Saturday, February 23, 2008

Frustrating NIV Edits

Far be it for me to speak out against a God-inspired translation, but there are a few phrases in John 8 that have been inserted for clarity, and I truly believe they do nothing but dilute the text.

For your consideration, here they are:

John 8:23
"You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins."

John 8:27-9
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."

Now, I am personally very encouraged by the consistency in God's voice that would be there were it not for these "literary aids"-- though I'd much prefer to call them miscreant edits. Since God is a triune God, and Christ is a part of the Trinity, it makes utter sense that we should recognize Him as He later indicates, and as God once called Himself:

John 8:58
Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

Come on, people! Get with the program, already!! I mean, "'claim' to be"? How about "declared I am", if you want to show some respect. Vexing; genuinely vexing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Light vs Darkness

John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

In the absence of darkness is more darkness. In the presence of light, there can be no darkness. Place your faith accordingly.

But I must grant this: you who believe there can be a universe without an origin are stronger in faith than I, for you have seen the Father's works and said existence is nothing. Your faith in nothing requires you to believe in a blindness you have not. My mind is too overwrought in trying to understand the LORD, that I may never come to know Him to the extent you reject Him. But let me place my lesser faith in an unbreakable outcome, and may God sort the details.

Monday, February 18, 2008

For the Reader's Benefit

Courtesy of Pastor AJ:

Thanks also to Devan for transcribing and emailing similar notes from his Bible.

This clears up all my concerns about the conflict re: Joseph and family's time in Egypt and when they returned to Israel. Also, it explains how a man named Herod was around to execute John the Baptist.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Round, Round, Get Around... AKA Huh?

Several weeks ago, when I informed Matt that I had finished the Old Testament, he warned me to keep an open mind in reading the first four books of the New Testament. Let's just say that, as one of my closest friends, he's quite familiar with how critical my mind can be.

I remember a similar conversation I had with him that dates back several years. During that exchange, he argued that it was remarkable how similar are the books of Matthew through John, considering they were written by men who didn't know one another. He thought this was undeniable proof of God's authority. Conversely, at the time, I thought it was a clever ruse. I mean, what would stop me from reading Oliver Twist, writing a similar account of it, and then claiming it appeared in my head as if from a divine authority?

Of course, time has a way of softening one's heart, and such is the case with me. After reading every line of the Old Testament--and believing it all--I effectively adopted Matt's stance on Matthew through John. As Matt and I drove up Pleasant Street that day, he compared these books to witnesses of a car accident. Four different people, with a unique perspective, might offer accounts such as these:

Person A: "I saw the red car swerve into the blue car's lane, and then they collided with the guard rail."

Person B: "The blue car was speeding, but the red one was in the wrong."

Person C: "The reason the red car swerved into oncoming traffic was because the driver tried to avoid hitting a child that wandered into his lane."

Person D: "The guy in the red car was talking on his cell phone and should have pulled over to finish his conversation. The guy in the blue is innocent."

No real conflict in there, and I didn't detect one until I read the following (questionable bits in bold):

Luke 2:39-41
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.

Matthew 2:11-14
On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Now, I'm not going to jump to conclusions here, but there are a few things I would like to get out of the way. First, in comparing the opening chapters of Matthew through Luke, it becomes apparent that, contrary to countless Christmas specials, Mary and Joseph were not visited by the shepherds and "wise men" at the same time. This is fine by me. My Study Bible takes this one step further and suggests that the men who brought gifts likely weren't kings, which doesn't break the bank.

I have no trouble accepting the fact that this is the proper sequence: Jesus born; shepherds come; shepherds spread joy throughout Galilee; Magi come to Herod; Magi inform Herod of Jesus's birth; Magi visit Mary and Joseph; Magi not return to Herod, contrary to his request to them; Joseph and family flee to Egypt.

I guess the problem lies in the fact that I don't believe they went to Jerusalem until Herod was dead, and my Study Bible offers no insight into how long that might have taken. In accordance with the Scriptures, it would have certainly been at least two years after Jesus was born, as Herod ordered all regional firstborn males aged two or less to be slain. Therefore, the Scripture seems to suggest that Jesus was in two places at once, as was His family. This part is hard for me to swallow, and instead of pointing an accusatory finger at God, I would simply invite Him to use anyone who might read this to offer up some thoughts. While it's certainly possible that I'm reading too much into this, I'll acknowledge the possibility that something has been mistranslated, but I wouldn't think that God would have written a detail like this in such an ambiguous way. In other words, if the red and blue car were never at the same place at the same time, logic would insist they weren't involved in the same collision.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pet Peeve Relieved AKA Geekiest Post Ever

Mark 14:43
43Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

Finally, an Oxford comma. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Boredom is the Ultimate Blindness

Tonight our small group met at the church and watched a sermon that discussed, among other passages, the following:

John 8:43-47
43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

Maybe I have the wrong attitude right now, but the writer in me just won't allow me to borrow too much of that preacher's ideas. His name eludes me, but I don't remember it being said in during the video, so perhaps I couldn't know it. Anyway, to paraphrase quickly, the preacher spoke about Satan's methods of deception and how he offered the world to Christ as a means of tempting him. It was interesting to note that Christ never denied Satan's high, if not supreme, authority over this world and the flesh (John 14:30). I guess the gist of the whole sermon was the fact that spiritual warfare is happening all around us, which is something most of us would love to deny.

