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Translations

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Grapes

Jesus gives us our purpose in today’s Bible reading: bear fruit. He is the true Vine. And Believers are branches attached to the True Vine. The responsibilities of the branches are to stay connected with the Vine and let the life of the Vine flow through them. Union and Communion.

As long as a Believer stays in Union and Communion with the Vine, the life of the Vine produces fruit. Notice that the Vine produces the fruit through the branches. The branches bear fruit produced by the Vine.

Branches that are not attached to the Vine are gathered up and burned (John 15:6) because they take up space in the vineyard. But branches that are attached to the Vine, but aren’t bearing fruit are lifted up[1] (John 15:2) and given special attention so they can bear fruit. By raising up those branches, they are taken off the ground where the fruit was stepped on or stolen by a rodent or some other hungry animal.

Application?

How’s your fruit bearing? Do you bear the fruit produced by Jesus in your life?

Have you felt discouraged, just waiting for Jesus to come along and remove you from the vineyard? Rest assured that if you are still in union and communion with the Vine, you can never be cast aside. Instead, the Master Gardener will deal with you so that you can bear fruit.

Check your connection. Draw your life from the True Vine. And bear the fruit.

[1] Most modern English translations miss this key point, leading to some amount of confusion about the destiny of non-fruit-bearing branches that are still attached to the Vine. The Greek word means to raise up or to lift up, not to take away or to remove.

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The fields are ready for harvest

In today’s Bible reading, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was an abnormal meeting because Jews never went through Samaria and women generally didn’t draw water from wells in the middle of the day. But here they are: a young rabbi and a woman with a troubled past. And they’re talking about God.

After telling her that He is the source of living water and that some day both the Samaritans and Jews will worship the Father together in Spirit and in Truth, she runs off to tell her friends and family about a man who knew everything about her. (John 4:29)

Next, the Disciples engage Jesus about his lunch plans. He dodges their questions and tells them to look up; the fields are ready for the harvest. John tells us that many Samaritans believed Jesus because of the woman’s testimony about Him. Still others believe, not just because of her testimony, but because they experience Him for themselves.

So what did Jesus mean by “the fields are ready for harvest”?

Jesus had “primed the pump” so to speak with the woman and the Samaritan people came, interested to find out more. Meanwhile, God was priming the pump of the people’s hearts, making them ready to hear what Jesus would say to them.

We think the people came, seeking Jesus, when in reality, God was already seeking them! (John 4:23) Now, after heartily endorsing the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 in yesterday’s devotional, I need to point out that the CSB’s weakness on John 4:23 (CSB). It isn’t that the Father wants (CSB) people to worship Him. It’s that the Father seeks (ESV) people to worship Him. We’ll read in 6:44 that unless the Father draws someone, they won’t seek on their own. Paul confirms this in Romans 3:11 as he quotes Psalm 14:1-3.

Our efforts to tell people about Jesus will be completely ineffective if we haven’t bathed those efforts in prayer. If God hasn’t prepared their hearts, they simply won’t hear the Gospel message. And I think that partially explains why there are so many false conversions: people are pressed to make a decision for Jesus when their hearts aren’t in it. They politely pray a prayer and are told that they are forever saved and eternally secure. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Application

The best witnesses are those who simply tell their experience with Jesus and invite others to know Him, too.

That was true two thousand years ago. And it’s true now. You don’t have to burden yourself learning lots of apologetics arguments. They may help, but unless God has prepared their hearts, no argument under heaven will save them.

Talking about God with people must be preceded by prayer, bathed in prayer, and supported by prayer. There simply is no substitute for prayer in evangelism. And that’s something that any Believer can do!

Pray that God would give you boldness. Pray that God would give you the right words to say. Pray that God would prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel message. And pray that the Gospel message lands on “good soil” (Matthew 13:23)

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For God loved the world in this way ...

Today’s Bible reading includes one of the most memorized verses in the Bible. It’s a verse that so many people have loved and quoted. And it’s a verse that was only recently translated into English the way it was intended. WHAT????

Now, before I go any further, hear me out: I believe that God’s people can hear God’s voice in any translation of the Bible they can read or hear. I also believe that Believers should use translations that most closely uses words the way we do in common, everyday life. Language changes. Word usage changes. When God spoke and men wrote the Bible, they recorded it in the common, everyday language. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The New Testament was originally written in Koine (pronounced KOY-nay) Greek. In other words, God wanted ordinary people to be albe to hear Him in their common, everyday language. For this reason, I discourage using translations from several hundred years ago and recommend using translations from the past 50 years. The more recent, generally speaking, the better.

Most of us memorized the verse from the King James Version. The KJV was translated in 1611 so that the people of the day could understand it in their common, everyday language. The KJV translators recognized that as language changes, translations would need to be updated. As modern translators came to the famous verse, they mainly kept the wording the same, and updated “whosoever” to “whoever”, “believeth” to “believe”, and “everlasting” to “eternal”.

I have heard preachers say that the verse says, “God loved the world SO MUCH….” The implication — and many preachers have spelled it out in so many words — is that the world was worth so much, that God sent Jesus. But that isn’t what Jesus said!

I feel that the Christian Standard Bible brings out the best meaning with its translation. And it’s the first translation to translate it, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (CSB) The Greek word translated in the CSB as in this way could also be translated thus/thusly or therefore. But in this way sounds better to our 21st Century ears than thus or thusly.

Jesus didn’t say that “God loved the world SO MUCH that He sent His Son.” Instead, Jesus said, “God loved the world by sending His Son.” It seems such a small difference, right? Paul said it this way, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (CSB)

No, Jesus doesn’t say that the world was worth SO MUCH that His Father sent His Son. Rather, He says that our sin was SO GREAT because it was against a GREAT GOD that it took Jesus’ death to appease the Father’s wrath. The difference between those two statements is staggering. One statement places the higher value on the world. The other statement places the higher value on God.

