Archive for the 'Original Articles' Category

I have a post up on my own webpage asking this question. I’ve been inundated with people who have suggested that yes, married is the new divorced. Some suggest it, others are blatant about it. You can read it by clicking here. Below is a quote from the post. Come on over and join the conversation.

Married is the new divorced. If you get married before twenty-five people expect you to get divorced. Of course, if you get married after twenty-five, people expect you to get divorced too. If you’ve been married for more than a few years and you tell people you’re happy being married, they look at you as though you’re crazy.

You can read the whole post here.

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A little more than a month ago, a newly-published Bible translation came to my attention, and I was able to get a copy of it.  The Voice, a translation commissioned by Chris Seay and the Ecclesia Society, is an interesting approach to translation that I believe is quite good, for what it seeks to be.

Before I go on, it’s probably best to get some comments out of the way about Bible translation.

A Messy Business

Unless you happen to speak fluent Hebrew, Greek and a smattering of Aramaic, you have to depend on somebody to translate the Bible for you.  There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 words in the English language, whereas there are only about 80,000 words in the Hebrew language, with only about 8,000 different Hebrew words used in the Bible.  Because of this, translators have to make lots of choices, informed by their own theology, as to what words and phrases they will use in English to approximate the words and phrases used in Hebrew/Greek.  As a result of this, whenever a translation is published, its language pattern is somewhat dated as time goes by (think of the Shakespearean English of the KJV compared to our day-to-day English).

In some cases, there is no real equivalent word in English, or a word is used as a special title, so the translators choose to transliterate the word, creating a “new” English word.  Examples of this are “Christ” and “baptism”.  In other cases, there are examples of wordplay in the original languages that are difficult to translate into English, so they translators have to decide between translating “word for word” (sometimes called “literal” translation) and translating “thought for thought”.  Other translators want to give readers a more narrative or “readable” version, so they choose to include some level of paraphrase in a “dynamic” translation.

Each type of translation has its own strengths and weaknesses.  It is important for Christians, as the readers of each translation, to understand what type of translation they are reading, why they are reading it, and not to try to make the translation to something it is not meant to do.  So long as you keep this in mind, there is really no such thing as a “best” translation.  If you are doing a word study, a dynamic translation is a poor choice.  If you are looking for a version to read out loud, or for a 90-day-through-the-Bible plan, a word-for-word translation will be frustrating for the reader.

Some folks get their panties in a twist over translations, claiming theirs is the only legitimate one (i.e. the KJV-only crowd) or they go the legalistic route of declaring the use of certain translations (or paraphrases) as sinful.  They all miss the point.

A Unique Voice

Probably the most well-known dynamic translation is The Message, a translation written by Eugene Peterson.  While it is more a paraphrase than a translation, The Message gives us Scripture in late-20th-Century English.

The Voice, also a dynamic translation, sits somewhere between The Message and thought-for-thought translations, like the New Living Translation.  A group of 120 individuals were involved in translating the original texts into The Voice.  Initially, a group of about 80 pastors, artists, musicians, writers and poets translated the Bible into literary/readable manuscript and then gave it to a group of 40 Biblical scholars.  Members of the translation team came from a cross-section of modern, orthodox Christianity, representing a healthy diversity of denominational backgrounds.

They wanted to have both intellectual rigor in translating from the original languages along with an artistic eye to assist modern readers in accessing Scripture.  This meant that they would have to make some choices, some of which contained no small measure of controversy.

Probably the most discussed choice they made was with the word “Christ” – a transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which was, itself, a translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah”, which also meant “Anointed One”.   The translators of The Voice chose to translate this word, instead of transliterating it, as “the Anointed One”, or – when referring to Jesus’ role – as “The Anointed One, the Coming King”.  I remember a friend of mine who thought that “Christ” was Jesus’ last name (and that his parents were Jesus and Mary Christ), and this mistake is not uncommon.  The translators of The Voice sought to prevent this problem, as well, bringing cries of pain from the expected quarters of ODM-land.

