Prayer & Peace: It Actually Works!

The 101 heart rate I wrote about a couple days ago in this post really caught my attention.  It jolted me out of the stress-denial bubble I’ve been living in and forced me to confront the reality of my stress level and how I let it get that far.  Every night I lay awake with my mind racing about everything that needs to be done and how impossible it is to get it all done, and I wake early each morning with my head still spinning around all these things.

How totally unnecessary.

So this morning I decided to take God at His Word.  He says in Philippians 4:4-7:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.   Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

How hypocritical of me to preach about how God keeps His promises, and not even live according to them myself!  What kind of example am I setting by letting myself get so riddled with anxiety that I can’t even give blood?!?  How dumb is it for me to preach on prayer this Sunday while I’m walking around full of worry?  After all, worry is the opposite of prayer.

And so this morning I made a list of everything that’s been worrying me lately.  Then I got down on my knees with my Bible open before me to Philippians 4:4-7, and I prayed about everything on the list.  It took quite awhile, but it was more pressing than anything else I could be doing.  As I prayed, I asked God to take care of it all, and I turned it all over to Him.  I told Him that I’m trusting Him to work all this stuff out, and I literally opened my hands and surrendered it all to Him.  Then I placed my list inside my Bible at Philippians 4, because I’m leaving my anxiety, my petitions, my concerns with God.  After thanking Him for being a God who loves me, a God I can trust, and for taking care of all this stuff, I just worshiped Him.

And you know what happened?  The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, flooded my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.  Just like He promised.  Instantly.  It was one of those intimacy-with-a-very-real-and-present-God kind of moments that we hunger for but usually only experience occasionally.  I could actually feel a load being lifted from me, and it was so freeing!

While I prayed, thoughts kept coming to me about things I needed to do pertaining to some of the stuff on the list.  So I kept a pad of paper and a pen nearby, allowing me to just jot these things down and not lose focus on my prayer.

When writing about the passage in Luke that I’m preaching from this Sunday, commentator Matthew Henry wrote: “We shall not seek God’s face in vain.”  So true.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  The Lord is near!

Published in: on January 31, 2008 at 11:41 am  Comments (5)  

Brian Regan & Pop Tarts

In a post from yesterday I mentioned watching comedian Brian Regan.  Thought I’d share some of the funniness:

Published in: on January 31, 2008 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  

You Can’t Buy the Gospel Through Amway

Today I was listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermon from Sunday.  He’s the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Talking about being a pastor, he said: “I’m not a salesman.  I’m a messenger.”

Well said!

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preaching: Greatness or Effectiveness?

One of the best preaching blogs on the Internet is “Biblical Preaching.”  I don’t know how they come up with such rich and helpful material every day!  Today Peter Mead writes on there about the difference between being a great preacher and being an effective preacher, and he explains why we should aim for effectiveness rather than greatness.

You can read the full post by clicking here.

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Let’s Be Friends”

Just to clarify my post from yesterday: I’m not anti-TNIV.  It’s just that I prefer the plain ol’ NIV.

The TNIV and I are still friends, we’re just not dating anymore.

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

The Latest Rate at the Blood Bank

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Blood Bank.  They were in Ocean City for two days at the Convention Center.  I walked in and was met by two very cheerful ladies who directed me to a table about four steps away.  So I went there and was met by three more ladies who directed me to another table, this one about 10 steps away.  I walked over to that table and found a man who had me read the same info they give you every time you give blood, then he pointed me to another table about 10 yards away.  At that table they checked my ID and did something on the computer.  This went on for a while, and after making stops at several other tables I finally sat down with someone who pricked my finger and asked me all those weird questions, like have I been to Africa or had sex with a drug user or taken any medication containing dmekadr4894g#fdeexr58%rtjftdtt.

After taking my blood pressure and temperature, this woman took my pulse.  She told me that my pulse was 101 and they couldn’t take blood from anyone with a rate over 100.  Maybe stopping at all those tables made me feel like a ball in a game of bumper pool and stressed me out, I don’t know.  Anyway, she told me to go sit for five minutes and go to my “happy place.”