Application

Too often, we’ve misplaced the emphasis of the Gospel on mankind. But mankind isn’t the central focus of the Gospel. God is! And unless we see God is the center of the Gospel, we won’t see the enormity of the bad news for lost people in light of their sin against a Holy God.

And thus, we’ll miss the corresponding enormity of the Good News that the Gospel brings.

Do you have a modern Bible? Can you understand it as easily as you do a newspaper, magazine, or book? In other words, was it translated in your lifetime? If not, there are lots of resources on the Internet that will let you read the Bible in lots of different translations. Normally, I recommend the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and the English Standard Version (ESV). Check out Bible.com for a free downloadable Bible app (iOS, Android, etc.) that includes lots of English translations.

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Judge Tammy Kemp tells Amber Guyger to start with John 3:16

John concludes his first letter in today’s Bible reading telling us that, “this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world.” (1 John 5:3-4 CSB)

The world was able to see this play out on their TV screens yesterday evening. On the previous day, former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger had been convicted of murdering Botham Jean when she entered his apartment thinking it was hers. Yesterday, Guyger was sentenced to ten years in prison. During the victim impact statement, Jean’s brother Brandt told Guyger that he forgave her and that he wanted only the best for her. At the end of speaking, Brandt Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug. Over the next minute of so, they embraced several times.

As good as that was, here’s some of the “rest of the story” that happened in the courtroom today, as reported on our local ABC affiliate WFAA.

After stepping off the bench to comfort the Jean family, the judge walked over to Guyger, still at the defense table. She bent low and spoke in the young woman’s ear. “You understand?” the judge said, barely audible.

The judge appeared to be overcome in the moment, and left the courtroom. She returned a moment later, a small Bible in her hand.

“You can have mine,” the judge said to Guyger. “I have three or four at home.”

She then began to counsel Guyger. The pair were talking low, barely audible, just the two of them. “This is your job,” the judge said, opening the book.

The judge mentioned John 3:16, saying this will strengthen her. Guyger nodded her head.

“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith,” the judge said. “You start with this.”

“You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven,” the judge told her. “You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”

The judge told Guyger that she can take the Bible with her as deputies prepared to escort her to the prisoner holding cell connected to the courtroom.

Source: WFAA (Click this link and watch the video on the page!)

Application

This is what should be happening every single day in courtrooms, boardrooms, and washrooms across America as Believers, serious about their faith do what God tells them to do! We don’t know what Amber Guyger will do with what she experienced and heard in a Dallas courtroom yesterday. We can pray that the seed planted by Judge Tammy Kemp landed on good soil. (Mark 4:8)

Now, I have a quick question…. How easily and quickly could you provide someone a copy of a Bible if they didn’t have one of their own, in a translation they can easily read and understand?

If the Bible is our authority on God and His ways, shouldn’t we be ready to help hurting people find the help they need? If you don’t have a Bible or two that you could provide to someone in need, let me know. I’ll point you in a direction where you can get a few to keep on hand!

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One-woman kind of man?

In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy what to look for in church leaders. I don’t know that Paul’s checklist is so much a checklist as much as it is a reminder that character matters. And character matters … a lot.

I find it interesting how Bible teachers and commentators read their Bibles. Many modern Bible teachers look at Paul’s qualifications and immediately jump to the bit about elders and deacons not being divorced. (1 Timothy 3:2, 12) Or that’s what we think it says.

Paul’s actual wording is “a man of one woman” or “a husband of one wife”. Yes, Paul could mean that elders and a deacons cannot be divorced. But that isn’t what he said. Paul could have used the word “divorce” in his discription, but he didn’t. Instead he worded this qualification in a way that includes polygamy, divorce, and the general way the man looks at women. The way Paul worded it covers it all!

On a parenthetical note, let me say that whether or not Paul was talking about divorce, I don’t think he had our American “no-fault divorce” in mind. I don’t want to get into it here, but “divorce” in the Bible and “divorce” in late Twentieth/Early Twenty-First Century America are not the same. And we can easily run into problems when we impose a modern concept onto the Biblical context.

I also find it interesting how Bible translators do their jobs. Specifically, why do they translate some words one way at one time and translate those same words a different way at another time. My two somewhat-related interests intersect in Paul’s prescription to Timothy when it comes to the service of men and women in the church.

We get the word misogyny and gynochology from the Greek word for woman. This Greek word can be translated as woman or wife, depending on how the word is used. You can’t just say that a Greek word always means one English word in all circumstances. Context dictates how to properly bring the word from Greek into English. Sometimes, the word means woman. Other times, the word means wife. Similarly, the Greek word translated as man can also be translated as husband, depending on the context.

The reason you can’t force a one-to-one correspondence of Greek-to-English words is you run into interpretation issues when the author speaks generically and you translate it specifically or vice-versa. For example, look at Paul’s prohibition of women teaching men in church in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12). Is Paul’s concern with women (in general) or wives (specifically) teaching men (in general) or husbands (specifically)? I think by translating the word contextually clears up most of the “problem” passages like the one I’m referring to.

Getting back to Paul’s requirement of male church leaders being a “man of one woman”… Paul was concerned that male leaders should have a single focus on one woman. Church leaders shouldn’t be distracted with multiple wives. And neither should they have “roaming eyes”. They shouldn’t be distracted by other women; they should have eyes for only their own woman.

Application

There’s an application for all of us when it comes to having a single-focus on God when it comes to a growing relationship with Him. This is reinforced with Jesus’ comments when He was questioned on the “Greatest Commandment”. (Matthew 22:36–40)

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