King James Bible

One of the difficulties for believers to wrestle with is what to think about all the different Bible translations. Many people resolve the issue by choosing to adopt the King James Version as the Bible, or at least as their Bible. This answer is easy to grab, since from the American perspective it feels like the oldest Bible. It was the translation every older American grew up with. It was the version they used when the Mayflower landed. Some people incorrectly believe it was the language of Paul.

The King James was translated in 1611. It was a remarkable translation for its time, but it was not the only translation of its time. The fact that this one was accepted and used to a greater degree, was primarily based on it being the last of the Bibles authorized by the British crown.

The problem with the King James is that we have now had over 400 years of finding better manuscripts and of scholarly review. The first means that we have found small, very small, corrections we can make to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts the Bible is translated from. The better opportunities for scholarly review means today’s translations are checked and rechecked in ways that were unimaginable back then.

Notice that I said the changes were very small. I have never seen a textual variation which changed the message in any significant way. I believe God has been protecting the transmission of His Word, allowing some basic human error back when the Bible was hand copied, but preventing the corruption of His message.

God’s Word is the message rather than a single translation. We tend to think of the Bible as whatever translation we happen to be reading. But it is also being read in Italian, Chinese, Spanish and many more. The fact that there is more than one English translation is no more troublesome than the fact that there are translations in so many languages. Since we believe God so loved the world, means the whole world, then it’s only logical His Gospel would be available to all of us.

But some people have a strong attachment to the KJV. So a couple of textual theories have been put forward to justify the idea that the KJV is the only valid English translation.

One of these is that the majority of Greek texts are roughly the equivalent of the KJV text. This is not exactly true. But even if it was it would not be a good way to choose the best text. In the course of history a certain text might be copied thousands of times. If it has an error in it, then there will be thousands of texts with that error in place. The age of the texts is a better criteria than numbers. The idea of a majority text in scholarly circles means something entirely different and this use is a misunderstanding of it, and it was not the text available to translate the KJV

Another of these theories is the idea of a received text. Some believe God was protecting His Word by giving one single correct Greek text which then was used to translate the KJV which is therefore the only correct English text. This also doesn’t really work out as a claim for the Greek or for the English. Notice that the King James we grew up with is not the one that is for sale on the shelves today, and that the 1611 version was totally different than either. Publishers update the language in small ways. Even today if you buy a KJV from different publishers it is likely to be updated in slightly different ways.

I tell you all of this to help you avoid getting stuck on the idea that the KJV is the only good English translation. It is a good translation, but at many points the language is archaic enough that people have a hard time understanding it. Instead of adopting a single translation as the perfect Bible, accept that God’s Word is the message behind the words. By accepting a reasonably translated modern version you will likely get more out of it than you will from a translation that is stuck in centuries old language you did not grow up with. Updated language is especially important in ministry to young people. Remember, they don’t teach Shakespeare in schools anymore, so today’s youth have no context for the ancient language.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue HeronWhen you look at this picture of a great blue heron, what draws your attention? Perhaps you see his eye, yellow iris matching the yellow of the bill tip staring back at you. Perhaps you notice the black and white stripes over his head, or the frumpled feathers leaving the impression he needs to comb his hair. No matter what it is you see first, you will soon be drawn to study his bill, thick, solid, long and sharp.

It is far more than his mouth. It is his self-defense, his bread and butter, and his personality. Everything about God’s design of the heron is important, but it is easy to believe the bird holds the most pride in its bill.

What is it that defines you? Is it a point of appearance, a capability, or maybe some aspect of your personality? Whatever it is, I can pretty much guess that it affects how you see the world. Like a heron, which is always looking over its bill, you allow how you see yourself to color everything else you see.

As a child I came across a group of kids speaking of who they were king over. When they asked me I said I was king over no one, a response which brought me some degree of pain. I discovered too late that what they really meant was who they thought they could beat in a fight. It was a way of describing their prowess based on how they saw themselves. If you watch you can see adults doing the same thing, although probably with a little more subtlety.

Since how we view ourselves is so important to how we view the world it would be wise to view ourselves correctly.

Proverbs 21:2 HCSB People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.

Gas Prices

I have enjoyed the price of gasoline recently, and I am not alone. It has been a breath of fresh air and to pay about $25 to fill up.

Trying to discern why prices are so low, based on the news is difficult. It appears that the media doesn’t think the event is noteworthy, or if they have made a story of it, they have not dug into the why question.

An internet search came up with many possible answers. One source said supply was up because of better methods of producing oil. I suspect this is true in minor ways, but also expect it to be only a part of the story.

Another source indicated demand was down. Of course, this answer should be readily verifiable by a decrease in traffic. So far, I don’t see it. Of course, the impact of producing heating oil as opposed to gasoline is a possible factor, but I can’t figure the heating oil amounts being that much lower either.

A theory of my own is that the nations who sell large amounts of oil to us are afraid of losing their market. It is true we have increased our ability to produce, and some portions of US politics and economy want to become energy stable, if not outright independent. Not only this, but the US is currently in a political fight to build pipelines which will allow for greater and safer production.

Dropping oil prices are a way to making Americans less concerned about our life blood being supplied by other countries. Dropping oil prices make American companies less profitable when making oil locally. And dropping oil prices demotivates those fighting the political battles in favor of American oil.

I am guessing the lower prices are simply the result of us making the world oil supply be a competitive market.

 

Angelology

Angels are God’s messengers. That is the meaning of the Biblical Greek word used for angels, and the word from which the English word is derived.

Angels are created beings but they are made differently than humans. In regard to how they are different it is rather speculative to elaborate, but angels are mentioned in Scripture a number of ways, and from these we can learn some specific things about them.

Guardian angels are likely real in that Jesus speaks of putting angels in charge of watching over children.

Angels can have different physical appearances since some are described with six wings, with implication that this is different than other angels.

Angels can be used as God’s warriors in battle since Jesus states He could call 10,000 angels to His defense and since a battle in heaven is described in the origination of Satan and his minions.

Angels have a decision making ability and at least a degree of free will, since one third of the angels mounted this rebellion.

Angels can take on physical form since they took human women and interbred in the book of Genesis. These might well have only been fallen angels since Jesus mentioned angels do not have marital relations.

So how do we put these things together to give us a Christian understanding of angels? Begin with the very first thing mentioned. Angels are God’s messengers, sent to do the work of God. While God could accomplish His work in any number of ways, He chose to do some of it through angels.

But be careful, some of the conclusions people arrive at in regard to angels I would discourage. It is not wisdom to worship angels, or to seek their intervention on your behalf. We are to go directly to the Boss, not to His servants. We should not seek to know the names of specific angels or demons nor try to understand their hierarchy or realms of responsibility. Again we should relate directly to God through Jesus Christ. Remember they are God’s messengers, doing God’s work, so taking focus off of God to put it on angels will always be a misstep.

 

Great Egret

Great Egret

Last week I showed you a picture of a snowy egret. This picture is not of a snowy egret. This picture, taken a few steps away from a snow egret, is of a great egret. The differences are numerous. This bird has dark legs and dark feet, while the snowy egret features yellow feet and dark legs. This bird has a light yellow or orange bill, while the snowy egret has a dark bill.

But the main difference is that the great egret is significantly larger. In the lingo of bird names a great bird is bigger than others. A great egret is the biggest of the egrets. A great blue heron is bigger than a little blue heron.

This bird however didn’t appear any taller than the snowy egret walking nearby. A close look at the picture will tell you the main reason why. The snowy was all stretched out, full length, but this great egret had folded up its neck making it appear hunched up. Birds do this sometimes when they are resting, and at other times when they are cold. Either way, it will make an identification based on size a little more difficult, especially at a distance, when the parts blend together into one indistinguishable, bright white, mass.

Humans are prone to a desire for greatness, but of course with us it is not a measure of size, but of accomplishment. If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, look to Scripture to understand greatness.

Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (HCSB)

In other words, being great for God’s sake isn’t about making yourself bigger, but making yourself smaller. Maybe the egret is onto something after all.

The Powerful New Court

Recently the Supreme Court made a subtle and important non-decision on gay marriage.

The non-decision happened like this. Alabama had a law banning gay marriage. It was voted into place by the majority of Alabama voters, but was then challenged and overturned by a federal judge. This decision will be brought up before the Supreme Court later this year, but in the meantime Alabama asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay preventing the issuing of marriage licenses to same sex couples until after the court decides.

The non-decision was refusing to hear and act on the request for a stay. Many have interpreted it as an indication the majority of the court is ready to rubber stamp anything and everything in regards to gay marriage.

This is not to say there are no dissenting voices. Clarence Thomas spoke strongly against the decision, and for my purposes against the implications of the non-decision.

