Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Question of the week

Well it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (of course, it's only Tuesday), but I did get some good questions after the sermon on tongues. Here is one...

Hi Chad,

I just want to start off by saying I really enjoyed your message on 1 Cor. 13 and I agree totally with you about tongues and their relevance and use today, BUT (you knew a "but" was coming)...

My curiosity was piqued at the wording of 1 Cor. 13:8 which stated "Love never ends". My NIV reads "Love never fails" and my KJV reads "Charity never faileth": http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/c.pl?book=1Cr&chapter=13&verse=8&version=KJV8 so tonight I started to do some research (from a PDF copy of the TNIV.) During the service I thought the TNIV was the translation being used up on the screen, but I found that the TNIV also reads "Love never fails" in that verse.

A web search on this wording pointed me to the English Standard Version (ESV). Is this the translation that was used today? Obviously the actual meanings between the NIV and ESV translations are completely different.

Chad, I have some preconceived issues with the TNIV (the changed meaning in Rev. 22:18 comes to mind.) I plead ignorance on the ESV but its first impressions are a little bit weird for me. I do consider the Bible to be God's inerrant, complete and perfect Word, so any inconsistencies in meaning - even with a single word - kind of tweak my sensibilities (yes I'm listening to my discerning thoughts that God has given me). :-)

You've probably seen this type of thing before, but some interesting articles referencing issues with gender-neutral translations are written about here: http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-10-No-2/Changing-God-s-Word and here: http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-7-No-2/Are-the-Criticisms-of-the-TNIV-Bible-Really-Justified (this is actually a pretty cool site, and I love their mission and vision statement.)

In the past we used the NIV (which I firmly believe is a great thought-for-thought translation) at Providence exclusively, so my curiosity begs the question: which translation(s) are we now using? Inquiring minds want to know... ;-)

As always, thanks for listening!


Great question.

You're right, I have recently been using the TNIV as my primary translation. Sometimes, however, I will use another translation if I think it more accurately reflects the meaning of the text.
You're right again, this past Sunday I used the ESV because I think it was the most accurate (v.8, "Love never ends" is closest to the Greek because the word is primarily referring to time. It is not referring to love failing to accomplish its task, which is implied by "love never fails" as most of the other English translations render it). Also in v.8, As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
The ESV got it right. It recognized that the verb used for the ending of prophesies and knowledge was the same, but was different than the verb used for the ending of tongues. Other translations DID NOT make this important distinction.
Prophecies - katargéõ- passive voice lit. "will be made to end or pass away"
Tongues - paúõ- middle voice lit. "will cease by themselves"
Knowledge - katargéõ- passive voice lit. "will be made to end or pass away"

Regarding the TNIV, I encourage you to do your own research and not depend on others' opinions. There are many very-well-known conservative Evangelical scholars (e.g. Gordon Fee, Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, Mark Strauss) which strongly affirm the TNIV. Regarding women's roles I am a complementarian. I love much of what the C.B.M.&W. has written. But at times some of them (particularly Wayne Grudem who, to me, can be both arrogant and verbose) go too far. I studied the TNIV for myself for two years before using it in preaching, and found that it corrects some NIV peculiarities and is gender specific where it is originally intended in the text. I think time and further (less-reactionary) scholarship will continue to bear this out. I have read two books and many articles representing all perspectives regarding the TNIV. If the goal of translation is that today's people can understand what God perfectly revealed to humanity through inspired writers of other cultures and languages long ago, then I have found very little wrong with the TNIV, as translation is an ongoing inexact science. If you have not, read Denver Seminary's Craig Blomberg (http://www.tniv.info/pdf/Blomberg.pdf). His article is entitled, "TODAY'S NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF A GOOD TRANSLATION.

Great book if you want to read much more is "A User's Guide to Bible Translations" (by English Baptist pastor David Dewey) was written just a couple of years ago. It is a really good read. Also, the latest revision of "How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth" (by Fee and Stuart) has an extremely informative chapter on choosing a Bible translation.

There is much debate about which is best between thought-for-thought and word-for-word translations. I think both have their place and should both be utilized for the serious Bible student.

The ESV is the hip translation right now among many "cool" conservatives. It really smacks of a fad for some reason to me (but I might be simply rebellious). It is a very good translation. I personally think there are other word-for-word translations are just as readable and accurate (in places perhaps even more readable and accurate). The truth is, there is no perfect translation. I personally like the TNIV. I like the thought-for-thought principle: The Bible was written to be understood. The purpose of translation is understanding. It is an improvement on the NIV in places where it received deserved criticism. It is very well done in my opinion, and I have found it to be extremely accurate as to author's intent. However, there are many who are uncomfortable with their "gender accurate" language, and it has gotten some bad press with some reactionaries (my opinion). I was saddened to find that both Cedar Springs and Lifeway quit carrying the TNIV. When I asked the person in charge of the Bible departments of these stores, I was shocked at the ignorance of these people who both told me that the TNIV had non-gender-specific references to God. That is ridiculous. I told them so. It is interesting that both stores carry many other translations that are much less reliable and accurate. It's a pet peeve for me. If the PR war doesn't improve, I'm sad to say that I may have to give up preaching with my TNIV.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Whew! Fall is in the air.

