Thoughts on Mother’s Day

(found the source for this: Amy Young: An open letter to pastors: the words express exactly my heart)

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

To those who have aborted children, we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children, we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent, we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.


This photo is of my (not Amy’s) mother, 1944



Another thought-provoking blog:

A Mother Like No Other


Gospel Assurance and Warnings—Book Review



Washer, Paul. Gospel Assurance and Warnings (Recovering the Gospel). Reformation Heritage Books, 2014.GospelAssurance

I am writing this review as someone who is outside the Reformed/Evangelical community, namely as a pastor in the confessing Lutheran tradition, but also one who is keenly aware of the need to challenge much of what passes as the Christian faith.

The Good

There are many things to like about this book. Washer takes on the current evangelical emphasis of “salvation prayer and asking Jesus into your heart” theology. In Washer’s words: “Churches reduce the gospel message to a few creedal statements, teach that conversion is a mere human decision, and pronounce assurance of salvation over anyone who prays the sinner’s prayer” (p. ix). He points out the extended problems with such an approach: 1) “hardens the hearts of unconverted,” 2) “deforms the church,” 3) “reduces evangelism and missions to little more than a humanistic endeavor driven by clever marketing strategies,” 4) “brings reproach to the name of God” (pp. ix–x).

Such an analysis of the problem facing much of the Reformed/Evangelical is sadly accurate. Even more so, those trends, especially #2 and 3, have had significant influence beyond the Reformed/Evangelical strain, extending also to Lutheranism. So, Washer’s book is a wake up call for any Christian, and especially preachers who have been led astray by such short-sighted, and worse, wrongheaded approaches. As Washer writes: “Thus, men have traded their mantles for methodologies, prophecy for pragmaticism, and the power of the Holy Spirit for cleverly devised marketing strategies” (p. 4).

As per the title, the book is arranged in two parts: Biblical Assurance (chapters 1-14) and Gospel Warnings (chapters 15-19). The first part presents the positive side of salvation, the second the negative side, namely false assurances of salvation.

There are some excellent chapters in the first part of the book, particularly chapter 10 “Confessing Christ.” He states: “We will begin with a declaration that might be considered somewhat radical or even avant-garde to many in the evangelical community—Christianity is about the person and work of Jesus Christ” (p. 100, emphasis in original). In chapter 14 “Believing in Jesus” Washer clearly identifies critical problems with what is “faith” in contemporary evangelical circles.

The Not-so Good

For all of Paul Washer’s spot-on identification of problems in the Reformed/Evangelical movement, there is a serious flaw in the entire book. His solution is not any more helpful than the problems he identifies. The problems are based on a poorly stated law, and yet he offers only another version of the Law, namely Law-based performance in one form or another. The problem is even in the title of the book, Gospel Assurance and Warnings. If the Gospel is what God has done for sinful humans through the work of Jesus Christ, then it is free of any kind of condemnation (warnings). Yet, repeatedly he offers the “gospel warnings” as the solution. In reality, that is only Law compounded upon problem he is trying to fix, namely poorly presented Law.

Even in the first part, “Biblical Assurance,” Washer presents 14 criteria for looking upon the person’s life to determine whether he/she is saved. Notice that each of them, while good to explore, lead the person to performance, based on the Law. Yet, the Gospel invites the person to see how Jesus Christ has met all those requirements for us sinful humans.

Washer’s statements lead to a contradictory approach: “Understand that this is not a call for ministers or lay people to become judges of others, but to put away the belief in and proclamation of a superficial and powerless gospel…” (p. 17). And yet throughout his book, Washer is indeed judging others. Of course, if the entire book is really based on the Law, then judging is the expected result.

This confusion of Law and Gospel is highlighted in one section of “The Small Gate” (chapter 16). In one sentence he clearly gives the gospel foundation, yet contradicts that very clear word at the end of the same sentence. “Our assurance of salvation should not be founded upon a comparison of our sanctification with that of other believers, but upon our relying on the merits of Christ alone and our recognition of God’s providential sanctifying work in our lives (p. 184, emphasis added). So, is it Christ’s work alone? Or is it our contribution in sanctification that is the foundation of our assurance?

