The ESV Controversy

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Another modern Bible translation has come under fire.

When I saw the headline, “The ESV Controversy,” I read the article with great interest.  After all, the ESV (English Standard Version) is widely regarded by conservative Bible scholars and theologians as an excellent translation.  It is loved and appreciated for its faithfulness to the original languages, its literal and formal method of translation, and its easy readability.  The ESV Study Bible is the Bible we present to every man ordained in this church.  The ESV is quickly becoming the favorite translation of every pastor in this church.

What’s wrong with the ESV?  What’s the controversy?  What defect have we overlooked?

Well,  our friends in the Episcopal church have pointed out a translation issue in the ESV that is so egregious in their opinion, that the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church has voted to reject the ESV as an approved translation for their denomination.

The controversy?

The ESV’s translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 clearly includes those who unrepentantly practice homosexuality among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.   So, the decision was made to send the bill back to committee for further study.

Wonder what they’ll find in there next?

The Greatest Father of All

The Greatest Father of All

It’s nt uncommon for young children — especially boys — to believe that their father is perfect.  He is infallible.  He can do anything!  And boys are known to brag about their fathers, even challenging other boys with sentences that begin, “Oh yeah?  Well MY dad …”  You get the picture.

Well in honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to brag on my Heavenly Dad and tell you a little about Him and the relationship we have.  And the relationship he wants to have with you.  Yes, that’s right.  My Heavenly Dad has a standing offer to adopt anyone who would like to become His son or daughter through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To me, it is an extraordinary that thing when Jesus taught His disciples (that includes us, you know), He taught them to address God by calling Him FATHER!  Jesus did not reach back to the Old Testament and instruct us to call God Jehovah.  Or Elohim.  Or I AM.  He simply reminded us that when we address the God of the Universe — the God of all creation — we’re having a talk with a Father who loves us.

Every one of us longs to know the love of a Father.  Perhaps you were blessed with an earthly father who showed you that love.  Perhaps you were not.   But either way, there’s good news!  There is a perfect, heavenly Father who loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.

And it’s not an arms length, formal in-name-only relationship that He desires.  For good reason the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to use the word “abba” in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 when talking about the Father.  Abba is an Aramaic word used by Hebrews in Jesus’ day.  The word would translate into English as “papa” or “daddy.”  Did you know God desires to have that kind of a relationship with you?  He welcomes you just as surely as Jesus welcomed those little children up onto His lap.

Bask in the Father’s lavish love for you.  And then remember to show that love to those He brings into your life.

Question for the Pastor:  Why the Neglect of the Grecian Widows?

Question for the Pastor: Why the Neglect of the Grecian Widows?

Q:  Why were the Hellenistic widows ignored? Was that due to a language barrier or ethnic discrimination?

A:    Although you do not cite a text, I assume you  must be talking about Acts 6.  A careful reading of the story tells us the following:  (1) a dispute broke out between two groups of widows in the church;  (2) the two groups were Greek-speaking Jewish widows who had grown up outside of Israel, and Aramaic-speaking Jewish widows who had grown up in Israel (i.e., the “Grecians” and the “Hebrews);  (3) it is likely that some tension already existed between the two groups;  (4) the ”dispute” of Acts 6 had to do with the Grecian widows claiming that they were not being cared for financially by the church as well as the native Hebrew women were;  (5) the Grecian widows assumed their Hellenistic background was the reason for the neglect;  (6) in reality none of the widows were receiving the care they required.

Now, to your question.  Discrimination?  Language barrier?  In my opinion it was neither.

The response of the leaders suggests that ALL of the widows were being neglected to one degree or another; the Grecian widows simply assumed that only they were being neglected, and that due to discrimination.  However, the response of the apostles tells us why the neglect was taking place.  Here is my paraphrase:   “We can’t pray and study and preach and take care of widows too!  We need some deacons to help!  So find some.  It wouldn’t be reasonable for we preachers to take even more time from  prayer and the ministry of the Word to take food baskets to widows.”  And thus, the first deacons ever selected by the church came into office.

There is a lesson there for all of us, I think.  We are very quick to ascribe motives to people for actions, real or imagined.  In this case, a group of women assumed they were being neglected due to their ethnic background or language.  In reality, all of the widows were being neglected for an entirely different reason.  What was the answer?  Communication!

There’s a lesson there for leaders as well.  Don’t ignore problems believing they’re go away just because we pretend they don’t exist!  Identify the issue, identify the cause of the difficulty, and lead in identifying a workable solution!  The church at Jerusalem did; the congregation was well pleased; and the ministry continued to multiply.

The Perils of Wannabe Cool Christianity

The Perils of Wannabe Cool Christianity

The Perils of Hipster Christianity and Why Young Evangelicals Reject Churchest That Try to Be Cool

By Brett McCracken in The Wall Street Journal

‘How can we stop the oil gusher?” may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.   As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.

Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly. Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn’t megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.

Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).

“Wannabe cool” Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an “iCampus.” Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.

But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before?

Sex is a popular shock tactic. Evangelical-authored books like “Sex God” (by Rob Bell) and “Real Sex” (by Lauren Winner) are par for the course these days. At the same time, many churches are finding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.

Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia, created a website called to pique the interest of young seekers. Flamingo Road Church in Florida created an online, anonymous confessional (, and had a web series called, which featured a 24/7 webcam showing five weeks in the life of the pastor, Troy Gramling. Then there is Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church—who posts Q&A videos online, from services where he answers questions from people in church, on topics such as “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.”

But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?

In his book, “The Courage to Be Protestant,” David Wells writes:”The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

“And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.

Corrections & Amplifications

Pastor Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church has talked about sexual topics in church services but says he has not delivered sermons with sex-themed titles. An earlier version of this column mistakenly used the word sermon.

Mr. McCracken’s book, “Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide” (Baker Books) was published this month.

Practicing What We Preach

Practicing What We Preach

An Associated Press story this week about actress Sandra Bullock brought home the importance of Christians living upright and honorable lives.

Ms. Bullock, who portrays Leigh Anne Tuohy in the new film “The Blind Side,” said she observed the Christian mother to “walk the walk” of her faith. The movie recounts the story of the white Tuohy family welcoming a homeless young African American teen into their home, later adopting him as their son. That young man, Michael Oher, is today an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens after being that team’s first-round draft pick earlier this year. The film is one of the great hits at the box office right now.

Ms. Bullock told the AP that the Tuohys, who attend Grace Evangelical Church in Memphis, allowed her to have “faith in those who say they represent a faith.” “[Mrs. Tuohy] was so open and honest and forthright,” Ms. Bullock said, “and I said, wow, I finally met someone who practices but doesn’t preach.”

The actress noted that she had observed other Christians who promoted their faith but did not live their life as they preached, even admitting to the AP that she was wary of Christians before she met the Tuohys.

This is an important message for Christians. I think that we can’t be reminded enough that people are observing us—many of those people tainted by the poor testimony of others who have claimed to be Christians.

I think we can observe in this story how imperative it is that we are not only effectively talking about our faith in Jesus Christ, we are also living moral, principled lives that would please God and show those who are scrutinizing us that we are real.

You know, young hunters are taught the importance of aiming well before firing. Similarly, in the Christian life, I think we need to learn how to live out our faith before “firing” with our words. I’m not suggesting in the least that our witnessing is not important because God has certainly called us to reach others with the Gospel. But this AP story indicates how crucial it is to earn people’s trust, especially in this present age that distrusts Christianity.

There is great power in our testimony but only when we are living holy lives that bolster our words.

I think it behooves every Christian to do an occasional self-evaluation in order to ensure that there are not impediments to our being effective spokespersons and apologists for Jesus Christ. Our friends and neighbors and co-workers need to be able to see us as Sandra Bullock has identified Leigh Anne Tuohy.

We live in a fallen world, my friends. As Christians, we need to be constantly showing others that Christ in us makes all the difference in the world.

We must attempt to live out the maxim, “Not I, but Christ.”
That is a fitting conclusion to this column. We are nothing without Christ and we must ensure that we are constantly calling attention to Him as we humbly seek to show others that He — and only He — is the way to eternal life.
Preach it. But always make sure you’re also living it.

Jesus is the Punch Line…Again

Jesus is the Punch Line…Again

A friend of mine frequently gathers information on the Internet regarding attacks on Jesus Christ in the modern culture. It is really quite amazing what is out there: from Jesus on the Cross dress-up dolls to “Jesus Was Queer” posters to videos such as “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.” (There is also quite a bit that I couldn’t even begin to describe in this column.)

In these instances we see that it has become fashionable in our so-called culture of diversity to assail Jesus and those who follow Him.

The most recent example came this week on the HBO broadcast of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which the character of Larry (apparently a semi-fictional character played by “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David) desecrates a painting of Jesus, thereby triggering an assumption by two women that the painting is miraculously crying.

In a statement to, HBO said of the episode, “Larry David makes fun of everyone, most especially himself. The humor is always playful and certainly never malicious.”

Maybe there’s no maliciousness in the presentation, but can’t those who run the networks see that it is Christ and Christianity that are so often the target of such jokes? In the spirit of diversity that the left frequently touts, I wonder if HBO would try broadcasting a similar storyline with a character desecrating a portrait of Muhammad or Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa. I think we know the answer.

We saw a few years ago on Comedy Central’s “South Park” that the network permitted a scatological-themed episode to include a depiction of Jesus, but not Muhammad. The message: Jesus is fair game for ridicule, but Muhammad is not.

I noted in an earlier column that these media strikes against Christianity go hand-in-hand with the contemporary effort to cleanse the public square of Christian imagery. I believe our nation is at a genuine cultural crossroads and our side is not winning.

Some are calling for an apology from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” producers, but instead I am calling attention to this incident in order to further my assertion that it is time for Christians everywhere to realize what is happening in our nation. It is time that we begin to take a stand in our churches, in our homes and in the public square.

This Christ-as-punch-line strategy should inflame within us a zeal to work together as His followers to call America back to God. Of course, that means that the effort against us will likely swell even more. However, we’re in good company because Jesus tells us that the world hated Him before it hated us (John 15:19).

My friends, I would greatly prefer being hated by the world for loving the Jesus of the Bible than being loved by the world for compromising His words. We might as well get used to the fact that when we stand with Him, we will be detested and the brunt of jokes. Nevertheless, let us work hand in hand as never before to proclaim the love and grace of Jesus Christ to our nation that constantly condemns Him and treats Him as a punch line.

Pin It on Pinterest