Please don’t homogenize! – Romans 12:9

Romans 12:9-13 sent me to the Lexicon in that the Apostle uses some unusual words.  Now here is the first phrase in the ESV

“Love must be sincere”

Ok, good.  The Greek word is “anupokritos”, which is literally “not – hypocritical”.  Not hypocritical does mean about the same as “sincere.”  However, to my ear, sincere seems rather homogenized – like a glass of skim milk with a slice of wonder bread.

Not-Hypocritical gives me something a little more substantial – more like a cup of French Roast coffee with a wild berry scone.  There is more to work with.  Non-hypocritical love would be actual and not acted, it would be internally real, not externally painted on, it would mean we don’t resort to an old canard such as “I love you but I don’t have to like you”.  It would be love that is not expressed by a check list of social obligations. It would be love that sees the person and gives what they will rejoice to receive.

Interestingly “Love” is defined in part by hate.  In the next phrase we read: “Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”  So sincerity in love is also discerning.  Love is not a fuzzy all accepting hug of everything.  True love also hates what is evil while it grasps on to what is good like an Olympic wrestler.

New Living Translation: Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

ESV:  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

New King James:  Let love bewithout hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Lists – like preaching out of the phone book?

Fresh Read preached last week a message on a list.  Romans 12:6-8 which lists 7 ministry gifts.

First of all, recalling a systematic theology class where a professor read from wrinkled notes on the attributes of God to a sonorious audience, I recoiled.  “Who is God?” That should fascinate not put to sleep.

So, we went for a “picture book”.  Let’s look at the 7 ministries (a sampling of a larger number in scripture of 25 to 30 in all) with a short definition and a story from the Bible or life.

At the end of church I noticed some folks taking a copy of sutdy notes and enough signed up to justify an extended class on “discovering your gift.”

You can read the sermon here – 4.Callings Illustrated


26,951 Readers Explored

This is the 400th post on Fresh Read and we have had 26,951 readers, which is the population of Glenn County, California.  If you want to visit this county, here is their website –

Glenn County is located in the United States about half way between Sacramento and Redding in Northern California. Glenn County is primarily an agricultural community with mountains on the west, the Interstate 5 corridor taking you through rich farm land, and the Sacramento River bounding the east side of the County. With over 1,188 farms, agriculture remains the primary source of Glenn County’s economy. Major commodities include rice, almonds, milk products, prunes and livestock. Glenn County has a population of 26,950.

That is not what I meant…

In the discussion over “Praying the Scriptures” someone asked if we are somehow limited to only praying the scriptures.

The answer is NO.

I believe the Biblical record contains about every kind of prayer you can imagine, from spontaneous to formal, from long to short, from ragged to elegant.  Every sort of mood and emotion are evident.  There is not a set order (the Lord’s Prayer starts with praise, but often the Psalms start with a complaint and end with praise.)

What I am saying is that the Scriptures should be in our spiritual tool kit – they can show us words we can use, promises and concepts we can grasp, forms we can follow and rich variety.

I once heard a wood-carver say, “I have over 200 tools, but I use about 12 of them 95% of the time.” Often we keep our use of our tool kit down to one or two, or worse yet, we keep the tools in the tool box and go watch someone on This Old House use their tools.

Don’t be that guy.


Not Just for Kids – The Bible Story Handbook

This book is a collaboration between John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and his wife, Kim Walton who has been teaching Sunday School for many years.  The book gives a summary of 175 of the stories in the Bible – yes all the famous and not so famous stories that Sunday School teachers repeat each year with flannel graph pictures.

Each summary is about 3 pages, which review the context of the story, the main teaching points, significant points of background and possibly most importantly, mistakes to avoid.

The Waltons consistently warn teachers from the common errors of moralizing from the text, but are encouraged to present the lessons the text does.

My wife (a long-term Sunday School teacher) and I, a pastor, have found this a very helpful took in working with young people.  It is readable for the lay person, but not dumbed down.

The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible, John H Walton and Kim E. Walton, 2010, Crossway, Wheaton.

Picking a Bible – update on ESV and NIV

I wrote an article at the start of the blog about picking a bible translation.  I need to add some comments about the English Standard Version (ESV).  The ESV strives to be as literal as possible while being readable.  It has become very popular in Evangelical church circles, and for many through the ESV Study Bible.

Positives:  Unlike some “literal” translations, the ESV does recognize paragraphs and poetic structure.  I never liked the NASB’s format of puling every verse to the side, as if the bible came divided that way.  It is usually readable, and they do try to retain continuity in translating the same words the same way.  For example it uses “keep, keeps and keeper” in Psalm 121 for all the uses of the same hebrew root.  the NIV is more free and you can miss the repetition.

I also like the ESV Literary Study Bible – it gives a minimum of literary form and outline information and lets you read the text yourself.  I did scan the ESV Study Bible at the book store and found it heavy and overly laden with comments, so that the page I was reading was about 25% bible and 75% comment.  I prefer a leaner bible and a couple of good reference works on the side – like a  Bible dictionary and a commentary.

Negatives:  The language is frequently rather poor English style, and somewhat dated sounding.  This reflects the desire to be more literal, but also an older slightly dated English that the one I hear in daily life.  I find that the editors have worked too hard to keep the male gender intact – often the male in Greek or Hebrew are generic, and translating male pronoun for male pronouns from original to English add s the English gender baggage to the text.  Men may not notice, but women will.  (Confession, I like the NRSV for this reason.)

Conclusion: I use the ESV as a good manuscript study text – it is a good source for seeing connections and sensing the structure of the original language.  It is only OK for general reading, and I do not preach from it very often, unless my default NIV (old version) is inadequate.  That is partly because our “Pew Bibles” are NIV.

The NEW NIV:  The NIV was updated in 2011, so if you want to read the one you are familiar with that is called the NIV 84.  I have not yet read a lot of the new NIV, but it does attempt to be more gender generic – that is to translate into
English as neutral when the original may have been formally masculine but was understood as generic.  English worked that way until maybe 1968 and thereafter we have moved on.  So I do not have a problem with the approach. There are a number of other updates and I have not read enough to draw any conclusions.