Ryan & Jordan

with Pioneer Bible Translators

Month: July, 2013

Have Mercy

by ryan

One day Jesus went up a hill with his disciples and taught them.  As it is written:

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι,

ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Or, in English:

The Spiritually Bankrupt are blessed,

because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Spiritually what?

Let me tell you a story inspired by a story Jesus told (Luke, chapter 18).

One day two very different men happened to be praying side by side at an important spiritual place.  One man was a religious expert, an authority on the Scriptures.  The other was a business man who cheated people, embezzled funds and was a traitor against his people.

The Religious Man stands and prays, “God I thank you that I am not like other men: blackmailers, unjust people, people who have sex outside of marriage, or this bad business man next to me.  I fast twice a week and I offer ten percent of what I get to you.”

The Business Man didn’t even look up. “God, be merciful to me, a man who has wronged you.”

Then Jesus says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who realize they could never be good enough to earn God’s forgiveness and favor–the Spiritually Bankrupt.

We are all Spiritually Bankrupt.  The thing is, only some people ask for mercy.

—-

We’d like to thank our friend Matthew for teaching what inspired this reflection .

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a bit on Truth

by ryan

I don’t recommend reading Ralph Waldo Emerson; there are better people to read out there.  But I do like some of his lines:

Thee, dear friend, a brother soothes,

Not with flatteries, but truths,

Which tarnish not, but purify

To light which dims the morning’s eye.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mister Emerson here reminds me of a couple proverbs of King Solomon:

Better is open rebuke

than hidden love.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend;

profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Being nice and polite are not wrong in and of themselves, but they are never grounds for obscuring the truth.  I am not saying here we should forget about being nice and polite.  Rather, there is a more important virtue: love.  Nearly two thousand years ago Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter in which he exhorts followers of Jesus to “speak the truth in love.”  In a later letter he writes:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What is true?  What is worthy of praise?  I know only who is True and who is Worthy of Praise.  I sing with David and many others:

Bless YHWH, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

—-

Note all quotes in this post are actually translations, except the one by Mister Emerson.  The ones from the Bible in this post keep with the wording of what is often called the English Standard, except where I keep the transliteration of the Hebrew name of God in Psalm 103 instead of trying to find an English word.

The Author and His Story

by Jordee

Ryan and I study diversity in the world’s languages. Language is rich and complex, and lots of scholarly energy is poured into finding what some call “language universals” so we can make sense of it. One of these universals is something we might have guessed. Stories. We learn from stories. Stories are what make up our histories, what define us and what we use to identify ourselves, what we read to and tell our children, what our children tell us, what we pass on through generations.

Of course, the structure of stories differs greatly from language to language. “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after” aren’t language universals. The scholar Robert Longacre, however, has suggested several story elements that are shared among a lot of the world’s languages. One of these elements he calls the “inciting moment.” The predictable is disrupted, plans take a sudden twist, the story isn’t what we had previously thought. The inciting moment gets the story going.

Sometimes we are happy trudging along in a comfortable and safe episode of our story, and we’d rather not be disrupted. About two weeks ago, we were on a pleasant run in a sunny park, when our car was vandalized. An unwelcome inciting moment happened. Plans were changed, our routine was disrupted, and the story of the next several days was not how we would have written it.

But it helps us to look at our stories as a part of a much Bigger Story.

We can remember the bigger inciting moments–
when God spoke the earth into being and called it good,
when He took on human form as Jesus,
when the tomb was found empty,
and when by His grace, He rescued us and made us His children.

These are the inciting moments of the Bigger Story, and the Author is using us to form it into a narrative for His glory. Every moment of our lives is a part of His story, and Ryan and I remain His dearly loved children in every beginning, every conflict, every climax, every resolution.

So if you have just experienced a discouraging inciting moment, or if you are just trudging along, we invite you to remember Jesus, the Author, who endured the cross and ignored the shame because He focused on the joy that was set before him.