JesusLiberator!

6 04 2010

Easter 2010 

What a powerful weekend we had at Mountain Springs!  Almost 6000 people came out for our 6 services and over 125 people got baptized!  All the glory goes to Jesus!

Jesus came to the earth as a liberator!  This is the message of Easter.  Jesus came as a kingdom warrior engaging Satan and his demonic hordes in an eternal conflict.  He came as an outlaw to the religious establishment in order to break the old legal manmade systems that hindered people from experiencing freedom, forgiveness, and grace.  The scriptures say that “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”(John 1:17).

JesusLiberator came to change our lives.  Jesus announced his mission on the earth this way:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

      Because He has anointed Me

      To preach the gospel to the poor;

      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

      To proclaim liberty to the captives

      And recovery of sight to the blind,

      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

       To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” [1]

When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the “Chosen One,” the Messiah, Jesus responded,

“Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  [2]

Jesus came to the earth to give His life as a ransom-replacing our sin with His righteousness.  Jesus came to set us free from the bondages, chains, and addictions of sin.  As a result, Jesus is the ultimate liberator; Jesus is the ultimate freedom fighter.  What a joy to know Him and be chosen to experience His grace in our lives.

Recently it has been my great privilege to receive letters, emails, and to personally talk to so many people at Mountain Springs who are experiencing the newfound freedom and power of JesusLiberator in their lives:

  • One young woman, Susan, upon learning of her husband’s infidelity and multiple affairs, despaired of even life itself.  In the midst of her crumbling life, she began attending Mountain Springs through an invitation of a friend. At a recent service, she gave her life to Christ.  Since that time, her son and daughter have started coming and just a few weeks ago, her daughter came to the front, weeping, committing her life to Jesus.

 

  • Recently a woman shared with me her story of trying to commit suicide in high school due to despair and loss of all hope, she sent me this email last week:

After high school, I became pregnant and the man I was with wanted me to have an abortion. I never could make up my mind to do it, so I never did it. I married my daughter’s dad so she could have her dad. I soon found out that that was the worst thing I could do. I never loved him and he was an alcoholic. We were married for only 2 years and I did cheat on him to find love somewhere else. During this time I continued to find men and sleep with them just to feel loved. I would go out at night to party and I wouldn’t come home ‘til 4 am. My dad took care of my daughter while I was out. One afternoon, I was sleeping from a night of partying, I heard a voice saying,” You need to go to church.” I looked around my room and I didn’t see anyone. I immediately felt a hunger to go to church and get as much as I could of God. I accepted God as my lord and savior. I stopped drinking and partying and I have been free from pornography. I am currently remarried to a man I met in church and we have been married for going on 6 years now and still going strong. To this day I have found love in Jesus and I don’t have this emptiness that I once was. It is a miracle!

  • I received an email recently from Trish:

December 2008 found us suddenly giving a home to my brother’s 3 kids, ages 11, 5 and 3.  Prior to coming to live with us, they had never been to church, never prayed, never even heard the Lord’s name except in vain.  I had been praying for my brother for years.  He’d been baptized at age 10, but hadn’t walked with the Lord since.  I wasn’t sure he was really saved.  When the kids came, Mimi and Steve made sure they had a place in AWANA for us so we both could continue to serve.  Church, Sunday School, AWANA–it was all new to them, but they all seemed to really enjoy it.  I started praying for the salvation of the 11 year old.  He threw himself into his AWANA book.  He’d work on the sections at home with me every week.  One of his sections asked him if he’d ever asked Christ into his heart.  He answered yes, but then I started talking to him and explaining what that meant and he realized that he hadn’t.  He asked me right then if I would pray with him.  We saw a change in his life after that.  When the kids returned to my brother, he decided that he wanted to continue what I had begun in the lives of his kids and started taking them to church himself.  Two months later, he called me to ask about the sermon his pastor had preached that morning.  During the course of that conversation, I asked him if he knew he was saved and he said no.  He prayed to accept Christ on the phone with me that day.  Two lives were changed in the space of 6 months. 

This is why we celebrate Easter!  Jesus died on Friday, becoming a captive to sin, in order to come back to life on Sunday as a liberator from sin!  Jesus has risen!  Jesus has risen in our lives!  JesusLiberator has come to change lives.  That is the message of Easter.


[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 4:18–19L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Lk 7:22–23L). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.





ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago. Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers. As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination.

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating. It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents. Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





Bible Translations: Are they really Trustworthy? Part 3

11 09 2009

 

In the first two blogs on Bible translation, I have dealt with such questions as how we got our current Bible, the translation process, revelation, and inspiration (Bible Translations I).  We then looked at how we got our current canon of 66 books, preservation of the Bible, and transmission (Bible Translations II).  In this article, I want to look at how we can get the most out of our current English translations through understanding different Bibles that are available to us today.  Choosing the Bible translation that is right for you can be difficult.  I’m hopeful that my blog will be helpful in your understanding and evaluation of our current modern translations.

