Are Bible Chapters and Verses Inspired?

David Capes, one of the scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word, answered a question about Bible verses and chapters. Are they inspired?

We recently had a fan of The Voice Bible email us to say that we had left out a verse.  He told us to look at Acts 19 and see that there was no verse 7.  My first thought was, “that’s impossible.” You see we had about a dozen people checking and rechecking those kinds of things.  At one point I counted 14 levels of review from start to finish.  My second thought was, “I better check this out!”

Well, I have slept several times since we finished Acts and couldn’t remember exactly what we had done.  Frank Couch and I looked at the text—we were together at the Justice Conference in Portland at the time.  As I turned to Acts 19, it became clear to me what we had done.  We combined Acts 19:1 and 19:7 because there is a single detail in what is traditionally known as verse 7 which makes better narrative sense early in the story. Note too that we put a footnote at the bottom of the page to indicate why we made that editorial decision.

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Goals that Inspire or Paralyze

Our kids participated in a triathlon camp this summer at our local YMCA and loved it. Now they are sold on it and are training for a kid's triathlon that's coming up in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday I did a bike ride with them after school. Noah, our 10-year-old, wanted me to take my road bike because it has a “speedometer” on it. Periodically he’d ask about our speed and distance. He seemed content that we were averaging 10mph, however, each time I looked back at them, both kids appeared to be on a leisure stroll, not a training ride. So I asked if we should bump it up to 12mph or more.

“No, I don’t think I go that fast,” he spouted. Noah is our conservative child. His mind was telling him to keep it safe but I knew he could handle it. So I did the obnoxious mom thing and gradually began upping the pace 10, 11, 12 mph...looking back periodically to see how they were doing. I kept us there for a few minutes and checked again – they still appeared to be on a joy ride.

“How you guys doing?”

“Great!”

“We’re going 15 mph!”

“No way!! I didn’t think I could go that fast!” Confidence was building and it shown in his eyes.

Numbers can be intimidating. They give us a concrete goal that we either do or do not meet. They can inspire us to push our self beyond old limitations. At the same time, they can also paralyze us if the hurdles before us are too daunting. Doubt takes over and it pollutes our vision and it's hard to move forward.

God didn’t create us for mediocrity. Jesus told us we’d do greater things than He. But, there is wisdom found in realistiic goal setting. Growing up, I wanted to be the first female, professional soccer player but my genes thwarted that one. Just because we want to do or become something doesn't necessarily make pursuing it a wise use of our time and effort.

How are we to balance goals that lead us to the greatness God created us for without misleading ourselves?

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Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 7- Compelled

My high school graduation gift was a plane ticket to Florida to visit my cousins.  I loved being with my older cousins who took me out and treated me like a princess.  Everything they did was big: big hugs, big parties, big mistakes, and big faith.  My Uncle Dale is kind of the patriarch of the group and one day when I stopped by his church he sat me down in his office.  He showed me a painting of the prophet Simeon and shared with me how that painting reminds him of his call and inspires his faith.  “What is your call?” he asked, leaning in intently.  “I don’t know. Something about the poor, something about helping people…” I hemmed and hawed.  “What inspires you to do that,” he asked.  “It doesn’t have to be something from the Bible.  Is there a piece of art or a song that compels you?”  It came to me immediately. “The Statue of Liberty,” I blurted out.  The poem on the statue brings me to tears every time I hear it. 

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Your Worldview!?

The children at the Shalom school are inspiring, and they have worked their magic on me. Without education their future isn't bright, or it wouldn't seem bright to us Westerners. In America it's stressed that if you don't finish high school then your future will be flipping burgers and digging ditches. Here finishing primary school is barely a goal, flipping burgers and digging ditches is a career, and anything more is a gift from god. When I get home from Burkina I plan on fund raising money for the Shalom school. I want those kids to have all the tools necessary for their education. Even though they'll most likely never have electricity, I want to fund raise enough money to spoil them in every other regard! Look around and be thankful for what you have. We are a a society privileged to the fullest. It takes coming somewhere like this, and working on a day to day basis with the people to truly be grateful. If you think you are, well think again.
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The Importance of Writing Stuff Down

It is less a contrast than it is a similarity. Two men, both highly educated Jews, both bold and passionate preachers of the message of the Gospel, both leaders in the first century Church.  Paul and Apollos were both used by God to build His Kingdom in the precarious, turbulent infancy of the Christian faith.  But only one of these men still has a ministry today.  Indeed, Paul’s contribution to the New Testament is central to our understanding of the Gospel.

Why is Paul’s influence greater than that of Apollos?  Spiritual calling aside, there seems a simple reason:  He Wrote Stuff Down.

I’m a big Writer of Stuff.  I have To-Do lists, archives of song lyrics, sermons and speeches, unpublished books and written meanderings.  According to the stats counter, my personal blog site just hit 100 blog entries last week.  I even have an archive of carefully documented calendars that stretches back to my freshman year in college, which I can’t bear to throw out.  What if I suddenly need to know what I did during the summer of 1984?

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Waiting

We’ve spent the better part of the last month making copies of our birth certificates, getting physicals, being interviewed by social workers, and installing more smoke alarms. We’ve filled out questionnaires about parenting, watched hours of training on trans-racial adoption, read books on attachment, given over our 3 years of tax forms, and prayed a lot. Finally, after many trips to the notary and the post office, I’m happy to report we have finally mailed off all our official adoption documents.

