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Posts from January 2011

Internet Pornography - A Bigger Deal Than You Realize

When you read the statistics, it's mind-blowing.  I have talked to many men who have confided a struggle with this issue.  While most see it as a "men's issue," we now know that many women also struggle with this issue.  Pastors and ministry leaders aren't immune to this attack by the Enemy.

There are ministries focused on helping face the temptation such as Defender Ministries and some that offer accountability software like Covenant Eyes. Some feel the need to install protective software such as Net Nanny. Often programs such as this are installed on family computers by parents to protect their children from dangerous sites.  Just remember, no software program is that strong to keep all sites from being accessed.

Some see no danger in accessing pornography.  Focus on the Family has produced some great articles on the lies that pornography tells and affirms and the dangers that come.  Click here for more reading.

Is it addictive?  Some researchers say more than crack cocaine. Others say it is more of a compulsive behavior.  Regardless, it is destructive and, though often justified in the minds of viewers, it is sin. Click here for more information on the lies that pornography offers and some details regarding how to battle it.

Still think it's not a real big deal?  Check out this chart. . .

Porn chart
Chart borrowed from Pete Wilson (http://withoutwax.tv/)


Does It Matter Which Bible Translation You Use?

We are working through a study of doctrine on Wednesday evenings titled "Foundations of Our Faith."  One of the foundational issues that we cover is the inspiration, inerrancy and worth of Scripture.  Our doctrinal statement on the Scriptures states this. . .

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. (Baptist Faith & Message, 2000)

Every so often I will have church members and attenders ask what English translation of the Bible is best.  This is sometimes asked with a sincere desire to know which Bible to purchase and study.  Sometimes, it's a test to see if I will say the version that the questioner likes.

Regarding English translations, it seems that a new one is available just about every couple of years.  If you go to the local Christian bookstore, you will find a wall of different translations in a variety of styles and with different features.  The marketing of the Bible has become big business.

While it is still the best selling book in the United States, it may also rank as one of the least read.  However, when studying the Bible, it is wise to have a good translation in hand.

There are primarily two types of translations of the Bible available.  One is a "word for word" translation that seeks to be as literal as possible with regards to the original languages of Greek and Hebrew.  On the other end of the spectrum is the "thought for thought" versions which seek to maintain the ideas of the original texts, knowing that sometimes the original Hebrew and Greek words do not translate easily into English.

Some Bibles available aren't actually translations at all.  They are paraphrases in modern language, which are fine for personal reading to better gain a grasp of what is being said, but should never be used as one's primary Bible for study, teaching and research.

Translation-continuum

Yet, this still may not answer the question "Which translation is the best?"

Let me highlight some of the features of translations most often used by those in our faith family.

KJV - The King James Version:  Well, this is the gold standard for English translations it seems.  It's also the translation that most adult believers grew up reading.  This is a big year for the King James Version. This is the 400th anniversary of this 1611 edition.  You'll notice that on the continuum, it would be classified as mostly a "word for word" translation.  It presents beautiful language, with all the "thees" and "thous" and Old English terminology.  There is great beauty in how this version is presented and while I do not preach from this version, I believe it is a good translation.  I, however, am not one who would be a "KJV only" Christian as some are.  The old joke was "If the KJV was good enough for Paul, then it's good enough for me."  There has been and will continue to be debate among Christians about the King James Version.  The reality is the antiquated language is often difficult for new believers to understand.  Some words are no longer in use in the English language.  Then, there's the constant debate on better understanding of the original Greek texts.  Nevertheless, this posting is not to be a debate on the King James Version.  I personally do not believe it is the best or only valid translation available, but I certainly would say that if the KJV is the Bible you grew up with and you love it, then read it.  The KJV certainly has served a great role in the church for the past 400 years and we are to be thankful to God for it's availability.  (It's also a public domain translation, not owned by any one publisher, so it remains the most widely distributed version.  Just ask the Gideons.) The King James Version is presented at a 12th grade reading level.

