Yep, the latest podcast episode is up. Enjoy. Tell your friends. Some of you will find this episode controversial. Just hear me out.
I should be outside, enjoying this beautiful Easter Monday. Instead, here I am, typing away. Sometimes, I question my priorities. On the other hand, I simply had to write and process some things I read this morning.
In yesterday’s New York Times, an opinion writer, Nicholas Kristof, had a rather interesting, and disturbing interview published. His interviewee was, Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, in New York.
First, I think I’ll Link the article. You’ll Find it HERE. That way, no one can accuse me of taking anything out of context.
I have nothing against Dr. Jones. She seems like a decent person. I have no intentions of slandering her or the school. It’s merely the thesis of her interview that bothers me to my core. The short version is, she does not believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead, in his virgin birth, the necessity of the cross, or even in the efficacy of prayer. And she still calls herself a Christian Minister.
She has every right to believe, or disbelieve, anything she likes. The U.S. Constitution grants her that. I will fight for her right to believe, stand for, and even proclaim her beliefs publicly. My problem is this: you cannot deny the fundamental core of Christianity, and still call your theology, Christian. That is simply not fair to either Christians, or non Christians.
Even a cursory glance at the New Testament, will demonstrate that the Resurrection from the dead of Jesus of Nazareth, was the central doctrine of the early Church. It is the cornerstone of all four Gospels, including Mark, which she says doesn’t have it. In all 4 of them, and in the Book of Acts, the resurrection of Jesus is central to the very being of Christianity. In Acts, for example, the Resurrection is the core teaching of every gospel sermon recorded. In I Corinthians 15, Paul says it is of “first importance”, and that if Jesus is not raised “we are of all men, most miserable.”
It is Jesus resurrection that gives meaning to the Cross. Without it, its merely the story of a murder, or a public execution. It gives validity to the Christmas story of the virgin birth. Otherwise, it’s just a tragic tale of a pregnant woman giving birth in a stable.
The Resurrection, gives meaning to all of Jesus teaching. It validates every thing he said. In short, there simply is no Christianity, if Jesus did not rise from the dead.
You don’t have to believe it. Although I encourage you to do your homework and read about it. I would encourage you to read the Gospel of John, to begin, then investigate the claims.
You you can’t call yourself a Christian, yet deny every central claim of it’s belief system. I’m sorry. Neither Christianity nor logic will allow it. I stand by my initial arguments; Dr. Jones is entitled to every jot and tittle of her beliefs. But she cannot call it Christianity.
I was hoping I’d feel better, getting that off my chest, but I don’t. I feel absolutely rotten because of the many people who will read the article in the NYT and come away confused. Please, read the New Testament for yourself. You may not believe it, though I hope you do. But you’ll see with absolute clarity that Dr. Jones does not align with Christianity as taught in it’s pages.
That was a dare. Let me say it more clearly. Read it. I dare you. At least read the Gospel of John, and the Book of Acts.
Today’s topic is rather personal, and spiritual. I know some of you are not even remotely interested in Spiritual things, so I’m warning you ahead time. I hope you’ll keep reading, because you might get something out of it. Besides, it’s just us, so of no one will know you’re reading someone discussing the Bible.
The year was 1972. I was a teenager. I was skinny and had a full head of hair. My how things change with time. I already loved the Bible. And I loved Jesus. I had submitted to Him a few years before and loved reading His Word.
In those days, that was the King James Version. That’s pretty much what everybody read. I did have a Good News For Modern Man (Today known as the Good News Version, or Today’s English Version). but I read about a brand new translation that was hitting the market called, The New International Version. I raced out to a Christian Book Store and bought one. It was only the New Testament, that’s all that was completed at that time. It was brown leather. Just like a Bible should be. Kidding. Mine was a large print edition. In those days that was an option I didn’t need. Now it’s a requirement.
This new Bible was like magic. I understood it. Every word. It was like it was written just for me. I absolutely fell in love with it. In 1974, I went to college at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. In the bookstore, my first day, I saw and purchased, a whole Bible in the New International version. I was in heaven.
Throughout my college years, I was introduced to many translations. I liked some. Disliked others. Some I have to this day. A few I have as an app, but no actual hard copies. But I always loved the NIV.
Then in 1979, I went to Cincinnati Christian University, called Cincinnati Bible College in those days. One of the professors there, Lewis Foster, had been on the team of translators for the NIV, especially the Gospel of John, and played a role in the Book of Joshua team as well, but I don’t remember what he told me his role was. I will just say, Dr. Foster was an awesome man who loved the Word and the God who inspired it. I truly enjoyed his classes and spending time with him. I treasure those memories.
I was ordained into the ministry in 1978 in Cynthiana, KY in a Church where the minister was King James only. He was adamant about it. He disliked me very much for the fact that I was sold on the NIV and even used it when I was preaching and teaching. He only agreed to participate in my ordination because my dad was an Elder in the Church. I remember some dandy conversations with the Pastor as we would go about our days.
I also remember NOT getting hired by a church in KY once because I used the NIV rather than the King James. Those were weird times in churches. In fact, I would carry a King James AND an NIV with me when I was traveling and raising support to be a missionary, so I wouldn’t offend people if their church was still sold on the KJV.
When I got to Buckie, Scotland in 1980, I boldly preached from the New International version. Most of the people stuck to their King James, but converts used the NIV. Eventually, it became the majority version in the Church in Buckie, as well at in Forres which I planted in 1986, and in Cumbernauld, born in 1988.
I stayed true to the NIV, even when The New Living Bible became so popular in the late 90s. My wife loves that translation. She uses it all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s just not me.