And then, he offers this muddled advice to preachers: “After the evangelist preaches the gospel, he must make a passionate call for all to come to Christ. However, he must give this call in accordance with the Scriptures. He must not compromise or tone down the demands that Christ places upon those who would enter the kingdom…” (p. 185). On the next page he continues, “When the demands of the gospel become part of the gospel presentation, then the gospel will once again be a scandal…” (p. 186). Note that if there is a “demand” in the gospel, then it is no longer gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). The scandal of the gospel is that God became flesh and took upon himself the sins of the whole world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), not that there is additional demands on the person.

The further I read in Part 2, the more discouraging was Washer’s presentation. The law was not only prominent, it was oppressive by the end. Note how he applies the “bad tree-bad fruit” analogy. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit, and an unregenerate heart cannot fulfill the righteous requirements of the law” (p. 224). That is a half truth; he should continue with this: “And neither can a regenerate heart fulfill the righteous requirements of the law.”

The worst part is that Washer does not point to the true solution to the errors of the church. That is, the gospel of Jesus Christ in the written Word, in baptism (baptism now saves…through the cleansing of the consciences, 1 Peter 3:21), in the Lord’s Supper (“body of Christ given for you” and the “blood of Christ shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” 1 Corinthians 11:23-28) in the absolution (Matthew 18:18-20). The places where Jesus has promised to be, where he remembers us (that is the Gospel, not us remembering him) are neglected. Each of these is external to the Christian (extra nos), and because they are true Gospel bring the very thing that Washer desires. And none of it is tainted with our feeble attempt at keeping the Law.

Paul Washer identifies critical problems in the contemporary Christian Church. For that we can thank him. But sadly what he offers is Law based approach that will fail in the end. I can not recommend this book to the people in my church, because of the confusion regarding Law and Gospel. What offers the Christian assurance is that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law entirely for every person, and he suffered death as payment for the sins of every person—that is the assurance of the Gospel. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) for a copy of the book for an unbiased review.

Why I used NAS

Over the past two years I have looked at translations that might be appropriate in our congregation. Essentially we have been using HCSB and GW, alternating on a quarterly basis; right now we have been using GW. Both translations have good qualities for use in our situation. Both have some weaknesses. This last Sunday, both translations left something to be desired.

Last Sunday in the Narrative Lectionary, the Gospel reading was John 11:1-44. The theme was obvious from v. 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live even if that person dies.” But here is what GW has:

John 11:25 GW   Jesus said to her, “I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in me will live even if they die.”

The translation is legitimate, but it also runs into a problem. Namely, there are a few texts which are so well known, even by nominal Christians. This is one of them. Psalm 23 is another. So, I thought we might use HCSB.

John 11:25 HCSB Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”

Okay HCSB seemed to be the right choice for this Sunday.

John 11:33, 38 HCSB

But then as I explored using HCSB, I ran into another issue. The translation may be legitimate, but it is so jarring that people might be so distracted by it, that they miss the greater thing in the text.

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.

John 11:38 Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

Most translations provide: “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” I won’t go into the details, but notice how “angry” changes the focal point. And the first question that arises is: What is Jesus angry at? Himself, for delaying too long? His friends, Martha and Mary, for not believing what He says? The crowds? Sin?

The problem is that nothing in the text suggests an answer. HCSB has a footnote, but again, it is speculation. In the process, though, the center of the text, what Jesus is revealing in Himself, is sidetracked.

The Solution

So I chose NAS for this text.

John 11:33 NAS When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

John 11:38 NAS So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

And it worked well. The reading was not a long, complicated Pauline sentence (i.e. Ephesians 1:3-14). But for this Sunday NAS was the right combination.John1125

A few important blog posts

Although my schedule has been hectic and writing is a backseat option until the end of this week, I have discovered several important blog posts recently.

My good friend, Rev. Dr. Curt Leins, National Mission Developer and Assistant Presiding Pastor of The AALC, wrote about the temptation that has crept into western Christianity over the past 30 years. Temptation to be like God

Rev. Mark Surburg challenges us as we see what Lithuanian Lutherans are presently doing. Mark’s thoughts: Lithuanian Lutherans take in Syrian refugees. Would we?

Kelly writes a blog about helping those who struggle with depression: 10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression

Pastor Dustin Parker writes about change and Lent: Change: A Lenten Journey

May these important words help you in some way.

One question raised this past week was: What are you doing for Lent? Perhaps the better question is: What is God doing in and through you for Lent?

