Why the ESV?

The reason for this article is to address questions and comments some have offered and asked as to why I use the ESV. In November of 2003 I began to use the English Standard Version for my personal study and for teaching and preaching. Prior to that I had used the New American Standard Version since 1985.

         Almost since first becoming a Christian in 1980 I had impressed upon me the importance of using the most accurate translation of the Bible I could get my hands on. So for a few years I used the American Standard Version of 1901. It is regarded by many biblical scholars as the most accurate English translation of the Bible in history. After a while I began to see the importance of clear communication being high on the list as well. For some reason the translators of the ASV chose to retain much of the archaic verbiage of the KJV of 1611. The sentence construction, though mostly following closely the original languages, was, in my opinion, stiff and not as readable as it could have been. The New American Standard, though using more of a modern vocabulary, had the inexplicable policy of using “Thee” and “Thou” when addressing deity. At least in the days when the KJV was translated that was the vernacular. Though not the vernacular of the ASV they were at least consistent in that they used the old English personal pronouns more consistently, regardless of who was being addressed. Apparently the NAS translators believed that one showed God more reverence by using “Thee” and “Thou” instead of “You” and “Your”. Finally in their 1995 update they updated their pronouns. But still the sentence structure didn’t flow well. And it never had, in my opinion, the classic and majestic beauty of the KJV or even of the ASV. Then in 2003 I was introduced to the English Standard Version. After reading samples and critiques of it I ordered one for myself. I was hooked and have been using it ever since.

         The ESV, in my opinion is the best English version of the Bible in print. It has the proper combination of accuracy, classical beauty of phraseology and readability that a Bible should have. It avoids the approach of many modern versions to attempt to interpret the passage instead of translating the words. Its translation is based on the best manuscript evidence available, an approach that should be the standard of any translation at any time.

         You may have noticed in this article that I often mentioned “my opinion”. Well that’s what this is. Contrary to the fact that many write and talk about what version to use with a lot of bluster and dogmatism, their conclusions are still a matter of opinion and preference. There is no perfect translation of the Bible because translations are the products of men. That doesn’t mean there are not reliable translations of the Bible. The ESV, NAS, ASV, KJV and some others are reliable translations. None of them are the gold standard by which all others must be measured. Only the best manuscripts of the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic can give us that. So unless you have a working knowledge of those languages, you like most people, are dependent upon those who do. But that’s nothing to fret over. Take any one of the above translations, learn it and live it and you’ll be fine with God.

 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Does God Want The Church To Be?

What is your idea of the perfect church? Is it one where every singer sings in perfect pitch and harmony? Is it one where every sermon is a biblical masterpiece? Is it one where every elder and deacon carries out his responsibilities without flaw and every member is full of sunshine? Of course you realize that this kind utopian society does not exist this side of heaven. The reality is that the church is a work in progress. Regardless of where it is, who its members are and who is leading it, it is a work in progress.

            Since this is so, what ought the church strive to be? What should be her goals? The best way to answer that question is to ask, “What does God want the church to be?” As we look in the New Testament I believe 4 objectives stand out.

            God wants the church to be the classroom of Christ. Feeling good is great. Having your soul stirred is thrilling. But any church that focuses on feeling and ambience rather than learning of God is failing to be what God wants. This must be at the church’s core if the church is to be God’s church. God seeks to reason with people (Isa.1:18). The early church devoted itself to “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This is foundational. How are we to be anything else we are called to be if we don’t learn from God what we must be?

            God wants the church to be the window of Christ. Learning of Christ is a means to an end; it is not the end itself. As the world looks at, or rather, through the church, they should see Christ. Jesus said “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). John says in the next verse that he was talking about his manner of death, his crucifixion. But it surely has an application for the church of all ages in all places. Are we lifting up Christ? Is he our banner? Is our spotlight on him? Is he our message? The world doesn’t simply need to see another social club. The world needs to see Christ.

            God wants the church to be the community of Christ. Some people have the mistaken notion that when they “come to church” that it is a relationship between themselves and God alone. They believe they can walk in, “worship”, and walk out with little or no interaction with others. But that’s not the biblical picture. Get out your concordance and study the “one another” passages of the New Testament and see God’s desire. In fact one of the primary purposes of the assembly itself is to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb.10:24-25). We are a community, not isolated pockets of Christianity.

            God wants the church to be the body of Christ. Why is the church the body of Christ (1 Cor.12)? A body is for doing not just being. The Bible says, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph.4:15-16). Are you “growing up”? Are you “working properly”?

            This is what God wants the church to be. Let’s make sure we want the same thing. Then let’s be about being it.

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

The Anticipation of the Destination

We’ve all heard this on family vacations. Mom, Dad and the kids pile in the car before the sun comes up. They’ll get down the road a bit, maybe even after breakfast before it’s heard for the first time, this time. A little person in the back seat will ask, “Are we there yet?” How many dads have wanted to answer, “Yes, we are there and now I’m just driving for my health,”? When I was a kid I had a follow-up question when my Dad said, “No.” I would then ask, “Is it as far as it used to be?” Good thing he couldn’t reach me without wrecking the car.

         Scott LaMascus, in a 2002 issue of The Christian Chronicle wrote, “The days since 9/11 may be the first time in my life I honestly have been able to pray, Lord come quickly. Maybe I should be ashamed to admit that. Until now I have muttered mundane prayers.” Can you identify with that? Isn’t it true that often as Christians we lose the anticipation of the destination? Not only would we not ask the Father, “Are we there, yet?” we’re in no hurry to get there either. It’s like the story of the Christian man on a full airplane who, when driven by evangelistic fervor, stood up and shouted, “Who wants to go to heaven?!” One startled woman asked, “Now?”

         Wouldn’t the tragedies of this life and even the disappointments be less likely to rock our world if the anticipation of the destination—heaven—was primary in our hearts and minds? In fact couldn’t we even enjoy the journey more, knowing we’re going home to be with our Father? Maybe many of the things that seem like major obstacles would be just a speed bump in the road or a detour that exposes us to a blessing we might not otherwise have seen.

         Someone has said, “Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.” The only one who can prepare us is Jesus. He has a beautiful home up ahead. We’re not there yet. But it’s not as far as it used to be.

 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

 Brad Fry

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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That They May Be Saved

Any Christian who shares the heart of God to see all people saved has special concern for friends and family members. We all have people we care about who either have never obeyed the gospel or, if they have, are now not living in fellowship with Christ and his church. Many times such people have a hard time appreciating the concern of one who wants more than anything to see them right with God. While most anyone would be grateful to one who kept them from stepping into the path of an oncoming truck, some often fail to make the transfer from physical danger to spiritual danger. They may meet any expression of concern for their soul with irritation, indifference or even anger. How do we deal with such people? Do we keep right on telling them what they need to do as if we will not take no for an answer? Do we decide we’ll have nothing more to do with them? Do we maintain a polite relationship, being careful to avoid talking about the Bible or Christ and his church? These approaches are neither right nor effective. But don’t throw in the towel. Instead we should focus our attention and efforts on the following three keys that will help bring people or bring people back to Christ.

              First, we need to set the right example. In 1 Peter 3:1-2 the apostle tells the wives who have husbands that “do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” The principle applies to more than the husband and wife relationship. Those lost loved ones that we want to reach need to see Christ in our lives. Jesus is appealing all by himself. We need to make sure that others can see him through us as through a window. This happens when we maintain a positive and happy disposition. This happens when we don’t allow troubles to turn our world upside down. Such a life paves the road to Jesus. It gives credibility to the gospel. It allows people to see that this faith we want to share is not just for the hereafter but for the here and now. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:16). So be a window through which they can see Jesus not a brick wall that obscures him.

              We also need to offer appropriate encouragement. Peter’s instruction above that the lost “may be won without a word” must not be misunderstood. He is advising against nagging and depending only on words. But the wise Christian will be alert for opportunities to encourage others to consider the things of God and come to Christ. We can do this with an invitation to come to church or with the gift of good Christian books. If we’ve set the proper example there will probably be times when these folks we love will seek us out for some guidance or a shoulder to cry on. Such times should be used to direct them to God and his Word. A word of caution is needed here. While it would be ineffective to turn every conversation into a religious one, don’t let that make you mute. Do not apologize for having a concern for that person’s soul and expressing that concern. God has given words by which people must be saved (Acts 11:14). Sooner or later folks have to hear them.

              We then need to sustain our endurance. If we believe that a right relationship with God is the most important thing in the world; if we believe that God and Satan, heaven and hell are real and that all these folks we love so much will have an eternal destiny of one or the other, then we will endure. We will bring their names regularly before God because “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). We will keep our attitudes kind and Christ-like and sincerely apologize when we fail. We will be content to leave all judgment to the righteous mind of God. And we will keep on ‘till Christ calls us home.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Do You Need An Attitude Adjustment?

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

John Maxwell wrote, “Do you feel the world is treating you well? If your attitude toward the world is excellent, you will receive excellent results. If you feel so-so about the world, your response from that world will be average. Feel badly about your world and you will seem to have only negative feedback from life.”

Nothing shapes us more in life, whether for good or ill, than our attitudes. That one person can be broken by problems in his life and another comes through stronger facing those same problems testifies to this truth. Like the old saying goes, it’s not what happens to you in life but what you do with it. So how’s your attitude?

Do you have a proper attitude toward adversity?

[Job] said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:21-22) You may indeed have a tough and trying challenge ahead of you. But you can know this—self-pity never made any job any easier.  You are not unique in your suffering. Other people have been through trials like yours and have endured to the glory of God. It’s not a matter of can you but will you?

Do you have a proper attitude toward service?

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1-2) Is serving God and serving other people something you do gladly or grudgingly? Do you tend to whistle or whine while you work? Jesus said “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11). That’s upside down from the way the world thinks. The world says your greatness is determined by who and how many are waiting on you hand and foot. Jesus says you grow great by growing humble. And if you really want to be a mature servant, don’t worry about whether anyone notices the good you do or rewards you for it. God knows. That is enough (Matthew 6:1-4).

Do you have a proper attitude toward others?

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:5). Jesus says the world’s way is to just be kind to those who are kind to us (Matthew 5:43-47). Do you snub people or give them a cold shoulder because you’ve got a problem with them? Do you especially treat people nice who are part of your group or clique? If so, then you’re acting like the world. But if you openly treat all people with kindness and warmth, then you’re acting like your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48).

We can’t control everything or everyone we come in contact with. But we can always control our attitude. What will be yours?

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment