Bill Gates and Mosquitos

Bill Gates has a long history. I remember reading a biography of him when I was a teenager. At that point Gates was both respected and hated. Microsoft had an iron fist on much of the software market in so many ways and used its weight to crush opposition. Since then Gates seems to be a different man – a much more caring and philanthropic man.

It may have been an article in Newsweek I read a few years back that talked about Melinda Gates (Bill’s wife) and the significant influence she has had upon him positively in these regards. Whatever the reasoning, I have a lot of respect for what Gates is doing these days in a variety of fields – not the least of which is battling disease.

As part of this battle Gates has launched a “Mosquito Week” on his blog to go alongside the well-known “Shark Week” that debuts each year on television (and which I never watch) in an attempt to raise awareness of the threat mosquitoes pose.

He includes a fascinating infographic which I’ve embedded below. HT to Andrew Vogel for posting it via Facebook and thus bringing it to my attention.

An infographic from Bill Gates on the deadliest animals in the world.
An infographic from Bill Gates on the deadliest animals in the world.

J.B. Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English Revised Edition: Book Review

A Little Background

My Studies

I am preparing for a new series of sermons and leading a small group through the Gospel of Luke. Right now I’m refreshing my big picture understanding – so I’ve just finished reading through the entirety of Luke in J.B. Phillips’ translation.

JB Phillips' The New Testament in Modern English book cover for the Revised Edition.
JB Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English book cover for the Revised Edition.

It occurred to me that this translation is quite good but not well-known and so I wanted to share it with you. 🙂

In my personal studies of Scripture I have found I can sometimes go into “automatic” mode when reading Scripture – a mode that feels like it already knows what the text is saying or even worse that just wanders off elsewhere while my eyes still parse the text.

To overcome this dilemma I frequently use different translations of Scripture. I tend to do devotional reading in a single version over a period of time – till it has become familiar and then move to another translation – and so on. After a while away from a translation I find the words are again crisp and fresh.

When I’m preparing a sermon I like to read from as many different translations as possible. While there are various levels of literal fidelity to the original languages in translations, every translation (even the most literal) is to some extent an interpretation or commentary upon the Scriptures. Reading different versions highlights the different ways different individuals have thought about these particular passages in a concise way which can then be further explored via commentaries, original languages, and other resources.

J.B. Phillips

J.B. Phillips was an Anglican clergyman who began translating some of the Scriptures into “modern” language during World War II. His ministry was in a heavily bombed area and the translation occurred under this recurring threat.

His translation was well-liked and garnered admiration from none other than C.S. Lewis. He also saw his translation being used “authoritatively” and felt that it was not good enough so he went about retranslating it.

Phillips completed the entire New Testament as well as some books of the Old Testament. His New Testament is best known.

Throughout his life he struggled with depression and reflects a theological perspective more reminiscent of William Barclay’s “liberal evangelical” than fundamentalist or evangelical generally.

You can read more about his life on Wikipedia.

Michael D. Marlowe has written a fairly extensive review of the translation along with some analysis of Phillips’ more heterodox views for those looking to evaluate a little more deeply the merits of the man and the translation. Another interesting article on the same topic is available from the Tyndale Society and authored by Hilary Day.

Why Use The Phillips Translation?

As I noted earlier, I read from numerous translations – I’ve spent time with the KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, HCSB, LEB, The Message, The Living Bible – and the list could go on.

I do not necessarily see one translation as superior to the other but each providing insights that another may not have been able to highlight. I use the ESV, LEB, NASB when working with the details, but utilize the NLT and NIV1The NIV and the HCSB are both mid-way translations, somewhere between the fairly strictly literal approach of the ESV/NASB and the dynamic/thought-for-thought translations like the NLT/Living Bible. when working more big picture.

So, I am not suggesting this should be your bible – but that it is a good bible. If you come across passages that sound different from what your more literal bible says – compare them, do some research – one often learns fascinating things because of the differences in translation.

I find Phillips’ translation to be fairly literal overall but at times it strays significantly into thought-for-thought territory. The language is contemporary and has that British flare to it which brings a different flavor than our American translations.

Phillips’ is good at making the text flow and showing the connections between texts. If your translation feels a little stale – give it a try – or any one of the numerous other excellent translations/paraphrases out there…just know what you are getting (e.g. The Message is a very free-form paraphrase, I still think it has a place, but it is for that place and not every place).

For Free

You can read the Phillip’s New Testament online for free, though I am unsure that this edition is the same as the translation I read (1972), it may be the earlier and looser translation he made. It is available from both the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Bible Gateway. You can also purchase a newer edition (the one I read) from Amazon.

Cairn University Church Leader’s Conference.

Overview

Cairn University held its second annual Church Leaders’ Conference today and I attended along with two parishioners – John Broglin and Kiki Mackey (my sister-in-law). We left together from CCC at 8:45 am and arrived a few minutes later at Cairn. The conference was being held in Chatlos Chapel, a few Biblical Learning Center classrooms, and the lobby outside of the chapel. I attended the conference last year as well and you can see my thoughts on that conference here.

Synopsis

Morning

Once again the process of registration was speedy – taking only a few seconds. We picked up lanyard name tags, a Cairn bag with a few items (pen, program, index card, and a brochure for Cairn’s MAR, MDIV, and THM degree offerings). Then it was off to a second table where we were offered our choice of Cairn coffee or travel mug and a book (Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? by Ligon Duncan with J. Nicholas Reid).

Then it was over to the continental breakfast – which again included donuts, mixed fruits, danishes, and so on along with a number of hot/cold beverages. I’m a pretty simple guy and enjoy a good continental breakfast – and this satisfied me fully. They also opened Chatlos Chapel for us so we could sit down while eating (which was a step up from last year I  appreciated).

By 9 am everyone had filed into Chatlos Chapel and Benjamin Harding along with a string quartet1Excuse my music terminology, I’m not sure I am using the right term here. (consisting of Cairn students) led us in musical worship. We stood together and sang Bless the Lord (Matt Redman) followed by a hymn (the title of which I cannot recall) and then Bob Kauflin’s O Great God.

J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.
J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.

Jonathan Master briefly introduced our speaker, Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, a well-known pastor, professor, and author. I wasn’t as familiar with him as last year’s speaker – R. Kent Hughes – but having been so pleased with the previous year’s conference, I decided to attend again (and am glad I did).

Duncan gave an hour long sermon on Ministry in the Midst of Suffering utilizing a number of passages throughout the Old and New Testaments (such as Nehemiah 9:27, Job 2:13, Ephesians 3:13, 2 Tim. 1:8-9, 2:3, 4:5; Hebrews 2:10; James 5:10,13; 1 Peter 2:19-21, 5:9-10).

We had a brief break from 10:30 am to 10:45 am and I scooted off to one of the lesser-known bathrooms at Cairn to skip the lines. We now had the opportunity to choose between several different parallel sessions. The options were “Discipling Your Family Through Personal Suffering” (Pastor Rob Burns), “Bouncing Back from Burnout” (Pastor John Stange), “No Graven Image: Suffering and How We Think of God” (Curtis Hill)2I’m guessing a pastor as well, but I haven’t personally interacted with Mr. Hill and the program didn’t say., or “Suffering as God’s Discipline” (Dr. Jonathan Master).

I chose to attend Stange’s Bouncing Back from Burnout, first b/c Stange is a local pastor and I don’t get the opportunity to hear others speak frequently – so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Secondly, b/c I’ve been through some suffering in my life which is conducive to burnout along with being the sort of personality that tends towards burnout.

Stange’s session was informative. Stange is a light-hearted speaker who manages to intertwine humor with the ‘serious stuff.’ He used ample illustrations from his own life and stories from Luke 9 and 10 to anchor his thesis – that burnout usually occurs when we become more invested in doing for Christ than delighting in Christ. My favorite quote from the session was, “You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to…when you argue with a baby, both you and the baby look stupid.” While humorous, it also portrays some frequently forgotten truths…I’ll let you figure out what they are.

Kiki attended the session with Stange while John attended Rob Burns’ session – which he enjoyed and shared his notes with me – and I found them useful and encouraging as well.

Afternoon

Lunch was cold hoagies, fruit and vegetable salads, chips, pretzels, brownies, cookies, hot/cold beverages, and so on. A satisfying meal and a great opportunity to discuss with other attendees.

Dr. Todd Williams dropped in briefly to greet us and encourage us that Cairn deeply believes in its role as support to rather than replacement of the church and that it encourages all its students – whether pastoral or business (or education, social work, counseling, and so on) majors to be actively engaged with the church throughout their lifetimes.

Benjamin Harding again led us in musical worship – this time we sang Bancroft’s Before the Throne of God Above and Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone – two of my favorite songs.

Dr. Duncan spoke from perhaps 1:15-1:20 till 2:15-2:30 pm. There was a ten minute period in which everyone was encouraged to pray with those at their table for one another and the sufferings we are/will encounter and strength to glorify God in the midst of them.

Then Dr. Master asked attendee submitted questions of Dr. Duncan from 2:30 to 3:00 pm. I had almost skipped out on this part – but am glad I didn’t. Duncan addressed quite thoroughly several important topics including pastoral responses to clinical depression and whether leaders should continue in leadership in the midst of struggles at home.

When it was all over we made our way back out and were greeted with another book (I got two, as I missed picking up the second around lunch time) – Thomas Watson’s  (17th century) All Things For Good which he wrote as a pastor during a significant period of suffering and Preaching the Cross, a compilation by Mark Dever, Duncan, R. Albert Mohler Jr.,  C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

The new Director of Advancement (whose name I have unfortunately already forgotten) grabbed me on the way out and offered me a Cairn t-shirt – which I gladly accepted and look forward to wearing proudly and frequently.

Overall

Once again, I was greatly satisfied with the conference. It cost $25 again this year – but $25 for at least four or five hours of solid teaching, two meals, and three books (plus Cairn memorabilia) – I say that is a pretty sweet deal.

I think this is a very intelligent move on Cairn’s part to reach out to church leaders. It brings scores of leaders onto the Cairn campus where they have the opportunity to interact with faculty and staff from the University. The light touch Cairn demonstrated again this year in self-promotion again reinforced the feel that Cairn was and is sincerely interested in being a resource for church leaders and not simply in using church leaders as a recruitment tool.

Recommendations for Improvement

Some of the small items that I thought could be improved last year where improved to my delight, but there is always the opportunity for further improvement, so here are my recommendations for next year’s conference:

  1. Last year I had commented on the feel I had that it was “Pastor’s Conference” as opposed to a “Church Leaders’ Conference” – despite the latter being the name. In one small way, this front took a step backward as some of the signage spoke of the “Pastor’s Forum” – which reinforces the idea that the conference is for pastors exclusively.3I assume that Cairn is attempting to bring in a wide circle of ministry leaders, but if I’m incorrect and they desire to reach almost exclusively pastors with this conference, I’d suggest that a change of name to something like “Pastor’s Conference” would make sense.
    1. Overall, I felt the general session and breakout sessions (at least the one I attended) where more open to general audiences than last years had been, so this was a step forward.
    2. Another item I had mentioned on this front was the lack of female attendees – last year I saw two. This year there was a small leap forward to perhaps five or eight – but the conference continued to be male dominated. I think this is unfortunate and would love to see the diversity increase significantly.4Perhaps I was just more aware this year, but I did notice several ethnic minorities present – which I also see as a positive move towards diversity. I know Cairn has made great steps in diversifying the student body and I’d love to see the conference reflect that diversity as well.
  2. I still think that adding some vendors and giving us some time to walk through displays, etc. would be a worthwhile endeavor. Not only could Cairn charge vendors for this privilege, but more importantly, it would provide church leaders’ the opportunity to interact with vendors – and even in an internet age, finding vendors for specific products/services (especially related to ministry) is not always the easiest task and there is something to be said for face-to-face interaction and hands-on product demonstration.
  3. Last year I had suggested more opportunity for individuals to interact with one another and share their experiences. I think a bit more of this occurred around the meals, in the breakout sessions, and so on – though I’m not sure that anything was altered. I’d still love to interact with others more, but also felt the conference was pretty packed and that it might not be feasible to jam another opportunity into the already full day.
  4. While last year I wasn’t too excited about the main speaker going on for 2.5 hrs. throughout the day, this year I felt the length much less. The length of the speaking could perhaps be reduced to 1.75 hrs. and then points 2 and/or 3 might be implemented during that time.

Conclusion

If you are in church ministry and anywhere near Cairn University, I highly recommend making the Cairn Church Leaders’ Conference part of your annual schedule. It is a relaxing, edifying, and educational experience at a price one can’t beat.