He said the court demonstrates an “increasingly cavalier attitude toward the states.” He explained the federal courts fail to show “appropriate respect” to the states. He also reminds them they owe respect “to the people of those states who approved those laws.” He further said their behavior was formed “on questionable constitutional grounds.” And that their actions were “without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them.”

In other words, the Supreme Court, and courts in general, are expanding their power. But what will it mean for us all in the long run? We no longer have a representative government, but a shadow of one, more accurately guided by the supreme and uncontested power of the courts.

 

 

Inspiration

Christians say that the Bible is inspired by God. It is a concept drawn directly from Scripture, but what exactly does it mean? It is one of the more subtle questions of theology, but also one of the most important.

There are a number of different viewpoints on exactly how inspiration plays out. I personally believe it means that God chose every word of the text of Scripture. He literally wrote the words of the Bible through the human authors.

But then again, that is why it is hard for us to figure out. There were human authors. Individuals who wrote things, probably not thinking they were particularly special at the time. These individuals have a multitude of ways in which their personalities and style comes through in the portions of Scripture they wrote.

But does that mean, God is out of the picture? I don’t think so. Assuming the variety of human voices in Scripture, excludes God, is equivalent to assuming God is very small. God who created each one of those human beings instilled into them their unique traits. Why would we believe God is big enough to create all those different persons, but not big enough to use and speak through each one uniquely?

 

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret Flying (800x533)

This is a snowy egret. I know it is because of the yellow feet. Wading birds might have yellow, black, green, blue, or red legs. This is the only bird I know with just yellow feet.

I am not sure why it is that God gave this critter yellow feet. Many times I have heard birders describe him as the bird wearing little yellow socks, and my field guide refers to them as golden slippers. More than all the white wading birds out there, this bird has an easy point of identification to give to new birders.

But as great of a tool as this is, I remember being a new birder and being fooled. I have seen frustrated beginners looking for snowy egrets among a small flock, which were all snowy egrets. They were searching in vain for the yellow feet.

The reason they didn’t see them is that the egret is a wading bird. Commonly the feet are covered by water, or worse, by mud. When they are covered in mud they can appear the exact shade as the legs. The birds get their feet covered in mud because of a feeding pattern they use. They will rush around shuffling their feet in the muck to stir up food.

It might be wise if we slow down and consider if we can see any parallels here. Do Christians have any field marks that make for easy identification? 1 John 4:8 (HCSB) says the one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. There are other passages that concur with the idea our easy field mark is love.

But if that is the truth why is it we both know believers who seem to be anything other than loving? I suggest the primary cause is the same reason that people have trouble identifying snowy egrets. They have been stomping around in the mud. The difficulties of this world get us all down, but they aren’t necessarily going to defeat us. However if the mud, the mess we have been walking through, is the result of our own sinfulness then you can pretty much guess it’s going to win the battle and hide our love. Of course, there are struggles of life that are not the result of our sin, and these can be a source of rejoicing in the face of challenge. But perhaps that is for another devotional.

So why is it that we do this? Why do we get in the habit of stomping around in the mud? Most often it’s the same reason the birds do. It’s their feeding pattern. People also often mess themselves up the most, while trying to earn a living and provide for their families. The workplace often is the hardest place for adults to maintain their witness. But beyond that some people have been convinced that either by political correctness or the pressures of staying competitive, they must set aside their faith in the workplace. I don’t just mean not witnessing, praying, and reading their Bible, but also not living with the Biblical moral or ethical code.

It might be the subtlety of the salesman, profiting from addictive behaviors, or simply maintaining your social status by participating in idle talk. All of these are things the believer should not be involved in. While you are involved in them, it should be no surprise that your coworkers do not see the love of God at work in you. In this case you have been made useless for God’s Kingdom by what you considered to be ‘just business.’

Consider 2 Peter 1:5-9 (HCSB) focusing on the last sentence.

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.

Vaccinations

The hot topic recently is the vaccination issue. Should parents get their kids vaccinated? Should the government, on any level, enforce vaccinations?

I have a lot to say on both of these topics, but in order to be clear I want to answer both directly. Yes, parents should get their kids vaccinated. No, they should not be forced to do so.

Now let me discuss the topic.

The recent outbreak of measles demonstrates how vulnerable we are to diseases spreading in an unvaccinated population. Not just measles but a number of other, serious and highly contagious diseases, can be held at bay when people continue to stay vaccinated. The rationalization that your child will probably never encounter these diseases is unrealistic. The world is getting smaller.

