Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bible Reading Project Anniversary Giveaway



With April comes the end of Bible Reading Project's first year. I have been greatly blessed by the success of the blog. What started spontaneously in a flurry of zeal and renewing passion for the Word of God has continued and progressed, maturing into an ongoing pursuit of God and heart knowledge of His word. The year has seen me graduate from college and go on to work as an Urban Missionary, evangelizing in the U.S.'s worst city and teaching and evangelizing Muslims and city youth with the Bible multiple times a week. I have never been more excited by the Gospel or by the power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. He still lights my heart aflame when I read the Word. My zeal has increased. My service has increased. My suffering has increased. I've never had such a season of hunger for God. I've never had so many needs pulling me away from time alone with Him and His Word. In these days the blog is a blessing and a challenge, as I find it constantly inspiring me and keeping me accountable to finding new ways to interact with scripture, while also distracting me from times when I should forsake the world to be with Jesus. All things in moderation. I hope that the blog has been a blessing to you. On the eve of the blog's first birthday I still find my first post and first project perhaps the best of Bible Reading Project. They encourage me that the Lord will always work to relight and rekindle the furious burning zeal of love within my heart for Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Messiah and the lover of my soul and for His Word, spoken by the Father and breathed and illumined by the Holy Spirit.


In celebration of Bible Reading Project's Birthday and the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, I am giving away one copy of the KJV Take Note Bible (see my review here). Please follow the instructions in filling out the form below. For each checkbox a specified number of entries will go into the giveaway with a maximum of 10 entries possible if you avail yourself of all the opportunities. The final opportunity involves submitting a picture of your favorite Bible to Biblereadingproject@gmail.com along with your first name and the name of the edition in the picture for the Bible Fan Gallery page. (Please respect my email address; I receive numerous emails requesting free Bibles, which I do not have the resources to give. I am a self-supporting urban missionary and this blog is part of my support. The giveaways are fun promotions; I can't give hundreds away.) If you post a link to the contest on your blog (3 entries) please comment on this post with the link. The giveaway will end on Friday April 8th at 8:00pm. Be honest, be zealous for the Word, and if you have been blessed by this blog, share it with others.

CONTEST CLOSED

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moleskine Notebook Bible


Interleaved Bibles are a note taker's dream Bible; R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody both heavily recommend interleaved Bibles and Jonathan Edwards made his own. Unfortunately, only a few interleaved editions exist for purchase and those are exclusively in the KJV.  In response to this profound lack within the Bible publishing industry (yes, I do want to provoke them), many intrepid individuals have taken up the task of creating their own interleaved Bibles using a number of methods. Some include an in-depth do-it-yourself method featuring custom made clamps and a radio arm saw, others rely heavily on the expertise of the staff at Staples. Almost all of these methods include a certain amount of ingenuity, perseverance and financial resources. (For some Blank Bible project posts check out Miscellanies Blank Bible Index, Crossway's roundup and Julian'sAbroad).

Though I was greatly inspired by these projects, I never found enough resources or initiative to mount such a project myself, and so I was left vainly wishing for publishers to realize the demand for interleaved Bibles or for the time, energy and cash available to create my own project.


In the last few months, I was confronted with an issue that challenged my values both as a Bible lover and as a penny-pincher. The issue was what to do with several destroyed paperback Bibles which had been left at the mercy of urban youth. Acts 29 Fellowship has the highest respect for the Bible. Unfortunately, children raised in relative poverty and an urban setting do not always regard books, and these paperback economy NIV's were not up to the rough use to which they were subjected. The Bibles were missing parts of Revelation and the epistles, and didn't seem practically usable, but I hated the idea of throwing them away. I prayed briefly about what I could use them for and then forgot about them. Later, I realized their tremendous potential. The fact that these were all the same edition with the same pagination, made them useful for the creation of a unique blank Bible project.


This project includes the use of a plain Large Piccadilly Notebook (a moleskine competitor, a moleskine will work just as well or better), at least two abused or unused Bibles of the same edition and glue sticks (I had the knife for backup but I ended up not using it).

By tearing out two identical pages of the Bibles and pasting them to alternating pages of the notebook, I made a notebook Bible which gives me a page of the Bible surrounded by wide margins on one side of the notebook and a full blank page on the other.


The results may not be the prettiest interleaved Bible, but it's highly useful and contains all four gospels and the book of Acts.


