Sunday, July 29, 2018


Three more parables from The Wit and Wisdom of Safed the Sage:

  • The Quick and the Dead;
  • Hollyhocks and the Storm;
  • The Circus Procession

Check out this episode!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

July Twenty Eighteen: Let's do something new!

Hey everyone! Greetings!

Lot’s of news to share about ways to access the Daily Bible Reading Podcast, about changes to our Facebook group, and about better ways to share with friends about your Bible reading.

Let’s start with Alexa. Alexa is the voice activated device created by Amazon. One of the Alexa devices is called the EchoDot, and the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are also equipped with Alexa. The DBRP has a registered Alexa skill, and the key activation phrase is Daily Bible Reading. So you should be able to say, “Alexa, tell Daily Bible Reading to play the newest episode,” or “Alexa, tell Daily Bible Reading to play episode 208.” You should be able to ask Alexa to subscribe to Daily Bible Reading.

Unfortunately, for some reason, it seems that Alexa works on the EchoDot device, but not on my 10 inch Kindle Fire tablet. This could be because I have disabled as much of the Amazon advertising as I can on my tablet. I haven’t been able to test with any other Alexa device. But I can tell in our publisher’s download statistics that the Daily Bible Reading skill has been used 297 so far. If YOU are one of the people who is using Alexa to listen to the DBRP, please tell me how it works for you and what device you are using. I would like to know if there is a way to ask Alexa to play the NL episode for a particular day, rather than the GN episode. Use the Contact link at to send your message to me.

Because I thought that the Alexa invocation string was failing (because ‘Daily Bible Reading’ contains such common words), I asked our publisher to change it to ‘Digging Deeper Daily’. So far the change has not been implemented, and it may not be implemented. So if you use Alexa or get an Alexa device, I want you to know that the Alexa skill is now listed right on the banner at the top of our site. If that skill ever changes, I will update the banner right away.

All Android devices now have a podcast app! This is big news, because around 66% of podcast consumption happens on Apple devices simply because the iPhone has a native podcast app. Unfortunately Google has not yet made their Android app visible by default on every user’s screen. If you want to use Google’s own native app to listen to the DBRP, the link is HERE in the episode notes. That link worked fine on my Android phone, but didn’t work the same way on my tablet. If the link leads you to the Play Store, install the Google Podcast App, open it, and then search for Daily Bible Reading. You will see the blue Digging Deeper Daily icon down a little way in the results. (And unfortunately it is not first in the results!)

I note that the episode notes in the Google Podcast App are (like Spotify) just a solid glob of text. All the paragraph formatting has been stripped away. So if you use an app that doesn’t show paragraph breaks, just know that you can get the episode notes when you need them, nicely formatted, at our web site,

I note also that the Google Podcast app allows you to speed up the audio by increments of 10 percent. This is way better than our DBRP dedicated listening app, which only allows you to listen at 1.5 or 2.0 speed. Please don’t listen to the Bible at double speed. You might as well not listen. I don’t like 1.5 speed either. My son, David, listens to the DBRP at 1.3 speed using his iPhone. This works well if you are used to listening at that tempo. I think I prefer 1.2 speed. (But, please understand that I never listen to my own podcasts after I create them!)

Corrections: I still make corrections to the Devotional Content pages in the YouVersion app, but I have not been updating the pages at the web site or DBRP listening app. If you see anything that needs to be corrected or made clearer, please use the Contact link in the menu of

I want to thank Hannah Yi who shared with me about her group in New York City who are sharing together in going through the Digging Deeper Daily YouVersion reading plan. The capability to share YouVersion reading plans was added last year, but I didn’t pick up on it until Hannah told me about her group. Here’s how it works:

  • When you register for a YouVersion reading plan, you are given the option to make it private or to share it with friends. OR you can Share a plan you are currently reading (like the 3D plan), in the Plan Settings.
  • Once you have a plan set to Share, within any day of the plan, you can hit the vertical 3 dots button and choose Share to invite your friends.
  • At the end of your list of daily readings, you will then find a button labeled Talk it over. That button opens a page that asks the question, “Based on today’s reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?” At the bottom you will find a Write your response link.

I encourage you to make such a reading-plan group or join one. I think that using Youversion built in Sharing feature is way better than sharing in our Facebook group. If you actually share what God is saying to you, you won’t want to share that with 1,800 people. Sharing true answers to that question will certainly add a whole new level of accountability to your commitment to allow God to transform you. So I suggest making a group that is only 2-3 of your closest friends. OR, maybe you will want to make a group with just one person you are discipling. And because of the level of commitment involved, I suggest that you might want to try sharing a a 7-10 day plan first, before doing something like the 365 day Digging Deeper Daily plan.

Finally I would like to suggest another thing one could do with this sharing feature. You might share a reading plan with only yourself— by registering a second identity in YouVersion. Then you could use the Talk it over link as a handy way to journal about your daily readings. Writing things down DOES help you remember them. You can already write Notes within the YouVersion app by selecting any verse. Those notes can also be shared with others. But sharing with yourself about a day’s readings would give you a good way to write more general notes about your day’s readings.

I have decided to keep the current  Digging Deeper Daily Facebook group open until the end of this year. But I realize that not a whole lot of sharing is taking place there. For now, I have rewritten the description of that group:

Please share new insights from your daily Bible readings, ask questions, and let’s encourage and pray for one another! We also encourage you to use this group to post an invitation for joining you in any other shared YouVersion Bible reading plan.

This group's primary purpose is for sharing fresh thoughts about God's Word that come to you as you read it. We have a zero tolerance policy for sharing the following things: Do not share 1. videos, 2. long texts written by someone else, 3. or about items you have for sale. Doing any of those will result in you being blocked from this group.

So, to highlight the new things in the group description above: I encourage you use the Digging Deeper Facebook group to post invitations to a shared YouVersion reading plans. I hope this might help you to find new friends to go through a theme-based plan together with you. For instance, you might start a group for a reading plan designed for parents of teenagers, or for recovery from drug addiction, or for surviving grief.

Secondly, please note our zero tolerance policy for sharing those three things that don’t fit in our group.

I shared in my last update about our daughter, Rachel, needing an apartment in Dallas without mold issues. Just a week ago she was able to move into a very nice mold-free apartment, which is even close to the Pioneer Bible Translators office where she works. We went down last weekend with a trailer load of all her stuff. We’re so thankful for God answering our prayers for her. Rachel and Gale share many of the same chronic issues with pain, so prayers for them both for relief from pain are always appreciated.

In my last update I shared that I would be making an online class for Indonesian volunteers who would like to help us in our Plain Indonesian Old Testament translation. Without having a dedicated group of volunteers, it is almost certain that we will not meet our goal of publishing the Old and New Testaments in 2022. We started our first ten students in June, and I think that two will complete the course in 2-3 days. One of the two is especially interesting: He is a pastor of an Indonesian speaking church located in BC, Canada. We start another semester in the course on August 1 with 24 new students. This group includes people from all over Indonesia, plus one in Malaysia, two Indonesians living in Taiwan, and one student living in Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste is a very small island state— half of an island just above Australia. Please pray that we will be able to build a team of 24 dedicated volunteers who will help us check and improve our Old Testament translation, so that it can be published in 2022.

If you are with the group that started to follow the Digging Deeper Daily reading plan on January first, then you are reading in Jeremiah. I particularly enjoy the back and forth conversations between the Lord and Jeremiah. But this is also tricky for readers and listeners. For you to understand this book, please try to be alert to who is speaking. In chapter 16, the Lord tells Jeremiah,

“A new time will certainly come. People now affirm their oaths with ‘I swear as surely as the LORD lives who delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt.’ But in that time (to come) they will affirm [oaths by saying//them with] ‘I swear as surely as the LORD lives who delivered the people of Israel from the land of the north …’

Somewhere in the podcasts I’m sure I have said this, but it bears repeating: The fact that God took the people of Israel away twice to different countries (first Egypt and then Babylon), and then brought them back again each time to their country is a fantastic proof of God’s existence. Each time God gave prophecies telling beforehand what he was going to do. Note that God has now brought the people of Israel back three times. What other God has told people that he would do such a thing and then has done it? In the Babylonian exile, God told in advance the name of the king was who would release the people of Israel to go back and rebuild the temple. (We see that later in Isaiah.) And in Jeremiah God clearly told his people why disaster and suffering would come their way. He repeatedly warned them, giving them every opportunity to repent. And as proof, he preserved all these discussions with Jeremiah. Through Jeremiah we have an eye witness account of all the discouraging things that came upon God’s people because of their stubborn and willful disobedience. We get to see right inside Jerusalem, and can observe the wickedness of the country’s leaders, and the dithering and indecision of an evil king. I think it is very worth considering that we are now living through a time where mankind is similarly stubborn against all that God wants. And God has given us prophecies telling us that judgement is coming.

In chapter 15, we might take an example from a verse that is sandwiched uncomfortably between verses telling of the discouraging circumstances that Jeremiah was facing. In verse 16 he says,

“As your words came to me, I drank them in, and they filled my heart with joy and happiness— because I belong to you.”

So my friend, let’s drink deeply of God’s Word, that in the midst of discouraging and alarming times, we may be reassured by a joy that the world cannot fathom, because of belonging to the Lord.

And may the Lord bless you ‘real good’!

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


1KINGS 21-22:
What a cruel surprise it must have been for Elijah to bring about such an irrefutable display of God's power before the people, but then to have to flee for his life because of Queen Jezebel! Note that God deigned to speak twice to King Ahab. And the reason was: God wanted it known to Ahab and to us that He is not a territorial God. God also gave amazing, symbolic revelations of Himself in the story of His appearing to Elijah at Mount Sinai. Finally, in yesterday’s reading, Elijah's successor, Elisha, was introduced.

PSALM 122:
Consider how exciting it would have been to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And let’s all keep ‘marching to Zion’.

JOHN 10a:
This is a place where our chapter divisions in our Bibles probably do not serve us well. In the original manuscript by John, there would not be any separation between what Jesus said to the Pharisees to answer their question about spiritual blindness, and this chapter. In fact, in John’s day they didn’t even have spaces between words. So in all likelihood, there was not even a new line to start this teaching. So let’s envision Jesus giving this teaching while the previously blind man and the Pharisees were listening.

NLT Translation note:
Ps. 122:4 All the tribes of Israel—the LORD’s people— make their pilgrimage here.
They come to give thanks to [0//the name of] the LORD, as the law requires of Israel.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018


The complete episode notes for this podcast are attached as a PDF file. Many podcast aggregator apps will not let you see these attachments. Using our dedicated DBRP listening app, you can get the PDF file by clicking on the wrapped present icon. Or you can find the PDF attached to this podcast at our website,

For information about all the different categories of podcasts under the DBRP banner, see

Here is the link to our Digging Deeper Facebook group

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Phil & Gale's newest letter

This is our letter sharing about my LONG trip to Indonesia,

  • and about Gale joining me there for two wonderful weeks,
  • and what the Lord is doing among the Orya people.

This is a temporary post. I will remove it someday.

Because of the limitations involved with a Text Post, and because I want to share pictures to all readers, I ask you to click this link in order to view the PDF file.

Check out this episode!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mid-May There, and back again

Hi, friends!

I’m back after one of my longest trips to Indonesia. My trips usually run 7 weeks. But because Gale was able to come for two weeks while I was there, this trip was 11 weeks.

Some of you probably remember that our daughter, Rachel, also works with PBT. She worked for three years in Tanzania, but her health challenges (including the kinds of foods she can eat) made it difficult to live there any longer. After coming home, she stayed with us for a few months of recovery before moving two weeks ago to Dallas, where she is now working in the finance office at our organization’s headquarters.

 After working through various challenges, she left for Dallas full of joy in anticipation of taking up her new work. And her work has gone well— including learning new accounting software. But she didn't anticipate that the place she had rented to live in would be filled with mildew and black mold. Rachel already struggles with health challenges that are like her mother's, and that includes a sensitivity to mold and mildew. She has cleaned as deeply as she can in her area, but the problem remains throughout the house. Recently our son, David, was on a business trip to Dallas and stopped in to visit Rachel. He said his eyes started watering as soon as he stepped into the place.

Please ask the Lord to quickly provide Rachel a good place to live that will not cause allergic reactions. Housing is very tight in the Duncanville area, south of Dallas. So finding a vacancy and getting a reasonable price are both difficult.

Since coming back, my first major job was to typeset our Plain Indonesian Translation NT (TSI) for edition 2.3. While I have prepared smaller books for publishing, I have never had to do a whole NT. I praise the Lord that the Lord has enabled me do a passable job just using humble open source software. The job is not quite finished. Please pray that my team and I will be able to catch any errors that linger in the layout. Through the generosity of a donor in another country, 9,500 copies of this edition will be sold at a subsidized price of $2.50, and 500 will be given away. Please pray that the Lord would do exactly like He says in his Word, that his Word would not return void, but would cut deep into the very soul and spirit of each reader, bringing a harvest of repentance and transformed lives.

Daniel, the office manager for our non-profit organization, called Albata, recently had the opportunity to attend a conference and prayer gatherings in the province of Sulawesi. He took copies of our NT along with him, some to give away, others to sell. He was disappointed that he was not able to get any time to present about our translation in a conference meeting, so he just prayed that God would work somehow. He had only given  a place for our display. But the regional head of the Fellowship of Churches was there, and Daniel gave him a free copy of or NT. The next morning, that man was the speaker for the morning devotions. He preached from our TSI NT! He said something like, “When I read in this translation, the points I want to speak on just leap out of the page.” Another pastor there bought a copy. He spoke for the next morning’s devotions, again reading from and preaching from our NT. When things like this happen, we don’t need to give presentations. The Lord himself promotes his Word! Praise God! What a great answer to prayer.

The prayer request that I have mentioned again and again is that we in Albata would finish a high quality draft of the whole OT by sometime in 2020. It actually is beginning to look like we may meet that goal. But our further goal of getting all of the OT checked and ready for publication in 2022 seems almost impossible. There is a way out of this impossible situation, and it is something I hope you will join us in asking the Lord for.

Let me introduce the answer to my impossible situation by telling a little of what happened on my trip. Several things worked together so that I had a noon meal with three young single ladies in a large mall in Jakarta. Let me just say that they are from two different churches that already support Albata, and all three are from well-to-do families. All speak English fluently, and one is a graduate of Cornell in the USA, another with a degree from Australia. Two teach online courses. All had another wonderful thing in common: They all would like to help Albata meet the goal I just mentioned. So I asked them, “How can we find and involve more people just like you in completing our Bible translation?” The three young women turned out to be the experts God had appointed to answer that question! As a result of that meeting, I will create a new online course with the goal of training volunteers to help our translation team. Their advice included that the course needs to touch the listener’s hearts to motivate them to give their time, and I need to tell stories that will powerfully share our vision.

But, argh! I’m not good at telling stories! And this requires me to make some videos. This is NOT something that was on my want-to-do list! Please pray that God will enable me to make an interesting and engaging course that will be successful in reaching the hearts volunteers to be involved in a hands-on way in our Bible translation work. Please pray that we can manage the results so that the volunteers actually help, and not slow down our progress. There is something here that pertains to the Daily Bible Reading Podcast: I will not be able to release any new episodes until this course is set up and operating.

On May 6th, a family of 6 living in Surabaya, Java, split up and went to three different churches, and all set off suicide bombs that killed 25 people and injured others. Tension between Christians and Muslims has been increasing, and part of the reason are certain political events that have happened recently.

I tell about that to give a little perspective to another prayer request: We are adapting our current NT translation for use by Muslim background believers. This month we for the first time floated the Gospel of Mark at our web site. Because of the interests and needs of that group, the translation will be designed to be viewed in two columns together with the Greek text, and it will include many more footnotes showing how the source text has been translated.

