Snippets from Corrie Ten Boom

Total Surrender

Many of you may have heard of Corrie Ten Boom and read her inspiring books. A Dutch watchmaker, she was imprisoned during the Second World War in a Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews in her attic. Several members of her family died in those camps, but she was miraculously spared and later travelled around the world bringing hope and encouragement to millions. Hope you enjoy this youtube video – a delightful sample of her homespun ministering style.

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The Keeping Power of God

sea-4206671_960_720“He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV)

When we reflect on the life of Jacob – as we did in the last post – what stands out is the power of God to shield His saints from all harm and guide our steps to a desired end. When I first believed at the age of 17, I never thought for a moment that I would ever falter, wax cold or want to give up on my Christian faith. Sadly, all these things have happened at different times in my life, but, by the mercy of God, I am still trusting in the Saviour’s goodness and the power of His redemption. I have little confidence in my own staying power, but I am learning to lean more and more on God’s steadfast keeping power. In this post I would like to briefly explore some of the methods God uses to keep us in His fold.

1. He shortens our troubles: The fact that God keeps us from falling or stumbling – meaning ‘falling away’, rather than the expected stumbles as we learn to walk – should be a matter of great comfort to us. If it all depended on us, not one of us could stand, for even the strongest, most steadfast Christian has a breaking point. In speaking of the tribulation, Jesus made a special promise – “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:19-20 RSV). To keep us His elect – who are but frail human beings – standing He will purposefully shorten the period of evil in the last days. Likewise, all our present earthly trials and temptations, permitted for our strengthening and character formation, are mercifully limited in time and intensity for our own safety. “Grain for bread must be ground, but it is not endlessly threshed…” (Isaiah 28:28 BSB). 

2. He trains us in holiness: Holiness is our safeguard against the devices that the enemy sets up for our downfall; indeed, holiness causes the devil to tremble and flee. So, God trains us to be holy, and like any athletic training, this entails sacrifice and struggle. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalms 103:13-14 NIV). He understands our weaknesses, our stress points and our vulnerability. God’s training programme and discipline are designed keeping these factors in mind, and despite the momentary pain, we will ‘share in His holiness’ as a result and enjoy the ‘harvest of a peaceful and upright life’ (Hebrews 12:10-11 REB).

3. He provides rest and deliverance in hard times: God wants us to enjoy His rest, which comes from the certainty of His presence, amid life’s storms. Even when everything around us is turbulent we may enter this inner sanctuary by faith, knowing that all is well and our lives are in safe hands. The disciples like many of us did not understand this and cried to the Lord as their boat was being swamped in the stormy sea, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39 NIV). Moreover, He provides a way of escape from temptation –“And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will also provide with the temptation the escape, to be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 BLB).

4. He keeps our steps in the darkness:“The Lord is our security…” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT), therefore we need “not fear the pestilence that walketh in darkness” (Psalm 91:6 KJV). There are times when God remains silent and apparently distant from our troubles, and we are forced to walk in complete darkness with just enough light to see the next step. “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10 ESV). It may be that our desired destination is only one step away, but as we cannot see it in the natural, this fact will be of little comfort to us unless we see – and seize – the promised end by faith; so, in darkness, our faith is stretched and built up. In the darkness, we must trust Him to keep close to us and deliver us from all harm for this is His promise – “For the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).

5. He uses our weaknesses and mistakes: When we read that ‘God is able to keep us from stumbling’, it does not mean that there will be no mistakes or failures in the Christian’s life. Thankfully, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). As members of a fallen humanity, we have our weaknesses and there are many things that we do not understand, but His grace preserves us from the worst consequences of our rebellion, ignorance and natural frailty. However, He occasionally allows us to trip and fall briefly so that we might learn from our mistakes. God never places a stumbling block in our path, and He always warns us of potential trouble. He also knows that in our carelessness we will ignore some of His warnings and get ourselves in trouble; and He does not always actively interfere to stop us from doing so. Even in such a state we should not be discouraged, because God is not only able, but He has every intention, to redeem our mistakes and to bring us to a desired – and desirable – destination.

