Psalm 34:8

Get a fresh taste!

Whose Holy Book Is It OK to Burn?

Did the Pentagon really order burning copies of the Bible in 2009? Why was this not major headlines in the major US media?

Here’s a great blog article that should provoke conversation about the Gainsville, FL church that plans to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, 9/11/10. It also links to the report about burning Bibles in Afghanistan.

I have two questions:
1) Is it possible to further enrage someone who already wants to kill you?
2) At what point will we cease to back down when we are threatened by our enemies?

Perhaps the best way to stop bullying is for someone to stand up to the bully. Unfortunately, it appears that the “someones” are either unwilling or unable to get off their hindquarters and stand up to the Muslim extremists … and to those within our own country that aid and abet our enemies with either their silence or concerns of “tolerance”. Granted, sometimes standing up to a bully will give you a black eye. But the black eye is worth protecting those who are being bullied.

Muslim extremists want to destroy our culture and replace it with their own. Their way of life (Shariah Law) and our Constitution are incompatible. They have no interest in negotiating and being “tolerant”. They believe they are right and everyone else is wrong — and everyone who is wrong is to be eliminated. I venture to say that these are not “extreme” views in Islam — they are clear teachings in the Koran. The “moderate” Muslims are the ones who are out of step with mainline Islam.

For too long, we have walked a line of not wanting to “offend” people. When will we (US and Christians) stand up and say, “We have had enough of this! We’re not going to take it anymore!” It’s time for someone to draw a line in the sand.

Now, where’s my stick?

 

Spontaneous Outward Expressions of Excitement

A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to serve on the ministry team on one of Fellowship of the Sword‘s Quest. One morning, I gave a quick overview of the postures of worship from the Old Testament. Even though it’s a Christian event, we don’t talk about where we go to church — it helps to keep out debates about our differences, in order to capitalize on our similarities. Too often, we are know by our denomination (i.e., a math term for “division”) rather than our love (John 13:35). But I digress.

As I later reflected on this brief teaching, I was struck by an arresting thought … which I’ll get to in a moment.

Think about the last time you went to a concert or sporting event (or watched one on TV). What did you see?

I saw people reaching out to the performer as he walked across the stage. I heard lots of shouting and singing while the band played musical instruments. Backup singers swayed to the music. Dancers danced. Fans threw their hands up in the air when their team scored the winning touchdown. Lots of smiling. Lots of laughing. Lots of fun!

Regardless of their favorite sport or type of music — regardless of their favorite team, band, or artist — everyone at the event responds with spontaneous outward expressions of excitement.

The only times people don’t show their excitement at these events are:

1.When there’s nothing to get excited about. I remember when I wasn’t a Tarheels fan and they went into a “Four Corners” stall (in the days before the shot clock). Who wants to see five guys toss the ball to each other, with no intention of taking a shot? There’s nothing exciting about that!

2. When people don’t have “skin in the game”. For instance, I find it difficult to get excited about hockey. The same for baseball. I might go if someone I cared about was taking me. But I wouldn’t be there for the event. However, put me in an arena watching the ‘Heels play basketball… well, that’s another story!

Now think about the last time you were in church. What did you see? For some of us, it’s been a long time. But again, I digress.

I saw people sitting when they were supposed to, standing when they were supposed to, and singing when they were supposed to. No spontaneous outward expressions of excitement.

I get the fact that each of our divisions, er… denominations have different customs. Some sit. Some stand. Some kneel. But how often are there spontaneous outward expressions of excitement in our churches?

Perhaps the reason why there are no spontaneous outward expressions of excitement in church is that there is nothing to get excited about. Predictable order of things. Predictable music. Predictable preaching. In a word, it’s predictable.

Or, perhaps there is something to get excited about, but we don’t experience spontaneous outward expressions because we don’t have “skin in the game”.

The bottom line is this: our spontaneous outward expressions of excitement reveal the value we place on what we are doing. They reveal the state of its worth. “Worth-ship” is the basis of the word, “worship”.

Now to my arresting thought:

How dare we give less to an Almighty, All-Sufficient, All-Sovereign, All-Satisfying God?

So how do you worship?

 

On Modern Bible Translations

A friend recently asked me what I thought of the King James Version of the Bible. He remarked, “I’m enjoying the Independent Baptist church that I’m going to. They only preach and teach the King James. The pastor said in one of his sermons that the King James is a translation and other versions of scripture are translations of what the writers of the scripture thought. What is your opinion about this?”

My initial response was, “Do you really want to know my opinion? You will probably not like it.” He said, “I think that I probably will agree with your opinion since most evangelical churches use other translations of scripture. I use the NIV myself. But why would my pastor believe what he does about other translations?”

I’m glad you asked that question!

My response: Part One

(Before reading further, let me say that I believe the New Testament documents are the most reliable in all antiquity. In over 26,000 manuscripts and fragments, there is not one single point of disagreement in doctrinal or ethical matters. The few differences that do exist can be explained by obvious scribal mistakes, spelling, word order, etc. For more in-depth information on “textual criticism”, check out Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict)

Many sincere Christians believe that the KJV is the most reliable translation of the Bible. This is common among “Independent Baptist Churches” and other groups. The belief is based on the assumption that the collection of manuscripts used to translate the KJV (the “Majority Text”) are superior to other collections. It’s called the “Majority Text” because there are more of those manuscripts than of the other collections of manuscripts. But does the number of manuscripts prove they are better?

In a popular party game people line up and the first in line whispers a sentence or phrase to the next in line, who passes the message to the next. When the last person in line gets the message, he or she will speak out loud what they heard. More often than not, the message fails to be transmitted intact through the entire line and everyone gets a good laugh.

An original message of, “Adam and Eve got married” could end up, “Adam and Steve got married.” The words sound somewhat similar, but the message is very different.

The fifteen people who heard, “Adam and Steve got married” may sincerely believe they heard and passed the correct message. One might assume that since fifteen of the twenty participants heard this message, it must be completely reliable. But when you find that the only five people who heard “Adam and Eve got married” were at the beginning of the line, then you know that Adam married a woman, not another man. The earlier version is more reliable, though fewer people heard it.

Such is the case with the manuscripts used for translating the KJV. Although there are more of them, the older manuscripts are often more reliable than the later ones, simply because they were closer to the original source.

My response: Part Two

Now, for the second part of my friend’s question. His pastor is partially correct on the question of the KJV being a translation the text and other versions being what the translators thought.

When translating from any language to any other language, you can either translate word-for-word, or thought-for-thought — or somewhere between. Some Bible translations (KJV, NASB, ESV) attempt to translate in a word-for-word fashion, while others like the NIV and NLT tend to favor communicating in a thought-for-thought manner, also called “functional equivalence”. The more the translators lean toward functional equivalence, the more the translators’ opinions can creep into the end result.

Obviously, there are dangers by insisting on either method to be “correct” way to translate from one language to another. If someone insists that you should *always* translate word-for-word, you will be confused as to why a man in France would call his wife his, “little cabbage”; to English speakers, it doesn’t sound very much like a term of endearment.

I find it interesting that the KJV translators didn’t see their translation a finished work; they recognized that as language changes, new translations of the Bible would be necessary.

What is the best translation of the Bible?

So what about the King James? Do I recommend it? I’ll answer the question by asking another question. “When speaking with a good friend, do you talk like William Shakespeare?

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It was the language spoken by the people. The New Testament was written in Greek — but not just any Greek. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek — common Greek — the language spoken by the people.

God revealed Himself and His ways to people in the language they spoke and understood.

I don’t speak “King James” English. I don’t know anyone who does. I speak late-20th to early-21st Century (American) English. So why would I want to limit myself to a 400-year old translation when trying to grow in my relationship with God? And why would I want insist the same of others?

I once heard that the best translation is one that is understood by the one reading it … and that is applied to the reader’s life. I agree. If you and your spouse sounded like Romeo and Juliet on your last date night, the King James Version might be the best translation for you … so long as you apply what you read and study. Otherwise, there are a number of good, reliable translations available for you to choose.

Just make sure that you read it and apply what you hear!

Prov 22:17-18; Josh 1:8

 

An Easter Thought: A Meditation on the Ultimate Sacrifice

As I was preparing tomorrow’s sermon, a random thought came to my mind about Easter. It had nothing to do with tomorrow’s message.

Sacrifices, though bloody, were relatively clean and simple: plunge a sharp object into the heart or slit the throat with a sharp instrument…. death was very quick, lasting only a few seconds, if that long. If you’ve ever witnessed the slaughter of a goat, chicken, or some other animal, you know that there’s no suffering.

The ultimate sacrifice: Jesus Christ, however was very different.

Hours were involved from his arrest until he breathed his last breath on the cross.

beaten
beard plucked out
scourging with innumerable lashes
carrying the cross
stumbling under its weight
perhaps breaking his nose as he fell on the hard ground
nails driven into His hands
nail driven into His feet
cross dropped into the hole with a sudden stop at the bottom
hanging on the cross for hours in the hot sun
disgustingly nasty sponge with vinegar touching His lips
all the while, bleeding
struggling for breath

To ultimately atone for sin required the ultimate sacrifice. Rather than a simple slash of a knife in a ceremonial fashion, His death was carried out brutally by the forces of hell itself through perfected means, designed to inflict the most pain over the longest period of time. Sadism at its worst — on display.

I confess that I rarely consider the immensity of that sacrifice. And for that sin, His death also atones.

Thank God for Easter: an annual opportunity to remember.

 

Can a True Christian Live in Bondage?

A few days ago, I sent out a Tweet and updated my Facebook Status, with a quote from Sam Storms at the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference:

“People are in bondage to sin because they’re bored stiff with God.”

From my iPhone I saw that I had several responses, including one or two from a friend from seminary. I went on Facebook this morning to respond to his comments, but he had removed them while I was “unplugged” yesterday. I’m not sure why he did it, but it seemed a bit cowardly to remove them. I don’t know if he will check back on this, but I feel that I must respond. If he chooses to respond, I will publish his response(s).

If I remember correctly, he said that he didn’t think that a “true Christian” could live in bondage, that someone came to a saving knowledge couldn’t live in bondage.

Well since our authority is God’s Word, let’s see what God has to say about it…

Look at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-35. A problem had arisen because some Jewish believers felt that in order to be saved, you had to become a Jew, that only faithful Jews could be Christians. If it were not possible for believers to be in bondage to the Law, then why did the Council even consider the issue?

Look at Paul’s rebuke to the Galatians in Galatians 3:1, followed by his admonition in Galatians 5:1. If it were not possible to live in bondage as a believer, why would Paul have urged them to not be enslaved? For that matter, the entire book of Galatians is a rebuke for those who would choose to live in bondage.

Look at Paul, a “spiritual heavyweight” in my estimation, who expressed frustration in not being completely free (Romans 7.14-25). He states in so many words in Romans 7:25 that the “flesh” is enslaved to the law of sin. As long as we live in a “dirt suit”, we will continue to struggle with the question of, “Whom will we serve?”

Again, without his comments to refer to, I don’t remember his specific words, but I do remember seeing the word knowledge in his post. I think his comments were based in Galatians 4:8. However, if you use that verse, you must also look at Galatians 4:9, which is actually the same sentence in Greek.

I think it’s emblematic of many believers who think that all they have to do is read another book, attend another seminar or go on another retreat to get to that “next level”. In other words, if we just learn a little more, we will be able to behave better and walk closer to Christ. And this may be driven by the plethora of sermons on “Seven Steps to …”, “How to…”, etc.

Whether or not we admit it, it’s a modern-day form of gnosticism and deism. However, we are not to live as gnostics and deists. Instead, we are to live as a “grace-aholic” (to quote the late Dave Busby), relying on God’s grace to not only save us, but to enable to live the holy life that God intends for us to live in freedom (Galatians 2:21).

So much of the preaching that’s celebrated in our churches can be boiled down to, “Now that you’re saved, it’s up to you to clean up. Here are the steps to do it.” I even heard a pastor refer to (in so many words) “God the Father, God the Son and God the Word”. He was greeted with a roaring affirming response from the audience.

WHAT???? It appears that the Holy Spirit has been replaced by the Bible! The empowering Holy Spirit of God has been replaced by the written Word of God. And if you look around at “conservative”, “Bible believing” and “Bible teaching” churches, it’s no wonder. Statistics tell us that our church people aren’t that much better than unchurched people when it comes to the ethical choices we make.

Dr. Storms was spot-on in another quote that I added as a comment to my Facebook status,

“You persuade a person away from rancid beef not by a lecture about freshness but by offering delectable fillet mignon.”

I once heard of a young seminary grad whose parents heard his first sermon. He proudly asked them what they thought of his fine exposition. His mother responded, “I came expecting a banquet, but instead, you gave us an autopsy.”

Our problem isn’t a lack of knowledge. Our problem is that we’re bored with God (or at least our experience and estimation of God). And nobody, including many of our preachers, are telling us that there’s more to experience and empower us to live the Christian life.

The solution is to offer up a very big, magnificent, all-satisfying, personal, LIVING God .

We don’t need medical examiners. We need gourmet chefs!