Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Creative Purpose (Newsletter)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

No artist creates without purpose or meaning. Michelangelo did not fling paint at the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and then shrug his shoulders in surprise when the result was complex beauty. He made choices and decisions based on reason and purpose and significance. He was deliberate. Every color, every line, and every shadow was infused with a reflection on the beauty of God.

God made man in His own image, in His own resemblance, from His own life. He breathed vitality into humanity and set man over all His works (Gen 1:26, 2:7). He had work for humanity to do. He had a plan for him to accomplish (Gen 2:15). He had a reason for him to work, to love, and to be. In the fall of man and the corruption of sin, that reason was obscured. But Jesus has restored and redeemed humanity and has lifted us to sit with Him. He revealed man’s place in the Kingdom and in the love of God. He gave reason and purpose to our suffering and pain by taking it upon Himself and giving us life.

It is good news that God created man. It is good news because it means that each person has a design and a purpose. Each person has a reason. Each one is significant and meaningful and in the image of God who is love. It is good news that God has work for us to do. He has a job, a task, and a calling for our lives. No one has to be idle, bored, unemployed, and useless because Almighty God has use for us. He has a calling in mind that we were made to do and that He planned for us to do from the foundation of the world. It is good news that man was made to have dominion over all the earth (Psalm 8:6). In God every human being is free from the rule of this world, its influences, its kingdoms, and its powers and free to obey God. We can walk as men and women under authority. We are invested with the Spirit and born again into the authority of Christ. We are empowered to perform God’s will on the earth and to set things right in a world full of wrongs.

The whole world is waiting to hear that they mean something. God has commissioned you and me to tell the world, lost in their sin as they are, that God is searching for His creation who bears His likeness. He made them in the image of love. He made them with value. He made them with purpose. He made them with a job in mind, and He has provided a way out of bondage, oppression, and sin. He has made a way into the rule and kingdom of God where sinners become saints, crowned as kings and anointed as priests. This is good news to all who believe.

This month I spent a lot of time with young immigrants, helping them apply for jobs, sitting and talking about college majors, career tracks, giving them advice on English pronunciation and American culture. They are searching for their identity in a culture that isn’t their own. They’re searching to make a life, for work to do, and for importance in their world. They’re searching for friendship and significance, people who will affirm that they matter. In the midst of their search for significance and meaning, God is searching for them, calling to them with our voices, befriending them with our time and touch, caring for them with our love. As Jesus has given our lives value and meaning, He has given us His Spirit who bestows value and meaning on others through words of love, acts of compassion, friendship and brotherhood. This is part of the Good News to Hindus and Muslims in America, that God has prepared a place for them, friends for them, men and women of love and grace who will be the gospel in word and deed and power. And through us He speaks His love. He tells them that they have meaning, that He knows them and cares for them, and that Christ has come to enter their lives, take their sin and suffering and receive them for His own.

Read the rest of the June 2012 Newsletter
Read archived Newsletters.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: The Writer's Bible

The Writer's (Journaling) Bible features full size journal pages. High quality journals fold and lay completely flat making them easy to hold and write in.  The Bible text is large for easy reading with heavier paper so that ink does not show through.  The Writers Bible makes a great spiritual journal and personal/small group study tool.  

Convenient 6″ x 9″ size
Lays Flat – easy to write in
Folds Back – easy to hold in one hand
Easy to read classic Garamond font, black
12 point type and larger
Full page of journaling space for each page of scripture
Additional journaling pages provided in the back
Journaling area is on the right hand side – freedom of writing hand movement
Left Hand Versions available too!
Bible book introductions
Section headings
Perfect for personal study, small groups and pastor notes
Multiple translations and languages
Lightweight (<1 lb), easily held with one hand
Extra large font and custom configurations are available

Wide margin and interleaved Bibles are my absolute favorite study tool, and I rejoice every time I see one on the market, which makes The Writer's Bible a special treat. The pragmatic design and focus on customization should make it an attractive option for those who love journaling, note-taking and exploring the text of the Bible through personal commentary. Because of the lack of interleaved Bibles on the market, The Writer's Bible should shoot to the top of the list for those who want a modern translation interleaved text but don't want a three ring binder or don't have the gumption to create their own.

