8 I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people.
The process of meditating--praying and thinking about what the verse says in the NIV draws us into the Word. I think when we don't have to think about what it says and ponder, we're more likely to rush through it. It's like eating peanut butter and jelly vs. a steak. You have to cut the steak bit by bit, so it takes longer to eat. But, the peanut butter and jelly you can just grab and start eating.
My feeling is that it's nice to read a paraphrase periodically so that you can see a different view, but that it's wiser to read a more literal translation--a readable close to "word for word" translation.
4) Aren't they all the Word of God?
Yes, I think they are. But, we all want things to be easier and not to have to work for them. If one's motive in reading a paraphrase is because it's "easier", I think that is something to think about and consider.
5) Why does any of this matter?
Why do we read the Bible? Because it is God's Word and it is the primary way, I think, that he speaks to us. It holds His instructions about how to live rightly. It is by reading His Word that we are encouraged and strengthened in our faith in the Lord.
But, why would it matter if you are reading a paraphrase or a translation? This is the thought that came to my mind. When you love something, you want the original. I grew up listening to the song "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. I still love the song. My father always told me it was the story of him and his dad, but though I never told him, I knew at the time that he was recreating the same story in his relationship with me though he didn't see it. Since Harry Chapin recorded the song, there's been a lot of artists who have rerecorded it and put their own spins on it--their own interpretations. Yet, I always like the original best.
I like reading the ESV. It is considered the closest and most readable Word for Word translation today. It feels like I get a chance to more closely hear the God's heart--not another man's interpretation of it. It is the closest I can get to the original--the Greek and the Hebrew--since I don't know Greek or Hebrew =) By choosing not to read a paraphrase, I feel like I'm not copping out. I'm not trying to interpret the Word for myself. I know and trust that it is God who opens my heart and helps me to hear rather than me helping myself.