Christmas Greetings- Past and Present

It’s been said many times, many ways, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU. Although Merry Christmas is the common North American greeting around this time of year, it is not necessarily true around the world, nor has it always been the case.

Merry Christmas is known to date back to 1534 and in 1843 it is mentioned in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. But at some point over the years, at least in Britain, ‘merry’ implied drunken festivities. For this reason, Queen Elizabeth II prefers “Happy Christmas”. Happy Christmas is still popular in the UK today, but rarely heard in North America.


Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays
The phrase Season’s Greetings is not new, it became popular in the 1920s and was used on Eisenhower’s White House Christmas card in 1955. Happy Holidays has likewise been around for more than 100 years and typically refers to the period between the American Thanksgiving and New Years Day. It is largely used in the US.

Merry X-mas
X-mas denounced in 1957 by Gerald L. K. Smith, who in December 1966 claimed that Xmas was a “blasphemous omission of the name of Christ” and that “‘X’ is referred to as being symbolical of the unknown quantity.” Smith further argued that Jews introduced Santa Claus to suppress the New Testament accounts of Jesus, and that the United Nations, at the behest of “world Jewry”, had “outlawed the name of Christ”.[39] Yeah, so conspiracy theories regarding a hatred or war on Christmas aren’t new.

But then, at some point later on, the general consensus was that ‘X’ WAS an appropriate symbol for Christ!
“There is, however, a well-documented history of use of Χ (actually a chi) as an abbreviation for “Christ” (Χριστός) and possibly also a symbol of the cross.[40][41] The abbreviation appears on many Orthodox Christian religious icons.”

What do Muslims actually think of Christmas?
One of the reasons there was a trend toward a secular greeting was in order to acknowledge the fact that there are many other religions that do not necessarily celebrate Christmas. Many Americans have a perception that Muslims coming into their country will somehow diminish their ability to celebrate Christmas. But in reality, most Muslims don’t really care if you say Merry Christmas to them and are happy to say it in return. Here is a short article about how most Muslims likely think of Christians and Christmas.

Of course not all Muslims agree, as some are more in line with this cleric –

The main reason that Muslims do not celebrate is that they believe Jesus was a prophet only, and not the true son of God. Therefore it would be sacrilege to celebrate someone who claimed to be God.
However, there are a few truths in that article:

  •  “The date itself is based on a pagan Roman holiday, the actual birthdate of Jesus is unknown.”
  • “So as any rational person can see, there is no sound basis for Christmas, nor did Jesus (peace be upon him) or his true followers celebrate Christmas or ask anyone to celebrate Christmas, nor was there any record of anyone calling themselves Christians celebrating Christmas until several hundred years after Jesus.”

It is true that nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that Christians mark or remember Jesus’ birth.

Christmas Controversies over the years
Ironically, in 1647, Puritan Christians BANNED the celebration of Christmas altogether for its paganism.

In Victorian times, certain pagan elements of Christmas were controversial – yule logs, candles, mistletoe, Christmas trees etc. Many Protestants wanted to keep the celebration of Christ’s birth without the pagan elements.

In the 1954, C.S. Lewis wrote a humorous satirical piece highlighting the split between secular and religious aspects of Christmas in his Xmas and Christmas – A Lost Chapter from Herodotus. I had a good chuckle when I read this and recommend the short read.

Other Christmas controversies –

War on Christmas
You may have heard of the so-called ‘war on Christmas’? Where does this phrase come from and is there actually one or was this just Bill O’Reilly at Fox News getting the Christians all riled up and more recently providing a rallying cry for Trump to gather all the Evangelicals to his camp?
NY Times article –

The AFA and their Naughty or Nice List of US Retailers

AFA – the American Family Association  states their mission as follows – “The mission of the American Family Association is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture”. For the past 10 years, the AFA has published The Naughty or Nice list; a list of retailers who are judged based on whether they use the word Christmas in their advertising (as opposed to generic ‘holiday’). They claim that “There are secular forces in our country that hate Christmas” and encourage Christians to shop at stores that ‘keep Christ in Christmas.’ My question is this – Why is an organization intent on promoting family values in the business of promoting retail businesses, which is basically promoting buying more stuff, and promoting consumerism, none of which have anything to do with remember the birth of Christ?

Taking the stance ‘if you say Happy Holidays to me, I will be greatly offended‘; or ‘if your business doesn’t explicitly use the word Christmas in your advertising then I refuse to do business with you’ does not sound very Christ-like at all. For a religion based on grace, I think we frequently miss the point.

