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Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Questions about Jesus, Baptism, and the Bible

Matthew 7:7-8
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus appreciates people who seek answers.  Christ do for those who don't care, but those who seek, find.  Over the next few weeks, I will answer several questions about religions, heaven, forgiveness, and even racism for people who are seeking answers.  Let me start with a few general questions people have asked about the personality of Jesus, baptism, and the Bible.

Does Jesus have a personality?  Does Jesus have a sense of humor?
Let me start the answer with two points:
1)  People are made in God’s image. Genesis 1:27 – “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

2)  Jesus is God. John 1:1 “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word [Jesus]  was with God, and the Word was God.”

So, people are made in God’s image. We reflect His character the way a mirror reflect our face.  We are God's mirrors.  Granted, because of sin, our ability to reflect God's perfect character is broken; however, just as a shattered mirror still reflects an image (albeit distorted and imperfect), we still reflect the image of God (although imperfectly).  People have personalities because God has a personality. People have a sense of humor because God has a sense of humor. 

Furthermore, Jesus was fully God and fully human. This is a mystery. However, it is an essential element of understanding Jesus's character. Jesus was simultaneously God in every way and also human in every way. Jesus was the perfect example of what humanity was design to be.  Therefore it must be true that Jesus has a personality and a sense of humor.  The stories from Jesus' life also bear this out.  The first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding party--a place of joy and celebration--and he made wine, which is a substance people use to enhance joy at a party.  It seems reasonable that Jesus was at the wedding to party and celebrate with everyone else.

People were drawn to Jesus because he was a real person with an attractive personality.  He had emotions just like the rest of us.  He experienced, sorrow, and anger.  Jesus even showed humor in many of his parables.  We often miss his joke because there is a cultural divide (have you ever watched a comedian from another country and scratched your head because they didn't seem funny, even though everyone else was laughing?  Ever struggled to find humor in British comedy?  There's a cultural divide that affects humor.)  An example of humor is the irony in which Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  We usually miss the humor, but Jesus' original listeners would have caught the ionic humor.

So yes, Jesus had a personality and humor.  An important question for you is this:  do you know Jesus as a person with a personality? Is he a real person to you or is Jesus just a historical figure or a picture you've seen in a stained glass window?  The main point of the Christian faith is that Jesus is not dead, but alive and he wants to have a real personal relationship with you.  He wants you to talk to him like you would to a real person, because he is a real person.  And he must be a real person to you or your religion is just not enough.

What is the difference in immersion and sprinkling as it relates to baptism?
Ephesians 4:5 says, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”  Jesus commanded his followers to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Baptism is how we initiate people into the Christian faith, the family of God, the Church.  There is only one baptism, but it can be celebrated in different forms.

Baptism by immersion is when we "dunk" a person entire body completely under the surface of the water.  It can be done in a baptismal pool, a river, a lake, or any large body of water.  Baptism by immersion is a beautiful ceremony that symbolizes how a person who becomes a Christian has died to their old sinful ways and has been raised to new life as a new creation in Christ.  The person is symbolically buried as they dipped below the water's surface and raised to new life as they are lifted back up.

Another method of baptism that is more common in my Methodist church is sprinkling.  Through sprinkling, the pastor dips their fingers in a bowl of water and sprinkles a few drops of water on the person's head.  Sprinkling as has deep symbolic meaning.  In the Old Testament when God chose the Israelites to be His people, He had His priest sprinkle them with blood and water in a purification rite.  God claimed the Israelites as His very own people, a royal priesthood set apart as holy.  As we sprinkle a person with water through holy baptism, we recognize that God has chosen and purified them to be part of His holy people, the Body of Christ.

Another method of baptism that we see less often in my part of the world (but that is just as valid) is pouring.  Through pouring, a ladle or pitcher is used to pour water over the head of the baptized.  This method recalls how God pours out His Holy Spirit upon those who are baptized into the Christian faith.

In all these methods, we recognize baptism as the sacred ceremony Jesus command us to practice that God uses to pour His grace into our lives.  God does not save us through baptism, but He marks us as His own people and gives us help to grow in the faith.  We want as many as are willing to receive this special help God offers through baptism.  God can and does offer His full assistance regardless of the amount of water we use.  (It has been said that the minimum amount of water necessary for a valid baptism is only three drops--one each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  The amount of water used is not important; faith is what matters.

But why do Methodists (and many other Christian denominations) baptize infants?  Infants are not old enough to understand what God is doing or have faith.  However, their parents (or Christian sponsors) are and they bring their child seeking the assistance of God and the support of the Christian community to raise their child until the child is old enough to understand and have faith for themself.  

Infant baptism is not explicitly recorded in the New Testament.  This is because almost everyone in the New Testament became a Christian as an adult convert from another religion.  When an adult became a Christian they were baptized.  In some places, like Acts 16:31-33, the Scripture says a person was converted and baptized along with his whole household.  The text doesn't say who belonged the household, but this could have included children (possibly even very young children).
It wasn't long though (by the late first century) that Christian parents began having children who they wanted to raise within the Church from the very beginning.  They wanted to mark their children as God's chosen as infants.  Obviously, it is more practical to baptize infants by sprinkling than by immersion.  As Christianity spread worldwide, it became much more common for people to be born into Christian families that wanted to initiate them into the church as infants.

Infant baptism is one of the longest ceremonies we practice in the Christian church.  I don't mean that the service is very long.  Let me explain.  When parents bring me an infant to baptize, I sprinkle water on the child's head and God claims the child as His own and pour out His grace ot help the parents and community of faith raise the child to accept Christ for themself one day.  When the service is over and the parents leave, the sacrament of baptism is still proceeding; it is not over yet.  The infant's baptism will not conclude until the day the child grows up enough to understand and accept faith in Christ for themself.  Then they will come back to the church (maybe not even to me or my church; it could be another) and confirm their faith in Christ as heir Lord and Savior.  It may be 10, 20, even 50 years after the water was sprinkled on their head.  And it is in the moment that they confirm their own faith that the baptism that began in their infancy is finally complete.  So infant baptism in a very long ceremony that could take a decade or more to finish.

One more thing I must state, because I encounter this misunderstanding so often.  Many people confuse christening and baptism.  Sometimes people refer to infant baptism as christening.  So they will sometimes tell me, "I was christen as a baby, but now I want to be baptized as an adult."  If you were christen with water as an infant, you were already baptized.  Christening is one part of the baptismal ceremony.  It is the point in the baptism when we give the child their Christian name.  A long time ago, parents didn't not officially name their child until their baptism.  Then, during the ceremony, the priest asks, "What is the Christian name you give this child?"  And the parents would reply, "Bobbi Sue".  The act of naming the child is christening.  Then the infant is baptized by sprinkling water on it's head in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  God pours out His grace on the child, the parents, the sponsors, and the community of faith that the child may grow up in the Christian faith and one day accept it for him or herself.  God has baptized the child and there is no need to ever do it again.  In fact, as a Methodist minister, I am forbidden to re-baptize a child.  To do so would not make sense.  Sense God is the one who baptizes, to re-baptize would like claiming God didn't do it right the first time.  An initiation only needs to happen once.  We can confirm the initiation or remember the baptism, but we don't re-baptize.

Is the Bible the Word of God to humans or is it humans’ words about God?
I suspect the root what's at the root of this question is the concern (or challenge) about the Bible's divine inspiration and/or reliability. This Bible is inspired by God and it is reliable.

To answer the question (and underlying concerns), I should start by saying the Bible is (in a sense) both God's Word and humans' words about God. Hear me out. The Bible is a collection of the stories about people's experiences with God. It was written by many different people over thousands of years. However, the Bible is inspired by God. What we have in the Bible is exactly what God wants us to have and He uses the Bible to speak to us.

Different parts of the Bible were written in different ways. Exodus 32:18 says God inscribed terms of His covenant with Israel (summarized in the Ten Commandments) with His very own finger. In most places, though, the Bible was not written directly by God. It was written by people. Sometimes God dictated a prophecy directly to a prophet and said "Go say this!" or "Write this down and don't you change it!" But the majority of Scripture was written by regular people whom God inspired. People are flawed, and sometimes their flaws sneak into Scripture. (Example, sometimes people in the New Testament mix up quotes from the Old Testament).  Furthermore, peoples cultural ideas are not necessarily good or perfect (or even Godly) just because they are in the Bible.  However, God uses flawed humans (and their ideas) to communicate His Word to people.  As one old expression goes, "God can draw straight lines with a crooked stick."

The Bible is the Word of God.  It is the most important way God communicates with people today.  God inspired people who wrote the Bible and He also inspired the people who collected and compiled it.  Everything we need to to lead us to faith and salvation is within the Bible's sacred pages.  It is the primary source of all Christian faith and practice.  It is different from all other books in that God speaks directly to us through it when we read it—even to you personally.  You can certainly find help from many other books, but none of them can speak to you the way God can speak to you through the Bible if you read it through eyes of faith and an obedient heart.

I always appreciate receiving questions.  you can email me more at and I will try to answer them.  Let me conclude with a few questions for you to ponder and answer for yourself.
  • Do you have a real, personal relationship with Jesus? He is a person with a personality. You can talk to him and relate to him as such.  You must.  How could you delve deeper into a real relationship with the person, Jesus?  Will you?
  • Have you been baptized? Baptism is the initiation ceremony of the Church, the Body of Christ.  Jesus commanded us to be baptized and through baptism, we receive the grace of God through the Holy Spirit to continue to grow in our faith.  I would love to baptize you if you are willing.  If you live far away, I encourage you to seek a Christian community of faith to baptize you.
  • Do you read the Bible in order to let God speak to you? Do you study it with others?  The Bible is the Word of God.  It is the primary way God speaks to His people.  Are you listening?  Are you reading?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Lost Books of the Bible???

 My weekly Bible study asked me to teach about the "Lost Books" of the Bible.  Since this is something many people seem interested in, I thought I'd share my thoughts.  Seedbed put out a helpful 7 minute video that touches on the subject.  You can watch it here:  Here are my thoughts on the subject.

Lost Books?
The term “Lost Books” is really inaccurate.  It implies that some books were not included in the Bible because they were lost (maybe even intentionally).  This is not true.  There were many books, scrolls, letters, and other writings floating around the ancient world when the early Christian church formed—just as there are numerous books floating around in our world today.  Some books were good and helpful for early Christians and others were not.  Some writings stood the test of time, others did not.  Only certain books, the ones God wanted, made it into the Bible.  We have known about most of the other so called "lost books" throughout the centuries and they have been available for people to read, though few had much interest.  Some books were indeed lost, simply because books eventually degrade and fall apart if not reproduced.  How many modern books printed in the last 100 years do you suppose have been “lost” in this way simply because no one cares to read them?  The term “Lost Books” is really more of a marketing ploy.  It grabs people’s attention—especially in an age when many are looking for salacious conspiracy theories about how a supposedly “evil church” has tried to suppress the supposed “real” truth about Jesus.  This is all nonsense.  If you want to know the real Truth about Jesus and God and how we are to live, it is right there in the Bible—the same one that often sits forgotten and unread on the bookshelf in many people’s homes.  In an age where few people actually read the Bible, one could argue the real lost books of the Bible are actually the very ones listed in your Bible’s table of contents, because if you don’t read them they are indeed lost to you.

The Bible.  The Canon.
When we talk about the Bible, we are really talking about an authorized collection of books and letters that have been preserved through the ages and are considered inspired by God and authoritative for Christian belief and practice.  The authorized list of books is called the canon.  No, we’re not talking about a big gun that shoots cannonballs.  Canon is an old word that means “ruler,” like a measuring ruler.  The books we have in our Bible today were “measured” by God through the use of the early Church Christians and found to be inspired and authoritative to be included with the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) to serve as God’s written Word.

How did they measure which books should be included in the Bible?
Great question!  This was determined by 3 measures:
Measure #1 is Authorship. Who wrote it?  All the books early Christians included in the Bible were written by the Apostles or someone close to them.

Measure #2 is Harmony.  Does the book agree with the doctrine of what other accepted books teach and what Jesus and the Apostles said? 

Measure #3 is Acceptance.  Was the book widely used by the early Church as a whole?  The books that made it into the Bible were only the ones that had gained wide acceptance by the whole church that was spread out across the Mediterranean world during the first few centuries of the Christian era.

[Note:  Historical records show that by 180 AD Irenaeus says that the 4 Gospels had become authoritative (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  By 325 AD, Eusibius shared a list of 20 books that are in our New Testament.  By 362 AD, Bishop Athanasius lists all 27 New Testament books that we now have in our New Testament.  And of course, the Christian Bible always included the books of the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible Jesus read).

Why were the so called “Lost Books” not included in the Bible?
The “so called lost books” weren’t included in the Bible for good reasons.  They didn’t measure up.  They were not written by the Apostles or those close to them (although they sometimes falsely claimed to be).  They were not in harmony with the plain teachings of Jesus and his early followers.  They were not widely accepted by the whole Church.  There were sometimes other reasons too.  When heretical groups tried to corrupt or change the true message of Christ, they often discarded books that contradicted their teachings and/or substitute their own writings, which were forgeries written to support their false teachings.  For example, one corrupted group led by a man named Marcian created their own Bible.  The Marcian Bible rejected the entire OT, used only parts of the Gospel of Luke, and some of Paul’s letters.  (They only allowed the parts of the Bible that didn’t refute Marcian’s heretical religious ideas.)  Marcian and his sect's ideas were strange and vastly different from what Jesus and his Apostles taught and what the Christian Church as a whole believed.  Their ideas and their books were rejected.  Heretical groups like the Marcians eventually lead Christians to establish an authorized canon of books that the church was already using that did "measure up".  These are the 27 books we now have in the Christian New Testament, plus the Jewish Bible that Christians call the Old Testament.

The Canonical Bible that we use is the Inspired Word of God.  The writers were inspired but also the collectors were inspired so that the Bible we have today is the Inspired Written Word of God that has the authority to guide all Christian beliefs and practices.  John 21:25 actually says, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”  We don't claim that the Bible tells us absolutely everything that happened, only that it teaches everything the Christian needs to know for salvation and to live a Christian life.  Furthermore, the Bible can be trusted as the inspired Word of God.  Those other so call "Lost Books" are not trustworthy and are not the Word of God.  At best, they may be interesting and helpful (though they are mostly weird and boring).  At the worst, they are false teachings designed to lead people astray.  

It doesn't make much sense to waste much time reading so called "lost books" of the Bible.  The real Bible, which is the authorized Word of God, has plenty of challenging truths to digest.  You will never exhaust the Bible's resources.  It will change your life and continue to help you grow from day to day as you listen and obey.  Therefore, I recommend you not waste time wading through other ancient writings unless you have a really good reason.  They will not give you some mind-blowing new revelation.  The Bible can, but they can't.  Therefore, devote your time and energy to studying something with true power and authority--The Holy Bible.  And I invite you to join me for Bible Study on Thursdays at 10:30 AM at Pleasant Grove UMC to really get the most out of God's Holy Word.  We will have a discussion about the "So Called Lost Books" April 4th and then start a new series called "Scripture and the Wesleyan Way" on April 11th.  God Bless!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What is the Reading Level of My Bible?

In my morning study today, I came across this interesting information that indicated the reading level
of various versions of the Holy Bible.  I thought you might find this interesting too.  The Bible is a great book to read.  It is known as the bestselling book of all times.  Actually, I believe the Bible is more than a typical book.  It is a living word from God.  That is, it is sacred tool God uses to speak to us.  If you read the Bible prayerfully, God speaks to you.  Time in the Word is a conversation with God.  All books can speak to us in some sense, but God speaks to us in the Bible in a special way.  

However, can you understand your Bible?  Many people have expressed to me their difficulty in reading and understanding the Scripture.  I understand and have at time faced this difficulty too.  Today, I found some information on that indicated the reading levels for various translations.  How difficult is it to understand your translation?  If you are having trouble understanding your Bible, maybe you should choose a translation that is easier to grasp.  Here is what biblegateway says about the reading level of the various Bible versions:

Not everyone agrees about the minimum grade level of every translation or the formulas used to calculate them. But we offer as general guidelines the following range of USA school grade levels (taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations wherever possible) and age levels. The first number is the grade level for which the Bible is generally considered accessible; the number in parentheses is an estimated age at which a reader can fully read and understand it:
Mounce — 12+ (ages 17+)
KJV — 12+ (ages 17+)
RSV — 12+ (ages 17+)
Geneva — 12+ (ages 17+)
WEB — 12+ (ages 17+)
NRSV — 11+ (ages 16+)
NASB — 11+ (ages 16+)
Amplified — 11+ (ages 16+)
MEV — 11+ (ages 16+)
LEB — 11+ (ages 16+)
ESV — 10+ (ages 15+)
J.B. Phillips NT — 10+ (ages 15+)
NABRE — 9+ (ages 14+)
NIV — 7+ (ages 12+)
CEB — 7+ (ages 12+)
NET — 7+ (ages 12+)
GNT — 7+ (ages 12+)
ISV — 7+ (ages 12+)
NKJV — 7+ (ages 12+)
HCSB — 7+ (ages 12+)
The Voice — 6+ (ages 11+)
NLT — 6+ (ages 11+)
CEV — 5+ (ages 10+)
GW — 5+ (ages 10+)
The Message — 4+ (ages 9+)
Living — 4+ (ages 9+)
ERV — 4+ (ages 9+)
NCV — 3+ (ages 7+)
ICB — 3+ (ages 7+)
NIrV — 3+ (ages 7+)

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Graduation Sermon

            It’s amazing how fast the years go by.  One minute you're a kid excited to be starting preschool or kindergarten and it seems like it will be an eternity before you graduate high school.  But the years go by so fast and before you know it you've gone through elementary school, middle school, and high school and your graduating.  Then maybe you've finished college and gotten your first job or you're getting married or having kids and then your own kids are graduating high school!  The older I get, the faster it seems the years go by!
            This is the time of year high school students graduate and begin a new phase of life as young adults.  They are excited and maybe a little apprehensive about what lies ahead.  Parents are proud, but also full of bitter sweet emotions--seeing their babies grow up, happy and excited for them, but also maybe a little worried and sad to let them spread their wings and leave the nest.
            Today, I want to share something for parents and graduates to comfort and encourage you in this transition.  However, it's not just for graduates and parents.  It's for everyone who if we has ears
to hear.

Psalm 16:7-11
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.  11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Praise God!
            Can we just take a moment and, as the Psalm suggests in verse 7a, just praise the Lord for all He has done?  Parents, you've survived changing dirty diapers and crying babies, the terrible twos (when your precious angel baby turned into a diabolical demon child)!  Somehow, you managed to keep food on the table and the bills paid when there never seemed to be enough money to make ends meet!  You taught them to drive and they didn't crash a die in burning ball of flames!  You survived boyfriends and girlfriends and arguments over prom dresses and makeup.  And, through it all, you had the joy and pleasure of holding this precious life in your hands and nurturing them and learning from them and being challenged by them because they are so much like you and yet so distinct from you!
            Graduates, you managed to grow from a baby who had to learn to use the toilet to learning the ABC and how to write and math and algebra and geometry and maybe calculus!  And you survived history and English literature and writing essays and countless pop quizzes and finals and SATs.  And you managed to deal with parents who love you so much but just don’t really fully understand your life and the new times we live in!
            Can we all just pause for a moment, just to praise God for being with all of us every step of the way!  Just close your eyes (or keep them open and look up to the heavens) and shout "Thank You God!  You have been so good to me!"

You Know What to Do
            And if you’ve been walking with the Lord, if you’ve let Him be with you through it all, He's now incorporated into your heart—into everything you are, the way you think, the way you act.  You don’t even have to think about it, any more than you have to think about breathing or making your heart beat.  Have you ever noticed that when you go to sleep, you don't have to remember to breathe?  It's just keeps happening.  And you heart keeps right on beating.  And the Psalmist says, “Even at night while I sleep, my heart instructs me.”  If you've let Jesus into your heart, his Holy Spirit instructs you every step of the way, and you don't even have to think about it.
            Graduates, as you go off to your next adventure, you take with you all you have learned from school, from your parents and teachers and friends and your church.  It’s part of who you are now.  You need not worry about the unknown that may await you.  You’ve prepared.  Our thoughts and prayers go with you, but not only that.  A part of all that has loved you and nurtured you and cared for you goes with you. It is now part of who you are.
            Parents and family, friends and loved ones, church, you have invested in your young ones so faithfully.  Your wisdom and experience goes with them, as does the Lord.  So take heart and have faith.  Do not worry or be anxious (it wouldn’t do any good anyway).  But in everything give thanks and praise to God for what He has done and give your cares and concerns to the Lord in prayer.
            We can all go forth with confidence, thanking the Lord for all we have shared with one another, trusting that each graduate has the wisdom and character to make the right choices in the days to come. 

Verse 8-9 – Keep your eyes on the Lord. 
            Keep your eyes on the Lord.  Remember what you have learned.  Remember the Lord and His ways and what He has done for you.  For you!  And so walk with Him.  You will grow and mature.  Your faith may change as you gain more knowledge and wisdom, but faith need not be shaken.  Only let your childish ideas grow up and change if needs be, but never lose your childlike faith and trust in Jesus.

Verse 10 – For God will never abandon you. 
            God will never leave you or forsake you.  Never.  “For God loved you so much, He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it.”  And Jesus went so far to save you as to lay down his life for you on the cross.  And so, Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.  He goes with you!
            This is a promise that gives hope and assurances to graduates and parents and to all who truly trust in the Lord!  For nothing—not even death—can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.  So take courage and rejoice!  All of you!  For if God is for us, who can ever be against us?

Verse 11 – “You make known to me the path of life…”
            We had five high school students from my church graduate this year.  I’ve known each of them for many years.  I met Rachel Ward when she was only 10-years-old (one year younger than my youngest daughter is now).  She has worked in the church nursery for several years, loving kids and serving the Church.  I'm so proud of the caring and thoughtful young woman she's become. 
            JC McDonald was also about ten when I first met her.  I will always remember how she invited me to come to her elementary school to for a special program to show pastors what they were learning.  She is also a fine young lady. 
            Twins, Meredith and Ward Barber, started coming to my church when they were in middle school.  They wanted to join the church along with their mother and older sister.  So we had a crash course in what it means to be a Christian and they made their professions of faith and joined and then came back a few months later to go through our formal confirmation classes.  I was a chaplain for Ward's middle school football team.  I was at many of the Beta Club and Honor Society meetings with Meredith because two of my children were also in those programs.  I'm so proud she is now graduating as valedictorian of her high school. 
            I had the privilege to help sponsor Will Maddox to attend a Chrysalis weekend spiritual retreat.  Two years ago, Will's family lost their home to a fire in the middle of the night.  Will's sister had to leap to safety from the second story window.  She survived, but with a broken pelvis.  And Will was such a caring big brother to her while she was in the hospital and as she recovered through physical therapy. 
            I have been a small part of each graduates' life, and part of their family, to some degree for many years.  Everything I’ve taught in my sermons and in our conversations and what our church has offered them was founded on God’s Word, the Bible, and intended to steer them safely down the path of life.  (Not just this life, but True Life, Eternal Life.) 
            These graduates' parents, who brought them to church each Sunday, wanted the same for them as I have--that they would know the love of God and trust Jesus and have eternal life.   I hope they have listened to us and taken to heart what we’ve offered.  If so, it is part of who they are and will steer them down the path of life, if they obey.
            The Word of God, the Bible, is readily available to each graduate and to us all.  Most people have many copies of the Bible (if you need a Bible contact me and I will give you one).  The Bible it is readily available on the internet at, on your smart phones, you can even listen to the Bible on an app while you are driving in your car
            And these words of Scripture are the Living Word of God—the Word of Life.  They are a conversation with your Creator.  They can continue to steer you down the path of life if you will listen to them.  But will you?
            I started reading my Bible every day when I was a senior in high school.  Each night, before I went to bed, I would read one chapter.  However, when I went to college, I faced a dilemma.  My first year in the college, I lived in a dorm with a room mate.  And my first night there, I found my self laying in the bed thinking, "Am I gonna pick up my Bible and start reading?  My roommate's gonna think I'm some sort of Bible-thumping, religious fanatic."  And then I saw my roommate reach over and grab his Bible and start reading!  So my dilemma was solved and I continue my habit of reading a chapter of scripture from the Bible every night until I read through the entire thing.

            Graduating from school is a momentous transition.  It is a great time for graduates to start a new and healthy spiritual habit.  It's also a great time for their parents to do the same.  Actually, anytime is a great time to start a new and helpful spiritual practice.  So I would like to issue a challenge--to parents, to graduates, to everyone--why not start reading a chapter from your Bible each night.  And cut yourself some slack.  You're probably not going to understand everything you read and that's OK.  Reading the Bible is not about getting and understanding more information.  It's about spending time with your Creator--the one who designed you and breathed life into you and Who loves you and desires more than anything to spend time with you and be loved by you.  When you pick up your Bible and read, you are in the presence of God and His words pour into your heart and become part of who you are without you even knowing it.  Then, no matter where you go or what you do, as the Psalmist says, God will counsel you in your heart, make known the path of life, and fill you with the joy of His presence and the eternal pleasures of His right hand.
             Will you take the challenge to read one chapter of your Bible each night before you go to bed?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Bible Paraphrase vs. Translation

Is there a difference between a Bible Paraphrase and a Translation?   If so, what is it?
Great question!  I'm glad you asked!  Yes, there is a real difference between a paraphrase and a translation.  Modern paraphrases like The Living Bible and The Message by Eugene Peterson have become quite popular in recent decades.  And since I have been posting my own personal paraphrases of selected verses from Proverbs, I thought it important to explain the difference between a translation and a paraphrase.

With a paraphrase, the author takes a translation of the Bible and puts it into his or her own words.  The author of a paraphrase usually does not start with the Bible in its original languages--Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  It is more common for a paraphrase to come from an English translation that is rephrased into the author's own words.  A paraphrase does not do the more difficult and scholarly work of studying all the most ancient fragments, manuscripts, and copies of the Bible that exist in their original languages and translating the Bible into English.  Therefore, a paraphrase is not as accurate as a translation.  A paraphrase can be helpful in seeing the Scripture from a different perspective or shedding more light on a passage, but a paraphrase should never be relied on to replace or change the meaning of a passage.  A translation is just more accurate and reliable than a paraphrase in almost every way in almost every case.  Furthermore, the risk of a paraphrase is that it can introduce the author's own ideas, perspectives, theology, and bias into the Scripture.

A translation, on the other hand, is a far more accurate and reliable source than a paraphrase.  A good translation starts with the most ancient and accurate copies of the Bible available in the original languages and then carefully evaluate differences and translates them into English (or whatever language is desired).  Emphasis is on accurately translating the words and meanings of the original authors into English.  The struggle of the biblical translator is that words and phrases from ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic do not always translate directly into English.  For instance, Jesus and his father Joseph are called carpenters.  In the original Greek, Mark 6:3 calls Joseph a 'tekton'.  A tekton is a builder, usually of houses.  Most houses today are made of wood so it makes sense to translate 'tekton' as carpenter.  But in Jesus day, a builder of houses usually worked in stone or mud and there wasn't much wood around with which to work.  So maybe it might be better to say Jesus and Joseph were stone masons, but that doesn't really get it either.  And this is just one of the easy translation problems.  The work of translators can get really, really tricky. Add to this that other languages use words in different orders than the way we use them in English.  For example:
  • In English, the verb follows immediately after the noun.
  • In German the verb at the end of the sentence comes.
  • Appears the verb in Greek at the beginning of the sentence.
So, translators can't translate the Bible word for word from the original language to English or we wouldn't be able to understand it.  Translators have to strike a balance between making the translation as accurate as possible and as readable as possible.  Modern translations fall somewhere between two ideals.  There is the word for word translation, which tries to keep everything as literal as possible and sacrifices readability for accuracy. On the other end of the spectrum is a thought for thought translation, which tries to translate the thought or idea and sacrifices word accuracy for readability and to make the passage easier to understand.  Here are some examples of different translations of Proverbs 10:4.

Interlinear Bible
(Hold on, this is a literal translation of the original Hebrew into English!  It's rough!)
"(Becomes) poor he who deals (with) a palm lazy; but hand the hard workers' makes rich."

[Wow!  See what I mean!  That's hard to understand!!!  Now, moving toward more readable versions step by step.]

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

(This is a dedicated word for word translation, but it's much better than a literal translation.)
"Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich."

New American Standard Version (NRSV) 
(This one is about middle of the road between accuracy and readability.)
"A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich."

New International Version (NIV) 
(A popular version that leans more toward thought for thought translation.)
"Lazy hands make for poverty,
    but diligent hands bring wealth."

New Living Translation (NLT) 
(This is one of my favorite thought for thought translations.  I find it very accurate and readable.)
"Lazy people are soon poor;
    hard workers get rich."

A good example of how a paraphrase can alter the meaning of Scripture and/or introduce the paraphraser's own agenda's into the Scripture is found in a reading of Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in The Message.  He paraphrased the verses like this:  "Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom."  The NLT translated the Greek like this:  "Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God."  The two sentences sound similar at first glance, but a closer looks shows Peterson cut out a lot, including: homosexuality, idolatry, greed, and intoxication.  And then Peterson added in a phrase that is not there at all, but sounds good to the modern ear that wants the Bible to be ecologically sensitive:  "use and abuse the earth."

The folks who translated the NLT guarded against introducing their own biases into the texts by using a team of 90 biblical scholars from various Christian backgrounds who collaborated on the translation.  Much care was taken to be loyal to what the original biblical texts said and avoid introducing anyone's personal political, theological, or denominational views.  That is much better than one man reading the Bible and putting it into his own words.  As much as I appreciate Eugene Peterson's The Message, it is only one man's thoughts about what the Bible says, not what the Bible actually says.

So, when reading a paraphrase--mine or anyone else's--keep in mind that it is not a translation.  Read it for what it's worth, but don't mistake it for more than it is.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris (a short, quick answer about divine inspiration)

Question:  Did divine inspiration stop with the writers of the Bible? Are there modern writers who are divinely inspired?

Answer:  The writers of the books of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the Word of God.  The Bible is God's magnificent message to us and the final authority for Christian doctrine and practice.  Divine inspiration also guided the compilation of the Bible.  God inspired Christians to use the various books that now makeup our Bible, scribes to copy them, and the leaders to authorize them.  Divine inspiration guided it all.

God continues to inspire writers today.  The difference between the Bible and other books is authority.  The books of the Bible are the "authorized" collection (or canon) of inspired books.  Divine inspiration is only one criterion that determined if a book was included in the Bible.  There are other important factors.  Such as:

·      Authenticity – Is the book generally accurate or a fabrication or forgery?  In the New Testament, authenticity also required the writing to be based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).

·      Timelessness – Is the book useful for people of all times and places (even if it was originally written for a particular time and place)?

·      Consistency – Is the book consistent with the overarching message of the Christian faith?

·      Acceptance – Is the book accepted by the majority of the Christian community? The books of the Bible were widely used and recognized by early Christian communities as inspired, authentic, and timeless over the first four centuries of our faith.  Their leaders gathered in a council to "authorize" the Bible.  They affirmed the books were given by God as an authoritative and timeless guide to Christian doctrine and practice.

Although there are inspired writers and books today, they do not have the authority of the Bible because they cannot match the authenticity, timelessness, consistency, and wide acceptance of the Bible.  The Bible is the only book authorized to serve as God's Holy Word.  It contains everything we need to find salvation and live a Christian life.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Birth of Christ

The Birth of Christ
Advent is the season Christians prepare for Christmas and the coming of Christ.  This year for Advent, I decided to do something different to prepare spiritually.  I paraphrased the biblical story of Christ's birth in my own words.  It was an insightful exercise.

Let me share my method.  First, I selected the Gospel passages I wanted to use.  Then I arranged them in chronological order.  Next, I copied the passages from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) into the left column below.  Then, I made a column on the right side to hold my own paraphrase.  I put a column in the middle for notes--footnotes from the NRSV and any notes about my own paraphrase.  I worked mainly from the NRSV to create my paraphrase.  However, I also consulted the Message, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, and the King James Version.  I also consulted the original Greek on a number of occasions using the word study function on my Olive Tree Bible App.

Working on this paraphrase gave me a deeper understanding of the events associated with birth of Christ.  It also gave me knew respect for the work of biblical scholars who translate the Bible from the original languages or who paraphrase the Bible into their own words.  Most of all, it was a humbling and spiritually enriching endeavor.  I prayed often for God to guide me and speak to my heart as I pondered the meaning of each passage and thought of how I would say it in my own words.  I share the results with you below.

Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase
John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,a and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.b
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,d full of grace and truth.15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,e who is close to the Father’s heart,f who has made him known.

aOr 3 through him. And without him not one thing came into being that has come into being. 4 In him was life

bOr He was the true light that enlightens everyone coming into the world

cOr to his own home

dOr the Father’s only Son

eOther ancient authorities read It is an only Son, God, or It is the only Son

fGk bosom
John 1:1-18
1-5 The Word was the very beginning.  The Word was there in the beginning with God.  The Word is God.  He brought everything into existence.  Nothing came to be without him.  He brought life, the light of life to everyone, everywhere.  His light shines out in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t have a chance.
6-9 God sent a man named John to point people to the light so they would know who to trust.  John wasn’t the light; he was just there to point to the light.  THE LIGHT, which makes it all clear for everyone, was about to come into the world.
10-13 He came to the very world he made, but the world didn’t recognize him.  Most didn’t want anything to do with him, even though they were his own handiwork.  But anyone who welcomed and trusted him realized they were God’s children--not the results of some biological conception, but--chosen by God as his very own.
14-18 The Word became human in every sense, living alongside us and experiencing everything we do.  We saw his glory, the glory of the only son God ever conceived.  He was so full of grace and truth.  (John told people about him, saying, “He’s the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The man who’s about to come is so much more important than me because he existed long before I was even a thought.’”)  He gave us so much undeserved love from his never ending supply.  Moses gave us the rules to follow; Jesus gave us grace and truth.  No one has ever seen God directly; but if you’ve met Jesus, it’s the same exact thing.
Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”g 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”h 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borni will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

1Elizabeth was John the Baptist’s mother and Mary’s cousin

gOther ancient authorities add Blessed are you among women

hGk I do not know a man

iOther ancient authorities add of you

Luke 1:26-38
26-27 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s1 pregnancy, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to visit a virgin named Mary in a town in Galilee called Nazareth.  Mary was engaged to Joseph.  
28-29 When Gabriel found her, he said, “Greetings! God wants to give you something very special!”  Mary was so confused and didn’t know what to think of this strange encounter.  
30-33 Gabriel told her, “Don’t be afraid.  God has taken a special interest in you and wants to give you a great blessing.  You are about to conceive a son in your womb and will soon give birth.  You will name him Jesus.  He will be great, will be called ‘God’s Son’, and the Lord God will give him the spiritual kingdom of his ancestor David.  He will rule Jacob’s House forever. There will never be an end to his kingdom.”  
34 Mary told the angel, “I don’t understand how this can happen? I’ve never been with a man.”  
35-37 Gabriel replied, “The Holy Spirit will enter you and the Highest Power of All will overwhelm you.  And so, the child you bear will be the Holy Son of God.  Your cousin Elizabeth is already six months pregnant, even though she was old and infertile.  You see, nothing is impossible for God.  If God did that for Elizabeth, He can do this for you.”  
38 Then Mary surrendered and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  I will do whatever He wants.”  Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:19-25
19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;j and he named him Jesus.

jOther ancient authorities read her firstborn son
Matthew 1:19-25
19-22 Mary’s husband, Joseph, was an upstanding and compassionate man. He didn’t want to endanger Mary or her reputation.  He was considering how to break off the engagement secretly without making a scene when the Lord’s angel spoke to him in a dream!  
“Joseph! You are David’s ancestor!  Don’t be afraid to wed Mary, for the child she carries came from the Holy Spirit.  She will have a son and you should name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”  This all happened to fulfill what the Lord said though the prophet:
23 “You see, a virgin will conceive and have a son,
and they will name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”  
24-25 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord said through the angel in his dream.  He took Mary to be his wife, but he didn’t lay with her until after her boy was born.  He named him Jesus.
Luke 2:1-38
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,k the Lord.12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,l praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”m
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;n this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.o 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeonp came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,28 Simeonq took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servantr in peace,
   according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeons blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Annat the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the childu to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

kOr the Christ

lGk army

mOther ancient authorities read peace, goodwill among people

2The religious law code God gave to Moses in the Old Testament

nOr the Lord’s Christ

oOr the Lord’s Christ

pGk In the Spirit, he

qGk In the Spirit, he

rGk slave

sGk Symeon

tGk Hanna

uGk him

Luke 2:1-38
1-7 This all happened while Caesar Augustus was making a list of everyone he could tax in the Roman Empire.  This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Everyone had to go to their family’s hometown to register.  Joseph had to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to his ancestor David’s hometown, Bethlehem, which is in Judea.  His fiance, Mary, went with him even though she was nearing her due date.  While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor.  She had a baby boy, her very first child, and wrapped him up in a blanket.  She put him in a manger because there wasn’t enough room in the inn.
8-9 There were shepherds nearby guarding a flock for the night.  God’s angel came to them in a glorious light and the shepherds were terrified.  
10-12 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.  Look, I bring good news full of tremendous joy for everyone:  This very day in Bethlehem, David’s ancestral home, a Savior was born who is the Chosen One from God, the Lord of all.  This is how you will know you’ve found him.  He will be wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger.”  
13-14 All of a sudden, a vast army from heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying,
“Glory to God all the way up in heaven,
and peace to everyone he has blessed down on earth!”
15-20 When the angels were gone, the shepherds discussed it.  “Let’s go to Bethlehem right now and see what this is all about.”  So they ran and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  When they saw it was all true, they told everyone they could find what they’d heard about the baby.  The story amazed everyone, but Mary quietly wondered about the story in her heart.  The shepherds went back to their work, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen.  It was just as the angel proclaimed.
21 The child was circumcised when he was eight-days-old.  They named him Jesus, the name the angel gave before he was conceived.
22-24 When the time was right, they presented Jesus to the Lord for purification in Jerusalem in keeping with the Law of Moses2.  (God’s law commands: “Every firstborn son is to be given as a special offering to God” along with a sacrifice of “two doves and a pair of young pigeons.”)
25-26 There was a very good, devout man in Jerusalem at the time.  Simon was full of the Holy Spirit and patiently waiting for God to comfort His suffering people.  The Holy Spirit had assured Simon he would not die without seeing God’s chosen Savior.
27-28 The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the same day Jesus’ parents brought him in to fulfill the ceremonial law.  Simeon cradled the child in his arms and praised God, saying:
29-32 “Lord, your servant can rest in peace now.  I have seen the Savior You sent with my own eyes, just as You said I would.  You sent Him as the glorious light of your people to lead everyone Home to You.”
33-35 Mary and Joseph were amazed by Simeon’s proclamation.  Simeon blessed them and then said this to the mother, “God sent this child to see the whole order of things flipped downside up.  He will be a target for all who oppose God and it will be clear where everyone really stands.  However, their viciousness toward your precious son will be as painful as a sword piercing your own soul.”
36-38 The prophetess Anna was also there, the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher.  Anna was very old.  She was only married seven years when her husband died and then she lived eighty-four more as a widow.  She worshipped and fasted day and night and never left the temple area.  As Simeon was speaking, Anna joined the group and started praising God and she told everyone in Jerusalem who was looking for redemption about the child.
Matthew 2:1-23
1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise menv from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,w and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiahx was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherdy my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise menz and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,a until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,b they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Josephc got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,d he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.e 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Josephf got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

vOr astrologers; Gk magi

wOr in the East

xOr the Christ

yOr rule

zOr astrologers; Gk magi

aOr in the East

bGk saw the star

cGk he

dOr astrologers; Gk magi

eOr astrologers; Gk magi

fGk he

Matthew 2:1-23
1-2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea when Herod was king.  Astrologers (called Wisemen or Magi) from a foreign land far away in the East came all the way to Jerusalem asking, “Where can we find this child who was born to be the king of the Jews?  We saw a star rise in the eastern sky that signaled his birth.  We want to worship and adore him.  
3-4 King Herod was very disturbed to hear this, along with everyone in Jerusalem.  He summoned all the most important Jewish priests and scholars and asked where God’s Chosen Savior was supposed to be born.  
5-6 They told him, “In the town of Bethlehem in the province of Judea, because that’s what the prophet wrote:
‘You, Bethlehem of Judea,
are a very important place because a ruler will come from you
who will lead my people, Israel, like a shepherd leads sheep.’”
7-8 Herod hatched a treacherous plan.  He asked the eastern astrologers in private when they first saw the star signalling the baby’s birth.  He sent them on to Bethlehem saying, “Go search for the child and don’t give up until you find him.  Then send word where he is so I can go worship him too.”
9-12 After speaking with King Herod, the eastern astrologers started out for Bethlehem and the star was right there leading the way straight to the child.  They were overjoyed when the star stopped above the child’s home.  They came in and saw him with his mother.  They knelt reverently and worshipped him.  They opened their treasure chests and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Since they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they took a different road back to their home in the East.
13 After they left, Joseph dreamed God’s angel was telling him, “Get up!  Take the child and his mother and run away to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you to leave.  Soon Herod will come looking to snuff the boy out.”  
14-15 Then, under the cover of night, they fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod was dead. This all happened just as God said it would when the prophet proclaimed, “I called my son out of Egypt.”
16-17 Herod was livid when he realized the Eastern religious scholars had outsmarted him. He ordered the murder of every last boy 2-years-old and younger who lived anywhere near Bethlehem. He figured the child must be about that age because of what the Eastern religious scholars had revealed.  This all happened just as God said when the prophet Jeremiah declared:
18 “A sad cry was heard in Ramah--
wailing and mourning.
Rachel is crying for her children,
refusing comfort,
because her children are dead and gone.
19-20 When Herod died, God’s angel came to Joseph in Egypt in a dream and said, “The coast is clear. The people who wanted to kill the child are dead.  Now you can take the child and his mother back to Israel.”  
21-23 So Joseph listened and took his family back to Israel, but avoided Judea because he was afraid of Herod’s son, Archelaus, who he heard was ruling there.  So Joseph took them to Galilee after he was warned in a dream.  He settled down in a town called Nazareth.  This all happened just as God said it would when the prophets revealed, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2:40
40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40
40 The child grew big and strong and was very wise; and God helped him every step of the way.