Monday, October 26, 2015

Does it matter which Bible translation I use?

I recently finished reading through the New Living Translation of the Bible. As I considered what that meant for me as a Christian I thought back to this post from nearly 2 years ago. As I start into the Holman Christian Standard Bible for my next translation, I thought it was imperative to encourage people to once again make sure they are digging in to the Bible regardless of what translation they are using.

KJV Only! Right? 11.22.2013 (Some revisions have been made to the original post found here:

A couple of years ago I got into the habit of reading a different translation of the Bible as I have gone through my personal Bible reading. I started out with what I was most familiar and really what I grew up on which was the New King James Version (NKJV). Then I went to what I now deem my favorite translation, the New International Version (NIV). Currently I am days away from completing my latest translation which is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). My next translation will be one that I am interested in starting because of things I’ve heard and the little I’ve used it and it will be the New Living Translation (NLT).

Don’t misunderstand what I just shared with you. This isn’t about getting attention for having read through the Bible a few times or the number of translations I’ve read. This is about getting into a subject that is very personal to followers of Christ. That subject is translations of the Bible. Is there only one correct one to use? Which is best? Is it wrong to only use one translation?

There are some followers of Christ out there that will tell you that if you do not use a particular translation of the Bible then you aren’t using “the” Bible. I actually heard this from a pastor not too long ago. The translation that is usually most adamantly defended as being “the one and only Bible” is the King James Version (KJV). Now before anyone gets upset with me, my first Bible was a KJV and I still have it on the shelf in my office, along with two other copies. But the problem is with the narrow view that the KJV is the only version that should be used, not the version itself. Many times those that argue so strongly for the KJV forget to mention that the Biblical texts were originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, not in 17th Century English. So technically, "the" Bible was written in languages most Christians can't even read. Again don’t hear me bashing the KJV or any other specific translation. Do hear me say this; it’s not right to put down believers who do not prefer your preferred translation.

In my nearly 10 years of ministry I’ve used KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB and NLT from the pulpit. The first time I ever preached from the KJV was under mango trees in Honduras, just 5 months ago (June 2013). The first time I preached from the NLT was just two weeks ago (November 2013). I have primarily used the other translations throughout the years. If you can’t tell by now I am a big proponent of using varied translations to help us get a better picture of what God is revealing to us through the text. Like my chairman of Deacons said when I mentioned my apprehension of preaching from the NLT, he reminded me that different translations bring a different perspective. He was right. If you enjoy the language of the KJV and don’t want to use another translation, I understand. If you prefer a translation in modern English like the NIV, NLT, or others (such as the CEV or ESV) then by all means use them. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try a different translation and see how God will speak to you in a new way. If you do try a different translation, don’t give up on it quickly or easily. Variety is said to be the spice of life but the important thing is to be in the Word regardless of what translation you use!

Take a moment to leave a comment as to the translation you prefer and why. I am interested to see what translation my readers prefer. (As always, make sure your comments are encouraging and glorifying to Him.)

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This feels weird!

Yesterday started the beginning of our fall revival services at our church. Since we have a visiting pastor to bring the message to the congregation I had the day off from preaching. With the opportunity to sit in the pews and be fed rather than doing the feeding on this particular Sunday I took the opportunity to sit with my beautiful wife during the service. I sat down on the end of the pew and put my arm around her as we took in the revival message. After I sat there for a few moments my wife leaned over and told me that it felt weird for me to be sitting with her in church. For just over 2 years now my wife has endured close to 100 church services without me sitting beside her. There is the occasional special service where I'm not required to preach and I get to sit with my family but for the most part it is a rarity. So for my wife who is used to being a loner during our worship services it did feel weird to have me sitting beside her.

As I reflected on my wife's comment, without trying to be offended, I realized there was a truth in the comment beyond the obvious. With me sitting in the pews with my family during a worship service it meant that I was not exercising the spiritual gifts God has given to me. The spiritual gifts God has given to me are, among others, those of preaching and teaching. For me to not be exercising those gifts during a service meant that I had to be doing something other than what God designed me to be doing and that ought to feel weird.

When we realize what spiritual gifts God has gifted us with, then we should work to put those gifts into practice in the church. Once we do we find a type of peace that only results from knowing that we are doing what God designed us to do. When we get away from using those gifts then we ought to feel weird and uncomfortable. It ought to bother us that we aren't using the spiritual gifts God has given to us. We ought to be so discontent that we won't be able to stand it until we start exercising our gifts again.

Whatever spiritual gift(s) God has given to you, and every believer has been given at least one, that gift needs to be discovered by you. Once you find it put it into practice and don't let up. Because once you find fulfillment in using your spiritual gifts, you will only find it to feel weird when you don't.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Smoke on the Water

This morning as I took my boys to school I took our normal route down the curvy May Road. As we passed by my uncle's farm Cooper told Dru about how the pond looked like it was on fire due to the haze over it. I chimed in and said "Yeah, it looks like "Smoke on the Water" doesn't it?" Cooper just looked at me with this puzzled look as if he had no clue what I was hinting at. (For those that feel like Cooper, "Smoke on the Water" is a classic rock song from the 1972 album Machine Head by the band Deep Purple. YouTube it if you still are lost and you'll recognize the tune!) What surprised me is the fact that Cooper didn't remember hearing that song at some point. We occasionally play the "Name that Song and Band" game while listening to classic rock. He often surprises me with his recall of songs and bands, although Lynyrd Skynyrd is his default answer when he doesn't know the band. I joked about how I had let them down and failed them because they didn't know "Smoke on the Water" but they know "Simple Man" and "Welcome to the Jungle." For them to grow up to appreciate classic rock and roll I will need to do a better job of exposing them to a wider range of songs and artists.

When it comes to parenting, we can feel like we've let our kids down. As parents we watch our kids succeed in certain areas and we couldn't be prouder. But as it is with most parents, we rarely see the successes as vividly as we do the failures. We often question what we could have done differently to help our children avoid their failure. Often times we feel some blame for their failure. We think we should have done more or tried harder to instill the values, information, or habits that our kids need to succeed. Probably the greatest area we feel like we should do or should have done more is in matters of faith.

Faith, like every other area of life, is an area of life where all we can do is pour into our kids
and wait to see how they turn out. No, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up and have a foul mouth that would put a sailor to shame. But parents are responsible for their own language and what their kids hear them say. No, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up to be lazy and unmotivated. But parents are responsible for the work ethic and values they portray to their kids. And no, parents aren't responsible if their kids grow up and decide to leave their faith behind. But yes, parents are responsible to live out a godly example of what it means to live a life of faith before their kids. 

If a parent wants a child to grow up and have a vibrant relationship with the God of the Universe, then those kids need to see their parents living out a similar relationship. If parents demonstrate a lackadaisical attitude toward worship, Bible study, prayer, and service in the Kingdom of God, then you can imagine what kind of attitude their kids will have toward those things. Now I'm not one of those preachers that will tell you that if you do as Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it", then your kids will always turn out to be men and women of faith. But what I am saying is that if you as a parent don't set the example of what it means to be a man or woman of faith, chances are your kids won't turn out to be one.

My encouragement to parents is to decide today what kind of example you plan to live out for your kids when it comes to faith. Will you set an example that would help draw them into a deeper relationship with God? Or will you let them see an example that places no importance on a vibrant relationship with God? The choice is yours.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

A Long Difficult Road

I recently stopped in to help a retired missionary with a small project at her house. I've been to this house many times over the years for different reasons. To play basketball with her sons. To visit her children when they were home on furlough from the mission field. To celebrate birthdays. Most recently to help move her in her home after she officially retired. Of all the times I've been to the home I've never thought much about the items hanging on the walls. There are items like in any home, such as pictures and decorative items. Hanging on the wall beside the front door is a new addition to the items hanging around the house. There is a sign that says "Family" and under that it reads Psalm 126:3, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."

To many they would look at this and see a sign that shows a family celebrating God's blessings. Considering the events that have shaped this family into their current position one would think the last thing this family would be celebrating is God's blessings. This godly woman's husband died 15 years ago after many years on the mission field in Indonesia. Her daughter has faced health issues from time to time that have made life challenging. One of her sons died unexpectedly nearly two years ago at the age of 36 and left behind a wife and three children. Two of her other grandchildren have had major health scares over the last few years and one is still struggling with her health. Her father just recently passed away and her mother lives alone up north. So from an external view, celebrating God's blessings would not be the first thing that would come to mind from the casual outside observer. But that view is from a view that does not include the lens of faith.

When we look at someone who has struggled through difficult situations in this life, and maybe it's even been you, we think "Wow! They have suffered a great deal." We might compare them to Job who lost everything short of his wife and even she wasn't a supportive person during his trials. We can look on situations like these and have a profound sense of pity for those who are enduring hardships like these. However, maybe we should change our perspective of their situation and even our own when it seems like the world is crashing down around us. When we recall the words of James in James 1:2-3 we can gain a new perspective of our struggles. It says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (NIV). When we face difficult trials in life we need to view it from the perspective that it is a faith strengthening exercise. That is not always easy to do in the midst of our struggle but as we see our trial in this different light it can show us that God is using the trial for our good (Romans 8:28). Something interesting begins to emerge when we do not lose our faith perspective during our trials. We have a new perspective of the God who loves us and walks us through those times of trial. When we see God's provision, His grace, and His mercy on display in our times of trial we begin to worship Him in a new way. We begin, in the midst of a trial, to worship the One who was with us long before the trial arrived and who will be with us long after the trial has ended. In the end, our trials will develop a new found strength in our faith that will allow us to say, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."

I'm sure you probably know someone who is going through a difficult trial in their life right now. Share this post with them via Facebook, Twitter, or email so that God can use it to encourage them in the midst of their trial.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

There is only one answer

It doesn't take long standing in line at the grocery store or Wal-Mart to see magazine, after magazine telling you everything you "want" to hear. Want the latest celebrity gossip? Check out this one. Want to know how to lose 50 pounds over the weekend? Read this article. Want to experience the best sex ever? Pick up this magazine. The problem with these magazines is they don't give you the truth, just a tantalizing headline to get you to buy their magazine. Is there any reason to read, participate in, or be concerned with gossip about anyone, much less a celebrity? No. Are the quick weight loss gimmicks usually quick and result in weight loss? No. Will a magazine written just to make a few bucks ever give you the truth about the "best sex ever?" Definitely not.

I recently saw a magazine cover promising the "best sex ever" and honestly I couldn't help but laugh. Just think, this is where our society is today. We're willing to seek for answers to one of life's more important relationship aspects in a magazine that will also tell you the 10 best ways to cook pasta. Seriously? When we live in a sex saturated society we can expect people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to seek out answers to questions about sex in all the wrong places. So if you've ever been curious about the best sex ever, I'll tell you there is only one answer to your questions.

Regardless of what society tells you in movies, magazines, TV shows, or romance novels, the best sex ever can only be experienced in one way. The one way God designed sex to be experienced was inside of the bonds of marriage between a man and woman who are in relationship with Him. God did not design sex to be experienced outside of this one way. 

God, in His infinite wisdom, designed sex for multiple reasons. Enjoyment, physical intimacy, and procreation of the human race. But as with all things that Satan gets his hands on, sex has been perverted and made into a joke, something that shouldn't be taken seriously. And therein lies the problem. Because our world no longer views sex as God intended it to be, we have people who think they can experience sex outside of God's design and still experience it in the way it is intended to be. 

The Bible is clear that any kind of sexual immorality outside of marriage is sin (see the references below). That means that fornication (sex between two unmarried people), adultery (sex between a married person and someone other than their spouse), or homosexual sex (sex between two people of the same gender) are all sin and are outside of God's design for sex. It doesn't matter if you're cohabitating, in a long term relationship, or looking for a hookup. Any sexual experience outside of God's design only leaves you scarred and longing for an authentic experience that only God's design can fulfill.

So if you want to experience the best sex ever, don't turn to a magazine or to the world's suggestions. Turn to the One who designed sex and seek out His plan for sex. Because you'll never find someone who only experienced sex as God designed and wished they didn't!

Here are a few scripture references to show you how the various forms of sexual immorality mentioned above should be avoided.

Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:24-28, 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 6:18-20, 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

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