6. He forgives us and restores us: The most wonderful gift from the Father is His provision of forgiveness. He knows our frailty, our tendency to rebel and our lack of love for Him , but none of these things faze God. He has several tools in His kit to help us overcome our sinfulness, and the most delightful of these is the forgiveness of sins. As this forgiveness was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, we must treat it with care and reverence. We must repent of all sin quickly and deeply. We must also pray for the special grace to be kept from presumptuous sins, that is, sinning because we take God’s forgiveness for granted. Yet, we have this sweet assurance that when we confess our sins, He is faithful [true to us] and just [true to His word] to forgive us of all sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

7. His peace guards our hearts and minds: This world system is designed to shake us and make us fall away. Yet, we have a refuge, an unshakeable rock to stand on – the peace of God. “…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7 NIV). The peace of God is so much more than a feeling, it is the indication of a decisive shift in the spiritual dynamics of a situation. By this peace we know that victory is at hand, and though we may have to wait a bit longer and outwardly everything looks the same, we have the assurance and the strength to endure. His peace guards us from unbelief and keeps us from taking things into our own hands.

8. He leads us to victory: More importantly, we have the God of peace to fight for us; He comes into our battles to defeat the enemy of our souls and to lead us to victory – “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet” (Romans 16:20 NIV). His presence sanctifies us (1 Thessalonians 5:23), equips and empowers us (Hebrews 13:20-21) for this fight. As He leads us to the place of triumph, His fire continually cleanses and refines us so that we come forth as pure gold. He will get us to the finish line despite everything that stands opposed to us. He will deal the enemy a final blow to secure the victory for us.

Paul wrote the following words to the Philippians: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:4-6). This is our confidence too, that God will perfect the work that He began in us and keep us blameless for the day of Christ’s appearing.

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25 NIV)

Jacob’s Triumph

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Today is Rosh Hashanah, and on this occasion let us reflect on the life of Jacob.

“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” …And there he blessed him… The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” (Genesis 32:24-31 ESV).

It is clear from the above verses that Jacob finished the night’s wrestling match looking the worse for wear; yet God chose to congratulate him on his triumph. According to the KJV, these were God’s words to Jacob (vs. 28) – “…for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” It is worth examining why Jacob’s fight won God’s approval.

Nothing in Jacob’s early life or character marked him out as a worthy heir of a great spiritual heritage. Although God chose him even before he was born, his life up to that point was marked by an almost defiant self-sufficiency. In his mother’s womb, apparently, he struggled with Esau, his twin, to be the first one out, and failing this, he was determined to seize by foul means – the fair means having been exhausted when Esau slipped out first from the birth canal – the spiritual inheritance that was due to Abraham’s seed, and so he lived up to his name, which means ‘supplanter’ or ‘deceiver’.  In childhood, he took advantage of Esau’s weakness to force him to sell his birth-right to him and then he deceived his blind father Isaac into handing him the blessing intended for the firstborn. Esau, finally, had enough, and swore to get his revenge once their father had passed away; and Jacob fearing for his life ran away to his uncle’s home in faraway Chaldea.

On his way, he had a divine encounter – in a dream he saw “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!”. God re-affirmed His promises to Abraham and Isaac, indeed, promising Jacob the very inheritance he had sought and which was the Lord’s alone to give, besides His unfailing care. Though awestruck, Jacob, as was his wont, tried to strike a bargain with the Almighty: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee” (Genesis 28:12-17, 20-22 RSV). In other words, “God, if You will do these four things, only then, shall You be my God and deserving of my tithe.” Now, just who did Jacob think he was? He would soon find out. Yet, God demonstrated much kindness and tolerance in overlooking Jacob’s foolishness. His watchful care remained with him in the difficult years that followed, and all Jacob’s trials were God’s instruments to mould his character.

Jacob discovered that his uncle Laban was cut of the same cloth, and employed deceptive tactics to get the better of him. After he had served him 7 years in exchange for Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter, he gave him her elder sister in marriage, and demanded another 7 years in return for the woman he loved. Laban continued to use false promises to extract a total of 20 years of service from him and might have cast him away with nothing, had God not intervened. When God commanded him to return home, he chose to leave secretly with his family and possessions because he feared Laban and his sons. As Laban chased his fleeing nephew across the desert, God met him and commanded him to leave Jacob alone.

Jacob’s troubles were far from over for now he had to contend with his old rival, Esau who, learning of his return, set out to meet him with 400 (possibly armed) men. Fearing for his life and for the lives of his family, Jacob did something quite out of character – he separated himself from the company, and called upon God. He approached this nightly prayer vigil with the same forceful ‘do or die’ determination, as he had all his past battles. Yet, this particular fight clearly pleased God. How many in our churches today fight with such vehemence for their spiritual inheritance? How many continue in their first zeal for the gospel or persist in battle to fulfil their spiritual potential? Now, why did Jacob, who had failed every battle in his life up to this point, believe that he had a fighting chance in his duel with the all-powerful God? Whatever his reasons, he refused to surrender. Imagine that scene – surrounded by pitch darkness with the fearsome roar of the River Jabbok echoing in the background, the creature contending with his Creator. What gave Jacob this boldness, this confidence to fight? God’s word. He knew that God could not go back on His word, whatever else might happen. God’s promise to bring him home safely and grant him the inheritance of his fathers – was an unshakeable ground for Jacob to stand on, and standing on God’s word, he could not fail even in this fight with the angel.

‘…for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word’ (Psalm 138:2 ESV). In one respect Jacob was like Abraham – he took God at His word, and his faith, like his grandfather’s, was reckoned to him as righteousness. His life and character had many flaws, but the value that he set upon his spiritual heritage – the inheritance which Esau despised – pleased God. Even before he had reached Laban’s home, Jacob had made up his mind to return to the nomadic lifestyle of Abraham and Isaac, in order to set his claim upon God’s promises. ‘By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise’ (Hebrews 11:9 RSV).

There is much in Jacob’s life to encourage us in our own walk with God. We learn the value of faith, perseverance, dependence on God and most of all, humility – all vital ingredients for success in the kingdom. When we compare and contrast his prayer on this occasion with his earlier prayer, we see a marked change in Jacob’s character as he acknowledged his own unworthiness and God’s great mercy: ‘God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord at whose bidding I came back to my own country and to my kindred, and who promised me prosperity, I am not worthy of all the true and steadfast love which you have shown to me your servant. The last time I crossed the Jordan, I owned nothing but the staff in my hand; now I have two camps. Save me, I pray, from my brother Esau, for I am afraid that he may come and destroy me; he will spare neither mother nor child. But you said, “I shall make you prosper and your descendants will be like the sand of the sea, beyond all counting” (Genesis 32:9-12 REB). When he acknowledged that he was indeed Jacob, the deceiver, he was given a new name marking the end of all his defeats – “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28 ESV). Like childless Abraham was named the ‘father of many nations’, the failed supplanter’s new name pointed to a future of victory.

Despite an unpromising beginning, Jacob’s life became a blessing in the end because of the hand of His God. As he said to Laban – “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labour of my hands and rebuked you last night” (Genesis 31:42 ESV). As Israel, he was chosen to lead the nation of faith that bore his name and which, like him, would endure much adversity and yet prevail. In the end, we have God’s promise that the nation Israel like their forefather will discover their need for God. The day will come when their self-sufficiency and reliance on the strength of their allies will come to an end, and they will lean on the God of their fathers. For the final promise concerning them is this: And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob” and “this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26-27 ESV).

Father, we pray for Israel and the Jewish people today. Draw them back to You. Thank You for choosing them as Your firstborn. We believe that as in Jacob’s life, You will fulfil all Your promises to them and for this we give You thanks. In Jesus’ name.

Love is Patient

“Love is always patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4 ISV)

Patience implies a willingness to wait. In this age of instant coffee and emails, waiting seems like a terrible waste of time. Just a few decades ago, people sat down to pen long letters knowing that they would have to wait weeks or months for a reply; but now, we are so used to instantaneous replies and quick fix results that the idea of delayed gratification seems alien and unendurable. Yet, growth and maturation need time and patience. Some trees take several years before they bear fruit.

Patience implies a willingness to wait. In this age of emails and instant coffee, waiting seems like a terrible waste of time. Just a few decades ago, people sat down to pen long letters knowing that they would have to wait weeks or months to receive a reply; but we are now so used to immediate replies and all sorts of quick fixes that the idea of delayed gratification seems alien and unendurable. Yet, growth and maturation need time and patience. Some trees take several years before they bear fruit.

