Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Love Does Not Keep Score
“Love does not keep score of other people’s sins.” That’s Eugene Peterson’s translation of part of 1 Corinthians 13:5 in The Message Bible. A couple of the guys in our church and I memorized 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 in August as part of a soul growth challenge. That line hit me hard as I was studying and contemplating the passage. How often in my life have I kept score?
Maybe it someone else got more attention than me, but I remembered that they got drunk one time and it made me feel a little bit better about myself. Maybe it was the time that someone told a lie about me, and while it had hurt my feelings, I completely forgot about the rumor I myself had spread. Or maybe it was my spouse who upset me seven years ago when she said something rude in anger, and when I may have said something rude more recently I remember that she did the same thing long ago. We have a way of keeping score of the wrongs other people do.
God’s love compels us to keep score differently. Instead of keeping score of someone else’s sin, God’s love compels us to forgive and to wipe away the scorecard. After all, that is what Christ did for us at the cross. That’s why the cross, when we actually apply it to our lives, can be so scandalous. It requires hard, divine work from us. It is work that we cannot possibly do on our own, but rather comes as a gift from the Grace of God. So what scorecard are you using? The Cross of Jesus or something else?
Posted on 01/30/2019 4:07 PM by Dr. Ray Miller
Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Why Study the Bible?
Why study the Bible? Previously we discussed why all the Bible translations and how to read the Bible effectively. The assumption behind writing those articles is that you like to read the Bible and want to do so effectively. Yet that may not be the case for you. Maybe you are a person who has a servant’s heart, but reading the Bible seems foreign to you. Maybe you know that you should read the Bible, but are having a hard time motivating yourself to get started. I wanted to give some reasons why we read the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, today.
- Jesus read the scriptures. The Gospels each tell us that Jesus taught in synagogues. Normally a rabbi would have been asked to give comment on the scriptures read publically in the synagogue. Jesus engaged in this. In Luke 4 Jesus specifically picked the Isaiah scroll on proclaiming good news to the poor and releasing the captives to interpret his ministry. When tempted in the desert, Jesus utilized scripture (specifically Deuteronomy) as a defense against the Tempter's schemes.
- We encounter God in the scriptures. The Bible is a book about God. The Bible is not God. We do not worship the Bible. The Bible is however the place where we learn that God created the world, that even though humanity rebelled through sin, God stuck by us, that God gave Israel to be the blessing to the world, and that blessing culminated in Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again that we may have life in him. Where do you find out about this God, who is still active in our world? The Bible.
- We are exposed to who we are in the Bible. The scriptures remind us that we are not God, but we are created in the image of God. They remind us that we are prized by God, but also unworthy of God’s love. The scriptures call us to remember that we are but dust, yet held together in the hands of the Father’s love. They expose our brokenness, and proclaim redemption.
- God uses the scriptures to form His character into us. Spiritual formation happens all the time. Anytime we spend time reading, watching tv, listening to music or the radio, surfing the web, or aimlessly wandering through social media, we are being formed spiritually. Reading the scriptures, with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, forms and feeds your soul. What would you rather form your soul? The unnatural ways of the fallen world, or the Word that endures forever?
I hope those reasons encourage you to be a Bible reader in 2019. Fall in love all over again with the God of the Bible through the reading of the written word.
Posted on 01/29/2019 2:17 PM by Dr. Ray Miller
Friday, 25 January 2019
I've Got a Translation, Now What?
Once you have a translation you like, what’s next? How do you then go about reading the Bible? Below are some practical steps on becoming a comprehensive Bible reader.
- Have a plan. While the scriptures are God-breathed, and God can certainly speak anywhere and anytime God wants using the scriptures, it’s best to have a reading plan. There are lots out there. Our staff is putting together a reading plan for us using the YouVersion App (which is available on your smartphones). Some technologies will email or text you a selection of Bible texts to read.
- Pay attention to what kind of writing it is. Is the Bible text a narrative? Most of the Old Testament is a narrative of the story of Israel, and how God formed the people of Israel. The Gospels are narratives of the life, death, teaching, and resurrection of Jesus. Is the text a poem? Is it a prophetic writing? Is it a letter? Once you understand what type of writing it is, the Bible is easier to understand.
