Thursday, January 29, 2009

Got "The Message"? Oh, I Hope I Got that Wrong...

Last night, I was perusing Ephesians 1-3, and came upon this verse: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (v. 17)

Needless to say, I have read Ephesians many times before, but I love it when God "quickens" a verse to my heart. Knowing the Lord, as opposed to simply knowing about Him, has been my passion since I was about 12. God is faithful, and I can truly say I have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, but I often get discouraged and have doubts about His closeness. Apparently, Paul foresaw that and prayed for the Ephesian Christians to know Him better...and by extension, that we would, as well.

Well, since I now have that new shiny laptop (see post of a couple weeks ago), I can now take my time, reading several versions on in the warmth of the first floor. I sometimes like to check out passages in different translations, just for fun. It makes life all the more interesting. Sometimes, the Amplified Bible will offer an insight; the King James will clarify if "you" was singular or plural; and the Bulgarian will come in handy for a future witnessing opportunity.

And then there's a relatively new addition: Eugene Patterson's translation, The Message. This one is supposedly in easy-to-understand vernacular, for those mornings when you haven't had your coffee yet and you feel really lazy. I confess I've never read it before. (I usually have had my coffee by 6:00 am).

Well, I checked out my New Favorite Passage in The Message. My eyes scanned it quickly....and then, dear readers, I nearly choked to death on my Raisin Bran. Here are verses 15-17:

That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! (emphasis mine).

The "Master Jesus"??? 'What is He', (I immediately thought), 'a Hindu avatar???'

Just as I was clicking away from the page, I caught the rendering of the final clause of verse 17 - 'endless energy'. Energy? Where does that appear in any of the other translations? It certainly isn't in the Greek. I immediately thought of the New Age concept of 'Christ consciousness' and cosmic energy. Either one of the two terms might have gotten past me, but taken together, my discernment flags went off. (Knowing how often Beth Moore quotes Eugene Peterson, I should have been suspicious from the get-go). I Googled "Christ energy", and returned 14,900,000 results. No, I didn't check all of them; just the first two pages. Without exception, they were New Age and occultic healing pages. Here's a gem from the first site I checked: "This Master Teacher was known as Jesus the Christ. The man Jesus was a perfect child of the Goddess and God energy - just as we all are perfect children of the God-Force!

"Master Teacher." Catch that? Not Lord and Saviour.

"What really made Jesus so special was that he was able to be enLightened in a time when the inner channel to Christ Consciousness that all humans possess was blocked by planetary conditions."

Peeps, I couldn't make this stuff up.

It gets better. Check out how The Message butchers 1 Peter 1:18: "Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God." (Sounds more like something Deepak Chopra would say than the Apostle Peter). Now let's check out the NASB (I use the NIV myself, but they say the NASB is a word-for-word translation): "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,"

I knew full well I couldn't be the first one to catch teh occultic overtones in The Message (and this was just TWO PASSAGES!!) I don't have time to do real research. Thankfully, Lighthouse Trails has done it for me. I Googled "Eugene Peterson The Message" and bingo:

The King James Bible refers to Jesus as "Lord Jesus" about 115 times. The New King James Bible uses this term about the same amount of times and the New American Standard about 100 times. How many times does Eugene Peterson's The Message use the phrase "Lord Jesus"? None! Not once. Never! (Check it out at (

What The Message does refer to Jesus 77 times is the title "Master Jesus." This is a New Age term.

Read full entry here. The Message is chock-full of New Age terms. Stay away from "The Message". Buy a real Bible instead. If you don't have one, leave me a message in the combox and I'll send you one - free.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Laptops and Respectable Sins

My first post in a first post from my brand spankin' new LAPTOP, which my husband bought me this morning!

I am not a technical person. Small computers without mice scare me. Anything that costs more than I earn in several days intimidates me. I have resisted getting a laptop with the same intensity I fought flip-phones (it took me weeks to figure out my old outdated cell phone. Don't make it any more complicated than it has to be...please).

I now own a laptop.

You see, it's like this.

I like to write. I like to read the Bible and biblically-oriented books. I like to write about the Bible, biblical books, and various aspects of Spirit-led living. Unfortunately, the computer is in the (finished but chilly) basement. Apparently, I have let too many meals burn while I am deep in theological thought, intently pecking away in the basement.

I have let preschoolers run wild in the house while translating under deadline. I have overcooked burritos while Skypeing with Tyndale House. Well, Friday took the biscuit - I nearly burned the house down while hashing out Chapter 10 (extolling the virtues of nouthetic counseling vs. integrationist theory - and no; I haven't forgotten my promise to post it over here. It is forthcoming).

While systematically tearing apart the self-esteem gospel, I completely forgot about the tongue boiling (on high, mind you) upstairs in the kitchen. I had re-filled the pot about a half hour earlier (or maybe it was an hour; who knows) and returned to my subterranean office, when my husband awakened to smoke filling the house. (Thick, nasty smoke). Note to self: never leave a pot unattended while writing/translating/studying in basement. (That was the second time this week. I can't tell you how many pots of dried beans I've destroyed in my literary zeal).

Now I have a laptop. From which I can write at the kitchen table. Conveniently located near the stove, which is where the conscientious wives prepare meals for their families when their so-called minds aren't on loftier things. (I am writing a book on biblical deliverance from eating disorders. I reached 51,000 words this weekend, and feel that I can safely say that.) If anyone has any friends in the Christian publishing world, feel free to introduce us!

Speaking of books, here's a wonderful one which I'm sure I will be quoting at least once in my own manuscript: "Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate" by Jerry Bridges. This man is a wonderful writer, is well-respected in the evangelical world, and I can't believe this is the first book I've read by him. Our church's men's group recently studied it, and now our women's small groups are following suit. Targeted towards everyday Christians, in twelve chapters Bridges destroys the illusion that we're actually pretty decent people, and God did well to save us. Confronting such infractions as gossip, impatience, anxiety and frustration, Bridges reminds us that all sin is "cosmic treason" and is equally grave in God's eyes.

However, before we can even hope to uproot and annihilate these offensive character traits, we must learn how to apply the Gospel to ourselves in practical terms. An excerpt from Chapter 4, "The Remedy for Sin":

"...not only does the Gospel prepare me to face my sin, it also frees me up to do so. Facing our sin causes us to feel guilty. Of course we feel guilty because we are guilty. And if I believe, consciously or unconsciously, that God still counts my sin against me, my instinctive sense of self-protection forbids me to acknowledge my sin and guilt, or, at the least, I seek to minimize it. But we cannot begin to deal with a particular manifestation of sin, such as anger or self-pity, until we first openly acknowledge its presence and activity in our lives. So I need the assurance that my sin is forgiven before I can even acknowledge it, let alone begin to deal with it.

The assurance that God no longer counts my sin against me does two things. First it assures me that God is for me, not against me (see Romans 8:31). I am not alone in this battle with sin. God is not watching me from His heavenly throne saying, "When are you going to get your act together? When are you going to deal with that sin?" Rather, He is, as it were, coming alongside me saying, "We are going to work on that sin, but meanwhile I want you to know that I no longer count it against you." God is no longer my Judge; He is now my heavenly Father, who loves me with a self-generated, infinite love, even in the face of my sin. That assurance greatly encourages me and motivates me to deal with the sin."

Can I get an "amen"? This book is excellent - very convicting, yet encouraging. When dealing with the matter of sin and personal holiness, that is a fine balance to strike, yet Bridges does so seamlessly. This is a great tool to use as you pursue spiritual growth - it is thought provoking, easy to read, and does not require some of the mental gymnastics that J.I. Packer and C.S. Lewis demand.

Coming soon: Christian Counseling vs. Nouthetic Counseling

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Church's Response to Treachery and Persecution

The following is an excerpt from "Heralds of the Truth: The History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria" by Rev. Hristo Kulichev of Sofia, Bulgaria. I edited the English translation of the book, and it should be published later this year. In this chapter, Kulichev is not speaking about the Inquisition or counter-Reformation atrocities. Rather, he refers to the period of Christianity's greatest persecution in Bulgaria, under the Communists (1944-1989); then subsequently during a backlash directed at the growth of Gospel-preaching churches in the mid-ninetees. I attended his church, First Evangelical Church of Sofia, from 1992-1995.

"Throughout its existence, the Church has encountered numerous trials wherein it persevered in the truth. In doing so, it has also received many blessings in leading souls to Christ, through the accomplishment of its calling to proclaim His Gospel. The Church has also fallen when it has deviated from its call to seek the well-being of the world. During a prolonged period of trials and persecutions, some church leaders became obsessed with the satanic idea that the existence of the church hinges on the goodwill of the world and the indulgence of the authorities ‘who granted us the right to live’.

In such times of tribulation one could frequently hear the words, ‘Let us be cautious and circumspect’, ‘Let us preserve the Church’, or, ‘Let's spare our strength for more favourable times’. Many of the Christians saying such things were in leadership positions in the church. In this manner they actually sought to disguise their concern and self-serving worry. They had no understanding that God had placed us not to be keepers or guardians of his Church, but rather to be servants and ministers within it. God has no desire for our zeal of tomorrow; He seeks our faithfulness of today. The general counsel was, ‘Let us be cautious’, and not, ‘Let us be bold for the Lord’.

The history of the early Church was forgotten. When threats were extended to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the believers in Acts 4 gathered together and lifted up their voice to the Lord in one accord. Their prayer, however, was not something like, ‘O Lord, have a look at the hardships and the intimidations we are facing; remove the obstacles placed by Satan before Your Word!’

No, their prayer was, ‘And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word’ (Acts 4:29).
In their ‘concern’, many Christians were willing to conceal their fear for themselves, their cowardice, and their unwillingness to endure sufferings for Christ. Who can destroy a Church over which even the gates of hell cannot prevail? Who can destroy the body of the living, resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, whom the chains of death and hell could not hold in the cold grave?
The Word of God reveals to us the truth that no one ever hates his own body, but feeds it and takes care of it. The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ provides for his own body. He wants us to be obedient and docile members of His body (Ephesians 5:29-30).

Knowing that the whole world is in the wicked one, and we are not of the world but of God (1 John 5:19), what co-existence and friendship could there be between the Church and the world? Should the Church compromise with the world in order to evade the hardship and trials? Is it pleasing to God that we should allow compromises? Any case of compromising with the world is sinful, since it is a retreat from God's will.
If it existed by the will of the world, the Church would have been destroyed long ago. That is why the world forces the Church into all kinds of compromise, as if the existence and subsistence of the church was dependant on the world's good pleasure. YET THE PRESENCE OF THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD IS NOT DUE TO THE WORLD'S BENEVOLENCE, BUT RATHER TO THE WILL OF THE LORD.

The will of God is the sovereign will, and the Church, having persevered in all things, will one day triumph in the glory of its Lord.
In the times of struggle for upholding truth and purity, many martyrs and heroes emerged from within the Church. Unfortunately, it also brought out many backsliders, apostates and traitors. Faithful and devoted children of God worked in the Church, but it was also infiltrated by false teachers, false brethren, false apostles and false prophets who took advantage of their freedom in Christ to accomplish their own interests and ambitions. Along with the chastity of Joseph, fervency of Moses, the power of Elijah, the diligence and earnestness of Paul, the gentleness of John, the Lord’s people have also seen prophets like Balaam, kings like Saul, disciples like Judas, workers like Demas and leaders like Diotrephes.

However, God’s children have always been found in the Church. In the power of the Spirit, they have persisted in their defiance of the spiritual powers of ungodliness. These saints have contended for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), and have earnestly guarded the purity of the Church of Christ that it may be without ‘spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:27).

We should not be surprised at the variety and the number of Satan’s attacks against the Church, but we should always be wary and alert to resist him so that he will flee from us (James 4:7). Neither should we think that having once repelled and driven him back we have chased him away forever. He will always try in a different way, through other vehicles, to sneak into the Church. He will either employ sweet and flattering words, or resort to brute violence. We need the wisdom and insight of Christ to discern his wicked craftiness, and not to succumb to his deceptions. We need God's power to withstand the ordeals he might inflict upon us. And, above all, we should always have in mind that Satan is a defeated enemy.

He knows he is running out of time to exert his power, and he will grow still more wicked, ferocious and ruthless. (Revelation 12:12b). But in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and redeemed us through His death on Calvary (Romans 8:37). The Bible says that the saints will be able to overcome Satan through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives so much as to flee death (Rev. 12:12)."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jody Davis is Returning to The Newsboys!

This is the best news I have heard in months. For those of you who don't know, The Newsboys are the best Christian band on the planet (ergo, the best band period). Most of them are Aussies. Several years ago, their guitarist, American Jody Davis, left the group because his infant daughter had serious physical/neurological handicaps and he needed to be with her full-time. Today, the group released news that he will be returning and touring with them soon:

New Single, "In The Hands Of God," Impacts Radio Jan. 16

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) Jan. 5, 2009— Guitarist Jody Davis returns to newsboys after a five-year hiatus. Davis, who was a member of the band from 1993-2003, contributed to many of newsboys' greatest hits like "Shine," "Entertaining Angels," and "It is You." In 2003, he took time off to care for his daughter, Bethany, who has cerebral palsy.

"I am thrilled to be returning to the band and back with my bandmates, who are some of my best friends," says Davis. "This is a big change in my life, and I'm looking forward to the tour and new record with excitement."

Peter Furler, lead vocalist for newsboys, is also excited about Davis' return. "Jody is like a brother to all of us, and we have missed him greatly over the last five years. It's going to be great to have him back with us."

Paul Colman, who played guitar with newsboys the last three years, will be continuing his solo career and performing shows nationwide in 2009. "My three years with newsboys were among the best of my life. I learned an immeasurable amount about music, ministry, and life, and am happy to say I left with all our friendships wonderfully intact. I always was and always will be one of newsboys' biggest fans. I am very excited about the return of Jody Davis!"

Newsboys will release the title track and debut single, "In The Hands Of God," from its forthcoming May 5, 2009 project to both AC and CHR radio Jan. 16. The band will also embark on a 30-city "Join the Tribe" tour with special guests DecembeRadio, Vota and Bread of Stone in February. Additional tour details are forthcoming. For more information, visit

Now, if we could just get Phil Joel to rejoin on bass guitar....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Children of Leningradsky Train Station

Recently, one of my blog entries on an orphanage ministry in B E l A R U S was picked up by Shepherd's Purse, an American aid organization which helps street kids (most of them abandoned rather than technically orphaned) on the streets. I like to focus on Christian ministries that work abroad from time to time, in order to to call attention to the plight of the kids they are helping.

Michael Wetzel is the director of the organization, which operates in the Ukraine. You can check out their website and specific projects at their web page, here:

Please take a half hour to watch the following documentary, "The Children of Leningradsky". It was filmed in 2004, on the streets of Moscow. This video follows a group of youngsters who beg in the city's central train station by day and sleep in the sewers on hot water pipes by night. (It's in Russian, but subtitled - uses some raw language). The music is haunting and beautiful in parts, but the film will bring you to tears.

Here are some interesting facts to consider.

Moscow is now home to more millionaires than any other city in the world. Notwithstanding this, Russia and the former Soviet republics are plagued by poverty and a wide disparity of haves and have-nots. (Many elderly are also on the street or close to it, living at a lower standard than they were during World War II). However, children in these societies do not wind up on the streets because their parents are too poor to take care of them. Sometimes poverty will drive desperate parents to leave their newborns in orphanages, but not put their 8, 9, and 10-year-olds out on the street.

Broadly speaking, there are two reasons why kids in Eastern Europe beg, sniff glue and sleep on the streets:

- organized "mafia" of adults who abuse and force kids into stealing and prostitution, pocketing the money (trafficking). This is sometimes, but not always, the case with groups of Gypsy (Roma) children who "work" certain sections of a city.

- alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Long the scourge of Russian society, this is the #1 cause of misery, poverty, and abused and abandoned children in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states. None of the children in the Moscow footage were Gypsies or connected to any mafia-type trafficking ring. Across the board, all of them had been abused by parents who loved vodka more than they loved their kids. Sadly, this is very common. Most of the street kids and institutionalized "orphans" are not actually orphans at all, but have drug or alcohol addicted parents.

Another interesting fact: Western aid organizations are the only ones doing anything about it. There is, essentially, no social safety net for these children, who are either ignored or seen as discarded refuse by their own countries. (There is footage of a policeman brutally beating up an 8-year-old boy in the video.) Shelters are non-existent. If it weren't for the American Christian ministries helping them, the situation would be even worse. Many of them perish on the streets.

The population of Russia is imploding, and they are destroying their most valuable resource: their children. Besides the spiritually unhealthy, excessively materialistic society in which they live, even the lucky ones in "stable" families grow up amidst the allure of drugs, alcohol and corruption. Seven out of every ten children never makes it out of the womb - 70% of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion. (In the US, it's 30% - Bulgaria, about 50%). In a country with a negative birthrate, ten percent of all Russian women is sterile due to repeated abortions.

The crisis is not simply economic, but spiritual, and the young are most affected. The Christian missions tirelessly serving and teaching the children about their Savior are a true ray of light in a very dark, cold world. These children, and their parents, desperately need to know Christ.