Psalm 34:8

Get a fresh taste!

Last month, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blogged about Christians and yoga.   The blog caught the attention of many media outlets including USA Today and landed on Yahoo’s front page on October 7 (two and a half weeks after the original blog). In a second blog post, responding to the Yahoo news story, Dr. Mohler points out that, “Stephanie Dillon, who has injected Christian themes into her studio in Louisville, said yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith.” John Piper responded on his blog with similar concerns.

Without question, Eastern Mystics and New Age proponents seek to align the body and spirit in a way that is inconsistent with the Bible. One doesn’t need to look very far to find this is true. One of the founders of martial arts, Gichin Funakoshi, said “The mind and technique become one in true karate.” His philosophy sounds similar to those quoted by Mohler, et. al regarding yoga. When asked if Christians should practice the martial arts (karate, kung fu, etc.), Hank Hanegraaff, president of The Christian Research Institute said, it depends.

In Matthew 22:36, Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He responded, to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. Paul reminds us to glorify God in our body in 1 Corinthians 6:20. Clearly these verses show that there is a God-designed connection between our spirit and our body. God desires that we honor and glorify Him with all aspects of our lives.

As we look around at believers, it is obvious that many of us either do not recognize the God-designed connection between our spirit and body, or are not living consistently with that connection in mind.  (Note, I said “us”. I am very much aware of the log in my eye at this point; I am not attempting to merely focus on the speck in someone else’s eye.) Duke University recently released a study that revealed higher obesity and chronic disease risks among Methodist clergy. I’m sure they would find similar results among other divisions (i.e., denominations).

Let me summarize my thoughts at this point:

1. God designed us with a connection between spirit and body.
2. Some have approached this connection in an unbiblical manner.
3. Some have approached this connection in a biblical manner, but are inconsistent in application, even hypocritical in some cases. (I am not saying that Mohler and Piper are hypocrites, just that some people are)

My conclusion at this point is that: God is not honored with an unbiblical approach to the connection. But neither is He honored in a biblical approach with a hypocritical lifestyle.

When a friend asked for my two cents’ worth on the issue, I read up a bit before responding to her question, especially since she  has been practicing yoga.

When I finally had a chance to respond to her question, I felt I needed to ask her two questions:
1. What would you say if I told you that you shouldn’t practice yoga?
2. Where is your heart?

Her response to the first question was, “I’ll have to pray more about it, because that’s not the answer I’m hearing.” Her response showed me that she had already sought God’s guidance and it revealed how sincere her question was.

I felt that I needed to ask my second question to determine why she was practicing yoga. If her goal was to align her spirit and body through a metaphysical or New Age experience, it would reveal that she was not seeking to follow biblical teachings regarding the connection between the spirit and body. If however, she responded that she simply recognized her need to stretch and tone her body, that might be a different issue.

I reminded her about Paul’s caution against “causing a weaker brother to stumble” in Romans 14:21. Paul was addressing the issue of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. In his counsel, he did not say that you should never eat meat. Neither did he say you should never eat idol-sacrificed meat. What he does say is that if your eating idol-sacrificed meat causes someone to be kept from the Kingdom of God, then you shouldn’t do it.

One might argue that more people are being kept out of the Kingdom because of the bickering and gnat-straining of Christian leaders than because some people want to relax and tone their muscles, but I digress.

Taking all of this into account, I believe that she is at liberty to stretch and tone her body. But she must walk a fine line of:
1. being aware of those who can’t (yet) walk in that liberty (former involvement in Eastern Mysticism or New Age movement) — looking out for the spiritual health of others
2. not being legalistic — looking out for her own spiritual health.

From pondering the issue for over a week now, I believe that the issue isn’t whether or not Christians should practice yoga; the issue is the honor and glory of God in our lives.

So should Christians practice yoga? If they can do so without endangering the spiritual health of others and themselves, then they should do it to the glory of God! (Colossians 3:23)

 

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?

 

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 known 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?

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

 

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.

 

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