In churches people meet for a few hours each Sunday and have very little contact afterwards; so, we know nothing of other people’s real struggles. Again, this is different from the experience of past generations when people attending a Christian parish or assembly were often neighbours whose association went beyond Sunday worship. Our prayers for fellow believers tend to reflect this casual Sunday relationship – short and quickly forgotten, leaving the struggling brother or sister to battle alone for the rest of the week. We give little thought to their spiritual battles, or their emotional states, and many sink beneath the lashing waves simply because we have no time for one another. Yet, when Paul and the apostles prayed, their prime goal was the spiritual strengthening of their fellow Christians. Do we realise that at the root of many of our difficulties are spiritual issues? People need time to grow to maturity in their Christian faith and character. Therefore, it is not enough to say a quick prayer for a brother or sister to be helped in their troubles or to grow more Christlike, but we must water the seed planted in their lives with constant prayer, love, patience and even tears, before we see the strong roots or the leaves and fruit manifest in their lives.

We learn that patience is a fruit of the Spirit and it is also a characteristic of agape love, which is God’s own love, therefore it is possible for anyone who has the indwelling Holy Spirit to bear this wonderful fruit. Yet, as I often write in these posts, in the lives of many Christians the fruit of the Spirit is never truly allowed to ripen. Although some people are born with a naturally patient temperament, even the most restless and impatient believer can see their fruit mature and sweeten if they allow themselves to be led by the Spirit. For the Spirit to exert control, we must yield up the reins of our lives to Him. Christian forbearance is so precious to God, that He regularly prunes the branch, and permits the soul to endure trials of many kinds so that it more becomes fruitful. Now let us try and understand what it means to be patient.

In the NKJV the verse is translated as “love suffers long…” . Although “it is so happy to love”, as the Shepherd reminded Much-Afraid (in ‘Hind’s Feet on High Places’ by Hannah Hurnard), there is also a measure of suffering in love and therefore, the need for patience to bear it. Patience means waking up each day with new hope, and ending the day with hope undiminished – even though our mountain of difficulty, whether it comes in the form of a person or a circumstance, stands stubborn and apparently immoveable in our way. In our own lives, many desired changes require years of prayer and discipline, and in our relationships, we are sometimes forced to wait a very long time, and get past many disappointments before we can see improvements in the people we love. Love waits. We wait and we work, and sometimes we can only pray as we wait, because there is nothing more for us to do, and we must yield all to God. As we pray and wait for a loved one to come to the faith or to give up some damaging habit, how helpless we feel. Our efforts seem all in vain, and our words make no difference; indeed, we must learn to be very careful with every word that we utter. Yet, this discipline is also a good thing because we learn to bridle our tongues, and submit to the Spirit’s guidance in our actions. James writes that one who can control his tongue is a perfect man; and patience in speech is the mark of maturity. A Christian may be gifted in many ways, but an unrestrained tongue is a sure sign of immaturity for it springs from a desire to exert control over people or events in the flesh. A mature Christian cannot be given to using harsh or insulting language. When forced to wait, we could choose to respond with fretfulness and despair or calmness and trust, yielding our lives, loved ones and circumstances into the hands of an all powerful and merciful God. In the days, weeks, months and years of our waiting, spiritual childishness – symptomised by impulsiveness and impatience – steadily gives way to solid Christlike endurance and patience.

Waiting gradually strips our love of all selfishness. Some see patience as a sign of weakness or being out of touch with reality, but they could not be more wrong. Still waters run deep, and deep calls to deep; for the Christian, the quality of patience is often the sign of his or her deep connection to the Spirit of God; such love, therefore, holds together in storm and fire. It is by no means passive; for beneath the quietness and apparent inactivity, it wages war against the negativity of the world. Its ceaseless trusting and optimism appear foolish to the world, but not to the Captain who directs our steps. Sometimes, His command is to ‘Be still’, and then we must lay down our tools, even the ones He Himself had equipped us with for a past season, and give Him room to work. As we lean on God’s faithfulness, our interactions with the world and particularly with the ones who we have placed at His mercy seat in love will reflect this dependence. “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him…” (Psalms 37:5-7 RSV). Be still, be still – this is indeed the call of love at work. 

