I’m learning to be… a Philippians 4 kind of guy.

This past Sunday, I taught two of the most quotable verses in the Bible:

Philippians 4:10 —  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:19 — And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Really, be honest. How many times have you quoted one or both of those  scriptures to convince someone else (or yourself) that things will get better, that you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, that your “increase” is just around the corner?

Continue reading “I’m learning to be… a Philippians 4 kind of guy.”

The Leaves that Leave Us Smitten

Part of my devotional life recently has been to go back to the writings of the historical church–not as a replacement for scriptural devotion, but as a subtle effort to break through the facade that our modern culture has painted into and over what we believe it means to be a Christian. In hindsight, I think the genesis of this has been in teaching through the Bible over the past six years, and especially through the four gospels the past three.

When going earnestly to scripture for what scripture says–and with a decision to break it out of the box of our cultural interpretations, allowing it to speak from its own motives and cultural setting–I think one incapable of ‘not’ noting the vast chasm between what scripture (Jesus) says, and what we bend it to mean, thus allowing us our lukewarm, milquetoast, disconnected ‘discipleship’ of our Lord and Savior.

Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, God in flesh.

Continue reading “The Leaves that Leave Us Smitten”

Here’s spit in your eye.

In Mark 8:22-26 there’s this odd little story of Jesus healing a blind man. Now, the fact that He healed a blind man is not odd. Old Testament prophecy predicted that that’s what the Messiah would do–that and more! The blind would see; the lame would walk. The broken would be restored. That’s what the Messiah would do.

What’s more, in His ministry up until this time, we’ve seen all kinds of healings and miracles.

There’s nothing strange or abnormal about restoration through Jesus Christ. It’s just the way Jesus did it that seems strange to me–that and the the Blind man’s response.

Jesus was ministering in Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man for Jesus to heal. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Once alone and away from the crowds, Jesus spit in his eye.

Yes. You read that right.

Jesus spit in his eye.

Gross. I don’t want to offend anyone out there by calling Jesus’ spit gross, but gross. If I had been that blind man–not knowing much about this man who was leading me around in the dark–and I’d felt his breath close to my face, followed by warm wet dripping down it, I would have thought: “Did he just do what I think he did?”

Now, true… When He told me to open my eyes and asked if I could see anything, and I opened my eyes and saw people for the first time in a long time–even if they were blurry–all would have been forgiven. And when he laid His hands on my eyes and asked again–and I had 20/20–I would have worshiped at His feet.

But then, having gone home and bypassed the village like Jesus instructed, and perhaps having heard of other recounts of this great, powerful, compassionate man, I would have asked a few questions. If I’d heard of Jesus healing the Roman official’s servant with just a word from afar, I would have wondered why He needed to spit in my eyes. If I had heard of Him delivering the Canaanite woman’s child from demon possession from afar, with just a word, I would have asked why He needed to lay his hands on me the second time. If I had heard of Him raising a dead girl immediately, with just a command, I would have asked why it took a second try on my eyes.

I’m an inquiring mind. I would have had the same questions I have now, reading the account two thousand years later.

But, being this formerly blind man, contemplating these questions after the fact, I think I would have then imagined the first thing I’d seen clearly after years of darkness. His eyes. Those eyes searching me intently with all of the power and compassion that fuels the universe.

And I think the questions would have melted away into oblivion.

Why did He spit in my eyes? I don’t know and really don’t care anymore. I’ve been touched by God Himself! Why did it take two tries? Beats me; does it matter? I see now, and I’ve seen God in the process!

Last week, in preparing to teach this section, I left it with more questions than answers. I’m OK with that. I really am, because the questions gave me perhaps the greatest answer. What, how, when, where, why? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’ve been touched by God. All that matters is ‘Who”.

When God allows something gross into my life I have all the questions about it, but the one simple answer is always there. What does it matter? I’ve been touched by God. Things look blurry and I can’t see clearly? It’s OK. I’ll see clearly in His good time, and He’ll be there peering into my soul when it happens. Taking longer than I expected? That’s OK too. It’s just that much longer that I’m helplessly in His presence being personally ministered to by…

All of the power and compassion that fuels the universe.

Psalm 8:4 — what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

But you do, God. You do. That’s all the answer I need.

The misfits, the Kingdom, and God’s glory…

One of my favorite scriptural passages is 1 Corinthians 1:26-28. As someone who has never considered myself as particular strong, or smart, or creative, that verse ministers to me. As someone who never saw myself as ‘pastor material’, and having received that call, it ministers to me on new levels.

I’ve learned that if I am to boast in anything, it is in my weakness, because in my weakness God is glorified (2 Corinthians 12:9). I’ve learned by experience that God chooses to use the weak because when He does radical things through weak and ignoble vessels, He gets the glory.

I was reading in 1 Samuel today and something occurred to my pastor’s heart. How often are we short-changing ourselves and the kingdom of God by not recognizing the scriptural references above? Where we are so free to apply the above God-logic to ourselves, are we so free to apply it to others that we view as weird misfits?

How many see a fellow Christian that is a little strange, downcast, odd, weird, disenfranchised, and we give them a wide berth? When we pick people on our spiritual basketball teams, they’re not only the last to be picked, but they aren’t picked at all? How many are excluded and made to feel as outsiders because they are different, and we somehow designate them as unimportant, with little or no potential?

Oh… Yah… I mentioned 1 Samuel, didn’t I?

1 Samuel 22:1-2

David was fleeing Saul and went into hiding because Saul wanted to kill him. Saul actually saw David as too profitable for the kingdom. Saul wanted to kill David because he was successful and Saul didn’t want competition. This is a separate blog post altogether, fellow pastors! (But worthy of mention here. Our job is to raise people up, equipping them for ministry. If you are threatened by those you lead, get on your face before God!)

But notice verse two. Who rallied around David? The desperate. The indebted. The discontented.

The weirdoes. The ‘failures’. The forgotten and cast-offs.

They rallied around David. And they were the men who would overcome Saul with him. They are the people that God used to eventually seat David on the throne. In 1 Chronicles, when David’s “mighty men of valor” are listed, I’m sure many of these misfits are listed among them. Where Saul saw unprofitable weirdoes, David either recognized or created mighty men of valor.

That’s a powerful thought.

Think of Saul’s failure here. And think of David’s great victory in surrounding himself with these men, pouring into them, leading them, investing in them. Saul removed from the kingdom. David credited it.

I encourage you not to look at people with human eyes. See them with spiritual eyes. Love people as Christ loves you. Accept them as Christ accepts you. Invest in them as you have been invested. Lead them. Even train them. Recognize what others miss, whether it be hidden skills or just potential. Have David’s eyes and Paul’s heart (1 Corinthians 3:9-10).

Do this. Every Christian that reads this post–do this. One day, you will find yourself surrounded by great people of valor. And God will be greatly blessed and glorified through it.

 

PS: For future reference, what’s the plural of weirdo? I trusted autocorrect in this post, but will need to know in the future as I write about the church. 🙂

Bible Review: HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide

HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide Book Cover HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide
Holman Bible Staff
Bibles
B&H Publishers
September 1, 2014
1328
http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/hcsb-large-print-ultrathin-reference-bible-brown-genuine-cowhide/

A great translation, wrapped in a quality, smith-sewn leather cowhide.

A word of transparency to start… This Bible was presented to me by the publishers, free of charge, as a review copy. They did not ask for a good review, only an honest one–which it will be.

Those who know me know that I’m a Bible collector. It’s become a bit of an inside joke in our family. We’ve literally had to buy more bookshelves to house my extensive library of books, many of which are various Bibles. But ‘collector’ is a misnomer. They get used. They get marked up. They get worn, bent, crinkled, creased and cross-referenced from use. Each Bible has a specific purpose. Some of them are journaling Bibles with wide margins, so that I can mark them up and journal as I study. Some of them are various study Bibles, with commentary built in. Some are devotional Bibles. Others were found at a reduced price at a used book store and were just too pretty to leave there, sitting lonely on the shelf. (Hey, I’m a sucker for a leather binding; sue me.) It’s this latter category that are generally given away as encouragement to others to get into the Word and allow it to transform them.

