“Lost” by Translation


A rather short post today, but one that has been on my mind.  One of the greatest evangelical tools of Christianity is the Scriptures in the language of the believer or potential convert.  In Islam the Qur’an is only considered to be Qur’an if it is in Arabic.  In any other tongue it becomes merely a commentary.  Similarly the Sikh’s Guru Granth Sahib is always in Punjabi when used in ceremonies.

What an advantage the Gospel has to reach the world in its own tongues! However, we who are knowledgeable have a responsibility  to keep a check on it.  Translators are human, and as such bring with them their own doctrinal baggage.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a case in point, with the insistence on translating all references to God, whether YHWH, Elohim, and Lord as Jehovah.  Also the Revised Standard Version notes that “43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances (Luke 2).” What?  His parents?Look at it again in the KJV:  “43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.” It was subtle but Joseph not God is cited as Jesus’ father.  What doctrinal rubbish.  Especially in light to Jesus’ own response:   “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”

As a final thought we are blessed by the Word in our own languages, but we need to read broadly and take the teachings of the Lord as a whole, becoming people of the Word, and making sure no one is lost by translation.



When the World Overwhelms

I am ill at present, light flu or severe cold.  My wife has a long term chronic illness.  Doing a job, attempting to care for her, all take their toll.  It is probably true that men have a tendency to bury their heads in the sand when things get tough.  I am no exception.  Today, what I need is prayer, and the strength that God provides, because I have none of my own.


“Blessed are the Meek”


In Matthew 5:5 we read: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (NIV).” During the Indo-China Conflict (Vietnam War), many “high value” POWs were sent to the Hanoi Hilton and nearby “Plantation.” Several tell of captive pilots comparing their exploits with tales of High and Fast.  How high were you and how fast were you going when you ejected?

However, one of the most remarkable inmates of the Hanoi POW complexes was not an aviator, but a teenaged Seaman Apprentice.  Doug Hegdahl was not shot down in a super-sonic fighter craft, but was rather knocked overboard from USS CANBERRA.  His was not a High and Fast, but a Low and Slow.

This country boy from the Midwest, was “rescued” by a Cambodian fisherman, and turned over to the Vietnamese militia.  They in turn refused to believe the details of his tale.  He was tortured and sent to the Plantation.  It soon became clear that he was what he said, and he helped them along by exaggerating his accent, and pretending to be illiterate.

His captures soon dubbed him “The Incredibly Stupid One.”  In his humility, he was soon allowed to have fairly free run of the complex, and used his access to learn the names and stories of of over 250 fellow captives.  He remembered these by humming them to the tune of Old MacDonald’s Farm (this adding to his captors’ view of him).

Being of “little value,”and low rank, his captures put him forward for release as a “good will” gesture as the Paris Peace Accords began.  Little did they know, that this meek “stupid” one would hold the key to the identity and eventual repatriation of his fellows.

We often question our place and value in this world.  But two things should stand out for us in that regard: 1. Jesus said the meek and humble will inherit the earth (we are important), and 2. We were valuable enough for Him, that He gave His life for us! We are, like Hegdahl, far from low value and rank, we are the redeemed of God!


“What, No Insurance?”


In this age of controversies over Obama-care, cuts to Social Security, and of “challenges to the NHS,” it is easy to forget that the idea of health and social care provided by the state is a new idea which is essentially less than 100 years old. Before that, it was up to one’s friends and family to provide care when life’s journey turned to the worse.

It is in this context that Abram (Abraham) bemoaned being childless in the Book of Genesis.  He had wealth, but lacked the essential element of an heir to care for him and Sarah in old age.  Similarly, Elizabeth in Luke chapter 1 is childless but when she becomes pregnant with John says: 25 ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.’ In those days one’s reputation and security were in their heirs.

To me one of the most emotional and heartfelt moments in the Bible is found in the crucifixion account of John 19.  Jesus despite dying an incredibly terrific and painful death sees His (presumably widowed) mother, and near her His best friend.  He in His agony, shows the His fulfillment of His earthly duties as a son, when He says to John “Take care of my mum, Mate (verse 27).”

