

If you know me well, you know that I really like to THINK about stuff like this. I’m committed, though, to do more than think. I want my living and working to BE WORSHIP – to point others to God and His glory.