We’re Still Here

May 21, 2011 at 7:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching | 1 Comment

Well, we’re still here on May 21, 2011.  This morning I “just happened” to read Psalm 75, and so much of this ancient song is appropriate for today.  God says, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly.  When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.”  God appoints the time, and as I’ve already noted elsewhere, only he knows that time.  Harold Camping doesn’t; neither do I; nor does anyone else.  Anyone who claims to know is only arrogantly boasting of things he knows nothing.  Notice the next verse of the Psalm, “To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.  Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck.'”  Only God can exalt a man, and those who exalt themselves will be brought down.  The next words of Psalm 75 are “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.  But it is God who judges:  He brings one down, he exalts another.”

Let’s not exalt ourselves because one man was wrong.  Rather let’s pray for those who gave away their life savings to advertise for a false prophet.  Let’s pray for those who will now say, “See the Bible was wrong again!”  For it’s not the Bible that was wrong, but one man’s false statements about it.  Let’s pray this draws people to the truth rather than drives them away.  Jesus Christ will return, but no one knows the day or the hour.  It is not for us to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Nothing on Earth that I Desire

May 19, 2011 at 8:48 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

I have run across all the following scriptures in the past two days.  I wonder if God is trying to tell me something.  We must invest our lives in those things that really matter.  As the previous post reminded us, Don’t Waste Your Life!

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  (Psalm 73:24-26)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  .  .  .   The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  (John 6:26-27, 63)

Two Great Books – John Piper and Joel Rosenberg

May 12, 2011 at 10:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

The Twelfth Imam  by Joel Rosenberg.     This is the first Rosenberg novel I have ever read, but I will certainly look for more.  The book was fast paced and exciting, yet educational and interesting (the reader will learn a lot about Islam).  The main character is a CIA agent working in Iran trying to uncover evidence of nuclear bomb production.   From the recommendations, I thought this might be one of those books that I couldn’t put down from the first chapter.  But Rosenberg goes back an entire generation to introduce his characters and put them in the right historical context.  This makes the beginning of the book very interesting but somewhat slow paced.  Don’t let that fool the reader, once the story begins this becomes one of those page-turner novels.  At the same time don’t skip the first chapters or you will be confused and disappointed in the end.  The best novel I’ve read in a long time.  The only disappointment was some issues that weren’t resolved making me wonder if a sequel is in the plan.  I guess I have to wait for it to come out; in the mean time, I’ll have to find and read The Last Jihad.

Don’t Waste Your Life  by John Piper.  Like other Piper books I’ve read, this was a slow read because it was so full of things to ponder, and like some many Piper books, he keeps the main thing the main thing.  He begins with his own personal testimony of searching for a life passion, and tells of the one he discovered, one to which his life has been true.  “Flowing out from what [God] is in himself comes the purpose for our existence.  God’s passion for his own glory gives birth to ours.  That is the single all-embracing, all-transforming reason for being: a passion to enjoy and display God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.” (p.37)

From there each chapter goes into a way that all-embracing passion can be carried out in our lives:  to boast only in the cross; to take risks for eternal things; to prove Christ is more precious than life; to make much of Christ in our daily jobs.  A few of the chapters are especially well done:  chapter 4, “Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death;” chapter 8, “Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5;” and chapter 9, “The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy.”  In reading this book, I found myself much convicted of trivial waste and much encouraged to live for one eternal passion.

Here are three great quotes.  There were many and deciding which ones to reprint in this brief review was difficult:

The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. (p. 44)

There are many disciplined unbelievers who avoid the same behaviors Christians do.  Jesus calls us to something far more radical than that.  People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior.  They ask, What’s wrong with it?  .  .  .  That kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying.  It simply results in a list of don’ts.   .  .  .  The better question to ask is: How will this help me treasure Christ more?  How will this help me show that I do treasure Christ? (p. 118f)

God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace.  (p. 178)

Bible Downloads: NET, ESV, etc.

May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 4 Comments

Pastor Glenn,

Hi!  What are your thoughts on the NET version of the Bible?  I’m a little trepid about randomly choosing new translations of the Bible to read, simply because some translations come from unhealthy origins, and sometimes these origins are purposefully obscured.

I remember reading a very positive markup of the New World Translation on Wikipedia, only to discover later that the page had been modified to remove a lot of the critical sections. They have since been restored, and I discovered that the NWT takes a lot of liberties with the deity of Christ.  Because things like this can so easily slip under the radar, I figured I’d better ask, rather than just take Wikipedia’s word for it.

I haven’t read a whole lot of it, but I did find the inclusion of such vast translation notes to be an interesting facet.  One interesting point they raise is that “Elohim” is plural because it can also mean “God of gods”, which means it is an honorary term for God, saying that he is above all of the “little ‘g’ gods.”  At least, according to their translation notes – I am none the wiser.

Dear ____________

The NET was translated by a team of evangelicals to be specifically a digital Bible, the first translated with that in mind.  Their translation philosophy was similar to that of the NIV (which is another huge discussion in itself).  They use gender neutral pronouns in places, which is a negative in the minds of some.  I don’t care for it in many contexts, but it gets the point across in many others, and is probably more true to the original thought.  Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of people.”  It gets the original thought across, but loses so much of its punch.  1 Timothy 2:1-8 is a passage I always check to see how it is translated in this regard.  It is a passage pretty-near impossible to translate into English clearly and consistently.

I have a print copy of the NET text on my shelf and refer to their www.bible.org website often – not to check the translation so much as to refer to their notes – probably the best collection of footnotes ever put together.  There are three kinds of notes:  tn translator’s notes for those who are missionary translators or who want to know more about the translators reasoning;  sn study notes for more depth or background;  tc for those interested in textual criticism, though it seems they kept these to a minimum compared to the other kinds of notes.  Those interested in textual criticism studies will usually have a Greek NT with those notes in it.

The list of endorsements for the NET is long and impressive, including pastoral names like Charles Swindoll and theologians like Wayne Grudem.  But a quick scan of their endorsements mentions the notes more than the translation itself.

I read the NET NT a few years ago and have a few notes on translation dislikes.  Here are a few examples, remembering that I usually don’t write anything down unless it is a negative in my mind; that doesn’t mean all my thoughts are negative:  First, there seems to be some inconsistency in translation.  Sometimes this is done for literary purposes to avoid the feel of redundancy in English, which is common in Greek, but when two identical phrases or passages are translated differently for no apparent reason, that seems to me to be inconsistent.  Matthew 4:23 says Jesus was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” and 9:35 says he was “preaching the good news of the kingdom.”  Why the change?  You can see a similar thing in Mathew 24:23-24 and Mark 13:21-22, where Messiah and Christ are unnecessarily interchanged within each passage (in my mind this is confusing at best).  Second, there are a few times when the NET says saved “by the faithfulness of Christ,” rather than “by faith in Christ,” which is true and can be a valid translation, but seems to miss the point of the passage (Galatians 2:15-21 for example.  However, I admit I would have to do more study to understand their reasoning on this.)

For a reading translation, I still like the NIV better.  For a more literal English study version, I prefer the NASB(1995) or the ESV.  However, like I said, the study notes of the NET are unmatched anywhere.  There should be no theological worries about the NET Bible, as there are with the New World Translation.

The New World Translation was translated by the founder of the Jehovah Witness, who had no formal Greek background and is definitely biased against the deity of Jesus.  I would say it was translated specifically with that idea in mind, though JWs certainly deny that.

I hope this helps, Pastor Glenn

 Dear Pastor Glenn,

Yeah, this helps a lot.  In other news, I’ve found some free Bible downloads for smartphones.  Unfortunately, I can’t get the NIV, since it’s not offered.  They do offer a number of other translations, so I went and grabbed the NET, and the Amplified, along with the NASB, and ESV, like you suggested.  Do you have a favorite Bible for “just reading” other than the NIV?

Dear ____________

Copyright rules make some newer Bible versions difficult to find for free download.  I’m surprised the ESV was available for you.  Though it is considered a mostly literal translation, you might find it is easily readable (more so than the NASB).  It has been growing in popularity with conservative churches, and I am reading the NT through for devotions this year.  BTW which NASB did you get 1971 or 1995?  The newer version thankfully dropped all the ancient pronouns in reference to God.  That change alone makes the newer much more readable.  The TNIV is being replaced, so it might be available.  It has it’s problems in a few places, but reads identical to the NIV almost everywhere.

If you can find some older, out of print versions, here are two you might like for reading purposes:  The New Testament in the Language of the People, by Charles B. Williams, Moody Press, 1937.  Williams is known for bringing out the nuances of the Greek verb tenses.  The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, William F. Beck, Holman, 1976, (though I believe it is at least a decade older than that date).  It is also known as The Holy Bible, an American Translation.  Beck was a Greek and Hebrew scholar whose passion was to make the Bible clear to everyone.  I guess these two depend on how “modern” you consider the American English of the 30s or the 60s.

Happy reading!

Is All this Celebration Necessary?

May 3, 2011 at 8:05 am | Posted in God's Love, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

When I first heard the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, I was glad to hear of it.  I do believe justice has been done.  However, on the same radio report, I heard an interview where someone said, “May he rot in hell!”  It grieved me.  Should we, especially those of us who are Christ’s followers, wish anyone to “rot in hell?”  That seems like an underestimate of hell and a misunderstanding of God.  Even some of our Christian political leaders are expressing joy over the news of this past weekend.  What is God’s mind in matters like this?

God is a God of justice.  It can be argued that the Bible supports capital punishment.  I believe it does, though not all interpreters do.  But even if the Bible teaches capital punishment, is carrying out that justice a reason for celebration?

Listen to the heart of God:  “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’” (Ezekiel 33:11)

“‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’  declares the Sovereign LORD.  ‘Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’”  (Ezekiel 18:23)

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

I might be a small minority voice here, but God’s Word seems clear.  As Christian’s, let’s not be so quick to rejoice over those things that do not bring joy to God’s heart.  Never rejoice that someone might “rot in hell” no matter how evil we perceive him to be.  God grant that we might have your heart of compassion for the lost.

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