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Why So Many Bible Translations (Pastor Rigo Mercado)

 

Have you ever wondered why there are so many Bible translations out there? We hear Christians say I read the New Kings James, another says I read the New International Version, and still another says the Message translation is the best.  Why so many translations?

The Bible was originally written in three languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek.  What Bible Scholars do is read the Bible in their original languages and translate it into today’s modern language.  The three primary ways the Bible is translated into English from its original text is through the following methods: word-for-word, thought-for-thought and free translation.

The word-for-word method of translation is also referred to as “literal” translation.  In this method the original word choice and phrases of the biblical authors are used.  The advantage of this method is that it keeps the translator’s own interpretation to a minimum. The disadvantage of this translation is that it can be hard to understand at times and seem stiff and unfamiliar. Over time, though, you can get used to its style.

The thought-for-thought translation approach uses everyday language familiar to English readers. This translation method is easier to understand, and it does not lose its original meaning. The disadvantage of this approach is that it usually refers to the translators writing what they think it means, instead of what the original text says word-for-word.  Thus, we may miss some of the nuances in the wording that the original writers intended for us to see.

Finally, there is what is called free translation or paraphrase (the far extreme of thought-for-thought). The purpose of this approach is to give the reader a flow of the general ideas of the bible in simplistic ways and at times render sentences in new ways. This approach can be used as more of a commentary to help clarify what you may not fully understand in other translations. The Message Bible is an example of this.  The down side of these translations is that the reader is relying heavily on the translators to explain the meaning through their own language, and thus one will definitely miss out on the subtle “brush strokes” that the writers of Scripture intended. And sometimes, in an effort to “explain” the text the translators will add qualifiers that weren’t included by the original writers. For example, Matthew 18:35 in the NKJV reads, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” The Message Bible reads, “And that’s exactly what My Father in Heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” The phrase “anyone who asks for mercy” was not a qualifier in the original text. The writer of the MSG bible is inserting his own idea of when forgiveness is commanded and when it is not.

So what translation should you read? The one that helps you understand the truths of the Word of God. There is no right or wrong translation to use, however it is always good to read different translations for your personal devotional readings and especially when preparing to teach from the Bible.

No matter what Bible translation you read, always remember the Holy Spirit is our teacher and ask Him to help you understand the deep treasures of the Word of God.

 

The Graph below shows which translation method each of today’s Bible versions fall under:

bible translations

Advent – Day 11: Savor the Wait (Hunter Hall)

I am not good at waiting. In fact, I can’t stand surprises. If I know something is coming, I want it right then. Obviously this trait is exposed every year at Christmas. Growing up, I remember looking for—and sometimes finding—my Christmas presents each year. I was a joy thief. I was so discontent in the waiting that I missed the beauty in the anticipation of what was to come.

For centuries, the Israelites waited and waited for their Messiah to come. Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born to a virgin some 700 years before Christ was born. That is a lot of waiting! Day after day, year after year, the people of God sat in the unknown of when their Savior would come. I don’t know how they made it. If the Israelites were anything like me, I imagine them asking daily when the Messiah would come. “When will our Deliverer come rescue us?” “When will the Child be born who will carry the government on His shoulders?” But they waited. Like watchmen who wait in the darkness for the dawn of morning, they anticipated His coming.

And then, in the middle of an unassuming night, the sky lit up with the glory of the Lord. A symphony of angels delivered the great proclamation to the shepherds in the field, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The time had finally arrived. The prophecy was fulfilled. Emmanuel had come.

So where does this leave us today? It is easy to look back at the Israelites and not give a second thought to their longing for the Messiah to come. We understand that Christ came. We know that He lived a perfect life on this earth. We know that He died a horrific death. We are confident that He was raised on the third day. We know that He sits at our Father’s right side. But I think we would be wise to enter into the longing they felt—because Christ is coming again.

Anticipation for the Lord’s return should be in our hearts daily. Our prayers should be filled with requests for the Lord to come rescue us. As we share the hope of Christ with the lost, there should be urgency in our voices, knowing that at any moment the King could return. My hope is that we would be a people who are settled in the assurance that Jesus is coming again. But I pray that, as we wait, we would do so with joyful expectation in our step.

We have something before us to look forward to that is even bigger than Christmas. We have something to set our minds and hearts on that is greater than presents. Our Deliverer is coming for us!

Combating Religion In Our Hearts (Chris Francis, stolen from Tim Keller)

Man-made religion is not something we choose to believe. It’s something we naturally drift towards. It’s a result of sin. And so even after we come to know Christ as Savior and submit to him as Lord, we still must battle the every-day inclination to drift back toward man-made religion in our every-day lives.

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, wrote a list of some of the differences between religion and the gospel and how they play out in our thinking and behavior.

Read them.

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RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

 

That list was pretty eye-opening, right?

The only thing left to do is pray.

Forgive us, Father, for the ways that we allow religion to drive our thoughts and motivations and behaviors. Help us, by the power of your Spirit, to trust more fully in the Amazing Grace that you have poured out on us. May we not just believe in your gospel, but may we be driven by it in everything we say and do and think. Amen.

 

Hating Evil (John Hansen)

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 97:10 NIV

 

There are plenty of evil things in this world to hate.  So many things that leave us feeling disturbed and disgusted and angry.

 

It’s easy to feel hatred for evil that is in the world and then naturally the people who perpetrate those evils…  “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is what we’ve been told over the years, right?  It’s an attempt to address how quick we are to feel anger and hatred toward the people who do evil.

 

But how often to do we read this verse and allow it to turn our hate for evil inwards.  With all the atrocities that exist in the world today, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the one particular set of evils that we have the most power to address and conquer—and that’s the evil that WE carry out.

 

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil (IN THEIR OWN LIVES)”.

 

If we really let this sink in and become a sort of anthem, how much more open and receptive would we be to the Holy Spirit as we join him on a mission to identify and address any evil actions, behaviors or attitudes that we carry around every day.

 

“…for he guards the lives of his FAITHFUL ones…”

 

Maybe our faithfulness is more profoundly measured by how committed we are to hate the evil in our own lives.  Are we supposed to hate the external evil that we observe in the world?  Of course.  And we should do whatever is in our power to address that as well and be a part of bringing change and justice.  But if we are doing all that and failing to place more emphasis on the evil in our own life—even if it does seem insignificant and justified to us—aren’t we just hypocrites?

 

Think about it.  The most horrific evils we’ve learned about in history and today find it’s origin in the form of things like pride, jealousy, greed, lust.  These are internal things that we all deal with.  Things that remain internal and seemingly innocent until they graduate into an external action that causes observable suffering in others.

 

It seems a strong argument to say that most of the world’s evil that we so easily hate could have been prevented if the perpetrators had simply committed themselves to hate the evil in their own hearts enough to let God deal with it.  Maybe the scripture is trying to tell us that only THEN is when God,

 

“…delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

From their own hand perhaps.

Food for thought.

HOLY RESIGNATION (by Dorothy Greco)

My husband and I have given up on trying to change each other

 

My husband and I had a rather unique path down the aisle to “I do.” Our relationship, round one, was characterized by times of idyllic friendship which inched us toward emotional intimacy, which resulted in him hitting the eject button. Repeatedly.

Whenever he said he needed space, I obeyed the letter of his law but not the spirit. Within a month, we were back together, typically because of my charitable, good nature (read: I was a skilled manipulator). This cyclical drama culminated in a proposal (we had a good week) and a short engagement. Not short because we planned a quick wedding, but short because he panicked and called everything off.

His decision precipitated two years of separation, two years of counseling, two years of coming to terms with some significant fears and broken patterns of relating–for both of us. By the time he re-initiated contact, we had each made significant progress toward relational wholeness. This time, his proposal stuck and we celebrated our nuptials with friends and family who admittedly remained somewhat suspicious of our sanity.

During our 22 years together, he has never freaked out and I’ve never manipulated him (one of these is true). However, on more than one occasion, we have sailed through some serious turbulence.

Though we share many things in common (faith, blue-collar background, education, and passion for the arts), we have had to navigate significant personality differences. He’s Italian. He likes loud, sustained conversations that go well into the night. I like to be in bed, with a book, at 9:00. He thinks I fail as host if there’s not five times as much food on the table as our guests could ever eat. I hate wasting food. He has TDD (Time Discrepancy Disorder–don’t bother googling it. I made it up.) I’ve learned that when he calls to tell me he’s leaving work, I need to ask, “Define leaving. Is your computer browser still open or is your key in the ignition?” Little things these. To quote Eeyore, “We all have our ways.”

In addition to our sometimes opposite personalities, we also have areas of inherent weakness—places within us which are not fully developed. I tend to shut down in conflict, mostly out of fear that my out-of-control words will draw blood. During a fight early in our marriage, he had to wait almost an hour before I could articulate one complete sentence about what was going on for me. To hear him recount this, he felt as if he were covered in fire ants with his hands tied behind his back. Conflict does not intimidate him; his fear surfaces whenever a power tool is needed. Saw a piece of clapboard to replace what the dog gnawed off as he chased the chipmunk? Not happening. Ever.

In such situations, we can feel disappointed with each other. While it might be good for a laugh now and then, long term, these near misses land couples in the lawyer’s office. We all enter marriage with specific, though often unspoken, expectations about what our husband or wife needs to/ought to/should be. Some of these expectations are godly and necessary in order for a marriage to work: fidelity, honesty, partnership, and countless others that form the foundation of a solid marriage.

If these were the only types of expectations we carried down the aisle, the divorce rate would drop significantly. Whether we realize it or not, each of us downloads countless expectations during the course of our lives. For instance, my dad can fix anything. If he doesn’t know how, he will figure it out. I assumed my spouse would at least try to do home repairs. The fact that he doesn’t occasionally irritates me. His mother prepared Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings as well as antipasto and two trays of lasagna—with extra sauce on the side. It frustrates my husband that I simply can’t recreate his family’s abundant table.

We’ve tried to change each other via some combination of advising, teaching, manipulating, pleading, praying, and “helping.” I will surprise no one as I write that none of these tactics work. In fact, I would argue that all of them actually cause the marriage to disintegrate.

The only strategy that has been remotely helpful has required a paradigm shift. Rather than give up on my husband with an exasperated sigh accompanied by a requisite droop of the shoulders, I consciously choose to accept him, limitations and all, and simply refuse to judge or reject him. I call this holy resignation.

Holy resignation permits me to appreciate my husband and his many extraordinary qualities without needing him to be someone else. Because this is not my default, it requires both intentionality and faith. By intentionality, I mean that I have to pay attention when feelings of irritation surface and then ruthlessly push their little heads back under. This is not denial—my eyes are wide open. Such counterintuitive behavior necessitates an ongoing dialogue with Jesus in which I repeatedly ask him to provide me with the requisite love, mercy, and patience. Remarkably, he does not seem troubled by the routine nature of my need!

My husband may never pick up the circular saw—and I may never replicate his mother’s Thanksgiving—but by choosing this path, we have discovered how to truly prosper despite our many differences.

Have Sex With Your Husband More Often (by Rachel Hansen)

If you are a woman who isn’t having sex with her husband then I salute you for taking the risk to wander into this potential land mine of a blog post. I must warn you though, I’m not the kind to pull any punches so put your big girl panties on and let’s tackle this thing together. If you are having frequent sex with your husband but I’ve peeked your curiosity I hope this post encourages you in some way. And if you’re a man who is going to read this and forward the link to your wife, well you are one brave man! 

The Bible is full of thoughts and advice on sex. It’s clear God wants us to have it and enjoy it – an entire book of the Bible is dedicated to the pursuit of two lovers (and in case you didn’t know, the book of Song of Songs was off limits to Jews until they were of marrying age). Where Song of Songs is pretty erotic and sensual, 1 Corinthians 7 goes into more explicit practical advice and even commandments about not refusing one another or abstaining unless it’s mutual and for a short period of time that was only set apart for prayer. Many Christian marriages are abstaining currently, but it’s not by mutual consent and the time isn’t being spent solely in prayer nor is it a short period – when’s the last time YOU’VE had sex?So why are way too many of my friends NOT having more frequent GOOD sex with their husbands?

Besides being a wife, I am a mom to two very active kids, one entering the teens soon and full of that wonderful drama. I volunteer a LOT and end most days feeling like life has been drained out of me. On top of all that, I was a victim of sexual abuse for most of my childhood. There are a lot more reasons we tend to put off our husbands and if you have more to add then you certainly have a bigger challenge. I want to acknowledge that our problems and the stress caused by them can contribute to our sex (or lack of) life. I don’t want to discount our issues or tell you (as more than one well meaning person has said to me while I was in a pile of tears) that you need to “just get over it.”

As a Christian women, one thing I’ve been very convicted of lately though is something I’d love to get into your mind. Underneath all our issues, underneath all our busyness and lack of desire for our husbands I really want you to really get this – not having sex with your husband is a sin.

Unless your husband has physically cheated on you and there is concern of STD’s – or your husband has some other issue where he should be in the justice system (like sexual attempts or actions on children, physical abuse of you or someone else, you get the idea) there isn’t a reason you can say that is justifiable for your lack of a good sex life.*

I know we get busy. I know our minds can wander (and yes I mean during sex). And hell, there is nothing much more disturbing than seeing your perpetrator’s face in the middle of getting it on with your husband… we have all kinds of reasons to avoid sex. All kinds of hurts. All kinds of wrong thoughts from our upbringing. Maybe sex was such a taboo topic in your house that even though you didn’t suffer from any traditional kind of sexual abuse you still carry the stigma that ‘sex is bad.’ Maybe you just don’t like your husband all that much these days and the thought of him touching you skeeves you out. These are ALL very real reasons women suffer and tell their husbands no night after night. And if your husband hasn’t even asked you in a while that’s an even worse sign of where your sex life is currently and where your marriage is headed.

I don’t say all this to make you feel bad. I just want to say that I get it. I understand that sex isn’t the top of your list most days. And all the road blocks to making it happen can be crazy insurmountable at times. But until we get it in our hearts that we are sinning in this area we cannot begin to heal and overcome.

Sometimes I think we can get real proud of all we do. I made a homemade dinner for my family. I drive my kids to school so they don’t have to take the bus. I keep the house spic and span for my husband. I volunteer in a hundred places. I’m part of the PTA. I go to church and sing on the worship team. I’m always there for my friends. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I didn’t have sex before marriage (ironic NOW isn’t it?).

It’s like we’re saying, “Look how good I am God! All for you!” And God whispers back, “Great, now go have sex with your Husband!”

Maybe you believe the lie that God isn’t relevant to your sex life. Or that it’s not applicable to a Christian life or our spirituality. But know that the Christian life is about surrender and trust in God. I’m sure you do it already in a lot of areas. Sex is something God created just like His other creations. I’m willing to bet and want to challenge you on this thought: if you’re not having sex with your husband you are not surrendered to and trusting God fully.

Reasons. I know I touched some nerves. Your mind is flooded right now with reasons YOU are exempt from that truth. Please stay with me here. Would you accept any reason to stay in sin from someone who is doing a sin you detest? Think about the sin you hate the most (we all have that ONE that rubs us the wrong way) and ask yourself – is there ANY reason that person could give you where you’d say, “Ok you’re right, no one else but YOU is exempt. Feel free to indulge.”

Now understand that you wouldn’t expect someone sinning to drop everything and change in a day. Of course there is a process. Let me be very transparent here for the sake of gaining your heart. Thanks largely in part to a life of sexual abuse as a child, for a long time sex for me was terrible as a married woman. That did NOT change in a day. There were times I’d start crying in the middle, put things on hold, make myself say my husband’s name over and over in my head or even out loud (discreetly of course to avoid ruining the mood for him), times I’d run to the bathroom and throw up when we were done and many nights I cried myself to sleep when it was all said and done. To be clear in case it isn’t already, my husband was not pushing me into things (and for his sake I kept him as ignorant as possible to many of my struggles). This was at a point where I so desperately wanted to overcome this issue and would not back down. However, in all fairness to the reader my past wasn’t my only issue, my husband added to the problem with his own issues and sins. But boy did I get through that – and let me tell you if you’re struggling, you CAN overcome a past, you can overcome any issue your husband may be bringing to the table and you CAN have a healthy sex life that you ENJOY.

No matter your issue, how big or how small, can you be brave? Can you surrender your sex life to God? Scripture says we are to deal violently with sin. If your hand offends you cut it off, if your eye offends you gouge it out! This exaggerated talk is to make a point that you don’t coddle sin and make excuses for it, you DEAL with it and OVERCOME the issues. It’s hard. So what. It’s scary. So what. It’s not something you desire. So what. So what. So what. Sin robs, sin steals, sin is terrible, horrible, and from an enemy that hates your guts. DECIDE that you won’t play around with it anymore, no matter what it takes. Cut if off, gouge it out.

To be blunt, if your answer is “well you just don’t know what he did to me…” or “you can’t possibly know how I feel…” then I guess you’d better go get the divorce papers now. Many people are quick to say that divorce is a sin then they trap their spouse in a loveless, sexless marriage instead. In all reality, they are both sins. At least with divorce you aren’t being fake and putting an image out into the community of a perfectly fine marriage. Or another thing we do, blast our sexless marriage details out there or admit to everyone we can’t stand our spouse and make a mockery of the power of God in our marriage and in our lives.

As hard as it can be, the better answer is surrender. Give into God, trust HIM. You think things are bad now, no matter how bad they are they can be exponentially GREATER when God gets involved. You can love your husband again. You can want him again. You can have everything God wants for you. What are you waiting for?

I want to challenge you to take a HUGE step of faith. Grab the phone and call a friend or family member – ask them to watch the kids tonight at their place. Text your husband something naughty and tell him how you desire him and can’t wait for him to be home… then spend the rest of the day thinking about him. Think about how you felt when you were young and in love – how handsome he is to you, how the curve of his body fits right into yours… think anything and everything that is true and noble, lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phillippians 4:8).

And when you hit those bumps in the road, don’t give up. Don’t let one bad moment ruin a potentially awesome thing. Hang in there. Try again. You can do this.

*If you have a valid reason like ones I stated or one I missed then staying with your husband but not having sex with him is not the answer and won’t fix anything. Alternatively, a marriage involving a sex addict situation is a lot more complicated and simply having more sex will not only not fix your marriage but will put more undue pressure and stress on you as a wife. If you need help please get it for yourself and others and either get out of your marriage or get into therapy with your husband. Don’t just settle for what you have currently if it’s broken, get help! My opinion and advice does not presuppose I know everything about your personal situation. If you feel my advice is off the mark for you then please seek wise counsel for the safety of your family. This post was written for the average married woman who has average normal issues in her marriage and I am not attempting to give advice to anyone whose spouse is involved in illegal activity.

 

Advent – Day 11

Instead of a written thought – check out this short but powerful video about Advent: God With Us.

The Day I Left My Marriage (Becky Zerbe)

The following story was taken from “Today’s Christian Woman.”

____________

The day had come. I’d lasted as long as I could in my marriage. Once my husband, Bill, left for work, I packed a bag for myself and our 14-month-old son and left our home. It was the only year in our married life when we lived in the same town as my parents. Obviously the convenience of being able to run to Mom and Dad made my decision to leave Bill easier.

With a tear-stained, angry face, I walked into Mom’s kitchen. She held the baby while I sobbed my declaration of independence. After washing my face and sipping a cup of coffee, Mom told me she and Dad would help me. They’d be there for me, which brought me great comfort.

“But before you leave Bill,” she said, “I have one task for you to complete.”

Mom put down my sleeping son, took a pen and sheet of paper, and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page. She told me to list in the left column all the things Bill did that made him impossible to live with. As I looked at the dividing line, I thought she’d then tell me to list all his good qualities on the right-hand side. I was determined to have a longer list of bad qualities on the left. This is going to be easy, I thought. I started immediately to scribble down the left column.

Bill never picked his clothes off the floor. He never told me when he was going outside. He slept in church. He had embarrassing, nasty habits such as blowing his nose or belching at the dinner table. He never bought me nice presents. He refused to match his clothes. He was tight with money. He wouldn’t help with the housework. He didn’t talk with me.

The list went on and on, until I’d filled the page. I certainly had more than enough evidence to prove that no woman would be able to live with this man.

Smugly I said, “Now I guess you’re going to ask me to list all Bill’s good qualities on the right side.”

“No,” Mom said. “I already know Bill’s good qualities. Instead, for each item on the left side, I want you to write how you respond. What do you do?”

This was even tougher. I’d been thinking about Bill’s few, good qualities I could list. I hadn’t considered thinking about myself. I knew Mom wasn’t going to let me get by without completing her assignment. So I had to start writing.

I’d pout, cry, and get angry. I’d be embarrassed to be with him. I’d act like a “martyr.” I’d wish I’d married someone else. I’d give him the silent treatment. I’d feel I was too good for him. The list seemed endless.

When I reached the bottom of the page, Mom picked up the paper and went to the drawer. She took scissors and cut the paper down the vertical line. Taking the left column, she wadded it in her hand and tossed it into the trash. Then she handed me the right column with the list of my reactions.

“Take this list back to your house,” she told me. “Spend today reflecting on these things in your life. Pray about them. I’ll keep the baby until this afternoon. If you sincerely do what I ask and still want to leave Bill, Dad and I will do all we can to assist you.”

Leaving my luggage and son, I drove back to my house. When I sat on my couch with the piece of paper, I couldn’t believe what I was facing. Without the balancing catalogue of Bill’s annoying habits, the list looked horrifying.

I saw a record of petty behaviors, shameful practices, and destructive responses. I spent the next several hours asking God for forgiveness. I requested strength, guidance, and wisdom in the changes I needed to make. As I continued to pray, I realized how ridiculously I’d behaved. I could barely remember the transgressions I’d written for Bill. How absurd could I be? Nothing immoral or horrible was on that list. I’d honestly been blessed with a good man—not a perfect one, but a good one.

I thought back five years. I’d made a vow to Bill. I would love and honor him in sickness and in health. I’d be with him for better or for worse. I said those words in the presence of God, my family, and friends. Yet only this morning, I’d been ready to leave him for trivial annoyances.

I jumped back in the car and drove to my parents’ house. I marveled at how different I felt from when I’d first made the trip to see Mom. I now felt peace, relief, and gratitude.

When I picked up my son, I was dismayed by how willing I’d been to make such a drastic change in his life. My pettiness almost cost him the opportunity to be exposed daily to a wonderful father. Quickly, I thanked my mother and flew out the door to return home. By the time Bill returned from work, I was unpacked and waiting.

I’d love to say that Bill changed. He didn’t. He still did all those things that embarrassed and annoyed me and made me want to explode.

The difference came in me. From that day forward, I had to be responsible not only for my actions in our marriage, but also for my reactions.

I think back to one of the items on my list: Bill slept in church. The minute he began to doze always marked the end of my worship time. So often I thought he was rudely uninterested in the message—and my dad was the preacher! It didn’t matter that Bill was unable to stay awake any time he sat for a longer period. The entire time he spent nodding, I spent fuming. I’d squirm in the pew, feeling humiliated. I’d wonder why I ever married this man. I knew he didn’t deserve a wife as godly as I was.

Yet now I could see myself as I truly was. My pride was hampering a valuable portion of my life—my worship. This problem wasn’t Bill’s; it was mine. When Bill fell asleep in church, I began to bathe that time in gratitude and prayer. I took my eyes off Bill and myself and looked to God. Instead of leaving the services in anger, I left in joy.

It wasn’t long before Bill noticed a difference. He remarked at lunch one Sunday, “You seem to be enjoying the services more lately. I was beginning to think you didn’t like the preacher!” My immediate instinct was to explain how he’d ruined so many services for me. But instead, I accepted his statement without defense.

Many times through the years I’ve had to remake the list of my responses to my husband. I’ve continued to ask God to forgive my pathetic reactions and give me his wisdom in dealing with my marriage.

Fifteen years later, at the age of 49, Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He had to quit his teaching job, leaving me to support our family, which has led to trying days and nights of worry. Watching him fight to maintain his abilities to function daily has been inspiring to my sons, as well as to me. We’ve had to depend on our faith that God is in control—especially when we feel so out of control. We’ve searched the Bible for answers to questions we struggle to understand. We’ve spent hours with every emotion from anger to grief. We’ve asked, “Why?” We’ve claimed God’s peace that passes all understanding.

Regrettably, many days I’ve run short on patience, even though I know Bill can’t prevent himself from doing things that try my nerves. I realize my responsibility is to respond with the love God would have me show. I cry to God to love through me—because I know I’m not as capable of loving Bill as God is capable of loving him.

Many times I’ve thanked God for a mother who was a spiritual mentor. Though she must have been tempted, she didn’t preach to me or offer her opinion on my behavior. She guided me in discovering a truth that’s saved a most treasured possession—my marriage. If I hadn’t learned to respond as a Christian wife to Bill’s small problems, I wouldn’t be able to respond appropriately to his larger ones now.

My son came home one day and asked, “Mom, what are we going to do when Dad doesn’t remember us?” My reply was, “We’ll remember him. We’ll remember the husband and father he was. We’ll remember him for all the things he’s taught us and the wonderful ways he’s loved us.”

After my son left the room, I chuckled. I was thinking of all the things I’d remember about this man who loved his family and his God. Many of those enduring memories are those same annoying little habits that made their way onto a list of bad qualities so many years ago.

True Life Chronicles – Part 2

This past week has had many highs and lows for me personally when it comes to this church thing. I’m gonna’ write about one of each, both of which occurred outside of Sunday morning.

The low happened last Wednesday. A few months ago Dan & Gina Sachowski, who are part of True Life, introduced me to a couple they are friends with whose 19-month old daughter was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer back in April. She’s been in the hospital 90% of the time since then under-going chemo treatments, and will be in the hospital for at least another year for 90% of the time. I have talked to the mom and dad, but hadn’t met them face-to-face yet. I went up to Robert Wood on Wednesday to meet the father, Lou, and his little Gwen.

Now I’m not a hospital-visit kind of guy. I don’t normally jump at opportunities to go to hospitals to visit people, especially people I don’t know. But there was something about the conversations I had with this couple, plus the fact that I have a daughter who is little Gwen’s age, that compelled me to want to meet them.

I got there while Gwen was asleep, and I talked with Lou quietly about all the details of the situation. As I listened to him explain how they manage, what they’re dealing with financially, the difficulties of caring for their other two kids, my head started to spin. I tried to imagine going through what they’re going through, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine having my daughter Kayla in the hospital 24/7 hooked up to all these tubes, having to go through 5 rounds of chemo in order to have surgery to remove a tumor in her abdomen. I couldn’t imagine not knowing exactly what the outcome is going to be. I couldn’t imagine barely ever seeing my wife because one of us has to always be at the hospital.

After about an hour, I prayed for them and then said goodbye. And I walked out of there feeling very small. Small because I’ve never known that kind of pain. Small because I couldn’t really offer anything all that helpful. Small because everything else that I needed to get done didn’t seem all that important, anymore. I just felt small in a very sobering, perspective-renewing kind of way. And it was good for me.

I also left wanting to spend more time with Lou. He’s a very likable guy, knows all the nurses names, very friendly, and very honest about how painful it is. Part of me wanted to stay around the hospital a little longer — not because I thought I could help them, but because I was so amazed at how this family is dealing with such pain with such dignity. I hope to spend more time with them.

So as heart-breaking as it was, I’m really glad I went.

Then a few days later I went to the Grand Opening of Decarlo Fitness, owned by Francisco and Michele Escalante (Michele’s maiden name is Decarlo in case you were wondering). And it was awesome to see a dream of theirs finally realized and to get to be there on their special day. And what made it extra awesome was seeing so many True Life people show up to support them, many of whom are new friends of theirs within the last year. True life has formal gatherings on Sunday mornings and during the week in life groups, but our hope from the beginning was that peole would gather and hang out informally during the week in many different ways, supporting each other in the day-to-day things of life. And Saturday was one of the ways that it got to happen — not because a service was being held, but because a couple stepped out in faith and started a business together.

That was really cool.

I’m glad I went there, too.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). 
 

Why Evangelism Is Needed for the Jesus-Follower

‘We Are Always in Need of Evangelism’

by Caesar Kalinowski

Caesar Kalinowski b:w

Discipleship is the process of moving from unbelief to belief about what is true of Jesus and the Gospel, in absolutely every area of life.

Another word for faith is “belief,” and the Bible teaches us that all sin comes from not believing what is true about God. (Romans 14:23)

For many of us, we see evangelism as what happens to bring us (or others) to the point of belief. In contrast, we usually understand discipleship as the process for growth in our Christian life. Evangelism “gets us in the door,” and then the work of discipleship begins.

But let’s look a little closer.

The word evangel means “gospel.” And to evangelize means “to preach the Gospel.” In the same way that we come to put our faith in Jesus by hearing and experiencing the Gospel, we also continue to grow and mature by the light of that same Gospel. This is a lifelong process.

We are always in need of evangelism. In fact, discipleship can be simply understood as the ongoing “evangelizing” of our hearts.

Jesus described it this way. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”

Clear and simple.

And then He went on to say something really interesting: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

In Jesus’ view, the whole thing starts with learning to follow Him–becoming His disciples. As we enter that process, and as a result of it, our lives are transformed and we are set free from guilt, shame and the weight of sin. This is what discipleship is all about! According to Jesus, we are discipled to the truth that sets us free–in every area of our lives.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught … ” (Colossians 2:6,7).

We see that whether we are talking about our own hearts or the hearts and lives of our friends and neighbors, the process of discipleship (evangelism in its truest sense) can begin long before a confession of faith and continue throughout our entire lives. This is what it means to say that the Gospel saves and sanctifies us.

Caear Kalinowski is a church planter, missional strategist and one of founding leaders of Soma Communities. He currently serves as the Director of the GCM Collective and is part of the team at Missio. He is a spiritual entrepreneur and an avid storyteller. His background includes communications for Fortune 500 companies, media production, working with youth, and extensive travel in international missions. He has worked in over 17 countries around the world including Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Burma, India, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic. He worked as a record producer for 12 years before becoming a full-time missionary (aren’t we all…?). He owned and operated several businesses in and around the Chicagoland area, then pastored at a mega-church before moving to Tacoma, Washington in 2004 to help launch Soma. His free eBook, Be the Church, with co-author Seth McBee recently released through the Exponential Resource Series. 

 

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