I flew to visit with a consultant concerning that NT translation. Since it was an early flight, I ordered a taxi to pick me up at 3AM. The taxi driver was friendly and we started talking about the governor of Jakarta who was given a two-year jail sentence relating to his Christian beliefs. Then he said, “I’m a Christian myself. But I am originally from Aceh (a hotbed of radical Islam). Both my father and mother are devout Muslims and have even taken the required haji trip to Saudi Arabia.” He went on to describe how he was raised to be devout like his parents. He repeatedly went to a small church in the town, stole Bibles, and then burned them. He thinks he must have burned over 100 of them. But one day, a scrap with one verse didn’t burn up. He stuck the fragment in his pocket. It said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Beginning with that night, the Lord began to speak to him. He stole another Bible, but this time didn’t burn it. Instead he took it home and secretly searched in it to find that verse. But after four months he still couldn’t locate it. In anger he went to the church on a Sunday morning and kicked at the door while people were singing. They let him in and demanded, “Where is this verse!” It only took them a minute to locate John 14:6. Then his question was, “Who is the person who said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life?’” The answer was, “That’s Jesus.” “Then I want to follow him,” he said.

But he didn’t tell his parents. He left home. But after working in other cities for a few years, he went back home to tell his parents. He wanted to tell them about his conversion before he got baptized. His parents’ response was what might be expected. A huge argument erupted. He was stabbed twice in the back. Then someone took a huge rock and cracked his skull with it. When he came to, his body had been thrown out in the jungle. (At this point, still on the way to the airport, he took my hand and placed it on his head, so that I could feel the indentation in his skull.)

Then I said, “Your story is almost like the man who is working with me to create a new New Testament translation for Muslim background believers in Indonesia. His name is ___ (we’ll call him Zack today), He’s also from Aceh. He also was almost killed when he believed in Christ because of reading a Bible.” Then the taxi driver said, “Oh, Zack! Is he real short?” And I said Yes.

There are around 20,000 Bluebird taxi drivers in Jakarta. What are the chances that I would be picked up by a driver who had met Zack two months earlier? And this happened on the day I was traveling to meet a consultant for the special NT translation being prepared for such people!

I want to repeat and hopefully simplify a couple of announcements I made in my News from Jakarta post one month ago. (That was a text only post, not a podcast. I recorded a podcast, but experienced a software meltdown making it so that I couldn’t edit my recording.)

  • If you access the Daily Bible Reading podcasts via the Devotional Content page inside the YouVersion app, then I want you to be aware that the search string encoded in the Podcast Choices link is often not working well. Try adding the letter p to the front of that search string, or if you search for podcast released this year, add the letter y to the front of that search string.
  • The same is true for the DBR website as well. If you just search for a day number 130, (and search without any other characters from the file name) you will also find all the podcasts that include Psalm 130 as well. It is better to add a few more letters matching the file name of the series you want to listen to, in order for your desired podcast to come up on the top of the results.

May the Lord bless you 'real good'!


Check out this episode!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

News from Jakarta 19April2018

Hi everyone!

I tried to record this update here in Jakarta and failed miserably! The audio editing app that I tried to use on my tablet wasn’t able to export the finished product. So all I can do is post this text update.

I took my wife (Gale) to the airport in the middle of last night. She is now in a plane on the way across the Pacific bound for Chicago. Tomorrow at a similar red-eye time, I will be on my way to Makassar in South Sulawesi, and after a couple of days I will go from there to Papua.

This was Gale’s first time back in Indonesia since 2005. And this was a totally new experience to her, because she never spent any time previously in Jakarta, the capital city. The main event was (of course) spending time with Hannah and Brandon’s family, including Ava (9), Joel (8), and Devin (2). I read Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance (by David and Karen Mains) to Ava and Joel. (Those books are included for your listening pleasure in the Joy Sightings series, starting at episode 012. When I recorded them, I didn’t anticipate that I would ever get to read those books to Ava and Joel in person.) All our time with the kids was precious. Devin is increasing in his vocabulary daily, but unfortunately he never mastered the difference between saying Gramma and Grampa. He knows Grampa better, because I am here more than Gale. So I am sure Gale will want to come again, so that she can hear him say Gramma.

One special highlight with Hannah’s family was visiting the Safari Park (Taman Safari) in Bogor. (There is another similar park in Bali.) The Bogor Safari Park is a world class attraction and we would have gladly spent another day there.

I want to make a couple of announcements:

  • This announcement is only for people who are a few days ahead in the yearly 3D schedule: Tomorrow I leave for Papua for almost 2 weeks, and right now Papua does not have Internet because of a break in an undersea fibre optic cable. So I have queued up episodes in the NL and GN series through May 6. The problem is that when I rename an episode and place it in the queue, that episode is no longer available under the old name. So if you are one who is listening ahead of schedule and looking for one of last year’s episodes (let’s saya you are 10 days ahead), you may need to pick one of the older episodes with the same day number. The newer series has names that start with NL and GN, and the older ones have names that start with NLT and GNT. (The difference is between NL and NLT.) Sorry for this temporary glitch.
  • Second: This announcement is for those who listen to DBRP episodes using the YouVersion Bible reading app: On some devices (like my Android tablet), the automatically generated search string is not specific enough. Let’s say (for example) that I hit the Podcast Choices link in the YouVersion app for day 114. The search string that will appear at the top of the results page is _114. But unfortunately, that will return results that include the episodes where Psalm 114 was read, and any other episodes that include the number 114 anywhere in the devotional text. So, from now until we finish the book of Psalms, it will help you find the episode you want if you put one or more letters of the file name in the search string. If you are searching for one of this year’s series, put a y (or the whole word ‘day’) before the underscore. If you are searching for an older episode, put the letter p before the underscore. (Older episodes have the letters DBRP before the underscore.) My tablet will only show about 6 search results, and that often isn’t enough for me to see the episode I want. Make a more specific search string, or use the web site. The website shows more results when using an abbreviated search string.



I want to share some prayer requests with you:

  • I will soon be in Papua. There are five of my translation team members who live in Papua. It will be more difficult to work with the team members without the aid of the Internet. I think that the Lord may have other plans for my time in Papua. Perhaps the Lord would like for me to spend more time in Orya villages. The Orya people are the ethnic group we worked with for 21 years, and I am more and more convinced that continuing contact with me is important in encouraging them to continue walking with the Lord. Another project is to work with my team in developing a new online Bible translation course. This new course is needed to make it possible for more volunteers to be involved in checking and revising our Old Testament translation.
  • Please pray that the draft of the Old Testament will be finished sometime in 2020, and that it will all be checked so that we can publish it in 2022. Such quick progress would normally be considered impossible. Let’s pray for miracles to happen.
  • I’ll be 72 in 2022. This is one reason Gale prays daily that someone will be appointed by the Lord to continue my work here. It would be best if the Lord would provide someone NOW, so that he or she could be mentored to lead our Bible translation organization into the future.
  • Hannah’s husband (our son in law, Brandon) leads the Roshan Learning Center, which is a ministry to refugees who get stuck in Indonesia on their way to some other country. Most of them want to go somewhere like the USA, Canada, or Australia. Now is not a great time to be a refugee. I am thankful that the Lord has given a ministry to Brandon that perfectly fits his talents and is fulfilling as a ministry helping these people.
    • My main prayer request right now is for Hannah and Ava and Joel. There is one American family that is their close friends here. They have kids that match the gender and ages of Ava and Joel. But that family will return to the USA in June, leaving Hannah’s family rather friendless. Having few friends, and having to say goodbye to very close friends is a part of mission life. Trying to make friends with different families is difficult for them in this big city. Most often there are deep cultural differences between the families, or huge economic differences, or if they find an American family with kids the right ages, they may live hours away. So please pray for the Lord to give wisdom and help, and provide friends for Hannah’s whole family, including Brandon, and especially for Hannah herself, and Ava and Joel.


Thank you for praying for us!

May the Lord bless you ‘Real Good’.

Check out this episode!