Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A big thank you...

VBS…a.k.a. (a.k.a. means “also known as” in police lingo) Vacation Bible School, has become something I look forward to in church life. Each summer the church building is transformed into some kind of adventure. I think my first as a church planting pastor in New Hampshire was “Amazon Outfitters” and with a whole lot of help from our home church, First Baptist of McAllen Texas, we turned the old Littleton Opera house in to a virtual Amazon jungle. The next year was “The great kingdom caper” which had a distinctly British feel and we had a plane full of FBC McAllen volunteers to help us with that one as well. During my tenure here at Calvary, we’ve been on the “Boomerang Express”, the “Saddle Ridge Ranch” and this year the “Big Apple Adventure.” One thing I’ve noticed with each VBS are a number of common denominators regardless of what church I was serving in at that time:

1.       Much pre-planning and organizing in advance. Each January/February dedicated people who love Jesus, VBS and children begin the preparations for the mid-summer adventure. Decorations are planned out, supplies ordered, crafts to be considered, volunteers to be recruited and trained, music lyrics & choreography, Bible study lesson plans, meals to be planned, snacks, games, mission emphasis, what to do with preschoolers, how to pre-register/register children, how to advertise, what the family night  will look like, what the mission project will be, how the contest for the offering will be handled, who’s going to run sound, video, who’s going to help in each grade….you get the idea. I’m sure I’ve missed some important component in listing all this…the point is, there is huge preparation for VBS that starts in the beginning of the year and it takes an army of people to pull it all together. Each year the week before VBS, I look at VBS like I view one of those giant Air Force transport planes across the bay in Delaware at Dover AFB wondering: “How in the world will this thing get off the ground and fly?” But it does! It flies because a lot of people have planned all the logistics needed to make it happen.

2.       How God shows up. With each VBS, I’ve been amazed at the little miracles that God does related to the weather since invariably we’re doing some part of it outside and our critical need for the weather to cooperate and God provides exactly what we need, without fail. How God protects the kids, the leaders, how He provides patience for leaders and preacher types who may not be exceptionally patient people in everyday life. How God blesses people with an attitude of flexibility and good spirits to faithfully show up each night for a solid week after they are exhausted from working all day long at their regular jobs. How God continues to reach children, parents, and yes even leaders and draw them closer to Him as the church endeavors to minister through VBS. God shows up in big and little ways during VBS and He shows me how He’s at work during that VBS week.

3.       How much fun you can actually have as an adult making a fool of yourself with kids. I will not comment further except that I routinely see different sides of people you’ve never seen beforeJ.

4.       How the music gets stuck in your head and heart for months. Music is such a powerful tool to teach kids and adults spiritual truth, and in VBS, it effectively does this in fun way that actually allows me to worship the Lord. I always get choked up and tears come to my eyes when I hear kids singing the ABC song for that week or a new song about serving Jesus. VBS is such a blessing each year.

5.       How fast the week seems to fly by. Maybe I’m just getting old but time flies during the week of VBS. I wake up the Saturday morning afterwards exhausted and in shock at how fast VBS came and went and wondering what in the world happened.

6.       How God draws children to make decisions for Christ – by salvation or to be obedient in believer’s baptism. Historically, I share the gospel with all the age groups during the ABC night when I get to teach the Bible lesson that special night. I don’t give an invitation to the kindergarten or 1st & 2nd grades; we just sow seed. We are intentional with 3rd & 4th, and 5th & 6th grades, and God always allows us to reap a harvest because faith Bible Study teachers and leaders have been sowing seeds with their groups. I marvel at the simplicity of the Gospel that kids not only understand but respond to and how the gospel reaches moms and dads as well. This year we had at least 3 decision for Christ and a couple for baptism.

7.       How I always loose the contest of the week whether I represent the boys or the girls, the pastor seems to be getting dunked, a pie in the face, or a Gatorade bath. I think every pastor should be able to write a book about the VBS contests he’s lost. ( I think my record thus far is 1 win and 8 or 9 losses. My “win” was against my dad who’s a minister also so I didn’t feel bad on that one!) The reality is that God’s Kingdom wins because kids have given generously to support whatever mission cause we supported. This year, our kids gave over $1400.00 to the Harford Homeless shelter and I’m thrilled to tell you that our church is going to match that gift. Over $2800.00 given to minister to folks right here in our community. I don’t care if I lose every contest till Jesus comes if it furthers Kingdom work!

There are other common denominators for sure but one of the biggest is just how thankful I am for every volunteer who tirelessly works to prepare and lead in VBS, who serve on the front lines or in a myriad of ways behind the scenes in preparing cookies or taking out trash, or having a preschooler crying on your shoulder; or just locking up each night; however you helped with VBS, thank you. I can’t list people by name or I’ll be in trouble for sure because I’ll forget someone. God knows who you are and I can tell you if you didn’t work or serve, VBS would have never happened. So a big thanks to our Calvary family for once again serving the Lord through the ministry of VBS. I’m so proud of you and thankful to God for you, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

A word about Bible translations...

Historically, Baptists in general and Southern Baptists in particular have been known as “people of the Book”; meaning that we hold the Bible in high esteem and surrender to its authority over our lives, our faith, and the practice of our faith. The choice we make for the Bible you and I read in English is an important choice. It can be terribly confusing because when you go to the Christian bookstore, multiple choices abound. The impact of what we might call the “Wal-Mart” mindset where there are lots of options has found its way into how bookstores & publishers market books and Bibles. When I was a child, there was basically one choice, the King James version of the Bible. It was and is still a good translation, but it’s biggest drawback is that we don’t speak in old King James English today so it can be difficult to understand and therefore people quite reading it because they didn’t understand it. Thankfully, scholars recognized this and have worked diligently in most cases to give us newer, accurate translations. I spent weeks in seminary classes understanding all the translation philosophies but I won’t test your patience with all the details of that. I thought I would however; share a few highlights that will help you choose a translation that works for you.

First of all, I have a news flash for you; the Bible as originally inspired by God was not authored in English. The Old Testament was primarily written in the Hebrew language. The New Testament authors primarily wrote in the Greek language. You need to make sure that you choose a Bible that is translated directly from the original languages into English that faithfully expresses in English the words and meaning of the original text. The original manuscripts from the Hebrew or Greek that are used for translation basically can be divided into two camps, the Byzantine text and what is known as the Alexandrian text. I won’t go into all the details of what this means, but the most popular English translations all use one or the other of these texts to translate the Scriptures into English. They will typically footnote well any differences between the texts. For example, the King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB) all used the Byzantine texts. The New International Version used the Alexandrian texts for translation. Both the Byzantine & Alexandrian texts match about 90% of the time. In the roughly10% of the places where there are differences, those differences don’t change the overall meaning and message of the text. The bottom line is if you currently have an English Bible that is a translation and not a paraphrase, you have an accurate version of the Bible from the original manuscripts.


Secondly, readability is something you should consider when choosing an English Bible. I personally like the New King James and use this version when I’m preaching. Since I grew up memorizing the KJV, the NKJV has the same “feel” to it without all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” of King James English. It reads on about a 10th grade level and my preaching Bible is sized and formatted in a way that helps me communicate God’s word effectively. However, in my personal devotions, I’ve used a NASB, NIV, Holman Christian Standard but most currently I’m using the ESV or the English Standard Version. The ESV uses simple plain English and reads on about an 8th grade level and I enjoy the simple, clear reading of Scripture I find with it in my personal devotions. With the simplicity of the ESV, I’ve found I don’t need the aid of commentaries to explain what I’m reading and it allows God’s Word to speak on its own without someone’s opinion telling me what it means and this is a wonderful blessing.

As a Pastor, I have a duty to the Lord to warn fellow believers of dangers that can lead them astray. One of these dangers I’ve learned is in the new 2011 version of the New International Version of the Bible. I hesitate to justify calling it a Bible because I am of the conviction this should not be held on equal footing with other faithful translations. First a little background is in order. Several years ago, Zondervan publishing published the TNIV or Today’s New International Version. This translation made headlines because it was dubbed as the “gender-neutral” version. Bowing to political correctness, this translation did away with much gender language such as “he”, “him” or “she” and  “her” using terms like “they” or “them.” The obvious problem is this changes entire meanings of the text. Since all Scripture is inspired by God according to 2nd Tim.3:16; we must accept that God inspired the authors of Scripture to use the gender language we’ve been given. There was much conservative outcry against this version and rightly so because it undermined what God intended to be said.

This brings me to the 2011 NIV. This version retains about 75 % of the language used in the TNIV. It’s a repackaged rerun of the same thing that once again should be rejected by conservative Christians. I’m pleased to say the problems with the 2011 NIV were brought to the attention of the Southern Baptist Convention last month in Phoenix Arizona. A resolution was adopted by a large majority of convention messengers expressing our disapproval of this translation. Part of that resolution reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, Seventy-five percent of the inaccurate gender language found in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV; and
WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a similar resolution concerning the TNIV in 2002; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011 express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.”

(You may read the full resolution by clicking here)  

If you have an older copy of an NIV Bible, don’t go out and throw it away as it is still a good translation. I have a small NIV New Testament I keep in my truck for soul winning or hospital visits. I just want to caution you if you plan to purchase a new Bible that you research what you are buying before you plunk down your hard earned cash so that you don’t buy trash. In the front of most Bibles, they will explain their translation process for you so you can make a wise decision. I’d be happy to help you further if you have questions.

By the way, if you have a study Bible, let me remind you the study notes are someone’s insights and they are not inspired Scripture. Regardless of what version you prefer, let me encourage you to read it, study it, meditate upon it and apply it to your life daily. After all, it cannot be hidden in your heart so that you might not sin against God by osmosis. Encouraging you to be vigilant from my little corner of the world to yours…

Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church  

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph