Thursday, January 28, 2016

"What's Your Story?" (Sunday's Message)

“What’s Your Story?”
18As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” Mark 5:18-20, NIV

What’s your story? God can rewrite the ending to your story. He can begin a new chapter in your story today. The man we are told about in Mark chapter five was living a story that was ending badly. But he met Jesus who specializes in rewriting bad endings. Jesus saved the possessed and self-destructive man and now the changed man wants to follow Jesus. Jesus tells him “the best way that you can follow me is by going back to your home and telling them what the Lord has done for you.” “You tell them I have had compassion on you and it is I who has changed you. Tell them your new story!”

What’s your story? Everyone has one. And every Christian has a personal story of how they came to know Jesus and what He has done for them. The details of our stories will be different, but all Christians will have at least three things in common. This common ground that we share in our stories can be illustrated in the “life story” of the Apostle Paul in Acts 22:3-5.

1. There was a time in your life when you were not a Christian (22:3-5).

2. But you met Jesus and made a personal commitment to Him (22:6-13).

3. And now because of Christ your life has changed (22:14-16).

Everyone has a story and your story is powerful. This Sunday, January 31st in worship we will celebrate the observance of the Lord’s Supper and I will be sharing about the power of your personal story to impact the lives of others. Because of “His” story (the cross and the resurrection), we have a new story, a powerful story of God’s grace and mercy to share with our world.

You are invited to join us at Carrollwood Baptist Church where all are welcomed. This Sunday could be a life-changing experience for you. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. and we are conveniently located one mile east of the Veterans Expressway at 5395 Ehrlich Road. For more information, check us out online at

Looking forward to celebrating “His” story this Sunday!

Pastor Joe



Monday, January 25, 2016

Making Sense of Different Bible Translations

Making Sense of Different Bible Translations
Dr. Joe Alain, 2016

 How We Got Our Bible
Contrary to what some might think, the Bible as we have it today did not drop out of the blue sky one day. What we have in the sixty-six books of our Bible developed over the course of several hundred years. Keep in mind, what we consider Scripture was being written during the first century as churches were being formed throughout the known world. Knowing what was truly authoritative Scripture was a daily concern for believers in the first century. There were many people peddling supposed authoritative texts in the first few centuries of the church. It was even quite common for some supposed gospel renderings to be written in the name of a famous person (e.g. Thomas, or Philip, or Mary). These false gospels might find their way into the hands of unsuspecting persons. How did early believers tell what was truly authentic Scripture over against what was false?

There were basically three criteria for discerning what was considered authoritative Scripture in the early church. (1) Was the book written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle? Obviously, who wrote the book had a huge bearing on its authenticity. (2) Was the book accepted universally among believers? A book that would not be accepted universally would be suspect. (3) Was the book theologically consistent with other biblical books in the accepted canon? When you read today some of the “so-called” gospels (e.g., The Gospel of Thomas or The Gospel of Mary), it’s quite obvious even to the non-discerning believer that these works are inconsistent with what the rest of the Bible has to say. With these three criteria, Christians early on began assembling our Bible. The development of the canon (the rule of faith) was a slow process substantially completed by A.D. 175 except for a few books whose authorship was disputed.

Early English Translations
The Latin Vulgate (Roman Catholic Version) was the primary Bible in use in Europe prior to the sixteenth century. During the sixteenth century there was an explosion of English versions of the Bible, due mainly to the following reasons: (1) The recovery of classical learning (especially the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek) during the Renaissance period, (2) The development of Gutenberg’s printing press (ca. 1540), and (3) The Protestant Reformation with its emphasis on the language of the Bible being in the language of the people, and the emphasis of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).

 The English translations of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale stand above all the rest in the sixteenth century. The Authorized Version or King James Bible capped the series of translations begun by Tyndale (1611). Produced by a team of 54 scholars, the KJV became the Bible for English-speaking peoples for generations and a monument of the English language.

Why Is There a Need for New Translations?
            (1) Advancements in textual criticism.
Biblical scholars have so many more early manuscripts of the Bible that were simply not available to Bible translators before. And these new discoveries of ancient copies of Scripture have aided our understanding of the Scriptures (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls).

            (2) Our knowledge of biblical languages has increased. Since there are literally thousands of early Greek manuscripts of portions of the Bible, most modern translations are based on what is called a critical Greek text. Reliable and skilled biblical scholars have assembled these manuscripts into a text that can be trusted to be accurate. However, because not all scholars agree on the differing points of some specific passages, this explains why some translations differ at various points. A good translation will explain some of these additions, deletions, and differences in the margin or in a footnote in your Bible.

(3) The English language is continually changing. Words sometimes change meaning
over time and new words are continuing to come into common usage. For example, if I sat on a bench at the Grand Canyon and exclaimed, “What an awful sight” as I looked out, you would most certainly disagree; however, the word “awful” once meant “full of awe, awe-inspiring, impressive.” We certainly do not use the word “awful” in that way today. If I speak of a “text” today, I might be misunderstood because that word is used so often to refer to a message or conversation on a cell phone rather than words of written text in a document. In biblical times torches were used for light sources. While we still may understand this today, it’s doubtful that any of us are carrying torches around in the night. Instead, we might carry a flashlight. Updating translations to reflect contemporary usage of any language makes it easier to understand the Bible’s timeless message.

Evaluating Translations
Criteria for evaluating Bible translations.
1. The Identity and Qualifications of the Translators.
Just as the early church was concerned that authentic Scripture had to come from an apostle or associate of an apostle, so believers today want to know who is responsible for the translation that they are considering. Most modern reliable translations are developed out of committee of trusted biblical scholars which insures a higher concentration of skills than one or just a small group of persons. Most translations will reveal the translators and their qualifications in the opening pages (Introduction) of your Bible.

2. The Underlying Textual Basis of the Translation.
This concern has to do with what kind of text that the translators are starting with. For instance, early English versions of the Bible were being translated primarily from one Greek text assembled by Erasmus, a Renaissance era scholar. This was a vast improvement over translating from the Latin; however, it was still one person’s biblical text. Today, most modern translators work from what is called a critical Greek text that reflects an eclectic approach to textual questions. This critical Greek text has probably been the most evaluated document on the planet. There are over 5,000 extant (actual documents) New Testament fragments and writings that scholars have today to develop this critical text. Because of this, believers can have full confidence in their Bible. Because there are so many documents to work with, naturally there are minor differences in some passages. This usually means that some translations will differ on the points where a variant (a difference) is found in the biblical text. A good translation will explain some of these variants.

 Here is an example of a passage where there is a variant along with the explanation. Mark 5:1, NIV states, “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.” Some manuscripts have “Gadarenes;” other manuscripts have “Gergesenes.” Many variants are similar to this one which reflects minor differences in spelling and/or different ways of referring to a particular area.   

Why Translations Read So Differently from One Another
The challenge for Bible translators is that they are working with texts that are tied to ancient cultures that are vastly different from that of today. Each translator or team of translators must make a choice concerning how they will bridge the gap between the original language of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and the language that they are translating into (for us, English). The act of translation means that the translator will make judgments based on his or her understanding of the original languages and the language they are translating into. 

Three Theories of translation have been generally followed in bridging the gap between the original languages and the receptor language, in our case English.

Literal or Formal Equivalency (“Word Correspondence”). Following this process, the translator attempts to translate by keeping as close as possible to the exact words (Word Correspondence) and phrasing in the original language, yet still make sense in the receptor language (English). A formal equivalent translation will keep the historical distance intact at all points. This makes for a very good translation but sometimes it is disjointed sounding and awkward because of the differences between the two languages.

            Literal/Formal Examples

Dynamic Equivalency (“Functional”). Following this process, the translator attempts to translate words, idioms, and grammatical constructions from the original language into precise equivalents in the receptive language (English). This is considered a thought-for-thought translation. Such a translation keeps historical distance on all historical and most factual matters, but “updates” matters of language, grammar, and style. Meaning takes precedence over matters of structure and style.

            Dynamic Equivalent Examples
            NIV, NLT, CEV, GNB, NEB

Free (Paraphrases). Following this process, the translator attempts to translate the ideas from one language to another, with less concern about using the exact words of the original. Free translations, also called a paraphrases, are not technically translations and should not be treated as such. The Living Bible and The Message are representative of paraphrases.

            Free Examples
            The Message, The Living Bible                                                                     

Comparing the Different Types of Translations (Romans 12:1)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV)

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?(LB)

Tensions to Keep in Mind
As a general rule, the more “literal/formal” the translation, it may be characterized as objective, timeless, and tied to the original text. The potential downside is that these translations may sound archaic and read a little wooden. As a general rule, the more “free” the translations (paraphrase), the more readable, understandable and relevant to readers. The downside is that these translations may be subjective, temporal and inject commentary to the original text. 

Practical Considerations
A good literal/formal equivalency Bible with the focus on biblical words is indispensible for serious Bible study. Supplement your study with a dynamic equivalent translation like the NIV or NLT. Use translations that contain helpful notes in the margin that reflect modern scholarship. Paraphrases are helpful for devotional reading and for clarifying difficult passages. With so many excellent translations available today, the Christian has a variety of great choices for both devotional reading and serious study.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

"When All You See Are the Stones" (John 8:1-11)

Neither do I condemn you . . .
Go now and leave your life of sinJohn 8:11, NIV

The Bible is filled with people who suffered guilt and shame, both private and public. There is in the Bible one woman whose story embodies them all. It’s a story of failure, a story of abuse, a story of shame, and a story of grace. We discover the torrid tale in John 8:1-11 (You can read the entire passage below) where “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees [have] brought in [to the temple courts before Jesus] a woman caught in adultery” (8:3).

The question they asked Jesus was carefully chosen for maximized deception. “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (8:5). If Jesus sides with the law (their version of it) then there will be little hope for her or for anyone else who is hurting. In other words, “there’s gonna be a whole lot of rocks flying.” If He sides with the woman, He will appear to be soft on sin and in opposition to the Law.

Instead of condemning the woman Jesus did something that even astonishes us today – He pronounced her not guilty (8:11)!  She probably expected a sermon or at least a good tongue lashing but she got none of that. Instead of justice she was given mercy. Instead of a guilty verdict she received the gift of grace!

If we’re honest with ourselves this story disturbs us. How could Jesus proclaim that the woman was not guilty when all of us (the people’s court) know she was guilty? Guilty as sin! This story is a stark, in your face, reminder that sin (all of it, what we consider the “little” and the “big” sins) is ugly and dark and that God’s grace is not for people who think they are good but for those who know they are guilty.

Come here the rest of the story of this amazing and life-changing encounter with Jesus this Sunday, January 24th at Carrollwood Baptist Church where all are welcomed. This Sunday could be a life-changing experience for you. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. and we are conveniently located one mile east of the Veterans Expressway at 5395 Ehrlich Road. For more information, check us out online at

Looking forward to a great day of worship!

Pastor Joe

John 7:53-8:11, NIV
53 Then they all went home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Living Water" (Sunday, January 17th Sermon)

“Living Water”

Jesus intentionally went where few Jews would, right into the heart of Samaria to the town of Sychar (Jn. 4:4). So you can imagine the surprise of the woman when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. She reminded him, “You are a Jew and I am Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (Jn. 4:9). The Jews don’t associate with us Samaritans.” Somebody must have forgotten to tell Jesus that little detail.

Jesus turned the conversation to spiritual matters in John 4:10 when he told her that if she knew who he was, she herself would be asking him for water, “and he would have given you living water.” She had to be thinking, “If he has this water why is he asking me for a drink?” “Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well?” (Jn. 4:11-12a). “Actually, I am!” Jesus will tell her during the course of their conversation.

Perhaps Jesus looked at the woman and then towards the well when he spoke his next words, “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:13-14).

When Jesus reminded her of her past and present status (Jn. 4:16-18), it was not to lecture her, or to embarrass her, or to condemn her. He simply wanted her to be open and honest with him, to deal with reality for God is only known as we worship him “in Spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). She doesn’t need another dead-end relationship that can never fully satisfy her deep needs, she needs a living relationship with her heavenly Father. Five husbands or fifty husbands will not fill the bottomless well of her heart. Nothing satisfies the heart but Jesus, living water. And the amazing grace of this encounter is that Jesus knew all about her and loved her anyway.

Come here the rest of the story of this amazing and life-changing encounter with Jesus this Sunday, January 17th at Carrollwood Baptist Church where all are welcomed. This Sunday could be a life-changing experience for you. You can read the Scripture passage of this account below. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. and we are conveniently located one mile east of the Veterans Expressway at 5395 Ehrlich Road. For more information, check us out online at

Looking forward to a great day of worship!

Pastor Joe

John 4:1-14, New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Rise Up and Walk!" (John 5:1-9)

“Rise Up and Walk”
John 5:1–9
Thirty-eight years is a long time but that’s how long the lame man we are told about in John chapter 5 had spent waiting at the pool of Bethesda. Here in this place of suffering resided the outcasts, the helpless, the sick, the blind, the lame, the withered, the desperate, and the forgotten.

The tragedy of this scene is that these sick and desperate people were waiting for the “moving of the water” and the water wasn’t moving. Many people today find themselves in a similar situation. They are hoping that things will get better, that their situation will improve, that someone will care. The good news is that when Jesus showed up, this pool of misery would become a “house of mercy.”

This Sunday, we are continuing our sermon series, “Reset: Changed Lives, New Beginnings” with the story of the lame man who was healed by Jesus. You can read the story of this encounter from John’s account below. When people encountered Jesus, miraculous things always happened. What “New Beginning” could take place in your life this year?  

You are invited to join us for worship this Sunday at Carrollwood Baptist Church where all are welcomed. Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. and we are conveniently located one mile east of the Veterans Expressway at 5395 Ehrlich Road. For more information, check us out online at

Looking forward to a great day of worship!

Pastor Joe

John 5:1-9New International Version (NIV)
The Healing at the Pool
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] [b] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,

  1. John 5:2 Some manuscripts Bethzatha; other manuscripts Bethsaida
  2. John 5:4 Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.