I sat for awhile and tried to go to my “happy place,” but it’s hard to pretend you’re in a happy place when you’re in a giant room with about a hundred people lying around with needles stuck in their arms and blood gushing out.  So I took some deep breaths and tried to slow my pulse.  But that’s like when you’re in a public bathroom with a long line behind you, and everyone’s waiting for you, and there’s so much pressure that it’s really hard to go.  The more I tried to lower my pulse, the faster it got.

Finally they called me back again.  I took deep breaths and tried to relax as much as possible.  The woman tried to comfort me by saying that it was a large and loud room and that it’s normal to be nervous about giving blood.  I think she was trying to say I’m a sissy.  I told her that wasn’t the problem and I wasn’t nervous, but I don’t think she believed me.  She was probably thinking I was the biggest wimp she’d seen all day.

I watched and waited with great anticipation as she took my pulse.  She didn’t say anything (I guess she wanted to keep me in suspense), but I saw her write down “98.”  Just under the mark.  But then she gave me a free t-shirt and I felt a lot better.

The room was filled with what looked like those long, low-lying beach chairs.  I hopped up on one, got stuck, and bled for awhile.  They give you this weird little rubber-like thing to squeeze every few seconds (wrapped in plastic–a nice sanitary little toy), and apparently I was squeezing it too hard and too often.  The woman taking my blood asked if it was my security.  I laughed and said, “I guess so.”  She replied, “Yeah, I can tell!”

I’m not sure if I was stressed out when I got there, or if I got stressed out by the fact that they kept trying to convince me I was stressed out.

At any rate, afterwards they gave me coffee and cookies, so that made it all worthwhile.  It also helped that afterward I went to the beach to take some pictures to paint, then came home and watched comedian Brian Regan.

Think maybe I’m down into the 80s now.  (Of course, Carolyn tells me I’ve always been stuck in the 80’s.)

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 5:16 am  Comments (9)  

Bible Translations: NIV vs. TNIV

For some of you, that might be the most boring title for a blog entry that you’ve ever seen.  For those of you still reading: thanks.

When I began at CrossWay last May, I decided to preach from the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) translation of the Bible.  Beginning in 2008, I switched over to the NIV (New International Version).

I’m not one of those people who insists that there is one perfect English translation of the Bible and that anyone who uses any other translation is in cahoots with the devil.  But I do like to use primarily one translation at a time.  Since I’m just not a very complex person, it seems simpler to me to have one translation–even one Bible–that I use for most of my study, reading, and preaching.  It’s less confusing.  So even though I’m switching from the TNIV to the NIV, that doesn’t mean I’m condemning the TNIV and championing the NIV.  I guess that means that the “vs.” in this post’s title is a little misleading.  Sorry ’bout that.

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, with a little Aramaic thrown in the mix.  When it comes to Bible translation, there are two dominant theories.  One is formal equivalence, or a word-for-word (or “literal”) translation.  The other is dynamic equivalence, or thought-for-thought translation.  I would add a third: personal interpretation.  Some people will “translate” the Bible but throw their own commentary into it.

The idea of a literal translation is nice, but not realistic for multiple reasons:

  • For one thing, words are used to convey meaning, and meaning is sometimes actually lost in a literal translation.  Once I was at a church outreach for a Hispanic community, and this church was giving away free hot dogs.  Someone translated the signs into Spanish, which was a nice thought.  Unfortunately, the sign for hot dogs said “Calientes Perros.”  It’s true that this is a literal word-for-word translation: “calientes” means “hot” and “perros” means dogs.  But that means that “calientes perros” refers to canines that are either feverish or engulfed in flames.  Not too appetizing.  (By the way, want to know the Spanish term for hot dogs?  Answer: “hot dogs.”)  When the Bible is translated word-for-word, the result is sometimes incomprehensible English.
  • Grammar.  In the above example, the adjective (hot/calientes) is placed before the noun (dogs/perros).  But in Spanish, the noun usually comes before the adjective.  So even if “calientes perros” made sense, it should be “perros calientes.”  Other languages, such as Latin, have even stranger word order.  Differences in grammar mean that a word-for-word translation would be nonsense.
  • Words often have multiple meanings.  For instance, in keeping with the “hot” theme, it means different things to say that it’s hot outside (the temperature is high), a basketball team is hot (they’re on a winning streak), a sauce is hot (not high in temperature, but burns your mouth), a person is hot (they’re attractive), an album is hot (popular), or an angry person is hot (enraged).  So if you said, “The tennis player is hot,” what do you mean?  That he’s got a fever?  He’s on a winning streak?  He’s attractive?  He’s popular?  He’s mad?  The same is true for Bible translation–sometimes there are many words that could be chosen, and the translator has to use context.  We can’t say that one word in Hebrew is always another word in English.

