Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Phillips translation of the Bible

I've read a bit of the "Phillips Modern English" translation of the Bible today. Jill Briscoe quotes from it sometimes, which is what sparked my curiosity.

In some spots, I really dislike the license they take in their translation. For example, in all the current favorite translations 1 Corinthians 15:58 is translated as: "Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your toil is not in vain." But, in the Phillips translation - the meaning is changed a bit. It reads: "And so, brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the Lord's work. Be sure that nothing you do for Him is ever lost or wasted." In the first version, the theology being taught is that we should work hard for the Lord (command), knowing that nothing we ever do in the Lord is wasted (promise)- but in the Phillips it implies that we need to make sure that our work is not wasted (command only). So, it's not about a promise - it's more about works.

However, reading this version can be jarring in a good way. In certain places it made me think about things in a new way. Even in spots where I disagreed with the liberties the translator took; it made me think about "what is truly true?" Here is a section from James that I liked:

"Don't ever attempt to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Suppose one man comes into your meeting well dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well dressed man by saying, "Please sit here-it's an excellent seat," and say to the poor man, "You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor," doesn't that prove that you are making class distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man's quality? - a very bad thing. For do notice that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love Him. And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man you are insulting...Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom. The man who makes no allowances for others will have none made for him. It is still true that, "mercy smiles in the face of judgment"." (James 2:1-13, one section skipped)

So, I don't think that the Phillips translation is a favorite (in my opinion); in fact, I would probably recommend against it. But, I do think it's interesting to read different translations from time to time - especially for those who have made it through the whole Bible in one specific version. It can cause new light to fall on something.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Marriage Builder - by Crabb part 2

So, I finished "The Marriage Builder" today! It's been an excellent read, and worth going through slowly and really thinking deeply about the concepts discussed. I view this as a life-changing book; one which I continually think back to after the reading is complete.

In the section talked about in the last blog, he discussed manipulation. He follows that section with a pretty lengthy section on communication. In this section he describes the difference between desires and goals.

He begins the section discussing unhealthy emotional and verbal reactions we have in our marriages (i.e. stuffing feelings down, dumping feelings on someone); his conclusion is to fully acknowledge our feelings in prayer and selectively express those thoughts if it serves a purpose. He insists that we can cultivate control over spontaneous reactions through practice.

Then he brings up goals and desires. "A goal is an objective that is under my control" (p.74) "A desire is an objective that I may legitimately and fervently want, but cannot reach through my efforts alone." (p.74) He discusses how most quarrels comes from unfulfilled desires, according to the Bible. ("What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?...James 4) He claims that, "The proper response to a desire is prayer. To a goal, the appropriate response is a set of responsible actions. If we confuse our goals and desires, our responses will be wrong. Too many people pray for their goals (Lord, make me treat my wife more kindly) and assume responsibility for their desires (Honey, will you get off my back?!?). The principle to remember is, Pray for your desires and assume responsibilities for your goals." (p.75)

It's not that a desire can never have goals attached to it. In fact, in his kind of funny metaphor he described what it would be like if you believed you could make it rain in order to water your back yard. You are powerless to make it rain; that's a desire - not a goal. But, what if you changed the goal to "I want to make sure my lawn gets some water on it". Then, since it's within your power to buy a sprinkler or what-not - it's an actual goal that can be accomplished. So, sometimes it may be essential for some of us to figure out how to change some of our goals into thing that are actual goals, and not desires.

He then has a short chapter on sex, called "body oneness" and contrasts worldly views of sex with biblical ones. In short, he says that sex is more than just physical enjoyment and fun - it is those things too (hopefully), but it's also about sharing a deep connection with one another (or, "oneness" as he puts it).

His final section is on the 3 building blocks of a healthy marriage: grace, commitment, and acceptance.

His grace chapter is about having hope that redemption and change are truly possible through Christ. It's about not throwing in the towel. He also speaks in this chapter to the situation that some find themselves in, where one partner is willing to work on a marriage and the other one is not.

His chapter on commitment is about having true commitment for our spouse that is deeper than mere grudging duty to one another. He also speaks about the deep joy that faithfulness and obedience to God can have in our lives. "All my needs are met in Christ. The riches of heaven are mine. I am called to believe this. And God has given me a taste of what lies ahead to excite my faith. The problem, sadly, is that very few Christians have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The joy of fellowship with Christ and service in His name is less than a thrilling reality for too many Christians because of inadequate commitment to Him. But those who have cast their entire lot with Christ know something of the peace and joy He provides...As long as God's plan includes a loving wife, I have little difficulty believing in His goodness. But when He calls me to love a rejecting woman, it requires herculean faith to continue believing that His plan is good. If I do continue in that confidence, however, the essential joy of ministry remains. The missionary whose efforts God rewards with many converts returns to his home church beaming with enthusiastic reports of God's blessing. The missionary whose equally faithful efforts yield no apparent fruit cannot feel the same quality of excitement. Although the pain of discouragement is real and can provoke spiritual struggle and self-examination, the faithful servant of God has reason for joy in the guarantee that every act of obedience done for the sake of Christ is accomplishing its intended purpose and brings a smile to the lips of the Savior. I confess that I would much prefer to be the missionary with the booming ministry, or the husband of a loving wife. But whether blessed with pleasant circumstances or tested by painful trial, the Christian's final basis for joy remains the same: The confidence that our faithfulness pleases Christ and is used by Him according to His sovereign plan. Because His plan is good, obedience and commitment bring joy to the sincere Christian." (p.123-125)

And finally, his last chapter is on accepting one another. This chapter is about forgiveness, and the ability to truly accept another person despite all of their flaws. True acceptance also means a willingness to not punish the other person, and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable to hurt over and over again rather than protecting ourselves with an emotional shield.