Love does not give up, but looks eagerly for every avenue of hope. When contrary winds blow, it continues in prayer and trust. At the slightest glimmer of light, it breaks forth in thanksgiving, believing that joy comes in the morning. Our helplessness is the best place for God to act, for then we stop interfering with His work. Patience is the greatest gift we can give a friend. How wonderful to have someone behind us who offers support by being patient with us? We all need friends who will keep loving us and believing the best of us and for us even when everything goes against us and we are at our worst. I was blessed with a mother who was known for her immense patience with people’s failings, and what a blessing she was to many. Can we not be a patient friend to someone?

Patience always meets a good end. Patient love keeps faith in the midst of failure and disappointment; it keeps on keeping on. While patience remains, the best is yet to be. Patience says when everything looks a mess, “All is well; God is still at work; He can fix this; if we wait just a bit longer, everything will come around right”. As St. Theresa of Avila said, “patience brings all things”; because patience shows a deep reliance on God, it outlasts circumstances and human failings, and it always wins. 

Father, how impatient we have been with You and with our friends. Forgive us and help us yield to Your Spirit so that this precious fruit may ripen in our lives. In Jesus’ name.

A Quick Look At Modern Bible Translations

bible-1846174_960_720These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 KJV) 

In this post I would like to share my thoughts on recent Bible translations and updates of popular versions. Before I begin, let me make a couple of things clear. First, I am not a ‘King James Bible (KJV) Only’ Christian. In fact, I rarely ever read or refer to the KJV. I enjoy reading the psalms in the KJV, but its language belongs to another age, and therefore, it is not my preferred translation. Second, I have no theological training or knowledge of biblical languages, so I write purely from a Bible user’s perspective. In addition to my own reading of portions from these translations, I have also studied the opinions of ‘experts’ better qualified to make these assessments.

As a teenager, I was familiar with two versions – the Good News Bible (GNB) which my mother felt would be more interesting for a young person because of the pictures and simpler language. I read the entire New Testament once in the GNB soon after I came to a personal faith in Christ, and was greatly blessed, but then an Orthodox priest explained to me that it is not a suitable translation for a serious student of the Bible. The other Bible we had at home was the Revised Standard Version (RSV) that my mother used – a very traditional and reliable translation. I also once owned a New English Bible (NEB) being drawn to its green cover – an elegant translation which never found very wide readership. For most of my life, however, I have used the NIV (1984), which has the honour of being the most widely read modern English translation and for good reason – it managed to combine accuracy with readability and beauty of language to an enviable degree. Bible translations are often categorised as literal equivalence (‘word for word’) and dynamic equivalence (‘thought for thought’) translations. The former prioritises closeness to the original, and the latter, comprehensibility; the earlier NIV (first published in 1978) is considered to have achieved an almost perfect balance between literalism and dynamism, and so it was welcomed by most mainstream and evangelical denominations.

The new (2011) NIV, however, perfectly demonstrates the need for caution among Christians when choosing a translation. Its gender inclusive language is stretched beyond acceptable limits. Most readers would agree that Mark 1:17 (1984) “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” sounds better than the 2011 wording “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”, but this is hardly a serious flaw. The ungrammatical use of plurals ‘they’ and ‘them’ when referring to one person is irritating, but it is more a crime against language than against scripture. For example, compare Psalm 1, in 1984 NIV (“Blessed is the manhe is like a tree… whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers”) with the 2011 version (“Blessed is the one… that person is like a tree… whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers”). But this is not all. The ‘women’ in Isaiah 19:16 (“In that day the Egyptians will be women. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them”) is changed to ‘weaklings’ in the 2011 version (“In that day the Egyptians will be weaklings….”). In this they have gone too far – the words of the prophet Isaiah have been changed to serve the interests of political correctness rather than readability. Even translations that admit to being paraphrases rarely take such liberties. As an aside, I doubt the feminist brigade would be overjoyed to discover that the word ‘weaklings’ has occasionally been used to substitute for ‘women’ in a Bible translation (see Nahum 3:13Isa. 19:16Jer. 50:37; and Jer.51:30).

