Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bible Translations

The topic of Bible translations seems to have come up with some frequency lately. You might not have ever thought much about which translation you use. Or, you may have given it a lot of thought. Based off of some of the comments I've heard and conversations I've had, there seems to be to be a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and in some cases just ignorant opinions. (Remember, ignorance is just a lack of information). I think it would be good over the next few posts to share some thoughts on translations. Let's just start with the basics.

There is no perfect translation. It's just not possible for man to perfectly translate God's word from the original languages. There's several reasons for this. Just think about it logically. Languages don't match up exactly. So there may be a Hebrew word that doesn't have an exact equivalent in English. Or likewise, Greek to English. So we have to come as close as possible. It doesn't mean that we don't have an accurate translation - just not a perfect one. We've also got to consider people's inherent bias and opinions. As much as a group of translators may try to avoid it, whenever there is a point of contention or disagreement, someone's opinion or point of view will win out.

Now, since there are no perfect translations, it's not possible to have an inspired or "authorized" translation. I've actually heard it said that "I prefer this or that translation because it's the true authorized and inspired translation". There is just no such thing. The men who wrote the letters that make up the Bible were inspired men. And as a result, what they wrote was inspired. Because of this, each translation of what they wrote is the inspired word of God. Not one moreso than another.

Because it's impossible for any particular translation to be inspired, we've got to understand that there will be mistakes in every translation. Afterall, if man has touched it, it's not going to be perfect. Don't misunderstand and think that we don't have an accurate translation. We have plenty of accurate translations available. Again, we just don't have a perfect translation.

Here's a few thoughts to get us started. I'll share more over the course of the next few posts. Blessings!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Love Is . . .

I've seen my share of church fights - even a couple that ended up in members of the congregation deciding to pack up their bags. Some of them were just awful situations, but most were just dumb. You're probably thinking of a couple yourself now. Of course, your perspective will always determine who was right and who was wrong. But we can always be sure of this - satan was the only winner. When God's family fights with each other no ever wins. I just wonder if God isn't left standing alone in the middle, as His children walk away from one another to stake their flags in their territory, left with nothing but tears of sorrow? Such a disappointing thought.

You know, even the best or most healthy congregations have problems. I know, kind of a simplistic statement. No church is immune from people going on power trips, being too sensitive or unforgiving or just having one or two folks who seem to be possessed by satan. That's a joke - well, sort of ;-). So since it is the case that even the most healthy congregations have to work through issues, how do they do it? How are they able to fight through satans' attacks more united, more in love with God and still growing strong? There's really no simple answer. But here's a thought for you to consider.

Jesus is pretty clear what He thinks are the two most important rules. Read this scripture with me.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important? "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31
This kind of gives me the idea that if I would just focus on these two that I would have a good start on living a Godly life that will make my Savior proud of me and able to use me. That's the same case for groups of people - especially the most important group of people - Jesus' body.

You've heard of the love chapter - 1 Corinthians 13. Kind of ironic that the chapter isn't about love at all. It's actually more about a church fighting with each other over who had the greater spiritual gifts. Look at what Paul wrote to them. Only, you're going to notice the scripture is written a little differently from what is inyour Bible. For every occassion where Paul wrote 'love', you'll read 'family.' After all, isn't that what a family is . . . love? Read it with me.
Families are patient, families are kind. Families do not envy, they do not boast, they are not proud. They are not rude, they are not self-seeking, they are not easily angered, they keep no record of wrongs. Families do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. Families always protect, always trust, always hope, always perseveres. Families never fail.
Kind of changes the perspective a little? May God bless you and your Church family.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Integrity and Reputation

Ever thought about the difference between reputation and integrity. Until recently, I hadn't either. We've heard the saying before, "integrity is who you are in the dark," or "when no one is looking." This is something I've heard a whole lot. The other day, I heard a definition of reputation that was completely new to me - it's what other people think of your integrity.

Until I heard that definition I had a much more positive or lofty perception of reputation. I have always given a great deal of emphasis to guarding my reputation. But after giving this some thought, I wonder if I haven't had these two things prioritized the wrong way. I'm not going as far as to say that I placed more importance on my reputation. But the two were pretty much equal footing. I think I was wrong.

