Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Luke's Introduction

Luke 1:1–4 (NIV)
1:1–4Ref—Ac 1:1
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.  
I love Luke's gospel.  In my opinion, there isn't much to say as a commentator.  This is straight forward.  I realize that a commentary on Luke will give plenty of background information.  Looking at one of my commentaries, the author's comments on Luke 1 begin on page 81.  I won't belabor all of that kind of stuff.  I find it interesting but realize not everyone does.

The main thing I'd like to point out in looking at Luke's opening paragraph is that while I believe all of the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, those who do not follow God do not think so.  Even some of those who do follow the God of the Bible don't think this is so.

When talking to someone about reading Luke, I wouldn't try to prove that view point to them.  Just present Luke as historical narrative.  That's what Luke's opening paragraph is claiming to be.  The NIV breaks this down into two sentences, but in the Greek, these four verses are one long sentence such as the ESV and NASB present it.

Luke was one of many, according to him, who wrote about Jesus and the things that happened.  Luke points out in verse 2 that the information was handed down by eyewitnesses and servants of Jesus.  Eyewitnesses.  As I said, Luke is writing a historical narrative based on eyewitness testimony.  Leave it at that when talking with friends.  If Luke says Jesus said "X", then Jesus said "X".  If Luke says Jesus did "Y", then Jesus did "Y".

Luke tells us in verse 3 that he carefully investigated.  Many people have tried to discredit the Bible have found Luke to be reliable.  Josh McDowell, Gary Habermas, William Ramsey, Frank Morrison.  All men who set out to prove the Bible false and after careful investigation ended up following.

It is thought that Luke was perhaps a slave and that Theophilus was his owner.  Luke's gospel is a part one of a two part series.  If you read the opening verses to the book of Acts you'll see that it is Luke's second volume.

Acts 1:1–3 (NIV)
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Believers Disagree

How should we handle disagreements among believers on doctrinal issues?  This issue came to the forefront of my attention when a friend of mine shared a link to a podcast talking about a conference entitled Strange Fire which John MacArthur hosted.  It's also the title of a new book by MacArthur being released in November.  The subject is the charismatic movement in the church.  Anyone who is familiar with MacArthur knows that he is a cessationist and he has written at least two prior books dedicated to this subject that I am aware of.

cessationism Belief that the charismata—the supernatural gifts of the apostolic church—ceased with the death of John, the last apostle, by the end of the first century or with the completion of the canon of the Scripture. 
Kurian, G. T. (2001). In Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: the authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I'd like to comment about the conference, but I'm not yet in a position where I have taken the time to hear and read all I want to from the Strange Fire conference and criticism of it and then give it some time for me to think about it.

That being said, I thought it would be good to take some time to write about ways I think we can approach issues that divide people - Christians in particular.

1. Realize one's own fallibility.  Over the years, I have changed my views on a lot of subjects.  I am a fallible being.  I also find it easy to be arrogant and think I've got it all figured out and every one else is a moron.  This is opposite of how I should be as a follower of Jesus.  I should realize my own fallibility.  I should realize that I have been wrong before many times.  I might be wrong now.

2. Realize that people aren't the enemy.  The apostle Paul tells us . . .

Ephesians 6:12 (HCSB)
12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.   

Other Christians are not the enemy.  So many of these issues such as end times views, Calvinism v. Arminianism, gifts of the Spirit, the age of the universe and on and on the list goes . . . these are things I can get very emotional about.  I can get upset about them.  And sometimes I can let them divide.  That shouldn't be.  I'm not wrestling against John MacArthur.  John MacArthur is not the enemy, he is my brother.  I'm not wresting against Michael Brown (host of the podcast that was critiquing comments from the conference), Michael is my brother.  The enemy is Satan.  The enemies are demons that have sided with Satan.  Human beings are never what I wrestle with.  That's a lesson that I can apply to other areas of my life too, not just theological debate.  Human beings are not who I'm wrestling against.

3. Hear both sides and listen for the good and the bad in both.  This comes back to point number one but instead of realizing my own falliblity, I am realizing the fallibility of all the participants in a discussion.  In the Strange Fire discussion, MacArthur is a fallible human being and so is Michael Brown.  So, not only am I not wrestling either one of those guys (they're both my brothers), but they are also both fallible.  Baseball is my favorite sport and I often use the metaphor of calling a ball, a ball and calling a strike, a strike.

I think the best way to do this is to do something that runs against my grain.  I tend to find all the "balls" thrown by those I disagree with and all the "strikes" thrown by those I agree with.  I find the best way for me to approach this is to start by looking at the "balls" thrown by those I agree with. Did he make any conclusion that doesn't follow from the premises?  Did he mock those who hold a different view?  Did he misrepresent what the other view believes and then destroy that caricature?

Then it's good for me to listen to the other side for "strikes" first.  What criticisms did he make?  Even if I totally disagree with the criticism, can I find a kernel of truth in there?  I mean he isn't make this problem completely up, is he?

After I've done both of those steps, I think I'm in a better position to look at what might be "strikes" from those I agree with and "balls" from those I disagree with.  A place where you can see me attempting to do this approach is my review of Ken Ham's book, Already Gone.

A great Scripture for this is Proverbs 18:17 . . .

Proverbs 18:17 (HCSB)
17 The first to state his case seems right
until another comes and cross-examines him.  

My view always sounds great when I spend most or all of my time listening to those who agree with me.  I have grown the most in my walk when I spend more time listening to those with view that are different than mine.

4. Speak with a soft answer.  Back to Proverbs where Solomon writes . . .

Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)
A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.  

Many times in these discussions, the words aren't always kind.  This tends to have a snowballing effect.  I might state something a little roughly or a little harshly.  This might make those who disagree with me want to top that response in similar fashion.  Or if someone says something harsh towards me, I know my nature.  I'm going open a can of double on him.  No!  I cannot do that.  I need to stick to facts.  I need to give benefit of the doubt.  I need to give a gentle answer - often even better to give a good, gentle question or even a compliment about something good they said or they manner in which they said it before giving a criticism!

Issues that divide, such as charismata v. cessationism, already have a lot of heat built into the discussion.  It's best if I don't add to it.  I don't want to add heat.  I want to add light.  The way I can do that is realize my own fallibility, realize I don't wrestle with other humans who don't agree with me, hear both sides and call "balls" and "strikes" for both sides as fairly as possible  with a bias towards the opposition if it helps me to be more kind and lastly give a gentle response.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Retiring the KJV

Every year I read a different translation than I did the year before.  This year, I have been reading the King James Version.  I don't keep a log of what I read each year, so at best I can guesstimate what I have read, how many times, and the last time I read it.  I don't think I've read the KJV for the year since sometime in the mid 90's.

Another thing I often do is listen to the Bible while I read it.  I often listen to something close but not quite identical.  I might read the NIV while listening to the TNIV or read the TNIV and listen to the NIV.  This year I listened to the NKJV while reading the KJV.  In doing this, I have concluded that I have no reason to read the KJV again.

Sometimes I wish I was more of a note taker.  It would come in handy right now.  In listening to the NKJV while reading the KJV, I found many places where I simply would have come away with a different idea if I read the KJV without listening to the NKJV.  The reasons are probably multiple.  Two primary reasons that come to mind are changes in how words are used in English and the other would be mistranslated words in the KJV.

The problem with word changes isn't so much words that are outdated so I have to look them up, the problem is how many words that are still in use today in the English language that have a different meaning today than they did hundreds of years ago.  I don't think it was ever as obvious to me as it was when listening to the NKJV.

The second problem is mistranslated words in the KJV.  Sometimes, I know of words that are mistranslated.  Other times it's possible that this option and the former might bleed together.  Maybe a word that I think has changed meaning is just mistranslated or a word that I think has been mistranslated had a different meaning.  Either way, the result is the same.  I can come away with a misunderstanding.

Now in saying all of this, I wouldn't come away with a different gospel.  I wouldn't come away thinking that Jesus hasn't risen from the dead or that Jesus isn't God or anything like that.  The essential doctrines would still be intact.  However, I don't want to settle for merely that.  When I read I want to truly understand.