 

If you were to enter any Christian bookstore today, you could be overwhelmed by the plethora of Bible translations available.  While there are literally hundreds of Bible translations, there are three versions that account for probably 90% of all the Bible sales worldwide.  They are: the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Version (NAS), and the much loved and respected King James Version (KJV).  These three translations are very accurate, readable, and faithful to the original languages of the Bible.

 

English Bible translations tend to be governed by one of two general translation theories. The first theory has been called “formal-equivalence,” “literal,” or “word-for-word” translation. According to this theory, the translator attempts to render each word of the original language into English and seeks to preserve the original syntax and sentence structure as much as possible in translation.  The second theory has been called “dynamic-equivalence,” “functional-equivalence,” or “thought-for-thought” translation.  The goal of this translation theory is to produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original language text, both in meaning and in style.

 

Word for Word Translations

 

Word for Word translations make a special effort to translate each word from the original languages as accurately as possible.  The philosophical perspective of Bible translations through word for word translation was the guide of Bible translators up to the middle of the 20th century. 

 

These translations are excellent for word studies and accuracy, though the poetic style and nuances of the original languages can sometimes be lost.  Probably the most well loved and popular versions available today would be the New American Standard Version (NAS), the English Standard Version (ESV), and the New King James Version (NKJV), which I currently use the most often at Mountain Springs Church.

 

New American Standard Version (NAS)

 

Originally translated in 1971; updated in 1995, the NAS was produced by 54 evangelical protestant scholars sponsored by the Lockman Foundation.  This version is very literal in vocabulary and word order, although the criticism has been that the English seems a bit stilted at times.  Of all the literal word for word translations, I believe the NAS to be the most literal of all.  I like this translation and it is the favorite of my wife.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)

 

The ESV is the newest literal translation on the market today.  It is growing rapidly in popularity among the reformed crowd.  I was recently at a conference where this translation was hailed as the best word for word translation available today. This excellent translation was published in 2001 by Crossway and developed by a team of 100 scholars with the goal of accuracy and readability.

 

New King James Version (NKJV)

 

In 1982, the old King James Version (KJV) was updated with more modern english. Although the choice of words make it easier to read, it still maintains the beauty of language with its unique poetic style and 17th century sentence structure.  This is my personal favorite as a study and preaching Bible.  I find the word for word translations to be accurate most of the time and the ease in word studies to be on the level of the NAS.

 

Thought for Thought Translations

 

In the category of thought for thought translations, the primary purpose of scholars has been to keep the meaning of the languages of the original authors and translate it into the same pattern of thought in the readers language.  In deciding on a thought for thought Bible, you might want to consider the grade level of the reader.  The most popular thought for thought Bible would be the New International Version (NIV) which is written on an 8th grade level, the New Century Version (NCV) written on a 4th grade level, the Contemporary English Version (CEV) written on a 5th grade level, New Living Translation (NLT) on a 6th grade level, and Today’s English Version (TEV) on a 7th grade level.

 

New International Version (NIV)

 

The NIV is considered to be the most popular translation of the Bible today.  It is most admired for its straight forward and accurate style.  Completed in 1978, it was the product of 115 evangelical scholars from all over the English speaking world.  Over 150 million have been sold since 1978, making it by far the best selling translation today.  Its language is easy to read and its accuracy very well respected.

 

New Century Version (NCV)

 

The NCV reads like a newspaper.  It targets the 4th grade reading level and is an acceptable balance between literalism and paraphrase.  Some paraphrasing is used to avoid words no longer in common use.

 

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

 

The CEV is a new translation published in 1995 and was originally intended to be a children’s translation.  Thus, it is quite readable and easy to understand.  It is excellent for the unchurched and non-native speakers of English.

 

New Living Translation (NLT)

 

The NLT is a completely new translation of the Bible first produced by Bible.org in 2005.  It contains more than 60,000 notes by the translators to help readers understand the process of translation.  This version seeks to retain the easy reading style of such thought for thought translations as the Living Bible and splits the difference between the paraphrase and the literal translation.

 

Today’s English Version (TEV)

 

Completed in 1976, the TEV was translated by Robert G. Bratcher and six other scholars.  Over 118 million have been sold and this translation is very free-flowing and fairly accurate.  This translation tries to avoid traditional biblical vocabulary and looks at the passages of the Bible in more nontraditional ways.  Excellent for non-christians and the unchurched. 

 

Which Translation?

 

I believe that all the translations we have looked at above are accurate, readable, and produced by fine scholarship.  I would recommend all of the above.  The question for the reader in selecting a Bible translation is one of purpose.