Even so, this seems like a good choice.

Probably one of my favorite aspects of The Voice is that the translators chose to differentiate between the direct translation and the paraphrase by italicizing the paraphrased words.  In many cases, as well, the paraphrase pulls in referenced facts from earlier in Scripture (to remind the reader what the writer is referring back to) or to call out something that is foreshadowing later events.

Another feature of The Voice is that it is written in “screenplay” format, where speakers are called out in highlighted text (as if in a screenplay), which is very helpful in many of the conversation-heavy portions of Scripture.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for a dynamic translation, I would recommend The Voice as superior to The Message – both for its readability and for the increased rigor in the translation.  I would recommend that you download the New Testament portion of The Voice, which is available for free at the publisher, here, and try it out for yourself. (NOTE: You may have to add “.pdf” to the end of the file, depending on the browser you are using.)

Remember, though, if you’re looking to do a word study or teach a Bible Study, you should look to use a “word-for-word” or even a “thought-for-though” translation.  But if you’re looking to read through the Bible, or for a dynamic translation for other purposes, The Voice fits the bill very well.

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So, after Brendt’s post last week, I thought my temptation to write an article on this would pass.  However, after a number of DM’s, Tweets, Facebook messages and some emails, I think it might just save me some time and lots (and lots) of repeating myself.  Additionally, a good friend asked me what was going on with all of this, and my reply was “it’s a long story” (which I probably owe her at some point, anyway), and current events seem to be surfacing this topic, as well.

Background on “Christian”

Andy Stanley started an 8-part series a couple of months ago at North Point Community Church, called “Christian”.  The overarching premise is that “Christian” is a malleable word (a poor adjective) that can mean most anything these days.  It was a word given to Jesus-followers by outsiders, not the followers, themselves.  What the followers called themselves, and what Jesus called them, is much better defined: disciples.  As such, we, as followers of Christ, ought to try to live up to what Jesus expected us to be (disciples), not take the squishy road of “Christian”. [I highly recommend the entire series, FWIW.]

