Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This dish is best . . . served cold!

Just about everyone knows that under a process called eminent domain, the government can (and does) seize private property for public use - to build a road, a school or a courthouse. But did you know the government can also seize your land for private use if they can prove that doing it will serve what's called "the public good"? Under eminent domain, the government buys your property, paying you what's determined to be fair market value.

On June 23, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development. The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

Now, as a result of this ruling, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

Well, it appears one person has had all he can stand and he can't stands no more.

According to this story, a private developer contacted the local government in Supreme Court Justice David Souter's hometown in New Hampshire yesterday asking that the property of the judge – who voted in favor of the controversial decision – be seized to make room for a new hotel.

A man by the name of Logan Darrow Clements faxed a request to Chip Meany, the code enforcement officer of the town of Weare, New Hampshire, seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road, the present location of Souter's home.

According to a statement from Clements, the proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, "featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America." Instead of a Gideon's Bible in each room, guests will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," the statement said.

Clements says the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site – "being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans." Souter has claimed Weare as his home since he moved there as an 11-year-old boy with his family. "This is not a prank" said Clements. "The town of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Happy Anniversary, Moonlight Graham!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the debut and retirement of Moonlight Graham! His big league career lasted all of one game, a few fleeting moments in right field. Graham lived and died unnoticed by most until receiving recognition in Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams" movie back in 1989. Since no one had heard of him, most thought Graham's character was made up.

Yet the tale is true, at least most of it. According to this story on Sports Illustrated, Graham was a pretty good hitter for three years in the minors. Giants manager John McGraw invited him to spring training in 1905, but Graham declined because he wanted to finish medical school. According to extensive work by Bill Moose for the Society for American Baseball Research, Graham finally joined the Giants on May 23.

Five weeks later, he made his debut at Brooklyn's Washington Park -- built before Ebbets Field, it's now a depot for the Con Edison power company. In a game against the Superbas -- the forerunners of the Dodgers _ Graham replaced George Browne in right field for the bottom of the eighth inning in a lopsided 11-1 game.

Then he was left on deck in the ninth when pitcher Claude Elliott flied out. In the bottom half, Graham may have gotten a play. Switch-hitter Charlie Malay singled -- presumably, he was batting lefty against the righty Elliott -- and perhaps he pulled it in Graham's direction. But there's simply no record of where the ball went. "It's possible that maybe he touched it," Moose said. "No telling for sure."

"Graham went to right field for New York" was his only mention in the local Evening Telegram's play-by-play account. And, just that fast, the 28-year-old rookie described in the sporting press as being "quick as a flash of moonlight" was gone.

And we was - for almost half a century. More than a decade after Graham died in 1965, the prize-winning author W.P. Kinsella was leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia that his father-in-law had given him for Christmas a few days earlier. Among the listings for every player and their lifetime stats, Kinsella came across something that stopped him.

"I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him," he said. A few years later, he did. His 1982 novel Shoeless Joe was adapted into the 1989 film Field of Dreams, and Moonlight was reborn.

Now, on the 100th anniversary of his professional baseball debut, the Minnesota Twins will officially honor Graham with "Moonlight Graham Day" in conjunction with today's game against the Kansas City Royals.

When Kinsella thumbed through the Baseball Encyclopedia, he could've easily turned to the pages for Twink Twining, Goat Cochran or Steamboat Struss. Of the more than 16,000 players in major league history, they're also among the 900-plus guys in the Elias Sports Bureau registry who got into only one game.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Supreme Court said WHAT?

From FOXNEWS.COM, we read today that the Supreme Court made some rulings in its final session and preceded to confuse us all:
A divided Supreme Court ruled today that displaying the Ten Commandments on government land is not a violation of the Constitution as long as the intent is historic and not religious. The court found that a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol was a legitimate tribute to the nation's legal history, but the court found that two framed copies of Commandments in two Kentucky courthouses went too far in endorsing religion and therefore violated the Constitution.
Did you get that? A display of the Ten Commandments on the front lawn is OK but a framed copy of the same Ten Commandments is verboten inside. How does that make sense to anyone? Would it be OK if you had some other framed historical documents beside the Commandments?

We're truly not very far from going off that deep end everyone is talking about!

Luther's "Reformation Polka"

I saw this online somewhere and thought it was fantastic. Sing it in your head (or aloud if you are alone) to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

The Reformation Polka by Robert Gebel

When I was just a younger man I studied canon law;
Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon
Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh...

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter's profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints' Bull'tin board:
"You cannot purchase merits, for we're justified by grace!
Here's 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!" Oh...
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
"Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,
"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!" Oh...
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to mywords,
By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh...
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!
Let's raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that 'catholic' is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh...
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation -
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Purpose Driven Life of Benny Hinn

In a recent report on the BBC, we read that "In late April, scores of giant billboards and thousands of wall posters all over Lagos proclaimed the first of three days of divine miracles and healing for at least six million Nigerians." Who was on these publicity pieces - none other than American evangelist extraordinaire - Benny Hinn.

The article goes on to say that Hinn flew into Nigeria in his very own Gulfstream private jet with a large group of people that included his bodyguards. He was welcomed at the airport in a motorcade of Hummer jeeps and other expensive cars.

The advertisements claimed that "t
he deaf would hear, the blind would see, the lame would jump and walk, barren women would conceive, the jobless would gain employment, and the enemy - both seen and unseen - would be vanquished. Mention any problem - physical, spiritual, economic - Hinn had come with the instant solution."

But things did not go as planned.

Nigeria is the cradle of gigantic crusades. It is estimated that over one million worshippers attend the monthly Holy Ghost Congress service organised by The Redeemed Christian Church God (RCCG) at the same venue. Hinn was promised that SIX MILLION people would attend the three day event but in the end, only one million showed up. ONLY one million.

On the last evening, Hinn's frustration finally overflowed and he shouted in to the microphone to the crowd, "Four million dollars down the drain."

I think we've just discovered Hinn's purpose in ministry. He must have counted in his head and realized that all the public address equipment he had flown in from the US was not needed. He also complained about some claimed expenditures, the charges imposed on pastors who attended his day-time seminar, and journalists who sought to cover the crusade. He then announced publicly that he would not provide any more funds, and that the local organisers should pay all outstanding bills from the collections they made on the first two days.

Perhaps we have heard the real heart of Benny Hinn. It doesn't seem to matter that over one million people showed up to listen to him "preach." Instead, it appears that Hinn's main objective was not to share the gospel of Christ with this people but to enlarge his own earthly kingdom at the expense of the poor of that country.

What a difference in the attitudes of Hinn compared to Billy Graham. Dr. Graham uses the last of his strength to speak to all who will come and shares a very simple but powerful message that those in the audience are lost in their sins and must turn to Christ as their only hope. By comparison, Hinn comes across as a modern-day Tetzel! I had better stop - I can feel myself getting angry as I type this.

May the Lord use this incident to bring this charlatan's "ministry" to a stop.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

OK, one more on Osteen and then, that's it!

I just read some good news on the Joel Osteen website. He has issued an apology to the Christian community for his poor showing on the "Larry King Live" television interview. I'll let you read his words:

Dear Friend,

Many of you have called, written or e-mailed regarding my recent appearance on Larry King Live. I appreciate your comments and value your words of correction and encouragement.

It was never my desire or intention to leave any doubt as to what I believe and Whom I serve. I believe with all my heart that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life. I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very thing in which I have dedicated my life.

Jesus declared in John 14; I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. However, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to review the transcript of the interview that I realize I had not clearly stated that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven. It’s about the individual’s choice to follow Him.

God has given me a platform to present the Gospel to a very diverse audience. In my desire not to alienate the people that Jesus came to save, I did not clearly communicate the convictions that I hold so precious.

I will use this as a learning experience and believe that God will ultimately use it for my good and His glory. I am comforted by the fact that He sees my heart and knows my intentions. I am so thankful that I have friends, like you, who are willing to share their concerns with me.

Thank you again to those who have written. I hope that you accept my deepest apology and see it in your heart to extend to me grace and forgiveness.

As always, I covet your prayers and I am believing for God’s best in your life,

Joel Osteen
Pastor - Lakewood Church

That is very encouraging. It is good to read such humble and clear words. How unlike the typical "apology" by most "celebrities" today - you know, the kind that says "I'm sorry if you were offended." The kind of apology that never really apologizes for what was said! Osteen at least honestly admits his mistake and takes full responsility.

The only proper response is to extend the very forgiveness for which he asks -- and with equal humility. Our other concerns about his theology can wait for another day.

Worship or Singing about Worship?

I was moved this morning as our choir led us in worship in a very simple yet powerfully profound song. They sang "To Him Who Sits On The Throne," echoing the words of "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'” (Revelation 5:13).

The choir sang the words again, and again, and again - just as these worshippers in heaven did and are doing even now as you read this.

As I thought about this, I remembered something I read a while back. It's truly moving to participate in the actual worship of God because so many of our songs talk ABOUT worship instead of actually worshipping. At times, it seems we have begun to worship worship!

D.A. Carson
wrote Worship by the Book and in the introductory chapter wrote, "This point is acknowledged in a praise chorus like 'Let's forget about ourselves, and magnify the Lord, and worship him.' The trouble is that after you have sung this repetitious chorus three of four times, you are no farther ahead. The way you forget about yourself is by focusing on God – not by singing about doing it, but by doing it."

A familiar song is "I Will Worship" and the lyrics really lead to nowhere:

I will worship (I will worship)
With all of my heart (with all of my heart)
I will praise You (I will praise You)
With all of my strength (all my strength)
I will seek You (I will seek You)
All of my days (all of my days)
And I will follow (I will follow)
All of Your ways (all Your ways)

I will give You all my worship. I will give You all my praise.
You alone I long to worship. You alone are worthy of my praise.

I will bow down (I will bow down)
Hail You as king (hail You as king)
And I will serve You (I will serve You)
Give You everything (give You everything)
I will lift up (I will lift up)
My eyes to Your throne (my eyes to Your throne)
And I will trust You (I will trust You)
I will trust You alone (trust You alone)

What has been accomplished here? Have we worshipped the Lord? I think not. I think we have just sang ABOUT worshipping. We are proclaiming that we will worship, we will praise, we will bow down. But we are doing NONE of that!

Tim Challies wrote, "We do not worship God by telling Him that we will, at some point in the future, worship Him. It is akin to a husband heading to work and instead of telling his wife that he loves her, telling her that he will express his love for her at some other time. That is not an expression of love!"

To put it negatively they are songs of procrastination. To put it positively, they are "notices of intent" to worship. The trouble is that so many modern praise songs make it is easy to sing a string of "notices of intent" and call it a day. I am thankful for our worship leader who does such a good job of leading us in the worship of our King.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Fewer and Fewer Jeffs in the World

This is one of those things that probably has some major culture-changing implications but I just don't know what they are: there are fewer and fewer "Jeffs" in the USA each year. Here's the recent news from the Social Security Administration:

Year of birth Rank
2002 980
2001 907
2000 932
1999 909
1998 Not in Top 1000
1997 978
1996 881
1995 879
1994 714
1993 716
1992 696
1991 643
1990 644

Perhaps this is just another sign of the times that the end is near? I think LaHaye and Jenkins covered this in their tenth book: "The Remnant: The Few Remaining Jeffs".

Click on the link above and let me know how your name rises and falls in the previous decade!

My last post on this:

I don't want to beat a dead horse but I just read something else about Joel Osteen (thanks, Justin Taylor, Associate Pastor at John Piper's church). Check this out:

Do you know the two most popular admission tickets that Ticketmaster sells? According to a knowledeable source, U-2 is #1. And Joel Osteen is #2.
The author of the best-selling book - Your Best Life Now - (currently ranked #41 on, routinely holds events in some of the nation's largest arenas at about $10 per person. He's in Philadelphia, Anaheim, Atlanta and Washington, DC in the next few weeks.

Taylor gives one other interesting thought, noting that during the interview with Larry King that "Osteen said, 'I don't know' 45 times--an average, I'd guess, once per minute."

That's probably the most truthful thing Osteen said the whole night.

Time for Watches or Crystal - or crystal watches!

Today, I celebrated FIFTEEN years of marital bliss. I believe my wife celebrated twelve! We were married on June 23, 1990, which, as I said, was fifteen years and about fifty pounds ago - for me that is. Ambra still looks the same as when she did when she was my twenty-three year old bride. She broke out our wedding pictures this afternoon and it brought back some memories. I remember being dragged from breakfast and dropped off a few miles from home on a broken down bicycle by my friends who stayed just beyond reach in my brother-in-law's car. Trust me, it wasn't as much fun as it sounds - especially when they took my pants! I remember being relatively calm until right before I entered the sanctuary with the pastor and my father.

I remember attending a church picnic on the weekend before the ceremony. We were youth workers and we got caught up in a frisbee-football game. I was on defense and found myself guarding my bride-to-be. She went out for a pass and my competitive nature took over. She was NOT going to catch a frisbee in the area I was defending! She began her "pattern" and I could see the quarterback was looking her way. The frisbee was in the air and through amazing strength of will and extraordinary athletic prowess, I was able to break up the pass. However, in the process, Ambra and I collided. I landed on top of her legs. About twenty minutes later, we were in the emergency room.

She had severely torn ligaments that I suppose, if you wanted to get really technical, you could say I caused. But I say - she was trying to catch a pass in my area of the zone. Her mother did not appreciate my point of view and actually brought up the subject of postponing the wedding. But if we had done that, we wouldn't have been able to create the magical moment you see to your left. It took Ambra so long to walk down the aisle at the beginning of the wedding that the trumpet player had to stop - he ran out of song and breath. We knew we couldn't take that long on the way out so I just picked her up and whisked her out. I remember most of the crowd clapping.

For our honeymoon, we went to Williamsburg, Virginia. It's a very nice and interesting place - except when you are unable to walk. There are cobblestones everywhere so wheelchairs do not work. There's nothing to do BUT walk. It was not much fun - the historical part, I mean. To your left is a picture of me in some colonial house. You might notice that I appear to be quite skeletal at this stage of my life. Trust me, I'm not ill - just skinny. Amazingly, Ambra was able to overlook my emaciated frame and agreed to marry me. Fifteen years later, I am most grateful.

The Boycott is Over! Did we win?

According to this Associated Press article, "Southern Baptists ended an eight-year boycott of the Walt Disney Compnay for violating 'moral righteousness and traditional family values' in a vote on the final day of the denomination's annual convention Wednesday. 'We believe for the boycott to be effective, it had to have a beginning and an ending,' said Gene Mims, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention committee that put the Disney resolution before some 12,000 members at the meeting."

The article continues to say that "The Disney resolution, passed at the SBC's 1997 convention in Dallas, called for Southern Baptists to refrain from patronizing Disney theme parks and Disney products, mainly because of the entertainment company's decision to give benefits to companions of gay and lesbian employees. 'We felt like it was time to end it. We're hopeful Disney will do what the resolution calls for,' Mims added."

So, basically, what Mims is trying to say is, "IT DIDN'T WORK!!!"

I am still amazed at this misguided strategy of the church in attempting to get the ungodly world to act godly. How? It simply cannot be done. The world, which stands in opposition to God by its very nature, lacks the power and the inclination to do good. Paul tells us as much in Romans 3. To put it simply, we are asking . . . no . . . bullying the world to act like Christians before they become Christians.

And for what? So we can feel better about ourselves? So that the world "looks" and "acts" like us on the outside even though they are still nothing like us on the inside. And what if we succeed? What have we truly done? Sure, these lost souls will be "behaving" but they will still be lost. And one more thing, what about Paul's words to the church (at Corinth, and by extension, us):

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside.
Note what he says in verse ten: we should not have any dealings with sexually immoral people - who are INSIDE the church. Paul is not saying we are to distance ourselves from sexually immoral lost people. They need us more than ever.

Instead, he asks in verse twelve a very relevant question: "What business is it of mine to judge the lost?" Rhetorical question. He answers it in verse 13: It's not my business; God judges those people.

Now, because of this boycott, we've lost great opportunities to present the gospel of peace with these people because we have been at war with them for eight years. The very people we are to reach have been made "our enemy." Jesus said the world would hate us and they do - but for the wrong reasons.

Again, the Apostle said it well in 2 Corinthians 10;
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

More Christianity on "Larry King"

Christians are making the rounds on "Larry King" and making some curious statements. Billy Graham was interviewed on June 16 and said some confusing things. I love and respect Billy Graham a great deal but he seems to have "mellowed" a bit TOO much the past several years. Perhaps it is the age or the growing illness with which he suffers. I don't want to cast any dispersion or put Graham in the same category as King's previous guest (see below) but the world's "premiere evangelist" really should take more of a stand for the doctrine of salvation. Read an excerpt below or go here for the entire transcript:

KING: And do you think he loves the people of 9/11, the people in the planes on 9/11 as much as he loves you?
GRAHAM: Yeah, he does. He does. I can't explain 9/11, except the evil of man. I think that there is a force in the world, a force of evil. There are two great forces, God's force of good and the devil's force of evil, and I believe Satan is alive and he is working, and he is working harder than ever, and we have many mysteries that we don't understand.
KING: Does God love him?
GRAHAM: Does God what?
KING: Satan. Does he love Satan?
GRAHAM: Well, he created him as Lucifer. In the 22nd of Ezekiel, it tells us about it, and he must love him, but the end of Satan is hell. Hell was created for the devil and his angels, or his demons, not for men.
I struggle with how to interpret that.
KING: But what about those faiths -- the Mormons and the others that you mentioned -- believe in Christ. They believe they will meet Christ. What about those like the Jews, the Muslims, who don't believe they ...
GRAHAM: That's in God's hands. I can't be the judge.
KING: You don't judge them?
KING: How do you feel...
GRAHAM: ... going to hell and all that.
KING: How do you feel when you see a lot of these strong Christian leaders go on television and say, you are condemned, you will live in hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ, and they are forceful and judgmental?
GRAHAM: Well, they have a right to say that, and they are true to a certain extent, but I don't -- that's not my calling. My calling is to preach the love of God and the forgiveness of God and the fact that he does forgive us. That's what the cross is all about, what the resurrection is all about, that's the gospel. And you can get off on all kinds of different side trends, and in my earlier ministry, I did the same, but as I got older, I guess I became more mellow and more forgiving and more loving. And the Jerry Falwells and people like that, I love them, I thank God for their ministry, he has a great university and two or three of my grandchildren have gone there, they have had a tremendous change in their lives for being there, and some of the other people are the same way, but at the other end of the extreme.
A little later in the interview . . .
KING: But -- your Franklin once said, he was very critical of Islam. He called it evil and wicked. How did you react to that?
GRAHAM: Well, he has my views and I have mine. And they are different sometimes. I told him from the very beginning that there would be times when he would have to take his own positions. But he doesn't hold that position now. I think he said it off the cuff somewhere some years ago.
KING: After 9/11?
GRAHAM: I think so.
I care a great deal about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every Christian should. I love Billy Graham but I love the Gospel more. I hope we can agree that there is just too much left unsaid in this interview.

The hard truth is that the Bible very clearly says that man is lost and his only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. We don't have to "have an opinion" on that. The Bible makes that statement as a statement of fact. This is the heart of the Gospel, and it was not at all clear in Dr. Graham's interview. I don’t think that this man believes that there is more than one way of salvation, but the interview seems to imply that people of other faiths might be okay after all.

And that is NOT the Gospel. If people can get to heaven apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then Jesus truly did die for nothing.

Why are we so scared to repeat the words of Christ: "No one can come to the Father except by Me."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Recommended Reading

Several blogs are worth reading and one of the best going is Phillip Johnson's, which he has titled "PYROMANIAC." Phil is an elder at John MacArthur's church out in California and also is the editor of most of his books. I have long admired Phil and his work/writing. You can spend a LOT of quality time at two of his websites:

  1. The Hall of Church History
  2. Phil's Bookmarks (the "Really Really Bad Theology" is quite a hoot)
However, I wonder about his obsession with fire, flame and all things incendiary. Growing up in the south, we had a saying that parents lobbed our way often: Don't play with matches or you'll wet the bed.

Watered-down Christianity on "Larry King"

Larry King has aired some interesting interviews the last few weeks. In one interview, he spoke with Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in America. Here are a few excerpts from the show (you can get the entire transcript here):

KING: Because we've had ministers on who said, your record don't count. You either believe in Christ or you don't. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don't no matter what you've done in your life, you ain't.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I don't know. There's probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you're a believer in God, you're going to have some good works. I think it's a cop-out to say I'm a Christian but I don't ever do anything ...
KING: What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?
OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God will judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.
Now, keep in mind that this is a man who is the pastor of the largest church in America. It is simply inexcusable that he was given such a wide platform into peoples lives and stumbled so badly on the most essential truth of all the Bible--the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not something you need a seminary degree to discuss. A child in Sunday School could have quoted John 14:6 or Acts 4:12. Osteen's answer: "I DON'T KNOW."

A caller tried to help Osteen out but Osteen refused to "go on the record."
CALLER: Hello, Larry. You're the best, and thank you, Joe -- Joel -- for your positive messages and your book. I'm wondering, though, why you side-stepped Larry's earlier question about how we get to heaven? The bible clearly tells us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light and the only way to the father is through him. That's not really a message of condemnation but of truth.
OSTEEN: Yes, I would agree with her. I believe that...
KING: So then a Jew is not going to heaven?
OSTEEN: No. Here's my thing, Larry, is I can't judge somebody's heart. You know? Only god can look at somebody's heart, and so -- I don't know. To me, it's not my business to say, you know, this one is or this one isn't. I just say, here's what the bible teaches and I'm going to put my faith in Christ. And I just I think it's wrong when you go around saying, you're saying you're not going, you're not going, you're not going, because it's not exactly my way. I'm just...
KING: But you believe your way.
OSTEEN: I believe my way. I believe my way with all my heart.
KING: But for someone who doesn't share it is wrong, isn't he?
OSTEEN: Well, yes. Well, I don't know if I look at it like that. I would present my way, but I'm just going to let god be the judge of that. I don't know. I don't know.
KING: So you make no judgment on anyone?
OSTEEN: No. But I...
KING: What about atheists?
OSTEEN: You know what, I'm going to let someone -- I'm going to let god be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell. I just -- again, I present the truth, and I say it every week. You know, I believe it's a relationship with Jesus. But you know what? I'm not going to go around telling everybody else if they don't want to believe that that's going to be their choice. God's got to look at your own heart. God's got to look at your heart, and only god knows that.
KING: You believe there's a place called heaven?
OSTEEN: I believe there is. Yes. You know, you've had a lot of the near-death experiences and things like that. Some of that is very, to me, not that you need that as proof, but it shows you these little kids seeing the angels and things like that.
Pitiful. simply pitiful. And did I mention that he pastors the largest church in America?

Top 100 Movie Lines of All Time

The "American Film Institute" is celebrating one hundred years of cinema and offering lists-a-plenty. Their latest one is the Top 100 Lines of all time. Here is the Top 20:

20 Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. CASABLANCA 1942

19 I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore! NETWORK 1976

18 Made it, Ma! Top of the world! WHITE HEAT 1949

17 Rosebud. CITIZEN KANE 1941

16 They call me Mister Tibbs! IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT 1967

15 E.T. phone home. E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL 1982

14 The stuff that dreams are made of. THE MALTESE FALCON 1941

13 Love means never having to say you're sorry. LOVE STORY 1970

12 I love the smell of napalm in the morning. APOCALYPSE NOW 1979

11 What we've got here is failure to communicate. COOL HAND LUKE 1967

10 You talking to me? TAXI DRIVER 1976

9 Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night. ALL ABOUT EVE 1950

8 May the Force be with you. STAR WARS 1977

7 All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup. SUNSET BLVD. 1950

6 Go ahead, make my day. SUDDEN IMPACT 1983

5 Here's looking at you, kid. CASABLANCA 1942

4 Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. THE WIZARD OF OZ 1939

3 You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been

somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. ON THE WATERFRONT 1954

2 I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse. THE GODFATHER 1972

and finally, coming in at #1 . . .

1 Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. GONE WITH THE WIND 1939

Chronologically, the ballot spans from 1927, with the first full-length sound film, THE JAZZ SINGER: "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!" to 2002 and "My precious" from THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. The 2002 quote is the only quote to make the list from the 21st Century.

Nine quotes from the 1990s made the list, including Swarzeneggar's "Hasta La Vista, Baby" and "Life is like a box of chocolates" and "Show me the money." "Yo Adrian" came in at #80.

CASABLANCA has seven quotes in AFI's ballot, making it the most represented film.

THE WIZARD OF OZ is the second most represented film with six quotes.

Humphrey Bogart has 10 quotes on the ballot, the most represented male actor. Al Pacino and the Marx Brothers follow with six quotes each and Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, James Stewart, Woody Allen and Jack Nicholson are all represented with five quotes each. Funnymen Peter Sellers and Mike Myers each have four quotes represented.

Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland and Vivien Leigh each have four memorable movie quotes on the ballot.

Billy Wilder is the top represented writer with 13 quotes, some co-written with I.A.L. Diamond, Charles Brackett and Raymond Chandler. Frances Ford Coppola has nine quotes represented, with seven coming from THE GODFATHER Trilogy. Mario Puzo, Coppola's collaborator on THE GODFATHER trilogy, has a total of eight quotes. Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch each have seven quotes (all from CASABLANCA), followed by Woody Allen with six and Cameron Crowe, William Goldman and Stanley Kubrick with five quotes each.

1939 is the most represented year with 19 movie quotes. 1942 has 17 quotes and 1980 has 12.

You can read the entire list here.

Here's a little extra at no cost - The Top 10 Movies of all time:

The Complete List:

1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)

2. CASABLANCA (1942)




6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)

7. THE GRADUATE (1967)



10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Modern Bibles: Who's calling the shots?

The majority of new Bibles on today's bookshelves follow a theory of translation called "dynamic equivalence." This method of translation is based on the idea that whenever something crops up in the original languages that is foreign to the modern reader, the original text should be translated in an eqivalent (rather than literal) fashion. In other words, the translators will try to give us the "idea" or "meaning" of the sentence instead of the actual sentence. All Bibles do this from time to time but most of today's Bibles do it as a matter of course.

If you take the time to read the preface in some modern Bibles, you will discover a pretty amazing theme. Read the following statements and try to discern the common thread:
  • "This translation seeks "to express the meaning in a manner and form easily understood by the readers" (Good News Bible).
  • "Metaphorical language is often difficult for contemporary readers to understand, so at times we have chosen to translate or illuminate the metaphor" (New Living Translation).
  • "Because for most readers today, the phrases 'the Lord of hosts' and 'God of hosts' have little meaning, this version renders them 'the Lord Almight' and "God Almighty'' (New International Version).
  • "Ancient customs are often unfamiliar to modern readers" (New Century Version).
  • "We have used the vocabulary and language structures . . . of a junior-high student" (New Living Translation).
Who exactly is calling the shots here - the biblical author or today's ignorant readers? John MacArthure once said that these Bibles "diminish the glory of divine revelation by being more concerned with the human reader than the divine author."

You might think that it's a good thing to make the Bible more understandable. You are right but there are better ways to do this. A problem occurs in modern translations when today's readers have no understanding of the liberties that some translations take with the words penned by Moses and Paul. We end up with a translation and an interpretation and often a commentary. The problem is that we can't really tell where the translation ends and the commentary begins. I'll examine this more fully as I begin my look at the best Bibles on the market today.

Don't laugh!

Read this amazing story:

TOKYO, June 19(Xinhuanet)-- Japanese Kozo Haraguchi, 95, broke the world record in 100 meters track for men aged 95-99 at an athletic event held in Miyazaki, Japan on Sunday.

After running 22.04 seconds in the rain to break the previous world record of 24.01 held by an Australian man, Haraguchi said,"I ran, thinking I shouldn't fall because everyone was cheering for me. I will keep working as hard as possible."

In 2000, Haraguchi set a world record for the ages of 90-94 at 18.08 in an athletic event. He began track and field at age 65 to stay in shape, and he takes an hourlong walk around his neighborhood every morning.

The organizer of Sunday's athletic event will apply for an official record recognition from the World Masters Athletics.

Sadly, that means this 95-year-old could probably beat most of US in this race!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day - Gone already!

Pictured above is my Father's Day card. It pretty much came true for part of the day. Sadly, Father's Day seemed like almost every other day at that point.

Tales from the Temple

James Spurgeon is the pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Golden, Texas. He grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church and attended Texas Bible College. He has some very interesting and humorous stories to tell of his days there as he slowly grew to see the legalistic hypocrisy inherent in this type of Pharisaical religion. I'll bet you don't read just one page!

Spurgeon says that his "book is not an indictment on the IFB movement as a whole, nor is it an indictment on the thousands of sincere, God-fearing Christians who people those churches. What I am about to describe took place in what is considered even by those within this movement as the right-wing of the movement - the extreme side.
" I was amazined at some the "goings-on"

He's got something of an axe to grind and he sharpens the blade at one of his blogs: The Texas Baptist Underground.

Good intentions but ... PORN SUNDAY???

Two youth pastors heard God say the word "porn" to them and thus was born a new ministry.

They created the "porn mobile" and launched a website called and have hosted local Porn Sunday events at a few churches already, including The Peoples' Church in Tennessee and Mars Hill Church in Michigan and Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina (pastored by James Emery White).

And now they're going national.

I'm serious - they've made ABC News. They've been endorsed by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church.

Pornography is quite obviously a major problem in society and in the church. Who knows how many men secretly struggle with this sin, living a cyclical life of guilt, shame, disgust and self-loathing. The church must deal with this issue in the lives of its men (and women, I've read).

But, I struggle mightily with the idea of viewing an R-rated documentary called "Missionary Positions" during regular worship hours that portrays half-dressed women in pornography conventions and "working" situations. The youth pastors say that hit this issue hard and "speak the language" of youth today. To me, it all seems a little too "cheeky/hip" with a great deal of the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" mentality that belies the seriousness of their message.

In this trailer for the movie, it seems like these youth pastors are nominally-Christianized frat boys getting thrills by hanging on the fringes of the porn society. Pornography seems far removed from the plague that can destroy a man's mind, his marriage, his ministry and his spiritual life.

I wonder what Paul's thoughts would be? Oh yeah, he told us. He simply said, "Flee youthful lusts." Imagine how much more effective his message would have been if he could have trotted out some old copies of "The Parthenon Playboy" and said "See this naked virgin about to sacrificed? Flee this. And this one over here - flee her, too." But we know better - since we're all so enlightened and all!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Using the Law in Abby's Salvation

What a great week! Vacation Bible School was fantastic with over 500 people most days. I got to see "Batman Begins" on Wednesday night - great movie that officially declared to the world that the first four Batman movies never happened. You hear me - they never happened!

But let me tell you about last night...

After VBS Family Night, we went to Baskin-Robbins with a new church family to get to know them a little better. (Free advice - try the "Thunder and Lightning" next time!). We ended up staying pretty late and pulled in the driveway at almost 10:00 PM. We told the kids "Go inside, brush your teeth and go to bed."

A few minutes later, I saw my third child, Abby, running through the house. I pulled her aside and asked her, "Have you brushed your teeth yet?" Very quickly, she said, "Yes." I don't know why but I wasn't fully convinced. I asked to smell her breath and all I could smell was ice cream - I think chocolate chip cookie dough.

I asked her if she was sure she had brushed her teeth and I saw the remorse come over her. I am sure even she didn't know why she had said what she said. But she said it - quickly and without thinking. She had lied to her father. Is there any doubt in the "total depravity" of all beings - even children?

We had a little talk. As she sat on my lap in the darkened living room, I could see the conviction in her face. It seemed different this time - not the "sorry I was caught" kind but the "I hate that I did that" kind. As I pressed the issue some more, the pouty lip began to stick out and her eyes began to get wet. She knew what was coming.

But the Spirit was also dealing with me. I could sense a very real prodding of the Spirit to use this situation for His glory. It's hard to explain but I just knew that this was one of those "divine appointments" people talk about.

I asked Abby if she knew the implications of telling lies to parents. She did and the wet eyes were now dripping down onto her almost-seven-year-old beautiful face. I reassured her that even though she most certainly did deserve a very severe punishment and even though I was very angry at her disobedience and lying, I was not going to do that. I explained to her the unfamiliar concept of MERCY and I think she understood that she was not going to get what she most definitely deserved.

I then explained to her about other sins in her life and the punishment that God had to administer to her because of those acts of rebellion. I could see the "wheels turning" in her head as I told her that God withheld that punishment from her and instead poured out his anger on Jesus Christ. She could now SEE the relationship between sin and the cross.

Using the concept of the Law, I was able to lead her to see that she was lost. She saw that she had broken one of God's commands and how she had sinned. Not just against me but against the One who is Truth, the One who cannot lie.

It was at this point that she was saved. It didn't take some magical prayer. It didn't take walking the aisle to shake hands with a preacher. Sitting on her dad's lap at 10:30 at night, Abby came out of the darkness that had shrouded her for almost seven years and stepped into the glorious light of Christ. The whole of the Trinity completed the work last night. God's election of Abby before the world was formed was made manifest in my presence. The Holy Spirit was convicting and drawing her towards the Father as I watched her heart melt from stone to flesh. The blood that Christ shed on the cross two millennia ago and offered to the Father by her Mediator and applied it to this precious little girl as the Father accepted that perfect sacrifice of the perfect Son.

The couple with which we had enjoyed ice cream earlier in the evening told of their long, painful journey into God's family. Though now brimming with the vibrancy of a true faith in a living Savior, they spoke of years wasted in selfish living. They spoke of opportunities long since gone to enjoy the only life truly worth living.

Oh, how thankful I am that the Lord has spared Abby all of this.

Before we review . . .

I hope to put forth some reviews of modern versions of the Bible. I want to do this because I am often asked "Which Bible is the best one?" There is no single answer for that because you have to determine how you want to use your Bible: devotionally, study, teaching, preaching, etc.

Another question that comes up more than you think is this one: "Why do we need so many new Bibles?" That's a good question and I've wondered that myself once or twice. One thing is for sure - we don't need ALL of them. But several are very good and very helpful to us.

The primary reason we need new Bibles is because of the change in our language. Perhaps you don't think that English has changed that much? What do you think of this verse?
"For God so loued the world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life."
Naturally, you recognize it but do you know in which Bible it is found. Would you believe the 1611 King James Version? But you probably are thinking, "That doesn't look like my KJV." It doesn't for the simple reason that you don't have a 1611 KJV - you have a 1769 King James. The KJV underwent numerous revisions through the years until it basically looks like what you have now. Isn't it amazing how much language changed from 1611 to 1769 - just 158 years later?

But even the King James was a drastic change from earlier English Bibles. Look at these examples of that famous verse:

  • Geneva (1557): "For God so loueth the world, that he hath geuen his only begotten Sonne: that none that beleue in him, should peryshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe."
  • Great Bible (1539): "For God so loued the worlde, that he gaue his only begotten sonne, that whosoeuer beleueth in him, shulde not perisshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe."
  • Tyndale (1534): "For God so loveth the worlde, that he hath geven his only sonne, that none that beleve in him, shuld perisshe: but shuld have everlastinge lyfe."
  • Wycliff (1380): "for god loued so the world; that he gaf his oon bigetun sone, that eche man that bileueth in him perisch not: but haue euerlastynge liif,"
Before this Wycliff version, the language gets fairly hard to read. For example, consider this Anglo-Saxon manuscript of 995 AD and its rendering of John 3:16:
"God lufode middan-eard swa, dat he seade his an-cennedan sunu, dat nan ne forweorde de on hine gely ac habbe dat ece lif."
So, as the language continues to change, we need Bible versions to change along with it. God intended the Bible to be read, studied, memorized and applied to our lives. I do not think He intended us to worship it!

The SBC and Public Schools: At it again!

In his daily column on, Southern Seminary president Al Mohler has noted that the issue of Christians and public schools will once again be raised at next week's convention. In that article, he says:

As the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in Nashville next week, the issue of public education is once again at the center of potential controversy. For the second year in a row, proposed resolutions have been submitted to the denomination's Committee on Resolutions, calling for Christians to reconsider support for the nation's public school system.

Last year, retired Air Force General T. C. Pinckney and Houston attorney Bruce N. Shortt submitted a resolution calling for Southern Baptists to remove their children from "government schools." In explaining the proposed resolution, Pinckney said that public schools "now must be in the United States officially godless," adding: "This amounts to an artificial compartmentalization of life." An influential conservative leader and former SBC second vice president, Pinckney had urged the Convention to pass the resolution. "We believe it is time for the SBC to take a biblical stand on this issue," he said.

You can head the whole article here.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Fleeting Thought about Jesus and Judges

With all the fuss over "tyrannical judges" today, I was reading this passage from Luke 18 and it made me think. First, read the passage and make note of the qualities of this judge in Jesus' story:
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.

"There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'"

And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
This man did not fear God nor did he respect man (or widowed woman). Jesus drives this point home by repeated it twice (verse 2 and 4). When Jesus repeats something, He does it for a reason - He wants us to take note.

Now, I realize that an argument from silence is the worst possible argument but it is still strong enough to make you stop and go, "Hmmm!" When Jesus told of this horrible, even tyrranical judge who refused to do what was right with this lady except for personal self-serving reasons, listen carefully to what Jesus did NOT say.

Christ did not tell the widow to write her political leaders and complain. Jesus did not tell her to mount a campaign to get new judges. The Lord did not tell her to hold public hearings in the media of the day to oust this man from his seat of power.

I know, I know. Jesus wasn't trying to make a point about judicial power run amuk. In fact, He tells us the purpose of the parable in verse 1: "we ought to pray and not to lose heart."

Wait a minute - maybe this story does apply to our current events.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Let the Bible Speak: The Final Coroner's Report

Previously, we have seen that the Bible declares that man is blind, deaf and dead. All in all, I count seven things that God says a sinner CANNOT do. It is important to see that the Holy Spirit uses the word “cannot” in all seven instances. To say that the sinner really can do these things if he really wants to distorts and contradicts the Bible. In the matters below, the Bible does not say man "will not" but instead says that man universally "can not." It is not a matter of WILL. It is a matter of ABILITY.
  1. Man is totally blind. John 3:3 tells us “no once can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” We must understand the relationship between “sight” and “seeing.” Do we get sight by seeing or do we see because we have sight? Which is the cause and which is the effect? Would it really help a blind man to shine a 10,000 watt bulb in his eyes as opposed to a 100 watt bulb? Of course not! He needs sight before he can see anything. The sinner’s problem is the same. He is spiritually blind and cannot see “the Light” until he receives sight. How does he do this? He is given sight by God.
  2. Man is mentally deficient. Fallen man cannot understand a single spiritual thing. Paul tells us that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor 2:14). Again notice the cause and effect, as indicted by the word “for.” Why can’t he understand the things of God? Because they are spiritually discerned and he does not have the Spirit of God. When you trusted Christ because you found Him desirable, that was not your old nature that gave you that knowledge. That understanding came from your new nature. That new nature was given to you by God - it's called regeneration.
  3. Man is totally deaf. Jesus asked “Why don’t you understand what I say? Because you are unable to hear what I say. . . . If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43, 47). Once again, we see the same cause/effect relationship. There was no understanding BECAUSE the ability to hear was not present.
  4. Man is totally powerless. Jesus tells us in John 14:17 that He “will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” Jude 19 says that "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts (KJV=”sensual”) and do not have the Spirit.” The lost man is sensual; meaning all he can comprehend is that which comes through his senses. That is not how the Spirit is understood. “God is Spirit and He must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth.”
  5. Man is totally mute. Unregenerate man cannot even “call on the Lord” until he is renewed by grace. Paul tells us that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 12:3). In Matthew 16, Simon confessed that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told Peter that only God could have revealed that to him; he could not say those words meaningfully on his own.
  6. Man is spiritually paralyzed. Man cannot even “come” to Christ until given spiritual life. Two verses we have already examined in John 6 must always be kept together. The first verse shows the total inability of the sinner and the second shows the utter certainty of repentance when the Spirit does call. Jesus taught that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (John 6:44-45). Notice the contrast: no one can – UNTIL - and everyone will - WHEN. Furthermore, consider Jesus’ words about “listening” to the Father and “learning” from Him in relation to our earlier discussion man’s mental and auditory ability.
  7. Man cannot respond. It should be clear from the above that lost men can no more give a spiritual response to spiritual truth than a physically dead man can respond to a ham sandwich. Jesus says “Without me you can do NOTHING.” In saying that, did Christ mean “nothing except make the first move to Me”?

I don't know how many of you are medically trained, but if you were to see a person who had no ability to perceive visual stimuli, no abililty to receive auditory stimuli, no ability to emit vocal sounds, no brain activity, completely devoid of power, completely devoid of motor skills and possessing no response to external stimuli, what would your diagnosis be? A trained coroner would say, "The man is without a single bit of evidence of life. He is DEAD."

Now, what if you found out that a man, in his spirit, was blind, deaf, mute, brain-dead, powerless, paralyzed and unable to respond to any stimuli, what would be your diagnosis? A theologian would say “The man is without a single evidence of spiritual life. He is SPIRITUALLY DEAD.”

And yet we argue that this man is not dead but merely sick?!?

Let the Bible Speak: Being Dead

Do you remember the first time you discovered what “dead” was? I was about ten, I suppose. I had a Red Ryder BB gun (complete with solid wood stock and leather tassel hanging from a ring). I was a pretty good shot. Too good sometimes. One afternoon at my grandmother’s house in Salisbury I took aim at a bird and fired. To my surprise, it came tumbling out of the tree and fell to the ground. It was dead. I killed it. I couldn’t get it to move, though I tried a quite a while. That day, I think I learned what it meant to be dead.

Most of us who consider ourselves rational do not need to be reminded of the quality of death. It surrounds us everyday and has touched our lives in very close and personal ways. If there’s one thing we know as human beings is this: dead means dead.

However, we easily forget that when we enter the world of the Bible. The Bible uses that word “dead” to describe humanity on more than a few occasions. Our heads tell us that “dead=dead” but our hearts object and begin to question our rationality. Consider a common approach to a very familiar passage: Ephesians 2:1-5:

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

Paul basically repeats these words in his letter to Colossians. He wrote, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col 2:13).

In this passage, we see the following:

The sinner is “dead in . . . transgressions and sins.” The text is pretty clear here. The Greek word is “nekros” which is the same word used for physical death. Unbelievers are obviously alive physically, emotionally, intellectually, but, at the same time, they are dead. As Paul puts it, they were dead, even while, in the next verse they lived and followed the ways of this world. In out attempt to ease the meaning, we have come up with three optional definitions:

  • Man is well: Some say sin is a quaint yet old-fashioned way of seeing things, believing that we have evolved past such notions. It is hard to find one in the church today who believes such.
  • Man is sick: Perhaps, man is even mortally sick. Realists rightly observe that if people are as healthy as the former believe, then how do we explain all that is happening around us? Realists believe that something is basically wrong with man. Still, the situation is not hopeless - bad or even desperate maybe – but not hopeless.
  • Man is dead: Man is dead, at least as far as his relationship with God is concerned. Like a corpse, man is unable to make the first move toward life. In the same way, a man dead spiritually cannot make the first move toward LIFE - God. The dead man will never think the first thought toward God or even respond to God – UNLESS God brings the spiritually dead corpse back to life. Just as the blind man needs new eyes to see, the dead man needs life. The Apostle Paul says this is EXACTLY what God does (see verse 5).

The sinner is “enslaved.” We follow the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” We are enslaved to our own fleshly desires – SIN. Peter wrote that “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Peter 2:19).

The sinner “actively practices evil.” The nonbeliever is spiritually dead but is also physically alive, walking around in sinful rebellion against God. Paul says we “followed the ways of this world ... gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” A reasonable image would be a ZOMBIE from bad horror-movies.

The sinner is “by nature an object of God’s wrath.” Most people hardly take this seriously, instead saying things like “I can’t believe in an all-loving God who would …” But if sin is as bad as the Bible says it is, the most natural thing in the world is for the wrath of a holy God to rise up against it.

Unregenerate man is neither sick nor ailing. He is dead, desiccated, rotting. The typical evangelistic understanding is that man is floating in the ocean, almost drowning. He is just about ready to "go down for the third time." But, you the witness, if you can just toss the life preserver in the right direction, he might be able to put just a finger on it, grab on and be saved.

The only problem with that illustration is that it does not square with the Bible's description of man. He is not drowning; he is dead! He is not struggling on the surface waiting for someone to toss a life preserver his way. He is laying on the ocean floor - dead. He does not need a life vest - he needs to be brought back to life.

Therefore, the preacher and the witness must see himself or herself as speaking in a graveyard, not making visits in a hospital. Is the witness preaching to people who can reason their way into the kingdom? Then salvation is ultimately up to the preacher and the listener. Is he preaching to people who can initiate their salvation? Then he better make a good show of it – a man’s eternity is at stake. Or, is he preaching to dead men? Then, his confidence will rest squarely on the work of God and nothing else. Our audience is spiritually dead and only God can bring life as He works through the power of His Word.

A nigh-pentecostal neo-orthodox fundamentalist Calvinist???

I'll admit I'm not surprised at all by the outcome of this quiz but pretty shocked at #2 and #3 (until reading what the remaining choices are!). Here are my results:

You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Classical Liberal




Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal




Which Version Is Best?

Ever since John Wycliffe finished his English translation of the Bible way back in 1382, English-speaking people have tried again and again to produce the perfect translation. The success of Wycliffe’s Bible led to William Tyndale’s version in 1526. Soon after Tyndale, English Bibles exploded on the scene: Coverdale’s Bible in 1535; Matthew’s Bible in 1537; the Great Bible in 1539; Geneva Bible in 1557; the Bishop’s Bible in 1568 and the King James Version in 1611.

The King James dominated the scene until Britain’s English Revised Version (ERV) was published in 1881. Across the pond, American’s wanted their own Bible so a committee revised this newest translation to produce the American Standard Version (ASV) in 1901. It was very close to the ERV, basically changing idioms, spelling and word order. This ASV was very accurate and very literal. Some criticized it for being too stiff and unnatural. It most certainly did not carry the poetic beauty of the KJV. Concerning this version, Charles Spurgeon once said, “Strong in Greek, weak in English.”

In 1952, the ASV was revised and the Revised Standard Version (RSV) came on the scene. However, although very little of the ASV remains in the RSV. Overall, it is a decent Bible (especially the New Testament) but it took some well-deserved criticism for its unfortunate translation of several key passages in the Old Testament (such as Isaiah 7:14 and Genesis 22:18). Because of this, the RSV never really took off and is regarded with disdain by much of the conservative evangelical community.

A new era of Bible proliferation opened in the late 1900s: New American Standard Bible in 1971 ( a revision of the 1901 ASV); New International Version in 1978; the New King James Version in 1979; the New Revised Standard Version in 1989 and many more.

Some of these are very good (NASB, NKJV), some are good (NIV) and some are not so good (NRSV, Contemporary English Version, New Century Version, The Message, etc.).

My own denomination jumped on this Bible-producing bandwagon and produced the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) in 1999 to very positive reviews. Another recent addition to the list is the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV is quickly becoming a very popular Bible all across evangelicalism.

In the next few weeks, I want to take the time to review some of these newer Bibles. I hope to give you the positives and negatives of some of the more popular and noteworthy translations to come our way. Be on the lookout for these and post any comments or questions you might have in the meantime.