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Dec 31, 2020

Greetings friends to this end of the year podcast! Before I share my own stories, I want to give you our last two Listener Stories for 2020, one from Tom and another from Tammy. I think Tammy’s story is especially interesting because the Coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on her. I think her story will resonate with many of you. 

Hello, my name is Tammy.  I recently retired from being a principal and before that a school teacher, a job I had done and loved for over 30 years.  I had oodles of plans for what I was going to do, places I was going to go and things I was really looking forward to doing-  like working with children at our church this summer.  When COVID hit and closed down school as we knew it on March 13, 2020, my life really changed.  I didn’t get to say goodbye to my students, parents and staff, it just all ended that Friday in March.  I was really struggling with what to me felt like a major loss. (This is in no way to disrespect those that have had greater losses due to COVID.)

I was talking to my husband explaining how I was feeling such an absence of being needed and like I was just wandering looking for what I was supposed to be doing with my life at this time.  My sweet husband said some very wise words to me.  He said, “Tammy, I believe God is just giving you this down time to recharge you and prepare you for what He has planned next for you to do for Him.  Take this time and use it to its best.”  While I knew he was right, I have to say I DON’T  do down time well.  When you work 60 hours a week for oodles of years and have people consistently needing things from you, to have that come to a screeching halt, really put me off kilter.  

I was struggling trying to figure out what God wanted me to do.  Then one morning in my devotion time God put on my heart that I have been wanting to complete a read through the Bible in a year program for a long time.  Even though it was August, I thought, this doesn’t have to wait until January to be a New Year’s Resolution, it can be my New Life Resolution. What a blessing this decision has been!  I looked at all different types of programs.  I found Digging Deeper Daily and liked the explanation of how this program was laid out. I wanted to learn about the “threads that unify the message of the Old and New Testaments”. I also like the fact that there were brief devotional notes that I thought would help me see the connections clearer.  

I started this journey on August 20th and upon hearing the first reading, I fell in love with this journey.  Phil’s voice was so calming and yet assured in what he was saying and reading.  The brief stories he shares of his work as a Bible translator make me feel like I have a new friend.  This adventure has helped me grow daily in my understanding of God’s word.   Being a Christian since a child, I had heard many stories from the bible, now I understand more deeply what was happening before, during and after those isolated events.  It has really helped make the Bible come to life for me.  

Phil explains how he started this project as a gift to leave his grandchildren.  He wanted to read the entire bible to them.  I feel his love each morning as I listen to him read and explain the daily passage, its as if for those brief moments I have been adopted into his family.  This has not only been a way for me to learn more about the Bible, grow closer to God, but also to feel like I am being gathered into the fold each morning.  

The brief explanations at the end of the readings are so helpful.  I always look forward to the prayer Phil delivers to close the devotional time.  Often, I will replay the prayer a time or two more.  At the end of “our time together” I try to conclude with a prayer for Phil and all those doing God’s work to bring His word to the nations that don’t have the Bible yet.  This reminder of what a gift the Bible is to us, that I often take for granted because I haven’t known a time without it, has made my daily time with God even more precious.  

Early on in the program, Phil was reading to us from Matthew.  When He read Matthew 11:28 which says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I cried.  This to me reiterated what my husband told me.    I was in need of this passage.  When Phil read this verse, with such love in his voice, I felt as if it was God speaking it to me.  I needed rest, yet I wouldn’t let myself admit it.  Now, each morning I consider my time listening to Phil read God’s word as a time of rest, connection and recharging.  

I can’t wait to find out what great adventure God has in store for me next, or where He needs me in this stage of life, what I do know though is that Phil Fields and Digging Deeper Daily will be on that amazing ride with me.  

Thanks so much, Tammy, for your story! And with a sincere blush, I also say thanks for your kind words. I am so pleased— more than that— filled with joy, when people are able to look through the kind of one-way mirror that podcasting is, to become my friends and even adopted family. 

Thanks to Tom giving me this next story. Tom is mainly a reader (not a regular podcast listener). The 3D YouVersion plan he has followed for 2020 is called Read To Me Daily. (Link given in the episode notes.) Tom is a long time friend, dating back to my music teaching days. There is one odd, totally unplanned, similarity between his story and Tammy’s. I think you will catch it.

My name is Tom and I am a sixty-year-old Arkansan.  I have read through the Bible several times using different plans.  The last few times, using electronic media, such as Digging Deeper Daily, has aided me greatly through ease of access.  Reading the Bible entirely in one year gives one little time for Bible study, but I value the discipline of daily reading which stirs my thoughts and continually whets my appetite to, what else, dig deeper.

I read through the Bible this year using the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition.  In the past I have used various translations and even some paraphrases and I may have been wiser to use the recommended New Living Translation or Good News Translation.  Instead, however, I wanted to use the AMPC this year to slow me down.  The many bracketed words and phrases in the AMPC which are used to further describe a translated word or passage, forced me to ponder over a word or passage and think about how an idea was being explained.  I did enjoy the New Living Translation as well as the Good News Translation versions referenced most often in the devotionals.  I found multiple translations of the same verses to be quite helpful.

Most years when using a daily reading plan I plowed right past the devotional passages and read only the scripture.  This year I was determined to include reading the devotionals, again, to slow me down and to help me think about what I was reading.  I enjoyed reading the Digging Deeper Daily devotionals which often gave the translator’s perspective of a passage, citing examples of difficult passages to translate and including real-life examples of working with an indigenous people group to help them understand the Bible.  In addition to translation notes, I appreciated the occasional summaries from prior days, reminding me of an important passage, even to the point of repeating some passages over consecutive days for emphasis.  I also appreciated being prodded by the devotional to live up to its title to, here it is again, dig deeper into particular passages.

I appreciated how the daily readings were divided up between Old and New Testaments, particularly saving Isaiah for the end of the calendar year with so many relevant passages for the advent season.  My favorite passage, personally, occurred late in the calendar year on September 21.  Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)  I am never more at peace than when I surrender to Christ’s yoke.

Finally, while I spent the year in the daily reading plan rather than listening to the daily podcasts, I did enjoy utilizing the audio podcasts through the Old Testament genealogies. 😊

Thanks for those great comments, Tom! I rejoice just as much for those who read the Bible for themselves, as I do for those listening to podcasts.

Before I share my own story, I want to say that I have revised the Read This First site, trying to make it easy to find information helpful to readers and listeners. The Read This First site is prominently linked at

For this first thing I want to share with you, I am reaching back to 1993. If you are one who reads along while listening, you will have noticed that I have a short list of words I substitute in the Bible text. When the text says ‘faith’, I normally read ‘fully believing’ instead. I have explained this in several podcasts, where I mainly just complain about how fuzzy the term ‘faith’ has become. However today I would like to tell the story of when this truth really came to my attention.

By 1993, we had been in the Orya translation project for 9 years. We had learned the language and translated books like Mark and James. The story I am about to tell happened when I was in the remote village of Guay without my family, and the translation team and I were working on revising Acts. A man I did not know well, Nahe, came up to me on Sunday morning and asked to have a private conversation with me that night. I agreed and he came. He told me this story:

You would not have heard this, but I died and came back to life. This happened in another village out on the coast where I was working. When I came to and started breathing again, the people were already building my coffin. While I was dead, I went to heaven. I saw how the people in heaven were rejoicing and so happy. But I was told to go back and enter into my body again. My body was revolting to me, but somehow I did that and came back.

After his story, ever so sincerely— with a tear and a shaky voice— he said, “I cry everyday because I know that someone like me can’t go to heaven. What do I have to do to get to heaven?”

“Wow,” I thought. “What a perfect opportunity!” I answered from Acts 16, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” 

He said, “But that’s just the problem! How can I tell if I have believed.”

Incredulous, I asked, “Can’t you tell if you have believed?”

He said, “We Orya people don’t think one can know that.”

Several things dawned on me at once. The first was, “This will probably not be the great missionary story I was hoping it would be.” And the second was, “Everything that we have translated will have to be revised, because we obviously haven’t been using the right word for ‘believe’.”

Starting that Monday morning my team and I spent the whole day discussing what the word ‘believe’ is supposed to mean. The conversation I related above is not quite accurate. Here is what actually was said:

Nahe asked, “What do I have to do to get to heaven?”

I answered from our defective translation of Acts 16, “Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” (I didn’t say “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” I actually said, “Have faith in the Lord Jesus.”)

He said, “But that’s just it! How can I tell if I have faith.”

Incredulous, I asked, “Can’t you tell if you have faith?”

He said, “We Orya people don’t think one can know that.”

The Orya word which they had used ever since at least the 1950’s to translate the concept of ‘believe’ literally means to have ‘inner fruit’. It can be illustrated as like a papaya, because a papaya has inner fruit. All ripe papaya look about the same externally at the market, but if you buy one and cut it open, on the inside it may be either yellow or pink. I prefer the pink ones. So someone explained to me, “We have assumed that when you die, at the gates of heaven you kind of have an operation to see if you have any ‘inner fruit’ in you. If you do, you can go into heaven. If you don’t, you go to the other place.” No one knows if they have any fruit inside them before dying.

The problem is this: In Greek, ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ have the same root word. They are pisteo and pistis (or pisteos). The visual similarity could be compared to the English verb ‘to be certain’ and noun form ‘certainty’. The words for ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ really OUGHT TO look and sound like they belong to each other, but they don’t. By some strange quirk of linguistic perversity, while ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ look and sound similar in Greek, they don’t look and sound similar in Orya, in Indonesian, and in English! 

It is precisely because of that lack of root-word similarity in English that the abstract noun ‘faith’ is fuzzy and the meaning wanders all over the place. Faith is not like the word ‘certainty’, which can never wander very far from the verb form to be ‘certain’. 

Sleeplessly mulling over my conversation with Nahe, I was amazed when I realized that the English Bible often tells us, “Ya gotta have faith,” but that abstract noun is so fuzzy that people will not know if they have obeyed or not. They will think that they have to wait to find out if they are saved until they are standing at the gates of heaven. This is NOT what God wants!

Here is what I want you to know:

  • If you are a believer in Jesus, God wants you to know that you are on your way to heaven. See Romans 10:9-10.
  • Believing is a volitional action. You know if you believe something or not. 
  • The abstract noun ‘faith’ is not a volitional act, so many people don’t really know if they have ‘faith’ or not.
  • That is why I think it is important to share the Gospel in terms of ‘believing’, because people can’t really tell where they are in relation to the abstract noun ‘faith’.
  • Any time you see the word ‘faith’ in your Bible, you can almost always substitute the words ‘fully believing’.
  • If some preacher or prophet starts explaining what ‘faith’ is and he or she doesn’t talk about ‘believing’ what the Bible says, run away. All kinds of rituals or crystal gazing are purported to increase your faith. Don’t believe it. The faith of people who teach such things is just fuzzy sweet-smelling incense.
  • Hey, would you like to have bigger faith?! I’m serious! I can tell you right now how to increase your faith! Believe what the Bible says about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and yourself!

By the way: Eventually Nahe died and didn’t come back. His widow is a fine Christian. She told me what I already suspected. She doesn’t think Nahe ever truly believed in Jesus. He got mixed up in false teaching instead.


From EveryWord 001 podcast

Here is a quote from from Pickering, The Sovereign Creator Has Spoken, concerning Mark 1:23.

23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying: “Hey, what do you want with us, Jesus Natsarene?!13

13 The name of the town in Hebrew is based on the consonants נצר) resh, tsadde, nun), but since Hebrew is read from right to left, for us the order is reversed = n, ts, r. This word root means ‘branch’. Greek has the equivalent for ‘ps’ and ‘ks’, but not for ‘ts’, so the transliteration used a z (zeta) ‘dz’, which is the voiced counterpart of ‘ts’. But when the Greek was transliterated into English it came out as ‘z’! But Hebrew has a ‘z’, ז) zayin), so in transliterating back into Hebrew people assumed the consonants נזר ,replacing the correct tsadde with zayin. Neither ‘Nazareth’ nor ‘Nazarene’, spelled with a zayin, is to be found in the Old Testament, but there is a prophetic reference to Messiah as the Branch, netser—Isaiah 11:1—and several to the related word, tsemach—Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15; Zechariah 3:8, 6:12. So Matthew (2:23) is quite right—the prophets (plural, being at least three) referred to Christ as the Branch. Since Jesus was a man, He would be the ‘Branch-man’, from ‘Branch-town’. Which brings us to the word ‘natsorean’. The familiar ‘Nazarene’ (Nazarhnoj) [Natsarene] occurs in Mark 1:24, 14:67, 16:6 and Luke 4:34, but in Matthew 2:23 and in fourteen other places, including Acts 22:8 where the glorified Jesus calls Himself that, the word is ‘Natsorean’ (Nazwraioj), which is quite different. I have been given to understand that the Natsareth of Jesus’ day had been founded some 100 years before by a Branch family, who called it Branch town; they were very much aware of the prophecies about the Branch and fully expected the Messiah to be born from among them—they called themselves Branch-people (Natsoreans). Of course everyone else thought it was a big joke and tended to look down on them. “Can anything good . . . ?”

Early this year, when doing the first of the EveryWord podcasts, I found a little golden treasure I had never seen before. In Mark 1:24, the demon called Jesus a ‘Natsarene’ in Wilbur Pickering's translation:

23-24 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying: “Hey, what do you want with us, Jesus Natsarene?!

 We all know that Nazarene is normally spelled with a z, but Pickering spells it with ts. 

Now Matthew 2:23 states, “So the family (that is Joseph’s family) went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: He (Jesus) will be called a Nazarene.” But the name Nazarene or Nazareth appears nowhere in the Old Testament, so how could this fulfill what plural prophets wrote? Here is the answer to this seeming mistake in God’s infallible Word:

In Hebrew, the word meaning ‘branch’ is netser. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah (plural prophets) refer to the Messiah as the Branch or Shoot. Isaiah 11:1 is one of those places:

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot — yes, a new Branch (netser) bearing fruit from the old root. (NLT Isaiah 11:1)

We might call the original name for Jesus’ hometown ‘Netser-place’, or Natsereth. But when Natsereth was translated into Greek, the ts became a z, Nazareth. The cool thing about this is that several hundred years before Christ came, someone founded a settlement called Branchville. I don't think this happened by accident. God definitely planned this. But the people who did that may simply have had the desire to remind others that God promised to send a Messiah who was going to be called ‘the Branch’. So it is significant, and a fulfillment of prophecy, that Jesus is called ‘the man from Branchville’.

The other two prophets use a related form of netzer, which is tsemah. Look at the neat correspondences when we put these four verses mentioning the ‘Branch’ together:

NLT'07 Jeremiah 23:5-6:
5 “For the time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will raise up a righteous [branch//tsemah//descendant] from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land.

6 And this will be his name: ‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.

NLT Jeremiah 33:15-16:
15 “In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous [branch//tsemah//descendant] from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land.

16 In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’

NLT'07 Zechariah 3:8-9:
8 “Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring my servant, the [Branch//tsemah].

9 Now look at the jewel I have set before Jeshua, a single stone with seven [facets//eyes]. I will engrave an inscription on it, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and I will remove the sins of this land in a single day.

NLT'07 Zechariah 6:12-13:
12 Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch//tsemah. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the LORD.

13 Yes, he will build the Temple of the LORD. Then he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne, and there will be perfect harmony between his two roles.’

Isaiah 742-695, 750-695 BC
Jeremiah 627-580, 628-588 BC
Zechariah active 520-518 BC, 520-515, 520-510


In line with the two verses from Jeremiah 33 that we just read, the people in the kingdom of Judah were looking for the prophesied King from David’s line. Like what blind Bartemaeus shouted on the road leaving Jericho, people were looking for the ‘Son of David’. But Jesus didn’t call himself that, as far as we know.

What I will share now is a very new insight for me, dating from October. To me this has been a major revelation. It has to do with Jesus’ favorite way of talking about himself, by the title the ‘Son of Man’. I was dissatisfied with the traditional translation of this title into Indonesian. The word for ‘Man’ that has been used in all Indonesian translations before now is ‘manusia’. Unfortunately that word is plural by default, so it comes out as  the ‘Son of Mankind’. Or to give you the idea, it means, Son of People/Humanity, and Indonesians have interpreted that to mean Jesus was very humbly claiming to be ‘no one special at all’. 

This doesn’t line up with how Jesus used the title the Son of Man. He used it in the following three ways, and supporting Scripture references from Matthew’s Gospel are found in the episode notes:

Jesus used ‘Son of Man’ as a Messianic title:

  • He used it when He claimed that he had the right to give divine and kingly decisions in this world: Mat. 9:6; 12:8, 32; 13:37; 16:13.
  • He used it when talking of his low status, taking on the role of a servant, and of his self-sacrifice: Mat. 8:20; 11:19; 12:40; 17:9, 12, 22; 20:18; 20:28; 26:2, 24, 45.
  • He used it when speaking of his coming again in glory and victory: Mat. 10:23; 13:41; 16:27-28; 19:28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:31; 26:64.

Jesus was NOT claiming to be ‘nobody special’ when He called Himself the Son of Man! 

Well, you listeners to the Daily Bible Reading podcast or those who have read the devotional material know that the title the Son of Man relates to Daniel 7. But there is something there I never saw before this year.

You may remember that God frequently called Ezekiel ‘son of man’. (GNT translates this ‘Mortal man’.) Not just ‘frequently’, but 93 times in that book! That’s almost twice per chapter. But guess what?! Literally in Hebrew the expression is ‘ben adam’ or ‘son of Adam’. Remember that in Genesis, Adam’s name means ‘man’. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t use capital letters to show whether adam is a name or the word man. So beginning in Genesis 3:20, there are verses in the OT where translators differ as to whether ‘adam’ is to be understood as Adam’s name or just the word for man. (Gen. 3:20; Job 31:33; Hos. 6:7)

Readers of the Chronicles of Narnia will remember Mr. Tumus’ question to Lucy, “Pardon me, are you a ‘daughter of Eve?” And the white witch called Edmund a ‘son of Adam’. Really, we can all say that we are sons of Adam or daughters of Eve.

In the short book of Daniel, just like his contemporary Ezekiel, Daniel is called a ‘ben adam’ or ‘son of Adam’ in chapter 8, verse 17. But now let’s take a look a Daniel 7:13-14:

ESV Daniel 7:13-14:

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

But this key verse has a wrinkle I never saw before, and I apologize for this becoming a bit technical here. Parts of Daniel are written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. The all-important 13th verse for defining Jesus’ title is one of those parts. So in Aramaic, Daniel says that he saw ‘one like a son of man’, and Aramaic doesn’t say ‘son of Adam’. However one can say with certainty that the text would say ‘son of adam’ if it had been written in Hebrew. (And it would also have the ambiguity I have mentioned.)

All this made me ask an interesting question: What language did Jesus use when he called himself the Son of Man? Jesus lived in a multilingual situation. Ancient Hebrew would have been taught in synagogues and used for OT quotes or readings, but evidently Hebrew had not been commonly used in daily conversation in Israel for hundreds of years. In Jesus’ day, Aramaic was much more commonly spoken. But by Jesus’ day, people had for 300 years learned the language of their conquerors, first Greek, and more recently probably a smattering of Latin. Many Jews of the time quoted the OT from the Greek Septuagint. But in multilingual situations, people frequently borrow expressions from one language and sprinkle them into their speech in another language. So Jesus could have called Himself ‘son of Adam’ in Hebrew while speaking in Aramaic, or he could have called himself the Son of Man in Aramaic (like Daniel wrote), or could have called himself the Son of Man in Greek (as the Septuagint translates that expression).

In this way, I found that I reached a dead end in the study of the ancient languages. We simply don’t know enough about what languages Jesus used in different contexts to tell us what words He actually said. But remember that I am concerned with translating Jesus’ title meaningfully into Indonesian. Calling Jesus the Son of Humanity didn’t give the right meaning. It turns out that calling him the Son of Adam was rejected by my translation team. BUT Indonesian has an honorific word used for titles. Tacking on that word, the title becomes The Exalted Son of Adam, and that Works! 

Finally I get to share the special insight this gave me: What happens if we call Jesus the Prophesied Son of Adam? In Genesis 3 God said to the serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, 

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head

and you shall bruise his heel.”

The prophesied Son of Eve, would by normal Jewish practice be called by Eve’s husband’s name. The Prophesied Son of Adam is the One all mankind has been waiting for since the Garden of Eden. Given this link, we find that Jesus’ title doesn’t just relate to Daniel 7, but it also relates all the way back to the first prophecy in the Bible. He is the One who vanquished Satan for us on the cross, who speaks with divine and kingly authority, and who will come again in glory and victorious power. This expansion of the meaning of Jesus’ title has been my biggest insight in 2020.

“Oh, how great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge.” Rom 11:33

And how deep and amazing is God’s Word. “The word of God is alive and active, and sharper than any double-edged sword.” Heb. 4:12

Gale and I wish you a very happy New Year! May the Lord bless you ‘real good’.