Jesus Gave More Than His Hair

When South African, Girda McKenna, discovered she had cancer, she asked her friends for one thing –  to sit together for a photograph.

Her eleven friends went much further than a photo. To demonstrate their sympathy and solidarity they decided to shave off all their hair. Before sacrificing her blonde tresses, one friend said: ”That is the least I can do. If I can do just a little for her to feel better, I will do it with love.” Another commented: “I am giving up my pride for a friend that is going through much, much more.”

When Girda came to the photoshoot to find another 11 shiny bald heads she was overcome with emotion and gratitude.

It’s a truly touching gesture involving a considerable sacrifice of beauty and comfort. However, think about how much more that Jesus gave up for sinners. He gave far more than his hair for a few months. He gave HIMSELF, His whole body and His whole soul. And He gave them to far more than barber with a razor. He gave Himself into the hands of wicked men, a furious devil, and an angry God. And it did it all for love and with love.

The video about Girda’s friends opens with the lyrics of Anything For Love:

And I would do anything for love,
I’d run right into hell and back.

Awfully foolish words in the mouth of a mere man. However, awe-fully true in the mouth of Jesus. He did anything and everything for love, including “running” into the experience of hell, and coming back in triumph.

Jesus didn’t just go to the hairdresser to sympathize with a sick friend. He endured hell in the place of sinners.

Now what?


Check out

Focus and Food
How multitasking affects what we eat and how it tastes.

Trinity in Old and New Testaments
Fred Sanders with a neat summary of Vos’s teaching on the Trinity in the Old Testament.

The New Calvinism: A Triumph of the Old
Rick Phillips with the first of four posts on the New Calvinism. In this one he says, Old Calvinism should avoid excessive criticism but should generally rejoice in the New Calvinism.

The Gospel of Interracial Marriage
How unity in Christ should overcome our segregated pews and segregated dating lives.

Glorifying God in the Routines
Gloria Furman does what she does best – finds the Gospel in the everyday.

Mattress Saves Cyclist Struck by Vehicle
Unsecured mattress that fell off a truck sweeps a cyclist off his bike then provides a flying bed for him to land on!

Mattress on Moving Day Saves Toddler who fell from Third-Story
Remind me to take my mattress with me next time I go out.


Should Christians Support the International Day of Happiness?

Hope you’re smiling.

If not, the United Nations Happiness Police are on your case. Don’t you know that today is the UN International Day of Happiness.

In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a groundbreaking resolution which recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes… happiness and well-being of all peoples.”

In April 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place in New York and in July 2012 the UN General Assembly adopted a further resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness was to be observed every year on 20 March.

Well, now you know. So be happy. Now!

How?

It’s easy. Only 50 action steps!

Seriously though, many of these steps reflect Christian ethics which we would expect to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

However, disconnected from the Christ of the ethics, they are unsustainable and can only have a limited and temporary impact. In fact, apart from Christ’s power, I cannot imagine even attempting to live up to this manifesto. 50 steps! That more frightening than Sinai.

But if we have experienced Christ’s free and full pardon for all our missed steps, missteps, and no-steps, we have a real basis for lasting and even everlasting joy. Christian happiness is not based on doing the law but upon believing the Gospel; not upon any of our daily steps but upon 33 years of Christ’s steps.

So, should Christians support the International Day of Happiness?

I’d still say , “Yes.”

Even when separated from the Gospel?

Yes again.

Surely every Christian wants their friends and family to be happy. Indeed, we wish the whole world was a happier place. We’re happy when people take steps to make their own lives happier and the lives of others, even if it is separated from the Gospel.

The alternative position is that we want everyone to get really sad and miserable because then they’ll turn to the Gospel! Rarely happens.

Better for Christians to welcome any legitimate attempt to promote human happiness. But not to stop there. Instead to say to happiness-hunters, “Hey, why eat crumbs when you can have a feast? Why pursue happiness mandated by the UN and refuse the happiness offered by God? Why settle for a day of happiness when you can have eternal happiness?”

One pastor I know when asked on a plane, “What do you do?” says, “I make people eternally happy!” Usually gets the conversation going.

Why not start some “real happiness” conversations today?


Ligonier National Conference: Jesus On Every Page Poem

I had the great privilege of speaking at the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando last week. My aim was to encourage more reading of the Old Testament and I did so in two ways. First, with my teacher’s hat on, I gave 15 brief reasons why we should study the Old Testament. Then, with my poet’s hat on (a beret?) I recited the poem, Jesus on Every Page. The poem starts at 19.05 and as many have requested a copy of the words, you can get that here. Click through for the video here.

You can watch or listen to the rest of the addresses here.


Check out

Ligonier National Conference Video and Audio
All the sessions for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Can God Really Be Happy?
“How you think about God will effect how you relate to him. If he’s mainly disappointed, you’ll avoid him because of shame and insecurity. If he’s too busy, you won’t want to bother him. If he’s angry, you’ll stay away because of fear. But what would happen in your life if you knew, truly knew, that God is profoundly happy?”

Our Goal Is Not Diversity, It’s Love
Trevin Wax interviews Trillia Newbell about her important new book, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity

God Might Call You To Be Ignored
But like Isaiah, the fruit may come long after you’re gone.

The Most Influential Reformer You’ve Never Heard Of
Hannah More. Yes, there were female reformers too.

3 Ways To Recognize Bad Stats
Statistics guru Ed Stetzer unspins the headlines.

Weightlifter Wins Gold On Last Lift In Honor of His Late Wife
This is “powerful” on a number of levels.


