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”

The hands and feet are connected to the heart

I’m reading a great book by Jared C Wilson called ‘The Pastor’s Justification’. Crossway gave me an electronic copy to review. This is not that review. It’s just a few thoughts as I read it. It’s a dissection of 1 Peter and Peter’s instructions to church leadership on how and why they do what they do. It really is a liberating and instructive read. I look forward to writing the review.

Chapter 1 covers, in part: “Do it without compulsion”, i.e. do it because you get to, not because you have to.

In describing the need to do everything for Jesus, and combat the fatigues, depression, desperation, etc inherent in the work of a pastor, he describes his Monday mornings. Well, first he describes his week, and I can empathize. His whole week drives toward Sunday. It’s spent basically on call 24×7, tending to church needs, peoples’ needs, family needs, and all of it driving toward Sunday morning. He describes the responsibility carried throughout the week to receive and develop the word Jesus has for His church that week–not a feeling of production, but of responsibility. He describes the spiritual and emotional toll that Sundays usually take. The spiritual and emotional tax of relaying God’s word, then making himself available to all of the congregational needs–large and small–before going home and basically collapsing.

That’s why pastors usually take Mondays off. They’re spent.

But he has a wonderful reason for not taking Monday off. He takes his weakness to Jesus that his ministry may be empowered by Jesus. And he never loses the awe, privilege and humility in the fact that he gets to serve Jesus’ flock.

Our omnipresent Savior is waiting for me in the office on Monday
morning. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest,” he says (Matt. 11:28). I am plum tuckered on Monday
morning. I face ample temptation to wallow. But Jesus promises rest. I may be a shell of a pastor at this time each week, but God is no less
God. His might is no less mighty. His gospel is no less power. His reach
is no less infinite. His grace is no less everlasting. His lovingkindness
is no less enduring.

 

My first thoughts on Monday mornings are to my fatigue and all I must
do, but I must push them into thoughts of Christ, of all he is and all
he has done. There lies the vision that compels my will.

 

Then I want to think of the flock God has loaned out to me not as
items on a task list but as people made in the image of God, precious
and broken and beautiful and sinful, like me. I want to see them as
people, not problems. I want to see them not as obstacles in the way
of some vague missional purpose but as the missional purpose itself.
The minute I begin seeing God’s people as problems to be solved (or
avoided) is the minute I’ve denied the heart of Christ. [emphasis mine]

OK church. You translate that from pastor-perspective to daily walk. How do you view people? Do your actions show it? You can’t be the hands and feet of Christ until you have His heart.

Are there people that you dread? Then see them as the mission, and not an obstacle.

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.

Book Review: ‘The Crucified Life’ by AW Tozer

The Crucified Life: How To Live Out A Deeper Christian Experience Book Cover The Crucified Life: How To Live Out A Deeper Christian Experience
AW Tozer
Christian

This is actually a compilation of Tozer's unpublished writings.  It details the look, feel, heart and practical application of a life submitted to Christ-- the life of a discipleship

Let me tell you a secret about my Bible teaching.  Sometimes I feel self conscious about something that I shouldn’t feel self conscious about– the fact that, thematically, my sermons can be a little repetitive.  It seems, as I teach book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, the subject of discipleship is always front and center.

I have so much respect for those in our church who return week after week, Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, to sit and partake of this scriptural instruction.  They don’t come to hear that a relationship with Jesus will be the answer to all of their problems.  They don’t come to hear that Jesus wants to make them rich, heal their hangnails, and make their spouse prettier and handsomer.  They come, intent and taking notes, hearing the message of scripture that He is God and we are not.  They come, seeking to digest and apply the fact that Jesus calls us to leave our boats and follow Him– leave our tax booths at His call– follow the cloud and fire through the wilderness.

They come with the realization that the Christian life is a life transformed, because it is a life submitted to the original Transformer.

Now, that’s not all that my teaching is.  It’s not all about our actions.  Far from it.  It’s a continued message of unrestrained grace.  It’s a message about all that He has and will do for us.  It’s a message of His faithfulness, loving-kindness, extravagant care, comfort, attention and intention.  It’s a message of His power on our behalf, and not ours on His.  But hidden in every message that I can remember, for as long as I can remember, is the subtle and blatant reminder that to call ourselves His is to be His— because I am yet to find a section of scripture that doesn’t contain that subtle or blatant truth.

‘The Crucified Life’ by AW Tozer is the work of a man who saw this theme in scripture, selflessly applied it to his own life, and shares the scriptural intricacies of that life with his readers.  I heartily recommend it to every Christian reader, as well as every seeker who wants to know this ‘God’, Who He is, and what He can mean to the individual life.

The book takes its name from the repeated calls from Christ and the apostles to take our cross and follow Him.  As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8-11– that his greatest desire was to know Christ by sharing in his sufferings, become like Him by experiencing His death, and thus live with changed priorities because his citizenship is eternal.

We all want to know Christ more intimately.  We all want to be more like Him.  But we don’t want to suffer and die.

That’s the general outlook of the book.  However, if that was all that it is, it would be a short read, and (to be frank), it would leave a pretty grim outlook.  This, thankfully, is not a treatise on the ‘Theology of Suffering’.  Far from it.  It is a balanced collection of essays on the powerful life of one submitted to God and living completely in His care.  Grace shouts from every page.  It waves its arms and demands attention.  It nestles in closely and narrates the text for the reader.

Tozer brilliantly balances the message of selfless devotion to Christ and His selfless devotion to us.  He assures us that it’s safe to give up control because of Who then takes control.  He weaves scripture and experience to assure us of the fulfillment we find in dying to self, that we may live in Christ.

Sprinkled among the scriptural and theological gems, you’ll find very practical and applicable instruction.  At times, he goes as far as to give us step by step instruction and point by point principles to put into practice.  It is a very ‘livable’ book.  I also found that the more general sections were very applicable.  As is so often the case with Tozer’s writings, he had a way of presenting well-worn truths, which I had known forever it seems, in such a new way that my mind and spirit would take flight with possibilities, and I would create application of my own.  In my opinion, this is the true genius of Tozer’s style.  The truths are Biblical, thus they are Gods.  The application comes from the truth, and not necessarily the author’s instruction.  For lack of a better term, you ‘own’ the application because you were led there, not spoon fed.

If you liked Francis Chan’s ‘Crazy Love’…  If you liked Platt’s ‘Radical’…  Actually, no; even if you didn’t…  Buy this book.  Pray for a softened heart.  Crack your Bible along side it and dig into the continual theme of scripture.

Allow your walk to be enlightened and changed by what God would seek to reveal to you.

I give it 5 stars and a very, very high recommendation.  I also seek your feedback through the comments below.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!  If you read it based on this review, let me know.