This expectation of care for one’s parents was cultural, but the compassion in the scene above was from the heart! And, compassion was at the heart of Christ’s message.  To love not just Mom and Dad, but your neighbour as yourself.  Jesus’ people saw this in Him, and they began to live it themselves. Acts 2 shows us that:   “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people (NIV).” In an age of no social welfare – Christians provided for those in need. That is an act of love.

But ultimately the act of love was shown in Jesus’ own sacrifice:  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13 NIV).” Jesus, so loved the world, that He died on its behalf.  In so doing, He overcame sin and death. He gave us not insurance but ASSURANCE in His love.


Beyond Doubt


One of the most human stories of the Bible, is the reaction of Thomas on hearing of the resurrection. John 20 reads:

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ 28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Hear we have a man who has followed Jesus for three years, who has put all of his hopes in Him, and now in his very human understanding – sees those hopes dashed by the crucifixion. He returns to the disciples’ hiding place (yes, hiding place), to be told by his fellows that Jesus has returned.  You can almost hear him saying to them “Not funny guys.” When they persist with the good news, he actually becomes annoyed, and makes a bold statement – “I need to see it for myself, and in fact I need to touch Him to see if it is real.”

How like today’s world is that!  “There can’t be a God, I’ve never seen Him.” And, that is the position Thomas puts himself in.

But then, Jesus makes His presence known.  And Thomas’ defiant spirit crumbles.  He no longer insists on touching, he has seen, and spiritually felt Jesus’ presence.  “My Lord and my God he exclaims.  Doubt has died away, with the proof of true life!

That is the promise to us today.  “‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

May we all feel that presence in our lives today.


The True Superman

One of my students stopped by at lunch today to share his reflections on Nietzsche. He saw an aspect of this philosopher that many miss.  The overly quoted statement that God is dead does not deprive deity of existence or power beyond the point of our free will.   It is God who controls the universe, but in that omnibenevolent power, He has given us the ability to believe or disbelieve, to obey or disobey.  Nietzsche’s death of the divine is not the demise of God, but of our humility in accepting Him.  We in our Nietzsche inspired “superman” state, have deluded ourselves into thinking that “we are in control.”  What rubbish is that?  Can’t we see that all the evidence in this world is to the contrary?

In our “killing of God,” we have disposed of the building blocks or what my student called “the backbone” of society.  We are reaping the consequences we wise fools (Romans 1:22).

In contrast to Nietzsche, and those who follow pseudo-Nietzschian  philosophies, we find Viktor Frankl.  In his “Mans Search for Meaning,” he showed faith and hope are part of meaning.  Faith is far more powerful than self deception and nihilism. To him “The salvation of Man is through love and in love.” While not a Christian, he nonetheless struck on a truth – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (I John 4:7-8).” 

God is love, God is power, God IS!  We are not Übermensch. God is the true superman.



Carpenter’s Arms


The Carpenters Arms sounds the quintessential English local.  Allowing for the fact that many such  public houses’ names derive from their original clientele, it would seem the Carpenters would have been the meeting place and “watering hole” of skilled woodworkers.  The Bible is one such gathering places for carpenters!

Probably the best known of these biblical carpenters is Joseph, Jesus’ step-father.  Very little is told to us about him.  He was of the House of Judah we know from the genealogy in Matthew 1. He was a fair man who was not quick to denounce Mary for her pregnancy. He also took the family to the appointed festivals in fulfilment of his Jewish faith (Luke 2:41). The account of his woodworking is limited, however, with Matthew 13:55 referring to him as follows: “Isn’t this [Jesus] the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (NIV)”

There are also several unnamed carpenters who constructed the palaces of David and Solomon. “And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house 2 Samuel 5:11 (KJV);” and  “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high,with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams. It was roofed with cedar above the beams that rested on the columns – forty-five beams, fifteen to a row. Its windows were placed high in sets of three, facing each other. All the doorways had rectangular frames; they were in the front part in sets of three, facing each other (I Kings 7:1-5).” Sadly we are not given the names of builders of these impressive structures – only that they worked in cedar. 

Our next carpenters are Bazaleel and Aholiab. They are found in Exodus 31 and were instrumental in the building of the tabernacle:

“1And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded you; 7The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle.”