NASB - New American Standard Bible:  Other than the Interlinear Greek/Hebrew Bible, the New American Standard is the most literal English translation on our continuum.  My first study Bible was the NASB and I love it.  While preserving the literal accuracy of the 1901 American Standard Version, the NASB has sought to render grammar and terminology in contemporary English. Special attention has been given to the rendering of verb tenses to give the English reader a rendering as close as possible to the sense of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. In 1995, the text of the NASB was updated for greater understanding and smoother reading.  It is not the easiest to read, however, and is presented at an 11th grade reading level.

ESV - English Standard Version:  This is the version I have recently begun using in my preaching and studying.  The English Standard Version stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The goal of the translators has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.  To this end each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text. The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work. Archaic language has been brought to current usage and significant corrections have been made in the translation of key texts. But throughout, the goal of translators has been to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world and have defined the life and doctrine of the church over the last four centuries.

The ESV is an "essentially literal" translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. It seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

NIV - New International Version:  This is the most popular English Bible version other than the King James Version.  A self-governing body of fifteen biblical scholars, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) was formed and charged with responsibility for the version, and in 1968 the New York Bible Society (which subsequently became the International Bible Society and then Biblica) generously undertook the financial sponsorship of the project. The translation of each book was assigned to translation teams, each made up of two lead translators, two translation consultants, and a stylistic consultant where necessary. The initial translations produced by these teams were carefully scrutinized and revised by intermediate editorial committees of five biblical scholars to check them against the source texts and assess them for comprehensibility. Each edited text was then submitted to a general committee of eight to twelve members before being distributed to selected outside critics and to all members of the CBT in preparation for a final review. Samples of the translation were tested for clarity and ease of reading with pastors, students, scholars, and lay people across the full breadth of the intended audience. Perhaps no other translation has undergone a more thorough process of review and revision. From the very start, the NIV sought to bring modern Bible readers as close as possible to the experience of the very first Bible readers: providing the best possible blend of transparency to the original documents and comprehension of the original meaning in every verse. With this clarity of focus, however, came the realization that the work of translating the NIV would never be truly complete. As new discoveries were made about the biblical world and its languages, and as the norms of English usage developed and changed over time, the NIV would also need to change to hold true to its original vision.  The NIV is presented at a 7th grade reading level.

HCSB - Holman Christian Standard Bible:  This is our Southern Baptist translation and is Very good. (the updated version of this translation is the CSB.) After several years of preliminary development, Holman Bible Publishers, the oldest Bible publisher in America, assembled an international, interdenominational team of 90 scholars, all of whom were committed to biblical inerrancy. Smaller teams of editors, stylists, and proofreaders then corrected and polished the translation. Outside consultants contributed valuable suggestions from their areas of expertise. An executive team then reviewed the final manuscripts.

The HCSB uses optimal equivalence in translating. This approach seeks to combine the best features of both formal (word for word) and dynamic (thought for thought) equivalence. In the many places throughout Scripture where a word for word rendering is clearly understandable, a literal translation is used. In places where a literal rendering might be unclear, then a more dynamic translation is given. The HCSB has chosen to use the balance and beauty of optimal equivalence for a fresh translation of God's word that is both faithful to the words God inspired and "user friendly" to modern readers. This translation is presented at 7th grade reading level.

OK, these are descriptive terms about some translations.  Others are good as well such as the New King James Version and even the Revised Standard Version, but what about all the others.

GENDER NEUTRALITY IS AN ISSUE

Many newer translations have bought into the politically correct rhetoric and therefore have determined that it is better for the Bible, in an attempt to be inclusive (which it is anyway), must remove masculine references. This is a problem.

In an attempt to be all-inclusive, neutering the Bible of gender renders it watered-down and in some cases totally wrong.

While there are times when it would be appropriate to change the word "man" to "people" in a verse (only when the original text shows that to be a more reasonable translation) many of these translations have gone overboard and have sought to remove all gender.  This results in verses not saying now what the original intended, removing characteristics from God and Jesus that are essential to understanding the Word, and not being all-inclusive, but rather removing the individual need for a response to the Gospel.  

The first gender -neutral English translation to hit the mainstream was the 1979 New Revised Standard Version (NSRV).  Others have followed suit, such as the New Century Version (ncv), Contemporary English Version (CEV), New Living Translation (NLT), Today's New International Version (TNIV), the International Children's Bible (ICB), and the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition (NIVI)- sold primarily in Great Britain.

So, this being said - a gender-neutral, thought for thought translation is not one that I would recommend.  Below is a chart that will show you some comparison data regarding translations.

Bible Translation Chart (1)-1
Click the chart above to open a larger version.

Does it matter which translation you use?  Yes.  I study the ESV and use that translation in my sermon preparation.  However, I like the NASB and HCSB as well.


Inauguration Day 2011 - The Role of Prayer in Desperate Days

I was invited to join a group of pastors and other conservative leaders in Tallahassee for a small get-together with Governor Rick Scott and Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll and their families. Following the small breakfast in a crowded room at Florida A&M we then went downstairs for the Inauguration Prayer Breakfast.  This event had approximately 1,500 in attendance and featured my friend Bill Bunkley, the Legislative and Government Consultant for the Florida Baptist Convention and the host of Drive Time with Bill Bunkley that airs in the Tampa area, offering invocation as well as Bishop Vaugh McLaughlin of The Potter's House Ministries here in Jacksonville and other Christian leaders, a rabbi from south Florida and Imam Enrique Rasheed from Jacksonville. (I found it interesting on some news posts that the only featured guest listed as praying was the imam.  Some had no mention of any of the Christians on the agenda even though all were bold in their prayers and statements and overtly prayed "in Jesus' name.")

David & Governor Scott

The prayer breakfast was emceed by Pastor Kirt Anderson of Naples Community Church who is the pastor for Governor Scott and family.  The FAMU Honor Guard presented colors and then an eight year old young lady named Gina Marie Incandela sang the national anthem.  Since she was on the floor, most people could not see her (of course, I was a head above most everyone so I could see her a little.) I mention this little girl because once she started singing, I thought we were on America's Got Talent.  Gina Marie has an incredible voice and hit notes I didn't know were humanly possible, reminiscent of Jackie Evancho of the aforementioned talent show.

89913_scott_inaugural_17804995jpg

Ann Scott, wife of Rick Scott, congratulates Gina Marie Incandela, 8, after she sang the national anthem at a prayer breakfast at FAMU today. (AP)

The keynote speaker for the breakfast was author and founder of Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson. Colson founded Prison Fellowship years ago and has written over twenty books on church and culture.  He is featured regularly in the Florida Baptist Witness and other papers and is an active member at First Baptist Church of Naples.  Yet, he is probably more well known in our nation for a title he earned decades ago - "Nixon's Hatchet Man."  As Colson alluded, his story is now taught in US History classes in our nation as part of the story of "Watergate."  In 1974 he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg Case and consequently was sent to prison.  It was there where he came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and was transformed and born again as a Christian.

Colson-300x200

Chuck Colson speaks at the governor's prayer breakfast. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

From Colson's talk, a few things struck me as key.

  • Governor Scott & Lt. Governor Carroll require our prayers.  This is a biblical mandate.
  • The political culture we have today is worse than ever in his view, and this includes the Watergate era.  This really grabbed my attention.  This statement came from a man who went to prison on Watergate-related issues and was on the inside of the Nixon White House.  For him to say that our current political culture is the worst he's ever seen speaks volumes.  This, too, is why our new Governor and other elected officials need our prayer.  (BTW - we, as believers, are to pray for all our governmental leaders regardless of political party and personal likes and dislikes - see 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
  • In an anti-government culture, we must remember that God ordained government.  I believe this may have come as a surprise to some in attendance.  Colson mentioned that God first ordained marriage between man and woman with the creation of Adam and Eve.  This obviously was a statement about the sanctity of biblical marriage in a culture that wishes to redefine the boundaries.  Secondly, God ordained government.  He mentioned the angel with flaming sword at the gates of Eden as the first "cop on the beat."  Government, Colson stated, was created for justice as a result of the fall of man.  Third, God ordained the church.  
  • Though many are anti-government it seems, and many were recently elected on a "let's fix government and kick the 'bums' out" platform, it must be remembered that God created this concept.  I believe that our grand experiment of a republic in the United States is the greatest form of government around.  However, reform does need to take place and that is what has led to the birth of the Tea Party and other groups.  Governor Scott and others who are new to the political world (including US Senator Rubio and a couple of friends of mine from other states) have a lot ahead of them.  It is a daunting task.
  • Then, Colson quoted some very interesting statements from Alexis de Tocqueville.  I wish I had written them down.  While this probably wasn't an exact de Tocqueville quote Colson used, it sums up the point he was making "Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."
  • These quotes were made by Colson. . ."Freedom can never be sustained apart from the cultivation of virtue. Who cultivates virtue? The government? No. You can’t have a virtue commission (though they tried that in California.) Can you teach character to kids? No. Character is learned, not taught. Aristotle was right 2,500 years ago. It’s learned in associations. It’s learned in your family, in your little platoons in your society, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and all the structures of society, primarily in the church it’s learned."