People keep asking me what our timeline is, when our son will be home. It’s absolutely maddening that I have to answer truthfully, “I don’t know.” The process is out of our hands and in the hands of 2 government bureaucracies. Every day when the mail truck arrives (at precisely 3:22pm) I bolt outside to get it, hoping there will be some receipt or communication that will advance us to the next step.

Waiting for Inspiration

Traditionally, I take the week off after Christmas.  For a worship pastor like myself, this is a bit of a sacred time—to spend with family, physically and spiritually refuel from the long fall and Christmas schedule, and do a little reflecting on life.  This last week, I also fired up my project recording studio, collected all the odd and unformed lyrics I have jotted down over the past six months, and gave my right brain an opportunity to play a little bit.  (I also snuck onto my daughters' new Wii a few times, but that may be irrelevant.)

Every songwriter works in their own way.  Some like to start with a melody; others begin with a lick or a lyrical phrase or some chord changes.  There are no rules, no procedures, no single formula for writing a song.  There is only this inexplicable thing called inspiration—that seems like luck and works like magic and feels like madness.

The most gifted and hard working artists seem to be inspired all the time, but that is not true.  When there is no inspiration, it is then that skill and gifting can carry you.  A gifted songwriter can write a song whether or not they are inspired, simply because they understand the craft of songwriting.  A gifted painter can create an amazing work of art simply because they have a canvas in front of them.  And a gifted writer can write a great article simply because they are under a deadline.  All of this begs the question: Is inspiration a requirement for creativity?

As artists, we are obligated to steward the gifts God gives us, through diligent discipline.  Artists must be attentive to their craft.  In other words, having talent is not an excuse for not working hard.  Quite the opposite—the greater the giftedness, the greater the obligation to steward those gifts, to work and hone our craft.  It is a matter of the parable of the talents, applied to our talents.  And so, because I understand and practice the craft of songwriting, I can write songs that are creative.  But I don't always write songs that are good.  In fact, I am really quite good at writing mediocre songs.  So where does the inspiration come in?

Jeremy Begbie states that "art is...inherently dialogical."  And I believe that includes a vertical dialogue, a transcendent and spiritual component to our art.  When we are inspired, it feels like we are tapping into this wholly other thing.

This last week, I was feeling inspired.  And for me, this inspiration—that seems like luck and works like magic and feels like madness—took me somewhere I don't think I could have gone by myself.  

As a Christ-follower, I believe that all true inspiration ultimately comes from the Spirit of God.  I also know that the Spirit of God is a much better songwriter than I am, so I am often reticent to give him credit for the stuff I write.  But this week, I walked into my studio with a some unhurried time, a few scratched-out ideas, and an attentiveness to the Inspirer of things—and I walked out of my studio with three new songs.  And so far, they still sound pretty good.

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I Got Nothin'

What do pastors do when Sunday morning is barreling down on them and they realize they have absolutely nothing to say from the pulpit?  Women-in-the-pulpit theology aside, I’m awfully glad I will never be a pastor. The burden to create life-changing sermons week upon week must weigh on a man, especially if he is naturally a shepherd, a hand-on-the-shoulder guy, or just rhetorically average.

Inspiration is a tricky cat. If you believe in the Holy Spirit—and I do—you want to believe that God can zap our intellect, give us supernatural insight, and use his Holy Scriptures to shape our teaching. Yet I’m pretty sure God didn’t deem sacred the seven-day cycle of insights, where the Holy Spirit punches his time clock at certain intervals just in time for the church secretary to print the sermon title every Wednesday for the church bulletin.

Baby Steps

I love-hate the old 90's film, "What About Bob." Every time I watch it, I laugh out loud, mostly in a nervous, really uncomfortable, I'm-not-sure-what-else-to-do, kind of way. The character,"Bob," is horrifically neurotic. He has OCD to the nth degree. He won't touch anything without cleaning it and his fears and hang-ups outnumber even the most terrified cartoon character. His only salvation, his only pathway through the bog of his own psychosis, is a pop psychologist who has penned a trite self-help book called "Baby Steps." Bob, like a desperate leech, latches on to the concept and begins to see improvement. He can suddenly take elevators by taking one baby step at a time. He can walk out of his living room because all he has to do is take one step, and then another step. Bob's obsession with the book leads to more uncomfortable, neurotic humor and the audience can chuckle because the scenario is just too absurd to be real. WE are not that crazy. WE obviously have better boundaries. We don't need to take baby steps. Right? RIGHT????

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No Risk, No Reward

Last week, my husband jumped out of an airplane.

For a sermon illustration.

He's done lots of things for sermon illustrations. He has used real fire and real chain saws to drive a point home. He uses the verbal illustration most often. He talks about me, his kids, and his friends in sermons all the time.  If you know him long enough, you will appear in the weekly sermon. It's an honor, actually. Well, most of the time. He once tattled on me to the whole congregation, claiming that I was a "cusser", a foul mouthed human being. The congregation laughed, because they all knew he was exaggerating,  and I had to answer a thousand questions about the incident inthe hallways after the service. In my defense, I uttered one small word (not even a really bad one) in front of my kids and they delighted in repeating it over and over. They told daddy and a sermon illustration was born. You just can't trust kids these days. I must note here that sometimes the stories in his messages are stretched the ever most teensiest bit.

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