These were general contractors who could turn their hands to a piece of wood as well, and their work was worthy to be the very seat of God.

Our next carpenter, was an impressive craftsman indeed – Noah. In Genesis 6:14-16 we read:

14Make you an ark of gopher wood; rooms shall you make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and without with pitch. 15And this is the fashion which you shall make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 16A window shall you make to the ark, and in a cubit shall you finish it above; and the door of the ark shall you set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shall you make it.

This he did with the aid of only 3 helpers.  Now that’s a carpenter.

Our final carpenter, however, is the most impressive.  His name was Jesus (see Mark 6:3). But what did He build? John 1:3 says –  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” That is the ultimate carpenter! Not only that though –  for “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men (verse 4).” 

Friends let’s all come together, and meet in “the Carpenter’s arms.”




Remember Terry Waite?


I was sitting in a medical waiting room recently and faced with the usual array of out of date magazines, I flipped through one that seemed to offer more than celebrity gossip. What I found was a brief article on Terry Waite.  It had been years since I had seen the name, and it sparked my interest.

What price is Christian witness? Waite went to the Middle East to negotiate the freedom of Christian hostages on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He did an admirable job, but made some mistakes along the way.  He was seen with various “American interests” in the region, and his credibility was compromised, though his Christian purpose was not. And, rather than abandon hostages for which he had been negotiating release, he continued to show a spirit of dedication, and put himself at risk in the process.  The result was that he himself became a hostage from 1987 to 1991.

I find the man inspirational for his quiet attitude to service (to God and to man -Luke 10:27).  Waite, despite over 1700 days in captivity, kept his faith. There doesn’t seem to be any stony or thorny ground in his heart ( Mark 4: 10-20).  He is a member of the Society of Friends, and has led the Emmaus project to aid the homeless in the UK.  He is an example of one willing to “take up his cross and follow . . . .”

Are you ready to shoulder yours?



Every Knee Shall Bow


Brother Ben shared a powerful message yesterday on the name of Jesus.  This name full of promise and blessing is “Saviour.” Whether Yeshua, Joshua, Hesus, Iesus, Isa or Jesus – all nations are blessed by the name.

While the name of the Father (HaShem) may be ineffable, the name of the Son is to be mightily and loudly proclaimed.  Philippians 2:10-11(KJV) declares: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This name, Jesus, is a “word” of power.  It is no magical incantation, however. It is rather the focus of authority. “In His name” means by His authority. In Acts 19, the word “Jesus” wielded by those who didn’t know Him, failed to have the desired effect.  It is a name used in reverence, in praise, and in gratitude which has the power.  In uttering it (or in fact shouting it from the rooftops) with humble appreciation of His and not “its” authority that the name of Jesus will bring blessing.

In our worship the power of the name Jesus was focused on by our good brother, Ben.  He challenged us to call on it in our trials, triumphs, loneliness, and joys. This is a name of not just authority; but of comfort, guidance and praise. What a wonderful reminder of all Jesus has to offer.

Let us then sing the praises of the name Jesus today, and in so doing may He show His power in our lives. Let us pray in His name- Jesus . Let us serve Him who not only bore it, but fulfilled it – Our Jesus, Our Saviour.



Time To Reflect

Psalm 24:1 reads: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (NIV);.” Okay, it seems Gambia’s political crisis is coming to an end, and the West African forces on its borders can soon stand down.  America has had a largely peaceful change of executive, and the marches and counter-marches have had their respective days. Brexit still looms, but the utter collapse of British life-style (and migration) have not (as yet) materialised.

Now is a time to reflect.  It is not the dictators, would be dictators, or “will of the People,” that in the end matter. We only have a limited say in the world, and then only in regards to human issues and policies.  We can’t change the weather – God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45 NIV).” Nor do we control the Earth and its processes – “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7 NIV).” Even our influence on human affairs is beyond us  – “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24: 6-7).”

It is our Father’s world. What we need to do is reflect and to be thankful for what we are blessed with. Jesus asked: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life (Luke 12: 25)?” The answer clearly is no one.  So, with wars and rumors; the rise of kings and kingdoms, and even the rain – let us focus instead on what matters. He has it in hand  -“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).”

Reflect, and Praise with me today.