  • Part 1: Brand Recognition – This is the basic premise of the entire series, relayed above, where Stanley lays out Christianity’s reputation, outside the church as “judgmental, homophobic moralists, who think they are the only ones going to heaven and secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell”, and then goes on to describe the difference between “Christian” and “disciple”
  • Part 2: Quitters – Picking up from Part 1, Andy tells the story of Anne Rice – leaving the church, rediscovering her faith, and then disavowing “Christians”, saying “Today I quit being a Christian.  I’m out.  I remain committed to Christ, as always, but to being ‘Christian’ or being part of ‘Christianity’.  It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.“  Stanley then goes on to describe the defining characteristic given to disciples by Jesus (see 1 John 4:7-8), that should differentiate us from the world around us, so that we don’t settle for the brand “Christianity”.  Key quote: We give up our leverage in society when we opt for anything other than LOVE.
  • Part 3: Insiders Outsiders – Andy follows the evolution of the early church – from a small, persecuted minority to a movement that toppled the Roman Empire.  He points to this event in time as a point where Christians stopped leveraging love as their distinguishing characteristic, and started leveraging other things – like political power – to impose their faith on others, by threat or force.  He examines how Christians should treat those outside the faith, and that we should not expect those who don’t follow Jesus to live as he commanded his followers to live.  (This sermon shared points with the incredibly good 1-sermon series last summer, The Separation of Church and Hate.)  Over time, though, Christians morphed the Great Commission into “Therefore, go and impose my teaching, values and worldview on all nations, threatening them with judgment and destruction if they don’t obey everything I have commanded you.“  The main point he comes to is that we are to judge disciples (who are acting against his commands), not outsiders (who never signed up to follow his commands).  [He uses Mark & Grace Driscoll's appearance on The View as an example of how to demonstrate this.]
  • Part 4: Showing Up -  The Sunday before Easter, Andy preached this sermon on how disciples should live – as salt and light – in the world.  He traces this from the experience of the early persecuted church, up to how we ought to live now – where how we treat one another and how we treat those outside the church (by “showing up”) – is to be such examples of Christ that when people see us, they see what he is like.  This is messy, and is not always immediately (or ever) visible to us, but our good deeds should shine in such a way that others speak well of Christ from seeing how we act.  “The way we act may make them feel guilty, but it should not make them feel that we are condemning them.”  (i.e. it should be their conscience that convicts them, not our criticism.)
  • Part 5: When Gracie Met Truthy – In a theme common here, Andy touches on the tension that exists between grace and truth.  His basic premise, spoken several times and several ways:  “A tension exists between grace and truth.  If we try to resolve that tension, in either direction, we lose something.”  He goes through multiple examples in Jesus’ ministries where Jesus, described by John as the perfect embodiment of grace and truth, gives both grace AND truth.  For example, in the woman who committed adultery and as brought before him, Jesus response was “I do not condemn you” (grace) and “go and live in sin no more” (truth).  As Brendt quoted this sermon, “… people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case.“  This was a very good, but very difficult lesson (and the source of the controversy, covered below).
  • Part 6: Angry Birds – This sermon covers similar territory the previous week – this time via Jesus’ teaching, whereas Week 5 dealt with Jesus’ actions.  It examined Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about how to treat sinners, followed by the story of the Two Lost Sons (sometimes called The Prodigal Son).  In the first part, he says that if Christians are doing what Jesus did and following what he taught, we, too, should end up attracting the “tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes”, which will likely result in the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law to mutter that we’re associating with the wrong sorts of people.  Even though we have more in common, and nearly identical theology, to the ‘Pharisees”, the way we live our belief – if we’re doing it right – will likely result in the sinners feeling welcome and the self-righteous feeling … self-righteous and put out.  Basically, as Stanley follows on, we should be modeling the role of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
  • Part 7: Loopholes – This sermon continues on, examining how “Christians” (and, to some degree, non-Christians) try to use “loopholes” which allow our own sinful behavior, while condemning/damning the sins of those who are different than them.  He contrasts this with what Jesus taught – “Love God, and love your neighbor – all other laws flow from/are subservient to these”.  In the context of loopholes, Andy sums this up – to the Pharisees – as “Don’t you dare take a verse or a passage of Scripture and use it to unlove someone else, you hypocrites” and then continues: “Disciples don’t look for workarounds or loopholes – ‘Christians’ do that – Disciples ask ‘What does love require of me?’“  [I loved this particular bit, as well: "'Christians' use the Bible like a mace - 'Disciples' use the Bible like a mirror."]  If you only have time for one sermon in the series, I’d go here.  Very challenging stuff.  Stuff I often suck at.  Stuff that will make you uncomfortable.  Stuff that doesn’t require you to compromise, but requires you to love people who are not like you.
  • Part 8: Working It Out – In the final sermon of the series, Andy picks up from the final question of Week 7:  What does love require of me? In it, he notes that the people who have shaped us the most are either a) those who really loved us; and b) those who really hurt/abused us.  Originally, Jesus gave us a new commandment: Love one another.  Our defining characteristic was to be how we love one another, but over time it has evolved from being more about how we behave to being almost completely about what we believe.  If we want to re-brand “Christian” to become synonymous with “Disciple”, we need to follow the new commandment he gave us.  “We represent the commander, not the commandments.”  He finishes up the series by talking how to prepare ourselves to live in love: 1) Don’t do anything that will hurt you; 2) Don’t do anything that will hurt someone else; and 3) Don’t be mastered by anything.
  • All in all, this was an incredibly good series, and one that is challenging (for good reasons).  I encourage you to watch/download/listen to it all.  Twice.

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I wrote a post about parenting. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about it lately. I thought I’d pass the fun.

