The most common and the most important name for God in the Old Testament is a name that in our English versions never even gets translated. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, you know that this name is behind it. In Hebrew, the name had four letters — YHWH — and may have been pronounced something like Yahweh. The Jews came to regard this word with such reverence that they would never take it upon their lips, lest they inadvertently take the name in vain. So whenever they came to this name in their reading, they pronounced the word adonai which means my lord. The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps.
This approach is not a very satisfactory thing to do, because the English word LORD does not communicate to our ears a proper name like John or Michael or Noël. But Yahweh is God’s proper name in Hebrew. The importance of it can be seen in the sheer frequency of its use. It occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. That’s more than three times as often as the simple word for “God” (Elohim — 2,600; El — 238). What this fact shows is that God aims to be known not as a generic deity, but as a specific person with a name that carries his unique character and mission.
(Note: The word Jehovah originated from an attempt to pronounce the consonants YHWH with the vowels from the word adonai. In the oldest Hebrew texts, there are no vowels. So it is easy to see how this would happen since whenever YHWH occurred in the text, the word adonai was pronounced by the reverent Jew.)
The Meaning of Yahweh from Exodus 3
The most important text in all the Bible for understanding the meaning of the name Yahweh is Exodus 3:13–15. God has just commanded Moses to go to Egypt and to bring his people Israel out of captivity. Moses says to God,
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD [that is, Yahweh!], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
Now notice that God gives three answers to the question, “What shall I tell them your name is?”
In verse 14, God says, I AM WHO I AM.
In verse 14, God says, I AM has sent me to you.
In verse 15, God says, Yahweh . . . has sent me to you . . . this is my name forever.
So two facts persuade me that this text provides an interpretation of the name Yahweh. One is that the name Yahweh and the name I AM are built out of the same Hebrew word (hayah). The other is that Yahweh seems to be used here interchangeably with I AM. “I AM has sent me to you” (verse 14). “Yahweh . . . has sent me to you” (verse 15). I think it would be safe to say that God’s purpose in this meeting with Moses is to reveal, as he never had before (Exodus 6:2), the meaning of his personal name, Yahweh. The key is in the phrase, I AM, and especially in the phrase, I AM WHO I AM.
So here is where we ought to spend a lot of time meditating. What does it mean when you ask your God, Who are you? and he answers, I AM WHO I AM? I hope you can begin to feel this morning how important these words are. There aren’t any words more important than these. Any words that you think might be are important only because these words are true. The more you ponder them, the more awesome they become. I know I can’t do them justice. But perhaps the Holy Spirit might take my stammering attempt and open some vista for you.
The Truth Is; God Does Exist.
First, God exists. Or as Francis Schaffer never tired of saying, God is there. At first, this may seem so obvious and so basic that we wouldn’t need to mention it. Well, it is obvious and it is basic, but the reason we should mention it is that most people live as if it were not true, or as if it were a truth that makes no difference in life.
Ten years ago, Courtney Dickinson wanted to create an innovative public school. She had a teaching degree and while she never got a job as a teacher, she had a lot of ideas about how schools should operate. Massachusetts has an innovation school law that Dickinson thought laid out a clear path to her dream, only she couldn’t find a school district to partner with. Eventually she had to admit defeat.
Future of Learning; a private school in Boston – Massachusetts, shares teaching and learning methods with the state
“I think that idealism really smacked up against reality for me,” Dickinson said.
Instead, she opened a small private school in Winchester, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and one of the state’s wealthiest communities. It was a philosophical blow to her personal mission to work in public schools, but one she couldn’t avoid if she wanted to put her ideas into action. She also found a bright side: freedom from the constraints of public-school systems.
Her school, Acera, The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership, gives students early, deep exposure to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics; they focus on problem-solving and creative thinking across the curriculum; they work to develop their emotional intelligence rather than just academic skills; every child gets an independent learning plan; ability-based math blocks do away with age-based grade levels for part of the day; report cards are entirely narrative to keep kids from focusing on letter grades.
“The goal has always been: let’s prove that this works,” Dickinson said. With 10 years of anecdotal evidence about how these school design choices help students thrive intellectually and socially, Dickinson wants to turn her attention back to public schools.
