Observations on the 2011 NIV

NIV2011Now they’ve done it! They changed my favorite verse, my life verse.   “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Co. 9:8 1984 NIV) becomes “And God is able to bless you abundantly …. (2011 NIV).   At first I felt the gut reaction of reading a new translation. It is different. I resist change to that to which I have become accustomed and especially hold dear.   But then I thought about the new version. It’s so accessible to the uninitiated, so immediately plain; it requires no accompanying explanation of the varied meanings of the word grace in the NT in order to understand it.   I could not help but be impressed that for many readers, probably for most readers, the new version was more understandable, more in today’s language.   That is really the point of this new translation in a nutshell.   And I could not help but approve, in spite of myself.

I have been working on a comparison of the 1984 NIV with the 2011 NIV for some time. I have now been using the 2011 NIV for my sermon text at church for more than a year. I like it very much and find it to be in keeping with the reformation principle that the Bible needs to be in the language of the people.

10 Observations

  1. First of all, reading this translation is so easy! One morning, I easily read Galatians through in morning devotions.
  2. Second, I am much impressed with the gender sensitivity that has been used to respond to the fact that modern English usage of gender pronouns has changed. It has resulted in a translation that is gender friendly yet does not sacrifice the patriarchal nature of OT culture or impinge upon the ubiquitous divinely chosen metaphor of the Fatherhood of God.
  3. The 2011 version will be more easily understood by new Bible readers. I think the translators of this version have tried to keep them in mind as they worked.
  4. Perhaps more than any other version I have read, there is excellent feeling for the overall outline of passages rather than just verse by verse translation (Example 2 Cor. 9).
  5. Often the 2011 has moved a little more away from the tradition of translation into English and toward increased accuracy. A relatively trivial but noticeable example is the dropping of the traditional “O” in front of “LORD” in translating in the Psalms (Example Ps. 8:1).
  6. The exceptions to the move toward tight accuracy are when the 2011 includes more explanatory phrases to help newer readers (Example Rom. 15:4).
  7. The new version tries to translate more for the immediate context with less intent of creating general quotable wise sayings as previous versions have done (unfortunate example Ps. 19:14).
  8. Subtitles make it much easier to skim for pericopes and follow the thought outline of the passage. John 17 is a good example.
  9. Female leaders in the NT church get better treatment in the 2011 version.   In Rom. 16:1, Pheobe is called a deacon – using the usual translation of the Greek word.   In Rom. 16:7, Andronicus’ companion is called Junia, rather than Junias (The Greek form can be either m. or f.).   1 Tim 3:11 refers in the 2011 version to the “women” rather than the “wives” (1984) leaving open the possibility in English that is open in the Greek that the reference may be to women leaders—to deaconesses as well as other leading women.
  10. The treatment of Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 seems problematic for contemporary translations.   In the 2011 NIV, the language of the notes setting apart Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 has been softened and in the case of John 8:1-11 also balanced. This is an improvement over the 1984 version, but I would have liked to have seen the notes moved to the footnotes. In my red letter version, the publisher made things worse by not putting the words of Jesus in red in these passages. They should be!

Continue reading “Observations on the 2011 NIV”

Movie Review for “Son of God”

son of god images

Summary review

I seldom watch movies, I generally have other things I would rather do.  But I made an exception yesterday for the movie, Son of God.  My wife and I went with Harrison and Carol Griffin to a theater and watched it. 

The movie is made from scenes from the Bible series.  This allowed the directors also to set the movie with earlier clips such as scenes from the birth narrative – clips that gave Son of God greater “sitz im leben,”  to use a German theological phrase.  The phrase means the clips at the beginning set it in life and culture and times much better than if it had just started at the adult ministry of Jesus.


The Moroccan countryside used for the filming seemed so fitting.   As one who lived and traveled in Morocco for three years, I was aware of how much the countryside there reminded me of the Biblical narratives.   This movie only added to that feeling.   Yet, the time transport, so to speak, was so good that it became a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it depicted well the conditions, clothes, culture, etc. of Jesus’ day.  But on the other hand, it removed the story from mine and made it just a little harder to identify with the real life drama in the lives of Peter, Jesus, John, Judas, two Mary’s, Caiaphas, and Pilate.


Overall, I found watching the movie to be a powerful faith experience. I sat in silence for some time afterward, not wanting to talk or be spoken to, just absorbing the impact of what I had seen.  It reminded me of what I knew from the Bible, forcefully bringing to mind the Biblical stories and pushing me to interact with them emotionally and spiritually.   There is so much about Jesus to admire in the film, as there should be, his wisdom, his power, compassion, fairness, his lack of fear of power.  Most of all, one admires his courage to go to the cross knowing that it was coming.  This is true to the Biblical narrative as he predicted his coming death at the hands of the Jews.


I recommend the movie.  If a person knows little about the Bible, it will educate.  If a person knows much, it will remind and challenge.  But most of all, it will help you all to be inspired by Jesus.  I recommend taking friends as it will provide opportunities for discussion and for the Holy Spirit to work in the minds and hearts of people.   It is not perfect as many liberties have been taken with the biblical narrative, but it is definitely inspirational.  I recommend reading the Gospel of John again to compare and answer questions.  For those of my readers who haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you stop reading here and go see it.  Then come back and read my more detailed comments that follow.


My favorite vignettes:

1. The depictions of the Sea of Galilee with its first century boats were excellent.  The scene where the disciples are caught in a storm and Jesus invites Peter to walk on the water is so well done.  It is Biblically true, very convincing, and it captured the true sense of Jesus inviting Peter to experience the power of faith.

2.  The calling of Matthew is very moving.  It shows Jesus’ ability to see the person, to override the perspective of both friend and foe in order to find the healing wholesome, kingdom enhancing path.

3.  The scene of the woman caught in adultery was so powerful.  While I did not hear a mention of the sin of which she was accused, nor did Jesus write on the ground during the pregnant silence as he did in Scripture, one still got the message clearly that in our treatment of those who error, we must be aware of our own sins and work for restoration.

4.  I really like the fact that Mary Magdalene was included in the scenes with the disciples.  The Bible mentions that there were a few well-to-do women who traveled with the disciples (Luke 8:1-3).   Mary was one of them.  The film narratives involving her are all created for the movie but her inclusion is a plus.

5.  I thought the movie accurately portrayed the political tension between Pilate and the Jewish leaders.   While most of the narrative was fictional, it reflected the situation which the Bible depicts.

6. Overall, I appreciated the Last Supper scene because it had a real sense of the drama and importance of the moment.   The interaction of Jesus with the disciples is rich with feeling.

7.  My wife and I were both particularly struck by the powerful juxtaposition of the three prayers during the Gethsemane sequence.    All were sincere in their own way.  But Jesus was the only one truly in touch with God and living out his faith morally and with integrity.    Both Caiaphas and Pilate found it acceptable, even rationalized that it was proper, to accept compromise of what they knew was right to protect their positions.  Obviously, the prayers of Caiaphas and Pilate’s wife are not in the Bible but the film’s deliberate contrast caught the message of the NT that Jesus came into this world to introduce a kind of piety that surpassed the hypocrisy and idolatry of his day.



1. There were many times that closeness to Scripture was compromised.  Often I felt the Scripture’s story line was more powerful.  The most egregious example for me was in the scene depicting the raising of Lazarus.   Not only did they miss the important verse about Jesus weeping at the grave, but what is this kissing his dead head business?   It is quite clear in Scripture that Jesus did not enter the tomb of Lazarus, nor did anyone else.   Jesus shouted from outside the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”   The Bible says that Lazarus came out still bound in grave clothes that had to be removed by celebrating friends.  To me the Bible’s version has far more drama.   I really wish the movie had followed the narrative of John 11 much more closely.


