Translating living letters

In 2 Cor. 3:1-2 Paul talks about not needing letters of recommendation because the Corinthian believers are letters that bear witness to the Spirit of God working in people’s hearts through his ministry.

Over at the LivingLetters blog I have posted several times in the last week about the process of Bible translation in our multi-language project in Papua New Guinea. My wife also has a number of posts that relate to our life in PNG and our desire to translate the good message of hope and trust in God in our everyday lives.

We pray that our lives would be living letters of recommendation for the people who have trained us up in the faith. Also, that our written translations would not just be letters on the page but words of life for those whom we serve. May these friends be living letters that testify to the work of the Spirit in our ministry.

Researching God’s Word, My Sometimes Idol

From my last post, I must recognize that I need to be the learner just as much as the teacher regarding this call from Scott Hafemann that I passed on to my students:

I would like you to think about Greek as loving the Lord with your mind in the same way that you engage in loving the Lord with your heart and your soul and your strength in all the other pursuits of your life.

Oh, how often I need to hear this in my own daily ministry routine. It’s ironic that I can be so deep into God’s word—preparing for a translation session, a teaching assignment, or delving into a biblical research interest—and yet I can easily approach God’s word as a work project devoid of any real relationship with God.

I’m not talking about reading the Bible as a task to be checked off. No, for me it’s that I too often fall in love with the practice of the reading the word instead of loving the Presence of the Word who can speak into every minute of my life. I love my work, and I enjoy the flowers alongside of the road. But I can get so engrossed in the details of the exegetical pathway that I lose sight of the journey’s destination. In this sense, even my time in God’s word can become an idol. It reminds me of something that my first undergraduate Bible teacher, Carl Schultz, used to say at Houghton College:

Make sure that in your exegesis you do not exit Jesus.

I think he was talking about a certain brand of scholars who tend to divorce the divine Jesus from the biblical text. But the warning applies equally well to my pursuit of biblical scholarship without it being a spiritual discipline offered in love to God.

When the study of God’s word lacks devotion to God himself, it could be an idol for me. Do I love my academic discipline more than my Lord and my God?
μὴ γένοιτο. May it never be!

But he gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4.6-8

Lord, give me your grace each day to draw near to you, and won’t you arouse me from my spiritual wandering when I simply follow the daily grind?