Overall, an excellent marriage book - highly recommended. It also includes a few appendixes and a lengthy discussion guide for couples.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Jesus Christ: Prophet Priest" by Andrew Murray

This book was amazing. It was so good to read Andrew Murray again; he really knows how to communicate deep truths about Jesus more than anyone.

This book is on the short side; and actually is a written version of 4 of his spoken sermons.

Section 1 is on Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
Murray discusses how Jesus was the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. And how these different roles minister to our innermost being. He brings up the 3 "faculties" of man= mind, heart, and will. And then he proceeds to talk about how each of these faculties are damaged by sin, yet can find light and blessing through Christ. He says that Christ the Prophet shows our minds how lost and broken we are; then Christ the Priest shows the way to God and the love and acceptance therein. Lastly Christ the King is fit to rule over my life. It's a really nice picture of how our anxious hearts can go to the One with the answers.

Section 2 is on Jesus the Completion of Priesthood
He speaks in this section about the work of the cross. At first he gives a theology for why Jesus needed to be fully God and fully man; then goes on to talk about our nature. An ox is completely satisfied in a field of green grass; whereas we could never be satisfied with that. It's because the ox has a different nature than we do; and our nature has to be transformed - we need to be "born again". "I must have a nature in harmony with the Kingdom." (p.30)
Another blessing of this new nature, or heart, is that the law of God is written on our hearts. He speaks about it this way: "When I speak of an acorn, how do I know that it will grow up into a mighty oak tree that may stand for a hundred years? Because the law of the oak tree has been written on the heart of the acorn." (p.29) In the same way, having Christ within us gives us the chance to grow in huge ways because of the nature he brings into our souls. "Jesus, the High Priest, does His work within us. He gives us His own life." (p.33) He claims that this point isn't thought about often enough. He says we often talk about the external/legal/transactional element of Christ's redemption - but may skip over the internal redeeming presence of Christ within our hearts.

Section 3 is called, "The Lord Jesus Christ: Our Way into the Holiest"
In this section he muses on how for 1500 years, our God sent a message to all people that they are not worthy to come too near to God. The veil in the temple, the holy-of-holies, the whole priestly sacrificial system. And then on the day of the cross, the veil was ripped open! We live in a privileged time. Furthermore, Christ provides the ability to walk with Him. A "new and living way" according to Scripture. If we moan and say, We can't walk with God! It's too hard! He urges us to think about what walking with Christ is actually like. He gives an example of walking on a sidewalk and getting tired, and says - the sidewalk won't carry you by itself, because the sidewalk is dead. But we have a NEW and LIVING WAY- something (someOne really) who does carry us forward when we are too tired to take another step.

Section 4 is about Jesus being the food for our soul
In this section, Murray describes how food and nourishment works; then he talks about how we are to eat Christ - and then God will Himself release the nutrients into our bodies and strengthen us from within. "God has ordered everything so that the assimilation goes on quietly without any effort on your part, and without your noticing it...The eating is your work, the inward assimilation is God's work." (p.61)

A very good read overall! I highly recommend it, or any other Murray book having to do with Jesus.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Consider Him" by Sanders

Jen Ferg and I are beginning the daunting (but exciting!) task of spending a year studying the life of Christ. We're going to teach this topic to some ladies in a challenge group. So, I'll try to include all of the cg teaching notes when they become available as well as any book reviews of books I finish on the topic.

The first book I finished, I finished today. It's a J. Oswald Sanders book; but not his best book on the topic of Christ. I think it's pretty well-accepted by all that his best book about Jesus is "The Incomparable Christ". But, how is this book, the book called "Consider Him" ?

I have to say, I'm a huge fan of Sanders. I've never read a book by him that I didn't like. And while this book is no exception, I do feel like I should say (to be fair) - that I would not recommend this book if asked for recommendations. The reason, is that it is kind of all over the place. There is no way to follow his train of thought or there is also no way to really learn anything concrete. You can be inspired. You can be excited to begin a deeper study into the life of Christ. I certainly was. But, that alone does not a good book make. His other work is far more useful.

Having gotten that negativity out of the way, though, let me share some of the high points.

At certain points, he focuses in on small strange details about Christ. For example, he looks at Christ's hands. And quotes several verses about the hands of Christ, and then talks about what deeper meaning is represented in those verses and in Christ's hands themselves. And while this is not stellar interpretation practice (allegorical), yet, it does make my mind begin to race in new and creative directions.

And I think that's the point of this book. To "Consider Him". Sanders, (and God too, by the way) think that it is worthwhile in our Christian lives to pause and spend time thinking about Christ. He starts this short book by bringing up some of the verses that urge us to consider Him:

"Consider Jesus Christ...Consider Him who endured" (Heb. 3:1, 12:3)

Among the many benefits of this practice are: it will "cure our self-satisfaction", "deliver us from self-pity", be the "antidote for discouragement", and "prove a stimulant for lethargy".

"To many are vocally sorry for themselves and feel that life has given them a raw deal. They feel misunderstood and neglected. "Consider Him that endured". Was He misunderstood, badly treated, unappreciated, misjudged? He knew what it was to be misjudged by His family. Compared with His, our trials are trivial...His own intimates doubted, denied, and forsook Him. Yet He endured. Consider Him, and take heart again." (p.9-10)

He gives practical advice for making what is sometimes called "The second decision" - the decision to allow Jesus to reign as Lord in your life. He says, "We must do the following: 1. make a break with the past and vow that other lords shall no longer rule. 2. decisively renounce all known sin and disobedience 3. enthrone Christ alone, and refuse to acknowledge any other name; 4. depend on the Holy Spirit - "no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3)." (p. 103-104)

And he ends talking about being ambassadors for Christ. I'm excited to be doing this study, for sure. I can see how studying this topic will be life-changing.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I'll have to write the rest of the review for marriage builder in a couple of weeks, when we finish it.

In the meantime, I thought today I would just share some verses from the Psalms. I was reading through them today after Ry's teaching this past CT. It was really uplifting.

"Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4

"Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make straight Your way before me...But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield." Psalm 5

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise." Psalm 8

"The Lord reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; He will govern the peoples with justice. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You." Psalm 9

"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him." and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me." Psalm 13

"I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord: apart from You I have no good thing." As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight." Psalm 16

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:8

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Marriage Builder - by Crabb part 1

So, I have a confession. I've never read this book before! I've heard so many good things from so many good people; but I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

A friend and I are reading it together and we're only a third of the way through - so, I'll have to give the rest of the review later. But, I'm very pleased with the book - and it's been very inspiring to me personally too. When I read the book, it makes me think about becoming a better wife and having more goals that have to do with marriage.

The intro and even chapter 1 are kind of introductory and shallow, in my opinion, the real book starts in chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2 discusses the dilemma of needs. He uses the graphic metaphor of 2 ticks sucking from each other - and makes a good case that a marriage can't function well that way. He then goes through different ways we may choose to deal with our emotional needs; such as:
1. Ignore our needs (creates depression and boredom)
2. Find satisfaction in achievement (instead of relationships)
3. Attempt to meet our needs in each other (2 ticks, no dog)
4. Depend on the Lord to meet our needs (in this section he discussed beginning from a platform of truth, and putting our faith in those truths we've learned)

He also discussed self-protective "layers" that insulate us from being truly close to each other.

Chapter 3 is called "Manipulation or Ministry?"

In this chapter he really speaks my language! He talks about goals.

He begins discussing what marriage is; and how we should understand marriage. "Too often, couples have not actively thought through the radical implications of the concepts for the marital relationship. And because they do not translate them from theory into experience, these truths never become vital. The only truths that eventually grip Christians at the core of their being are the truths by which they consistently live." (p.49)

Then he gets into talking about goals.

"Everything we do has a goal. We are not conditioned animals that act automatically and unthinkingly in a programmed response. Neither are we the hapless victims of internal, psychological forces that drive us relentlessly in unwanted directions. Although it may often FEEL as though we do things we don't want to do, the truth is that everything we do represents an effort to reach a goal that somehow, perhaps at an unconscious level, makes good sense to us...And a belief about what I need implies a goal I should pursue. If I BELIEVE I need food to live, I will make it my GOAL to get to the grocery store. Beliefs determine goals." (p.50)

So then, if our goal with our spouse is = win every argument/ avoid pain/ defend self, we would approach an argument in one way; whereas if our goal is = understand my spouse better and love them better; we'd be willing to approach it in a completely different way.

Then he discusses manipulation vs. ministry. Under the "manipulation" category, he describes the many ways that people manipulate - whether it be controlling, retreating, being forceful, guilt-tripping, or even certain positive qualities used in a manipulative way (i.e. being romantic or helpful - but in order to get something). He says that if we manipulate, we may get our way - but we will not necessarily be developing the longed-for sense of intimate closeness we could be developing.

He suggests instead that we view our spouse as someone to minister to. We should make it our goal to show love to them, and help them see God. Instead of looking for a quick-fix (What should I do to make my marriage better?) we should look to make some godly goals (What is my goal in this marriage?)

"Christians are called upon to believe that in spite of our confusion and incompetence, our sovereign God has made no mistake in assigning us the ministry of touching our spouses' deepest needs." (p.63)

...more to come on this book later...