2. Simply from a story point of view, the film’s portrayal of Nicodemus was enjoyable and appropriately complex.  But it was also about 90% conjecture.   For example, there is no indication in Scripture that Jesus’ questioner concerning taxes was Nicodemus or that the questioner was sent directly by Caiaphas.    In fact there are only 3 mentions in the Bible of Nicodemus.  The night visit to Jesus is recorded but it occurs first of the three incidents in John’s gospel (John 3:1-15) rather than later as in the film.    Second is the interaction with the high priest (John 7:50-52).  The film inexplicably omitted the priest’s comment about Galilee, even though it had been set up well by the laugh scene when Jesus’ Galilee location is first mentioned to Caiaphas.  Last, after Jesus is dead, the Bible says, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea in asking Pilate for the body of Jesus (John 19:38,39).    I use this as an example of the fact that the person watching the film must be constantly aware that what you are seeing in the story lines is a mix of Scripture and created narrative.  In the case of Nicodemus, Caiaphas, Mary Magdalene and Pilate, much of it is fictionalized to make the movie work.


Missed Opportunities:

Another thing I could not help but note as I watched the movie was the missed opportunities to include powerful stories from the NT that were closely related to those that were included and would have revealed great additional information about the Son of God.  I’m sure that one of the key reasons why some of the following were missed was editing to reach an arbitrary time length goal for the film.  But these omissions are nearly inexcusable.

1. There was no little boy in the feeding of the 5000 scene.   It would have added to the human drama of the scene and portrayed Jesus as the lover of children that he was.   The boy is mentioned in John’s gospel too (6:9).

2. In the Upper room scene, the movie omitted Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, another unique part of John’s gospel narrative in the Bible (John 13:1-17).  By that act Jesus taught humility, modeled servant leadership and countered bickering among the disciples.   It should have been included.

3. The conflation of the two Sunday night appearances of Jesus in the film made for several missed opportunities.  According to the Bible, on Easter night, Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared in the room.   The next week Jesus appeared again and Thomas was there.  Separating the two appearances of Jesus as in the Bible would have made Thomas’ unbelief more credible and contextual. The upper room door was locked when Jesus appeared, a fact the film misses too.    The opportunity was missed also for Jesus to breathe on the disciples and give them his Spirit (John 20:22).   In addition, he assigns them his mission in that upper room.

4. I was amazed the movie did not include the John 21 scene of Jesus appearing to Peter and the disciples on the beach.   The scene was all set up in the film by the treatment of the three denials and Peter’s bitter remorse.   It speaks of Jesus’ forgiving nature.  The Bible story also features John, the apostle who narrates the film, providing another needed touch point with him, which the film needs.    Including this scene would have added another post resurrection appearance to the film as well, something the film also needed.



As I said in the beginning, I recommend this film.  It is not perfect.  There are scenes I wish had been tweaked and others I wish had been included that were not, but still, even with these considerations fully in view, I believe the film will have the wholesome effect of building up its viewers in faith and in admiration for Jesus.  I pray that it also invites and pushes all of us to read our Bibles more so we can get the Apostle John’s story first hand, from the pen of the writer.   To use a modern cliché intentionally, “The book is even better!”


A Plan for Quiet Times Alone with God in the New Year


A time to read the Bible and pray
A time to read the Bible and pray

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt 6:6 NIV).

“The first thing the Lord teaches his disciples is that they must have a secret place for prayer; every one must have a solitary spot where he can be alone with his God.  Every teacher must have a schoolroom.”   [Andrew Murray, With Christ is the School of Prayer p. 23]

Make plans now to refresh your quiet time

One of the first planning tasks of the New Year for me is to plan what I will do during my devotional times each day.  I find that if one always does the same things, then quiet time gets boring and fails to inspire as it should.   If time alone with God is to be fresh and renewing, then I need to renew the plan that I use at least every year.   Most of us think about starting things in the New Year, and most devotional books begin in January, so January is usually a good time for starting a new devotional plan. 