Instead, I think I should be placing much more importance on guarding, protecting, elevating and lifting up my integrity. You see, our integrity is much more of a direct reflection on our relationship with God and how much we live according to that relationship. As it turns out, our reputation is really just someone else's opinion of how we live out our relationship with God. Other people's opinion won't get me into heaven. Give me my integrity any day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

That's a tough question . . .

What about the people who never hear the gospel? That's a question that you've probably asked before. What will happen to the poeple who have literally never heard about Jesus and have never been given an opportunity to become a Christian? Do they get a pass because of their circumstances? Or are they held accountable just like everyone else who has the opportunity the written revelation of God? It seems like I have been asked the question quite a bit recently.Here's a long-winded half-answer.

To hold them accountable would seem incongruent with the nature of who God is. A God full of love, mercy and grace. How then could any God full of love, mercy and grace condemn someone who never had an opportunity to be obedient. This would be like a parent punishing a child for breaking a rule that they never gave. It just doesn't seem fair.

On the other hand, it is inconsistent with what is written in the Bible to assume that God would not hold everyone accountable. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Also, Luke wrote in Acts 17:30 that God is not overlooking ignorance any longer and that all men should repent.

So what's the answer? Well first, let's guard ourselves against being quick to judge and condemn. It's quite comfortable sitting on this side of the river, behind the damn blocking the rising water. We're safe and unfortunately content. Second, I wonder if Roman 1:18-20 doesn't provide some insight on this question? Paul was essentially acknowledging the division that existed between the gentiles (who had never been given an opportunity to become God's chosen) and the Jews (who had the benefit of being God's chosen). And along with acknowledging the difference, Paul said that God still holds the gentiles accountable because they could have known and worshipped God based solely on what was in His creation. Instead, they had chosen to worship the created instead of the creator.

So does that apply for example to people who live in the deepest regions of the African jungles and have never heard about Jesus? I really don't know for certain. I know what I've read in the NT. And I know that I have been called to teach people about Jesus. So that's what I'm going to do. Am I going to be upset and complain when I get to heaven if there are people getting in who never had a chance to obey the gospel?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lifting Up the Right People

I'm as big a sports fan as anyone. But can we please stop glorifying people who have done nothing to deserve our respect and admiration - other than hitting a ball, running faster, jumping higher or shooting a jump shot with greater ease and excellence than we could? The ability to perform our favorite hobby with amazing ability is neat. It's probably worthy of a few of our dollars and some of our free time. But it's certainly not worth our dignity and self-respect. And it's definitely not worth risking the future of our children.

Our kids listen to who and what we talk about. They pay attention to what we spend our time doing. And they realize and understand what we actually value most. Let's stop kidding ourselves by thinking that our kids don't see right through us to our core, to our heart. So instead of lifting up and praising men who have not earned that priviledge, let's lift up men and women who are worthy to watched, heard and copied.

Let's give our kids the chance to hear us praise and lift up the parents who have raised their children to walk after Jesus, the folks who volunteer to teach Bible classes, the elderly couple who faithfully attend worship because they love God and His saints, even though it's physically difficult and the young mother who insists that her kids will be given the opportunity to know God - even if her husband choses not to help her. Let's encourage our kids to watch people who are striving each day to imitate Jesus.

They will be grateful you did.

Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Perspective is a beautiful thing. There's certainly been times when I have lost my perspective and God was there to realign my sight. There's been other times when I was reminded of what Godly perspective looks like without necessarily needing a readjustment. Seeing people, sin, blessings and opportunities as Jesus sees them is probably not possible, at least for me. But every once in a while He gives me a small and brief glimpse through his eys. And I am so grateful for those times, because its then that I am able to regain my perspective.

Today when I looked at my new son for the first time, God gave me a chance to see the world, if only for a moment, through His eyes. I saw a person the same way Jesus sees each of His children who have answered His call - sinless and pure. I saw a blessing that I had received in that little baby. And I saw opportunity to correct my own wrongs by raising one of His children to be better than myself. To give more, to worry less, to serve harder and love stronger than I could have ever hoped to.