The first part is probably the most difficult to break through mentally. I had a stack of four chewed up Bibles. The glued bindings were failing, the front and back covers were missing and as you can see from the pictures, key portions of text had been removed from the later books of the New Testament. In order to make a notebook Bible without any cutting or interleaving of the spine, you need two identical pages, so you can glue the first page of Matthew with Chapters 1:1-2:8 on one page of the notebook and then flip over an identical page and glue the side with 2:9-4:7 facing up on the next page. This requires tearing pages out of the Bible.


For this project I'm going to use a single 240 page notebook (I may expand the project later), so there's enough space for several books of the Bible, but not the whole New Testament and certainly not the whole Bible (which I don't have at this point anyway because of the ripped out pages). I chose to include the four Gospels and the book of Acts. In order to make removing the pages easier, I first removed the New Testament portion from the rest of the book block. The glued binding tore very easily and cleanly.


I now have two identical New Testaments (well most of them anyway). I removed individual pages from these blocks.


The benefit of economy glued bindings is that they come apart easily with little risk of tearing the page (this is a benefit for the project, but not a benefit for the actual use of the edition; however, these editions are probably over a decade old).


I now have two identical pages. The fronts both have Matthew 1:1-2:8 and the backs both have Matthew 2:9-4:7. 


The glue will be applied to the back side of both pages and laid into the notebook on alternating pages.


Be careful what glue sticks you use. I was using a dried up glue stick which came out clumpy. I switched to fresh glue sticks, which work much better, but I ended up using about four. I now have  a wide margin page for margin notes and a full page for extensive writing and note-taking.


I took the duplicate page and flipped it over, revealing the next few chapters, leaving a full page in between the two. 


After trying out a few pages, I augmented the layout so that the pages were glued farther away from the spine, and so that the blank page was on the right, making it easier to write on, since I'm right handed. The accumulation of extra inserts close to the spine increases the stress and pressure on the binding and will probably cause it to break eventually. I will probably reinforce the binding with gaffer's tape or cut the binding and re-hinge it.


As you can see the text block is significantly thicker than the notebook was originally intended to be. A spiral bound notebook would probably work better, but I appreciate unruled pages, the ribbon marker, and the extra pocket supplied in the back. 






The final product is a fully functional interleaved Bible, with wide margins surrounding the 1984 NIV text paired with an opposing 7.5in x 10in blank page. I'm looking forward to using this edition for years to come, filling it up with notes on the Gospels and the book of Acts.



The creation of the Notebook Bible or Moleskine Gospels took only a few hours and actually no money because I had everything I needed lying around. It also saved some remnant Bibles from the dumpster. I am glad the Lord showed me how to make the most of the resources around me to create an interleaved Bible, hopefully I'll get the chance to create and use more. The real motivation behind these projects is a desire for a deeper study of the Word, and though the project took some time and ingenuity, many more hours will be spent filling the pages up with notes. I have a specific method and project in mind for this notebook, but that will take another post, and some more prayerful consideration.

  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: The Matthew Henry Study Bible


Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible has been a blessing to the body of Christ for over 300 years and remains one of the best loved and well-respected commentaries on the market. It has not only stood the test of time but earned a place in almost every church library and features endorsements from Charles Spurgeon, "Every minister ought to read it entirely and carefully through at least once," and many others. In addition to its timelessness, it may be the most popularly enduring work of puritan literature and theology and preserves the exegetical genius of a spiritually militant man whose life produced a work that proves both passionate and practical.

Hendrickson celebrates the anniversary of the King James Version with a beautifully designed and well executed second edition of the Matthew Henry Study Bible. While a number of study Bibles have emerged from the works of a single man, few garner the respect that Matthew Henry's name does in longevity, foundational originality or spiritual spark. In the vast overflow of the information age, it is possible that Henry's work would fall under the shadow of new scholarship; however, Hendrickson has chosen the perfect time to come out with a new vessel for this classic work. The King James Version's birthday has created a fresh interest in the life and history of the English Bible and coincides with a revival of interest in puritan literature and theology. The Matthew Henry Study Bible stands out as the only distinctly puritan study Bible on the market. Spurgeon acclaimed Henry's commentary as "a Christian's companion, suitable to everybody, instructive to all." By condensing Henry's work and joining it with the King James text, Hendrickson has created a truly companionable edition of Henry's classic commentary.


