Warning: in_array() [function.in-array]: Wrong datatype for second argument in /home/content/04/6821604/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/frontend/sections/show-rel.php on line 65

Archive for Bible

A new report from Barna Group lists the top 100 most “Bible Minded Cities.” My location, Des Moines/Ames, IA, ranks number 56. Where does your city rank? Find out HERE.

Categories : Barna Group, Bible
Comments (0)

Barna Research has released a new study that ranks the “Bible-mindedness” of American cities. Check out the report complete with info graphic HERE.

Categories : Barna Group, Bible
Comments (0)

The first airing of The Bible on The History Channel reaped the highest non sports viewer response of 2013. Barna research has released new findings on American’s view of the Bible. Check it out HERE.

Categories : Barna Group, Bible
Comments (0)

Perhaps you’ve seen the hubbub in today’s news that Harvard Divinity Professor Karen King has discovered a piece of parchment dated sometime in the second century that claims Jesus was married to a woman named Mary during the time of his incarnation. The parchment, roughly the size of a cell phone, cites Jesus making a reference to his wife.

Since the publication of this “discovery,” scholars around the world have stepped up to the microphone to either support the discovery or to disavow it as fraudulent.

Let me make a few, brief observations as an everyday pastor serving a congregation in the midwest. First, the Bible we carry and open on our laps is not the product of a given manuscript. It is the product of literally thousands and thousands of manuscripts that have been collected and verified by scholars over the course of hundreds of years. So if we have one cell phone size fragment from a manuscript that quotes Jesus referencing a wife, we have hundreds that would argue the opposite. The debate is not “my parchment is better than yours.” The argument out of Harvard is “my parchment is better than the nearly 7,000 Greek manuscripts you possess.” This is the argument from sheer volume. The Bible in your lap is reliable. It’s stood the test of time. Roll with it.

The second thing I would offer is that the best commentary on Scripture is Scripture itself. Every sentence in the Bible fits with all of the rest. We all face the temptation to take pet verses and build entire theologies around them. This practice is called “proof-texting.” We don’t get the privilege of picking and choosing the verses we like and kicking to the curb the verses we don’t. The Bible has 66 unique voices that relate the story of God to us. We traditionally call these voices the “books” of the Bible. But don’t forget that the Bible is a unified document which is best appreciated and interpreted when treated as a whole unit.

Finally, don’t let claims like this make you afraid of scholarship. Personally, I’m thankful that there are people who have devoted their lives to furthering the study of Scripture. We don’t know it all, in part because we are finite in our capacity, but also because the Bible is simply that rich of a resource. Every day new discoveries are being made in archeology. Every day new papers are being published and books are being composed. We don’t know it all. Don’t let that fact make you afraid of something new. Let that fact make you a better Bible student. At the same time, you have a responsibility to be discerning. So don’t swallow everything that comes down the stream.

Categories : Bible
Comments (0)

I grew up in a day when there just weren’t a lot of options. My home of origin had three television stations, two grocery stores, and one Bible translation, the KJV. So naturally I cut my Bible reading teeth on a text written on the twelfth grade level. As time marched on, other translations began to emerge. The New KJV came along, smoothing out some of the archaic language while still honoring the spirit of the KJV. Then came the NASB (New American Standard), followed by the all time best selling NIV (New International Version) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Currently I’m reading the New Living Translation and am enjoying it very much.

As you know, today we have multiple versions of the Bible that are readily available. Even secular book store chain will carry a dozen or more options for those in the market for a new Bible. I’ve read each of the above mentioned versions cover to cover, and as I’ve read them have carried them into the pulpit and have used each of them in worship and preaching. I’m honored to share a few comments about how to select a Bible translation for you, the faithful reader of this blog.

The first thing you’ll want to know about Bible translations is the philosophical difference in how the version is interpreted. All authentic translations are taken from the Hebrew and Greek texts. (The difference between a translation and a paraphrase is that a translation comes from the ancient text while a paraphrase is a reiteration of the English text.) Some translations interpret the text “word for word.” In this approach, the goal is to convey the most precise interpretation of each individual word in the manuscript. Examples of word for word translations are the KJV, NKJV, and the NASB.

The other approach is to interpret the text “thought for thought.” The idea here is to value to concept to make sure that the main idea of the passage is conveyed clearly. Obviously one can get each individual word correct yet still fail to communicate the broader point being made by the verse(s). Examples of this would be the NIV, TNIV, and the NLT.

Think of the difference this way: word for word sees and values the individual trees while the thought for thought sees and values the forest. I don’t know that there is really a right or wrong in this. It’s simply a matter of preference and what the reader is really wanting out of the study experience.

The second tip I would offer is to remember that every translation is an interpretation. Valid translations are conducted by a committee of scholars who are well versed in biblical languages, theology, church history, and pastoral ministry. Each committee brings their education and their experience to the table. Take, for example one of the more popular new translations, the ESV. It is unapologetically reformed in its theology. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you know it going to check out. On the other hand you have the NLT, which is distinctly evangelical in its theology. Again, its not about right or wrong. I’m simply trying to make the point that you need to be aware that Bible translations are not neutral. Each possesses a theological bent. In fact, you can discern a lot about the theology of a church simply based on the translation that the pastor uses for preaching.

So how do you determine the theological bent of a translation? The easiest way is to thumb through the introductory pages of the translation and see who served on the translation team. Who are they? Where do they teach? A little cyphering at this point will tell you much about how certain passages will be handled, especially in the Pauline epistles.

Third, don’t rely on familiar passages to help you make a decision. Even the most contemporary translations will refrain from tampering greatly with commonly known sections such as Psalm 23, John 3:16, or the Lord’s Prayer. If you want to see how the translation really works, you’ll need to select a passage that is important to you and do the direct comparison accordingly. Visiting a free site such as www.bibletab.com will allow you to do direct parallel comparisons to get a feel for how the translation team handled important passages.

Finally, follow the money. At the end of the day, it’s about cash. The most popular translations may not be the best translations. They may simply have invested the most marketing dollars. Translations live and die based on sales, not scholarship. So whatever you do, don’t make your decision based on what the sales statistics report. Pick what speaks to you.

Comments (1)

I Can Only Speak for Me:: 2

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Joshua spent the lion’s share of two chapters giving his final sermon to the children of Israel. Most of his points simply reiterate principles that he had previously shared with the people. For example, in chapter 23 verse 6, Joshua reminded the people to be careful to follow the book of instruction given to them by Moses. “So be careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or the left” (NLT). If those words sound familiar you’re right. They are almost a verbatim the same words that were shared in Joshua 1:7.

Baptists share a longstanding reputation of being a “people of the Book.” Though thousands of years have passed between Joshua’s words and today, we still place a high value on the words of God as preserved through the Bible. Why such value? I believe its because the words of God reveal the living Word of God. The Bible reveals to us who God is, what He is like, and what He expects of His created ones. It also tells us how we can know Him and relate to Him through our worship and prayer. It is an authoritative source for faith and life.

Its unfortunate that people have made the Bible such a battlefield, often reducing it to nothing more than a litmus test for orthodox faith. I suppose some are even guilty of Bible-olatry, where the Scripture is worshipped more than the One it reveals. Being serious about the Bible means so much more than stockpiling trivial knowledge that puffs us up with pride. Its purpose is higher than serving as a billy club to beat others into submission with proof texts. It is the self disclosure of God to a fallen world. Within its pages we find help, hope, and ultimately, the way to eternal life.

What kind of relationship do you have with the Bible? What function does it serve to strengthen your faith? Tomorrow I’ll continue with the second part of Joshua’s closing words.

Comments (0)

Scripture and the Authority of God

Posted by: | Comments (0)

This book came recommended to me by one of our members at Ashworth Road. Jason had finished the first edition, published under the title, The Last Word, and encouraged me to pick it up. Scripture and the Authority of God is the 2nd edition of that original title by N.T. Wright.

Scripture and the Authority of God is not a book about hermeneutics, but rather Wright’s suggestion as to how we should approach reading the Bible in our modern culture. Certainly the Bible is a hot button among evangelicals today, who often resort to using the Bible for the purpose of proof texting their own traditions and values. While many concur that the Bible is an authoritative document, opinions vary as to what kind of authority that conveys. What are the limits or extents of that authority? And what role does the Holy Spirit play in relationship to this authority? With those concerns in hand, Wright presents a balanced approach to the challenge.

Wright devotes the first chapters of the book to a historical survey of how the Scriptures have been handled since the Old Testament. The author reminds the reader that not all generations through history have treated the Scriptures the way we presently treat them. Does the manner in which the Bible has been read in history inform us in any way as to how we should read the Bible today? That, in part, is Wright’s point.

So what purpose does the Bible serve in history and our present day? According to Wright, to understand the purpose of the Scripture we have to think macro and not micro. The Bible was written to bear the gospel of Jesus and to serve as the missional document of the Church. The story of the Bible is chiefly the account of God’s involvement in human history and His redemptive plan that is unveiled through Jesus Christ. As the church emerges in the first century, she becomes the standard bearer, proclaiming the gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. We live to day as a continuance of the plot that was inaugurated through the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost.

How then shall we read the Bible? Wright proposes five ways that will assist and empower us to read the Bible in today’s culture. The list is provided as follows:

1. A totally contextual reading of Scripture.
Meaning, we must renew our commitment to understanding the words of Scripture in their proper contexts, including the verses, chapters, and books of the Bible, and past that into the historical and cultural settings. The words of the Bible meant something then as well as now.

2. A liturgical grounded reading of Scripture.
In other words, Scripture must be read in community. In the first century, public reading of Scripture may have been the only way that people heard the Scripture. Bible reading was not primarily an individual exercise. First and foremost came community. With this being said, Wright presents a powerful argument for the systematic reading of the Bible in corporate worship today.

3. A privately studied reading of Scripture.
While the primary hearing of Scripture may be conducted through the worship of the people, private reading and study is to be encouraged. Private Bible reading is both the privilege and responsibility of each Christian.

4. A reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship.
Wright views scholarship as “a great gift of God to the church, aiding it in its task of going ever deeper into the meaning of Scripture and so being refreshed and energized for the tasks to which we are called in and for the world (134-135).”

5. A reading of Scripture taught by the church’s accredited leaders.
Years ago the pastoral leaders of congregations had “studies,” whereas today they have “offices.” This significant shift over the past four decades has impacted the church. Wright recognizes that pastoral leaders have to deal with the management and operation of congregational ministry, however, the preaching and teaching of Scripture remains the heart of ministry.

Scripture and the Authority of God is a simple, yet helpful treatment of how to read the Bible in the 21st century. I recommend this book to you, especially if you’re weary of petty arguments about biblical interpretation over things that, by and large, just don’t matter.

Comments (0)

How to Pray Scripture

Posted by: | Comments (0)

I’ve always been impressed with those who have the ability to incorporate the Bible into their prayers. It not only makes the prayers seem more genuine, it creates a sense of authority.  I would characterize those who pray the Scriptures as ones who have walked with God for a measure of time…the kind of persons who really desire to know God’s will and do God’s will. There’s something about reflecting back to God what He has already said that makes one feel more in tune with God when praying.

So how do you go about it? It’s not that hard, but before you start experimenting with it, let me give a few suggestions to think about that may help guide your first steps. Praying the Scripture back to God should be a reflexive part of your pilgrimage, but you have to start somewhere, right?

First, I would recommend that you prioritize the word of God in your devotional time. While there are many wonderful resources available to supplement your Bible reading, there is no substitute for the Bible itself. I think its good practice to pray with your Bible open, and to pray as you read the Bible. As you read the Bible, ask God to speak to you from what you are reading. If something strikes you, consider it a signal to stop and pray.

Next, analyze what the verse is actually saying. I believe God speaks to us today through the Bible, but that affirmation is not an encouragement to run willy nilly through the Bible to find some proof text that aligns with your will.  So be thoughtful about what the verse is saying and what it is saying specifically to you. Let me use a simple illustration. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory.” What does it say? At face value, it says that God is committed to meeting my needs and that He has the abundant resources to meet my needs. It does not say that God is committed to meeting all of my wants. Transportation is a need. A $60,000 SUV, on the other hand, may be a want. Analyzing the verse keeps you from putting words in God’s mouth.

If you believe that God is speaking to you through the verse, personalize and verbalize it. Back to our example from Philippians 4. Suppose you do have a need for transportation. You might pray something like this: “God, you are committed to meeting the needs of your people, and today you are the God who meets all of my needs according to your riches in glory…and today I bring you my need for reliable transportation.” That sounds a little better than the typical litany of demands we toss in God’s direction when we want something.

Prioritize. Analyze. Personalize. Verbalize. Why not give it a shot? The value of praying Scripture is that it will draw your heart closer to God and God will use it to align your will with his will.

Comments (0)

On Sunday our church completed a summer activity called The 90 Day New Testament Challenge. It was actually pretty simple. I asked our congregation to read through the entire New Testament over the course of 90 days beginning June 1. I believed that this would be an important piece of our summer strategy, given that we committed our Wednesday nights to serving our community though an initiative called “The Summer of Love.” To encourage our people to stay with the task, we developed a blogsite, www.nt90.com, to give people a chance to read entries, find a reading plan, sign up for daily text message reminders, and to post comments. So what was the take away from this promotion? What did we learn from our shared experience? Here are a few things that I learned and hope that others learned as well.

First, the New Testament is a primarily missional document and should be read with that in mind. For example, the Book of Acts has no ending. The story just stops, as if to assume that the second and third generations of believers would continue to walk in the same path. As we read the New Testament, we were able to understand the mission of the Kingdom past and make associations with the mission of Kingdom present. Like those whose “sentness” has been documented in the grand story of the New Testament, we too have been “sent” into the world to be the presence of Christ.

Second, there is a unique power that comes when the people of God are immersed in Scripture together. I enjoyed every conversation that I had with others who were taking the journey. Bible reading is intensified when it is a shared experience.

Third, the people of God are informed and encouraged by the ancient story. We were able to identify with many of the experiences we discovered in our reading. We felt things, saw things, and shared in things that Jesus and the apostles felt, saw, and shared.

Finally, the mission of Jesus is sustained and energized by the written word. Scripture reading provided spiritual sustenance for the unique mission we undertook this summer with The Summer of Love. To intentionally engage our community this summer apart from the steady ready of Scripture would be the equivalent of an athlete going to the game with an empty stomach. In John 4, Jesus told his disciples, “I have a kind of food that you know nothing about.”

At the beginning of our challenge, I pointed out that it takes 28 days to create a habit, whether good or bad. My prayer is that the completion of the challenge will not be an end to an accomplishment, but rather serve as the initial steps of a lifelong discipline of daily Bible reading.

Comments (2)

The 90 Day New Testament Challenge

Posted by: | Comments (1)

We are wrapping up the Gospel of Luke this week and beginning the Gospel of John. If you haven’t joined the 90 Day New Testament Challenge, it’s not too late! To find out more, visit http://www.nt90.com!