- Learn to ask good questions of the Bible. Some include – what is God doing in the story of this text? How is God asking that person/group of people to change? How does this text apply to my life? What would my life look like if I applied this?
- Read the Bible out loud. You will catch phrases when you read it out loud that you would not if you merely read it in your head. It also helps to add inflection to the conversation. You will be surprised to hear yourself speak the words of God out loud.
- Read the Bible in community. Read it with friends. Read it with Sunday School classes. Read it with scholars through good commentaries (NT Wrights’ For Everyone is excellent. The Story of God Bible commentary is excellent as well). Other people will see something in the text that you did not. You will learn from one another.
In 2019, I want to challenge you to become a better Bible reader. This is not for the sake of crossing off a to-do religious activity. Rather, we encounter God in the scriptures. Take these tips to heart and start reading!
Posted on 01/25/2019 1:46 PM by Dr. Ray Miller
Wednesday, 23 January 2019
What's with All These Bible Translations? Part 2
Yesterday, we began a discussion about Bible translations. There are so many out there (and more coming each year, including my doctoral professor Scot McKnight’s translation of the New Testament called The Second Testament). How do we know which one is the best and which one to trust?
There are generally three different categories of Bible translations – word-for-word, dynamic (which seeks to convey the idea of the text and make it readable), and a paraphrase (again seeks to convey the idea but is even more localized to the culture. A great example is the Message or if you want a really fun read the Cotton Patch Bible).
So what is the best translation to read when you are studying the Bible? All of them! Every different translation is an interpretation of the original language and how that particular word communicates in our language. For instance, the Hebrew word hesed can translated as mercy, faithfulness, steadfast love, love, and grace. That’s five different options for one word! In the New Testament the word logos works much the same way. It can mean word, letter, a passage of scripture, or even a philosophical term. How do you know what word to use? Different translations have to make decisions on these words or phrases. That is why it is good to read at least three different translations to really begin to grasp the ideas of a particular passage you might be studying. I like to take the English Standard Version, New International Version, and the Message and compare and contrast the different ways the translators chose to translate that passage. Each translation brings a different nuance out of the original language of the text. You will learn more about the Bible if you read different translations together. Try it this week with a passage like Philippians 2.
Posted on 01/23/2019 10:54 AM by Dr. Ray Miller
Tuesday, 22 January 2019
What's with All These Bible Translations?
I get asked quite a bit about Bible translations. What is the best translation? Which is closest to the original languages? Which is the most readable translation? What is the best translation for studying the Bible? These are all good questions, and I am sure ones that perhaps you have asked before.
First, some nostalgia. For many of you growing up, there were really only two options of Bible translations – the King James Version (which I still love to read) and the Revised Standard Version (still a good translation). The King James Version is truly a work of art. It was written in the time period around Shakespeare and the language is quite beautiful. Many of you memorized verses in the KJV and probably still recite them to this day. In my opinion, the KJV is still the best version to read the Psalms. It does have a couple of flaws – 1. We do not really speak that way anymore. 2. The KJV used the Erasmian Codex (sometimes known as the Textus Receptus). Even at the time, it did not reflect the best scholarship with regards to getting back to the original text of the scriptures. That is why there are sometimes a few more verses in KJV translations than say the New International Version.
Speaking of the NIV, in the 1970’s a team of translators sought to create a new translation of the Bible which reflected the best scholarship of getting back to the original text and was a readable translation. This is what was called a “dynamic translation.” What that means is that it reflected the ideas of the text, but not necessarily the exact words of the text. A word-for-word translation reflects the closest word to the original text. Some examples of a word for word translation would be the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the Christian Standard Version (it used to be called the Holman Christian Standard. Lifeway produces this one). Any of these three, while there may be slight variances in word choice, seek to choose the word closest to the original language. Another type of translation might be called a paraphrase. That is what Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible is. It is a paraphrase of the original text in order to create the idea the original writer was conveying. Next week we will go over ways you can use the different translations.
Posted on 01/22/2019 2:55 PM by Dr. Ray Miller