This Bible will not be given away. It will definitely become my main Bible for both daily reading, carrying with me to church and Bible studies, as well as teaching from on Sunday mornings. Let’s discuss why–as well as a few nits to pick about it.

(1) It’s beautiful.

The photo doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve already admitted that I’m a sucker for a nice leather bound Bible, and this is definitely a nice leather bound Bible. The cowhide is soft and supple. B&H has always done well with leather bindings, and I’ve found that they use quality materials in their covers. I have the HCSB Minister’s Bible in black leather binding. This one is softer and prettier.

It bends easily in the hand without being so malleable that it becomes a hindrance. It’s just firm enough that it sits well in one hand to stand and read from, as I do every week at church.

The edges are standard gold. The indexes are easily accessed, but not intruding. The OT books are indexed in black, while the NT books are indexed in red–which makes them easily identifiable.

(OK… I know where the books of the Bible are, but if you have never taught–i.e. public speaking–you don’t know the horror of your mind going blank in front of expectant faces for no other reason than the fact that you’re in front of expectant faces…)

A small nit to pick, per the indexes… I wonder at the durability of the pages at the point of index. The indexed are cut out of each page as curved rectangles, as opposed to the oblong circular cut-outs in other indexed Bibles I’ve seen and owned. I actually like the visual aspect of the rectangles better, but as my wife thumbed through the Bible last night, I noticed that the stark edges of the rectangular indexes could tend to tears and folds more-so than curved indexes. But that’s a small gripe and just a suspicion. I’ll be interested if it actually presents a problem with extended use.

The nicest indexing I’ve seen on a Bible.

(2) Durability

Despite the suspicion mentioned above, I expect this Bible to wear well. The leather is hardy and well-bound. But it also appears to be smith-sewn. In other words, the pages aren’t just glued into the binding, they’re sewn in. My Minister’s Bible is smith-sewn, and it’s proven very durable. If you like the leather binding on this Bible, you should expect it to last.

 

(3) Readability

As the name implies, the print is large. The pages are a bright white, but aren’t shiny, so the contrast is very good. I can read it well in both bright lighting and not-so-bright. I’m not always the biggest fan of red-letter editions though I like idea of being able to easily spot the words of Christ. The reason is that red lettering can often hurt contrast and make it harder to read them. I like the red lettering in this Bible because it’s bold and legible–almost maroon as opposed to red.

Easy to read. Note the less than literal translation in Psalm 1. This would worry me more if not for the excellent footnoting (photo below).

I really like the font used. Really. Although I can imagine traditionalists hating it. I’m not sure of the font, but it’s not the traditional ‘Biblical’ type font. It is contemporary, clean, and in my opinion, actually easier to read.

I mentioned in my HCSB translation overview that the translation is well footnoted. The footnotes in this edition are easy to read, without becoming intruding on the page.

For the serious Bible student, the footnotes retain the importance of the original. Without them, one would miss the progression implied in walk, stand, sit…

A special note on readability… They decided to put the Book/Chapter/Page Numbers on the bottom of the page. I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s some printsetting science behind it that I don’t know about, but it just seems weird. It doesn’t seem to be any harder to find them when I am flipping for a specific book and verse. I just have to ‘flip’ the bottom corners instead of the top. It’s just odd after 35 years of Bible-reading.

I’m sure I’ll deal with it and it will become second nature.

The pages are thick enough to feel substantial, but still thin enough to allow minor bleed-through from the printing on the opposite side. It doesn’t severely affect readability, but I would have sacrificed a little of the “thinline” of the Bible for a little thicker paper.

(4) Size

Whichever Bible you prefer, this is what yours should look like… Open in front of you. 🙂

It’s a very good size for a personal and teaching Bible. Having been known to carry large study Bibles around with me, this thing is a dream.

Final review:

It’s a great translation. It’s a great Bible that does everything it’s designed to do very well. It is worth the list price and I highly recommend it to someone looking for a trustworthy, modern English Bible. It’s great for everyday use in both devotional reading and studying.