After leading a handful of conferences and workshops for public school teachers over the last couple years, Acera is in the first year of a three-year, whole-school partnership with the Joseph G. Pyne Arts Magnet School in Lowell.
While Acera serves 130 students in kindergarten through ninth grade at the steep price of $26,400 for elementary school and $28,300 for middle school, with limited financial aid offered, Lowell Public Schools is a large, urban district serving almost 14,500 students, 71 percent of whom are considered high needs. But despite their vastly different student populations, the two schools share similar educational philosophies.
Led by Wendy Crocker-Roberge since 2011, Pyne Arts is already one of Lowell’s more progressive schools. Its teachers have been focused on project-based learning for a few years now and they have been a part of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, experimenting with ways to move away from standardized tests as the primary way to assess student achievement.
The partnership with Acera builds on this work, expanding Pyne Arts’ project-based learning efforts, increasing their focus on STEM topics and leaning into the idea that school success is about more than just test scores.
In establishing an outreach arm called AceraEI, Dickinson and her team boiled down the school’s priorities into three big buckets: leadership and emotional intelligence, sciences and innovation, and creativity and systems thinking. Across those three areas, they identified 10 “tools to transform schools” that Dickinson believes any public school can use, based on education research more broadly, her experience at Acera and her team’s expertise in public education. Lowell chose three to focus on through this partnership. (Acera raised outside funding to support the work, making their support free to Pyne Arts.)
So far, Crocker-Roberge finds Acera’s instructional approach to be “highly transferrable.” While schools in Lowell are held accountable based on how their students perform on state tests and they have to teach state-mandated standards, Crocker-Roberge said it hasn’t been a stretch to tie lesson and project ideas from Acera back into the Pyne Arts curriculum map. A major challenge has been navigating administrative red tape to get the right permissions and materials students need to complete their projects.
“Everything in the public world has 10 more steps,” Crocker-Roberge said.
In the spring of 2016, film student Victor Galusca was exploring a sleepy village in his native Moldova when the 23-year-old noticed some photographic negatives in the rubble of an abandoned house.
The discarded pictures were the life’s work of Zaharia Cusnir, an unknown amateur photographer who died in 1993.
The villager struggled professionally under the communist regime and battled alcoholism, yet he left behind some of the most brilliant portraits of rural life ever captured on film.
For the past three years, with the permission of the photographer’s daughter, who dismissed her father’s work as “garbage,” Galusca and his photography teacher have been cleaning and scanning the stunning find, which they released on a website in January.
Galusca, who is a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, agreed to share images here showing his discovery of one of the greatest chroniclers of life behind the Iron Curtain.
Two villagers pose for a portrait with glasses brimful with wine.
A woman fixes on the camera with a piercing gaze as kids loiter in the background.
Villagers in fancy dress during a New Year’s carnival.
These images were shot by Zaharia Cusnir between the 1950s and ’70s in and around Rosietici, a village 122 kilometers north of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
Cusnir (center) was born in 1912 as the youngest of 16 children.
After being imprisoned for three years for shooting and injuring a sheep thief with a salt bullet, the trained teacher labored on a collective farm. But at age 43 he discovered his calling when he acquired a Soviet-made Lubitel 2 camera.
After taking photography lessons from one of his nephews, Cusnir began cycling from village to village in his region, shooting technically perfect, scrappily framed portraits.
Cusnir’s pictures are unique for being at once posed and static, yet bursting with life.
His subjects react in a way that indicates he offered a magnetic personality behind the camera.
A boy pedals his Ukraina, a Soviet-made bicycle produced in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Villagers with their GAZ-51 truck, a model that was ubiquitous across the Soviet Union.
Young men with their trousers clipped to keep them out of their bicycle chains strike a complex pose for Cusnir’s camera.
Cusnir also kept one eye on the incidental bystanders on the periphery of his photo “sets,” as is obvious in this and the following photos.
Galusca believes Cusnir was able to afford the film needed for his hobby partly by selling prints that villagers could use in their identification cards – a mandatory document in the police state of communist Moldova.