It's just starting to cool off a bit from the summer heat. There's a smell to early fall. Maybe it's some weed or something that blooms giving off a scent that always triggers a flashback for me. I think of 13 straight years of my life when I played football. There's a feeling I get. Excitement. Hope. Enjoyment. BUSYNESS. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season—and I promise it is not because of football season. Sure, I love football. But it's the whole season that I love. From the heat of early September to Thanksgiving, fall is quite nostalgic for me. And it's always busy. Always.

I went dove hunting on September 1st and haven't had a chance to go since—but I find myself noticing doves safely resting on telephone wires as I drive from one meeting to the next. This fall has been especially busy it seems—with good stuff.

New Church Plant
Our church voted on a vision for 2007 with three objectives. One of them was to begin a process to intentionally plant churches. Since we adopted this vision, a group of people from Kingston approached me who were exploring the possibility of start a church. Long story short, they sensed God leading them to become members of Providence in order to gain our DNA until they launched a church with our guidance and support. Of course, a vital part of a successful new church plant is a planting pastor. Another long story short, since the vision was adopted, I have gotten to know a guy from Mississippi named Kevin who began sensing God leading him to plant a church that reaches the culture with the word. This whole process has been both incredibly complicated and exhilarating. It's one of those amazing set of circumstances that really makes me say, "Wow. God is wonderful." We will know soon (after the church votes and Kevin senses God's call) if it really is of God, but no matter what I can't wait to see what happens. [UPDATE: KEVIN DID NOT SENSE GOD'S CALL, BUT GOD MOVED IN A GUY NAMED MELVIN SWAFFORD, WHO I HAVE BEEN TALKING WITH FOR YEARS ABOUT PLANTING A CHURCH--IT LOOKS LIKE IT WILL HAPPEN--GOD WILLING, OF COURSE!]

In a hundred years (should Christ not come first), I think thousands of people will have been reached because of the church that is being born through this effort.

Mission Trip to Brazil
Darla and I have sensed God's leadership to take our whole family to Brazil on a mission trip this fall (October 22–29). This is something we have been hoping to do for years. Why? We want to instill in our kids an understanding of God's call to take the Good News to the nations. We have been saving as a family, have decided to not take a vacation this year, and are actively trying to raise money together so that Drew, Duncan, and Dara can appreciate the sacrifice for, and priority of this trip. Needless to say, they are ecstatic about being used by God in Brazil.
Secondly, we will be accomplishing important Kingdom work. The purposes of the trip are threefold:
1) We will be helping a church (that our church started three years ago) to secure land and plan the building of a facility in which to worship. This strategically placed Bible-believing church is in a fast-growing area of Rio de Janeiro, one of the largest cities in the world. They are successfully reaching hundreds for Christ. They currently meet in a small rented facility, which is a hindrance. We are taking three contractors from our church to help them in this effort. 2) We will be helping the same church begin a ministry to families that focuses on making disciples of kids, not unlike Kidstuf, which God has used to bring many families to Christ and deliberately equips parents as the primary disciple-makers of their kids. God used Darla to bring this ministry to Providence and all of our kids have taken part in it as well. They are so excited to help our Brazilian friends get this life-changing ministry started there. 3) We will be doing ministry in a poverty-stricken area in Rio. Even though the church we planted is in a middle- and upper-income area, they have a heart for missions and ministry to the many poor in their own city. We will assist them in their work and experience with our own eyes how those in extreme poverty live. There are other kingdom tasks we hope to accomplish as well.
Obviously, the trip won't be cheap. It'll cost about $7000 for our whole family to make the trip. We've budgeted and saved but are still trusting God to help us find this large amount. It makes it a little more challenging that I am the teaching pastor of Providence. I have thought it wise not to ask individuals in our church for donations. Please pray that we'll trust God to help us find the rest of the amount we need to go. There have been a gazillion complications. Airlines seem to be in chaos and so are the passport office and visa process. But other than coming up with the money, it looks like God has allowed everything to fall in place.

New People
Fall is always the best time for church growth. People get settled back into a regular schedule. For whatever reason, we have seen more new faces in the last few weeks than at any other time I can remember. This is great! However I find myself stressing over details: is the facility clean and inviting? Do we have greeters? Are we helping people take the next step (receiving Christ, membership, Life Group, etc.)? Am I communicating the word accurately and effectively?