BINDING

The Bible is available in hardback and flexisoft leather and Hendrickson makes use of greatly improved faux leather material to create a suitably handsome binding. The imitation leather is soft and highly flexible with a subtle grain and a high gloss finish. It remains as flexible as any of the other imitation leather editions I have handled, and while the texture may seem somewhat more rubbery, the smoothness seems appropriate for the glossiness of the cover.


The dimensions are actually equal to the ESV Study Bible (10.1 x 7.5) with the exception of the spine which is noticeably smaller at 2.1 inches. Though the size is nearly identical, the Matthew Henry Study Bible seems smaller and is quite lighter in the hand. The width of the spine makes a big difference, but the similarity to the ESV Study Bible will come back again when approaching the layout of the text.


The paper used in this edition is strong and fairly opaque, though with most study Bibles a certain amount of ghosting is present. This paper seems to be a little more prone to wrinkles and dog ears and seems to be lightweight though not necessarily thin. 



 The sewn binding is highly flexible allowing it to twist and conform to a number of shapes, including being folded in half. This flexibility is impressive and illustrates the integrity and suppleness of the binding and the flexisoft; however it won't guarantee what these contortions will produce over time if repeated. This Bible can lie flat from Genesis One. You can also see from these pictures that the cover curves away from the spine significantly rather than curving with the spine, which means that the binding and text block is unsupported by the strength of the cover like a Cambridge or high quality leather version. That said, this is a sewn binding and should last well under normal use.


LAYOUT

The layout of the Matthew Henry Study Bible is nothing short of phenomenal. It's clear that there were some cues taken from the ESV Study Bible or at least a quick study of the field and some much needed improvements were made to the standard study Bible format. The text itself is double column, which may not be ideal, but is traditional and probably more appealing to KJV fans. The font is about and 8/9 pt serif font which is narrow, but highly readable. A sizable portion of line spacing is allowed and this adds to the text's readability and flow. The study notes are presented in a smaller 6/7 pt sans serif font, which helps make them distinct and readable, while still allowing the main text to hold the most attention. One of the most important layout choices was the inner column of cross references, which does not break up or distract from the text. The side column reference format allows optimal reability and access to the references and I hope more publishers adopt this layout. In addition, the side column allows a large portion of space for the inside gutter so the text does not curl into the gutter at all, which is a vast improvement in readability over many versions which feature large portions of text curling out of sight into the interior of the gutter. While I could nitpick some small details (the large bold in text superscripts which distract from the text), this layout is a great success, it offers a suitable number of compromises to present a pleasantly readable text, which offers equal readability and access to the main text, the study notes and the cross references.


The addition of gray shading to the text block may present unnecessary ghosting, but it also helps divide the text and highlight portions of the notes and references. Multiple shades in printing is becoming something of a new innovation in Bible design and while it can be overused this is overall a fair and muted use of shading.
Click here for a PDF of the layout.






STUDY NOTES


The study notes' source text is a holistic commentary and the comprehensive and exhaustive nature of the notes reflect the completeness of their source. Henry accomplished a massive feat in detailing interpretation and information on the entire scriptures in poetic and poignant prose. The puritan sensibility of the text is in no way lost and the strong emphasis on personal holiness is present as are numerous notes featuring encouragement and exhortation. The notes have been editing occasionally for conciseness and diction but the editor emphasizes the desire to remain as close as possible to Henry's original work. This edition also features brief book introductions which occasionally use Henry's words, but often seem to be brief introductory information from the editor; Henry himself did not include book introductions in his commentary and his notes do not always provide suitable content for an overview of a whole book.

Jude 22-23

22 of some have compassion: We ought to do all we can to rescure others out of the snare of the devil that they may be saved from, or recovered, when entangled in dangerous errors or pernicious practices. We are not only our own keepers, but every man ought to be his brother's keeper. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other and set a good example to all about us. This must be done with compassion, making a difference. We must distinguish between the weak and the willful. We must treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be harsh or severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them. If God has forgiven them, why should not we?
23 others save with fear: Urging upon them the terrors of the Lord. "Endeavor to frighten them out of their sins, preach hell and damnation to them." Or, "Fear, lest you frustrate your own good intentions." We are often apt to overdo, when we are sure to mean honestly, and think we are right. Yet the very worst [sinners] are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be further hardened through our default. garment spotted by the flesh: That is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin, 1 Thess. 5:22.
Henry's strong literary style remains present in the text in prompting, urging tones, exhorting the reader to obedience as well as understanding of the scriptures. His words and thoughts may seem outdated to  some, but in many ways this edition is continued proof of his relevancy. His explanation of verse twenty three violates many modern sensibilities, but illuminates a meaning in the text that was an important lesson for the reformers, the puritans and the revivalists of the past three centuries.


FEATURES

The Matthew Henry Study Bible does not contain a wealth of extra features or added helps. The main content of the edition are the text, the notes and the cross references. This edition features a thumb index, which is well arranged and divided. I personally dislike thumb indexes but this one is a fine representative of the feature, providing enough categories to make it properly useful. The Bible also includes a 113 page concordance and eight well designed maps.



The puritan concern for holiness and eternal judgment emerges from Henry's exhortations and finds new relevancy in the modern movement among reformed youth and members of other theological backgrounds who are rebelling against the "easy believism" gospel of modern popularity. Generations rebel against each other and the true church passes from refining fire to refining fire as God purges dross from each generation. In this vital process, great works fall into obscurity and return again at the beckoning of the Spirit and the hunger of the generation. Matthew Henry's work has been a mainstay through the refining of the church over centuries and they continue to inspire generations of radical disciples. The pairing of his notes with the full text of the scripture in a manageable and portable format is a blessing to the body of Christ and is fully useful as both an everyday Bible and as a reference work. I would whole heartily recommend this edition to all but those who would prefer to read in an electronic format where Henry's commentary is presented for free. For those intent on reading and studying Henry's work, this is Bible which provides optimal access to Henry's commentary without separating it from the Word it was meant to expound upon and exalt.


My thanks to Hendrickson for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.

   

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fruits of Study: People Need the Power of God

It is not my intention to use this blog as a pulpit or a place to express what I am learning beyond those things which add to the purpose of the blog and my original vision (see also A Little More About Bible Reading Project). That said, I would like to share the fruit of my study occasionally and give some insight on where some of these projects have taken me. I hope my desire to humbly allow God to use the blog as His vessel will overcome any selfish desire to make the blog a platform for my own thoughts. To God be the glory.

PEOPLE NEED THE POWER OF GOD. Our skills and abilities, our gifts, our experience, our techniques, our methods, our wisdom and our talents are worthless without the Holy Spirit. People need the power of God. We cannot meet their needs without that power. It is the Holy Spirit that comes in power and changes the believer and brings them from death to life. Salvation is of the Lord and His power; by God’s grace we have a part to play. It is His pleasure to use us. He has given us a ministry of delivering the Word, a privilege that even the angels desire. But if we are ministering in our strength we will effect no change. People do not need our human wisdom. They need the power of God’s wisdom. The world does not need our skills; they need the power of God. People don’t need our word; they need the power of God’s word. The world does not need us and our strength; they need the power of God. We are helpless without the Holy Spirit.

Romans 1:16 
 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The foremost weapon of our warfare is the gospel. The gospel is the power of God. It is the power of salvation and our timidity, our fear, our cowardice can keep us from that power, but it is God’s design and our responsibility to not be ashamed but preach the gospel and to wage a good warfare in Jesus Christ. We have not been given a Spirit of fear, but of power. . . love and a sound mind. Spiritual warfare begins with the gospel, fulfilling the great commission puts us in a place to receive and wield the weapons of our warfare which are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, the casting down of arguments, and every vain thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

1 Corinthians 2:4 
4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
Paul did not preach the gospel out of his own wisdom or eloquence but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom and eloquence are not wrong, but they are vain and empty without the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit using our gifts through us or are we trying to use the Holy Spirit through them? God is the giver of gifts and He gives them for His own use, to be used in His own power.


1 Thessalonians 1:5 
5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

The gospel holds power within itself, this power is given and added to by the ministry of the Holy Spirit which convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. We have no power to convict anyone. Any persuasion that we accomplish will surely fall away and die, proving false. If we persuade any one to come to Jesus, they will surely fall away. If the Holy Spirit persuades someone to come to Jesus they will endure, convicted and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-empowered proclamation was confirmed by a Spirit-empowered life of holiness. The Holy Spirit is very holy. His power will be evidenced not just by the fruit of outward displays of power, but by an outward display of power to walk a holy life.