The NIV translators’ stated reasons for using gender-inclusive language are worrying: Authors of Biblical books, even while writing Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, unconsciously reflected in many ways, the particular cultures in which they wrote. Hence in the manner in which they articulate the Word of God, they sometimes offend modern sensibilities. At such times, translators can and may use non-offending renderings so as not to hinder the message of the Spirit. The patriarchalism (like other social patterns) of the ancient cultures in which the Biblical books were composed is pervasively reflected in forms of expression that appear, in the modern context, to deny the common human dignity of all hearers and readers…” 

It is clear that the current translators felt the need to tone down the perceived misogyny and cultural biases of the original writers to suit our ‘modern sensibilities’. This is a strange way to treat the scriptures. The Bible is meant to shape culture and not the other way round. Moreover, all books are products of the age and the culture in which they were written, yet Christ in the first century saw no reason to retrospectively modify anything that the prophets had written a thousand years earlier. The current publishers have got us on a very slippery slope, indeed, and I wonder how far they will take their fiddling with God’s word in future editions. Their approach suggests a lack reverence for the Scriptures. And do they respect their readers? The NIV 1984 is no longer available in print despite huge popular demand (although some sellers have old stock which they sell online at high prices) and online Bible providers such as ‘Bible Gateway’ have, as I understand, been strictly instructed to remove the 1984 version from their websites. The publishers have also chosen to ignore the protests from leading evangelical denominations about the new NIV’s inaccuracies. So, we are deprived of choice in this matter by those who think they know better.

Another gripe I have with the new NIV and other updated versions of popular translations such as the New RSV, New KJV and others, is that their so-called contemporary style does nothing for the reader. The English language has not changed in any significant way since the sixties or seventies. The supposed minor gains in readability have been achieved at the cost of quality, and not merely in the linguistic sense; these versions seem to lack the gravitas and solemnity, and therefore the authority and sense of purity that marked the older versions. My judgement in this matter may be subjective, but it is a perspective shared by many 1984 NIV users. Moreover, some of the newer versions exclude – not merely relegate to the footnotes – portions of the scripture that were ‘not found in the oldest manuscripts’ such as Acts 8:37 (“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”). A list of such missing verses may be found here.

Now, for a quick look at the more literal translations – examples include the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) and to a lesser degree, the English Standard Version (ESV). The main problem with these translations is that efforts by translators to make English sentences align very closely with ancient Hebrew or Koine Greek sentences have resulted in some very long and strangely constructed sentences, and the ease of reading is correspondingly diminished. The language of the English Standard Version (ESV), for example, flows easily in some places but tends toward incomprehensibility in other places with the use of archaic language or awkward arrangement of words. However, according to experts, these versions are remarkably free of liberal or denominational biases and faithful to the original text.

At the other end of the spectrum are the numerous Bible paraphrases which should never be used for serious Bible study. Although interesting to read, the translators bring strong personal, cultural and denominational biases to their renderings of scripture. Personally, I have enjoyed listening to the audio tapes of the dramatised New Living Translation (NLT) and I see many people in churches carrying the Message or the Passion Bible. Some readers might also be familiar with The Living Bible (TLB) popular in the nineties. These are, however, not faithful translations, but paraphrases, and a worrying trend is that some publishers do not make this fact sufficiently clear. While some adjustments in language are required for the sake of clarity, I wonder what the original scripture writers would make of the meanings these translators ascribe to their words. Such versions might be read on the side to gain fresh insights, but they should never become the mainstay of any believer’s Bible study.

Our choice of Bibles is determined by several factors – their availability in shops or online, the popularity of a translation in our Christian circles besides personal preferences. The recent profusion of Bible translations could only be described as a mixed blessing because it necessitates much caution on the part of readers. There were at least two instances when I discovered that a translation I had begun to use (gifted to me on both occasions) was put forth by a cult. The cults in question had strange ideas with regards to the deity of Christ and the nature of the Trinity, and the translations reflected those beliefs. I experienced a feeling of uneasiness on reading certain passages in those ‘Bibles’, but it was several weeks before I discovered what was wrong. Many people who buy an NIV Bible today have no idea about the numerous changes that have been introduced since 2011. I do not mean to suggest, of course, that all new translations are bad or that the NIV is a dangerous translation that should be avoided at all costs, but it is a fact that the newer editions have not maintained the high standards – of accuracy or style – of the older versions.