The dynamic equivalent approach also has problems:

  • In going thought-for-thought, it’s easy to stray from the author’s intended meaning.
  • The Bible says that every word from God is important, which is hard to figure into dynamic equivalence.
  • Accuracy can suffer as the translator has more license.
  • It can be difficult to study a word in the original language as it appears throughout Scripture, because it could be translated using various words or even phrases.

Conclusion: God’s Word is perfect, but there is no such thing as a perfect English translation.  One problem with both theories of translation is that language changes quickly.  Psalm 23:1 in most English versions says: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  In this context the word “want” means “lack,” but we don’t use it that way anymore.  Since language constantly changes, the translator’s work is never done.

Translators from both schools of thought strive to be faithful to God’s Word.  They just have slightly differing opinions about the best way to do that.

Anyway, I was supposed to be talking about the TNIV and NIV.  Both of them subscribe to dynamic equivalence, but the TNIV takes some liberties.  About 7% of the NIV was altered into the TNIV.  The TNIV changes some spellings, which is no big deal, but it does two things that make a difference: it bends over backwards to be gender neutral, and it re-translates some theological terms in an attempt to make it more understandable for today’s readers (which might sound like good translation, but in this case I find it unnecessary).

I have no problem with gender neutral references as long as it’s true to the author’s original intended meaning, but sometimes it makes for some really awkward statements.  For instance, one of our church’s theme verses is Mark 8:34.  In the NIV, this verse reads:  “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”  In the TNIV, this same verse reads: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'”  That has all kinds of problems with it.  For one thing, it doesn’t even make sense grammatically, as it alternates between singular and plural.  For another thing, it has to actually change the meaning of the original (switching into the plural) in order to remain gender neutral, and that’s crossing the line of honest translation.  For yet another thing, it sounds horribly awkward.

The second change I mentioned is that the TNIV replaces some words of theological significance for the sake of what its translators believe is clarity.  But I think this is misguided.  For example, it replaces the word “saints” with “God’s holy people.”  Sure, the definition of “saints” is “God’s holy people.”  So why not just use the word?  Seems to me like it would make more sense to reclaim the word and its actual meaning rather than insert the word’s definition.  Otherwise, what happens when the word “holy” is not widely used or understood?  Do we then translate the word “saints” as “God’s people who are set apart for His use”?  That’s a neverending spiral.

The TNIV has its strengths.  So does the NLT (New Living Translation), which I used for a while before the TNIV.  There are good qualities about most of the English translations out there, and none of them are perfect, but I’ve decided to primarily use the NIV for my preaching and study.  It goes word-for-word when possible, but when faced with a choice between literalness or conveying meaning, its translators opt for the latter.  I’d like to see the NIV updated without making the sacrifices that the TNIV made.  Until then, I’ll read, study, and preach mostly from the NIV.

Since no translation is perfect, it can be helpful to consult several translations to get a clearer picture and fuller understanding of a passage’s meaning.  The closest to a literal translation in English would be either the NASB (New American Standard Bible) or ESV (English Standard Version).  The NLT is a mix between a translation and a paraphrase (which is someone’s rewording or interpretation of the Bible), but it’s good for reading–especially reading out loud–because it’s worded in such a way that it sounds more natural than most translations.

To check out a vast multitude of Bible translations, you can check out Bible Gateway here.