Quiet time basics

There are several related basic considerations.  How much time am I able to spend?  What will my Bible reading plan be?  What enhancements will help me at this time?   If I am planning a more ambitious reading program like reading the Bible through in one year, I may chose a devotional guide such as Your Daily Walk from Walk Through the Bible Ministries.  It is designed to encourage and assist in just such a plan.   Or perhaps I want to coordinate my readings with a devotional book I am using.  One of the best of this type for a longer devotional time that I have used is A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Upper Room.   Another great plan that works for shorter time frames is to find a devotional book by a classic author that you enjoy.  I have greatly profited from more than one devotional by E. Stanley Jones (no relation), the most recent being 365 Days with E. Stanley Jones, Mary Ruth Howes, editor.  You can also use a short booklet such as “Daily Bread” or “The Upper Room.”   If I have a Bible reading plan that is not related to a devotional, I might not use a dated devotional book but instead read a chapter from an inspirational book, either classic or contemporary.   Three contemporary ones I highly recommend are Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson, Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala and Listening for God by Marilyn Hontz.  This coming year I will be continuing my repeated reading of the Psalms and then moving to the NT, followed by starting again in the OT.   For my extra reading I have chosen a book called Rooted in Faith, Meditations from the Reformers, Compiled and edited by Bernard Bangley.

Setting is important

Another important matter is the setting Continue reading “A Plan for Quiet Times Alone with God in the New Year”

Italian Dinner was a Fun Event


Italian Night, a great theme event

One of the things JoAnne and I will miss from Community Wesleyan is the themed fellowship dinners.  Over the years we have attended many of them from Valentine Dinners with intimate settings for two to grand senior buffets with all kinds of themes.  Last Saturdays’ Italian night was a bunch of fun, not just in my opinion, but from the reports of many who have commented on it to my wife and me both privately and publicly.  

Bible Trivia contests were fascinating

The occasion was the long delayed wrap-up of the Big Bible Bonanza emphasis we had in the late fall.  The two teams – the Goldfish under the leadership of Rhett LaForte and the Blue Angels rallying behind Mark Boswell — battled for points that could only be earned by consistent daily Bible reading.   Bonuses went to those who did not miss a day and to teams with more than sixty percent not missing a day.   After many weeks, the Goldfish prevailed.   So the Blue Angels had to prepare the dinner, while the Goldfish picked the menu.     To keep with the Bible knowledge goal, at the dinner, we played Bible trivia in three ways.   Two games were written quizzes.   One was a paragraph containing hidden names of Bible books.   Several people found all sixteen.   The second was a matching test.   Again, a few whizzes aced it.   The final trivia contest was a live rematch between the two teams.  Pastor Kelvin emceed the game and the Blue Angels won by just one question.   

Thanks to the organizers and artists

Thanks go to JoAnne Jones who thought up the Big Bible Bonanza emphasis to encourage daily Bible reading and who also planned the Italian feast.  Thanks also to Lea Harrington and Keely Stater who lent art work and to Lea for decorating so beautifully.   The artwork was so elegantly set as you can see in the pictures.   Thank you to all who cooked and all who helped make this fine event happen. 

 [nggallery id=55]


Sermon coordinated Bible reading for November 4-24


Daily Bible reading is a basic discipline of disciples

 Our Big Bible Bonanza reading contest has been very successful in encouraging daily Bible reading.  Though people could choose to read any passage of at least five verses that they wanted to, many chose to follow the sermon coordinated outline series that we prepared for the contest time.   At least one person wondered aloud what he would do when that schedule came to an end.  

I have good news.  I am supplying a sermon coordinated list for the next sermon series as well.   The up-coming series is on Gratitude and Giving.  I also hope to supply a reading schedule for the Christmas series.    At the turn of the year, we can help people choose from the many yearly plans that are available.   Hopefully we will all have greatly strengthened the discipline of daily Bible reading in the process.



