Friday, August 31, 2012

The NIV 2011 Update Debate

Maybe you have heard about the NIV 2011 update debates.  Rodney Decker sites the "issues" at hand with this:  "The controversy regarding the NIV11 is due to at least four factors. First, the revision poses serious questions regarding linguistics and translation theory. Second, it raises the questions of language change and the use of gender-related language—a volatile issue due to concerns regarding the radical feminist social agenda. Many are concerned that the NIV11 attempts to mollify such radical concerns. Third, personality issues are involved. Entrenched positions have been staked out by well-known biblical scholars and high-profile advocacy groups. Fourth, theological boundaries and doctrinal bias impact the nature of Bible translations."

All this being said, some denominations that have ties to certain translations because of publishing rights and publishing companies have come out "against" the new NIV.  The accusations are mostly unfounded and with a little bit of study and understanding, I think that most (even scholars) would be impressed by the translation.

This link to this article is the best and most balanced explanation that I've read on the NIV 2011 controversy (if you want to call it that).  And, good thing, this is from Rodney Decker, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.  Read the article, and you'll better understand the issues at hand and be able to knowledgeably converse about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Accidental Pharisee

As you read the Gospels you see time and time again that the Son of God comes into contact with a group called the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were a collective thorn in Jesus's side as He accomplished His Father's will.  It hasn't been till recent years that I've received a true understanding of what a Pharisee really was.  And as I've studied, I've become more sensitive to Pharisaical attitudes in the church.  Just recently I've had friends, yes, even good Christian people dawn the Pharisaical spirit and attack the Lord's church.

So many times, we are what we eat.  It's true in the body, but also in the mind as well.  If we consume negativity all of the time, we tend to become a more negative person.  If we expose ourselves to a certain line of thought again and again, we can begin thinking along those same lines.  Suddenly, we find ourselves so influenced that we have become what we have consumed.  We must be careful...the teaching we sit under...the shows or podcasts we listen to or watch...the friends that we hang out with.  All of these things influence us whether we want to admit it or not.

So it is with attitudes like the Pharisees had.  They came to know the law.  They came to know a religious system.  Then they came to run the show.  They were full of pride.  They were elite...they knew more and believed themselves to be better than everyone else.  They were exclusive.  They were overzealous in their "faith".  They kept more people out of the Kingdom of God than they ever won to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus put it this way, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."  And Jesus continued in Matthew 23. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

If you are judging others and holding them to your own standard...woe to you.  If your expectations are higher than God's...woe to you.   Woe to you that truly care more about your snow white hands than a red hot heart for God.  Woe to you who do not follow what the Word of God says.  Woe to you if you think that you know it all.  Woe to you...yes, woe to you.

I don't think that people set out one day and say "I'm going to be like a Pharisee!" It's bit by bit and piece by piece.  The attitude of superiority toward other Christians, God's church and its leaders is like a slow fade.  You barely even realize it's happening and boom, you're already there.

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and what He taught and preached.  Strive to understand the whole counsel of the Word of God, not just the parts that you like or that are more comfortable to you.  Approach everything with the love and hope of Jesus Christ in your heart.  Avoid the hypercritical attitude of the church, God's leaders, God's people, the music that's not your favorite...anything that the devil would use as a stumbling block.  May the grace and peace of God reign in your hearts and minds.  May we ultimately be pleasing to God in all we say and do.  May we not find ourselves an accidental pharisee, keeping others from God.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Above and Beyond Duty

As you read the New Testament, you can't help but notice how little it says about the major events of world history. You might think Scripture would mention Rome and all its mighty conquests. But it doesn't. Instead, God brings out nuances that are entirely different. What's important to God is not what's important to man.

Check out Matthew 26, for example. We find a unique story that God wants us never to forget. It was the incredible sacrifice that a woman made for Jesus. What was it that she did that so impressed the Lord? Was it a miracle or some great teaching? No. It was a heartfelt act of love and service.