These editions are designed to be available in a large number of formats from a single book to collections. This edition is Paul's Letters - Volume 1 in NASB, which includes Romans and First and Second Corinthians with brief book introductions. Each page of Bible text includes about twenty verses paired with a  ruled page on the opposite side, ready to be filled with notes and commentary.The publisher has future plans for non-ruled pages as an option, which would be far preferable. I would rather have crooked lines of notes with more space for graphs than cramping my copious notes, charts, lists etc. into a ruled page.

The fact that these editions are portions rather than the whole text may turn some people away, as will the fact that they are spiral bound. The focus of this project is practicality. Few will be carrying a backpack full of these editions to and from church and Bible study. These are editions for use and study, not for show. Their usability will be the main concern, and they are highly usable.

The flexibility of the spiral bound format is a huge plus. It allows a full wraparound for reading or writing without the clumsiness of a binder or the chance of tearing pages out.

Dividing the books into portions was wise, though a full Bible or New Testament option would be interesting. The fact that these are in portions allow people to buy editions as they move on in their study and keep them more portable and affordable.

The editions are streamlined, with few extra features apart from book introductions (which could really be done away with) and extra note pages at the back with boxes for custom numbering, which means you could key them to pages where you ran out of notes and need to continue on the back.

The single column format partnered with a 12pt font and a generous margin makes the text readable and far from cramped, a surprising luxury in a wide margin or interleaved Bible. My only caveat with these editions is the price. At one point it was around $15.00 which some will feel squeamish about spending on what seems like a fairly simple product. For those who will really use these editions, the price is worth it, but it means that the whole Bible will cost quite a bit of money. I hope the editions gain traction and production becomes more economical.

The design may seem simplistic and leave some wondering, "Why can't I do this on my own?" And you can. But it probably won't turn out this well. There is an elegance and wisdom to the design which will only improve as the publisher expands customization and options. These editions are far more impressive once you enjoy using them.

The Writer's Bible is currently unavailable as the publisher is working on "process improvements for producing these which will allow further flexibility for flowing text correctly at all font sizes, custom page insertions, left or right handed versions, and your new great suggestion for blank journal pages." Hopefully we will see more options and editions at the end of June, at which point I hope to revisit these editions with a new portion for review. In the meantime you can contact the publisher at

Monday, May 14, 2012

Giveaway Winner May 2012

Congratulations to Tiffany Accuff who won  a copy of The NRSV Notetaker's Bible . Please send your address to Biblereadingproject[at]gmail[dot]com. Didn't win? Stick around for future giveaways.

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 2012 Giveaway: NRSV Notetaker's Bible

This week I am giving away a copy of The NRSV Notetaker's Bible . You can view my review of the edition here.

Enter by commenting on this post with your full nameIf you post the giveaway on a blog, post a second comment with the link accompanied again with your full name for an extra entry. I will randomly select a winner on Monday May 14th and announce their name on the blog. If they do not contact me at biblereadingproject[at]gmail[dot com] within 5 days with their U.S. mailing address, I will post a second winner. Be sure to Subscribe or Follow to check back to see if you won. Tell all your friends.

Why give away books? It attracts new readers. It helps spread the messages and works that the Lord has used to inspire me in life and ministry. It helps spread passion and zeal for the work.  Many of the books will be ones I've received for free or extra copies that I have on hand, or simply books that I feel are important enough that they need to be disseminated to the body of Christ at large.

289220: The NRSV Notetaker"s Bible The NRSV Notetaker's Bible
By Oxford University Press

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Do Proper Word Studies - Part 2

Now, I could simply say, "I have studied the original Hebrew and Greek and I know what the Scriptures really say," but where would that leave you? What if you don't have the ability to check the accuracy of my study? How can you be sure for yourself? Let me help you. The fact is, anyone can do a good word study even if her or she doesn't know the original languages. In fact, you can make your study into a little game called "Fill in the Blank" or "Substitution."
I'll give you an example of how it works, using the English word "hard." This adjective can have several meanings, including "difficult" and "solid," but the context determines which meaning is correct. If we take the sentence, "The rock is hard," we can find out what "hard" means by filling in the blank with the appropriate synonym: "The rock is ____." What is the meaning of "hard" here? Obviously, the rock is not "difficult," the rock is "solid." But in the sentence, "The test is ____" (where the blank represents "hard") it is clear that the correct synonym works as a substitute. Simple, right? The same kind of study can be done with biblical words. List the verses in which certain Hebrew or Greek words occur in your English translation, and you can see the different ways the words are used in different contexts. Then, you begin to see the bigger picture, often enabling you to trace the ways that a word developed its different meanings.
Some years ago, when I did a serious study of the concept of grace in the Bible, I opened up my Hebrew and Greek concordances and examined every reference where the key words for "grace" occurred. Then, I arranged them in different categories and prayerfully analyzed their usage. I was amazed by what I found, especially in the New Testament!
You see, grace is more than "unmerited favor" (although unmerited favor is nothing to snivel at). It is more than God's Riches At Christ's Expense, although that acronym sums up everything we will ever have or experience in God. God's grace is more than a noun or a concept, more than the manner in which God deals with us (as in, "I'm saved by grace, and everything I do is by grace"). It's more than that.
Grace is His merciful, enabling help, His ongoing empowerment, His continued working on our behalf. It speaks of the Lord's past, present, and future action, expressing what Jesus does for us and not just what He did for us. As expressed by A.M. Hunter, "Grace means primarily free, forgiving love of God in Christ to sinners and the operation of that love in the lives of Christians."
[. . . .]
[H]ere is the surprising news: the New Testament word "grace" does not fundamentally mean "unmerited favor." its basic meaning does include favor (of any kind) along with kindness, but it also includes enablement and gifting, important concepts we often miss.
You see, God's grace not only did something amazing for us--forgiving us all our sins--but His grace continues to do something amazing for us: empowering us to live for Him. In fact, there was nothing revolutionary in the New Testament concept of grace meaning "favor" or "gift." What was revolutionary was the degree of favor shown to us through the Cross and the ongoing effectiveness of that favor in our lives. Grace finishes what it starts.

-Dr. Michael Brown, Go and Sin No More pp. 214-216

Recommended by Dr. Brown:

32079: Englishman"s Greek Concordance Englishman's Greek Concordance
By George V. Wigram / Hendrickson Publishers

32087: The Englishman&quot;s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament The Englishman's Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament
By George V. Wigram / Hendrickson Publishers

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Kindest Lord (Newsletter)

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5

Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He was not just friendly; He was a friend. He gave His time to sinners. He invested Himself in sinners. He interacted with them and entered their lives. He took pain, suffering, and evil from their lives. On the cross He took on their identity and gave them His: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is what He has done for us. This is infinite mercy and kindness, unfathomable love and goodness. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). This is the goodness that has led us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Zaccheus was a chief tax collector, a chief extortionist, a chief liar, and a chief traitor to his people. He was small in stature and morality but large in notoriety. Yet this was the man Jesus chose to invest His time in and single out for a personal visit. To the crowd’s eyes Jesus was the rabbi, the healer, and the prophet of the hour, but He picked a dishonest, disreputable sinner to honor with His presence. Zaccheus “received Him joyfully” (Luke 19:7) and as he dined with Jesus, Zaccheus was changed. “Look Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). This true repentance was motivated by an encounter with the goodness, kindness, and love of the Lord Jesus. Kindness did not produce an anemic commitment. It produced a revelation of Jesus as Lord that inspired a man ruled by wealth to give away fifty percent of his bank account and to give a fourfold restitution to those he had wronged. Zaccheus did not simply modify his ways. He didn’t adapt his behavior to the Christian message or the Christian culture. He repented of his sin. The direction and motivation of his heart was reversed. He cast down his idols and made Jesus Lord of his life. He didn’t simply ask for forgiveness from his actions; he reversed his ways. Jesus came into his home, into his life, and into his brokenness with a revelation of love and grace. Jesus gave him attention and kindness. Jesus was a friend to a man who knew he didn’t deserve it. He was good to Zaccheus for no reason, and this motivated a deep repentance and a personal revolution of righteousness with Jesus as Lord. This was not the response of the righteous, but the response of a disreputable, dishonest sinner. “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9).
Today Christ is not only finding sinners and calling them friends, He stands knocking at the heart of the lukewarm church, asking for entrance, saying boldly before all “today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). So often we imagine we have already had our encounter, our repentance. We are bored with the goodness and kindness of God. We think we know it. We think we’ve experienced it. Yet we have only modified our ways. We have adapted ourselves to a message or a culture or an appearance, but in our hearts we say, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). We deny Him as Lord because we have hardened ourselves to His goodness. But even now Jesus is here to seek and to save that which was lost. He is walking the streets in the hearts of His Servants, reaching out to a lost and dying world with His love and grace and humbly knocking in the hearts of His Church seeking to enter and reign over all the kingdoms of our heart. Every knee must bow. Christ must receive all that He paid for. Repent and believe the good news that Jesus is the Lord who is good to all.