Giving More than a Trip to Michigan

Give.

When we hear that word, give, what happens to our psyche? Some of us may tighten up and get defensive. Or, we may get warm feelings from memories of birthdays or Christmas time. But how many of us are passionate about giving.

Giving what? Whatever you want. Whatever you need to. Whatever you have that you would be delighted to give to someone else who could use what you have or may really need what you have to offer.

The saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” is not a proverb that a wise person created to teach children. We heard it first from the Apostle Paul quoting Jesus.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” what a simple statement. However, few attempt it and even fewer have mastered it. What a joy it is to be around those who try. Not simply because by proximity, you may be a recipient of the giving, but because there is something, I dare say supernatural about giving.

Giving is not natural to our contemporary world, not without some sort of return expected which is not giving but an investment.

Yet, there is something inside of us that knows that giving is “good.” Good in the purest sense of the word.

Why is that?

Our Creator, Our God is a giver. We are made in his image. Oh, there has been a curse of sin that tries to darken the light bearer that we are, but that is what we are. Created in the image of the One who gives and so when we fulfill our purpose of image bearing and act as a giver, it is not natural but supernatural. It is the light of the gospel made manifest to the world. It is us being the city on the hill.

So you see, it is a pleasure being around those who master giving because of this light, because of the image that they bear. I heard a pastor once say, “Jesus was the most joyful person ever because he was the most generous person ever.” And to use that rationale, those who are most generous tend to be the most joyful to be around.

I have just a small few people in my life who are like this.

I had the wonderful experience of adding one more earlier this month. Let me tell you about it.

My son Mac was born in 2010 surprisingly without his right forearm/hand.

My and my wife’s faith in God’s sovereignty and goodness grew immediately as we were held up by God’s Holy Spirit and God’s people, the church.

Also, with my endearment to baseball as a boy, I remember watching Jim Abbott with a similar birth, pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees and play for other teams, using his patented fielding style holding the glove under Jim’s right arm until the ball was released and then switching the glove to his left hand to field cleanly.

My son Mac, quickly proved to us that he would be just fine and we received the pleasure of seeing the blessing of stubbornness and determination in our Son as he excelled in whatever he wanted to.

But still, the questions are there, the social awkwardness, stares, offensiveness and a parent’s defensiveness. Sometimes Mac has been tough for us, others Cassie has been tough for Mac and me, and a few times I hope they have been able to lean on me.

There are wonderful communities like Scottish Rite in DFW, but it is not realistic for us to be consistently present there.

Last year, as grandparents do, my mother – Mac’s Nanny, was talking all about her grandkids to people at her work and we were introduced to the possibility by someone that she was talking to wanted to help us get in contact with Jim Abbott, so that there might be some wisdom and encouragement there.

Are you kidding me?!

A childhood hero of mine wanted to speak to my Son, Mac!!!

Both were true to their word. The connection was made and Jim Abbott called us, sent a letter to Mac, and signed pictures and cards, and Mac had someone “like him,” to look up to. To hear the words from someone like him, say, “Don’t ever give up”.

End of story. It was awesome. Call it a day.

Except that was not enough for our friend who kept wanting to “give” to my son Mac.

His thought was, Mac has to see Jim Abbott in person, and he thought “this could change his life.”

Well, we live west of Fort Worth and Jim Abbott isn’t driving through Mineral Wells any time soon.

How about going to a University of Michigan football game (where both our Good Samaritan and Jim Abbott are alumni) where Mac can meet up with Jim Abbott?!!!

I was told, “See if Jim Abbott will be at any Michigan games, and we will meet him there.”

If you know me, I have a hesitancy to drive to the mall thinking, “Will our car make it?” “Do we really need to spend money on this?”

Can you wrap your mind around someone you do not know, someone who does not owe you anything, someone who does not need anything that you might have, and you cannot repay, not only completely covering the cost of a trip like this but making the emotional connection and investment to make this trip happen.

Not only is the money a concept that I cannot understand, but how many of us have never thought about the impact that any sort of gesture could make to someone else, let alone a complete stranger.