If they never travel, they will be poorer for it, but not one bit safer because the whole world comes to the United States. Of course you can rely on the government to keep out anyone carrying a disease, I am sure they will just as effective as they are at every other task.

I understand the reasoning why some parents refuse these vaccinations. We have heard reports of things happening to kids after being vaccinated. As far as I know, the rate of those incidents is either very, very low or possibly totally fabricated.

The weakest part of this essay is the first five words of that last sentence – “as far as I know.” I believe the answer to the dilemma lies in better education and statistics. If it is true that all the claims against vaccination are false, demonstrate that, publicly. Instead of spending money on forming agencies to enforce mandatory behaviors in American families, spend money showing the reports to be false, or perhaps just how low the incidences are. I suspect it will cost less in the long run.

Oh I know, our government just spent a lot of energy passing laws to create a new Gestapo and giving them mandate to enforce a lot of healthcare issues. But don’t. Instead just make it clear to people what the positives and negatives are. And no I am not talking about an ad campaign that says, “Immunizations are safe!” I am talking about publishing all possible side effects and their rates, all rumored outcomes and their possible rates, and information on whether the rumors might be real. Allay parent’s fears by demonstrating the dangers of vaccination are less than those of not.

The people you are trying to reach out to will respond to data-good factual data. Right now we get sound bites, and depending on who we are listening to, they may be saying different things.

I suggest this approach, instead of releasing the hounds, because it stands on the side of freedom. I suggest it because I believe the family is a higher institution than the state, having been formed by God first. I also believe the cost of enforcement will be higher than anticipated.

One final word though, what I remember from my high school civics class is the government’s job is to take action to ‘protect public health, safety, welfare and morals.’ If vaccinations stay as low as they are today, we will see outbreaks of many serious diseases which will compel government intervention. I seriously doubt not vaccinating your child is a stand for freedom, and suspect it will create greater governmental intrusion.

Denominations

Denominationalism can be a tricky topic. For some people it is a contest, who is best? For others it is a proof, if God existed wouldn’t He cause His people to agree on everything? For other people it is simply a point of confusion, why can’t we all just get along?

I believe these questions all miss the point. They take the realities of human nature and pretend it should fit their preferences. In my examples the preferences expressed in the question were competition, anarchy and homogeneity. But none of these reflect the nature of all of humanity at any moment.

I think of denominations rather simply. It is a group of churches of like faith and order that choose to cooperate together for the purpose of missions or other mutual causes. Denominations can be large or small. They can be governed any number of ways. And they can be good or bad.

A number of things can make a denomination bad. I believe if it has a single autocratic leader, its already bad. If you don’t understand why, just wait until the day you have a bad person in the position. Bad doctrine will certainly make a denomination bad. Lead people astray and you will pay a high price. Bad organization will make a bad denomination. Good intentions require good structure and great follow through. I am sure the list could go on.

But in regards to all these different denominations, let me make a few observations. If you think they are all fighting with one another, get over it. Yes, you can find people who are that way. You can even find entire denominations that are that way. But an honest accounting would come to the conclusion they are few. And except on those larger issues, you will find they are mostly limited to young or young at heart believers.

What about those larger issues though. Honestly, some issues are worth confronting. Not by fisticuffs, not by shouting matches, but by reasonable conversation. Remember I said bad doctrine could lead people astray? If astray means sending them to hell we really should try to intervene within appropriate limits. (Yes, I am saying not everyone who calls themselves a Christian will be recognized as such by God.) This world acts as if addressing their spiritual falsehoods is the greatest rudeness. I would think letting people walk into eternal hellfire without a word of warning was much ruder.

This by the way is the answer to the other objections. God allows us our differences of opinions. Removing them would be equivalent to removing our freedom, and therefore our humanity. He makes Himself available by the Word and Holy Spirit, by nature and prayer. So Christians seek Him and they don’t all have the same personalities, preferences or experiences. So even with the same revelations, they come to different conclusions. God is willing to live with that, so we should be too.

For believers this means they have a point of responsibility. When one believes Jesus is God’s Son and the Second Person of the Trinity you would rather fellowship with others who believe and teach the same. The same truth applies to a bunch of other doctrinal points. At some level you begin to say a doctrine is minor enough that it is not an essential test of fellowship. But to decide that no point of doctrine is important enough to break fellowship, is equivalent to saying you will not stand up for God in any way.