Monday, December 13, 2010

New Poll: How Often Do You Use Your Bible Maps?

Apart from some perusal when the Bible is first acquired and the occasional reference when reading Acts, my guess is that most people are not familiar with the maps in the back of their Bible. How often do you use them in study? Are they a vital resource? Can you live without them? Do you only look at them when you're bored during a sermon? Vote on the poll on the left sidebar and let us know. Comment on this post and share your thoughts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bible Storytelling: Dan Stevers and the Early Church

The majority of the Bible is narrative of some kind, and often there are narratives within narratives. Storytelling is a major part of God's word and a major part of the preaching and teaching of Jesus and the apostles, whether it's factual reportage, testimony or parable. As a creative writing and literature major, I appreciate a well told story and finding new modes of delivering the scripture and the gospel a vital part of my generation's contribution to the advancement of the gospel message.

Storying or turning gospel teaching into a story is a vital part of missions and has the potential to add fruit to individual Bible study as well. As part of a text based culture we learn most often from deduction, analyzing and interacting with a laid out, general argument and applying it to specific situations; however, the majority of developing cultures learn from narratives and stories which then become part of the individual's belief structure. They inductively form general beliefs from specific instances. This means that a single story has the potential to radically change an entire belief structure. Our own reception of the gospel, a story that resonates with every generation and demands a personal, inductive response, proves that while we can praise God for deductive arguments, stories hold a major part in God's work.

Dan Stevers, a phenomenal graphic artist animator and illustrator, tells a number of stories in audiovisual form, and each act of telling the story draws out different points in the history of the early church.

The way he tells the story of Pentecost draws out rarely touched upon apocalyptic overtones and brings the message back to the gospel in a dramatically relevant way, pulling Luke's narrative into 21st Century storytelling.

The Story of Pentecost from on Vimeo.

He has also designed a retelling of Ananias and Sapphira's story from Acts 5 in the style and mood of Tim Burton. This video probably pushes the envelope a little further as the storytelling moves farther away from church culture and into the realm of mock horror, but even that aspect may illuminate parts of the story that would be otherwise missed.

A Grim Tale (Ananias and Sapphira) from Dan Stevers on Vimeo.

There's part of me that cherishes the fear of God and trembles at the story. Part of me wonders if the humor is appropriate because this is not an amusing tale, but I recognize the quality of the work and the careful self-awareness of Stever's approach, allowing himself creativity to bring the story to the audience in a new way without deemphasizing the impact of the scripture.

As I seek to reach out to Muslims and an urban culture where literacy is low, I must make a conscious effort to make storytelling a part of my evangelistic effort, and this begins with focusing on stories in my own Bible Study. I hope to explore avenues of adding stories and storytelling to personal study in the future of the blog.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poll Results: Double or Single Column Format?

The poll is closed on the Double or Single Column preference query. A total of fifty readers voted (many thanks for making the blog a more interactive place and encouraging me as the author) and about 52% wanted (to varying degrees) Single Column format for their Bibles a much lesser 16% wanted Double Column. In-between those two sat 32% who either didn't care or enjoyed both formats. The biggest stat was the 28% who preferred Single Column Bibles while the smallest stat was the 4% who "Loved" the Double column format. It seems as if publishers have missed the mark when it comes to this reading audience- or are Single Column lovers just more militant? A new poll should be up later this week, comment on this post to give me poll ideas (I have a list of them somewhere but right now I'm drawing a blank.)

Review: START! The Bible for New Believers

Start!: The Bible for New Believers is a new "almost-study-Bible" from Thomas Nelson in the NKJV. Greg Laurie is the General Editor and seeing that no other name is attached to the Bible and Laurie holds the copyright, it seems safe to assume that he wrote all or most of the notes. The Bible is designed to give basic information to lay a spiritual and doctrinal foundation for new believers. The NKJV is not the first translation that comes to mind when thinking of new believers; however, it does give  a literal translation in modern (if at times complex) English.

The aesthetics of the Bible (this is the paperback version) are striking and iconic. The sleek modern design resonates on a level that suits the younger generations while not being outlandish or tacky. The dimensions of the paperback are a little under 8.5" x 5.5", which is a fairly nice carrying size and an in-between size for a Bible.

The Bible's features include introductions to each book with concise summaries and thematic introductions and three unique features: Grow, Know, Live and Learn Notes. The writing is always clear, concise and fluid. Simple, but gently confrontational prose coupled with an mentoring tone and style make the notes strikingly well crafted to their purpose. The notes work well as to inform and exhort the young believer into a deeper walk away from this world and further into Jesus Christ.

Laurie manages to dodge many hot-button or controversial topics such as election or spiritual gifts, and I
 feel the absence of guidance in these areas may be well conceived. This is not a theological help. It does not lay out all the sides of each viewpoint objectively and report on theological positions. Nor does it favor an individual view and press it on the reader. Instead it remains silent allowing the Bible student to read and find answers for himself, going to other, more equipped sources and hopefully to wise Christian council outside of books.

The notes included in this edition seem simple, but are hardly lightweight. Laurie introduces strong challenges to both the individual disciple and the church as a whole and does so with a grace that seems to flow through the project.

KNOW (Rev. 4:8)

God is holy. If anything comes out plainly in the Scriptures, it is this fact. And because God is holy, He hates sin. Have we lost sight of this? Have we traded reverence for relevance? A lot of churches want to grow numerically and will do whatever seems necessary to attract more people, so it becomes all about cultural connection and social relevance. Now, I am all for connecting with our culture and for being relevant. But do I have to stop being reverent? The early church had enormous reverence for God; they called it "fearing God" (Col 3:22; see also Acts 2:43; 13:26). This fear doesn't mean cowering because you are afraid He will smack you (though we often deserve it). In the Bible, fear means a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. The Lord is so good and so holy! Let's desire to live in such a way that we bring honor to His holy name. For more about the Attributes of God, see p. 1325.

Included in the edition are two articles which precede the text: a plan of salvation and "Secrets to Spiritual Success." The Plan of Salvation included is wisely put before Genesis, but is hardly the most compelling piece of prose in the work- and it should be. The following "Secrets of Spiritual Success" is much better, but the principles and practices described are hardly secrets. Another essay titled "Essentials" follows the text and is a brief doctrinal summation of the gospel, and may actually work better as an evangelistic tool than the initial plan of salvation. While no concordance is here a small topical index is available and this is not a designed to be a study Bible, but a reading Bible with minimal aids for encouragement and guidance. The Bible has numerous strengths and would be a suitable accessory for the new believer or the old who's looking for concise material to aid in bringing biblical doctrine to an audience of fresh believers or the unconverted.   

Thanks to Thomas Nelson who provided this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. I have given an honest review.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving and Giving

Thanksgiving is both a distinctly American and distinctly Christian holiday. We take time off from work in order to give thanks for what God has given us and to enjoy his provision with family and friends. God's provision in this country comes with a calling however: For everyone to whom much is given, much shall be required - Luke 12:48. The United States has been given awesome provision and an awesome privilege. My heart's prayer for my generation and culture is that even as our prosperity slips away, we will find the purpose God designed for this country and this culture and fund the spread of the gospel to the world even as we aid the rest of the world in studying the word of God. God has given us the resources and ability to spread the gospel to every corner of the earth, let's complete the task with a zeal for Christ's return. As we thank God for what He's given us this week, let's give back. Because God will never stop giving. A true heart of thanks applies the love it's been shown. Think about donating to missions or simply giving back to a ministry that's been a blessing (Galatians 6:6). Put your money where your heart is and spread the gospel.

We Give from on Vimeo.

Review: Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still flies in the face of fickle-faith Christianity, and it does so with flamboyance. The book's message of uncompromising, undaunted faith in the face of seemingly mundane life is a vital reminder to any generation that God is still a God of miracles and that He responds to and through our lifestyle of faith and obedience. The book is not only a call to believe God for the miraculous, but an empowering word to the current generation, inspiring a practical but miraculous application and activation of faith.

 Furtick's message is not a new revelation, but it is revealed in a trendy flair filled delivery. As a skeptic of the mega-church model and "culturized" Christianity, the 30-year old pastor of the fastest growing mega church in Charlotte, immediately draws my critical eye. The teenage lilt to his conversational prose as well as the application of hip jargon like "Page 23 Vision," "audacious faith" and "Sun Stand Still prayer" did little to impress or convince me of the sincerity and genuine depth behind his pop flavored presentation. But the fundamental passion and scriptural reverence instilled in the message did.

 Steven Furtick is not my cup of tea. I don't like Pastors who dress and talk like rock stars, and I despise sensationalism. But faith is often flamboyant. Furtick uses the word "audacious" or "audacity" so many times that he almost wears them out, and he does so because faith must fly in the face of so many inhibitions that we use to justify ourselves. In spite of what sometimes feels like a pop star presentation, I recognize the Spirit speaking through the book to encourage the current church to live a life worthy of the miraculous standard the Bible sets forth.

The majority of the book is drawn from Joshua 10: the stirring story of when God literally stopped time at the request of his servant so that Israel could win a decisive victory over its enemies. In the midst of a maelstrom of what feels, sounds, smells and tastes like an overindulgence in postmodern relevance, Furtick maintains an uncompromisingly biblical message:

I want to go back to the source document of our faith: the Bible. See, the Bible is no mere book. It's a living document. You might say it's a living force. We call it the Word of God because in it God spoke--and still speaks. 
In a way, the living Word is what audacious faith is all about. Praying a Sun Stand Still prayer might take you to all sorts of new places, but it will never take you one step away from the Word of God. (p.108-109)

The Word of God is central to Furtick's exhortation for applied faith and in the midst of numerous testimonies of God's miraculous power demonstrated in normal Christian lives, Furtick maintains a scriptural balance. There are points within the book that will cause controversy, but the controversy will be over interpretation of scripture because Furtick is careful to back his claims with both biblical examples and biblical doctrine. Some may argue that the message is narcissistic and self-serving, but the book constantly creates a context of glorifying God rather than pleasing ourselves, which is the end of the miraculous.

If this sounds like a mixed review, it only does so because Furtick's tone and tenor are at times grating because of its connection with modern pop culture. It seems suspicious because it's so hip, so trendy, so sensational. Yet Moody, Whitfield and many others were flamboyant trend-setters for the church in their day. Clothes and speech don't disqualify the message, and Furtick proclaims a message that inspires faith and obedience to the miraculous, transforming vision that God has for His children. It encourages us to stand in the ranks of Joshua and ask for the sun to stand still, and that can change lives.

I received a complementary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah. I was not required to post a positive review. I have posted an honest review.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Walkabout with Jeremiah: Andrew W. Blackwood's Commentary on Jeremiah

I have lived with Jeremiah for ten years, during which world history has been as turbulent as it was in his day. I have found him a demanding companion, yet incredibly compassionate and understanding of my weakness. I have shared his bitter discouragement, and I have climbed at his side to the hilltop from which he pointed to the golden turrets of the Jerusalem that--ultimately--will be. It is my prayer that this essay may enable the reader to share my friendship with Jeremaih (p.17)
With such a heartfelt and auspicious beginning, one can hardly doubt the sincerity and intensity of Andrew W. Blackwood's Commentary on the "weeping prophet;" however, his commentary on Jeremiah has fallen into some obscurity as a gap has opened between older classic scholarship and a dearth of new research and revelation. Blackwood himself has quite a legacy, though is probably not a name frequently on the minds of the current saturated Bible scholar. His commentary was on my Lead Pastor (missionary and visionary)'s shelf, and I sought to liberate it in the name of Christ and with a request of permission as a careful afterthought. Blackwood's commentary is not only the first commentary I have read cover to cover, but also the first commentary I have ever read beyond an occasional peek into Matthew Henry. The experience was involving, at times hard work and at times inspiring. As someone always at least slightly suspicious of aids that so directly affect our reading of the text, I confess I was sometimes uncomfortable as I was directly conscious of an outside source directly meddling with my understanding of the text. But Blackwood sows no seeds of doubt. His voice makes careful suggestions only becoming boldly emphatic in moments of passion and inspiration.

This particular work is laid out much more like a reference work than the recent Expositor's Bible Commentary on Jeremiah and is not as easy or invigorating a read as Brown's commentary, but Blackwood is not stuffy. His work informs and in its greatest moments, it truly inspires. The methodical progress through a book of the Bible in a commentary is a project that forces attention on every verse and constant evaluation of information. Using a commentary as a reference work seems a dramatically different experience than reading the whole commentary from cover to cover.

Reading a commentary straight-through is something like going through a full depth study with a mentor whispering in your ear. At the end of Blackwood's work I find myself feeling much like I've gained an understanding of Blackwood himself as well as Jeremiah. I get the sense of a scholar who searches for the heart of the message and the heart of the man even while constantly harried and hassled by conflicting thoughts of textual criticism and archaeology. Many times I felt that the commentary was overshadowed by concerns of textual integrity and authorship. The scholar often interfered with the poet and the prophet and Blackwood wages an obvious war with the concerns of the scholar, the concerns of the preacher and the concerns of the prophet's heart. Many times he triumphs in finding the heart of the passage in the midst of the textual concerns, and many times he finds textual criticism preeminent. In spite of this struggle, Blackwood has  moments of passionate prose that illuminate and echo the voice of the prophet.

Jeremiah was a poet, not a systematic theologian; he spoke in flashes of lightning, not the dusty rhetoric of the schools. In this oracle he gives tests of true prophecy, though not in the analytical detail we prosaic Westerners desire. Prophecy is universal. It penetrates. It exalts God's name. It is nourishing. It is productive. It burns (Jeremiah 20:9). It breaks up what should be broken up. It is profitable. Underlying each thought is the essential: It is the word of God, not the word of man. (p. 177)
The commentator writes of Jeremiah 23:23-32 a passage describing God's fierce displeasure at the false prophets who steal their words from one another and fail to speak the truth of God which is a hammer and a fire. The contrast God paints between the true and the false is both inspiring and unsettling. The false prophets produce smooth messages with a professional vim and vigor alongside mystical claims. God speaks with words that burn and smash. They're full of heat, light and fury breaking down defenses to ignite the heart, disturb the conscience and renew the mind. This is the difference between the word of God and the word of Man. As Blackwood says, there's is no empirical litmus test, but the witness of the Spirit and the recognition of the truth.

Much of the Old Testament is difficult for our culture and context to grasp. Scholarship is an invaluable tool that God has given in great measure to our generation and to our western culture. God has allowed us the freedom to study and learn vast amounts of knowledge that help illuminate the wisdom of God. Our generation, in its fullness and apathy, has been given the privilege of providing a Biblical education for the world through publishing and the internet. As one statistic was summarized by K.P. Yohannan, head of Gospel for Asia, "You get more Bible teaching in six months than a persecuted Christian in China gets in ten years" (paraphrase). We should make the most of the opportunity we have been given, turn off the T.V. and dig into a book. Give yourself a Bible education. Learn from Jesus. Learn from the Holy Spirit. Learn from the men He taught through the ages. Commentaries are not always easy to read. They are not always outright inspiring. But they can bring understanding to passages of scripture that may lay dormant in your passive reading without an external resource and revelation.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Cambridge NLT Pitt Minion

Cambridge has a special place in my heart because of the undeniable beauty of their wide margin editions. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've had to repent of covetousness while browsing through their website or Bible Design Blog. My hands-on experience with Cambridge Bibles has been limited to my precious ESV Wide Margin, but I had heard raves about their Pitt Minion line for a long time. But I am not a fan of tiny Bibles. I understand the need for portability, but I'm not obsessed with it. I have a pocket NT I carry with me everywhere and a couple of compacts for my car and backpack, but all of them are beater Bibles. I have never seen a portable Bible that comes anywhere close to the beauty of the NLT Pitt Minion in brown goatskin.

NLT lovers are not spoiled with high end editions. Unlike the KJV or ESV, the NLT's target audience doesn't seem as interested in goatskin or art gilding. This may be an error in the publisher's approach, but it also may be the conversational quality of the translation being valued by a younger generation whose aesthetics are still dominated by imitation leather. Whatever the reason, the resulting market may give the Cambridge Pitt Minion a place as the highest end, best bound edition of the NLT on the market. 

I'm still hoping Cambridge will produce an NLT Wide Margin, but the NLT has not had commercial success with its Notemaker's edition (I hope to get a copy for review at some point).

The brown goatskin binding maintains its reputation for suppleness and durability and the rich milk-chocolate color adds a warmth to the appearance. The cover of the Pitt Minion is neither as soft, supple or thick as my ESV Wide Margin, but in some ways that should be expected as this is a smaller, thinner Bible and the stiffer leather is still a huge step above most "genuine leather" covers. I have no doubt that the binding will soften with use until it's as supple as the the heavier wide margin. 

The 4.875 x 6.94 dimensions put the Pitt Minion on the larger end of a compact Bible. It's an in-between size that remains ultra-thin and compact but is probably not quite small enough to fit inside your suit jacket pocket.  The Pitt Minion is a compact, but not a beater Bible. Therefore it doesn't need to fit in the back of your pants pocket or in any of those other awkward places you would stuff an imitation or bonded leather beater. The Pitt Minion is designed for those who want a portable Bible but not a "stuffable" Bible.

The layout of the Pitt Minion remains something somewhat magical. The 7 point font is not huge, the double columns may not be as reader friendly as single column (depending on your preference), but somehow the layout is both pleasant and extremely readable. Every Bible layout is a compromise between readability and size and the Pitt Minion's size does not make it an obvious candidate for the most pleasant reading experience; however the combination of layout and size somehow minimizes squinting and the lightweight, thin design does not make holding it closer to your eyes awkward.

Somehow a full column of references manages to sit in the middle of the page without disturbing the layout or producing bloodshot eyes from squinting at the tiny numbers. The only major compromise which may prove unsatisfactory to some is the paper. The box boasts of the paper: "ultra-thin, smooth and opaque." While the first two attributes are indisputable and the strength of the paper is also impressive and inspires confidence in the Bible's durability, the opacity of the paper may bother some as "ghosting" is clearly noticeable, though my guess is that most readers will not be significantly disturbed.

Fifteen beautiful Cambridge maps and a map index are here ready for perusal and reference (I looked up Illyricum in the map index just a few days ago). But even more impressive is an unabbreviated concordance with well over one hundred entries, far surpassing the concordances in most compacts.

Art-gilt pages add a whole level of class to the Bible with a beautiful red under gold shimmer.

Flexibility is not an issue. A smyth sewn binding and goatskin cover ensure that this little Bible can not only lay completely flat from just about anywhere (and this will only improve with time and use), but it can also perform almost any contortionist's trick you demand.

The famous "yoga" position. Notice the ribbons which are an excellent length, long enough to grab the end and easily pull it out from the middle around the corner of the page with some room to spare.

The NLT Pitt Minion is a compact Bible designed for everyday use but has a luxury feel. It's the top end of NLT editions, and for those who value the readability and conversational quality of the NLT, this Bible could be the perfect edition. The Pitt Minion is not a study Bible or a Bible suited to highlighting or note-taking. It's an everyday reading Bible which will not only last a lifetime but will provide pleasure to the eyes as well as portability.  

Thanks to Cambridge for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. I have given an honest review.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Logo

Let me know what you think of Bible Reading Project's new logo! (Be gentle I spent a lot of time on it). The previous graphic I had was not an original creation (though the license on the graphic allowed it to be used in that manner). This is an original and hopefully will remain the standard branding. If any real graphic artists are out there, hate the design and want to do me a favor, let me know and send your designs to

Monday, November 15, 2010

Free Book: God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message by Ray Comfort

Ray Comfort, one of the foremost evangelists of our day, is offering a free book on his website. A hard copy is free (with about $2.56 shipping) or you can download the audio or the PDF online.

I have not yet read the book, but I have seen a fair portion of his work and highly recommend it, especially Hell's Best Kept Secret.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hard Reminders- Bible Reading Project Desktop Wallpaper

This generation has seen the rise of technology and the many ministry opportunities it provides. The last few years have hosted a surge of Christian expression, especially in the realm of visual arts. Preaching has moved from orality to text back to orality, from verbal illustration to classical artwork back to verbal illustration and finally to digital art and computer generated graphics. The internet gives a whole new forum and medium for artists and ministers alike and often the two collide in powerful visual cues related to eternally relevant biblical text.

A year or two ago I was playing around with a graphics program and produced a few home-made wallpapers which I hoped would impact my own walk with Jesus and help me memorize scripture (desktop wallpaper can be a remarkably effective memorization tool: see my early post on the beatitudes). These images have grown on me and though they are simple and hardly up to the standards of much of the work I so greatly enjoy from the world of Christian graphic arts, I thought they would make an apt addition to this blog's exploration of interacting with scripture. Art is a highly creative process and even the manipulation of simple text and textures can reflect the effect of truth on the heart.

Ezekiel 16:49 (KJV) declares a chilling prophetic word that cuts to the heart of a nation: and to the heart of our nation. Sodom's sin is so quickly identifiable because the very name Sodom has become part of our vocabulary for the wickedness of their practices. The entire city was consumed by a burning homosexual lust that ran so fiercely through the wickedness of their hearts that mass gang rape was a regular occurrence. The horror of even the Holy Bible's description of the event is only surpassed in scripture by the horror of Judges 19-21. This sin was so gross, so defiling, so much of an abomination in the sight of God that He reigned supernatural fire from heaven destroying the whole of the city in His righteous wrath and obliterating its existence. He allowed its memory to persist only as a reminder of His judgment.

But there's more to the story. The root of sin goes deeper. In an astounding revelation, God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel to reveal that Sodom's sin was far more insidious, far more rooted and far more domestic than the mass gang rape that so shocks us. The phrase "This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom" immediately brings thoughts of sexual immorality and yet what follows is a description that is frighteningly familiar. The primary iniquity, sin and transgression of Sodom was not really the horrific events we find so harrowing and so loathsome, but "pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness" compacted with an apathy towards the impoverished. In our American society today we would be fools to deny that we are a society enmeshed in pride in our resources, in our military prowess, in our democratic system, in our core values, in our status as a policing superpower, in our wealth and standard of living. We are bloated with pride. We are full of bread. We have no lack of food, no lack of even basic resources. The poverty line in the U.S. describes a wealthy lifestyle in many countries, and our leisure time and severe addiction to all forms of entertainment exhibits our idleness. In the midst of this we press on without individual concern for the poor or the needy. And I say these things to my own heart. I've lived with this verse in front of my eyes off and on for some time now. Its creation came out of the harrowing realization of how close my own comfortable life was to the root of gross immorality that plunged Sodom into utter destruction. I repent of the bloated fatness of my own heart.

I created this wallpaper after listening and re-listening to K.P. Yohannan's Christ's Call.

The Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grunewald in 1505-1516 retains a reputation of being the most gruesome depiction of Christ on the cross. I found the piece because it was described in shocking context by Art Katz in his message God Crucified (transcript is also available). While I often shy away from visual depictions of the Messiah, Grunewald's unattractive, torture-wracked crucifixion scene makes a statement that brings the poetry of Isaiah 53 into painful focus. God valued us this much. This is His Son who was exchanged for us. The Father considered us worth His suffering. With the cross comes the heart cry of God and the call to glorify the risen Christ- May the lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering- the cry of Moravian missions.

1 Peter 2:21 (Amplified) remains for me the defining verse for Christ's call for how we should live in this world. It is a powerful, convicting, inspiring and empowering call of discipleship that holds up a supernatural standard beyond any human ability, forcing us to step out of ourselves and into the resurrection life of Christ by faith. There can be no waffling. There are no alternatives. There are no double standards. God's measure for our life in this world is the life of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the firstborn of many brothers and we are to follow in the footsteps of His miraculous life of sacrifice and power. His ministry in all its power is the pattern for ours. Because He has given His life for ours not only in death, but also today in life. His eternal exchange of His life in place of ours allows us to step into His footsteps and reign in life through grace Romans 5:17. His suffering becomes the price for our victorious walk and the standard for our own sacrifice and sanctification 1 Peter 4:1. O Victory in Jesus!

These images are hard reminders. They may not seem encouraging; they may seem over the top. I made them for my own accountability, and I share them as an afterthought. If we comfort and justify ourselves, Christ cannot comfort and justify us. The one who loves us the most will tell us the most truth, and I would rather be confronted with harsh, jarring reality than let myself slide into forgetfulness. I see these images as God's grace: a strong warning and a majestic calling.

You can click on these images to download the full size at 1280 x 1024

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Purple Croc Gospel

Romans 10:15 is literally displayed by Acts 29 Fellowship (the mission I'm currently volunteering with). Pastor John Meyers, the founder and visionary behind the mission wore bright orange Crocs as a literal, visual display of the beauty of the gospel and the preparation of the gospel of peace: Ephesians 6:15. He soon became known around the city of Hamtramck as the man in the orange shoes. Since then, the Acts 29 family has followed his example and each has his/her own pair of brightly colored Crocs. This concept intrigued me from the start, but I was somewhat reluctant to conform because: 1. I thought Crocs were glorified shower and gardening shoes and 2. Because my bank account is low, and I already had a decent pair of shoes. As I meditated on the subject I realized how multidimensional this visual reminder of the gospel and its delivery really is. Each member of the body of Christ carries the gospel and should have these beautiful feet, but how they are beautiful and how the gospel is delivered is different for each member of the body. The variation between colors and styles reveals the diversity of the body of Christ and its presentation of the gospel as defined by different callings and leadings of the Holy Spirit.

My own recently purchased Crocs are a flagrant purple, which is a color that holds personal significance for me and my own presentation of the gospel. Purple is a color recently claimed by members of the homosexual and sexually deviant milieu, but it was originally the color of regalia. The color was produced by a very precious dye extracted from the coccus ilicis a worm with a fascinating revelation of the gospel.

The Hebrew word "towla`at" is found in Psalm 22:6 in the midst of messianic prophecy. The word refers to the color scarlet or crimson, but is translated "worm" because the coccus ilicis was known as the scarlet worm or crimson worm due to its association with dyeing.

Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22 on the cross Mark 15:34, which was the rabbinical way of citing an entire psalm. Jesus was prophesying on the cross, pointing back to messianic prophecy and revealing himself in scripture even as He underwent spiritual separation from God the Father and suffered the identity of sin and the wrath of God intended for us. In the midst of this powerful prophecy, during the most agonizing hours ever undergone, a reference to the coccus ilicis appears:

"But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Psalm 22:6

The scarlet worm undergoes a unique life cycle. The pregnant female climbs a tree and fastens herself on it, it dies after laying its eggs, staining the tree the deep crimson color of its blood. The blood flows over the eggs giving them a protective covering them as they grow into maturity. The blood contains an anti-bacterial cleansing agent that was used in conjunction with the ashes of a red heifer in the purification rituals of Leviticus 14:4. The male of the species grows into a flying insect free from its earthly body.

Jesus identifies himself with this worm as a powerful revelation of the significance of the gospel in nature. The blood of the worm is used to dye purple clothing for kings and princes, dressing them in regal splendor. Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath, emptying it of every drop that could ever have fallen on us, endured the agony of separation from His father, he climbed the cross, was crushed for our healing (Isaiah 53:5), shed His blood to cleanse our sins, and rose again to ascend into heaven and be the firstfruit of the children of God. Through Him we are kings and priests dressed in the royal splendor His blood purchased.

What's the Grace of the Gospel- Paul Washer

Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: NET Bible First Edition

The NET translation stands out as something of a fringe translation developed in a unique way on the internet. Many cite it as one of the most under appreciated translations and even more reccomend the NET first edition with Translator's notes as the study Bible to have (see Dan Wallace). This makes it a welcome object of review. You can watch videos from the publishers as they themselves explain the volume.

The top Bible is a 1975 Moody Press NASB Followed by the NET followed by the ESV Study Bible.


The NET Bible is a backbreaker. Its dimensions (6.5 x 9.5 x 2) and weight rival the ESV study Bible. The smyth sewn binding should calm any fears of the Bible's early demise, but a Bible this big probably should be carried and handled carefully as its weight will make it easy to tear a page etc. The version up for review is premium bonded leather and seems to rival many genuine leather editions. The cover is fairly supple and the sewn binding is very flexible allowing the Bible to lay flat in most positions. The size of the book block is the greatest obstacle to flexibility which would be an issue with any edition although a good imitation leather, or premium leather such as calfskin would greatly improve flexibility. All in all the Binding is sufficient for the function of the Bible and the size will not be an issue for those who enjoy a Bible that fills the palm or being able to give the pulpit a weighty thump, but you may want to be cautious of overstraining your wrist.


The extensive and comprehensive study notes make the layout something of an issue: a comfortable reading layout would mean a greater size and tradeoffs must be made. Keep in mind this is a study Bible of study Bibles, its a beast of translation information not an easy reading experience. All in all, the NET is not nearly as readable as the ESV study Bible. It's double column format makes the notes a little easier to track, but this is something of a cluttered layout even without cross references. The font is about an 8/9, which is comfortably readable, but not a treat for the eyes. The lack of margins make note taking inadviseable (this Bible already has more notes than text!). The brain requires white space in order to digest information and these margins are probably just enough to satisfy, though for some they will be inadequate because in most positions the text curves into the gutter. Again function must be kept in mind, the layout is designed to put the text and the notes on the same page without creating a Bible so thick its unmanageable. While much is to be desired, much has been accomplished, and their are very specific limits to how readable you can make this much text in one volume.


The dilemma of ‘yet another translation’ is explained well in the NET Bible’s Introduction to the First Edition. The intent of the translation was to “capture the best of several worlds: readable and accurate and elegant all at the same time.” Other translations share this goal, and the NET Bible does a great job of capturing these goals, but what makes the NET Bible unique is that it can be printed (up to 1,000 copies), distributed for free or downloaded from the internet for free, quoted, or used as a translator’s reference without tangling with copyright issues.


60,932 is indeed a large number of translators’ notes.  Even without the inclusion of cross references, a topical study section, chapter introductions, the First Edition of the NET bible rivals even the most gigantic study bibles. On an average page, the notes occupy about half the space.

So how useful are all these notes? A reader will use the notes as often as they find themselves asking the following questions:
·         What is the reason for the differences I find in various translations? (The notes help explain translation issues and difficulties.)
·         How else could I read this text without changing its intended meaning? (e.g. for the purpose of adapting the text for poetic reasons, or translating into another language)
·         Does this verse have dual or alternative meanings that aren’t communicated in the translation as it is read?
·         How was the phrasing of this verse determined?
 People whom I expect would be asking these questions:
·         Scholars and teachers who are interested in the original languages nuances
·         Bible translators
·         Individuals who come from a background that would question the reader’s ability to interpret scripture
·         Poets and musicians

 “You get what you pay for” is the cynical answer to the free translation’s question of quality. But the NET Bible does indeed achieve its goals of readability, accuracy and even elegance. The translators’ word choice makes the NET Bible go down smooth, while the translators’ explanation of how the phrasing was arrived at, the inclusion of alternative readings, and the inclusion of key words in the original language establish the NET as a high quality, unbiased, and accurate translation that even integrates subtle word play that is often missed in English translations.
Readers who may not be interested in questions of translation will find the First Edition of the NET Bible painfully verbose. These readers can carry a significantly smaller reader’s version of this Bible and still have confidence in the translation and appreciate the translators’ notes by accessing them on the internet. The transparency of how the reading of the text was determined instills a great deal of confidence in the integrity of the translation and in the content of the notes themselves.


 Word Play

John 21:18 is a good example of the NET Bible’s integration of word play that occurs in the original text but is often lost when translated to English.Eph 5:18-32
5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which1 is debauchery,2 but be filled by the Spirit,3 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music1 in2 your hearts to the Lord, 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for each other1 in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.1 5:22 1 Wives, submit2 to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head

I tell you the solemn truth, 1  when you were young, you tied your clothes around you 2  and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up 3  and bring you where you do not want to go.”
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go."
The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go."
I'm telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you'll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don't want to go."
Truly I say to you, When you were young, you made yourself ready and went wherever you had a desire to go: but when you are old, you will put out your hands and another will make you ready, and you will be taken where you have no desire to go.
Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."
"Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."

Word Choice &External References

The NET Bible provides some excellent reading for further study on difficult topics.  Genesis 3:16 is a good example of how phrasing of the text was arrived at and offers further discussion.
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase  your labor pains;  with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband,  but he will dominate  you.” - Genesis 3:16
tn Heb “and toward your husband [will be] your desire.” The nominal sentence does not have a verb; a future verb must be supplied, because the focus of the oracle is on the future struggle. The precise meaning of the noun תְּשׁוּקָה (tÿshuqah, “desire”) is debated. Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET). However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply. And third, it ignores the usage of the word in Gen 4:7 where it refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.) In Gen 3:16 the Lord announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle. See further Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” WTJ 37 (1975): 376-83.
tn The Hebrew verb מָשַׁל (mashal) means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the Lord simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious.
sn This passage is a judgment oracle. It announces that conflict between man and woman will become the norm in human society. It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it. Sin produces a conflict or power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman call a truce and live harmoniously (Eph 5:18-32).


Boldly delighting the nerd within each would-be Bible scholar, the NET provides maps made of Satellite imagery. This is just cool. Is it necessary? No. Will it bring depth to Biblical study? Not in most cases. Does it bring us into the world of the Bible? Probably not in a significant way. But it sure is fun to look at. The handsome Cambridge maps may give a classy look to an underused tool, but these maps will keep you flipping back to them just to remind yourself of what a nifty Bible you have.

Seriously speaking, they do spark the imagination and give you an accurate topographical and visual idea of the wilderness John the Baptist lived in or the place Jesus was tempted or even the obstacles included on Abraham's journey. The maps in the back of your Bible can be easy to forget and the beauty of these satellite images should inspire us to actually use the maps in the back and gain a geographical knowledge of the journey of the revelation of the Messiah.


The NET First Edition is a bold move and probably under-recognized in the world of Bible Study and translation. It will be a gold mine for Bible Scholars and those Bible students who have a passion for translation or interested in Greek and Hebrew. The average reader may find the notes a little too extensive and technical, but will still enjoy the translation itself which is very readable. This Bible is a massive success, but probably appeals to something of a niche audience, that said, it has many supporters as the "go to" study Bible, and for interpretation, translation and language discussions it almost certainly is.

-This post was co-authored by my brother in missions Andrew Layer

A review copy was provided by I was not obligated to give a positive review. I have given an honest, unbiased review.

And the Winner of the Fall/Winter Giveaway 2010 is...

Last night I entered all the names into the hat (a Country Gentleman Wool Fedora: Bogey), said a prayer that the I would draw the person who would most use and appreciate the prize (Proverbs 16:33)  and drew the winner.


Vinnie from PA. Congratulations Vinnie! I will be contacting you posthaste. Vinnie was one of only two readers who managed to complete all three entry options and get their name in the hat three times. You can see Vinnies NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible on the Bible Fan Gallery link to the upper left. Thanks to all who participated, please continue to submit pictures for the Bible fan gallery and keep an eye out for more giveaways to come!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Developing a Translation Preference: This Lamp

Rick Mansfield over at This Lamp has written a beautiful post about his translation preferences for public use (HCSB and NLT) and how they developed. Choosing a translation remains one of the most frequent questions I get from readers and used to spark furious debate (now I have more knowledge and less spunk). I don't share Rick's preferences but I find his explanation of them extremely valuable. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Psalm 109, Prayer and Matthew Henry

Psalm 109:4

4In return for my love they accuse me,
   but I give myself to prayer.

But I give myself unto prayer (v. 4), I prayer (so it is in the original); "I am for prayer, I am a man of prayer, I love prayer, and prize prayer, and practise prayer, and make a business of prayer, and am in my element when I am at prayer.’’ A good man is made up of prayer, gives himself to prayer, as the apostles, Acts 6:4. When David’s enemies falsely accused him, and misrepresented him, he applied to God and by prayer committed his cause to him. Though they were his adversaries for his love, yet he continued to pray for them; if others are abusive and injurious to us, yet let not us fail to do our duty to them, nor sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for them, 1 Sa. 12:23. Though they hated and persecuted him for his religion, yet he kept close to it; they laughed at him for his devotion, but they could not laugh him out of it. "Let them say what they will, I give myself unto prayer.’’ Now herein David was a type of Christ, who was compassed about with words of hatred and lying words, whose enemies not only persecuted him without cause, but for his love and his good works (Jn. 10:32); and yet he gave himself to prayer, to pray for them. Father, forgive them.

From Matthew Henry's Commentary (

Originally cited in A Call to Prayer

Monday, November 1, 2010

NIV Update Online Today

The New International Version has an update coming out in 2011, but the text has been officially released on and You can read the press release below and start saving to buy a  hard copy later in the year. From what I've read and what's been said the NIV 2011 is 95% NIV 1984, 2-3% TNIV, and 2-3% new translation.

Check out an interview with the Chair of the Committee for Bible Translation.

Check out the press release and the Translator's Notes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Poll: Double Column or Single Column Layout

Double Column Bibles dominate the market and have tradition on their side, but the Single Column layout is on the rise and has a devoted following. Which do you prefer and why? Comment on this post to give me your opinions, rants, discussions, theses etc., and vote on the poll on the left, which will be up for about a month.

Poll Results: How Often Do You Use a Concordance?

This poll did not receive a great turnout. As you can see A Few Times a Year and Almost Everyday tied at 23% of the vote (6 votes each) with Not Enough to Remember close behind. It seems that about a quarter of the readership uses a Concordance very frequently, while 42% infrequently. There was of course the notable outlier of the reader who was using one at the time of their vote. Hopefully the next poll will receive a better turnout.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall/Winter Giveaway! ESV Single Column Reference is holding its first ever giveaway!

Crossway recently announced that it will be ending production of its ESV Single Column Reference Bible, a favorite among Bible layout aficionados and Bible Design Blog readers. You can read an excellent review by Matthew Blair and see pictures of this edition here.

# 10-point type
# 14,500-entry concordance
# Words of Christ in black
# Size: 6.5″ x 9.25″
# 1,812 pages
# Verse-by-verse rather than in paragraphs—every verse begins a new line
# Wide 1 1/8″ margins for notetaking
# Over 80,000 cross-references in the inside page margins
# Single column

Get a brand new copy of this soon to be out of print edition (TruTone) for absolutely free, shipping included (within the U.S.), by completing one or all of the steps below. The contest will end at midnight November 6th and the winner will be announced on November 8th. I will draw the winner's name from a hat. You have the opportunity to enter your name into the hat three times by completing each of the three steps!


This is the quick, easy, no-strings-attached entry. Just subscribe/follow the blog and comment below for one entry into the drawing.


Bible Reading Project is in the process of creating a gallery of photos featuring pictures of people's favorite personal Bibles. All you need to do is send a photo of your Bible with your name and your general location to (you may also want to include the title of the specific edition you are using). I will post the picture in the gallery with your first name and your location. Be creative in your photography. Highlight what makes your Bible distinctive. Capture any marginalia or wear. Take a picture of your Bible in an interesting environment. But please send only ONE picture. The gallery will have a link under the Introductions and Features box at the top left of the site. This is worth one entry in the drawing.


If you have a blog, write a blog post linking to this post and write a comment below with the link or email the link to (you never know, I may add your blog to my blogroll). This is worth one entry into the drawing, you may combine this entry with step one (which is just a comment) for two entries.