Bible Reading Suggestions for Sermons series on Gratitude and Giving









# of days you read

Week of Nov 4-10

Psalm 96:1-10

Romans 7:21-8:2

Psalm 85:7-13

Eph. 1:15-23

Psalm 145:8-13

Mark 12:38-44

Col. 3:13-17


Week of Nov 11-17

Psalm 98

Romans 14:5-12

Psalm 50:7-15, 23

Col. 1:9-14

Psalm 56:3,4, 10-13

John 6:1-15

Mark 8:1-10


Week of Nov 18-24

Psalm 136:1-9

Luke 17:11-19

Psalm 118:1,2, 13-16

1 Thess. 5:16-24

Psalm 95:1-7

Luke 22:14-20

I Cor. 15:51-58



Big Bible Bonanza increases Bible reading


Daily Bible reading is a basic discipline of disciples


Blue Angels vs. Goldfish

Everyone a winner – that was our goal at the beginning of the Bible reading emphasis.  More specifically, the goal was to increase the number of people reading their Bible every day.  Well, what has happened?  How are we doing?   Our organizers divided the congregation into two alphabetical teams as evenly as they could, based upon the list of those that attend.   Team names chosen were the Blue Angels for the first half of the alphabet and the Goldfish (think of the ancient Christian symbol) for the second half.   The goal was not how much you read, but to read at least 5 verses every day.  People, including children reported their reading through their classes and small groups.  Adults could read to younger children.  (Those who were not attending a small group could report directly to the organizers.)  

Discipline is not easy but accountability helps

Surprisingly, there was a little mumbling among even some seasoned Christians at being asked to participate in something that required one to be accountable for the discipline of Scripture reading. But, as the contest progressed, conviction and the encouragement of friends prevailed.   This illustrated that though we sometimes resist being accountable to one another, it is almost always beneficial to us in the long run.   Discipline is not easy.  I have to confess that during the five weeks, I missed one day myself while traveling.  But I was glad for the added accountability provided by the contest.

Classes and groups influential

The idea of reporting to small groups turned out to be very influential, especially among the adults.  Participation in several adult classes grew as the contest continued.   Last week three adult classes, those led by Larry Nemitz, George Raterman and Claude Walrath, all reported 100% of their members reading every day.   Congratulations to these teachers and their classes.

Families blessed

Hearing of increases in Bible reading across the board is a great win for everyone.   Contest records show that 31 people never missed a day in the first four weeks. (Those who have a perfect record for all five weeks will be recognized at the dinner.)   They set the pace for all of us.  Another inspiration is learning of personal stories like that of a family of four, who read every day from the sermon coordinated suggestions—the father read to his family.   When the father had to spend a few days in the hospital, his young son volunteered to take his place.  (At their suggestion, I’ll be making a list of coordinated reading for the next three weeks too, even though the contest will be ended.)  Another family called in their points while traveling.  (Families were allowed to call in points one Sunday out of the five.)   I’d love to hear more stories of how you have been blessed by the Bible reading contest.

A great example of encouraging one another

The first two weeks of the contest, only one team, the Blue Angels, received the bonus for having more that 60% of those participating reading every day.  The second week, neither team received it.   But by the fourth week, both teams exceeded 70% of readers reading every day.   The highest percentage so far was 76% reading daily achieved by the Goldfish on week three.  At this writing, the Goldfish are looking strong.   Of the people on their team, on the average, they had a larger number who read their Bibles and reported than the Blue Angels did, which added up.   But certainly we all win by confirming the habit of Bible reading.  So we will all celebrate with a dinner on Nov. 10.   A big thank you to key contest organizer JoAnne Jones, John Risley—who helped with stats— team captains Mark Boswell and Rhett Laforte, and Sunday School teachers and group leaders who helped encourage their class.   This was a great example of putting into practice Hebrews 10:23-25.   “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV 1984).

In the Word in a New Year

God's Word is our Source book

As a new year begins, I always take time to deliberately pray about and plan for my personal devotional life in the coming year.   I use the New Year as a time for revamping it so that personal time alone with God does not get stale.   Intentional change keeps it fresh and meaningful.  Sometimes gifts that I receive are helpful hints.   This year I received a book of weekly devotionals called Living by Faith written by a friend from college, David Venable.   David was principal of a large Christian school in the Philippines for many years.   We have kept in touch through Christmas letters.  I plan to read it as part of my devotions this year.  I’m looking forward to it. 

This year I also believe it is time for me to return to sequential Bible reading—that is reading straight through books or sections of Scripture. I think everyone should do this some years.   If you can average 3-4 chapters per day you can read the Bible through in one year. Those not familiar with the timeline of the Bible either need a Bible handbook to help them place the books in history or they might try reading a chronological Bible—a Bible with the texts arranged in historical order.   This past year I read Scriptures associated with the devotional book I was using.  They were chosen topically.  But the key thing is to have a plan for being in Scripture each day.   The Holy Spirit works through Scripture to shape our Christian lives. 

I find it meaningful to mark in my Bible too.   I use children’s color pencils for highlighting and I use pens to make notes as well. I love Bibles with wide margins so I have a place to write.   I have noted dates I have prayed through a Scripture for a family member; Scriptures I received as promises on particular occasions; outlines from Bible studies or from sermons I heard; and scribbled notes on a Greek word I looked up, to name a few kinds of notations.   It adds immeasurably to my future studies of those same passages. 

As I look into 2012 devotions, I think I also need to do more with planning my prayer time.  Continue reading “In the Word in a New Year”

A surprisingly effective way to mark in your Bible in color

Children's large size colored pencils

Write in your Bible

I am always encouraging people to personalize their own Bibles by marking verses that have special meaning for them.   Most people who do this soon want to categorize their marking by using some kind of color system.    Many people also want to use a marking system that does not obscure the words as one often accidentally does when using ink.   The method must also not bleed through.    Several years ago I happened to try something very simple but also very effective–children’s colored pencils.   They have fatter colored “leads” than normal colored pencils.   They act like a highlighter but do not bleed through like a highlighter will.   Because they are thicker, many fewer strokes are required and there is no danger of torn pages as with sharp smaller ones.

The only problem is that they are seldom available.    I have literally looked for years for a second set to have at home.   Well, this week I found one.   They are currently available again.  I found mine at Staples.

A simple colored pencil system

I highly recommend a simple color scheme using colored pencils to mark your Bible.  I use orange for promises and special verses.   If I can’t figure out what color to use, it gets orange.  Blue is for salvation; verses related to what Jesus has done for us and what gifts God has given us through his Son.    Yellow is for verses of praise to God; verses that adore Jesus Christ.   Green is for spiritual growth. Red is for stewardship verses that encourage me to use what I have well.  Purple is for verses about heaven.   That’s about it.   I keep it simple.

Happy New Year!

One of the first tasks for every Christian at the beginning of the year is to plan for their devotional life for the coming year.  The plan has several parts. 

Bible reading is the heart of devotional time

The key part is an organized Bible reading plan.  The Center for Bible Engagement says that only 1/3 of Americans read their Bible weekly and only 13.9% read it on weekdays.  Let’s be part of improving those stats.




Personally, I am at the halfway point in reading my Bible end to end again and propose to finish easily this year.   But many of you, my readers will be looking for other plans.   I recommend two.  One is to use a devotional book that has readings attached.    In addition to my sequential readings, I’m using a new collection of E. Stanley Jones writings selected for use as daily devotionals.  It has selected readings too.   A third tactic that I have also used is to get a Bible reading schedule.  Many are available.   I have included one good link http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/Bible-Reading-Guides.html in my suggested links.     Here’s another link that offers multiple devotional series. http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/

I’ll write more soon.