Shouldn’t family values at Christmas be about remembering Christ’s birth, and giving to others? Have we, like the Pharisees, forgotten justice, mercy and faithfulness? Jesus never asked us to commemorate his birth, but if He were to visit America today, how would He want us to mark a celebration with his name on it? I think He would be wanting us to help our neighbours, feed the hungry, and give to the poor.  Do you think He would be concerned about whether or not the word ‘Christmas’ is being used or would He be more concerned about the state of the heart of each of us?  Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees could easily have been written as a warning to Christians in North American today (From Matthew 23, emphasis mine)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. …
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.


I was not able to find any evidence of an actual plot to kill Christmas, or any organized groups who ‘hate Christmas’.  There certainly does not seem to be any forces in the retail world that ‘hate Christmas’ given that this season will generate the highest sales of season. Politicians will start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ because it is supported by the people, especially those who have a perception that it has been diminished.

It seems to me that C.S. Lewis and even Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ teach a more appropriate lesson than the AFA, or Fox News.

Whatever greeting you decide to use during the season , let’s make it sincere and laced with grace, kindness and love.


The Depth and the Breadth of the Wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot

I just learned that Elisabeth Elliot died today.

I had only recently discovered the depth and breadth of the wisdom of this women and had begun to collect some of my favourite quotes from her.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

  • “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms
  • “Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender
  • It is a great relief when someone else is in charge. He knows what he is doing and all you have to do is follow directions. You do not reel at his telling you what to do. You are glad to be told. He knows more than you do, knows the best way to accomplish what you want to accomplish and you are sure you are better off with him than without him, happier by obeying than by disobeying.
  • God will never disappoint us. He loves us and has only one purpose for us – holiness, which in his kingdom equals Joy.
  • “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control
  • “God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on, all speak loudly about what you believe. The beauty of thy peace shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
  • “If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The way we live ought to manifest the truth of what we believe. A messy life speaks of a messy and incoherent faith.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman
  • “Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens – I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.”― Elisabeth Elliot
  • “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”― Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

Why is Memorizing Passages even better than memorizing individual verses?

Because of context.

Context ALWAYS matters.

It is one thing to remember a phrase or a verse – such as ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. ‘

This is a great verse. Many people have clung to this verse and it’s been a source is strength and comfort for them. But what was Paul really talking about?

trail mix
Context adds IMPACT

Here is the verse in the CEB (Common English Bible) version – 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. 

Paul talking about ENDURING all THESE things is somewhat different than someone saying I can do anything and Christ will give me strength.   What is Paul referring to when he refers to himself enduring all these things?  – if you go back to Philippians Chapter 1, you will learn that Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians from PRISON.

 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. 13 The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. 14 Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time. (Phil 1:12-15)

put that verse back or so help me

Context provides additional meaning

So what is Paul actually trying to tell the Philippians to do?  Was Paul trying to tell them that they can do anything?  If you read earlier in the chapter, the message he is actually trying to impart is found in verse 4 –  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice

He goes on to say that he has always rejoiced and expands on that further in verses 11-13

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.


Context helps provide deeper understanding of what you have learned.

When all the writing in the letter (all the chapters and verses in Philippians) become ingrained in your head, and the words roll around in your brain like a melody, the Spirit provides wisdom and understanding.  He reveals things that are not at first evident.

rejoice in the lord

Context helps reveal the big picture

God’s story woven throughout all of Scripture.  If we go back to what Paul is saying in the first chapter  – he is excited about being in prison because this has helped to advance the Gospel.  What is the common thread throughout the Bible – the Gospel.

kaitlin and Emily - Joy

Context helps the brain retain the information in the long term

Context helps us internalize what our brain learns – and live it every day.  When we live our day to day lives with the big picture of advancing the Gospel in mind, we are ready to do His work.  This is what soaks into our brains, it is precious and we retain it.

One more quick example from the same chapter in Philippians – And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

This is another fantastic verse, but what does the whole paragraph say?

15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Paul is saying a blessing over the Philippians who were faithful supporters and contributors to his ministry.  This is not to say that God cannot or will not supply MY needs or YOUR needs, I just think it is important to know that this blessing over the Philippians was in response to their faithful giving.

view at Luskville Falls phil 4v19

The authors of Scripture wrote words, inspired by God, but they did not write individual verses. These authors wrote stories, songs, poems, letters, detailed accounts of events etc. that were divided into verses thousands of years later.

Whenever I hear a neat verse, I always want to learn more – what is the context? what is God’s message in this?  Memorizing full passages of Scripture are an incredible way to get deeper insight into his Word.

See my other posts about memorizing Scripture.

What the Duggars MAY have been trying to teach us all along

I will admit right now, that I am a fan of the Duggars. I have seen all the episodes in recent years, and many in past seasons as well. My teenage daughters are also big fans of the Duggars and have read the ‘Growing up Duggar’ book by the Duggar girls. The show has given us lots of discussion points in our household, and even though I don’t necessarily agree with everything they do, I tend to think the best of people so here’s my theory. 

My theory is that the Duggars have allowed the cameras inside their home, and put their family on display, NOT in an attempt to portray a perfect Christian family – in fact Michelle Duggar says it OFTEN on the show, we are NOT a perfect family – but to put forth an example of how to protect your family from sexual impurity, without explicitly saying what had happened within their family.

To me, all the courtship rules, the ‘NIKE’ call etc. make sense now. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together. I suspect that these rules and habits were brought about AFTER the molesting occurred, in order to protect their kids from anything ever happening like this again.

I respect the Duggars for owning up to the allegations immediately, and I respect Josh for resigning from his position with the Family Research Council in order not to taint them. Despite the fact that this record should have been wiped clean 2 years ago, and should never have been made public, the Duggars never fought back. Their immediate response was to be honest with the public about what had happened.

I don’t think their intention was to downplay how reprehensible these acts were, nor do we know the details about how the victims were taken care of. But the public does not need to know these details.

So what has been the message the Duggars have tried to portray all along?

· Girls are to dress modestly – shirts with sleeves, skirts below the knees, etc. however, they are not frumpy, they take time to look nice with beautiful hair, simple makeup etc.

· Boys are protected from seeing immodestly dressed women while in public – the Duggars have their own secret code word – NIKE – to alert the boys to avert their eyes as there is an immodestly dressed women in the vicinity.

· The Duggar side-hug – you will notice on the show, that even among family members, side-hugs are the customary embrace.

· Courtship rules – standards are set early in the relationship. First there is time allowed to spend together in group or family settings. If the couple wishes to start a ‘courtship’ relationship, the boy must ask the father’s position. Once courtship has begun, side hugs only are allowed. Hand holding is reserved for engagement and kissing for after the vows are complete at the wedding.

The children are taught from early age that boys are visual and these measures help safeguard both the girls and the boys. If all families adhered to these rules, I do believe we would have a lot less incidents of child molesting.

@xianjaneway provided some scary statistics here about adolescent molesters that I think are very important to be aware of – especially if you are involved in children’s ministry:

· Adolescents age 13 to 17 account for the vast majority of cases of rape and child molestation perpetrated by minor.

· The first offense is most likely to occur when the perpetrator is about 13 or 14 years old.

· Victims are most likely to be female acquaintances or siblings; rarely are they strangers.

· The most common scenario involves a 7- or 8-year-old victim (!!!).

What can we learn from this? How do we protect our children both in our homes, in our churches and elsewhere?

· Be aware of the potential of something bad happening, even when it doesn’t seem likely.

· Avoid placing children and youth in situations where harm can occur.

· Instill rules for appropriate dress and behavior and remind kids regularly and often – in a friendly way.

· Expect appropriate behavior; expect youth to treat one another with respect, at all times.

The Duggars have provided an example of living in such a way that promotes sexual purity. The one thing that I don’t necessarily agree with, is that the rules imply that boys/men have no control over their thoughts or actions. But knowing now what they must have gone through with Josh, I can at least see where their strict guidelines may have come from.

Here are a few guidelines I have tried to teach my kids who are now in their teens.

CHOOSE to think on things that are pure and lovely.

I actually posted this verse in my son’s bedroom, on the wall, right beside his head – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8 to remind him that he is in control of his thoughts and he can choose to think on things that are pure and lovely.

What is seen cannot be unseen

It is NOT worth searching on the internet or looking at anything that may come on tv. Sexual images can become burned into our brains and can impact a healthy sexuality in marriage later in life. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Treat everyone with kindness and respect

This one goes without saying, but I mean it in the sense that you should speak to everyone, smart, beautiful, ugly, fat, rude, annoying or whatever with the same kindness and respect. We were all created in the image of God. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:32

Don’t allow yourself to be in a situation that may encourage and tempt someone of the opposite sex.

If you do end up in such a situation, even if it is with someone you love and trust and plan to marry someday, decide together to change the situation. You can always choose to do the right thing in any given moment. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

Don’t allow yourself to be in a situation that gives the perception of sexual immorality

Even when you have not done anything wrong, walking out of the barn together with messy hair and your shirt on backwards and no-one is going to believe your protests of innocence.