There is a relatively recent translation that I have come to appreciate – the Berean Study Bible, which is only available online at the moment (visit Bible Hub) and not in printed form. It reads very much like NIV 1984 or the ESV without the difficulties mentioned earlier. For more serious students of the Bible, the Amplified Bible and the more tidily written Expanded Bible have special value even though the use of multiple words to translate a single word can make the overall reading experience uncomfortable.

For myself, I hope, God willing, to go back to reading the RSV, that I have long neglected, and perhaps explore the Revised English Bible (the updated NEB) after that. In closing, I find that nothing is simple or straightforward in the world of modern Bible translation and we should not be too trusting when choosing our bibles. My goal in writing this post is to inspire readers to examine the philosophies and motivations that drive bible translations so that we are not easily deceived.

Father, we ask for wisdom and discernment as we study the Bible. In Jesus’ name.

Come, Watch With Me

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“So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” Matthew 26:40 (NASB)

This is a guest post by Dave Conlon.

WATCH WITH ME

By

Dave Conlon

Just a quick read of the above extract from Matthew 26:40, makes me instantly wonder what my own reaction would have been if a friend of mine asked me to go and keep watch with them? There are many questions that come to mind. But the first would probably be; ‘why, what and who will we be watching’? That question in itself would probably determine whether I said, “excellent, count me in, or, I’m not sure I want to come!” But it wasn’t me being asked, it was a group of dedicated and wholly committed followers.

This request was set within the uniqueness of what we could now refer to as a ‘Gethsemane moment.’ But what was it? Whilst it seemingly took place under the cover of darkness, it certainly wasn’t some sort of undercover operation. As we read the lead up to this event, we begin to realise this was a meeting of divine destiny. In verse thirty-eight, Jesus reveals to His watchmen;“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” What followed was the well documented betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, who was one of His own. This occurrence would been re-examined on the lead up to Easter, century after century, as part of the Easter story. Yet, in a narrative that expresses an immense depth of anxiety, sorrow and no small measure of disappointment, there is something profound that takes this event well beyond a recording of divine destiny or possibly the most significant betrayal in human history. 

The narrative in the Garden of Gethsemane is without doubt a picture of profound significance that enables us to witness the betrayal of Jesus. It is also by definition, an invitation to  future generations to understand that there is a difference between ‘watching with Jesus’ as opposed to ‘watching for Jesus.’ The overarching message has remained the same throughout the centuries. This band of loyal followers were never taught how to fight, instead, they were taught how to pray. It appears that Jesus never intended His disciples to ‘watch for Him’ but to ‘watch with Him.’ He never intended them to take up arms to delay His meeting with divine destiny. What it seems He wanted His disciples and us to know was, there is a major difference between watching with someone and watching for someone. The watching with someone takes the watcher into a position of being a ‘witness,’ watching for someone takes the watcher into the role of ‘protector.’ In essence this would become a role reversal. Jesus never needs us to be His protector; it is we who need His protection.

Watching with Him (whether in the flesh then or the spirit now) is an invitation of immense privilege. Watching with Him draws us into a deeper relationship with Jesus. We too become disciples and through this discipleship we gain everything that He wants to show us and give us. We must watch with open eyes and hearts. It is the ‘watching’ that will ultimately reveal the activity and work of the Holy Spirit. The scales will fall off of our eyes and enable us to see what’s going on during the times of watching with Jesus. This is the ‘in between;’ the phase when in the natural the water still looks like water, but in the supernatural, the water is in fact, already the finest of wine.

So often we miss out on witnessing God’s process because we are driven by the end result. But the majesty and mystery are to be found in God’s waiting room; His very own ‘watch room.’ This is the prize for ‘watching with Jesus’ during times of great uncertainty. The biblical scholars refer to these ‘in between times’ as, eschatology. There is so much to be witnessed and experienced during these times, but, we too must not fall asleep when we are supposed to be awake!