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

(PS I hope to be back to blogging in a week or so)

Slavery and me

I tend not to publicly offer opinions on politics, etc. But this topic is more than that. As I saw a Facebook post about slavery today, I realized how this affected me.

Slavery Today

Slavery has bothered me for many years. While I may speak against it in Bible class (according to the topic, issue, etc.) and privately, I never delved into the topic in any serious way. I ask myself: Is this enough?

Do we know anything about slavery? Is it a minor, side issue for us because we either don’t see it or refuse to see? What if my granchildren were kidnapped and sold into slavery? Then how would I respond?What if it was a neighbor or extended family member?

I am not pointing a finger at anyone. Just raising the issue. See EndItMovement for some additional information.EndItMovement

The Greater Slavery

As much as human slavery bothers me, slavery to sin does more so. And this slavery affects every single person. As Paul wrote: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

The problem is that we are very good at identifying others in slavery to sin. But we are less than candid with ourselves. God does not let us off the hook, though.

Paul talks about the power of Baptism in the life of the Christian (Romans 6:1-10). He notes: “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3)

This is not just theology, but practical living. Paul continues:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death,c or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:16-19)

So, am I a slave to sin? Or a slave to righteousness? As I look at my life, sometimes I wonder.

Is my anger righteous or defensive and protective? Is my attitude toward others one of superiority or humility? Sadly, I am a slave to sin more than I want to admit.
And that is a tragedy. I can see someone in slavery when surrounded by bars, pimps, whips, threats. But my slavery? More sedcutive, more tantalizing, more promising. But also more intrusive. I can’t turn off the internet of my mind. I can’t change the TV channel in my memories.

The Greatest Release

I remember the night that the first Vietnam POWs were released in early 1973. At the time I was taking my physical to join the military. I remember the looks, the expressions of joy and the marks of imprisonment. 18 months later one of the longer held POWs became my first commanding officer. For a year, every week, I arranged for him to spend two hours talking to our command officers (pilots and intelligence officers) about his experiences.

It was not very pretty (he had been tortured). Slavery is never is pretty. But God does not leave us to wallow in sin, doubt, fear, attacks, criticisms… In Romans 6:11, Paul first uses the imperative (command) in Romans.baptism_2

Because of baptism, we have been released from sin and its tyranny. Thus, Paul writes:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Note that he is not telling us that we have to do something to be freed from sin. Only God can do that, and he has done that through our baptism in Jesus (Romans 6:1-5). Rather, here Paul urges us to believe what God has already worked and done for us and in us.

Human slavery and trafficking in the modern world is complicated, protected, profitable, despicable. There are many strands, but there are movements to end it. I support such movements.

Slavery to sin in the modern world is as old as the story in Genesis 3. It takes even more to overcome this kind of slavery. It would take an act of God. In fact, it did take an act of God: Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin. John announced when he first publicly pointed to Jesus:

Real Ugliness—true Beauty

Real Ugliness—true Beauty

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

And Jesus accomplished that, fulfilling Isaiah 53 (as well as many other prophecies) and then confirmed by the apostles, 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.

Let’s not let slavery to sin dictate our lives—to give glory to God.

Book Review: Apostle of the Last Days

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Because “eschatology” (end times or last days study) can cover a wide range of approaches, many of them not consistent with Scripture, I tend to be cautious when reading any book on the topic. Pate offers an excellent overview of Paul’s writings on the topic. While I do not agree with everything he wrote, the book is still worth reading and digesting.9780825438929

Pate addresses five components of eschatology: 1. New age has come, 2. It is cosmic and universal, 3. A Savior inaugurates the new age, 4. The new age/Savior is predicted in sacred writings, 5. The new age is celebrated through rituals. Then he looks at each of these components relative to the various movements and influences in the first century: Hellenistic religion (realized eschatology), Roman Imperial Cult (realized eschatology), Merkabah Judaizers (realized eschatology), Non-Merkabah Judaizers (inaugurated eschtology), and Paul (inaugurated eschatology). See page 21 for a helpful table of the each of these aspects.

In the Introduction, I found his set up of the issue compelling. He gives a quick overview of Paul’s letters and the apocalyptic sense of the Gospel. This corresponds with my study over the past 30 years. While on the academic level, this has been debated, by the time “lay” level books are written, much of the eschatological/apocalyptic perspective is either negated or twisted to meet an agenda. Pate offers a way forward to address the issue academically but also pastoral. I thought it interesting and instructive that he carefully notes that “suffering Messiah” does not appear in pre-Christian writings. The primary text used in Christianity for this is Isaiah 53, but he notes that it does not use the word Messiah, but servant.

