God the Father, who gave us Your Son,
What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?
Here is wonder of wonders:
He came down below to raise me above,
was born, like me that I might become like Him.
Here is love:
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.
Here is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.
Here is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,
as man to die my death.
O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,
to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith.
In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.
Copyright by Bob Rogers
What translation of the Bible is best for a pastor to use in the pulpit? Pastors and laypeople feel differently about the issue.
My Unscientific Survey
Recently I did an unscientific opinion poll on Facebook among pastors and laypeople about what Bible translation they preferred for use from the pulpit. On a Facebook page with 1,300 pastors, I asked them what translation they used in the pulpit. Then I asked laypeople on my own Facebook page, with over 2,000 friends, what translation they preferred that their pastor use (I blocked my pastor friends from seeing the post). I received 95 responses from pastors, and 48 responses from laypeople. This is an unscientific survey, since it was based on those who decided to answer, and the two Facebook groups have demographic differences, although the pastors Facebook page is dominated by conservative evangelical Christians, and most of my friends on Facebook are also conservative evangelicals. Despite that qualification, I noticed some significant results that are worth noting. Here are the results and lessons learned:
KJV: 31 %
Given the unscientific nature of this survey and relatively small size of the sample, one should not read too much into this survey, but some trends should be noted:
*There is no one translation that the majority of people prefer. We live in an era in which many English translations of the Bible are available. No one translation is even close to being used by a majority of pastors or laypeople.
*The KJV is still the most popular translation, especially among pastors. The KJV was the number one answer among both groups, and half of all pastors either named the KJV or its updated version, the NKJV.
*There is a big divide between pastors and laypeople over the NIV. The NIV ranks beside the KJV in Bible sales in the USA, and this was reflected in the survey, as laypeople (who buy most of the Bibles) listed the NIV almost as much as the KJV. In contrast, almost no pastor listed the NIV. Laypeople also mentioned a greater variety of translations.
*The majority prefer that the pastor preach from a traditional, accurate translation. The KJV, NKJV, NASB and ESV are traditional, literal translations of the Bible. The CSB and HCSB are also accurate, though more contemporary translations, and even the NIV is much more accurate than free translations like the NLT or paraphrases like The Message. Pastors and laypeople overwhelmingly named accurate translations as their preference for pulpit use.
I do not presume to tell a pastor how to preach, but it I believe that pastors would do well to use an accurate translation from the pulpit. It has been my experience that many church members will go out and buy or download to their device the translation that their pastor uses. So choose your translation prayerfully, and use it consistently. Know your audience– just as a Hispanic pastor will choose a Spanish translation, a pastor needs to know the kind of congregation he has, and what will best communicate God’s word accurately and effectively to his people.
While reading the text from his preferred Bible translation, pastors would also do well to mention a variety of translations from time to time from the pulpit. Doing so can help clarify passages that are hard to understand, and also reminds the congregation that all English translations come from an original text that was in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.
Pastors should not condemn church members who are reading another translation of the Bible. Public condemnation of people over their Bible translation is unkind, and may humiliate a brother or sister in Christ who sincerely wants to know God’s word. Many new believers and young Christians prefer a more contemporary translation because they have difficulty understanding more traditional translations. If you have a conviction that they are not using a good translation of the Bible, you can instruct them lovingly and privately, as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos (see Acts 18:26).
Are you ticked off? Angry? Has something made you hot under the collar? In John 9, the Bible tells the story of how Jesus healed a man who was born blind, but instead of people celebrating, he got nitpickers, wound lickers, goodness sakers… and finally, an arm waver. Compare your own attitude with theirs:
1. Nitpickers (John 9:14-16)
The Pharisees nitpicked about how Jesus supposedly “worked” on the Sabbath because he made some mud with His saliva, touched a blind man’s eyes, and healed him. The Jewish Mishnah did not allow kneading dough on the Sabbath, and so in their minds, what Jesus did qualified as a violation. Never mind that a blind man could now see! Nitpickers love to burst the balloons of our celebrations, observing at a wedding that the bride needs to lose weight, criticizing a child for not making all A’s on his report card, complaining about the songs we sing at church. Don’t be a nitpicker!
2. Wound lickers (John 9:18-19)
The Pharisees could not leave well enough alone. They summoned the man’s parents to know if he was really born blind and how he received his sight. They wanted to expose some imaginary wrong. Wound lickers refuse to let others or themselves heal. The husband who always brings up his wife’s past mistakes, the woman who says after a divorce that she will never trust a man again, or the church member who says he’ll never go back to the church because nobody called when he was sick, are all examples of wound lickers. Scarred by emotional wounds, we cannot heal if we continue to lick them and gnaw at them. Don’t be a wound licker!
3. Goodness sakers (John 9:28)
Finally, the Pharisees crossed their arms, and looked down their noses, ridiculing Jesus and the man He healed. They said, “We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man– we don’t know where He’s from!” Ray Stevens had a humorous song, “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” with a character named Sister Bertha Better-than-You. Unfortunately, there are a lot of sisters and brothers like Bertha in our churches, putting their hands on their hips and declaring, “For goodness sake, who let those people in here?” Being a goodness saker is the greatest temptation of church members, and it is the biggest turnoff to the lost. For goodness sake, don’t be a goodness saker!
4. Arm wavers (John 9:38)
It’s stunning that this story is almost over before somebody finally celebrates. The arm waver is the man who was healed of blindness. It progressively comes to him throughout the chapter, as he realized just who Jesus is. He calls Jesus a “man” (v. 11), then a “prophet” (v. 17), then recognizes Jesus as a life changer (v. 25), then a “man from God” (v. 33), and finally he calls Him “Lord” (v. 38) and does a full body wave, worshiping at Jesus’ feet. He challenges the nitpickers and goodness sakers, reminding them that nobody in history has healed a man born blind. He declared, “Whether or not He’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” (v. 25).
How we need arm wavers. These are the people who cheer for their child’s Little League team when they down by ten runs, and praise the grandchildren for their creative coloring (even though they colored on the wall). They are the ones who jump up and shout when someone trusts in Christ and is baptized. In heaven, nobody will be nit picking (“I don’t like my mansion”), wound licking (“I see your husband didn’t make it”), or goodness saking (“I’ve got a better mansion than you”), but all will be arm waving before the throne of God. So if that’s what we’ll do in heaven, why don’t we live like that on earth?
Article Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers
Once I met a guy in the gym who had muscles of steel. I was amazed when he told me that he used to be fat, until he decided to get into shape.
First Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Many of us are spiritually fat. But just as my friend got physically fit, you can get into spiritual shape. Here’s how:
I. Put your heart into it.
Dotsie Bausch was riding a mountain bike one day when a group of competitive road cyclists flew past her. Dotsie chased them and stayed on their heels for two miles. That night, she told a friend, “This cycling thing, I’m actually pretty decent at it.” Four years later she was on the U.S. national cycling team. Her heart was all in. (Evan Miller, “Dotsie Bausch: Cycling,” Guideposts, July 2012, p. 47-49.)
Ezekiel 18:31. “Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” You must put your heart into it.
II. Remove hindrances.
In football, the offense has a big obstacle. It’s called the defense.
In the spiritual life, sinful obstacles block us, too.
Hebrews 12:1: “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.”
Choose to remove the hindrances to your spiritual life, especially sinful lifestyles that have been dragging you down. Do it!
III. Exercise your spirit daily.
There are two major types of exercise: cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, and strength training, which is usually by lifting weights. Healthy athletes have a balance of both. Likewise, you need a balance of spiritual exercises, often called the “spiritual disciplines.” These include Bible reading and prayer, but they also include meditation and memorization of scripture, service and stewardship, worship and witness. A healthy spiritual life develops from regular practice of these spiritual disciplines.
As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
IV. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…”
In 2008, I was about 35 pounds overweight. I was breathing hard just walking to the second floor. My pants were too tight. I didn’t like how I looked. I made a decision to change, and put my heart into it. It was a lifestyle change, as I got serious about exercise, eating right, and sticking with it. Over a year, I took off the weight. Today, nine years later, I have maintained my lower weight and healthier lifestyle.
I had tried fad diets before, but I finally had success when I kept my focus on a goal and stuck with it.
In a much greater way, the same principle applies to your spiritual life.
How about you? Are you getting into spiritual shape? It’s got to start with a change of heart. Are you ready to begin the journey?
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many meet in homes today.) In fact, we cannot be biblical Christians apart from the church. Why do I say that?
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.
4. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
What do you do after Christmas? What happens after you take down the tree, put up the lights, and put away all the wrapping? You do as the shepherds and Mary did: promulgate, meditate and celebrate!
1. PROMULGATE. In a previous century, they called missionary-sending organizations a Society for the Promulgation of the Gospel. In this century, the need is as great as ever to spread the good news. “After seeing them, they reported the message… about this child” (Luke 2:17). Ask somebody how their Christmas went, and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you to know Christ as your Savior.
2. MEDITATE. “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” (Luke 2:18). Spend some time quietly reflecting on the miracle of the Virgin Birth, and the Incarnation, God coming in flesh.
3. CELEBRATE. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.” (Luke 2:19). You probably went to church before Christmas. Sadly, the Sunday after Christmas is often one of the lowest in attendance of the year at many churches. But the shepherds rejoiced and worshiped AFTER the birth of Christ. So should we.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like with the creative design of Black Rock African American Episcopal Church near Washington, Georgia. This worship center caught my eye because of the amazing way that it brings together the entrance, steeple and pitch of the roof. I don’t know if there is any symbolic meaning to the three-part steeple on the front (perhaps for the Trinity?), but it certainly has an unforgettable look that I love.
This is the second installment in my photo blogs of houses of worship whose architecture I like. Tabernacle United Methodist Church is located in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
This sanctuary is a white wood design that was popular among many Protestants in the 19th century, particularly Methodists. (This building was built in 1830). I particularly like how the building has an entrance that juts forward and then continues upward into a steeple. This congregation has also kept their building spotlessly clean and carefully landscaped. This is one of most eye-catching country churches that I have ever photographed.
I was attending a writer’s conference, and a publisher who was speaking to us said that books often sell well because of marketing and famous authors, not because of the quality of the books. Someone asked the publisher to name a book that did not sell well but was such a quality book that he was glad it was published. The publisher said, “Yes, the book is Lord, Show Me Your Glory by Ethel Herr.”
The book was out of print, so I ordered it from amazon.com. I’m glad that I did.
I spent the year of 2008 going through this devotional. A wonderful journey it was. The book is divided into 52 chapters to be used as 52 weeks of devotions. But each “Week” actually has two or three qualities of God to study, so it really amounts to about two or three devotionals for each week. For example, Week Four is a devotional on God is Carpenter, Potter, and a Working God, Week Twelve is on God as Living Bread and Manna, and Week Twenty is on Discipliner, Teacher/Master and Rabbi. You get the idea.
Herr has a very descriptive writing style. For example, in Week Eleven she describes God’s omniscience by saying, “grace without God’s omniscience would be as elusive as a hollow wind whistling through the broken window panes of an empty church” (p. 72). She also has keen insights into the character of God. In Week Eighteen, she says this about God’s as Resurrection and the Life: “So, when He chooses to let our dreams die so He can give us a resurrection rather than a healing, we sometimes feel abandoned” (p. 114). Each section lists scripture readings for further meditation on that particular quality of God. I found that looking up those scriptures was almost as enriching as the text of her book.
The experience of going through this book will help you understand the character of God in a powerful way. If you are looking for a practical devotional that is all about you and how you live your Christian life, this is not it. But if you are looking for a devotional that will make you forget yourself and will leave you in awe of our wondrous God, bowing before Him in worship, then find a used copy of this rare gem of a book online and order it.
(If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)
Cal & Rose Samra tell how Thanksgiving Day was approaching, and a family received a Thanksgiving card with a painting of a Pilgrim family on their way to church.
Grandma showed the card to her small grandchildren, saying, “The Pilgrim children like to go to church with their mothers and fathers.”
“Oh yeah?” her grandson shot back, “if they really like to go, then why is their dad carrying that rifle?”
Which raises a question this Thanksgiving: do you really like to worship God and give Him thanks?
John Walker from Post, Texas, tells about a Christian farmer who visited a city and went to eat at a fine restaurant. When he received his food, he bowed his head and quietly gave thanks to God. Some rowdy teenagers at the next table sneered and said, “Hey farmer, does everybody do that where you live?”
The old farmer looked at the young man and calmly said, “No, son, the pigs don’t.”
Don’t be a pig this Thanksgiving. Be willing to give thanks to your Creator for all His gifts to you. Do it gladly, without somebody having to hold a rifle to your head.
If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.
Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
Some people get so caught up debating how to fit different scientific views to the creation account in Genesis chapter one, that they miss the great theological truths in this chapter:
1) God created! Only God can create, and He does simply by speaking the Word, “Let there be…” and creation comes out of nothing (compare Hebrews 11:3).
2) God’s creation is good! Repeatedly, God saw what he created and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). When He created mankind, He said it was “very good.”
3) God’s creation is under His Lordship. God is the one in control. He speaks, and it comes to be. God alone is to be worshiped, not “Mother Earth” or the sun or moon, which is why God deliberately did not name the sun and moon (Genesis 1:16). Compare Romans 1:25.
4) God’s creation is under mankind’s trusteeship. Man was told to subdue and rule creation (Genesis 1:28), but also to “watch over it” (2:15). We have a responsibility to be good managers, for we don’t own it; God owns it all (compare Psalm 24:1).
NOTE: If a video ad appears below this post, I do not necessarily endorse the product.
Years ago, my whole church got choked up during communion.
I was the young pastor at a scenic little country church in southwest Mississippi, tucked amongst the pine trees at the edge of a national forest. One Sunday, I finished my sermon and prepared the people for the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After reading scripture about the body and blood of Christ shed for our sins, I raised the cover from the tray with the little juice glasses. The odor almost knocked out the people on the front row. But we just held our breath and started serving it. (What else could I do– stop the service and say the communion juice stinks?) A lady choked and gagged. Others downed it quickly with a grimace on their faces. We managed to finish, although for a moment I was afraid we were going to have to whistle the benediction instead of singing it, our lips were so sour.
After the service was over, a lady made a bee-line to “Bennie” (not his real name), the member who had prepared the juice. “Why was the juice so sour?” she wanted to know. He explained to her that he had reused the leftover juice from the previous month. “And where did you get the juice?” she demanded. “From Paw,” was his simple answer. “Paw,” who shall remain unidentified, was rumored to make homemade wine.
The day we got choked up in worship was funny. What is not funny is when something chokes off worship. Then the church has a problem. If you sing out with joy and somebody tells you that you sing too loud, that can choke your worship. If you shout “Amen” or feel led to raise your hands, and somebody glares at you for it, that can choke your worship. If you are judged by your appearance or clothing and not made to feel welcome, it can choke your worship.
So if you get the urge to choke in a worship service, ask God to help you swallow it. You’ll be glad you did.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
In ancient times, a victorious king would ride into a city on horseback. But Jesus was a different kind of king; He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The horse was a symbol of war. The donkey was a symbol of peace.
Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him, and waved branches. John’s gospel says they were palm branches (John 12:13). Mark 11:9-10 records their words of praise and worship as Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us.” They were quoting Psalm 118 as they called on Jesus as Savior. They were worshiping with their whole hearts.
Unfortunately, a lot of people come to worship at church and act as if it is a Mardi Gras parade. In New Orleans, people line the streets during Mardi Gras, with bags open and umbrellas turned upside down to catch the trinkets and candy thrown from each float. They shout, “Throw me something, mister!” Do we come to worship for what we can get out of it, or do we come to give our whole hearts to a worthy God? Isn’t our God worthy of our worship, even if we receive absolutely nothing in return? As Jesus paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, the crowds didn’t cry “Throw me something,” they shouted “Hosanna.” Do we come to worship with the same attitude?
Palm Sunday, the day of triumph, teaches us to worship.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
A Baptist pastor accepted the call to a church in Sledge, Mississippi. The day that he moved in, a 90-year-old woman drove up and greeted him in his driveway. “I’m Mrs. Irby,” she said. “I was a Presbyterian until my husband died, then I went back to the Methodist Church. But I don’t ever intend on coming to your church. I just came by to say welcome to the community.” With that, she drove off, spinning wheels and throwing dirt and rocks all over the new pastor.
So the pastor was surprised months later, when Mrs. Irby showed up one Sunday morning at the Baptist church. Early in the service, the pastor asked everybody to stand and greet one another. Mrs. Irby started to head out the door. The Baptists asked her where she was going, and she said, “In my church, when you stand, it’s time to go.” They helped her back to her pew to stay for the rest of the service. The pastor began to preach, and Mrs. Irby shouted loudly to the young lady beside her, “When is he ever gonna quit?” The congregation chuckled, and the pastor wrapped up his sermon quickly. Mrs. Irby stood to go. As she greeted the pastor at the door, she said, “The only reason I came here today is that the Methodists didn’t have church because their pipes busted. But I didn’t get a thing out of your sermon. Next time I’ll have to remember to bring my hearing aids.” And with that, she was out the door, never to return.
Which reminds me: you only get out of church what you put into it. The psalmist says, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:2, 4, ESV). Come to church with a prayer in your heart, a smile on your face, a Bible in your hand, and if you need them, glasses on your eyes and hearing aids in your ears, so that you don’t miss what God wants to say to you.