A villager, posing apparently after finishing off a bottle of his favorite alcoholic beverage.
Cusnir’s daughter, who died in the summer of 2019, remembers her father returning on his bicycle roaring drunk from his photo explorations.
It’s a tradition in Moldovan villages to offer guests a glass of wine or homemade liquor. As Cusnir cycled from house to house he knocked back so much alcohol his children came to dread his photography trips.
Although there is no indication of violence, his daughter described “yelling” and “impossible” behavior, and blamed Cusnir’s alcoholism on his hobby.
But Cusnir’s daughter also described her father as a “romantic” who would often pluck flowers and tuck them into his lapel before charming people into pausing for a portrait.
A milkmaid in front of a “table of achievements” that tracked milk production on Soviet dairy farms.
Today the village (pictured) where Cusnir lived among hundreds of neighbors and relatives has only around 40 people remaining.
The abandoned house where Cusnir’s photographs were found in 2016.
Galusca inspects some of the 6×6 centimer negatives he retrieved and his photography teacher carefully cleaned.
Most of the nearly 4,000 images were discovered in the attic of the abandoned house (pictured).
When Galusca spoke to the photographer’s daughter, she was uninterested in the collection and described the photographs as garbage that “no one needs.”
But thanks to the painstaking digital archiving of nearly 4,000 images put together by Galusca and his teacher, this forgotten photographer from an obscure village in rural Moldova is likely to become known around the world.
January is a time of looking forward to the new year – but it’s also a time of ponderance and reflection. Taking stock of what went so well, and what did not pan out alright – and how to make things better next time around; by CRIMSON TAZVINZWA///
Every January, the latest World Watch List is published. It ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to follow Christ – where our brothers and sisters face persecution from the state, from their families and from outside attack. 260 million Christians live in these 50 dangerous countries – 15 million more than in the previous year.
As you read the 2020 World Watch List, please keep praying for families who are courageously following Jesus no matter the cost. Let’s make 2020 a year of change for our brothers and sisters.
Since 2002, North Korea has been the most dangerous place to be a Christian. It’s still at the top of the World Watch List in 2020.
The publication of the World Watch List is a great opportunity for you, your family and your church to pray for our family choosing to follow Jesus no matter the cost.
The church is alive. The church is active. The church is growing. And that’s why the church is persecuted.
The persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, affecting increasing numbers of believers around the world. This overview of persecution trends will help give you a better understanding of the situation, and equip you to pray for your brothers and sisters following Jesus no matter the cost.
More Christians are being persecuted
A staggering 260 million Christians in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List face high or extreme levels of persecution for their faith: in the previous year, it was 245 million. And Open Doors estimates that there are another 50 million Christians facing high levels of persecution in a further 23 countries outside the top 50. This includes Mexico, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Persecution is getting worse
Of the top 50, 45 countries have been designated ‘extreme’ or ‘very high’, in terms of the levels of persecution Christians face. That’s five more than last year.
More churches are being attacked
Attacks against churches have risen an astonishing 500 per cent – 9,488 compared to 1,847 the previous year. These attacks include church closures, and the significant increase is largely due to the actions of authorities in China (23).
But fewer Christians are being killed for their faith
In 2019, 2,983 Christians were killed for their faith. That figure is shocking and upsetting, but it is fewer than the number of believers reported killed in 2018 (4,305) or 2017 (3,066). This is largely due to fewer murders in Nigeria (12), which remains far and away the country where Christians are most likely to be killed for their faith.
Persecution is going digital
Persecution keeps apace of modern developments, and governments are increasingly using surveillance. The explosion in digital technologies has been used to target Christians – particularly in China (23)and India (10), where facial-recognition technology and artificial intelligence have been used to identify and discriminate against believers.
Radical Islam continues to spread
In Syria (11)and Iraq (15), some Christians are beginning to return home and rebuild their communities …following the defeat of Islamic State militants. But the continued presence of Islamic extremist groups and ongoing political instability continue to threaten the church – as was recently demonstrated by the Turkish military incursion into north east Syria. In sub-Saharan Africa, radical Islamic groups are also taking advantage of instability in countries like Mali (29), Niger (50) and Burkina Faso (28).