Be a good role model for others – especially younger youth and children.

Always be an encouragement for others. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

The Month of No Spending FAIL

I always find that once we get into January I want just stay at home and not go out and not spend any more money. December is far too much social interaction for this introvert and far too much money gets spent in December.

So I decided to try one of those No Spending for a month things I’ve seen people do on Pinterest.

I used gift cards received as Christmas gifts to buy groceries from Costco from the list I made to meal plan the entire month of January.

Well 3 weeks into the month and we’ve spent $350 in groceries and $95 in fast food!!!

So while we didn’t attain the goal we set out, it has certainly been eye-opening for all of us as a family.  I sent an email to the family (including to each of our children, aged 17,15, and 12) to show them the transaction that added up to the amount we have spent.  Since we have been talking about the No-Spend month at home, it was good for them to see that even though it felt like they were sacrificing, we still managed to spend a fair amount of money.

Getting everyone in the family to feel the pain of money being spent


The Bible Translation War – 2 Years Later – NIV vs ESV


Bible Translation discussion – NIV1984 to NIV2011 and the ESV

Why was an updated NIV translation released? 3 reasons were given for the need for an update

  1. Update in English general language usage,
  2. Provide scholarly updates and
  3. To provide clarity in phrasing.

The full translator’s notes can be read here: NIV Translator’s Notes. Another change made in NIV2011 was to include more gender-inclusive language – such as ‘brothers and sisters’ in place of ‘brothers’. Some commentary on gender neutrality and the history of NIV2011 see: Bible Version Wars – NIV vs ESV.

The use of the plural forms, such as they and them, in place of singular masculine forms was another change in direction. For example Hebrews 2:6 looks like this in the 3 versions:

  • NIV1984 – “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
  • NIV2011 – “What is manmankind that you are mindful of himthem, thea son of man that you care for him?
  • ESV – “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?

Modern English and Clarity Phrasing changes look like this example in Romans 1:4:

  • NIV1984 – and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • NIV2011 – and who through the Spirit of holiness was declaredappointed with power to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • ESV – and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

More information on these examples including additional details can be found in these two links:

How much has changed in the new version? NIV2011 Publishers say that 95% of the text remains the same as NIV1984, however, others have reviewed the changes made in comparison to the NIV1984 and found that 19030 verses (61.1%) are the same, and 12056 verses (38.8%) have changes made to them. It depends on if you are counting words or verses.

translation scale 

The ‘More Literal’ and ‘Less Literal’ Scale for Bible Translations

2 Years after the NIV update

I found something very odd when I went to look back to the research that I had done in 2012 when the International Committee was looking at ESV vs NIV2011. At the time of the change, there was information to be found in a lot of places, including institutions such as Focus on the Family, Bible Gateway, Southern Baptist Convention etc. There was also, of course, much talk in the blogosphere. At the time of my research, I had links to a few of these organizations’ sites only to find that 2 years later, these pages no longer exist. Focus on the Family no longer information specifically pointing to the NIV. It does however, have a page that lists translations that they recommend and the NIV is not included in their list of recommended translations.   The only place to find information from the time of the change is to try to find reputable writings in blogs. Here are a few examples:


Why did Zondervan demand that all NIV1984 copies be removed? – I have not found an answer to this question yet. Local Christian book store were ordered by NIV’s publisher, Zondervan, to turn in all NIV1984 versions in exchange for 2011 equivalents. I can understand an edition going out of print, but why go to the extent of having all printed copies PHYSICALLY removed? It is the same story with all online publishers, such as Bible Gateway, Blue Letter Bible etc. They were not permitted to offer the NIV1984 online.  If you go to the Biblica website, you won’t find a single reference to the 1984 version. If you go into a Christian bookstore, you will only see NIV Bibles. There is no indication that this is an updated version, or that it is not the same as the NIV you might have at home. One Pastor says he will not be recommending the NIV to his congregation because – The worldly marketing scheme that Zondervan seems to be following is one I don’t want to support with my congregation’s dollars.

Copyright differences – If Zondervan can remove all rights from printing NIV1984 in order to push the NIV2011, what is to stop them from doing it again 5 or 10 years down the road with an even newer version of the NIV and forcing organizations to make impacting and costly changes all over again? ESV’s publisher, Crossway has attempted to make the ESV translation easily and readily available to all. Here is the ESV Copyright information.

Publisher differences – ESV is published by Crossway, a multi-denominational non-profit organization. NIV is published by Zondervan which is owned by Harper Collins, a division of NewsCorp (owned by Rupert Murdoch).


Choosing ESV

Many well-known evangelical leaders have made bold statements declaring their support for the ESV. John Piper of Desing is one of them. He states the following : We are building all our future ministry around the ESV…. The ESV satisfies the preaching, memorizing, studying, and reading needs of our church, from children to adults.” John Piper, Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Additional commentary on the ESV choice:


If you go to the Biblica website (for NIV information) and the ESV website, you will see that they both have their share of supporters:

NIV Endorsements

ESV Endorsements

But I wondered if there was a connection between these well-renown speakers, the books they have published and their publisher and it turns out there is a definite correlation. For example, Andy Stanley recommends the NIV Bible. All have Andy Stanley’s books have been published by Zondervan. This is what I was able to find out:

ESV is recommended by: Publisher of Author’s books NIV is recommended by: Publisher of Author’s books
Focus on the Family Focus on the Family Andy Stanley Zondervan
Desiring God (John Piper) Crossway Craig Groeschel Zondervan
JI Packer Crossway Jim Cymbala Zondervan
R. Albert Mohler Jr. Crossway & SBTS Scot McKnight Zondervan
Francis Chan David C. Cook Charles Stanley Thomas Nelson (also owned by Harper-Collins/ Newscorp)
Kevin DeYoung Crossway
Ravi Zaccharias formerly Zondervan, now FaithWords

What do Other Quizzing and Bible Memorization Organizations use?

  • Nazarene Bible Quizzing – Same Quiz Material Cycle, NIV2011
  • Free Methodist Bible Quizzing – Different Quiz Material Cycle, NIV2011
  • World Bible Quiz – ESV

written out


In summary, based on my research, I would not choose the NIV2011 for my own personal Bible study. This is mostly due to the liberties that have been taken in the translation to provide ‘clarity’, as well as updating the use of English language. And having spent the last 2 years getting into the ESV translation to teach quizzers, I have come to appreciate it more and more and it has become my defacto translation.

However, I think the NIV translation committee had good intentions and I think it is a translation that God can use. It has some possible readability advantages that MAY make it easier to memorize. My biggest concern about using the translation for quizzing is that I no longer have faith in the publisher to stand by this translation, to not pull it whenever they see fit, or want to make additional profits etc. My recommendation would be to work with a non-profit organization like Crossway and continue with the well-respected ESV version.


NIV2011 Readability, and therefore (maybe) easier to memorize Risk of publisher not being trustworthy
  Common translation, found in homes, preached with Some feel that the translation is less true and/or makes compromises; not recommended by some Christian organizations. A number of churches would withdraw from C&MA quizzing if the NIV is used.
ESV Continuity, we have been using it for 2 years; not to introduce a 3rd version Some have found it more difficult to memorize than NIV1984
Trustworthy literal translation, well respected



Drawing parallels between the early church and the history of my local church


Gospel Tabernacle

The Central Gospel Tabernacle (The first branch of the Missionary Alliance in Ottawa) The building is now owned by the Ottawa Chinese United Church.

I recently discovered that the history of my local church is both fascinating and exciting. I read a paper written by our children’s pastor on the history of our church, Cedarview Alliance Church.   Because we have been studying the history of the early church in Acts for Quizzing, the parallels suddenly came very much alive for me.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

A church goes through stages – birth, infancy, maturing etc.  The early church in Acts was no different.  Here is how I see the phases in both the early church in Acts and my own local church.

1st Phase – The birth of a new church or ‘honeymoon phase’

Dynamic Preaching

  • in Acts – Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2) and in the court, Stephen’s sermon before he was stoned.
  • in Ottawa – evangelist such as the Bosworth brothers, Lucius Compton, Rev. Fred Clark and Rev. George Bell  and Mrs. Agnew Demarest (General Booth’s grand-daughter) – “These meetings might be described as prophetic and evangelistic and left a deep spiritual impact on our people.”  Fifty Years in Retrospect

Spirit-filled miracles and signs, healing

  • in Acts – Acts 2:43 –  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. and in Acts 5:12 – Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.
  • in Ottawa – “Mr. Bosworth stressed physical heaing in all his messages and many responded and cures were reported, some of them extraordinary cases.”

Thousands of new converts.

  • in Acts –  Acts 2:41 – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls v 47 – And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. and Acts 5:14 – And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, and Acts 6:7 – And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem,
  • in Ottawa (Ottawa’s Banner Year) – “Between 10,000 and 12,000 made profession of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly 6,000 were annointed for healing. Several hundred were baptised, 225 in one night.  Attendance on closing night was 8,500.” Fifty Years in Retrsospect.