New Elders
We're at the end of a long process of examining men for eldership. This is VITALLY important. We can't afford to make a mistake here. There has been much prayer and discussion involved in this process. [UPDATE: GOD CALLED KENNY SMITH, TIM TUCKER, AND DAVID ZELEM TO BE ELDERS!]

Kids Activities
Before I am a pastor, I am a dad and husband. Drew is in seventh grade, playing soccer (scored two goals in the last game!), is really involved in Technology Students Association (he competed in the state and nationals last year), is a ballboy for Carson-Newman football, has lots of homework, and at church he is volunteering in Preschool, Kidstuf, and is in the middle school ministry! Duncan's in sixth grade (experiencing a new level of homework), is playing softball (their team won the league championship last season), and at church she is volunteering in preschool, dancing in Kidstuf, is in middle school ministry and is an active part of her small group. Dara is in third grade now and is a big soccer player. She's also involved in church (getting baptized next week after recently receiving Christ!). Her birthday is coming this month and is a big deal! She's been watching too much "Extreme Home Makeover" and has asked us to give her an "extreme ROOM makeover" while she is at school. That's Dara. Going for it all.

Normal Schedule
Other than all of the aforementioned activities, I really don't have to do anything except lead our church through a study of tongues and spiritual gifts as we tackle 1 Corinthians 14, counsel people, meet with many pastors, continue efforts for area-wide transformation, work with and mentor leaders in our church, plan future sermon series, and read and study and pray.

Whew! Smell that scent in the air? It's fall. It's exciting. It's BUSY. I don't think I'll be doing much more hunting this year.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Permitted. But Profitable? Christians and Drinking

I'm surprised to see how many Christians I know who proudly tell the world that they are drinkers. Don't get me wrong. It doesn't make me think less of them (not that it matters what I think). I'm not a legalist.

I was watching the news tonight when I heard this statistic:

"A new government report finding nearly 1/3 of American adults have abused alcohol or suffered from alcoholism at some point. And most of them never received treatment."

Fox News July 2, 2007 11:34 pm. This is a direct quote.

This report is yet another reminder for those of us who want to make a positive impact with our lives about the incredible insanity that so many Christians seem to believe: that alcohol is harmless. 1/3 of all adult Americans! Think about that.

Let me be clear. A Christ-follower is free to drink! Even though the Bible strongly warns of alcohol abuse (e.g. Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-35) and clearly describes being drunk as sin (e.g. Ephesians 5:18), there is no biblical prohibition against drinking in moderation (even Jesus drank wine). It’s really not about whether drinking is inherently evil. It’s not. It’s about whether it is BEST. As we have seen in 1 Corinthians, it might be permissible, but is it beneficial?

As we saw, Paul was clear that if you do anything that violates your conscience or causes someone to stumble you are committing a wrong.

And there are other reasons:

Alcoholic beverages are different today. Distillation was not invented until the Middle Ages. Before distillation, alcohol content in drinks was lower, and additionally, was usually diluted with water. A guy from Harvard Law School (Jeffrey A. Munsie) who wrote A Brief History of the International Regulation of Wine Production makes the point and quotes Pliny the Elder’s (23-79 AD) Natural History in which Pliny talked much about wine.

“Pliny noted that seawater could be added ‘to enliven the wine’s smoothness,’ snow could be added to cool the wine, or that spices and herbs could be added to mask the fact that the wine had turned to vinegar. In fact, drinking wine straight was considered to be barbaric. Wine was usually heavily diluted with water, which served the dual purpose of allowing it to be more thirst quenching and allowing the alcohol to make the water safer to drink.”

You can read it here: http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/310/Munsie.rtf.

There are lots of references that attest to the fact that the whole Greco-Roman world had this practice during ancient times. Palestine was completely Hellenized and practiced the same custom. This is why Peter, after the Holy Spirit baptized the church resulting in their preaching to visitors to Jerusalem in languages other than their own, could say, “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!” (Acts 2:15). Everyone understood that it took a lot of wine and a pretty long time to be “under the influence.”

In addition, we have many other safe drink choices, unlike people in biblical times who had basically three choices: water (that had to be boiled to purify), milk (that spoiled in hours) and wine that was purified and stayed so due to the God-given gift of fermentation.

There is a real possibility of addiction. That’s what I was struck with again when I heard this new study (above). “But I can handle it without becoming addicted or getting drunk” some say. What about those who read you are a drinker on your MySpace page? If you drink, why can’t they? Especially when the whole world seems to glamorize drinking, making abstainers (like me) seem like out-of-touch puritans (most of whom drank temperately, by the way). This possibility of leading others astray is a big deal in a world where 1/3 of all Americans admit alcohol abuse/addiction.

If I’m a Christian and I drink, it impedes my ability to point out a SERIOUS social problem. If, like me, you have seen lives destroyed and people killed because of alcohol, you can’t deny the problem. Sorry, I choose to take a stand. Call me “no fun.” You’re right. I don’t think it’s fun to tell a mom that her child has died due to a drinking driver. I don’t think it’s fun to hold a sobbing woman whose husband abused her and his kids and lost his job over a drink. It’s not fun to see a loved-one ruin their lives because they’re an alcoholic. I’ve experienced all that and much more. Want more Facts?
• The economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse estimated at $246 Billion annually. Out of that number, alcohol abuse accounts for 60% while all other drug abuses combined for only 40%. (National Institute Health)
• An average of one alcohol related motor vehicle fatality happens every 33 minutes in the US. (US Department of Transportation)
• 11 Million children grow up with at least 1 alcoholic parent.
• Having as few as 2 drinks a day if you are pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome—in which the newborn has multiple severe handicaps.
• Alcohol contributes to 205,000 deaths each year.
• Life expectancy for an alcoholic is reduced by at least a decade.
• Alcohol is connected to one-half of homicides and one-third of suicides.
• One out of twelve marriages come apart over drinking.
• Not to mention liver disease, contributions to spousal abuse and child abuse, and I could go on…

I’ve got to mention one more. If you live in the “Bible belt” there is a real potential harm to a Christian’s witness if you choose to drink. Sorry. It’s true. Even lost southerners link drinking with not living for Christ. Ask around.

So, should a Christian drink? Yeah, you’re free. But, you see, it’s not so easy to just justify it. It’s not just about your liberty. It is about God’s glory.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1Cor. 10:31)

What am I missing?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter is for Losers.

Some dude commenting on a MySpace page said, "Easter is for losers." I winced at first. But then I thought about it. The resurrection of Jesus from death was indeed, in a sense, for losers! Take John's eyewitness account for example. The first four people or groups of people mentioned are, at least from my perspective, losers. Click HERE to read it for yourself.

Think of the first people John mentions Jesus came to after he resurrected:

A woman with a broken past.
Mary was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. A woman! That was a big deal for that patriarchical culture in the first century. Jesus really was the first and greatest liberator of women. But there’s more. Mary had a troubled past. A lot has been said about Mary Magdalene of late, mostly fictional (e.g. Lost Tomb of Jesus and DaVinci Code--see Bible.org/bock for more). Who was the real Mary? Click HERE to read it for yourself in Luke 8.

Mary had been inflicted by something really bad—demonic possession. That means she was a mess and an outcast. Jesus had healed her and from then on she was an active supporter of Jesus and the Disciples—freeing them to do ministry by helping provide money, food, etc. It was not common for a Jewish Rabbi to let women be a part of his inner circle, especially one with such a sordid past.

Ever felt like you were not good enough? Too far gone—too messed up? It’s not the well who need the doctor. Jesus resurrected and appeared to Mary first, perhaps in part so that people like Mary might know that he cares and wants to use them.

Who was the second person (or group of people in this case) that he revealed himself to?
A scared bunch of disciples.
The first word that comes to my mind when I think of the disciples' actions after Jesus' betrayal is "cowardly." Peter, the bravest of them all who had just committed to die with Jesus and even pulled a sword in the garden… denied Jesus! Once to a little girl! These guys scattered and were unheard of until news of Jesus’ resurrection. They had forgotten everything he had said multiple times about him being killed and coming back in three days. On the day Jesus fulfilled his own words, we see Peter and the rest cowering in a locked room.

Ever been scared? Ever chickened out? Ever failed to be the kind of person you said you would be? Ever thought about just quitting? Jesus made it a point to come to the disciples to give them courage and restore them and help them settle down. The word he kept saying to them was, "Peace."

And the third person to whom Jesus revealed himself?
A doubting skeptic.
I love Thomas. He’s no fool. He’s street wise. I bet he had a big brother or something--maybe he got burned before when he was younger and was always on his guard. He’s got to see things with his own eyes. When he hears this stuff about Jesus being alive, he’s thinking, “Everybody’s let the stress get to them—they’ve lost their minds. Or worse, they're trying to salvage something from this disaster.” Then Jesus shows up. Thomas does a 180.

Ever doubted this Jesus stuff? Maybe you’re doubting now. Stuff like this “Lost Tomb” theory either throws you for a loop or feeds your own previous conclusion that this Jesus stuff is all false. Jesus wants you to know the same truth for which he revealed himself to show Thomas. He is God. He will be found by those who seek him honestly with all your heart.

There is one more person John says Jesus wanted to show himself to. You have to look a little harder to see who I'm refering to. You can read it again HERE.

That person is...

I don't know about you, but I'm totally aware that I'm a loser. I've been failing since before I was old enough to say my first word. I was born a loser. Lost. So were you. If you don't think so, Jesus' message isn't for you. He said, "in order to save your life you must lose it."

So this year, I'm celebrating the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is for all of us losers!