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 5:59 am  Comments (10)  

Weekend Recap

Another eventful weekend!  Here’s a brief recap:

  • Thursday afternoon and evening were absolutely beautiful.  Opaque gray sky with softly falling snow for hours.  Felt like I was in a snow globe.  We had to cancel our small group because the snow was sticking to the roads, but it sure was awesome weather.
  • Carolyn had a snow day on Friday, and our road was in pretty bad shape, so I worked at home in the morning.  In the afternoon I went to the office, and after work we picked up Carolyn’s mom, Linda, and went to Michael’s in Salisbury for some painting supplies.
  • On Saturday we drove to Baltimore to have lunch with James & Faith Wenger.  James is the mentor that our conference assigned me, so we’ve been meeting for several months.  He’s got a lot of wisdom and experience, and I always learn a lot from our time together.  I tried to warn Carolyn that he looks like an old-school Mennonite, but is a very active and progressive thinker.  He was a missionary in Japan for 10 years, and he’s still got a missionary mindset.  She found out for herself that I wasn’t kidding when James mentioned at lunch that he “Googled” something.  She thought that was pretty funny.  We had a nice time with them and enjoyed the car trip together.
  • At CrossWay on Sunday we had the fourth part of the series “The Promised Land.”  We read and talked about Luke 19:10 & Luke 15:1-32.  In these passages Jesus tells some stories about people looking for lost valuables and celebrating when they’re found, and He says that’s why He came: to seek the missing children of God.  We gave everyone five invite cards to the “Hollywood God” series along with a blank numbered list.  We challenged them to write down the names of at least five unchurched people they know, pray for them daily from now through the end of the series, invite them to church for the series, and give them the invite card.  Next week we’ll follow up on this challenge with a message on prayer.  We have 500 invite cards, and our goal is to give away every one of them as a personal invitation before the series starts on February 10.
  • After church yesterday Carolyn and I went to lunch at Salsarita’s in West Ocean City with her parents.  Their enchiladas are so good!  Halfway through our meal one of the little girls from the Training Station came in and kept us entertained.  She’s so cute and funny!
  • Carolyn and I stopped at Wal-Mart after lunch for some more painting supplies, then went to her parents’ house.  We decided to take up a new hobby: painting.  Linda is our instructor, and a very good one at that.  We had so much fun painting that we lost track of time, and before we knew it, it was 9:15–we’d been painting for over four hours!  It was so much fun.  We’re using acrylics.  Carolyn is painting a picture of a butterfly from a photograph we took in Tennessee last summer.  I’m painting a picture of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, from the cover of a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.  And Linda is painting a seascape–she’s not happy with it yet, but it’s absolutely stunning.  She just whipped up this astonishing masterpiece while Carolyn and I are producing what seems, by way of comparison, like kindergarten art.  By the way, I’ll see if Carolyn will let me post a picture of her painting on here when she’s done with it.  She’s done a very impressive job of capturing the butterfly, looking like it’s in the process of lifting off the canvas.  Very cool.
  • Was so beat by the time we got home last night that I fell asleep with the light on and my contacts in.  Tiring weekend, but a ton of fun!
Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 12:14 pm  Comments (2)  

“A Conversation With Rick Warren”

Yesterday afternoon I found out that I’ll get to join about 100-150 other pastors in a small gathering with Rick Warren.  It’s a week from Monday.

Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church, posted about the event on his blog this week.  He gave us an email address where we could RSVP.  So I shot over an email, and yesterday found out that I made it in before it got filled up.

Sounds like it’s an informal, kinda-last-minute sort of thing that Mark worked out recently with Rick.  It will be held at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse in D.C.  Pretty cool, huh?

Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 12:15 pm  Comments (2)  

Snow Day!

We had a nice snowfall last night, enough for Carolyn to get the day off, but now the sun is coming up and threatening our beautiful white crystal landscape.  Guess that’s how it goes in such a moderate climate, situated between the ocean and the bay.  Our road is usually the last to melt, because the tall trees lining Capetown keep it shaded pretty well.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the most fascinating post ever, but at least WordPress didn’t gobble it up.

Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment