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

Monday, June 27, 2022

God is Great. God is Good.

Introduction
When I was a kid, we would all sit around the table and eat dinner together.  We took turns saying a blessing before each meal.  So even as a young kid, I would often say the prayer.  Most often, it was the simple prayer we had memorized: “God is great.  God is good.  Let us thank Him for our food.  By His hands, we all are fed.  Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.”


Preview Of Our VBS
That prayer so many learned as children will be the theme of Vacation Bible School here at Pleasant Grove this week.
We will pretend we’re having a Food Truck Party
and each day we will consider a statement from the old, traditional meal blessing.
Monday is “God is Great” – Ex. 18 – God sends Manna and Quail for the Hebrews…
Tuesday is “God is Good” – 1 Kings 17 – Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath
Wednesday is “Let us thank Him for our food” – Daniel 1 – Daniel and the exiles’ special diet
Thursday is “By His hands we all are fed. Give us Lord our daily bread – Matthew 14 – Jesus Feeding the 5,000

Today, I want to talk about the Elijah story.  If you read 1 Kings chapter 16, it tells a long list of kings of Israel and it says each king was a bad king.  The last king mentioned is King Ahab and it says Ahab was the worst one of all.  King Ahab led Israel to worship false god’s and even allowed child sacrifice.
Therefore, in 1 Kings 17, it tells how God punished Israel, but it also shows how God provided for Elijah and a widow and her son.

1 Kings 17:1-16
1
Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”

So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”  [Zarephath was not an Israelite town. They were pagan Phoenicians who worshiped Baal and other false god's.]

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”  [Notice the widow swear by Elijah's god.  She recognizes he is a foreigner and she swears by his god, not her own.]

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

Drought and Famine
We need rain.  I haven’t had a drop of rain on my garden in three weeks.  In Elijah’s day, it hadn’t rained in 3.5 years!  Now, ancient Israel was well adapted to long periods without rain.  The ancients would dig huge cisterns in the bedrock of the land and channel rainwater into them.  Some of those cisterns are up to an acre in size--they can hold a lot of water.  And one good rain can fill up their cisterns and provide water for a long time--both for drinking and irrigation.  I've been to Israel and have seen some of those ancient cisterns.  They're quite impressive and they helped the ancient Israelites deal with the sporadic rain that is a normal part of their climate.

However, even with these cisterns, a really long drought could be deadly.  In Luke 4, Jesus said the Elijah's drought lasted three and a half years.  Let's consider how that would effect the people of ancient Israel.

The ancients had to grow all the food they ate.  If they couldn't grow enough, they went without.  So it was important to have a good harvest and to store up the surplus to get them through to the next harvest.

Drought Year 1
Let's assume the Israelites under King Ahab had a good harvest the year before Elijah's drought.  So they've got some food in storage from last year when the drought begins.  In the first year of the drought, they will have little to know harvest.  However, they still have some food stored from last year.  They could make those stores last longer by reducing their reduce daily rations.  When times are tough, you tighten your belt.

Drought Year 2
After a second year of drought, there would again be no harvest.  Plus, the remaining food stores would start to runs out. People might be able to barter and trade with neighbors and foreign countries to get get somethings to help them survive, but it would not be pretty.  No one is eating well.  They are in survival mode.  People are getting weaker and are more susceptible to other illnesses.  The elderly and infirm are most susceptible of all.  People are certainly starting to die.

Drought Year 3
There is no harvest again this year.  There are only scraps of food left.  WHat people are eating are the dregs of their food stores.  This is food that is rotting, full of bugs and worms and mold.  It's not even fit for animals to eat, bit people are eating because it's all they have left, otherwise they will starve.  No one in 
neighboring towns and villages has any food left to trade either..  Everyone is starving and surviving on tiny rations.  Bread is worth more than gold.  What little water is left in the wells and cisterns is dirty and contaminated.  People have to drink this disgusting water and they are suffering from water born diseases and parasites.  Many die from these illnesses alone.  others are dying of starvation.

After 3.5 Years of Drought
At this point, everyone is about to eat their last meal and dying of starvation.  That's where we find the widow of Zarephath when Elijah finds come to her town.  However, the Bible tells us God took care of the Elijah & the widow who lived in Zarephath with her son.

The widow has a surprising amount of faith and compassion.  Even though I'm sure no one in Zarephath had much water to spare at this point, the widow doesn't argue with Elijah when he asks for some water.  I don't many people who would have been so kind to a man who was a stranger and a foreigner.  Yet, she's on the way to get Elijah that cup of water when he makes a truly absurd request:  "Can I get  a piece of bread too?"  It is at this point the widow tells Elijah she doesn't have any food to spare.

Now this widow and her son were not Israelites.  They were not “The Chosen People” (by Old Testament standards).  They were Gentiles, foreigners, outsiders.  Some in Israel at the time would have said God despised this widow and her son. Ironically, many in the town of Zarephath would have said the same thing about Elijah--he was a foreigner who didn't worship their gods.  He was not worthy to receive any compassion from the people of Zarephath; he was despised by their gods.

However, the One true God of the Bible, Yahweh, doesn’t think the way people think.  God loves all people--even those who reject Him.  God sent Elijah to be a save this foreign widow and her son and to take care of Elijah at the same time.  And while the so called “Chosen People” people in Israel were turning their back on God, worshipping idols, and sacrificing children, God had compassion on a foreigner, a gentile, because she had enough faith and compassion to give her last cup of water and piece of bread to a stranger no one else cared about.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned this story of the widow of Zarephath in a homecoming sermon Jesus preached in Nazareth in Luke 4.  Jesus pointed out that God loves everyone—even foreigners and social outcasts that religious people look down on.  Furthermore, Jesus taught again and again that God’s real “Chosen People” are not defined by a religion, or race, or where they or their ancestors were born.  God’s chosen people are people who choose to rely on God for every blessing while living faithfully for Him.

We have to be careful not to look down on or reject anyone.  We must love the sinner, even if we hate the sin.  This is what we do for ourselves, isn't it?  No one truly hates themselves.  I may hate the things I do sometimes.  I may say, "Why did I do or say that? I hate that I did or said that!"  But at the same time, I don't hate myself.  I love myself.  We must be sure to extend the same grace we give ourselves to others.  We may hate their bad words or bad behavior, but we must love them because they are made in the image of God and are sacred to God.  All human life is sacred.  So we must love all people--even sinners; we love the sinners and hate their sin.  This is how Jesus loves us all.  It is how he was able to eat with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes and all kids of immoral people, but also call each of these sinners to repentance and to transform them into new creations more able to glorify God with their words and actions.

God’s Chosen People
God’s chosen people live by a simple creed expressed surprisingly well in the simple meal blessing many learned as kids.

God is great. We believe God is all powerful.  He is great enough to do anything.  He made the world.  He can control it.  He can do whatever He wants.  Now an all powerful God who is malevolent could be a ver scary, very dangerous and appalling thing.  But thankfully…

God is good.  God is not just all powerful.  He’s also a good God who does the right thing.  He cares for people—not just the good looking, strong people everybody likes. No.  God even cares for the weak, the lost, the foreigner, the outcast.  He cares for the widow who’s starving to death with her only son--even when she lives in a foreign land that worship's idols and false gods.  God cares for the orphan everyone has abandoned. So…

Let us thank Him for our food.  God’s chosen people depend on God and are thankful for every blessing He gives.  We believe, and are eternally grateful, that God provides for us.  We recognize that we rise or fall by the grace of God, not by our own efforts and abilities.  Rather…

By His hands, we all are fed.  Some people in this world think they deserve good things.  They think they deserve to be rewarded because they work hard, or live right, or they’re better than other people.  They believe they deserve a higher standard of living than the rest of the world.  They may even go so far as to believe God owes them.  After all, they think, they have earned their blessings.  However, God’s people realize they aren’t fed by their own hands.  Nope.  It is “By His hands, we all are fed.”  And so they humbly ask…

Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  God’s people realize we are completely and utterly dependent upon the Lord.  The very bread we eat is a gift from God.  God’s people willing submit to God and wish to enjoy only the blessings He provides and will decline any blessings that don’t come from God’s hand. 

When the world says, “You deserve to enjoy this or that pleasure.  Why not indulge yourself?”  God’s people say, “I don’t deserve anything.  But God is good and takes care of me anyway.  And I will only enjoy the blessings God gives me and I will abstain from anything God does not allow.”

When the world says, “Your crazy!  Why would you hold to such old-fashioned ideas?”  I will say:

God is great.  God is good.  
I will trust Jesus.  Am I understood?
I turn my back on worldly gain. 
This world won’t last.  Let me explain.
You think wealth, and pleasure are great. 
It all turns to dust at Heaven’s eternal gate.
You can’t take it with you, not a thing whatsoever. 
I have something that lasts forever.
I live for Jesus, because He died for me. 
Heaven’s my Kingdom. And Jesus is my King.

I invite you to chose Jesus today.
Choose to rely on Christ for every blessing
and live faithfully for Him every day.
He will take care of you
And you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Things Fall Apart, Episode 1 - Sun, Moon, and Stars

Introduction

A long time ago, in a land far away…

God’s chosen people live in Canaan.

A teenager named Joseph was full of God’s Spirit,

Which made him dream and showed Joseph the meaning of the dreams.

The dreams revealed a glorious future, but also great trouble,

Because even when God has great plans in store for us,

Things Fall Apart.

Joseph was gifted by God and loved by his father,

But Joseph was also young, spoiled, and arrogant.

His brothers hated him.  Their father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than them.

He showered Joseph with praise, cuddled him, and gave him special gifts,

Like the custom made, multicolored coat, Jacob had made just for Joseph.

The borhters hatred of Joseph was fueled by jealousy and by Joseph’s own egoism.

He never missed and opportunity to rub his status as the “golden child” in their faces.

But dark days were coming, because even for God’s people,

Things Fall Apart…

God's Salvation Story
It’s a story that goes all the way back to the beginning of time.  I’m not talking about the story of Joseph—that’s just one series of stories in the midst of the The Story—the story of God’s salvation of humanity.  No, I’m talking about, the story of how things fall apart.  Things have been falling apart since Genesis.  For God created a perfect world and He made a perfect Garden and He made people to be perfect and that’s why He gave them the ability to choose how they would live in this perfect world—because that was the only way to allow them the ability to love.

Love is always a choice.  It must be a choice.  You cannot will someone or force someone to love.  They must choose to love of their own free will.  That is the only way real love can exist.  And God loved His creation.  And God loved the people He made to be stewards of His creation.  And God hoped His people would love Him too.  But God could not make them.  He would not make them.  For He wanted their love—if they chose to love Him—to be genuine. 

And to start with, the first humans did love God.  They obeyed Him when He said, "Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of God and evil."  But then Satan, that crafty, deceitful, shamefully evil serpent slithered into God’s garden and tempted the first woman.  And she ate some of the fruit God told her she must not eat. And she also gave some to her husband and he ate.  And so that day they chose to love themselves and their own ambitions more they they loved God.

That was the first time things fell apart.  Sin entered the world. 

God’s perfect world became corrupt.  His people became corrupt. You can read all the stories in the Bible.  Cain killed his brother Able and then people became more and more wicked until the only solution was for God to wash the whole earth clean with a flood.  He started over again with a man named Noah.  But even then, things fell apart.  Even as God actively works to save the world from sin, things fall apart—right up to this very day.

Who among us haven't experienced our plans falling apart during the COVID-19 pandemic?  I think everyone has.  It's almost impossible to plan.  School was supposed to start back nea the beginning of August, but then COVID cases surged adn they decided to push the start date back to August 31st.  However, we are now experienced enough to know that's just a target date.  We know things can change, because we live in uncertain times and things fall apart. 

But where was I?  Oh yes.  The story of Joseph, a bright young man with a bright future.  But things fall apart... 


Genesis 37:9-13, 18-21

Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

 

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.

 

12 Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. 13 When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the sheep at Shechem. Get ready, and I will send you to them.”

“I’m ready to go,” Joseph replied.

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

Fallen Red Wood Tree

Have you ever made really good plans, only to see them fall apart? I had some awesome plans to take my daughter to see the red wood forest in California.  It was to be a special trip in honor of her turning thirteen.  We were to fly out to Portland Oregon and spend several days driving down the Pacific coast and stopping in to see the redwood forest.  Then we would end our trip in San Francisco before flying back home.  The flights and hotels were booked and we were supposed to leave the last week of March.  And then COVID-19 shut everything down. a week or two before our trip.  Things fell apart.

If God’s plans fall apart, why are we surprised when our plans fall apart?  We delude ourselves if we think anything is guaranteed.   

Joseph’s brothers hated him and planned to kill him.  Reuben secretly planned to save Joseph.  He had a plan.  He hated Joseph too; but it’s one thing to hate someone.  It’s another thing to kill them.  Rueben didn’t want that.  Reuben had a plan to save Joseph, but it fell apart. 

Genesis 37:23-36

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.[c] 27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief. 30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”

31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. 32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”

33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. 35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave[e] mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianite traders[f] arrived in Egypt, where they sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was captain of the palace guard.

Who’s to Blame?

What a terrible waste!  Joseph was just about the same age as my daughter, who just started her first semester of college.  I think of my daughter—so young, so smart, so full of potential with a bright future ahead f her.  That was Joseph. God’s hand was upon him.  He was going to do great things through Joseph.  Then, this happened.

Who’s to blame for it all?  His brothers are to blame—for sure.  Their murderous actions were pure evil.  You should never hate someone.  Do you see where it leads?  I don’t care how much you hate someone, you should never murder. 

Even so, Josephs brothers aren’t the only ones to blame.  Let’s be honest.  Joseph’s father is to blame too.  Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons.  And he didn’t even try to cover it up.  If Jacob had loved his sons all the same and treated them fairly and equally, they wouldn’t have been so jealous they wanted to see Joseph dead.

And what about Joseph?  Doesn’t he share some of the blame too?  Didn’t he relish being his dad’s favorite son?  Didn’t he go out of his way to rub it all in his brother’s faces?  I’m not saying any of this justifies what Joseph’s brothers did.  However, I hope you can see everyone shares at least some of the blame for the way things fall apart.  We all share some of the blame because we all sin and sin corrupts the world and leads to this kind of suffering for everyone, everywhere.

God still has a plan for Joseph.  God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  When things fall apart, God is still in control and He is still at work.  Some how, some way, God takes things that fall apart and turns them into something beautiful.  However, in order to see if and how God redeems this broken story, you’re going to have to come back for the next episode next week.

 

The Mosaic of Life 

Some of the most beautiful art is created with mosaics.  A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together broken pieces of tile or glass.  It takes incredible vision and artistic ability to make the most intricate mosaics, which may consist of millions of tiny broken pieces.  However, the results are stunning (as you can see in the picture above).

 

Our lives are like the broken pieces of a mosaic in the hands of God.  We see our plans falling apart.  We see only broken pieces, but God has a vision and plan.  He uses even the brokenness to make something indescribably beautiful.

 

God had a plan for Joseph. God has a plan for you.  And it doesn’t matter if you:

·       Messed up with your kids like Jacob

·       Struggle with jealousy like Joseph’s brothers

·       Are arrogant and proud like Joseph

·       Or anything else.

 

If your plans fall apart and you don’t know where to begin putting the pieces back together, trust God. God has a plan for you and nothing can thwart His plans.  Even if everything falls apart, God can put it back together in ways you can’t even imagine. 

But you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to trust God.

You will be tempted to either give up or try to glue the pieces back together yourself.

It won’t work.  Only God—through Jesus Christ—can redeem your broken life and broken plans.

And when He does, it will be more beautiful than you can ever imagine.

Do you trust Him?  Will you let Him?

 

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 biblegateway.com 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+)

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.