I met Governor Scott and his wife for the first time today.  They are good folks and present themselves with a calm spirit and a humbleness that is honorable.  I also had the opportunity to meet Lt. Governor Carroll and her husband Nolan.  Most in our community know of the Carrolls.  They live in Fleming Island and I have had the privilege of knowing their youngest son Necho for the past six years.  He is a senior at Fleming Island High School and plays on the basketball team.  I first met him when I volunteered with the girl's junior high team at Green Cove Springs.  Back then, Necho was volunteering as the team manager.  Even as a young man, I recognized good character in Necho.  Now, he's not perfect - no one is, and he is still a teenage boy, but in my opinion, he's a good guy and presents himself with integrity and humility (and when I saw him today, he looked surprised and said "It's good to see you here Mr. Tarkington."  Nice.  Respects his elders.)  What's my point?  Based on what Colson said, virtue is learned in the family, society and church.  Necho and his siblings are testimony to the character of his parents.  

When Lt. Governor had the opportunity to greet the crowd at the breakfast, she made her beliefs very clear.  Here's what she said, "Rick and I, to the core, believe that God is our rock and our foundation. And what’s most important is that we are not ashamed to publicly admit it."

Following the breakfast, we made our way to the Old Capitol Building for the inaugural ceremonies.  You may have seen it on television.  We had great seats and the opportunity to experience everything up close and personal.  It had the feel of a good old fashioned political rally, as I guess it should have, complete with a military band (playing songs such as "The Army Goes Rolling Along", "Marines' Hymn", "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie") introductions of former governors in attendance (It was very obvious that Jeb Bush is still very popular.  The round of applause he received was almost as loud as Governor Scott's), introductions of other political office winners from the past in attendance, and Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the USA."  

Then, the oaths of office were taken by our new Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi (she must have had the second largest cheering section), Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll and finally Governor Rick Scott.

Governor Scott took his oath.  The crowd cheered loudly.  He then gave his acceptance speech.  As a businessman, it was apparent that his primary goal is to help create jobs for Floridians. Obviously, this was a hot button that led many to vote for him.  About halfway through his speech a heckler could be heard shouting from the back.  I don't know what he said, but it brought me back to Chuck Colson's statements about the political climate we have today.  

Scott
It was a day of celebration and pomp and circumstance.  Flags were waving.  Bands were playing. Statements were made that were greeted with cheers.  Hugs, smiles, pats on the back, congratulations were offered. . .all in all a positive day for most.  

Governor Scott completed his speech with the statement "Let's get to work!"  

Now, the hard part.  Just like any inaugural day, the expectations are high.  Yet, when it comes to the state of problems in our government and state, we need to remember that it is just a reflection of the problems within our own lives and hearts.  We live in desperate times.  Perhaps moreso now than ever before.  I close with Chuck Colson's response to why these are desperate days.

“So what’s desperate for us today? Yes it’s desperate that we get good men and women like the governor and lieutenant governor being inaugurated today. It’s desperate that we get people in government that really want to do what’s right,” Colson said. “But even more it’s desperate that in our country there be a revival, a surge of righteousness.”

Pray for our Governor and other governmental leaders on the state level, local level and of course on the national level. Pray for the hearts of people in our nation that there will be a surge of righteousness and a revival of heart (and I mean a real revival.) God is still in control.  God bless America and Florida and may Florida and America bless God.