If I ever do read the KJV again, it will be so I can document these differences so that if anyone were to ask me for examples I could do so in a more thorough way.

I've got two months to decide what to read next year and I have a few different ideas in mind.  No matter which I choose, I'm looking forward to going through the Word of God again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thank you, Chuck Smith

Today, October 3, 2013, Pastor Chuck Smith went home to be with the LORD.  I haven't posted in almost a year and I couldn't think of a more appropriate day to come back and post than to post a tribute to Chuck on this day.

Chuck was the founder of Calvary Chapel.  I spent 18 years either attending and participating in Calvary Chapel congregations or trying to start one where I lived.

Chuck has had a great influence in my life.  God has used many men of God to influence and shape my life.  From Chuck I learned a great desire to continue to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and then do it over and over again.  Whether reading it, studying it, or listening to Chuck or someone else teaching it.

Chuck gave me a love for verse-by-verse, chapter by chapter, book by book plowing through the Bible.  I've been through the Bible cover to cover with Chuck in my car driving back and forth to work.

Chuck finished the course.  In a day where so many fall by the wayside, Chuck walked with the LORD till the end of his time on this earth (and that was a long, full life of 86 years).  I am thankful for Chuck's example.

Words in this blog will not do right for how God has blessed my life through His servant, Chuck.  And in the end, that is what Chuck was and still is, a servant of God, a servant of Jesus Christ.

And so in summary, I will honor Chuck's memory by doing what he taught us and that is to keep the Main Thing as the main thing.  Chuck taught me to follow the God of the Bible.  Chuck taught me to follow Jesus.  And this is how all of us can honor Chuck's memory.

It's right to spend time mourning our loss today.  It's right to spend a day, or multiple days, on radio channels like KWVE remembering Chuck.  However, Chuck was a servant.  Jesus is what Chuck wants us to focus on.  So let's celebrate Chuck, but ultimately, let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Chuck, I love you.  I'll see you in Heaven.  Thank you for serving our King so faithfully and fixing my eyes on Him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now that it's over . . .

The election is done.

This simplifies our lives in a couple ways.

The first way is we don't have to listen to campaigning for the next two years or so.

The second way is that no matter who gets elected, the expectation is the same for what we need to do:

1 Timothy 2:1–4 (NIV)
2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  

It's pretty simple: for all those in authority.  So whether, Obama or Romney won, the imperative stands.  Also people are often confused about the will of God.  Well, Paul makes it clear here that praying for those in authority is good and pleases God.  Sounds like the will of God to me.

Not a long blog post, but it doesn't need to be.  Pray for the President.  Pray for our Congress.  Pray for our Supreme Court.  Pray as far down the ladder as you are willing and able.  They all need the prayer and you'll be pleasing God in doing so.  I need to please God more in this way than I tend to.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pastoring "outside the box"

Pastor Bob Beeman is an amazing servant of Jesus Christ. He is "outside the box." Frankly, that phrase is getting old and a little over used. But he truly is "outside the box". And it's good to be outside the box if there are problems in the box. And there are. Bob looks odd. If you find it hard to listen and take him seriously because of his appearance, then close your eyes. He's truly what a pastor should be in so many ways. You don't have to agree with everything he says. You shouldn't. Bob isn't God. But he's walked with Jesus a long time. You can tell when you listen.

I'd encourage you to subscribe to him on youtube.  Or become a friend of his on Facebook so his daily videos show up on your facebook page . . . that is if you don't lose sight of him in all your "friends".  That's a topic for another day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Save Me From Myself

Biographies / Autobiographies are very easy to read.  I like reading biographies of musicians.  Some Christians wouldn't stomach these books well.  Some legalistic types might question my salvation, or at least the quality of my walk, for reading these.  The books are filled with depravity.  But I love rock and metal music.  I'm curious about people.

The most recent one I read was Save Me From Myself by Brian "Head" Welch.  Subtitle is How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story.

I am not a fan of nu metal music.  I couldn't tell you a single song from Korn.  However, I've heard much about Brian's salvation over the last few years and when I saw this book at Barnes & Noble I thought I'd check out his story.

It is a wonderful narrative.  Brian's life is frankly, quite typical of rockers' lives, at least in regard to drugs.  Brian wasn't so much about sex, drugs and rock, but mostly just drugs and rock.  I am simply amazed at the punishment the human body can take and what people survive.  Please don't take that as a challenge.  I never tried a drug in my life and I'd encourage you to take that same path.

Having said that, it is good for people like Brian to tell their journeys.  People can go a long way down a dark path and yet despite how far down that path they are, God is still able to bring them back into light.

Brian's story might turn off some people because as he becomes Christian his talk sounds somewhat overly spiritual.  He seems to have become involved in a more pentecostal or charismatic circle.  He has a lot of "prophets" that talk to him in the book.  He says things like "I felt like [God] said . . . ".

He sounds like a young Christian influenced by the generalizations of how much of the Evangelical world talks.  I'm sure he sounds like that because that's probably exactly the case . . . a young Christian heavily influenced by the general ways the Evangelical world talks.

He quotes the Bible a fair amount in the second half of the book.  Mostly single verses.  Very experiential type sounding walk.  I pray that God keeps him strong and that he develops a strong walk with our triune God based on solid exegesis of the Bible.  

This book was released five years ago so I have no idea how he is doing today.

Interestingly, as I was googling about Brian, I found a video where a second Korn member, Reggie "Fieldy" Arvizo talks about himself becoming a Christian.

God is reaching rockers.  There is also Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson from Megadeth whose lives God has done some things with in recent years.

Sometimes the edges are a little rough.  There is some language in Brian's book.  A lot of language in Mustaine's book.  In years past I would have wondered, no, I would have judged that.  I still wonder.  However, I realize not everybody grows at the same rate.  Not everybody starts in the same place.  Some people are relatively "clean" when they come to Jesus.  At least they appear that way to us.  Others need more scrubbing.

I am simply glad that God saves rockers.  May God bless Brian Welch.  May Brian (and Reggie and Mustaine and Ellefson) continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our God and savior, Jesus Christ and may he use them to rescue others from the destructive paths these guys were going down.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible

Every year I read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice with a guide to get me through it.  Often, I try to read a Bible version/translation that I have not read before.  This year I am reading through the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

In their book How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, Gordon Fee & Mark Strauss state that the HCSB is more literal than the NIV or NET but less so than formal translations.  Fee & Strauss look at the HCSB's self-description of "optimal equivalency" and state that it sounds a great deal like functional equivalency.

So far I am enjoying the HCSB.  That might not help a lot since I enjoy most versions.  One thing I've noticed is that the HCSB translates the tetragrammaton (the four letters representing the name of God - YHWH) as Yawheh quite often.  The HCSB doesn't do this every time, but it does it hundreds of times.  I like this move and think this would be particularly helpful in an audio version.  Then when listening one could know whether the word adonai (which is a more generic "lord" that would be used of humans) or YHWH was used in the original languages.  Many translations simply capitalize LORD.  However, if one is listening to an audio version, you can't tell if the Hebrew tetragrammaton is used or if adonai or even another term (if there is another) is used.  That being said, I don't have an audio version and the only one I could find online has lots of complaints that the music is too loud.  It would be nice if Max McLean would do the HCSB.

Some other helpful information comes from a presentation from Edward Blum.  His entire presentation is at Rick Mansfield's blog This Lamp.  Rick got permission to publish the entire presentation.  Since I have not, I will wet your appetite with a couple points and refer you to his post to read the entire thing.

Blum points out how the name of God is translated as I already mentioned that difference.  One interesting point is word count.  According to Blum, the Hebrew & Greek have a total of 545,202 words.  No English translation is apparently close.  He states the KJV has the most (out of translations he listed) with 790,676. The HCSB has the lowest with 718,943.  The next closest he listed was the NIV (1984 edition) with 726,109.  The NASB, which is supposed to be the most literal translation, has 775,861.  So the NASB has 56,918 more words than the HCSB and the KJV has 71,733 words more than the HCSB.  So if you want to cut your reading time down, read the HCSB.  That being said, the HCSB still has 173,741 more words than the Hebrew and Greek.  For those of you who think any Bible is literally "word-for-word", now you know the facts.  Translation isn't that simple.

Now being closer in word count to the original languages and having to read 50,000 words or less (give or take a couple 10,000) is nice.  However, that doesn't make a translation better ipso facto.  But it's interesting.  And I don't think a translation should add words unnecessarily.  If more words are needed to accurately convey the thought in another language then that should be done.  So I'm not grading the HCSB on this point.  I'm not able to at this time.  I am simply pointing out the word count factor.

Blum also makes a case that the HCSB has less archaic or odd words/phrases than the NIV and TNIV and less British sayings than the ESV.  Now his NIV would have been the 1984 edition.  I don't know if the NIV Committee on Bible Translation took note of this and made improvements on the 2011 NIV.  I read the 2011 NIV last year and loved it.  However, sometimes I gloss over archaic words.  I started out on the KJV and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons as a teen and archaic words can slip by me unnoticed. This is really important though.  So many people who read the KJV don't understand what they're reading even when they think they do.  And I have noticed odd words in the NIV here and there.  Getting rid of archaic words is a good thing in my opinion.  I don't think it's a bad thing to have to grab your dictionary.  That being said, having to use it too much makes reading laborious and may cause one to give up a book.  This is not what we want in Bible translation.

I'll compare words Blum picked out between the NIV 2011 and the HCSB:

  1. Abound - NIV 18x, HCSB 3x (that word doesn't seem all that archaic to me)
  2. Alas - NIV 21x, HCSB 0x
  3. Astir - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "stirred up")
  4. Befuddled - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "confused")
  5. Bosom - NIV 4, HCSB 0
  6. Deluged - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "flooded")
  7. Kindred - NIV 0, HCSB 0 (The NIV 1984 didn't use this either.  The TNIV used it twice)
  8. Naught - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "nothing")
  9. Profligate - NIV 0, HCSB 0 (NIV 1984 and TNIV each used it once)
  10. Reckon - NIV 11, HCSB 0
  11. Rend - NIV 2, HCSB 0
  12. Self-abasement - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "humiliation")
  13. Shall - NIV 482, HCSB 0 (Ok, I can see how it's archaic.  I don't use it personally, but it's not a big deal either.)
  14. Slew - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (uses "killed")
  15. Spurn - NIV 8, HCSB 1
  16. Strode - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (marched across)
  17. Suckling - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (young)
  18. Thus - NIV 28, HCSB 0 (again, no big deal to me)
  19. Toil - NIV 35, HCSB 0
  20. To no avail - NIV 2, HCSB 1
  21. Unkempt - NIV 3, HCSB 0
  22. Unmindful - NIV 1, HCSB 0
  23. Unsandaled - NIV 1, HCSB 0
  24. Unto - NIV 1, HCSB 0
  25. Unwary - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (inexperienced)
  26. Upon - NIV 103, HCSB 4
  27. Vaunt - NIV 1 HCSB 0 (arrogantly oppose)
  28. Vilest - NIV 1, HCSB 0 (most detestable)

All that being said, and as I said I often gloss over this stuff, I wonder if anyone has a list of odd words/phrases the HCSB might have used.

So read the link I provided to Rick's post.  It's not too long and it's really very interesting.

One other thing I'll point out.  The HCSB is the only translation available in the Apologetics Study Bible and the Apologetics Study Bible for Students.  I have both.  I've read a little in the Apologetics Study Bible.  I've read a lot more in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students.  The reason is the one for students is a more current edition of the HCSB than my copy of the Apologetics Study Bible.  Both are good.  The one for students is outstanding.  Don't let the title make you think you're above it.  Many Christian adults lack the knowledge offered in the Bible for students.  No shame in being an adult and using that Bible.  I'm enjoying it (and I've been studying and reading apologetic works for over 20 years).  Sean McDowell (Josh McDowell's son) is the general editor of the students' edition.  Both Bibles have an outstanding list of contributors.