I received a beta version of Today’s New International Version of the New Testament to read and comment on sometime in 2000 or 2001. It was published in 2002. I read it and HATED it. It was, lets say an attempt at political correctness. It was just awful. And I said so.
The Old Testament was finished in 2005. The translation was totally unacceptable to serious believers in Jesus and His Word. Eventually it just faded away and ceased being published.
Then in about 2012 a new edition of the NIV came out. I had bought a new Bible and was teaching a class at Northwest Christian Church in Acworth, GA. As I was reading, I became aware that some of the translation was just terrible. I laid my bible down and told the class that this version was crap. The NIV had implemented some of the translation model that had been used in the TNIV and the NIV was ruined.
The next week, I went back to my 1984 edition of the NIV. It was the last sound version of the NIV. It is now only possible to buy it from used bookstores or backrooms at Christian bookstores. Despite all the furor, I stuck faithfully to the 1984 edition of the NIV. And I will continue to use it in personal study.
But today, I am announcing, primarily because the 1984 NIV is so rare, that I will begin this week, preaching from the English Standard Version. It is considered a literal translation, yet it reads pretty smoothly for one. It is used by many conservative Churches in English speaking countries. In fact, it is the translation used at Brittan’s and my home Church in GA, Crosspoint City Church.
Frankly, this was an extremely difficult decision to make. I wish the publishers of the New International Version had never forced me into it. But they did, and that’s that. It’s done. Here I stand.
If you want to understand more about translations of the Bible, I recommend my book, (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1. Its a short book. And inexpensive, too. Just click on the link. You’re welcome.
So, farewell, New International Version. You have been a faithful translation. You have served me well. I cherish the many memories I have had using you to reach people in the U.S.A., Great Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and any other English speaking country I’ve visited. But it’s time to move on.
Hello, English Standard Version. You have big shoes to fill. But I believe you have what it takes. Let’s do this. The Gospel of Jesus is too important. There’s no place to go but on.
Thanks for listening folks. At least now you understand a little bit about why this is so important to me. Use the comments section and tell me about your favorite, or least favorite, Bible translation. See you next week.
Does that headline resonate with you? It wouldn’t surprise me. Nearly every week, I am asked about the best way to read the Bible, or asked why the Bible is so hard to understand. I totally get that. It can be frustrating when your new to it.
One of the reasons the Bible seems so hard is that it’s not in the best order for reading. Say what? I’m serious. If you’re new to the Bible, or have just never seemed to make sense of it, I’m going to clear some of that up for you right now!
The Bible is actually a collection of books; 66 of them to be precise. And they are grouped into categories just like a library. In fact, we should think of the Bible as a library of books in a single volume. Just like we wouldn’t go to a public library and start with the first book and read them in order all the way around the walls, we get the most out of the Bible if we don’t read from beginning to end (Genesis to Revelation) the first time we read it.
If you want to know more about that, I recommend my book, “(Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1”. It’s available on Amazon as an e-book, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it.
In the next two paragraphs, I’m giving you a suggested order in which to read the Bible. I am convinced you will get more out of your personal study if you do this.
The Bible is divided into two major segments, Old Testament and New Testament. As you can see, I’ve recommended the New Testament first. If you read the NT first it will help you understand the Old Testament much better than if you begin there. Trust me.
I highly recommend reading the Gospel of Luke first, followed by the Book of Acts. The reasons are two fold and quite simple. The Gospels tell us who Jesus is, which is the most important thing you and I need to know. The Book of Acts tells us what to do about that knowledge. It’s the only book in the Bible that describes how people became Christians.
The second reason I choose Luke and Acts, when there are 3 other Gospels, is that Luke is the author of both books, so they flow very smoothly. See, I told you it was simple.
In the next paragraph, you’ll find a recommended order for reading the entire New Testament. Essentially, I tried to put easier to read books first and the more difficult ones towards the end.
One more thing; I encourage readers to read through the New Testament twice before moving on to the Old Testament. Mainly, that’s because it really will make the Old Testament easier to grasp.
Here’s the full NT reading list in recommended order: Luke, Acts, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Matthew, James, Mark, 1 and 2 Timothy, John, 1,2,3 John, Galatians, Philippians, Titus, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, Romans, Jude, Revelation.
Ok, now it’s time for the Old Testament. What I’ve done here is simply put the Old Testament books into an order that breaks up the harder to read ones by including some of the easier to read ones in between the harder ones. That gives our brains a rest. You’re welcome.
I do have one more suggestion. Before beginning your Old Testament reading, go through the New Testament Book of Hebrews one more time. I call Hebrews the ‘key to understanding the Old Testament’. It really will help. I promise.
My suggested Old Testament reading plan looks like this: Genesis, Joshua, Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, Judges, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Leviticus,Ruth, Job, Lamentations, Numbers, 1 Samuel, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, Deuteronomy, 2 Samuel,Song of Solomon, Daniel, 1 Kings, Hosea, 2 Kings, Joel, 1 Chronicles, Amos, 2 Chronicles, Obadiah, Ezra, Jonah, Nehemiah, Micah, Esther, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
There you have it. Obviously, you can read the Bible in any order you want, but I did this to help those having trouble staying focused and those who were inexperienced with the Bible. As you become more familiar with its message, you may create your own reading plan, or simply go front to back. It’s your call.
I hope this helps; I really do. If you have any questions, please use the comments section and ask. Again, I refer you to my book, and encourage you to tune into the (Re)Discovering the Bible Online Radio Show podcast.
You can also email your questions to me. Thanks, as always. You rock.