Why It’s a Good Idea to Use Various Bible Translations

Kids Studying Bible

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture. for example, in my personal Bible study time this morning I ran across this passage in the New Living Translation.

With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Hebrews 9:12 NLT

I thought that makes it sound like Jesus was already in the Most Holy Place before 1844. I remembered hearing someone before reference this verse  trying to destroy the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary. So I thought, in the spirit of the Bereans, I need to check this out. I quickly found that the KJV does not say “Most Holy Place” in this verse. It only says “Holy Place.”

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12 KJV

Now I must remember the KJV is also a “version.” The KJV is not the original manuscripts. The KJV is an extremely reliable version, but it does not automatically trump all other versions on every text. Having translated messages in ASL and having had studies translated for me from English to Spanish, I understand what all translators understand, that no translation is 100% accurate. This includes the KJV. So I did a little more research and found that even the NKJV, which is a highly esteemed version did indeed use the phrase” Most Holy Place,” not “Holy Place.” This caused me to research even further. I found that The Message translates it this way.

But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. Hebrews 9:11-12 MSG

This was an aha! moment for me. The word being translated “most” in other translations except for the KJV actually meant “true” or real. This makes perfect sense and is understandable why so many would translate it ‘most.” The context of Hebrews 8- 9 is not about when Jesus went into the most holy place, but rather that Jesus went into a real and literal sanctuary

There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. Hebrews 8:2 NLT

See! There is the word “true” in the NLT. Hebrews 9:12 is saying that Jesus went into a real and true sanctuary. The word “most” in the other translations is not an unfortunate translation, when you understand by “most” it is comparing the heavenly sanctuary to the earthy sanctuary, instead of comparing the most holy and holy compartments.

There are conspiracy theorists who see modern translations as a plot to destroy Adventist theology. I say if the KJV is the only version that supports our theology then we better re-examine our theology! I believe sound theology will be supported by various versions, and I believe the sanctuary message can be supported by various translations.

 

“I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible, yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed.” -Ellen White, Early Writings, Pages 220,-221

The first point I appreciate about this passage is that Ellen White understood errors were made with the best of intentions instead of a conspiracy plot. I am sure when the coma was misplaced in the KJV in Luke 23:43 it was with the best of intentions. The second point I appreciate is that the Holy Spirit has protected the Word of God so that the way to life will not be lost, and the Holy Spirit can help us find truth in the different translations we read.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture.

Where in the World Are You Studying the Bible?

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To me, the Bible is the  most personal and universal book ever written. When I read it I know God is personally talking to me, just as He was personally talking to Martin Luther as he read the Bible chained to the monastery wall in Europe in 1517, and Ellen White as she read the Sacred pages on the  Alameda as it sailed the South Pacific on its way to Australia is 1891, and the business secretary who read the Bible app on her tablet commuting on the New York subway last evening. The Bible brings me into a one on one personal relationship with Jesus. It also ties me to billions of people around the globe throughout earth’s history.

Last Christmas while I was on vacation, I went golfing with a buddy in Western Arkansas near Ozark Adventist Academy. On our way to the golf course we stopped in a diner for brunch, where we coincidentally ran into my cousin Paul, who was sitting at the community table, studying his Sabbath School lesson on his tablet. We joined him and had an enjoyable conversation, before we went chasing golf balls all through the woods. I had never seen a community table before, where everyone was welcome to sit together, where strangers become friends. Now that I think about it, I guess its like the bar stools at diners back in the 50’s so maybe the idea isn’t so novel. The small town diner enchanted me with its social atmosphere, with people visiting, coming and going at their leisure.

It made me think about SSNET, the Sabbath School lesson website I write for, as well as my personal blog, In Light of the Cross. Both are a social online community where people can come and visit, study and share ideas at their leisure. I got to thinking about my cousin Paul who was studying his Sabbath School lesson at the diner, in a social setting. It made me think about people studying their Bibles and Sabbath school quarterlies around the world. I got to wondering where all people are studying their own Bible around the world. Are people studying right now at a  Starbucks in Seattle? You know Starbucks sells bottled water and fruit juices too. Is someone reading their lesson on a park bench in Birkenhead park in Liverpool? Is someone having their devotional on their back patio in Cape Town? It is summer time there now you know? Is someone passing the time on their Sabbath School app while waiting on a plane at the Perth airport?

I just thought it might be nice to share where in the world we enjoy studying our Bibles and or Sabbath School lessons. Many I suppose have a special place inside your comfy home or flat God blesses them with, while others may have a special restaurant, park bench or special meeting place. Even Jesus had a special place of prayer and worship, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you have a special place for your Bible study and prayer time? Years ago in Samaria, a woman met Jesus at a well. They had a one on one conversation, but Jesus also mentioned to her about worshiping in the Spirit. John worshiped in the Spirit while on Patmos. So you have two people, one in Samaria and one on Patmos both worshiping in the same place-the Spirit! So you see why I say our Bible study time is very personal and universal all at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

I would be interested in meeting you, and finding out not only what country you are from, but where you enjoy studying the Bible. Are you like many of my nostalgic friends who still enjoy holding an actual book or quarterly in your hands, or do you use an electronic device? Please comment below and let me know where in the world you like to study God’s Word. Then the next time I am enjoying my alone time in the Spirit with God’s Word, I will know who I am studying alone with, and I can say a prayer for God to bless your study as well as mine.

Persecution of the Peacemakers

That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. Luke 23:12 NKJV

Jesus was the common foe uniting political enemies. So it will be in the last days.

Political enemies will be united as commandment-keeping Christians become the common foe of all nations.

you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. Matthew 24:9 NKJV

Some people challenge the Adventist interpretation of Revelation 13, because they can’t imagine the Unites States persecuting Christians, yet even Jesus says God’s people will be hated by all nations, and that includes the United States.

Jesus knew that in a sinful world commandment keeping would not be accepted. This may be why He said,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 NKJV

Many think this statement is out of character for Jesus. After all He is the Prince of Peace, and didn’t the angels sing, “peace on earth” at His birth? May I suggest that it is the actual peacefulness of Christians that will stir up the ire of the world in the last days?

The beatitudes are building blocks to a complete conversion. As the conversion process comes to completion Jesus says,

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 NKJV

But look what happens next to the peacemakers!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV

Like Ahab persecuted Elijah for being faithful to God, accusing him of being the trouble maker (See 1 Kings 18:17), so the leaders accused Jesus of stirring up dissension. (See Luke 23:5) This will be repeated right before Jesus comes. Many Christians will deny Christ and the commandments, thinking it better to be at peace with the world. When Hitler rose up in Europe, many of his neighbors wanted peace at any cost, but it turned out that the only thing uglier than war was cowardice! This is why John said,

But the cowardly….shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 NKJV

Peter said,

For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:17 NKJV

In the last days we are to be peacemakers, but that does not mean being cowards in keeping God’s law. Let it be said of us, what was said of Daniel,

“We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” Daniel 6:5 NKJV

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The Immortality of the Soul and Satan’s Seeing is Believing Trick

Tulsa By River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma

A Bible student excitedly told me about a movie he saw where someone died and went to heaven where he saw his dead loved ones. When I reminded him about thestate of the dead, he told me, “Well maybe they did not actually die. Maybe it was a dream.” He was quite emotional about the movie and told me it had strengthened his faith in God.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, it raises the issue of whether we regard movies as authoritative, or not. Do we put our faith in movies or other visual media? Bible-believing Christians regard the Bible alone as authoritative in matters of faith. Sadly, all too often entertainment films promote popular misconceptions rather than presenting what the Bible says.

Satan has been using the “seeing is believing” strategy right from the beginning. When Satan dressed up as a serpent, he offered Eve a treat that turned out to be a trick. God’s Word said, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:17 NLT), but then Eve saw that this serpent not only appeared to have eaten the fruit and did not die, but could also talk. This was pretty convincing “seeing is believing” evidence for her. You could disobey God and not die and at the same time enjoy benefits. If the serpent could talk after disobeying God, then what were the possibilities for Eve? The serpent appeared to be more credible than God’s Word because the visible proof was right there.

Eve believed what she saw more than what God had told her. How wrong she was! Eve ate the fruit and ultimately died. The serpent that Satan used died too, and one day Satan himself will die. It may have initially appeared God’s Word was not true, but God’s Word proved to be very true indeed.

Satan uses the seeing is believing trick in many other ways besides just death. During World War 2 many Bible believing Christians were sure Hitler was going to take over all of Europe, even though Daniel 2 says Europe will never again have a one world empire. After all it sure looked like He was going to win!  While Jesus traveled with His two companions on the road to Emmaus, it sure looked to them like Jesus was not the Messiah after all. Instead of having them recognize Him, he showed them in Scripture the truth about the Messiah. Why go to Scripture instead of just opening their eyes and letting them see Him? Because Jesus doesn’t want us going by the seeing is believing mentality. Seeing is believing is Satan’s trick. God doesn’t use that. He uses Scripture. Scripture is our safeguard from the seeing is believing deception.

Jesus has warned us that in the last days that :

“… some shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”. Matthew 24:24.

He was warning us that we need to be aware of how easily we can be deceived by what we see.

The belief that the dead can communicate with us has been one of the greatest delusions playing on the emotions of the bereaved by insinuating that the dead are alive in a different dimension and can talk to us. In parallel with one of the great Awakening movements in the United States, the Fox Sisters appeared to be communicating with the dead in their bedrooms. However Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:26 that He would not be in secret places, such as bedrooms. Those who place their trust in the Bible need not be deceived even though it may appear that the dead can speak.

Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. Isaiah 8:19-20 NLT

The popular media are full of accounts of near-death experiences – in which people supposedly died briefly on the operating table or in other situations – and then “came back” through medical intervention or other means. They tell vivid accounts of what they experienced while dead. While there are scientific explanations for such experiences,1 most people seem to take these as genuine glimpses into the afterlife, particularly those who have had these experiences. After all, seeing is believing. This plays well into Satan’s overall plan of deceiving the people of this world.

A friend of mine was visiting some folk when their young son went missing. Tragically they found him face down in the pool with little sign of life. As they rushed him to the hospital, the mother was frantically praying to the Virgin Mary to save her son. But Mary could not save her son. She was dead. Sadly the boy died too.

In times of trouble shall we call upon the dead, or shall we call on Jesus who is alive and has conquered the grave? Shouldn’t we have a personal relationship with Jesus instead of dead people?

The story of King Saul clearly illustrates the danger of losing sight of our relationship with God. Saul, frustrated with not getting the message from God that he wanted, chose to consult a medium to call back Samuel from the dead. The medium in 1 Samuel 28:14 created the illusion that Saul was talking to Samuel, leading to a set of tragic results for him and his family.

The KJV says Saul “perceived” he was talking to Samuel. Samuel was not talking to Saul. It was an illusion created by Satan. Furthermore, it raised the question why Saul looked for comfort from a dead person to whom he had not listened while he was living, rather than listen to the living God.

Saul should have sought counsel from God instead of an illusion. Today we should seek counsel and courage from the Bible rather than movies and accounts of near-death experiences that depict popular misconceptions. Movies depicting people “crossing over” from the “other side” should not be our source of encouragement.

We can be confident in Scriptures like 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 where Paul describes the second coming and resurrection. He described for us how those who are dead and sleeping in Christ will be raised at the resurrection at the second coming and will meet the living in the air to be with Jesus to live forever.

Paul adds: “Encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18 We don’t need to be encouraged by Media Fiction or phrases like “They have gone home to be with the Lord” Which are found nowhere in the Bible. We can encourage each other with the hope found in the Scriptures which are tried and true.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 


I am Living in my Last Days

DT Tampa july 4

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1979 when I was 14, I received a letter from the Tulsa Roughnecks major league soccer (football) team, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. I could not believe my eyes. There it was “1980” in print! Growing up Seventh-day Adventist, I was told we were in the last days. The fuel crisis was going to bring an economic disaster, which would cause a national Sunday law. I never imagined the world lasting beyond the 70’s. Hence why it shocked me to see “1980” in print. I was sure the world would not last all the way until 1980.

Spoiler alert! 

It did.

Now we are well into the 21st century. By the way I love telling kids stories about growing up back in the nineteen hundreds. But I digress.

Meanwhile I have grieved the deaths of several loved ones, who I was sure would still be alive when Jesus returned. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s an Adventist child needn’t worry about parents growing old and dying, since we were always told Jesus would be coming back within the next five years.

Now I am closer to retirement than I am my high school graduation. Funny, in grade school we thought it would be forever until we graduated. Now its been forever since we graduated!

Still my faith in Jesus’ return has never wavered. I don’t feel Jesus has let me down, as He never promised to come back within the next five years. And Jesus never told my pastors and Bible teachers to tell me He was coming back within five years. That’s all on them, bless their hearts, they meant well!

Even though I always imagined myself hiding in the mountains during the time of trouble, when Jesus comes, I am now faced with the probability of my own death. I may be one of those resurrected when Jesus comes. People tell me I am still young, but I have done the math. If I live as long as my mother lived, I have 28 years left. I am not even promised that long, but based on life expectancy, my time on earth is probably less than 30 years. I am living in my last days!

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. James 4:14 NKJV

Regardless if Jesus comes in the next 5 years or 200 years, I am looking at 30 years max that I have to endure this old earth. When I die my wait will be over. The next thing I know Jesus will becoming! 30 years is nothing! I am living in my last days! 

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NKJV

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Two Things I Love About Daniel

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we take a look at Daniel in this week’s lesson there are a couple of things I love about Daniel, that sometimes get overlooked. When his neck was on the line, I like how Daniel responded when God revealed to him the king’s dream.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

Daniel’s relationship with God did not only save his life. It saved the lives of all the wise men, even the fake ones. Daniel’s first thoughts were of others, not just himself. So it is today. The entire world benefits from the Christian influences around them. Like when the disciples asked Jesus to calm the sea, it was not just calm for their little boat. All the boats on the sea benefited. Daniel wanted to save others. Later when the Persian leaders conspired against Daniel, it did not bother him that others did not have his back the way that he had theirs. Daniel knew God had his back and that’s all that mattered.

I also marvel at Daniel’s humility. Daniel 1:20 says Daniel and his friends were found to be ten times wiser. Yet when Daniel tells the king’s dream look what he says,

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

Nothing is more annoying than a wise guy telling you how wise he is. Daniel realized smart people don’t tell you how smart they are. Daniel did not credit his wisdom. He credited God’s grace in wanting to reach the king’s heart. Daniel had more thank just Scriptural knowledge and prophetic understanding. He had people skills! So much so he flourished in the heart of Babylon without ever compromising his faith!

As we prepare for the end times, let’s not only pursue Daniel’s prophetic abilities. Let’s pursue his people skills.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

How I Got Out of Credit Card Debt

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I often felt I would never get out of debt. I considered bankruptcy. After paying for things four times over I considered writing my creditors and telling them I was not paying anymore and they could just send me to jail if they wanted. I considered changing my identity and moving to New Zealand to start a new debt free life, but my credit cards were all maxed out and I couldn’t get a ticket. I literally had no money, as all the money I possessed I owed to other people. Instead of saving or paying anything forward all I was doing was paying things back. I was living a lie as the money I had wasn’t really mine. I was desperate.

Then I read that God creates miracles to help people repay their debts.

But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:5-7 NKJV

I was praying for a miracle. My parents had instilled in me the importance of returning my tithe, and I continued tithing even though even the money I was tithing was not my own. Or at least it was not returning the first fruits as my entire paycheck had already been spent before I even earned it. I forgave all my debtors hoping some of my debts would be forgiven as well. I greatly curbed my spending and as much as I could stopped using my credit cards. Then after over 20 years of credit card debt the miracle came.

I started 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt. I was working for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church as I had been for the last eleven years. They had been paying me a very decent salary (More than any of my other Bible Worker friends) and it would have been even better had I not been in debt. After eleven years the church could no longer handle the burden of my salary and benefits. They informed me I would be let go the last of April. Little did I know this was the beginning of the miracle that would get me out of debt!

The church gave me plenty of warning, so before my last day at Tampa First I had plenty of time to set up my own ministry through the Plant City SDA Church, where I would continue doing Bible Work in the Tampa Bay area and beyond, based solely on contributions from people supporting my ministry. I also got a part time job at Florida Hospital. Here God was already performing miracles. I have heard of people losing their jobs and going months without a paycheck. Well I don’t know why God was so good to me, but I actually received paychecks from my new jobs before I received my last paycheck from Tampa First! Also Tampa First gave me a very generous severance check. After tithing I used a portion of the severance check to help a friend pay off their child’s church school bill. The rest I applied to my credit card debt.

A golf buddy called and needed my help on the side with his property management company. I was inspecting property, and as well as making a few extra dollars, I was  given a car which he also let me use to get to my Bible studies. I wasn’t golfing anymore as I was enjoying my new regular Bible Worker ministry with two side jobs. Remember I entered 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt? Well on the day before Thanksgiving that year, I paid off my last credit card, and woke up Thanksgiving morning with a zero balance on all my credit cards. What a Thanksgiving! It was truly a miracle that began with me losing my job, I lost my job and turned around and paid off all my credit cards!

Of course I could not keep up with two side jobs and my regular Bible Worker ministry, but God provided them long enough to get me out of debt.

I must share a miracle that happened the following year. My mother was dying and I needed to make an emergency flight home which was very expensive, plus I would be missing work. I prayed and told God I did not want to go into debt again but needed to be there for my family. I told God I was going to be faithful to my family whatever the consequences. I shared a simple message on Facebook that I was going home because my mother was dying. I wrote and implied nothing more. That evening a Facebook friend from Texas messaged me she was sending me a monetary gift. That gift paid for my emergency plane tickets both ways. It covered my time off work. It helped pay my share of funeral expenses with some left over which I put into savings!

I now only have one credit card which I transfer money from my bank to pay off as soon as the transactions are made. I don’t wait till the end of the month. I love seeing that zero balance on my card all month long! I am careful with my money. I don’t feel inferior to people who have more money than me. I don’t have any problems saying I don’t have the money to do something. It is not embarrassing to me. I am very thankful for the miracle God provided to get me out of credit card debt. Now when I return tithe and offerings it is actually my first fruits. It is actually my money that I earned from that very paycheck.

Remember in my last article how I shared how cool I thought it was that my dad could just spontaneously buy a new softball glove? Well a few months ago my car up and died. I was not expecting that. It turned out to be my battery. A friend jumped my car and I went to an auto parts store where I bought and had a new battery installed. I paid cash. Instead of being upset that I had an unexpected repair bill, I drove away from the parts store, feeling pretty good. A spontaneous bill already paid for! Thank you Jesus!

You may study this quarter’s SS lessons on Stewardship here.