I hope you would be able to see the world like I did tonight. May God bless you and keep you in the palm of His hands.

Brody Ryan Schopper
Born to serve and walk with Jesus on 2/19/2010.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Lesson from the Corinthians

The church in Corinth had some interesting problems. There were Christians who were struggling with sexual sins like adultery, promiscuity and prostitution. Others faced the demons of alcoholism, fraud, idolatry and even arrogance because of their spiritual giftedness. It's certainly fair to say that culture had infiltrated the church.

It's so easy to draw comparisons to the Corinthian church. That's one place in our Bible that we can always go to feel better about ourselves. Their sinfulness wrote a textbook for how not to do life as a Christian. But are we really that different? How long can we pretend that these issues don't exist today? We may find our idols in different temples. But that doesn't mean that we haven't built plenty of temples to suit our desires. And maybe, after two centuries our sin looks a little different. But it's there.

You know, I wonder if there isn't really just one thing that differentiates us from the Christians that Paul was writing to. And it's not our culture or our sin. I think it's our response to sin. You see, on some of these issues, the Corinthians really didn't know any better. These were a bunch of first generation Christians who were learning on the go. And they hadn't yet learned to live with embarrasment and shame.

We've since mastered these two concepts. Being embarrased or ashamed of sin is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a positive sign that the Holy Spirit is working on you. But living with embarrasment and shame is a very bad thing. Satan uses these to steal away our freedom and strip us of our joy. Embarrasment and shame keeps us from confronting the sin and moving forward. Embarrasment and shame keeps us from asking for help. Embarrasment and shame keeps us chained to that same sin that birthed these horrible feelings.

Paul wrote to the Romans that Jesus only needed to die one death, and that took care of all the sin - forever. And because we are united with Christ we get to live without the awful aftertaste of sin. It's Jesus' blood that washes away that aftertaste. And its God's grace and love that makes it all possible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Missing in Action

Calling all Dads and Husbands!!! Where are you?

Think about the demographics of your Christian family who you worship with. How many families can you think of where the father brings his children to worship and bible class while the mother stays at home? Can you think of any? Are there any? Different question. How many families can you think of where the mother brings her children to worship and bible class while the father stays at home? Okay, you can stop counting. Get the point?

What is going on with this? Why are men being taught that its the woman's responsibility to teach and instill faith to the children while they sit watching the game or in their favorite fishing hole? This is not what God planned. This is not what God wants. And I can only imagine the impact that it is having on the lack of spiritual depth that we are witnessing in our kids.

Check out these few verses: Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6, 3:9 and Romans 5:14.
Genesis 2:16-17 - Ever notice that God never spoke to Eve. She wasn't there. I wonder if she had even been created yet?
Genesis 3:6 - Where is Adam when Eve was talking with the serpent? If you're reading from the NIV, you'll notice very clearly that, he was standing right next to her!
Genesis 3:9 - When it says that God called out, "where are you," this was a 2nd person singular masculine pronoun. In other words, he was talking directly to Adam and only to Adam. He didn't say, "where are ya'll", "where are you guys", or anything else that could indicate he was calling for both Adam and Eve. Because he wasn't. He was calling for Adam because he had business with Adam - not Eve. He held Adam responsible for what had just happened and he was going to the source.
Romans 5:14 - Did you see that Eve was never mentioned in this text? In v.12, Paul uses the greek word anthropos. This refers to man, as in human. But when he was ready to get specific - he called out Adam and never mentioned Eve. He said that death (because of sin) started with Adam.

When we consider all this evidence, it gets real clear, real quick that Adam was the first person who sinned, not Eve. And since Genesis doesn't record Adam "doing" anything at all, that sin must have been a sin of ommission. And that was the specific problem. He didn't protect his wife and provide the spiritual leadership that she needed and deserved.

After all these years, it seems that we haven't learned much from Adam. Guys, we're dropping the ball! It's not just your wife's responsibility to make sure that kids are introduced to and taught to live for Jesus Christ - it's your too. Let's start honoring God by giving our wives the spiritual leadership that God desires, by showing our kids how to live a life that imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) and by standing up for your family and protecting them from Satan's attacks!