In his treatment of Galatians Pate provides a fine foundation for the eschatological perspective of Paul. At the same time he briefly addresses the issue of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), with a table of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright (p. 72). Pate aligns himself with the traditional understanding of justification rather than NPP. In his footnote he raises the assumption of NPP “It was only Lutheran exegesis that gave the false impression that Paul ever had a negative view of the Law” (p. 71). Therein lies a problem with the entire NPP; it misunderstands Lutheran exegesis.

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, an area of special interest for me over the past 30 years, the author correctly challenges the idea of a “secret rapture of the church” before the coming of Christ. His table of comparing 1 and 2 Thessalonians with the Olivet Discourse (via Douglas Moo) is very helpful in understanding and interpreting these texts.

The most helpful and enlightening chapter for me was 1 and 2 Corinthians. At the same time, I have reservations about the four influences can be summarized in one concept as Petrine: “We will now put forth the theory that Torah-centered wisdom mediated by the Spirit adequately accounts for each of these influences, the source of which can well be traced to the Petrine party” (p. 126). While much is valuable, such a stance seems closed when Paul talks about the Spirit mediating the wisdom, even as Paul does in 1 and 2 Corinthians. I need to ponder this more.

Following his position (adequately demonstrated), then is that the real opposition to the Gospel in Corinth comes from Jewish context and especially mystic Jewish context, not Hellenistic. Especially helpful in his summary was the five fold imagery that Paul uses for Christ-centered leadership: 1. Agricultural 2. Architectural, 3. Financial, 4. Gladiatorial, 5. Familial. As he notes, “[Paul wanted] to jolt the Corinthian church into the reality that their divisive spirit was born out of exalting human leaders over the cross of Christ, God’s wisdom” (p. 144). That quote is almost worth the price of the book itself!

In Colossians I thought his presentation of the similarities and differences between Paul and Qumran was well done (pp. 210-4). Likewise the chapter on the Pastoral epistles was well done, thoroughly researched and presented.

His chapter on the theology of Paul was succinct yet thorough and a fine summary of what he has presented throughout the book. He provides a matrix of the contexts of theological categories (theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and then Eschatology itself) with the specific areas of eschatological topics that he has addressed.

Some concerns

I think the issue of the Lord’s Supper (pp. 148-9) is left incomplete and unsatisfactory. Pate writes: “Such drastic divine measures shocked the Corinthian church into realizing that the Lord’s Supper, like baptism, did not magically protect them” (p. 149). And yet the essence of both baptism and Lord’s Supper are the eschatological focus of the community in the now, not yet form. Paul certainly reaffirms that in 1 Cor. 10:16 and again in 11:26. The reality of the Lord’s Supper is not a “magic protection’ but the giving of God has promised on an ongoing basis, forgiveness of sins. One confusing thing about his table on p. 154 at the bottom is having “the outer person” on the right and “the inner person” on the left. Normally reading a table like this in a left-to-right manner, we would expect the new on the right side of the table.

Pate makes an unfortunate choice in his words in regard to Romans. “The bad news of justification” (p. 176). That is a wrong understanding of justification (which is only Good News). The bad news is from the Law of God stating the requirements to meet and the judgment on failure to meet. Another concern in Romans is his comment on 11:25-26, specifically, “in the future the nation of Israel will indeed accept Jesus as their Messiah” (p. 179). That is only one possible understanding of the text.

Final Thoughts

A very well written book and can be useful for the pastor or seminary student. But I think it needs to be read in light of the theological concerns I have mentioned.


Sadly, there several editing mistakes, a couple which are significant.

p. 31–33 the numbered list is repeated

p. 174-176 major formatting issue (everything is indented, as if from a quote, but it is not).

Other editing errors were found on the following pages: 56, 104, 139, 143, 208.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

43 Years Ago

43 Years ago today my wife and I publicly declared that we were wife and husband.

It was cold! After all, northern Minnesota in February what would you expect. It got to a high of 10° about the time of the wedding (1 PM), and dropped to -40° that night.

Why February 20? Well, in the ancient days, the pastor would not marry anyone during Lent. So instead of our original plans for a March 20 wedding (spring break from college), we had to move the wedding to the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. The irony? The altar guild had already put up the purple paraments, so our non-Lenten wedding has purple theme.

Our wedding was at Mount Olive Lutheran, Bovey, MN. The photographer was famous for the painting “Grace.” The Enstrom shop was only two blocks from the church.

The night before

With the rehearsal completed, we all went to my parents’ house (and mine until the next day). Where did we find room to fit all those people in our small house??

My groomsmen were my two brothers and my wife’s brother. Ushers were three college friends: Benjamin Tsang [Hong Kong], Paul Bentrup, and Randy Wourms. Standing with my bride were: her sister, her closest friend from high school, and my younger brother’s girl friend at the time.

Everyone left by 10 PM. Growing up on the farm, we didn’t have many late nights.

Wedding Day

One PM wedding, so late breakfast, early lunch at our house. Not sure about at my wife’s house. One word to describe it outside? Cold!

The wedding was about ½ hour long, but we had used the extended vows (by our request). The church was packed (about 150 people), in the balcony and around the main level, and some couldn’t even get into the church.

My Bride! Beautiful

My Bride! Beautiful

Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

Photos were taken soon afterward, as well as outside. How did my wife stand in 10° weather with only her wedding dress on for the photos? Can’t imagine! At least I had on a tux coat.


Good thing we didn’t pay attention to road signs!

Then a one block walk to the City Hall for our reception, about 300 people. Food, food, and more food!! As that wore down, the entire wedding party moved to my in-laws house. We had supper about 6 PM, and then a wedding dance near our home. Again a packed house with polkas, schottisches, waltzes, and some mid 60’s rock and country.

We left about 11 PM (Why did we stay so late??) We drove to Cass Lake to stay in an $8/night room.

The next morning, on our way back to our new home, we stopped at Randy’s parent’s restaurant in Cohasset, MN. Great meal. And what a surprise, after the meal they told us that the meal was their wedding present to us!

Where has the time gone?

We have moved 28 times since the marriage. I taught high school math and physics, taught one year Calculus in college. I served on active duty in the US Navy (Intelligence) for 9½ years. I graduated with MDiv and STM from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, serving congregations in Nebraska and Missouri. I served as an analyst at Sprint for 8 years, and have served in The AALC since 2008, as President of American Lutheran Theological Seminary and Pastor of Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Frazier Park, CA.

It’s been a ride! Many times fun, exhilarating, uncertain, discouraging, and joyful. The biggest thing is that we have shared God and His love in Jesus Christ. And we have two sons, a daughter-in-law that is more like a daughter, five grandchildren, and one great grandson.

Love you

Love you

God is good, faithful, our Rock and Fortress — as always.

The Ugliness of the “Missing”

Yeah, that title got my attention, too.

By “ugly” I am not referring to the missing person (our son), the homeless person, the one suffering from mental illness (our son). I am not setting up myself above as a judge of anyone in this post.

The ugly side of the “missing” is me, as a parent of a missing person, or more specifically, my attitude. Let me explain. But be warned, it is ugly.

Our older son has been missing off and on for the past 30 years. When he was 15 he would go missing for 2-4 days at a time. I would often drive around various neighboring cities trying to find him. On occasion I would find him under cardboard lean-tos, or abandoned houses, or police stations. He was diagnosed as bipolar in 1986.

By 18 he began his first stint in prison, and has been in prison five different times. So, in that sense he was missing; sometimes we learned he was in prison months after it took place. For more background, see this post.

Throughout that time, I struggled with any phone call. Was it the police? Did they find him dead somewhere? Was it him who was calling? Was he wanting only money for alcohol or drugs? I hated to answer the phone.

By the late 1990’s he was truly among the missing. We had not heard from him in 10 years. Finally we heard from him and met him on a trip to the other side of the country in March 2008. It was a good visit.

But I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. What was coming next?

He has been missing since that time.

So where’s the ugly? In my internal struggle.

For the past 30 years I dreaded getting a call that he was dead. But I also inwardly dreaded the thought that he was alive. And all that such a situation might entail. Could I live through another 30 years that were the same as they had been?

Several times I have watched the movie Bringing Ashley Home, based on the true story that Libba Phillips went through trying to find her sister, Ashley. It was close to what we experienced with our son. But I remember one scene when Libba’s mother said she had reached the end of trying to deal with Ashley’s life, disappearance, etc. And I have felt that same way at times.

It has taken time to deal with the ugliness of my attitude. Time to work through the forgiveness for my attitude. Time to reflect on my own frailties and limitations as a parent, as a person, as a Christian. Time to know once again, that it God’s strength—not mine—that allows me to live in the present. And yes, to confess that I still love him, and I want to see him some day.

This has been a difficult post to write, to expose my own failings, to relive the past, to realize how much it is part of my present.

But I can’t not share this. If it helps one person, then it is worth it. Perhaps other parents or family members have struggled inwardly with the same thing. Perhaps they will not feel lonely like I have many times over the past 28 years. Your feeling is not unusual, and you need not live under that cloud for weeks, months, or years.

HCSB: Messiah vs. Christ Pt. 2

After a couple comments on the previous post on Messiah or Christ, I decided to check into the matter a little more. That is, I looked at the criteria in HCSB, namely Messiah in primarily Jewish context and Christ in Gentile context. I looked at two NT books in which the consensus favors the view that they were written to Jewish readers.

Please note: I write this with great respect for the translators of HCSB (and other translations). I am not questioning their motives, integrity, or expertise. My concern is to help those who must rely on translations for their reading, hearing, and studying of the Bible.


Christ: four times: Heb 3:6; 10:10; 13:8; 13:21

Messiah: eight times: Heb 3:14; 5:5; 6:1; 9:11; 9:14; 9:24; 9:28; 11:26

So, Messiah more prominent in Hebrews. But then I have to ask why the four occurrences of Christ?

Heb. 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

Strangely this entire section 3:1-18 has to do with Jesus being compared to Moses. Messiah would be expected in 3:6, since it is used in 3:14. Then, why Christ in 3:6?

Heb. 10:10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

This occurs in the section, chapters 8-10 which focus on the difference between the priesthood and sacrifices of the Old Testament vs. the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus. Given that context, which is thoroughly Jewish from a first century perspective, the use of Christ in 10:10 seems to violate HCSB’s own stated objective.

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This famous and well loved passage seems almost like the old sweater I wear from 25 years ago. It just fits. But again, the question is whether Christ or Messiah should be used. In this section, though the author urges, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith” (13:7). And every leader mentioned in Hebrews 11 is Israelite/Hebrew/Jewish. It seems obvious to use Messiah in this context.

I also understand the issue of “name” in regard to Jesus as a basis for using Christ  (from HCSB Introduction). But this seems to run counter to the other objective. And how much is Jesus Christ truly a name (because the title Christ is attached to Jesus) or a combination of name and title (i.e. in my case, Pastor Rich)? Is it just convention because we are so familiar with this particular text?

Heb. 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.

This use in 13:21 is very similar to 13:8, but with the added thought that the immediately preceding clause references “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” a definite Hebrew/Jewish thought in light of the preceding five chapters.

1 Peter

Interestingly 1 Peter provides the opposite emphasis regarding each translation choice, namely Christ is dominant.

Christ: 17 times 1 Peter 1:1, 2, 3 (2x), 7, 11, 13, 19; 2:5, 21; 3:18, 21; 4:1, 11, 14; 5:10, 14

Messiah: 3 times 1 Peter 3:15; 4:13; 5:1 (but see 1:11 for another possibility)

So the question becomes why those three times is Messiah used? And what about 1:11? The first one is another famous and well memorized text.

1 Pet. 3:15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

For me the biggest obstacle to this is that 1 Pet. 3:18 uses Christ rather than Messiah.

1 Pet. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm, but made alive in the spiritual realm.

thus, in this case, it would appear better to use Christ in both or Messiah in both. The next one has the same issue of immediate context, but even more puzzling because the topic is parallel (suffering, ridicule):

1 Pet. 4:13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.

1 Pet. 4:14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

And this relates to the next use of Messiah, namely sufferings

1 Pet. 5:1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you:

The one text in which it seems contradictory in the same sentence does not use Messiah, but messianic.

1 Pet. 1:11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.

So, the question remains: would someone who does not know Greek be able to correlate the uses of Christ/Messiah and why one translation choice in a context would necessitate it rather than the other? And then would the reader be able to keep straight that both terms refer to the same thing? And even more difficult, would a hearer be able to do that?


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