Matthew 26:13  “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Here’s the framework. There in the home of a man named Simon, this woman took a jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus with it. Why is this so significant? Her actions are memorable because she seemed to recognize that Jesus needed to be anointed for His burial (see verse 12). So with complete abandon, she gave Him everything she had.

Mark's Gospel tells us her perfume cost more than 300 denarii (see Mark 14:5). In these times, 300 denarii was the equivalent of nearly a year's wages.

But it wasn't the gift that mattered. It was her heart behind the gift. It was her motives that touched Jesus, because He knew she sacrificed nearly everything for Him.

Are you doing all that you can for the Lord? Some people, like many of the dutiful Pharisees, will only give what is required. They will try to get by with the bare minimum. In many ways, we can be exactly like that too.

Today, would you commit to serving the Lord above and beyond what is required—like this woman did?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Should a Christian Vote for a Mormon for President?

I received this via email from a friend here in the church.  Bob Russell is deeply respected and admired and brings out my thoughts exactly on this subject.  Read and consider.  And pray for this election in November.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blessed By a Funeral

What a crazy week.  I've driven about 1,500 miles this week as I went to KC, MO to my aunt's funeral on Monday and went to Arkansas for a conference on Wednesday.  Lots of miles, but lots of blessings too.

I was deeply impacted at my aunt's funeral.  There were many things that were impressive about the whole experience there.  First of all, this church (Woods Chapel) was so loving to my uncle and the family there.  You could feel it and sense it.  They had their guest services team there.  They were opening doors, greeting, directing people.  I asked someone if this was normal.  They said yes.  They do it for most funerals for church members.  That was really impressive.  A long line formed to offer condolences to my uncle.  It went on for about 90 minutes.  Person after person expressing concern and love for my uncle and his loss.  I must admit, it was not what I expected at all, but it was really neat to watch.

The funeral service was equally impressive.  You talk about a life celebration service!  That's exactly what it was.  If you knew my aunt, then you knew that she was the epitome of kindness and goodness and love.  She just had that way about her.  It wasn't how she acted, it was who she was.  She lived out her faith and commitment to Christ everyday.  At the funeral there was story after story after story that people wrote in or shared at the mic about her impact and Christian example.  Friends and acquaintances alike shared how they were touched by my aunt's life.  It was amazing.

Several take aways for me.  First, this church expressed love and care in a big way.  The guest services team was even there and this was one of the most well attended funerals I've ever attended.  The church lavished concern and caring on my uncle and the family.  This is how churches should respond when someone among them loses a loved one.  Just showing up so the family knows you care is huge.  When in doubt...if it's someone in your church up.  Just showing up says we love you and we care for you.  It means a lot to a mourning family or individual.

Another take away is that a Christian's funeral should be joyous.  I really enjoyed celebrating her life at the funeral.  Christians should not mourn as those who have no hope.  (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13)  There will always be mourning at any funeral, but the Christians should remember that the deceased is with Christ and there is no better place to be.  Knowing this, we find a celebration of Christ's love for us is appropriate.

Overall, let me just say...well done.  The whole experience was well done.  I saw Christian brothers and sisters serving, loving, and sharing life together in such a way that it made me think, this is what koinonia (deep fellowship) must have been like in the early church.  To Woods Chapel, I commend your Christlikeness.  It blessed my soul.  Thank you Lord for this example of the way things ought to be when you're a part of the family of God.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Not About the Cookies

The couple was near the cookies, in the snack aisle.  The tension was thick between them as I saw the man put the cookies back on the shelf.  Their body language was stiff, angry.

“Fine.  Just go ahead and get them,” she said impatiently.

They were young, maybe mid-twenties.  Clearly not wealthy, but not below the poverty-line either.  Their cart had mostly necessities.  But, he had a hunger for something sweet.  She probably manages their budget.

$2.98.  Not very much in the grand scheme of things.  But, when things are tight a few dollars can make all the difference.

He pushed the cart, without the cookies, on down the aisle, while she stood near them, waiting for him to comply, with her arms demonstrating frustration.  She doesn’t want to be the miser, but someone has to pay attention to the finances.

