Like all those in Presbyterian Church (USA) ordination track, I took courses in Biblical Greek and Hebrew in seminary. The rationale is that teaching elders should be able to translate the extant texts of the Bible from the languages in which they were originally penned. I readily admit that I did not “keep” much of my Greek nor Hebrew, but I have a profound appreciation for the importance of the intellectual pursuit of the original languages. Studying Biblical languages helps a pastor read and understand critical commentaries as well as the cultural context in which the Biblical writers lived. There is much to be gained from understanding what was actually said in order to discern what was meant by those who said it. Thankfully there are many astute students of the original languages and the Middle Eastern culture who help us translate the text accurately and faithfully into today’s language and context. The same principle holds true in conversations across a pluralistic world. If I want to genuinely understand what a person who speaks a different language and lives in a different cultural reality means, translation is required. But whom do you trust to do that translation? This concern has been highlighted recently over controversial translations of Pope Francis. Did he really say some of the things being attributed to him? How can you be sure? Do you speak Italian and do you read Spanish? If you are not in a position to do your own translation, whose translations are you to trust? Joe Garcia lives in Florida and has been working on how own translations of the Pope’s messages.
Garcia thinks its likely that people in the Vatican whose sympathies lean left have been massaging the English translations where possible to both soften the pope’s moral imperatives and sharpen his social-justice concerns.
“Massaging the English translations,” Hmmmmm. So many things are lost in translation today. The entire culture war that took place just prior to Christmas sparked by selective comments to a G.Q. writer by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is just one example. Whether or not you “agree” with Robertson is not the point. The point is did you accurately “hear” what he said? Did you go to the Bible to verify his translation and application of the text? Did Robertson at any point misrepresent what the Bible says on the matters he was asked by the interviewer to address? I tried to keep count of the number of times that secular media people made reference to “the passage from Corinthians” on December 19th. Between CNN, Fox, POTUS, the AP and MSNBC the referenced peaked 1000. When was the last time you recall secular media directly referencing, and in many cases reading, a passage from the Bible on the air? Many times they added that it was “Mr. Robertson’s interpretation of the passage.” Really? Did they do their own translation from the original Greek or were they relying on a translation provided to them? Did they even look it up? My guess is, if they had looked it up, they would have made more accurate reference to the passage as being from First Corinthians as there is no “Corinthians” in the Bible. A point that was lost on most of those reporting and commenting on the matter. Does this conversation have your ears or at least your interest piqued? Many people would like for the Bible to not say what it says about a number of issues. But God has said what He has said. In order to accurately understand what God has said we need to be able to translate not only the words but the culture – all of which is Middle Eastern and ancient. Sadly, much of that is lost in translation to a post-modern Westerners whose ears have become so itchy that they will only listen to that which already aligns with a particular political and cultural agenda. That leaves many not only unteachable but virtually unreachable with the message of the Good News of the God who came to seek and save the lost. Hear what I’m saying?
Here is a clip of a longer video I recently did as part of a discussion on the redefining of marriage.
Have you ever wondered “why?” “Why me?” “Why not me?” “Why this?” “Why now?” “Why would God allow ______?” If so, read on…. This is an excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986]. Get the tissues… In 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son David, from Sweden to the heart of Africa—to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.
This was a huge step of faith. At the remote village of N’dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his village for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.
They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. Their only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood — a tiny woman missionary only four feet, eight inches tall, decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, after many weeks of loving and witnessing to him, he trusted Christ as his Savior.
But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.
Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth (1923), the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina (A-ee-nah).
The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. After seventeen desperate days of prayer and struggle, she died.
Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. His heart full of bitterness, he dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife and took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he said, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With two year old David, he headed for the coast, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.
Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious illness (some believe they were poisoned by a local chief who hated the missionaries) and died within days of each other. The nine month old baby Aina was given to an American missionary couple named Berg, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three.
The Bergs loved little Aggie but were afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them since they had at that time, been unable to legally adopt her. So they decided to stay in the United States and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible college in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young preacher named Dewey Hurst.
Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.
One day around 1963, a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting in the heart of Africa was a grave with a white cross and on the cross was her mother’s name, SVEA FLOOD.
Aggie jumped in her car and drove straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she asked.
The instructor translated the story:
It tells about missionaries who went to N’dolera in the heart of the Belgian Congo in 1921… the birth of a white baby girl… the death of the young missionary mother… the one little African boy who had been led to Christ… and how, after the all whites had left, the little African boy grew up and persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village.
The article told how that gradually the now grown up boy won all his students to Christ… the children led their parents to Christ… even the chief had become a Christian. Today (1963) there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village.
Because of the willingness of David and Svea Flood to answer God’s call to Africa, because they endured so much but were still faithful to witness and lead one little boy to trust Jesus, God had saved six hundred people. And the little boy, as a grown man, became head of the Pentacostal Church and leader of 110,000 Christians in Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo).
At the time Svea Flood died, it appeared, to human reason, that God had led the young couple to Africa, only to desert them in their time of deepest need. It would be forty years before God’s amazing grace and His real plan for the village of N’dolera would be known.
For Rev. Dewey and Aggie Hurst’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie met her biological father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God because God took everything from me.”
After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”
Aggie could not be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.
“Papa?” she said tentatively.
He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”
“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”
The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.
“God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall.
Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted.
“Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one.
You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain.
The little boy you both won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today (about 1964) there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you and Momma were faithful to the call of God on your life.”
“Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”
The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.
Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America—and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.
A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going up afterward to ask him if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood. “I am their daughter.”
The man began to weep. “Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English.
“It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.”
He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”
In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who so many years before, when she was less than a month old, had been hired by her father to carry her down the mountain in a soft bark hammock.
The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s grave, marked with a white cross, for herself. She knelt in the soil of Africa, the place of her birth, to pray and give thanks. Later that day, in the church service, the pastor read from John 12:24:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
He then followed with Psalm 126:5: “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].)
If you missed it, watch the archived #I4JLIVE show I did yesterday on hearing God, slowing down, and discerning truth on @Innovate4Jesus.
The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, @FLOTUS tweeted:
You’re an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn’t be prouder of your courage both on and off the field. -mo 10:21 AM – 10 Feb 2014″
The President re-tweeted her message later in the day. Later, the Vice President of the United States tweeted:
“Thank you to @MikeSamFootball & all of the players, @mizzoufootball & coaches at @mizzou – your courage is an inspiration to all of us.–VP— Office of VP Biden (@VP) February 10, 2014″
Who is this courageous person that inspires the President, Vice President and first lady? A college football player who chose to publicly identify himself as homosexual. The use of the word “inspiration” is what bothers me. The original meaning of the word is “to draw in breath.” It was what happened to Adam when God animated Him from dust to life. The ruah or breath of God “inspired” human life. That same breath inspires the Bible which is described as being “God-breathed.”
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
That which emanates from God is what authentically inspires life and truth. That runs contrary to the declaration of the First Lady and the Vice President who feel inspired by an individual whose personal sexual proclivities put him in direct opposition to the inspired Word of God. What inspires us is what animates, informs, drives, compels and impassions us. I am inspired by the One who inspired life itself; the One whom alone has the Word of life and inspires the same. What inspires you?
No one with a beating heart denies that the use of chemical weapons is deplorable. No one denies that the death of innocent people at the hands of a despot is appalling. No one denies the legitimacy of the “red line” against such atrocities regardless of who drew it. But the outrage expressed by some over the murder of hundreds of Syrian children in their beds is moral schizophrenia for a nation that has chemically induced the deaths of more than 50 million of its own children — in the womb. People in this nation and around the globe who acknowledge that human life begins prior to physical birth hear nothing but utter hypocrisy when members of an ardently pro-abortion Administration make statements of “moral outrage” about the deaths of hundreds of children. Out of one side of their mouth they declare that every child matters. While out of the other side they legislate, fund and fiercely defend on-demand abortion. If every child really matters, then every child really matters. Period. But that is not the ethic of America today. This is a nation who has declared, by her own actions, over the past 40 years that every child does not matter. The only children who matter are the children that fit into our personal financial and social plans. Other children, 50 million of them, matter not — they are subject to chemical annihilation at our hands. Continue reading
The recent story of a Tennessee judge changing the legal name of an infant whose parents took one another to court in a dispute over child support has garnered national attention. The questions raised by the secular media center around a parent’s freedom to name their child whatever they choose, religious liberty and the judicial overreach in this particular case. But the deeper question might be: “What compels a person to name a child Messiah?” According to the Social Security Administration, the use of the title “Messiah” as a name for children — both male and female — has grown in popularity in recent years in America. Some speculate that the rise in popularity can be attributed to the fact that rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris, who is featured in a reality T.V. show, named his child “Messiah Ya’ Majesty Harris.” In terms of parental role models, if young Americans are modeling themselves after Harris, it is notable that he has six children by three different women. Using titles for names is something he’s known for. In addition to Messiah Ya’ Majesty, Harris has sons named King and Major. A generation from now there are going to be many adults who bear the name Messiah in our culture. But there are already many people who “claim” to be Messiah, which may be cause for greater concern. There are at least 14 people alive today who claim to be the Messiah, either the second coming of Jesus, God in flesh, or who personally believe they bear the responsibility to save humankind. Continue reading