2nd Phase – An infant church or ‘still in the honeymoon phase’

  • in Acts – they all had everything in common and everyone was of one accord
  • one big family – 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Acts 2:41
  • everyone giving generously, to share with each other, (Acts – each had no needs)
  • in Ottawa – members loaned a large sum of money for the church building.

So what was the problem?

  • inward focus; – focus on local area – Acts 5 (still in Jersalem)
  • not taking care of the poor, widows – Acts 6 (Hellenists complain the apostles are not taking care of the widows)
  • the only community work was to win souls – Acts 6 – How can we stop preaching the Word to serve tables?
  • no follow through or relationship building with new converts.

This is the very first christian church though. It is a church in its infancy and God will lead them down the path that they are to go.

Phase 3 Beginnnig to Mature – taking care of the poor, community

  • Acts 6 – the Hellonists complained that no one was taking care of the widows so they appointed Stephen and some godly men.
  • So now they are winning souls and taking care of the community. But they are still focused on Jerusalem
  • So the superstar in the community gets publicly stoned to death and Saul starts ravaging the church causing them to flee out of Jerusalem.
  • Would they have moved out of Jerusalem if they hadn’t been prosecuted?
  • Philip goes into Samaria and starts preaching about Jesus and they are saved and baptized.  The leaders in Jerusalem come to Samaria to pray for the Holy Spirit to fall upon them.
  • The Gospel Tabernacle has an organization of believers who invested large amounts of money to establish a large church in downtown Ottawa.
  • The Corporation is formed and is made of members who lent/contributed significant portions of money.

Phase 4 Growing up – Learning to handle conflict and persecution,  Money issues, The First Split, resignations etc.

  • Acts, Paul’s letters to the churches –
    • In Ottawa – Members not in the corporation decided to start their own tabernacle (across the street?) the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
    • The first church told the new church that they could not call themselves an alliance tabernacle as there could only be one alliance branch in Ottawa.

Things we can learn from the early church and Acts and our own local church history

  • decisions can have long-term consequences – sometimes we have to contend with consequences of decisions made by those who came before us
  • God can still use people, despite the mistakes we make
  • The Enemy uses money to divide the church

Characteristics of a unified church

– focus on what you have in common – the fourfold gospel

– use one another’s gifting’s to ensure that the focus is not on just one thing – the gospel, community, relationships, missions, good stewards of resources,

– accountability and governance.


The Question of Women as Elders in the Church

This is the topic currently being debated in my church and this Sunday the members of my church will vote on whether or not women should be allowed to be nominated as elders.  The vote requires a 2/3 majority in order to be carried through.

Preface – my own lens through which I see things.

Firstly – As referred to in the title of this blog, and as Paul says to the Corinthians, we cannot fully know who God is while we are on this earth. Our view is an imperfect and mysterious reflection. This is my own interpretation and I am open to correction.

Secondly – I believe 100% that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God and that it has living power through the Holy Spirit. I believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever regardless of culture. I therefore do not look at this as a cultural issue. I believe the church needs to be different and stand for the truth and be a light in a dark world. Sin is sin and it doesn’t change.

Thirdly – as I’ve matured in both years and spiritually and spent time in God’s Word, of which I am passionate about, the more I feel strongly about knowing the context around not just a verse, and not even a passage but God’s plan as a whole for the human race. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of context when reviewing scripture.

Lastly – regardless of the outcome of the vote, this is my church family and this is where I will stay.

Let’s begin with Adam and Eve. I believe that God created Adam first and therefore made Adam accountable.  But the first time God called Adam to account for his and Eve’s actions, he completely failed. He blamed Eve and he blamed God. And Eve blamed the serpent. Humans having been playing the blame game for a VERY long time people!

God didn’t make him accountable because Adam was deserving of the role or any more deserving than Eve because obviously he failed miserably. So what does the verse 1 Timothy 2:14 mean?

and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Let’s go back to Genesis 3 which says the following –

 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Eve was deceived by the serpent who told her things about the fruit.  But Adam was with her and he ate the fruit also.  Notice that it does not say that Adam tried to stop Eve or even try convince her not to eat the fruit. They both sinned.

So when God came to them in the garden, who did He call out? – But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Adam replied. 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

When I read this passage – I used to think – wow, the husband has been blaming the wife since literally the beginning of time.  After studying Paul’s referral to the woman being deceived first, I see that it is equally true that the wife has been deceiving the husband since the beginning of time!  The woman being deceived by the serpent happened first and was the first event to kick off the original sin.

When God called Adam and Eve in the garden,

  1. He first called the man to account for what happened.
  2. Then he cursed the serpent to slither on the ground and be hated by women.
  3. Then he named the 2 consequences that the woman faced – pain in childbirth and being ruled over by men. To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
  4. Then God named the consequences for the man which were mortality and hard labour.

cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 3:17-19

And finally, he kicked them all out of the Garden of Eden, where everything had been taken care of for them.

We are living out the consequences of the original sin. Men ruling over women is a consequence of our sin. This was not God’s design or intention. God did not create the woman to be ruled over by the man. He created her to keep the man company. Adam did not need help at that point because everything was taken care of for them.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

The term helper does not imply sub-servience, at this point it was in terms of a mate.

My conclusion is that yes, God ordained an order in the man-wife relationship but I don’t believe that that necessarily precludes the option for a women to be an elder in the church.

Created in the image of God

women as elders

Male and female both were created in the image of God. – this means that God embodies all male and female characteristics.

He is both and He is neither.

He created us different but complementary.

Likewise, in terms of the church, Christ is the head of the church. While Jesus was on the earth, he lived in the form of a human male. This is again, a God-ordained order that states that men and women in the body of believers are under the headship of Christ.  This is because Jesus was the only perfect human. However I don’t think this implies that the character of the Head of the church embodies only male characteristics. If we know that our Heavenly Father embodies both male and female characteristics, what does this mean about Jesus? One of the things that I think women bring to the table is a protective, mothering, compassionate view towards people. I think the metaphor of Jesus as a shepherd also exemplifies these characteristics. In fact, Peter uses the model of a shepherd when instructing how an elder should behave:

1 Peter 5 English Standard Version (ESV) Shepherd the Flock of God

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Women make excellent shepherds – in fact Rachel was a shepherdess. – Genesis 29 – While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.

Under Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church (the body of believers), we are all members of the body of Christ. There is nothing in the Bible about the various parts of the body having a higher status. The men are not closer to the head than the women. Nor should the women have higher status than men. Some members have leadership giftings, some have evangelical giftings, healing, administration, care-giving etc. but no matter what position or role you play, you need to be accountable to others and you need to be accountable to God.

Jesus gave women a Voice

Martha and Mary – We know the story of Martha and Mary, poor Martha was doing all the work to serve everyone while Mary was sitting at Her master’s feet so she could be taught and learn from what Jesus was saying.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Jesus wanted Mary to be taught the things He had to say. He wasn’t teaching her so she could go away and be silent and I don’t believe he was teaching her so she could go back and just teach the other women and children. He was teaching her and giving her a voice.

The Samaritan woman at the well – again, Jesus went against the grain and taught a woman and a Samaritan woman at that! Was she to go back to her village and just tell the other women what she learned? No, she had a message for everyone!

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, – John 4:39

Paul’s instruction for leaders in the church

Paul’s instruction regarding a man with one wife from Titus 1

 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

My interpretation of this passage is that Paul did not say, the elder must be a man AND he must have one wife. He was coming from a culture in which only a man would have been an elder. So that man must be of godly character and have just one wife.

Does this imply that single men can’t be elders?

What if a widower remarries – can he be an elder?

What about a godly, wise man, happily married to one wife but has a teenage son who got his girlfriend pregnant?

What about a godly, wise woman with a masters in theology who has one husband and children who are serving the Lord?

In my opinion, Paul is talking about moral character and sexual purity.

1 tim 2 study Bible notes


Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy for a woman to learn quietly

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  1 Timothy 2:11-12

Once again, context is important here. Paul is going against the grain of culture and saying that the women should learn. I believe that the point he is making is that if the woman learns quietly and does not contradict or dishonour her husband, then there is no reason why she shouldn’t also take part in the learning.  But his wording is strong which suggests a warning against women taking their freedom beyond what God intended within the ordained order of the marital relationship.  The Greek word from which we get the word submissiveness means – to place in proper order.  To me, the point that Paul is making is that the wife is to learn alongside the husband, and not to question his teaching in public. We also know that there were women who were false teachers in Ephesus and Paul was warning Timothy against this.

I think our North American evangelical church culture has arbitrarily made rules to try and abide by Paul’s direction. We have women who are children’s pastors and we have women teaching Sunday school classes, and we have women ministry leaders.  Why do we draw the line specifically at having a women on the board of elders?

Does the presence of a women on the board of elders imply that the men of the church are under her direct authority? Or that the male lead pastor is under her authority?

I don’t see it that way at all. The lead pastor is accountable to the board of elders. The board of elders should provide ruling in sound doctrine and the members should be above reproach. The board as a whole has spiritual authority over the lead pastor and the body of believers, but one single elder does not.

I think a mature, godly, wise woman, who is knowledgeable in God’s word can add spiritual depth and wisdom to a board of elders.

Jesus’ example and Jesus’ teaching
If you read through the gospels, particularly Matthew, there is a definite recurring theme of Jesus preaching against legalism. We tend to think of the Pharisees and Saducees as mean old hypocrites. But they were men who studied the Old Testament and obeyed the law given to them through Moses (at least in front of the public eye). Their intentions were good. This is a group of people who hadn’t heard from God through any prophet for over 400 years. They were lost and trying harder and harder to please God by obeying every letter of the law. But God saw their hearts. Jesus knew their hearts and warned them over and over again. His main message was very clear – love God and love people. I really think we miss the parallels between the Pharisees and our modern day church, but that’s a topic for another day.

In example after example, Jesus went to the poorest and the most hated. He wanted to see them lifted up and not down-trodden. When Jesus sees His church suppress the voice of women in the church, what do you think He is thinking?

In Matthew 23 Jesus gives seven warnings to the scribes and Pharisees.  Here is one of them – 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

To me, these warnings apply to us and warn us not to get caught up in legalistic matters in the church.  The church needs to be showing faithfulness, justice and mercy to those around it. In my own humble opinion, we need to not get caught up in this issue of women as elders, and focus on doing what the church has been created to do – show justice, mercy and faithfulness.


Tying together Jesus’ teaching with Paul’s instructions

I think Galations 3:23-29  says it well:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave, nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Although Paul is speaking in terms of the gospel here, in stating that we are all heirs to the gospel, male and female, I do think it also makes the point that as equal heirs to the kingdom, we can share in the responsibility of ‘shepherding’ the local church.

My concluding thoughts.

  • Order – God has ordained an order for men and women to live by.  We know for sure this applies to the context of the husband and wife.  The question is whether Paul’s teaching that a woman should not be in authority over a man was meant in the husband-wife relationship – which is in-line with both the old testament and Jesus’ teaching or in the context of church leadership which is what the passage is referring to.
  • Experiencing the spiritual gifting of all members of the body – if women are not allowed to teach men, or preach or serve as an elder, then our men do not have the opportunity to experience the spiritual gifting of the women in our church and the enemy’s work is half done.
  • Unity in Christ – when godly men and godly women are working together to spiritually lead a local church, I believe the church can more truly exemplify the character and love of God to the people around it.
  • At war – we are living in a time where where the spiritual battle for souls on earth is being kicked up a notch. Like the early church in Acts, in the places where we thought we were safe, we are being persecuted. Where we aren’t going to reach others with the gospel, God is bringing them to us. God needs a fully equipped army, and I believe that the women are needed in this battle as much as them men.
  • A high-calling – the role of elder is one of high calling.  Whether the local church includes women in this definition, it is not a role to be taken lightly.  See above passage from Titus.


*edited – I think there are about 30 revisions to this post since I started writing it. I hit Publish on Nov 5th and woke up on Nov 6th with this issue still taking up lots of space on my brain. I have therefore edited out parts that were superfluous to the point and clarified (hopefully) other points.
women as elders 2

Unforgiveness leads to depression









I see this license plate in a certain park n ride near where I live. I had to take a picture of it, because to me it just seems so sad. It made me realize that without my faith, what hope would I have? And how can others live without this hope?

Unforgiveness leads to depression.

This is an actual proven fact that has been studied:

But even if you believe in a God who forgives, if you cannot forgive yourself, you are going to end up in the same state.
We are frail human beings and forgiveness does not come easy.

It is hard to forgive when:

The person who hurt you is not sorry and or would or could do it again

When you come from a family or have a parent that holds grudges and remembers every bad deed.

When you blame others and aren’t accountable for your own actions

When you’ve been hurt or rejected too many times to count

When you feel like you don’t have a choice in the relationship.

When the hurt is just too deep….

But the truth is you will not recover true mental health until you have learned to forgive – both others and yourself.

And when something is not in our human nature to do something, we need supernatural assistance.

This is why the Lord’s Prayer includes the line:

Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

We are basically saying that we sin, we ask God to forgive our sins. And if we can have our sins forgiven, we ask God to help us forgive others who sin against us. Or forgive people who wrong us.

Even if it is our own selves we can’t forgive, we can ask for God’s help. He can forgive the sin, no matter how big. So we should be able to also.