Nobody really wants to wage a war over cookies.  And, of course, it’s not about the cookies.  It’s about mounting financial pressure.  It’s about fear of the unknown.  Maybe it’s about not being on the same page when it comes to running their household.  Maybe it’s about her Mom and the looming visit.  Maybe it’s about his incorrigible boss and the pressure he lives under every day.

We don’t really know exactly what’s going on beneath the surface.  But we do know that our day can turn on a dime over cookies.  We can say things we don’t mean and give dreadful looks that are impossible to take back.  We can build prideful walls that are terribly difficult to dismantle.  We can end up pushing the people we love further away from us.

I wanted to follow them the rest of their shopping trip.  To see how they navigated the rest of their purchases.  I wanted to sit in the back seat of their car, after they got the groceries loaded up, and listen as they sorted out the cookie decision (I know, creepy).  I imagined that they took a few minutes to talk about why the tension rose so quickly over something so insignificant.  I wonder if they listened closely to each other and reached a new level of understanding.  I wonder if they gently helped each other uncover the layers.

“You know, I feel like I am going to buckle under the pressure of our monthly bills.”

“I feel like I am a horrible provider.  Seriously, we can’t even afford Oreos.”

I hope that happened.  But, I’ve lived long enough to know that the couple may have simply moved on without ever really understanding that it wasn’t really about the cookies.

Received this from a friend via email.  Good stuff.  I believe it originated from a pastor's blog in Colorado.  Have you ever had this same experience and wondered what the rest of the story would be?  Me too.  Wish I could help this young couple.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bridge or Barrier?

When nonbelievers visit a church, they are not only checking out what is happening up front, but they are also checking out what is going on around them. They are watching your reaction. Do you care? Are you paying attention? Is this important to you? Should it be important to them?

And maybe there are times when visitors don't know the protocol. But before we start to judge, let's stop and ask ourselves, do we know their story? Is this their first time at church? They don't know what they are supposed to wear. They don't know what slogan is acceptable on a T-shirt. They don't know what to say.

Some Christians might turn them away and say, "I am sorry. You can't come in here. You are not dressed appropriately." And guess what? That makes God angry, because the church is a place to hear the Word of God. The church is a place to worship the Lord. The church is a place to pray. And the church is a place for sinners to come and find God.

If someone comes to church who doesn't know the protocol or the dress code or the secret language of Christians, and they are turned away or made to feel uncomfortable because of some judgmental stare from a believer, then we are missing it. We should look at those people and go out of our way to welcome them, to make them feel loved. We should never keep people from Christ. We should always be drawing them to Christ.

Are you a bridge or a barrier to people coming to Christ? Every Christian tends to be one or the other. We are all examples, whether we want to be or not. The question is, are we good examples or bad ones?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why I Haven't Been Blogging So Much

Well, it's been awhile, I must admit.  It's been so long that they've changed the interface on this blogger page and it's hard to navigate....again.  And I guess that will be my excuse for not blogging in some time.  It's been hard to navigate some of the changes going on here at Oakwood.  It's been hard to find the time, even a few minutes to blog some stuff.  So, here is my attempt 9 minutes before my lunch meeting today!

In a word it's been merger.  I have had more meetings in the last 4 months than I've had all of last year.  They are important and necessary and good, but they do take time.  As I've been helped with priorities by my elders, I've found that this is number 7 on my list of priorities.  Some weeks I'm only getting to the top 3!  So, there's my excuse, whether it sounds legit or not.

I'm looking forward to sharing more in the coming days, weeks, and months.  The church merger with Davis Park has been awesome and we can all see God working through everything that is going on.  We will have our first official service together this Sunday at 10:30am.  It will be a great time of celebration of what God has done and is doing in the lives of people from 2 churches becoming one.  We are excited to see God's move in our hearts in this special way.

So, I'm hoping to start blowing up the blogosphere more as this merger settles down.  I appreciate all of the prayer and support I've received from everyone.  May God get even more glory for the great things He has done!

(9 minutes is up, got to get to my next meeting)