Monday, March 28, 2011


In our ever-changing and disposable world, some things continue to endure. Consider the King James Version of the Bible, which is 400 years old this year. When King James I commanded that a committee of translators set to work on a new Bible translation in 1604, England was still in religious turmoil. Seventy years before, King Henry VIII had rid England of the yoke of catholicism, and succeeding monarchs adopted new articles of faith which were often rapidly changed, resulting in leaders being in good standing one year and sent to the gallows in the next. The King James Version of 1611 was produced at a moment in history that helped protestantism gain permanent footing in England and other parts of Europe.

The KJV was not the first English translation. The Tyndale Bible was completed in the 1530s even though William Tyndale did not complete an entire English translation before his martyrdom in 1536. He did, however, consult with Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg, and, like Luther, translated the New Testament from a new Greek version recently published by Erasmus of Rotterdam.

The KJV today is still revered by many churches and church bodies as the best, or certainly the most preferred, English translation. Since 1611, dozens of English translations have been published especially in the twentieth century. Some pastors and churches seem to regard the KJV to be as divinely inspired as the original texts. Amazingly, the KJV was able to escape Middle Age church arguments, which was no small feat considering that era was filled with bitter disputes.

The English used in the KJV was already slightly outdated in its own day, with "thee" and "thou" starting to pass out of everyday speech. Modern translations have been published because the English language is evolving. Furthermore, many ancient manuscripts discovered since the days of the KJV have helped modern scholars to understand the biblical texts better, resulting in more accurate translations.

Stlll the King James Version of 1611 endures. There is even a "King-James-Only" movement which considers the KJV not just another translation but an indispensable foundation of the Christian faith. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Evidently some Christians believe our Lord was talking about the King James Version.

The true and everlasting Word of God - Jesus Christ - will always survive translation!

Monday, March 21, 2011


Our first reaction to adversity is fear or sadness. When Judy Robles was just sixteen years old and unmarried, she gave birth to her first child by Cesarean section. In the recovery room she asked what the baby's gender was and if the baby was okay. The doctor said he was a boy and later her parents told her the news: her tiny son had a birth defect and would never walk like a normal child. That night and for many for many more nights after, young mother Judy cried.

But Judy Robles was not crying this past weekend. Her boy Anthony, now a fine athlete and a senior at Arizona State University, became a champion. It was Anthony's last match of his career and he says last of his life. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as soon as his dominating win was complete. "I'd prepared for this moment all year," he said, "and I was scared. As soon as I hit the first takedown, I said, 'Okay, back to business'." He defeated the two-time national champion from the University of Iowa.

Robles has greater upper body strength than most of his opponents, and his style forces them to stay low. "I didn't get into the sport for the attention." he said, "I love the sport and am pleased when I can help motivate others to do things they wouldn't have thought possible." In the medal ceremony he stood tall as he received his award as the NCAA Wrestling Champion at 125 pounds. You see, Anthony Robles was born with only one leg.

Anthony's success is not so much in his overcoming adversity as it was in achieving his goals. Our success in life is not dependant on how we start life, but in how we finish it. Jesus of Nazareth had a fine beginning to His life, but a terrible ending. Yet even death on the cross did not define His life; His resurrection did. His loss of life on Friday was prelude to His regaining it on Sunday. Jesus is not remembered so much for His dying as in His rising again. As He told His disciples, "I lay down my life, only to take it up again." (John 10:17)

May we, too, rise above our struggles, and with the help of God join the Saints in glory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


We never know what effect our small acts of faith may have on others or even on the future. In John 6, Jesus had been teaching to a huge crowd in a remote area, and during a break His disciples told Him He should send them away because they were hungry and needed to find their own food. Jesus said, "You give them something to eat." They were shocked and said they didn't have money enough. All they could find was five small loaves of bread and two dried fish. "But how far will it go among so many?" asked a skeptical Andrew.

You know the rest of the story. That little lunch fed 5,000 people with baskets of food to spare because it was blessed by the hands of Jesus. The now-famous lunch probably came from a small boy who heard the disciples saying they had no food and so offered them what little he had. Lest you think you don't have much to offer Jesus, consider this:

Edward Kimball, a Boston Sunday School teacher, decided to visit a young man in his class to tell see if he knew Christ. That visit led to the conversion of young Dwight L. Moody. Moody became the most famous evangelist of the 19th century, and had a major impact on evangelist Wilbur Chapman. Chapman shared his faith with Billy Sunday who received Jesus, joined his campaign and helped lead thousands to Christ. Sunday launched his own national ministry with great results in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina. At one of his revivals, Sunday was assisted by evangelist Mordecai Ham who invited a young man there to receive Jesus as His Savior. That young man was Billy Graham, the most prominent world evangelist of the 20th Century.

If you think you don't have much to offer, remember Edward Kimball, a teacher who spent an afternoon witnessing to a young man from his class. God has a special way of using our small, even routine, acts of faithfulness to accomplish great things.

What small act for others might you do today?

Monday, March 7, 2011


Tomorrow among the churches of nearly 80% of the world's Christians, the season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. This year, I will be preaching for the special midweek Lent services at Trinity Lutheran, 1428 N. Pueblo, here in Casa Grande, AZ (services at 4:00 & 7:00), on the theme, "The Seven Last Words from the Cross." 

Since the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the Christian Church has urged believers to prepare themselves for the Resurrection of Christ on Easter by conducting special services to ponder His suffering and death. In that way, Lent helps us prepare for true meaning of Easter, which is Christ's holy Resurrection. 

"Lent" is Latin for "spring", and begins 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. Because Easter is a moveable date based on the date of Passover, Ash Wednesday can be as early as February 4 and as late as March 10. About 20% of the world's Christians do not observe Lent for various reasons.

Tomorrow during the Ash Wednesday service among most Christian churches, ashes will be placed on the foreheads of worshippers. These ashes are usually made from burning palm branches from Palm Sunday the year before and mixing those ashes with olive oil. As the ashes are imposed onto the worshippers forehead, words are spoken such as "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return"(Genesis 3:19), or the one I usually use, "May you be blessed with repentance through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Because Lent is a man-made observance, the Bible does not mention it or Ash Wednesday. But the practice of repentance and/or mourning with ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19, Job 2:8, Matthew 11:21 and other places. It is a good practice for followers of Christ to observe. If you have time and there is a Lent-observing church near you, consider worshipping our Lord in a midweek Lent service this spring.

God bless you all through the season of Lent!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It is a basic human need to want to be loved, respected and appreciated by others. Sunday night I watched a few minutes of the Academy Awards, the annual extravaganza for the movie industry to reward itself. The Entertainment Industry does this often with an ever-growing number of annual award programs. Entertainers make their living pleasing the crowds, and how well they do is important to them.

I've always tended to be a bit harsh in judging entertainers and politicians (who equally make their living acting in front of crowds). St. Paul discourages us from passing judgment on people, that is, deciding on the appropriateness of someone's actions without having all the facts. He says in Romans 14 we should, " what leads to peace and to mutual edification." He also says, "Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval" (Vs. 18, 19).

The sacred and secular are not completely separate. We live with feet in both kingdoms and often seek to please both people and our Lord. There is a place for gentle judgment, however, when we see what is wrong and inappropriate. Then we need to "speak the truth in a spirit of love" (Ephesians 4:15).

Being able to judge right and wrong is part of what makes us human. Secularists tell us there are no absolutes and that all morals are relative, made by humans. To a secularist, the only "absolute" is never to be judgmental. But to declare something right or wrong is not the same as being judgmental.

Calling attention to the rightness or wrongness of an action can be very necessary. To fail to acknowledge wrong and not to try to change it can have serious consequences. Parents find this out quickly as they teach their children. We all need boundaries, just to get along in this world.

St. Paul tells us, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old has gone and the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). I like being entertained, so long as it's done appropriately.

"And the winner is...."