 

If you are interested in a serious study of the Bible, including grammar, vocabulary, and word studies, I would highly recommend one of the three word for word translations of which I have just written.  If, on the other hand, you are using your Bible for more devotional reading, or reading to your children, you may want to consider one of the mentioned thought for thought translations.

 

All of these translations are excellent.  Let me encourage you to pick up the Bible translation you love and then love it!  Love the Bible!  Read it, study it, and memorize it.  The purpose of reading the Bible about God is that we might come to discover, love, and obey the God of the Bible!  Go for it, jump in.  Have fun.

 

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve 

 

 

 





Is the Bible Trustworthy? Part 2

10 06 2009

Ever since Satan challenged God’s promises and Eve succumbed (Gen. 3:1-7), the enemy of our souls has been attacking God’s Word with his own version of what God means.  As soon as Jesus made His first move toward His mission, Lucifer was ready to challenge His every word.  During Jesus’ time of fasting and prayer for forty days, Satan came to contradict the words of Jesus with his own interpretation of Scripture.  And as a result, for thousands of years, men have been tempted to distrust, doubt, and deny the validity of God’s holy Word. 

As a missionary and pastor I have heard just about every conceivable question and interpretation of the Bible that man has to offer.  While some of them have bordered on the ridiculous, many comments are simply based out of ignorance and are sincerely asked in a search for truth.  It is with such people in mind, and the many at Mountain Springs who regularly ask me thought-provoking questions, that I write this article.

I would refer any reader to my sermon in the doctrine series, The Bible: God Speaks, given April 24th, 2009, for further elaboration on the topic of the Bible in general.

This is part two in my blog on Bible translations.  If you would like to understand the context of the last blog, let me encourage you to read part one first.

God’s Publishing Process

How did we get our current Bible? Is the English translation that you are using reliable?  Can you have confidence that the Bible you are holding is anything like the manuscripts written by the first authors?  These are excellent questions.  The Bible purports to have divine qualities.  But does it really?  And if so, how were these qualities passed down through the generations to make up our English version of the Bible?

There is a divine process that has been used by God to give us our current Bible.  This process can be summed up in a five part process:  Revelationà Inspirationà Canonicityà Preservation à Transmission. In part one, we concerned ourselves with revelation and inspiration.  In part two, we will continue our look at God’s publishing process.

Canonicity

John MacArthur writes, “We must understand that the Bible is actually one book with one Divine Author, though it was written over a period of 1,500 years through the pens of 40 human writers.  The Bible began with the creation account of Genesis 1, 2 written by Moses about 1405 B.C., and extends to the eternity future account of Revelation 21, 22, written by the Apostle John about A.D. 95.  During this time, God progressively revealed Himself and His purposes in the inspired Scriptures.” (Study Bible p. xiv)

This raises a significant question: “How did the church know which books ought to be recognized as canonical or authoritative?  Which writings should be included and excluded?”  We find three ways that the early church fathers determined the authenticity of a book for the Bible.

  1. Conformity to “the rule of faith.” Did the book in question conform with orthodoxy?  Christian truth recognized as normative in the churches?
  2. Apostolicity. Was the writer of the book an apostle or did the writer of the book have immediate contact with the apostles? For example, Mark’s gospel was tied to Peter and Luke’s to Paul.
  3. Catholicity. For a document to be considered canonical it must have had widespread and continuous acceptance and usage by churches everywhere.

Thus, when the various councils in church history met to determine the authenticity of a book, they did not vote for canonicity, rather they recognized what the churches had come to determine as authoritative.  Much like ordination in our church, we are not ordaining anyone but simply publically recognizing someone who God is already ordaining through the life they live and witness of their ministry.  In a similar way, the church fathers and theologians who came together recognized the twenty-seven books that became the New Testament as being authoritative based on the criteria above and the consensus of the church.  In simplistic form, the church already believed these books to be the canon of Scripture and the councils confirmed what was already common knowledge.

In regard to the Old Testament, MacArthur writes, “With regard to the Old Testament, by the time of Christ, all of the Old Testament had been written and accepted in the Jewish community.  The last book, Malachi, had been completed about 430 B.C.  Not only does the Old Testament canon conform to the Old Testament which has since been used throughout the centuries, but it does not contain the uninspired and spurious Apocrypha, that group of 14 rogue writings which were written after Malachi and attached to the Old Testament about 200-150 B.C. in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX), appearing to the very day in some versions of the Bible.  However, not one passage from the Apocrypha is cited by any New Testament writer, nor did Jesus affirm any of it as He recognized the Old Testament canon of His era (cf. Luke 24:27,44).” (ibid, p. xv)

Carson and Moo write, “The fact that substantially the whole church came to recognize the same twenty-seven books as canonical is remarkable when it is remembered that the result was not contrived. All that the several churches throughout the Empire could do was to witness to their own experience with the documents and share whatever knowledge they might have about their origin and character. When consideration is given to the diversity in cultural backgrounds and in orientation to the essentials of the Christian faith within the churches, their common agreement about which books belonged to the New Testament serves to suggest that this final decision did not originate solely at the human level.” (Barker, Lane, and Michaels, The New Testament Speaks, p. 29; qtd. in Carson, Moo, and Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 736).