Now to take it multiple steps further, we (My mom, Mac, and I) were met at the airport boarding passes in hand. We were guided through the airport and made it to Detroit where our host prepared our rental car and then drove us to Ann Arbor where he had arranged our hotel. Thoroughly providing for our trip, first thing in the morning on game day, his family was preparing our tailgating spot so all that we had to do was come to the stadium and enjoy eating chili and the environment of 110,000 Blue faithful at “The Big House,” as we waited for our encounter with Mr. Abbott.

Jim, of course, was not bribed or tugged into this. Jim was so encouraging leading up to this point and assuring that he would love to meet Mac. This very morning Jim was emailing and texting me to make sure that we would be at the right place and right time, he was pursuing Mac, I did not have to “remind” him or hope that it would work out.

Then the moment that our friend had invested so much in and we had held our excitement in for so long came, Jim and his wife found where we were and I got to watch my son and Jim chat, get to know one another, play catch, share some stories, and Jim get down on one knee and give a pointer or two to Mac.

Our friend sat back and enjoyed seeing what he wanted to see all along, simply a boy getting a gift, an amazing gift. But that’s what we were all there for, a boy receiving not a box with wrapping and a bow on it or a gift card but a vision of possibility and encouragement, strength.

Hundreds of people around us tailgating knew what was going on: not a celebrity signing autograph but a memory that not only will not be forgotten but a memory that could galvanize the will for a young boy. The surrounding fans of Michigan, who knew that one of their favorite sons was near, did not interrupt but kindly respected the moment,  as one man put it, “all these grown men, jealous of an 8-year-old.”

Everything else, and that is a big “everything else”, (50-yard line seats near the players’ entrance to the Michigan game, not only watching Jim Abbott’s daughter play volleyball later, but Mac got to go on the court and receive an autographed volleyball, etc. Seriously I could go on and on) but all “everything else” was icing on a very amazing cake.

I say that because as any parent knows, there is just something amazing about making your child smile and 100 out of 100 times, a parent would choose that something miraculous would happen to their child over themselves.

So when someone gives a trip like this to your family and gives this gift to your son, what is there to do?

Say Thanks.

To Paul Janiak, thank you so much for a trip that will not be stopped talking about. Thank you for caring about Mac. Thank you for all that you gave.

Thanks to Thomas Janiak and Joe Janiak for your hard work hosting us and creating an unforgettable tailgating experience.

Thanks to Mrs. Janiak for sacrificing your football ticket and your husband for the weekend.

Of course thanks to Mr. Jim Abbott for being a trailblazer and a role model and just a genuinely great guy to spend that time with a child.

Thanks to everyone else in Ann Arbor as we got to meet and spend time with some great people being a member of the Michigan Wolverines for the weekend and a fan for the future.   Go Blue!

Bible Translations and My Switch to CSB.

My dad has always been instrumental in my life but when I professed faith in Christ, my dad bought me a bible, had my name put on it, sat me down and explained the wonder and use of this book.

Since then, there are 3 things that I have come to love.

1) Daily reading

2) Bibles, the choices of formats and styles or tools (I nerd out on the world of Bibles.)

3) Giving Bibles away

The effect it had on me was not only supernatural but very practical in the way that I wanted to reciprocate this to ensure others had a good Bible of their own for their growth in Christ.

My dad-Larry Mac and Pastor Scott Poynor drilled the mighty practice of a daily devotional consisting of prayer and God’s word.

The NASB Study Bible that was given to me was a huge help for me as a new believer to get familiar with scripture and application.

But why am I switching to the Christian Standard Bible translation?

First, let’s go through my journey with translations:

As mentioned, my first Bible was an NASB Study Bible. “NASB” is the New American Standard Bible.

I was taught to underline, date, highlight, and make my own notes in this bible and I did so until the cover literally started coming off, so I retired it.

A couple years into my faith, I would begin teaching youth, and I noticed that some of the word choices and sentence structure was not as easy to comprehend as what other translations provided.

I asked my newlywed wife for a new bible and that Christmas she purchased me an NIV Thinline reference bible. That is the New International Version.

This particular Bible did not have the study notes as my previous Bible provided but was much smaller and easier to carry around.

The main benefit of the NIV, of course, is it is an easy-to-read translation and this was helpful when reading scripture to my 6th-grade students.

When my Grandfather-in-law, “Grandpa Sam”, bought my wife a new bible a couple of years later, I wanted to compare my NIV to this translation that was new to me and so began my journey with the ESV (English Standard Version) translation.

I was enamored with this translation because it had the precision of the NASB but with more of a contemporary feel to it.

With the previous translations, I felt I could trust my NASB Study Bible for study and lesson preparation and I would use the NIV for morning devotions and quick references. I soon found myself preferring this English Standard Version over almost all other translations for preaching, teaching, and devotions.

Plus, a lot of my friends and pastors that I listened to and read were using this translation. The ESV became so popular that it soon had a new “ESV Only” tribe feel to it as opposed to the “KJV Only” tribe, though I didn’t mind.

I never considered changing from the ESV. Until, believe it or not, a complete stranger on Twitter challenged me to use a monster of a bible. Seriously, when Amazon delivered it and my wife picked the box up, she gave me the “Pete? Seriously?”

It is the Interlinear Bible and if you aren’t familiar with it, this is what the Interlinear Bible’s verses look like:

Image result for interlinear bible

The problem is is that it is just not practical to carry around. Great for the office but horrible for the pew.

What I desired in a Bible translation was what the Interlinear provided in faithful accuracy but with contextualization.

I enjoyed the ESV for its keeping a touch of King James flowery language but I fell out of love with it because it just isn’t how I would arrange a sentence. I found additional words that did not seem necessary and just cluttered sentences.

Accuracy is huge, but there is also an aspect of Bible translation that the bible’s new testament was written in common Greek, why then should we translate it into flowery English? It should be for the common reader, hence an emphasis on common language and readability.

Then the Christian Standard Bible was published.

I kept using the ESV for about a year after the CSB was published. First I downloaded a sample from the website. Then I downloaded the app to my phone. Soon I ordered a cheap copy to compare what I was reading in my devotion time.

My main hang-ups against the CSB were word choices that went against my preference. Particularly in John 15, I prefer the word “abide” where the CSB uses “remain” and in James 1:3 the word I like is “steadfastness”.

This isn’t purely from a translation preference. “Abide” and “steadfastness”, these words possess sentimental value for me. I have been in a dozen discipleship groups going through a curriculum called “Abiding in Christ”, it wasn’t called “Remain in Christ”.

When we were praying through one of the most difficult seasons of ministry, our prayer was for “steadfastness”. We didn’t use the use word “endurance”.

Eventually, the straw that broke the camel’s back for a switch to the CSB is that I do not use the style and structure of most Bible translations. The CSB is the most accurate translation that uses the flow of speech and sentence structure that I use.

The CSB has been a joy to read. It has much more of an effortless flow to it. It is just smooth.

That is why I have switched to the CSB. I finally dove in head first and bought a CSB Pastor’s Bible to preach out of. But do you know what I am asking my church to do? Nothing. I enjoy knowing that other people are reading other translations, as long as they are reading.

Some Final thoughts on translations:

1) Readability and accuracy should not be at odds with one another.

Getting words, terms, meanings, context, is crucial in translation and reading. However, If the translation is accurate but you are using it inaccurately it is still a fail. If you’re teaching or being taught out of a great translation but not in balanced gospel-centered ministry, this is a dangerous error.

Tim Keller has used the NIV and Todd Wagner uses the NASB. Both are pastors I respect, do great ministry, and use different translations.

2) Don’t demonize bible translations….especially the people that hold them.

What I mean is, when some see a different translation other than their choice, they scowl or giggle. This may be because of denominational, tradition, or school stigmas.

Hey Independent Fundies: Why does the KJV use the word unicorn?

Hey Angry Traditionalists: Does the NLT contain the word, predestined? Elect? Foreknew? Chosen? Say that the Holy Spirit draws?

Hey “Cage Stagers”: Can someone get saved when hearing the gospel preached from an NIV?

Obviously, I am characterizing, different “camps” and poking at their criticisms with exaggeration, but I have heard the critique of other translations and I find it unhelpful and divisive.

When we hold to that “the Bible” is the inerrant Word of God, that does not include man’s imperfections and limitations to our contemporary language.  It is the principle that God gave us scripture, the breathed out Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit but penned by man and is sufficient for all things for salvation and godliness.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is faith in the Holy Spirit’s teaching and ministry of the word and that the Bible is not only perfect but sufficient.

3) The best translation is the translation that you will read

Do you have verses memorized in NKJV and want to keep that? Awesome. Are you a young lady with an NIV women’s study bible, keep it up. Did you take one of the hardback bibles from a hotel room, keep it and read it.

4) See the charts/graphs below that were helpful in explaining the balance that the CSB strikes.

First is helpful to see differences in translation philosophies and how they compare.

Typically further on left is higher in accuracy but can be more difficult to read. Vice versa, those further on the right are more readable but can lack in accuracy.

BibleTranslationContinuum-02-09.jpg

The chart below combines the literal and readable percentages to show that CSB uses a hybrid philosophy of translation to obtain an “optimal blend”.CSB.jpg

Both charts are from csbible.com

Lastly)

I may not carry hard copies of all these Bibles but because of my handly Ipad and software, I can switch back and forth between 3-5 translations or even have all up on screen at one time.

I will always use more than one translation during sermon prep and most preachers do this too. May there always be sharpening in the field of translation and handling God’s Word to strive for accuracy and Christlikeness.

Find “your” bible. Not just your preferred translation, but the feel and weight of it. Shop for font, columns, cover, notes, etc. and use it until it becomes an extension of your body.

Or if you have had your bible for so long that devotions have become dry, change translations if only to make the light switch come on.

Recommended Bibles:

Or if you’re looking for something smaller, there are wide varieties of “thinline” bibles that can easily fit in small backpacks, briefcases, purses, etc.

Grace 101

Our society has many uses for the word grace. But what is it?
We make mention of grace with sayings like “that dancer was so graceful”. Or, the King & Queen “graced” us with their presence. We say “grace” before dinner.

We use it commonly in religious, mystic, or general terms without considering what grace really is.

Grace is first “of God”. Grace existed before we did. There was a perfect graceful fellowship in our perfect Triune God before our creation.

We know grace because God grants it to us. It is an act of common grace to be created in his image. We are able to enjoy food, drink, nature, etc. simply because of his common grace. His special grace is that of the cross. Jesus died for sinners who would respond to salvation in faith by grace.

Grace is intended to be a recycled commodity in the pulse of the church. We receive grace from God. We give grace to each other. The people are knitted together in grace and share grace with the world.

Let’s look at an excerpt from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:
“The grace of God. The significant word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew “chanan” and of the Greek “charis”. According to Scripture, it is manifested not only by God, but also by men, and then denotes the favor which one man shows another… The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners.”

Grace is the “unmerited goodness” given to those undeserving or especially of those who have “forfeited”.

Paul proclaims that we are saved by grace through faith. Paul takes painstaking efforts to explain to churches the desperate need to have grace with one another.

Why?

Paul knows that we have an entitled and spoiled nature. This is not an American 21st-century problem. The churches of Galatia wanted to add rituals to the gospel, nullifying grace. The Corinthian church trampled on grace allowing heinous sins. The Thessalonian church was more captivated with end times than with grace.

Grace is tricky not because of itself but because of our treatment of it. It is our error to add to grace, to take away from it, or to altogether forget. We must constantly consume the grace of God and extend it to one another.

Grace is both a delicate matter and a combustible fuel for gospel mission. Grace is worth spending a lifetime of study on and yet never completely definable. Grace is most often not explained in a classroom as it is modeled in a hospital or on a couch. Grace is most often not spat on in a public forum but around a shared corner.

A person without grace is both always the offended and always the offending. A person with grace has a default to forgive when wronged and is cautious to not wrong others.

A church without grace is like a car without any fuel. It will eventually become so stagnant that it begins to rust and its moving parts will seize. A church with grace will be as attractive as water to the thirsty.

It is clear Paul had his heart-ache for people and churches who had a misconception of grace. Paul was deeply concerned about the health of those who hoarded grace and he was attacked by revilers who did not value grace.

The value of grace is determined by its cost, not by our experience. We cling to grace and give grace because we see the cost paid for by Jesus. We are humbled by Jesus picking up the tab. We share a gratefulness of the gospel and a graciousness with each other because of the cost.

The cost of grace is the blood of God. Jesus, full of grace and truth, died on the cross to remove our sins and make us white as snow. Grace is free to us but that does not mean that grace is not costly.

If we neglect the gracious gospel or do not have grace in gospel community it is to cheapen grace. It is to not remember the cost of grace.

Jesus considered the cost. It was worth it.

I pray that we would be overwhelmed with the worth of grace.