10 Reasons Why The KJV Is Still The Most Popular Version

I was stunned to read yesterday that the most popular and fastest growing Bible Translation is the King James Version. According to research carried out by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University:

  • When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV).
  • The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV).
  • The percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.
  • The KJV also received almost 45 percent of the Bible translation-related searches on Google, compared with almost 24 percent for the NIV, according to Bible Gateway’s Stephen Smith.

Respected historian Mark Noll, an adviser for some of the research, said:

Although the bookstores are now crowded with alternative versions, and although several different translations are now widely used in church services and for preaching, the large presence of the KJV testifies to the extraordinary power of this one classic English text.

Skewed Statistics
A bit more reading behind the scenes revealed that there was no option in the survey to choose the New King James Version, which makes it likely that many who use that version chose the KJV as the next best option. That would fit with previous research which found that 52% used either the KJV or the NKJV (split 38% KJV and 14% NKJV).

Despite the flawed methodology and the incomplete reporting, it’s staggering that the KJV is still so dominant. Although some of the congregations I preach in use the KJV, I was under the distinct impression that such churches were in a tiny minority now. Perhaps such false impressions show the power of skillful marketing.

But it still raises the question, why so many Christians and churches have stuck with the KJV when there are so many alternatives and when it is laboring under the huge disadvantage of ancient English that sounds so strange to modern, and especially to unchurched, ears? Some answers might be:

1. Tradition: Many Christians were brought up with the KJV and love the familiarity of it. The language is part of their spiritual vocabulary and reminds them of many sermons they heard throughout the years. It would be interesting to see an age breakdown of the KJV users. I suspect the majority of them would be in the older age group who naturally tend to be more conservative and resistant to change.

2. Suspicion: Some of the modern versions employed scholars who were decidedly liberal in their theology. Questions have been raised about some of the KJV translators as well, but it’s far easier to identify modern scholars and to uncover their theology (or lack of it).

3. Division: Many churches have been divided by the clumsy and careless introduction of a modern version. Even when it’s done prayerfully and wisely, it often has the painful effect of driving a wedge between members and even driving some away. Although some pastors and elders have identified that using the KJV is a factor in the loss of their young people, they fear losing their older members  or provoking their “louder members” by changing. This results in numerous churches where the pastor and the vast majority of members are using modern versions at home and yet when they come together for public worship they are using a version that few of them ever read.

4. Superstition: I know very little about the KJV Only Movement, and it’s not monolithic either, but there are some who put the KJV pretty close to, if not on the same level as, the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Some will even call it “inspired” and argue that it should never be updated in any way. This almost “magical” view of a Bible translation fits the dictionary definition of superstition: “a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge.”

5. Association: I know many people who have no objection to a modern Bible translation in principle. However, they look at the churches that have adopted modern translations and see that many have not only given up the “old version” but have also given up the “old doctrine.” The new Bible version seems to be part of a liberalizing package that’s associated with many unwelcome “guests.” Of course, often the doctrine went first and the Bible was simply the last bastion  to fall, but it often looks like the loss of the old Bible produced the loss of doctrine and also of reverent worship and prayer.

6. Accuracy: Some of the popular versions, like the NIV, deliberately moved away from a literal word-for-word translation of Scripture to more “dynamic” or “readable” renderings which often read more like an interpretation than a translation. Even though the KJV is harder to understand, a large number of Christians still prefer a literal rendering and to do their own interpreting.

7. Red Letters: Many KJV churches have investigated moving to the NKJV in order to reduce the whiplash of change. However, it is almost impossible to get NKJVs without Christ’s words being in red, which raises another set of awkward theological questions.

8. Vision:  Or lack of it. Some churches simply want to preserve the status quo and have no desire to reach beyond their own church community to people and cultures that have no hope of ever understanding or learning the KJV language. It’s extremely difficult for those of us brought up with the KJV to realize how hard it is for those without that background to learn a new language in order to learn what the Bible teaches.

9. Conviction: As far as I know, there is no credible modern translation that (a) holds to the Received Text and (b) to a literal translation of Scripture. The NIV meets neither. The ESV meets the latter requirement but not the former.

The NKJV meets (b) and almost meets (a). Although it uses the Received Text for the New Testament, it also incorporates readings from the Majority Text and the “Critical Text” (or NU) in the margins/footnotes (see below).

These are not just preferences or traditions, but biblical convictions about the preservation of Scripture and the nature of Scripture. Of course, there is a third biblical principle of (c) readability or perspicuity. KJV advocates often minimize or ignore this principle because that can’t find a Bible translation that combines (a) and (b) with (c). In that sense, some conservative Bible societies have royally failed the church.

10. Confusion: Perhaps the single biggest reason behind the refusal of so many to adopt a modern version of Scripture is the footnotes that litter the pages of modern New Testaments, casting doubt on many parts of the God’s Word. I know many Christians who detest this and resist changing translations because of the psychological effect of these footnotes. Many ministers also hate having to explain these alleged textual variants in sermons.

It’s all very well for scholars and academics to do their clever stuff with variant readings, and some of us do need some Bibles with these footnotes. However, the vast majority of Christians just want a clean and clear Bible version, without question marks, qualifications, or thick black lines and brackets around cherished passages.

I know there is a deeper issue at stake here – which text of Scripture is being translated. However, regardless of which text is the basis of the translation, if the scholars had simply made their decision and translated accordingly without adding all the textual notes (or at least with far less), the uptake of accurate modern versions among the Christian community would have been much wider and faster and united.