The completed Bible was formulated early in the history of the church.  By the end of the second century all but seven books (Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, James, and Revelation) were recognized as apostolic, and by the end of the fourth century all twenty-seven books in our present canon were recognized by all the churches of the West.

F. F. Bruce writes: “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities” (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, p. 27).


Preservation

How do we know for sure that the Bible that was first written down by the original authors has been preserved and handed down to us accurately?  How do we know for sure that the Bible you are holding is truly the inspired, written Word of God?

Critics of the accuracy of the Bible routinely claim that it is in fact a series of fables and legends that have developed over hundreds of years because there are not enough copies of ancient manuscripts to alleviate their skepticism. However, a simple shepherd boy dealt a death blow to their criticisms in 1947. He wandered into a cave in the Middle East and discovered large pottery jars filled with leather scrolls that had been wrapped in linen cloth.

Amazingly, the ancient copies of the books of the Bible were in good condition despite their age and the harsh climate.  This was due to the fact that they had been well sealed for nearly nineteen hundred years. What are now known as “The Dead Sea Scrolls” are made up of some forty thousand inscribed ancient fragments.  From these fragments, more than five hundred books have been reconstructed, including some Old Testament books such as a complete copy of Isaiah.

I have visited on several occasions the Dead Sea Museum and viewed for myself the entire book of Isaiah.  The amazing thing is that the fragments found, the book of Isaiah in particular, are word for word the same as the Old Testament that we use today.

If someone seeks to eliminate the trustworthiness of the New Testament, then to be consistent they would also have to dismiss virtually the entire canon of Western literature and pull everything from Homer to Plato to Aristotle off of bookstore shelves and out of classroom discussions. The transmission process of Scripture is, by God’s providential grace, without peer.

The Bible says thus about itself in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”   With increased archeological discoveries, the truth of this statement become more and more clear.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:11)

Transmission

The Bible has been translated into over 3000 languages.  How can we be sure that these translations are accurate?  How can we be confident that our English Bible reads the same as the original autographs written by Paul and Peter?  Let’s look now at transmission through the centuries. 

Transmission occurred when the autographa was carefully copied by trained scribes so that other copies could be made available for people to read. While these handwritten copies have the occasional minor error (e.g., spelling or punctuation):

  • They were accepted as accurate and authoritative by God’s people (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:18 cf. 1 Kings 2:3; Ezra 7:14; Nehemiah 8:8). For example, the apostles, who were the senior leaders in the early church, taught from copies of the books of the Bible. (Acts 17:2; 18:8)
  • The early church tested all teachings against the existing scrolls. (Acts 17:11)
  • Furthermore, Jesus Himself taught from copies of the books, not the autographa, and treated them as authoritative. (e.g., Matthew 12:3–5; 21:16, 42; Luke 4:16–21; 10:26)
  • In conclusion, God’s people have always relied on manuscripts, and these writings have proven to be accurate and trustworthy. Jesus’ own perfect example assures us of their trustworthiness.

Tragically, opponents of Scripture have attacked the Bible’s trustworthiness by falsely stating that our current English translations are built upon poorly transmitted copies. However, the bibliographical test of Scripture flatly refutes this false argument. The bibliographical test seeks to determine the historicity of an ancient text by analyzing the quantity and quality of copied manuscripts, as well as how far removed they are from the time of the originals.

The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are more than five thousand Greek manuscripts, about eight thousand Latin manuscripts, and another one thousand manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.). Both the number of transmitted manuscripts we possess of Scripture and their proximity in date to the autographa are astounding and unparalleled in the canon of Western literature. Moreover, the Scripture quoted in the works of the early Christian writers (mostly AD 95–150) are so extensive that virtually the entire New Testament can be reconstructed, except for eleven verses, mostly from 2 and 3 John.

Our English Bible

The translation of a full English Bible began with John Wycliffe (ca. A.D. 1330-1384), who made the first translation of the whole of Scripture (Old and New Testament).  Later, William Tyndale was associated with the first New Testament translation of the Bible in A.D. 1526.  Myles Coverdale followed in A.D. 1535, by delivering the first complete Bible printed in English.  In 1611, the King James Version (KJV) had been completed.  Since then, there have been many translations printed from the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.  In my next blog we will look at each of the major translations and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve