Monday, February 27, 2017

79 The King Demands Absolute Obedience and Priority

Many "professing Christians" don't live for King Jesus, yet he demands not only that but the willingness to die for him, too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Choosing a Bible Translation

I shifted gears tonight and used a verse in Amos 4 to explain some of the difficulties of Bible translation and why I choose the type of version that I do.

Below is the handout that I gave my congregation:

stick to the text”
Different Bible versions were translated by different philosophies governing the committees responsible for producing the English text.  For example, consider a comparison of 2 Timothy 4.1 between different standard translations:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (KJV)

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: (NKJV)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: (NASB)
 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, (LEB)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (ESV)
 What is striking about this comparison?  What’s striking is that nothing is striking.  Notice, though, how these translations handle 2 Timothy 4.1:
And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus—who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: (NLT)
I solemnly call on you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge those who are living and those who are dead. I do this because Christ Jesus will come to rule the world. (God’s Word) 
When Christ Jesus comes as king, he will be the judge of everyone, whether they are living or dead. So with God and Christ as witnesses, I command you (CEV) 
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you (GNB)
Do you see the difference?  The first grouping of translations, called formal equivalent translations, largely read the same.  However, in the second grouping, called dynamic equivalent translations, it may be more difficult to follow along with someone reading from another translation because the wording patterns have changed.  However, that is not the real culprit as I see it.  Notice one phrase from the first grouping again:

    at his appearing and his kingdom; (KJV)
    at His appearing and His kingdom: (NKJV)
    by His appearing and His kingdom: (NASB)
    by his appearing and his kingdom, (LEB)
    by his appearing and his kingdom: (ESV)

They all consistently translate Paul’s Greek phrase: 

    και     την   επιφανειαν    αυτου     και     την     βασιλειαν   αυτου
    And   the   appearing       of him     and    the      kingdom     of him

The second grouping translates this phrase as follows:

    when he appears to set up his Kingdom: (NLT)
    Christ Jesus will come to rule the world. (God’s Word)
    When Christ Jesus comes as king (CEV)
    and because he is coming to rule as King (GNB)

They rather stray from the more literal translation, don’t they?  Also, it introduces a possible theological question; if someone reads, “...when he appears to set up his Kingdom” (NLT) then he may think this alludes to the premillennial belief of a physical 1,000-year kingdom based in Jerusalem.  But Paul didn’t explicitly write that view.  He literally wrote that when Jesus appears his kingdom appears with him.  To see Christ is to see his Kingdom breaking in with visible power.

Does 2 Timothy 4.1 by itself either prove or disprove amillennialism or premillennialism?  No, it doesn’t.  Paul’s actual words in this verse are more ambiguous than some translations may be read to infer. 

Where the Scripture is ambiguous I think it is prudent to keep it ambiguous in the English translation.

Another issue is highlighted in the prophecies of Amos:

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.(4.6 ESV)

What does “cleanness of teeth” mean? The NIV11 puts it this way:

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.

The NLT puts it plainly:
“I brought hunger to every city and famine to every town. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord.

Should a translation keep idioms intact from the original language as much as possible? To what extent should an English translation “help” people not familiar with the biblical world? That is the question. Understand that it is impossible for scholars to be strictly literal as they translate from one donor language to another receptor language.  However, it is important to understand how free—based on their philosophy of translation—they feel they have the right to tweak the words and still call it a faithful translation.  Some translations lean more toward the word-for-word philosophy.  Others believe it is more faithful to the definition and nature of translating to adopt a thought-for-thought. 

For another example, consider Ecclesiastes 9.8 from the ESV:
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

Contrast this translation of the Hebrew with the NLT:
Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

"inclusive language"
This is another thorny issue today.  Some in society wish to speak of humankind rather than mankind.  A fireman is now a firefighter.  The mailman is now a "letter carrier" and a waiter/waitress is now a "server."  The English use of the generic "man" to mean "person" has come under fire.

Some feel that English, itself, has a problem: the third person singular pronoun only comes in a masculine sense—"he."  In English there is no genderless third person pronoun.  For example, proper English would say:
Anyone wanting extra credit should stay after class to learn how he can earn it.
Some have a problem with that because they believe it belittles or ignores females.  Some would have us change it to a plural:
Those wanting extra credit should stay after class to learn how they can earn it.
Some go so far to commit a grammatical faux pas and pluralize the singular pronoun:
Anyone wanting extra credit should stay after class to learn how they can earn it.
This makes for implications in biblical translation.  Consider this well-known verse from the King James Version:
 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
Okay, the word "man" is not in the Greek.  We could translate, "If anyone..." without a problem.  But the Greek speaks of a single person yet some may have us pluralize it:
Those who will come after me, let them deny themselves, and take up their crosses daily, and follow me.
I have a problem with this solution.  Why?  Because the Greek New Testament does not use plurals here.  It uses singulars.  If God wanted Luke to write it in plurals he could have made him do it.  But he didn't.  Keep the Word of God as it is!  To keep it singular some may recommend this:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (NIV11)

The NLT changes from third person to second person:

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

I was taught to translate Greek from the word-for-word school by the late Reverend Doctor Malcolm W. Shelton.  The English Standard Version (ESV)—itself a revision of the RSV—and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are my preferred English translations. 

An Open Letter on Tithing

Every church experiences the ebb and flow of giving. Today I want to share with you the joy of tithing.

Tithing (which means “one tenth”) is the practice of dedicating 10% of one's paychecks to the Lord by way of one's local congregation. Every month I do this and, in fact, the bylaws state that every Board of Trustees member in my congregation is required to do so, too.

The concept of the tithe is ancient. Abraham tithed in Genesis:

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (14:17-20 ESV)

Even the writer to the Hebrews, while speaking to another issue, mentioned it:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. (7:1-10 ESV)

Abraham is a spiritual father to us in that he is a supreme example of salvation by faith:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Gal 3:7-9 ESV)

It seems good to me that we, spiritual children of Abraham, emulate the practice of Abraham to Melchizedek.


Because it is easy and fair. Whether you earn $10 or $10,000,000 the principle is the same. Ten percent is ten percent. Some people advocate a flat tax. Well, this is flat giving.

Let's look at it from a practical perspective. Ministry costs money, simple as that. Every utility bill must be paid. Every insurance premium must be covered. Every salary or hourly rate must be taken care of. All office supplies, VBS supplies, Sunday School supplies, church dinner supplies must be bought. Everything—down to each light bulb or toilet paper roll—must be purchased! God has not chosen to send us money by a raven's beak down by Elijah's brook Kerith so saints give to fund the mission and ministries of the church.

If every saint tithed there would be no need for fundraisers of any sort. There would be no need to downsize a budget to cut ministry events. Finances would become a non-issue overnight.

Many people tip (offerings) the Lord by throwing some money in the passing plates when they would do well to tithe to the Lord. Tips, while nice, never will meet the financial needs of the church. Never. Tithes will.

Let me be direct, as I typically am in my sermons. If a Christian refuses systematically to give in a substantial quantity he is, in essence, saying, “I won't support the mission and ministries of the church. If it were up to me the doors of this church would close because I'm not going to part with my money. I'm depending on other people sacrificially to give instead of me and, if they won't, either, then we're voting with our finances to close the church.”

Have you ever taken a vacation to Disney World or Pigeon Forge or Myrtle Beach with a tithe never offered to the Lord? Do you drive a nicer vehicle(s) because you are paying a dealership with funds that should be given to God? Do you pay on a larger mortgage for a bigger home with the money that would be better invested in the spiritual dimension of the Kingdom of God?

Some dispute tithing because they believe it is legalistic. They say, “Why only ten percent? God owns all of our money!” True enough, but I honestly wonder how many people of that persuasion actually give God anything close to 10% of their paychecks?  See what I mean?

If you tithe what can you expect? Well, obedience always brings blessing as determined by God. I can't promise you that you will get rich, get healed, get promoted or get famous. I just know God takes care of his people who obey.

And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Php 4:15-19 ESV)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

78 The King Commands His Apostles Not to Fear People

A Christian has a choice in life; he can either fear God (and thus lose fear of people) or fear people (and thus lose fear of God).  Which object of his fear he chooses determines his eternal destiny.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

God's Love (St. Valentine's 2017)

The world's definition of love is really lust. It is God who loves us.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

5 The Day Amos Called Women "Cows"

Hebrew poetry/prophecy was colorful, even direct.  The Hebrew Prophet Amos turned with holy disgust toward self-indulgent people who were very religious but treated their fellow Israelites with contempt.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

77 The King Prepares His Apostles for Hatred

What did King Jesus mean when he told his apostles, "[Y]ou will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes" (Mat 10:23b ESV)?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

4 Wholehearted Service

If Israel had remained true to Yahweh then they never would have been destroyed by Assyria.  Making spiritual shipwreck of one's faith is the same today.