Here’s the thing: Parenting isn’t about the parents. I know this post is going to get me in trouble. I know it’s going to have people angry with me at this point, let alone after they read what’s coming. I know people are going to de-friend me and gnash their teeth at me. I even know that some people are going to decide to not come see me as a counselor, which will cost me money.I do not care. This is too important.Parenting is about the kids. It is about what is best for the kids. It’s not about the parents happiness. It’s not about the parents social life, or how fulfilled they feel. It doesn’t matter that most of our life someone has lied to us and told us a lie that we can do whatever we want and that having a kid greatly limits that.Now hear me out, please. It is important that parents take care of themselves. It is important that parents be well developed and emotionally mature people. So that they can model that for their children.

You can read the rest here.

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Never forget my friends, no matter what you may have heard or what has been said, the overarching plot of the Bible is a positive story. It is a  story of redemption. It is the story of Ressurection. It is an invitation to be a part of God’s family. No matter where you have been or what you have done, He loves you. He died and rose for you. Nothing you have done or will do can make Him live you any less or more than He already does. God loves you.

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I doubt I’ll ever forget the day.  There are a series of days burned into my memory. My wedding day. Graduations (both mine and friends). My kids birth. The phone call from my dad telling me that my mom had died. The day Rob put his hand on my shoulder.

It was dark in the shed. “I come to the garden alone…” was being sung by pastors all over. I had prayed 30 minutes before that I needed some confirmation from God about the direction I thought He was taking me. I knew there were dark nights ahead. My soul lanquished inside of me. Raw wounds stung my heart and bled all over the place.

My wife and I had been at our current church for 18 months. They had lied to us throughout the process until we moved there. My wife was hurting. My bloody soul was literally in shock. I felt used, abused and betrayed by the church, Christ’s bride. Now, I was going to move my family to Michigan without a job? And I was going to have to tell people that we moved because God told me to do it? To say, I didn’t trust the church would be an understatement (and this was before I knew about angry “christian” bloggers).

So I prayed, “Dear God, I’m going to do what I believe you are telling me to do one way or another but I need a sign. I know it’s weak to ask for a sign but I need one. I need one for the cold, dark nights of doubt that I am sure are coming. I need one because my faith will be tested. If You would, I’d like to ask…I mean, I was hoping…Here’s the thing God, I’m going to go up on that stage and I’m going to pray right at the foot of that cross. I’m going to pray and if I really am hearing You, would you have someone from staff here touch me? I don’t care if it’s a preacher, or a janitor. I just need a ‘I asked the LORD and He answered me’ moment, if you know what I mean God.”

Then I went and prayed.

As I was getting ready to get up and call it a day. I felt a hand on me. I looked up and it was Rob sitting there just offering me comfort. God moved in my soul at that moment. That was January. We moved to Michigan in April. It has been the best decision we ever made. We’ve since left Mars Hill so that our family could worship in the community in which we actually live. We want to give our kids roots and Mars is about 40 minutes away.

But man, the things I learned while I was there! The healing that occurred in my life. I am not sure I can do it justice. God used Rob and Mars to bring healing to my life, and that of my family. He Rob and Mars to help me get over my hurt with the church. Rob taught me the best way to answer your accusers because he did exactly what Jesus did and ignored them. Rob taught me that Love Wins. Rob preached three of the best messages I have ever heard on forgiveness.

Sure, he preached things I didn’t agree with all the time. He said things that made me stop and scratch my head once in a while. He also taught me that it’s OK for people to disagree. We can disagree and still be brothers and sisters in Christ. Being creative doesn’t mean you hit a home run every time. You know you have really good material when the stuff you’re cutting out and leaving on the floor is really good.

He also taught me that we can have real live humans that we look up to. Before Rob, I used to say that my heroes were all dead, that way they couldn’t let me down.

Rob taught me that you can be a flawed human, with a wealth of insecurities and still change the world.

Man, I’ve debated writing this post because I am sure that people are going to read it and want to attack him. There are going to be people who say that God didn’t really talk to me that day. I may actually lose business over this post. I’ve decided I don’t care. If it were not for Rob’s influence in my life, I might not be in church today. God used him in my life in a might way.

So like John Piper once famously (or infamously said), “Farewell Rob Bell.” I would add, “I and my family will miss you.”

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Photobucket(Note: I read the Kindle version of the book, so I haven’t tried to reference page numbers here.)

If you have any connections to the world of evangelicalism, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. The reactions of the book have ranged from somewhat gentle critique and interaction (see Ben Witherington III, Roger Olson, or Scot McKnight) to people calling Bell a false teacher (see, Mark Galli, Al Mohler, etc.). In addition to countless blog posts, tweets, and Facebook meltdowns no less the half a dozen (and counting) book have been released or are going to be released in response to Bell.

Now personally, I’ll start be laying my cards on the table. I read Love Wins the day or two after it was released. I liked the book quite a bit. But, honestly, after reading I couldn’t see what all the hoopla was about. Bell explores the concepts of heaven and hell, the Kingdom of God, and salvation in a way that is pretty much consistent with his earlier books and his sermons. Now, I shouldn’t say I was totally surprised by the reactions – after all, hell is sort of the third rail of evangelicalism. People approach the subject at their own risk. But there wasn’t really anything in the book that people like C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, or other writers have been saying for years. Bell’s popularity certainly surpasses theses writers in the general church-going crowd (With the exception of maybe Lewis), but still what is the big deal?

Enter Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle and their book Erasing Hell. I had heard this book was coming out not long after reading Love Wins. Chan is somewhat of a rising star in evangelical circles. He’s about Bell’s age, and he’s written a number of books that have sold well – Crazy Love and Forgotten God. I have not read Chan prior to reading Erasing Hell, and my only experience with him was when he led our “small” group at one of the Passion conferences a few years ago (small being around 600 or 700 people). Given Chan’s ties to Passion and some of the neo-Reformed movement folks, I’m not surprised to see that he has a problem with Love Wins.

As far as the book, Chan (and Sprinkle – it’s not always clear who is actually writing) begins the introduction by stating how important it is that we get the doctrine of hell correct. He says multiple times that it’s something that we can’t get wrong. Getting it wrong puts us at risk of sending others to hell or even puts us at risk. To his credit, he also states that we can’t let tradition or our feelings dictate what is right as far as what Scripture says about hell. Personally, I find fear-based or slippery-slope framed arguments to be inherently weak. Yes, there is an element of pragmatism that guides the formulation of doctrine, but it simply doesn’t seem to me to be a fair statement that a Christian’s walk or zeal to evangelize is ultimately driven by what they think of hell. If it is, then I think there are other bigger issues that need to be flushed out.

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Yesterday I held a newborn boy.  He was nearly perfect.

I also took my daughters horseback riding at a farm where a little five year old boy lives. He’s dying. There’s a good chance he won’t see the end of next month.

Last night I found out another little baby boy died. He was still born. His parents have been trying to have kids for years. They buried him on his due date.

Life is hard. I’ve had my share of hard times. Compared to kids dying though, they seem like nothing.

It seems that it’s always a matter of perspective. I mean, have you ever just asked yourself, “Who Cares? Who cares about this whole stupid mess?” Certainly the Psalmist did time and again.

Then of course there is the issue of Theology. There’s the issue of people who have no idea what to say, feeling like they have to say something. There is the issue of what is said usually being not all that helpful.

I’m convinced all of our stories were meant to be told together. We need each other.

And yet people hurt us.

There’s so much hurt and anger in this world of ours. So much about life that doesn’t make sense. Can I be honest with you? I think one of the biggest problems we have with God is that there is a lot to Him that we can’t understand. Oh we want to. We rail and scream against our lack of control but at the end of the day we simply cannot wrap our brains around this Divinity.

I think that’s the problem. We refuse to admit there is some ambiguity. We want certainty where God demands faith and obedience. One of my friends lamented to me that there is just sometimes where God doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t agree enough. We can’t see God. We cant’ touch God. I think that’s why God tells us we need each other.

Sometimes, we simply have to trust in God’s character, not our ability to explain Him. More often than we do currently we need to make room for disagreements. We need to make room for people to experience Grace. We need to remember that Jesus came so we can have life

together.

The apostles didn’t all share the same ideology. They did all share a relationship with Jesus. May we all be able to say the same.

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I didn’t watch the Casey Anthony trial. I refuse to allow tragedy to be entertainment for me. Whenever I would tell that to people who were watching they would tell me it isn’t entertainment but they could never actually tell me what it was if it wasn’t entertainment.

Finally this past week, I figured it was going to end.  I was actually happy. I figured I’d be able to stop hearing about it.  Then came the acquittal.

Then came the facebook status updates blowing up…

Some languished at the lack of justice for the poor murdered little girl.

Some cried out about the injustice in the world.

Some wondered openly if there was such a thing as justice.

Some just went too far.

“Someday the jury will have to answer for what they did.”

“ I hope that God decides to take a loved one from the jury.”

“Someday that evil woman will get what she deserves. The coals of Hell will be heated for her forever!!!”

And they went on.  Many of my Christian friends were excitedly pointing to the day that this woman would end up in hell.

This post is not about her guilt or if there is a Hell.
This post is about Christians that miss the point of the gospel. This post is about God being in the redemption business.

Moses, David, Paul are all guilty of murder. They all killed people. It would be hard to argue that Paul didn’t  kill babies younger than this little girl in Florida.  They never got the justice “they had coming to them.”

God redeemed them. I have to say I didn’t see a lot of posts by Christians saying they hoped that would happen for this woman.

You see embedded in those posts was honest anger. I get that. But I also think there was a little bit of “I’m better than HER, because I would never do THAT!!!”

Yet, James says, if you break one part of the law you break it all.

So we’re all guilty and God is in the business of offering us all redemption, even child killers.  My desire for justice rails against that. My desire to love my own skin is thankful for it.

I don’t know if this woman is guilty or not. I imagine she probably is and yet the evidence wasn’t enough.

I know that wherever she is, and whatever she’s done Jesus died and rose again so she could have eternal life and be freed from the guilt of her actions. Jesus paid it all. All to him we all owe.

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In the past day or so, I’ve had a friend who sent me a couple of links to articles on Cracked.com (Warning: NSFW language) with some interesting observations.  His first was this one, based on this Cracked article:

I was reading an article about how good news no one talks about is out there. One of those was about the gulf’s recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It made this point:

“What we will talk about is how no one expected fish, crab and shrimp catches to be average compared to past years or that oil chomping microbes would go to town feeding on our disaster. And more importantly, the Loop Current that was on track to carry the oil to the Florida Keys just broke. As in, it broke off into a big swirly hilariously named Franklin Eddy, which unexpectedly contained the oil in a tidy circle of cool. We’d like to think of Franklin as a bongo-playing beat poet who doesn’t have to play by your current rules, maaan.

Had it not been for Franklin, the oil would have hit the Keys and made its way up the East Coast, and there wouldn’t have been a whole lot we could have done to stop it. Thanks to Franklin, which no longer exists, much of the Florida coast was spared from the oil altogether.”

I don’t really have much of a point except to say maybe the hand of God is was in this. Its nice to remember this when life fights dirty.”

I found this profound for a couple of reasons: First off, it is a demonstration of how God is such an awesome engineer (says the professional engineer), who has contingency plans within contingency plans within contingency plans for when we make things go awry. Secondly, it just reminded me how negative I sometimes feel when I listen to too much news – because bad news sells, so we rarely hear good news (or Good News) from the news media.

The second article, 7 “Ancient” Forms of Mysticism That are Recent Inventions, made me laugh even more:

Yoga as we know it today — a set of postures (asanas) combined with breathing techniques — dates back to around the grand old year of 1960. In other words, yoga is as old as Bono.

So all of the Yoga wars that have been fought “for God” by Johnny Mac an others are all just pretty much (as previously noted) bunk.

So, maybe quoting Cracked.com from time to time is a little bit like quoting Cretin poets.

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