1 Corinthians 9:16 
16For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

We are compelled to preach the gospel. It is our deep responsibility. It is our commitment. In 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was a pastor, but Paul instructed him to do the work of an evangelist. Not all are called to be evangelists, but all are called to do the work of an evangelist. Not all will receive the reward or the gifts or the fruit of an evangelist, but all are still called to do the work of an evangelist and proclaim the gospel.

Zechariah 4:6 
6Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

There is no might or power or ability that we possess in ourselves. Power to accomplish what God desires only comes by the Holy Spirit. Let us press on and hunger and yearn for Him and His power to be made manifest in our lives and our ministries.


Matthew 10:7-8 
7And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to evangelize before His death and though this was to the twelve specifically, it is also a command to the body of Christ. The first command is to “go” to enter an area of ministry, be it geographical or spiritual, far or near we must relocate ourselves in some way to minister. We must go where the Spirit leads. We cannot stay still, a static believer is a stagnant believer. The second command is to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand: that it is right now! This is the vital, immediacy of the gospel message which we are called to preach. The commands that follow in verse eight reveal an increase in the manifestation of God’s power: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. As we obey the call of Christ to follow in His footsteps and go into the world with the gospel, His power will be made manifest and He will destroy the works of the devil in demonstrations of power. People often comment that overseas in places where missionaries minister its more usual for people to get healed or for miracles to happen, but I believe that it is not the location that matters but our obedience to go and truly preach the gospel. We preach many things and encourage each other in many ways, but it is the gospel that we are primarily called to preach and that should connect to every aspect of our lives. Are we shining the light into the darkness or huddling our lamps together and shining light into one another alone? When we go and preach the gospel, God goes with us and confirms the gospel with power. Our obedience to this primary simple commission to go and proclaim brings us to a place of need and brings us to a place where God’s power will follow His word.

The question that repeatedly echoes in my heart is how to receive that power in ministry: how to preach the gospel with our whole lives and see God move in a way that changes people forever. We’ve seen God move in awesome ways, we’ve experienced the continual ministry of the Holy Spirit, but so often we see that the work is not finished. We preach the gospel in power, but we wait to see the salvation of our city and that will take a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that goes beyond what we have experienced so far. We have a promise. We have a hope. And we know that we will see the hopeful yearning of our heart fulfilled.

2 Timothy 1:8 
 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,

Paul encourages Timothy to share in the cost and the price of ministering the Gospel. There is a cost to ministering the gospel in an area of spiritual darkness. We face a continuous onslaught from the enemy and our staff has suffered for being here. They have paid the price. Some have paid it for years and years, enduring and suffering long to fulfill the calling of God and see the fulfillment of God’s promise to us and to our city. In this long endurance there is victory and a growing empowerment in the Spirit of God.
You cannot earn the power of God. It is given by grace. The Holy Spirit was a gift, which Jesus sent when He prayed to the father to send it. It is not up to us to achieve some feat of prayer or unity in order for the Father to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus has already prayed and united us in the Spirit and by His word the Spirit comes. Our task is to seek heaven in faith.
When I was a new-born believer, I was given the opportunity to speak at the half-time of an NFL game at our campus ministry. I remember I fasted for 48 hours and literally spent two hours lying in a puddle of mud in prayer, because I thought that if I really humbled myself and really sought God. He would grant me power in what I said. When I finally spoke, I stopped after six minutes because I knew that the power of God was not with me. I had tried to earn it. My faith was not in the grace of God and His compassion, but in my own efforts to achieve some worthiness of God’s anointing. We do not have to earn the power of God. We just have to obey and seek the face of our Father. If we seek the power of God alone, we will receive little. If we seek the face of God, we will receive fellowship with Him and out of that relationship will come a power to minister in the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 4
 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into a time of suffering in the wilderness. Before His ministry began, He was tempted and tried in a time of fasting and an intense period of death to the flesh. Out of this breaking loneliness and trial Jesus came from the desert and began to preach “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” the beginning of the gospel message. Through a time of suffering a trial came an empowerment by the Holy Spirit to preach the power of God in the gospel.

Luke 9:16 
16And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.

At the feeding of the five thousand Jesus first broke the bread. As He broke it and passed it out, it was multiplied by the power of God and met the needs of five thousand people, and even overflowed into twelve baskets. But it was broken first. If we allow God to break us, our small offering will be multiplied by the Holy Spirit and we will be used far beyond our natural capabilities, so much so that as we are broken and poured out, that flow will over flow beyond the needs presented. Jesus always does more than we ask or think.

Mark 14:3 
 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

In the same way, the prostitute came and broke her most valuable costly possession at the feet of Jesus. This was her life. It was the representation of her income, and in an act of worship she took it and broke it before Christ. When she broke it the priceless oil poured out and presented a sweet fragrance to Jesus. When we come and are broken at the feet of Christ the Spirit is released in worship to God. Jesus said that this act of worship would go everywhere the gospel went, and it has taught believers and unbelievers for two millennia about true worship of God. Jesus took a simple but costly sacrifice and multiplied it to teach nations.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 
6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We possess the glory of God, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, jars of clay. We carry the glory and the knowledge of Jesus Christ within our hearts, but it is contained in our fleshly bodies and human frailty. It is when this vessel is broken that the “surpassing power” pours out. It is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit. When we are humbled and submitted and our foolish pride and fleshly identity is broken before God the power and knowledge of Christ and His glory flows from our lives. The verses reveal that He does this to reveal that the origin is from Him and not our own lives. Pride would claim the power and glory for ourselves and so it must be broken before the power can be released from within our hearts where Christ sits on the throne.

Judges 7:16-20 
16And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17And he said to them, "Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, 'For the LORD and for Gideon.'"
Gideon Defeats Midian
 19So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!"

When Gideon defeated Midian the Lord drastically cut down his army, deprived them of weapons and ordered them to surprise the enemy in this weak condition. They all held torches contained in jars. When these jars were broken, the fire was released. In our lives the jar of clay must be broken for the fire to be released. I was provoked when a dear friend and mentor said, “. . .I know you’re not a very enthusiastic person. . .” I felt a rebuke from the Lord. In high school I learned to contain every emotion and shut off all displays of any hurt or any feeling otherwise as a defense mechanism, and to this day I’m not always demonstrative. But that defense mechanism is of the flesh. Self-consciousness is of self, not God, and that must be broken to release the powerful fire of God.

Daniel 7:9-10 (New American Standard Bible)
    9"I kept looking
         Until thrones were set up,
         And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
         His vesture was like white snow
         And the hair of His head like pure wool
         His throne was ablaze with flames,
         Its wheels were a burning fire.
    
10"A river of fire was flowing
         And coming out from before Him;
         Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
         And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
         The court sat,
         And the books were opened.

Daniel had a vision of the King of glory and out of his throne came a river of fire. A river of the Holy Spirit, a river of God’s power.

Luke 3:16 
16 John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Jesus’s ministry remains the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. John baptized in the Jordan river; Jesus baptizes in the river of fire. Even now Jesus stands in that river of fire before the throne of God and immerses believers. It’s an awesome image. That Jesus would stand with us in the spirit with the river of Holy Spirit fire flowing around us and in His power, He immerses us, burning away the dross and surrounding us with the power of God. Fire burns, it seems like we may be singed. Things in our lives are burnt away, but we are empowered and set on fire by the Holy Ghost.

Malachi 3
 1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

The Lord promises to come and come in power, but when He comes, He comes to refine. He comes in fire to burn away the dross: the flesh and the self. He is like a refiner’s fire. The thing about refining gold, is that when gold is placed in the refiner’s fire and the dross is scooped out, none of the gold is lost. It comes out the same weight, the same value as it was before. Nothing is lost. But it comes out pure, and the refiner can see His reflection in the gold. When we enter the fire of God, the dross of our lives is stripped away, but we remain whole. Much of our self-life and soulishness may be burned away, but that which God has created in us, that which God values is not reduced, it is set apart and purified. We lose nothing of value, and we come out pure.

Acts 2
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
________________
36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Just as Malachi promised the Lord arrived in fire, a tongue of fire sat on every believer’s head and that tongue of fire connected with their fleshly tongues to empower them to speak in other languages. And what did they speak? The glorious gospel: the power of God. When God the Holy Spirit comes he comes in a fire that will miraculously empower us to preach the gospel in a way we never could have before.
Peter, who a few months previously had denied Christ in cowardice because of the question of a little servant girl, is suddenly emboldened to preach the gospel and confess Christ before 3000 people. The climax of his message is verse 36, where he points his finger at a huge congregation and accuses them of crucifying the king of glory: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Before he was afraid to confess that he even knew Christ to a single servant girl, now he confesses not only that he knew Him but that He is Lord and that He was crucified by his audience! This is the power of God. Peter’s fear is broken and he preaches the word with such a power, accompanied by such a potent ministry of the Holy Spirit that 3000 people repent and follow Christ. It wasn’t his gifts or his courage or his wisdom. It was the power of God. Peter was a man who stuck his foot in his mouth often because he said whatever was on his mind without thinking, but in this moment the Holy Spirit uses his foolishness to loosen his tongue and that tongue of fire inspires his tongue of flesh to boldly and blatantly preach the gospel, placing the weight of Christ’s death on the shoulders of the audience.
The longing and hunger of my heart is that this power would be with us, fulfilling the ministry that God desires, and while we cannot earn the Holy Spirit, I am determined in my heart to seek the face of my Father with prayer and fasting in a way I never have before in order to see the fire of God fall on our city in a power that convicts every heart and draws each person to the feet of Jesus.

Parts of this study were inspired by Leonard Ravenhill and Reinhard Bonnke.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: Deeper into the Word- New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent


Deeper into the Word is a collection of 100 quick and easy Greek word studies presented in a highly accessible format. The length and Kent's conversational style make for an easy read; however, they limit the book's potential as a reference tool. The writing definitely has a warm devotional feel and would provide a little more meat than most devotionals that populate stores today.  

Keri Wyatt Kent's first volume of word studies is a palatable mix of devotional reading and reference work. The vast gap between those two kinds of writing makes the success of her combination of information, interpretation and inspiration impressive; however, some may find that the book is limited in its depth and scope. Kent recommends using the book in three ways: first as a reference work, second as a guide for launching word studies, and third as a devotional. That said, the book is probably weakest as a reference work and strongest as a devotional. Most reference works on word studies may be a bit dry but will also be deeper in their informational content. The brevity of the studies and the anecdotal atmosphere of the writing has positives and negatives but in the realm of reference works these attributes definitely detract from a clear and pointed presentation of complex information. Kent has a way of connecting objective information, such as definitions of Greek words, to subjective experience, which may aid in application of the information which the book presents but goes beyond the objective of a textual aid, which ideally would remain within an objective realm, focusing on minimizing interpretation in order to allow the reader to apply the information themselves.

As a devotional the book is much more successful and the writing follows a fairly standard devotional format: the presentation of information on a word and some biblical texts, followed by interpretation and personal anecdotes and concluded with questions to challenge the reader to thought. Kent applies this format well and merges what could be dry information with rich experience, adding a deeper level to the work. While I am not a fan of most devotional literature, this book presents a quick and profoundly simple introduction to important Greek words and their meanings, and it does so in an easily digestible format.  I would recommend this to devotional lovers and those searching for a quick and easy word reference, which skims the basic applications and connotations of the Greek.

My thanks to Bethany House for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Now Optimized for Internet Explorer

For those of you who view the blog in Internet Explorer, life has been quite messy at Biblereadingproject.com. Up to this point, the blog has been quite hideous in IE, and this was a major problem because about one-third of my traffic uses Microsoft's long standing browser. I am pleased to announce that the blog's compatibility issues have been solved and that it is now full functional in Internet Explorer. That said, the site is designed in Google Chrome and will always look optimal in Chrome. My thanks to Sean, a brother in Christ and the work here in Hamtramck, whose programming knowledge and persistence were key in implementing a solution.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Cambridge Concord in Black Goatskin


Cambridge University Press has been publishing Bibles since 1591, twenty years before the King James Version existed. This rich publishing legacy has given them a longstanding reputation for choice quality craftsmanship. Their relationship with the King James Bible has lasted for centuries, and their current editions of the KJV reflect not only Cambridge's classic quality, but also an aged elegance. Cambridge's KJV Concord Reference Edition in black goatskin showcases Cambridge's ability to produce an edition which exudes modern elegance with traditional class.


BINDING


The Concord features traditional goatskin leather, which is not only appealing visually and tactilely (and to the sense of smell as well) but is also strong, supple and highly durable. The Concord's cover stands out as markedly different from the other goatskin editions I've handled. It's suppleness remains about average for goatskin (which is still excellent), but the Concord features a rich, complex grain which is much finer than usual. The difference in the grain is noticeable and gives an organic look and feel to the Bible.



This edition includes two ribbons, a sewn binding and beautiful red under gold art-gilt pages, which have all become standard features of the high quality Cambridge line.

The Concord measures 9 x 6.4 x 1.25 inches, which is an excellent carrying and reading size, though actually smaller than most of the Bibles I've reviewed so far (in part because I'm partial to wide margins). Many will find this an ideal size, though my personal preference is to allow thicker spine.



While this is not the most flexible binding I've handled there should be few complaints as it handles the yoga position easily. Though some Bibles may display greater flexibility, Cambridge Bibles maintain a strong spine that flexes, but doesn't fold, which is a sign of greater strength and durability. Bibles that can be easily folded in half display an impressive flexibility, but may do so at the cost of the spine's longevity.



The Concord features fairly thin paper, though it's thinness does not compromise its opacity and strength. This is high quality paper, and while it does not seem as strong or as opaque as the paper contained in the Cambridge wide margins, it allows minimal to average ghosting which shouldn't be a major concern for most readers. Note-taking and underlining should be done with care, though as these pages are not designed for notes and it's very possible that bleed-through will be significant without the highest quality writing instruments.

The cover features a smooth, high gloss leather lining, which adds another dimension to the look and feel of the leather cover. I have only seen this feature on Cambridge Bibles; it elevates the class and appeal of the cover both visually and tactilely.










LAYOUT


The Concord presents a traditional two column layout in verse per line format with a center column of references. Paragraphs are noted with markers preceding the verse. The topic or theme headings are presented at the top of the page rather than within the text, which I've not seen elsewhere. I find this feature preferable as the section titles often flavor the way a text is read; by separating them from the text the reader can choose to ignore them or use them as he or she wishes. The font (Times Semi Bold) has a more old-fashioned style and classic look, stands at a bold and readable 8pt size. The boldness of the text in conjunction with sufficient line spacing create a clear, readable type. The text is available in both black letter (featured here) and red letter format. This layout will please traditionalists, but its narrow columns and small references do not make it an ideal reading Bible. The margins are fairly small and would not allow room for notes beyond small verse references added to the center column or the outside margin. The overall format presents a traditional compromise between functionality for study and reference and functionality for simple reading.


FEATURES


The Concord includes a number of useful and well-executed features, including self-pronouncing text for difficult names a glossary of Biblical usage, a 136 page concordance, a 128 page Bible Dictionary and the always beautiful and excellent Cambridge maps and map index (see my other Cambridge reviews).  The self pronouncing text is rarely intrusive and reserved for names that are unusual or difficult to pronounce, while names in common usage are left without pronunciation.

The glossary is similarly useful, especially in the King James Version as a number of words have changed in meaning or have become obscure since 1611. The glossary details the definition of the word as intended by the translators and further gives a number of verse references in order to give example. Some of the changes are actually quite important, for instance, "let" which in the KJV is used to mean "to hinder, prevent."

The Bible Dictionary is equally useful detailing a number of troublesome terms and important facts and chronologies. Its concise nature makes it useful for study, but does not add a cumbersome weight to the Bible or intrude on the text with footnotes etc. For those who do not want a study Bible, but do desire a quick reference for difficult concepts or questions (such as Abraham's Bosom), the dictionary is an ideal aid.

In addition to these reference works at the back, the front of the Bible features a dedication page, and pages to record family records, marriages, births and deaths. Also included are the full "Epistle Dedicatory" and "The Translators to the Reader" which are important both historically and philosophically.


The Cambridge Concord reference is a truly beautiful edition, which combines classic study tools with a traditional presentation. The high quality craftsmanship behind the Bible's exquisite binding make this without a doubt a durable edition that majors on style. For those in the market for a traditional carrying Bible in the KJV, this would be the best of the best. The only shortcoming would be the price, which exceeds most editions considerably. The Concord contains a number of features which elevate it above other editions and the quality of the goatskin cover is a notch above all others I've handled, this edition's value per dollar depends on the consumer's desire for those small details which combine to place the Concord at a higher level of excellency.

My thanks to Cambridge for providing this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.