Hold on, then. Isn't that a contrediction in and of itself? Good and evil duke it out in our midst, not just adjacent to our loved ones and ourselves, but within our very minds, and not only do we have the audacity to cower from considering it, but we have the audacity to indulge the depressing feelings that permeate our beings and embrace defeatist stances such as boredom or indifference. If I know anything about Satan, I would have to deduce that he considers this kind of thing as a freebie. Think about it: Satan exists to lie and to deceive, but how often do we find ourselves looking at our surroundings and concluding that they are so insignificant that they don't even merit a second glance? How is it that we've come to examine things with such a blasé attitude?

Recently I watched an episode of Family Guy, which can be very hit or miss with me, but there was an interesting little joke where one of the characters acknowledged God for what I think was a pretty random thing. I don't believe in coincidence, but it really wasn't something that would send most of us into a concentrated worship session. The camera then shifted to Heaven, and God looked down in disdain and said something to the effect of, "What? You're impressed by that? Do you have any idea how complex your circulatory system is!?" Ironically, it's kind of a good point, but it's a little off centre.

Here's the deal, people. I don't want to bore or blind you with science, but there is nothing in the physical realm that doesn't bear God's fingerprint. Since I read Lee Strobel, I've come to realize just how impossible it would be for this world to spawn from any random occurrence, but that doesn't change the fact that we don't need an in-depth study of biology or geology to see just how complex the familiar is. Today, I was reminded of this as I drove home through some of the weirdest weather I've seen in some time. It was raining buckets as a strange vapour hung in the air, shifting back and forth like wandering spirits. It's hard for me to think it was normal fog; I suspect the ground is still quite frozen, and the mild air was probably hitting it with enough disparity to condense the rainwater into a waist high mist that's been rolling through the area all night. But what do I know? What I did see was a very magical, almost movie-like ambience on my way home.

What's my point? I've seen stuff like this so much that I'd completely ignore it on most nights. I think Satan thrives on this stuff. He loves it when we get so comfortable with our surroundings and locked into our routines that we start to view the world as the most unimpressive, dead playing field in existence. The last thing he wants is for us to even think, just for a second, that there's an invisible war surrounding us. By acknowledging that, we acknowledge good and evil. By acknowledging good, our mind shifts to God. That's why he wants you to think that trees are nothing more than wood and leaves--not some finely tuned creation that works in harmony with everything else God formed with His very hands. To look upon anything in boredom is to lay down one's guard. Satan only needs us to blink to distort the images in front of us. Most of us aren't discerning enough to detect the changes that take place during that split second when our eyelids meet. We're all guilty of it, but it's twice as dangerous when we start to think Satan's vision is a true reflection of this world: that hunger emerges from poor politics, not neglect; that hatred is justified, not damning; that this world is empty, not bursting.

Like I said, I'm guilty of this, too. But let's be clear on one thing: no one is bored because there's nothing interesting around. Boredom comes from giving up, not giving in.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Observations Part 1

1. Some of us [feel we] need to be touched. (Matthew 8:1-4)

2. Some of us [feel we] need to be close. (Mark 5:25-34)

3. Some of us [feel we] need to be told. (Mark 5:41)

4. Some of us [feel we] are too possessed with grief to ask. (Mark 5:8)

5. All of us need to believe. (Matthew 8:5-13)

a) The latter is yet available to us all, and it's the reason the former four were healed.
b) If we haven't the option of standing before Christ, we must live among those who are His temple: His saints.
c) We might not see His face until He returns, but His radiance will never fade as long as one believer remains. Seek the Lord, and He will not hide from you.

How Poetic Thou Art, My LORD

If it's possible, I've been each of the former three--and a weak part of the latter--since October:

Mark 4:13-20
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

Perhaps I'm assuming too much, but I dare suggest that God offered more than one account of Jesus's life because it's too profound to study through one disciple's perspective. Of course, as it's been said, all His teachings could fill the world if they'd all been committed to paper. Nevertheless, let me say here openly that I am listening for your counsel, God. Tell me what you need me to hear, and keep me faithful in it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Work and Rest

Haven't been reading much lately. It's wearing on me. Work has been hectic and I've come home so mentally shattered that I've hardly read any Scripture this month. Not surprisingly, I find myself awfully vulnerable to negative thinking and depression. To be fair, I haven't scheduled enough time with God, and I haven't sought His guidance in the moments I most should have--well, it should be the norm, not the exception. Call it what you will--unintentional self-experimentation, propaganda, hooey--but I'm starting to think that, even though it seems like it would drain me, taking evenings off from diving into theology and the gospel is harder than actually exercising the battered grey matter. Of course, work has filtered into my spare time over the last several days. In moments of fellowship and worship, I feel energized and vital. But once everyone disperses, I can clearly feel my enthusiasm taper off and dip. For now, I'd like to draw two tentative conclusions about the above:

1. If my happiness and attitude improve with faithfulness and commitment to God, it seems fair to offer this as perspective evidence that He's very much alive and real. While I believe it in my mind, sometimes I'm lacking in heartfelt conviction. Virtually all the signs and nuances through which He reveals Himself suggest I should let go of whatever earthly things I'm still clinging to, and on that note I pray that He'll enlighten me as to what they are. Confusion should not be treated as abandonment but a reason to grow closer to Him.

2. Now that I see all this, it is perfectly within my power to mend it all and recapture the joy I got from investing more of myself into God's care. I'm exhausted from running mental circles. It's time to move forward again.