Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Poem: Seeing Above

~ In Memory of All Godly Grandparents ~

My maternal grandfather died on a Memorial Day weekend. In memory of all Godly grandparents I am sharing the following poem which he wrote.

Seeing Above

If we notice little pleasures
As we notice little pains,
If we quite forget our losses
And remember all our gains,
If we look at people’s virtues
And their faults refuse to see,
What a comfortable happy place
This woeful world might be.

~ Dr. Walter Emerson Bavis
December 10, 1872 – May 30, 1961

Dr. Bavis was kind of a renaissance man. During his life he was a one-room school teacher, mayor, justice of the peace, and a versatile “jack of all trades.” After his first wife died during childbirth he questioned why any woman should have to die that way. He went back to school and became a medical doctor. Later he married a nurse and had five more children including my mother.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

EXTRA: Comment to a Comment

~ Bible Translations ~

A comment was received to my most recent blog: “The BEST Bible Version.” The comment seeks to take the reader into a deeper analysis than my blog intention. To this comment I must make two observations.

(1) My blog is not intended to be comprehensive. It is intended to be straightforward, thought-provoking, and easy to read and understand for both the Christian and the pre-Christian.

(2) The comment which was made contains value and points to a more comprehensive analysis of Bible translations—an analysis which I can for the most part agree with.

Thank you.

The BEST Bible Version

~ Which Bible is Best? ~

Some have jokingly remarked, “The King James Version was good enough for the Apostle Paul—so it is good enough for me!” In fact, the KJV was the standard Protestant Bible for hundreds of years and is an excellent translation. However, the question might be, is it the best translation for you?

A word of caution—beware of spiritual pride. Unfortunately the choice of Bible translation can become a source of pride. Consider for example what passes as comedy when people mock certain Bible versions. I have heard the RSV (Revised Standard Version) described as the “Revised Standard Perversion,” the NIV (New International Version) as a “Nearly Inspired Version,” and the NAS (New American Standard) as “Not Authentic Scripture.” I believe spiritual pride regarding which Bible version we read, including mocking legitimate Bible versions, is a form of “sowing discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19)—something God “hates.” Spiritual pride is perhaps the worst kind of pride in God’s eyes. How that must hurt our God! Be careful about putting down God’s Word in any manner.

However, many Christians are in a legitimate quandary about which Bible version is best—a sincere desire to read the “right Bible.” This blog seeks to demystify Bible versions. First, we should be aware that some Bibles are translations and some, such as paraphrases, are not translations at all—rather the message of the Bible is put in the author’s own words.

Main Categories of Bibles

Word-for-word translations ~ These are heralded by purists. A current popular example would be the New American Standard Bible. Many would include the Authorized Version (nicknamed the King James Version), while others would move it partially toward the next category.

Thought-for-thought translations ~ These provide greater attention to the message, the idea, or the thought which the writer is trying to convey. A current example would be the Contemporary English Version (also known as The Promise). This is a particularly good translation for young people, second-language readers, and for reading aloud.

Idea-for-idea Bibles ~ This category emphasizes easy reading and getting the gist of the message across to the reader. These are typically not translations but rather the human author using his own words in a paraphrase to communicate the overall idea of the passage. Examples would be the Living Bible or more recently The Message.

Few Bible versions fit totally into one of these three categories. Most translations are somewhere between the first two categories. Current Bible versions which are both valuable and popular include the New American Standard Bible (word-for-word), the New King James Version (close to word-for-word), the New International Version (about half way between word-for-word and thought-for-thought), The Living Translation (thought-for-thought), and The Message (idea-for-idea).

Which is Best?

The word-for-word purists are often adamant that they are using the most “accurate” form of the Bible. But that claim depends on what the definition of “accurate” is. The key question which needs to answered: Is the most accurate Bible a word-for-word translation of one language to another language or is accuracy related to what the reader understands and how close the reader’s understanding is to the original intent of the writer?

One rather extreme illustration will suffice. In the Authorized Version (AV / KJV) Romans 1:13 reads as follows (emphasis added): “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” The New King James Version renders that verse more accurately: “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” Note that over time the word “let” has completely reversed in meaning, resulting in this particular word-for-word translation conveying the opposite meaning from what the writer intended.

What is the best translation? You should decide. My personal view is that your primary Bible should be a translation rather than a paraphrase, and the best Bible translation is the one which you will read and learn from the most. Having available a supplemental idea-for-idea version is often also very helpful.

A FINAL WORD: A Study Bible can also be an excellent choice—but you should be even more careful in selecting a study Bible. Study Bibles contain much additional supplemental material which is not divinely inspired in the same way the Bible is. In choosing a study Bible, in addition to the translation question it is important to know who provided the study notes. What is their theology and base of understanding? Knowing this is of critical importance when choosing a study Bible. Your pastor or other trusted spiritual leader can be of significant help.

CONCLUSION: Any of the versions specifically mentioned in this blog can be a good choice—and there are others. Over the years I have migrated from time to time but my current favorite translation is the New King James Version and my current favorite study Bible is the Nelson Study Bible (more recently marketed as the New King James Study Bible). The General Editor for this study Bible is well-known and greatly-respected conservative theologian, Dr. Earl D. Radmacher, who oversaw the effort by many qualified editors and contributors (about 62 in all). In addition to the NKJV and my study Bible, I also frequently use other versions and paraphrases (such as The Message).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

7 Vessels

~ A Progression of Healthy Christians ~

There are many word pictures of Christians in the Bible. One of my favorites is the image of vessels. They can be listed in a seven-step progression in the Christian life.

Chosen Vessels ~ In the Old Testament we find Israel is God’s chosen people. In the New Testament individual Christians are chosen by God. For example we read concerning the apostle Paul, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me” (Acts 9:15).

Broken Vessels ~ All mankind is marred by the Fall of Man in the original garden. In order to come to Christ, an individual must realize his brokenness and see his sin as God sees it. Many times after becoming a Christian we go through periods of trial which breaks us even more. David wrote, “I am like a broken vessel” (Psalm 31:12).

Emptied Vessels ~ When a vessel is broken that which is inside spills out—but often not all of the contents. A dirty vessel will contaminate the material which I put into it. As Christians we need to completely empty ourselves so that the Spirit of God may fill us completely. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Molded Vessels ~ Vessels come in all sizes and shapes and are useful for many different purposes. “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?’ says the LORD. ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand…’ ” (Jeremiah 18:5-6). Christians, like vessels, exhibit great variety. God Himself is molding each one of us. God shapes us with different natural abilities and spiritual gifts for His purpose in our lives.

Filled Vessels ~ God wants us to be “filled with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18) so that we are useful to His kingdom and His purposes. There is a story of an elderly Christian who related his idea of the Christian life this way. “Inside me lives a black dog and a white dog—whichever I feed is the one that controls the other.” While simple in explanation, this is a profound explanation of the Christian life. The key question is are we feeding our natural sin nature or our new spiritual life we received at our second birth?

Dedicated Vessels ~ Non-believing vessels are headed for destruction, but when we accepted Christ as our Savior He set us apart (sanctified us or dedicated us) for Himself. “Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called” (Romans 9:22-24).

Useful Vessels ~ God has a purpose for each of our lives. Are we fulfilling His purpose for our life? At natural birth we receive natural abilities. At the second, spiritual, birth we are given spiritual gifts. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve others. Once we become a Christian our purpose in life is to be a “ministering vessel” (1 Chronicles 9:28). Are we fulfilling our calling?

There are other descriptive terms in Scripture applied to the concept of individuals as vessels. The key point to remember is that God is able—and desires—to use every vessel He has!

CONTEMPLATE: At what level in this seven step-progression are you right now?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Genealogy Gospel

~ 4 Women Tell a Story ~

One of the truly interesting aspects of the genealogy of Christ presented to us in Matthew 1 is the inclusion of four women—three named and one referred to without name. Since we believe every word of the Bible in the original languages to be not only inspired but beneficial for our learning, this fact can be puzzling.

First of all, in Jesus’ time women didn’t typically receive mention in the blood lines. At marriage the husband’s line continued and the wife’s line ended. Yet Matthew includes four women. Why?

Second, these four women were Gentile women, one Moabite, one Hittite, and two Canaanites. God had said in the Law that His people were not to intermarry with the Gentile tribes. We read for example that Abraham was instructed by God, when seeking a bride for his son Isaac, to send back to his own people to find a suitable bride. Later a similar thing was done by Isaac for his son Jacob. It was God’s arrangement that monotheism should be the prevailing belief of those who were in the line that was leading down to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet in His genealogy are the names of four Gentile women! What can we learn from this? Why are these four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ?

We need to look at the lives of each of these women. The first is Tamar (Matthew 1:3, Genesis 38). If one were given the assignment of describing her life in one word, a very good response would be “sin.” Out of the sin of Judah and Tamar were conceived twins.

The second woman is Rahab (Matthew 1:5, Joshua 2). Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute, but what she is most remembered for is her “faith.” The Bible says, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31).

The third woman is Ruth (Matthew 1:5, Ruth). She was a Moabite, a delightful person, and is never seen in Scripture as a sinner. She was a woman of beauty and of character, but the Mosaic Law shut her out. The Law has always condemned even the best people that ever lived. As we reflect on what the Scripture says about Ruth, a word that often comes to mind is “grace.”

The fourth woman is unnamed in Matthew’s account—but we know it was Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6, 2 Samuel 11). Bathsheba was a Hittite. As we recall David, the king, lusted after her and sinned against her and God. The Spirit of God seems to have omitted her name since the sin was primarily David’s. As a result of their interaction, David lost his joy—but not his salvation (Psalm 51:12). Looking at what we know about Bathsheba’s life, the word that comes to mind is “security.”

In looking at these four women, we see the plan of salvation woven throughout the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The first important step in salvation is to recognize that you are a sinner and must come to Christ as a sinner (Tamar). Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The next action is to reach out in faith (Ruth) for the salvation that was obtained at the Cross. Third, with those two steps taken, God reaches down with great grace (Ruth) and delivers you from the penalty of your sin and its grip over you. The fourth reality in the plan of salvation is the security (Bathsheba) that you have in Jesus Christ as your Savior.

SUMMARY: Creation is the foundation of the Old Testament; everything else is built upon it. The four Gospels begin the New Testament; everything else is built upon them. The genealogy of Matthew 1 is the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) of the New Testament and is the necessary basis for the four Gospels.