Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Musings on the Word of God- 01/25/2011

One of the interesting things that happens in our desire for and understanding of Scripture is that we THINK we want a literal translation of the Bible … only to find that this is NOT always possible …. nor is it always desirable … especially in the case of idioms.

Idiom is defined as

1. an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one's head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.

2. a language, dialect, or style of speaking peculiar to a people.

3. a construction or expression of one language whose parts correspond to elements in another language but whose total structure or meaning is not matched in the same way in the second language.

4. the peculiar character or genius of a language.1

What this means is that a “word-for-word” translation may (and probably WILL) yield something other than the desired result AND the true meaning.

A great example of this is found in Exodus 34:6 where God reveals characteristics of Himself to Moses.

Read verses 4-7:

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.

Keep in mind that this passage is God revealing something about Himself.

In verse 6, God literally says of Himself that He is “long of nose.” This idiomatic expression usually gets translated as “slow to anger.” Other versions translated it as “patient” or “longsuffering.”

Yet, in the Hebrew, this expression, (erek appayim), literally means “long of nose” but is an idiom used to refer to someone who is patient and slow to anger.

Proverbs 14:29 uses the same phrase, “A patient man has great understanding…” yet a few verses earlier, in 14:17, the converse of that phrase is used, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things..” stating in the Hebrew that this person is short of nose.

Before we become too amused with these word pictures, we might want to think for a minute that we, in the common vernacular, would refer to this latter type person today as “hot-headed” or as having a “sort fuse.”

The bottom line of the initial funny sounding idiom is this, because God is patient and slow to anger, He has made a way wherein His people do not have to perish. Because God’s “nose is long,” humankind is not treated as it deserves to be treated.

2 Peter 3:15 reminds us, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”

The Psalmist David spoke it another way in Psalm 103:8-10-

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Perhaps we should remember another idiom, but should do so in light of the Scripture, “God is not fair!”

No God is not fair; instead, He is long- nosed, meaning He is patient, He is long-suffering, and He is slow to anger. Because He is long-nosed, we can experience relationship with Him and eternal life.

… And too, we might be careful in wanting a literal translation … or it least as close to being literal as possible. We might end up finding us missing the true meaning of a passage in our search for literality.


1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/idiom accessed 01/25/2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Tribute to my Mom

My mom met her Savior face-to-face early in the morning of January 11, 2011. In many ways, this was a difficult day for my family and for me; in other ways, it was a day of rejoicing.

My mom had been sick for quite a while: a couple of years to be exact. I first realized this about three years ago when we met each other in Gatlinburg, TN. It was one of her (and my) favorite places to go and when we met that time, she just couldn’t keep up her regular pace; she got winded very easily from simple walking and I knew that Mom usually could have out-walked any of us there. I actually had to pull the car around to pick her up at one point because she was having so much difficulty.

A short while later, we all rented a large cabin in Pigeon Forge, TN for all of our family to gather in for a week. Cheri’s mom, sister, and brother, we, our three kids, and their mates and children, as well as my mom were to spend the week together. As it turned out, mom couldn’t make it and I spent some of my time as she underwent by-pass surgery. Mom never really recovered from that surgery. From that point forward, she had circulation difficulties.

I always said that mom would die helping other people and that I was OK with that; that was who she was and what she did. From that point on, mom’s ability to get out and help others dwindled. So she would help them from her home with phone calls.

Mom had felt a missionary calling early in her life. She specifically saw her calling as that of a medical missionary … serving Christ through helping others. She prepared for that calling by becoming an RN. In her mind, however, she was unable to fulfill that calling. The greater truth is that she fulfilled that calling every day of her life as a home health nurse, as a county health nurse, as a short-term missionary, and as a disaster relief nurse. She did medical missions in Ecuador, Haiti, and Antigua. She also worked in hurricane disaster relief and flood disaster relief in various state-side opportunities. She just loved helping other people and doing so in the Name of the Lord.

Mom actually went to Antigua in the West Indies with us several years ago as the team nurse for our short-term missions group. Unfortunately, mom was the one who had an illness on that trip: spending three days in (sub-par conditions) hospital with kidney stones. (That hospital was literally a look back to the 1920s.) But she was a trooper and bounced right back.

Mom gave me over to serve God early in my life. My brother stated at Mom’s memorial that she raised two sons: one to keep people out of Hell and the other one to raise Hell. While that’s not entirely accurate (my brother loves God too) it does give the picture of a mom who recognized God’s call on my life and who encouraged me to leave my home area and pursue His will for my life. I had to remind myself of that a few times because it became really easy to want to have regrets for not being with mom more … but she continually reminded that she gave me over to do God’s work.

And she was so proud of me and my family. She was proud when we got our first church in SC. She was proud when we had our first child, then our second, and finally our third. She was proud when I earned my BS, then my MDiv. She was proud of me when I was invited to speak at Oxford University in England. She was proud of me when Cheri and I had our first grandchild, then our second. She was proud when I earned my Doctorate. She was proud when Cheri and I had grandchildren numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. She was even proud one-and-one-half month before her graduation of our announcement of grandchild number 9 being on the way. The truth is, that my Mom loved me and she made sure I always knew that. I loved her too.

About six months ago, I had a very painful conversation with my mom wherein I verbally released her from this earthly existence. I didn’t want to do that but I knew it was necessary because she was in so much pain. It was clear that she appreciated that fact … even though she held on for several more months.

I called my mom almost every night to share with her the things of the day and the week. She loved for me to tell her stories of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She would often repeat them to Aunt Margaret who was seated near her. I probably called mom 9 out 10 days on average.

On her graduation day, I knew this was the end … but we had snow on the ground as did SC and every state between here and there. I wasn’t able to be with her in her passing. But I can still hear mom speak her last words to me on the phone the night before she passed into glory. She said, as she said every time we spoke: “I love you very much.” I really can’t think of any better words to say to someone when it’s your last time to speak to them.

My continued hard time comes everyday when it is the time I would normally have called her. I grab my cell phone and think, “I need to check in on Mom.” And then I remember she’s not there to check on any more. And while I may shed a tear or two, I am gently reminded that she is truly in a better place … in the presence of Jesus.

So I end this note with this thought: Mom, thank you for loving me without condition. Thank you for imparting yourself into me. Thank you for not only teaching me about Jesus, but for showing me how to live for Him too. I’ll see you again later. … and I love you very much.

Mom francis

Sunday, January 09, 2011

An Interesting Proposal


Why is it that we in the American Church continually attempt to fill the Kingdom of God with American Common Sense and Hard Work. While the two are often mutually beneficial, at other times they are not only diametrically opposed but often detrimental to one another.

Take for instance the new theology/philosophy that says there is no time for retreat among growing Christians: that we are always to be moving ahead and never moving backwards.

While this sounds good and fits with our fast-paced American culture, it is often deadly to ministry, to families, and to individuals.

What happens is that we begin to liken God’s commanded sabbath rest to retreat (and even surrender.)

God designed, practiced, and admonished sabbath rest for His beloved for the purpose of causing them to be whole/complete individuals.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in hard work. I believe in pressing forward. But we must also come to understand His rest.

This is how we become whole in Him. This is how we honor Him … not by burning out, not be sacrificing our families. But by trusting Him … and observing His sabbath rest.

It’s not retreat. It’s not surrender. It’s trust. It’s faith. It’s recuperation. It’s His sabbath rest … that He has commanded us.

Receive it. Take some time off. And rest in Him.