Bible Translations and My Switch to CSB.

My dad has always been instrumental in my life but when I professed faith in Christ, my dad bought me a bible, had my name put on it, sat me down and explained the wonder and use of this book.

Since then, there are 3 things that I have come to love.

1) Daily reading

2) Bibles, the choices of formats and styles or tools (I nerd out on the world of Bibles.)

3) Giving Bibles away

The effect it had on me was not only supernatural but very practical in the way that I wanted to reciprocate this to ensure others had a good Bible of their own for their growth in Christ.

My dad-Larry Mac and Pastor Scott Poynor drilled the mighty practice of a daily devotional consisting of prayer and God’s word.

The NASB Study Bible that was given to me was a huge help for me as a new believer to get familiar with scripture and application.

But why am I switching to the Christian Standard Bible translation?

First, let’s go through my journey with translations:

As mentioned, my first Bible was an NASB Study Bible. “NASB” is the New American Standard Bible.

I was taught to underline, date, highlight, and make my own notes in this bible and I did so until the cover literally started coming off, so I retired it.

A couple years into my faith, I would begin teaching youth, and I noticed that some of the word choices and sentence structure was not as easy to comprehend as what other translations provided.

I asked my newlywed wife for a new bible and that Christmas she purchased me an NIV Thinline reference bible. That is the New International Version.

This particular Bible did not have the study notes as my previous Bible provided but was much smaller and easier to carry around.

The main benefit of the NIV, of course, is it is an easy-to-read translation and this was helpful when reading scripture to my 6th-grade students.

When my Grandfather-in-law, “Grandpa Sam”, bought my wife a new bible a couple of years later, I wanted to compare my NIV to this translation that was new to me and so began my journey with the ESV (English Standard Version) translation.

I was enamored with this translation because it had the precision of the NASB but with more of a contemporary feel to it.

With the previous translations, I felt I could trust my NASB Study Bible for study and lesson preparation and I would use the NIV for morning devotions and quick references. I soon found myself preferring this English Standard Version over almost all other translations for preaching, teaching, and devotions.

Plus, a lot of my friends and pastors that I listened to and read were using this translation. The ESV became so popular that it soon had a new “ESV Only” tribe feel to it as opposed to the “KJV Only” tribe, though I didn’t mind.

I never considered changing from the ESV. Until, believe it or not, a complete stranger on Twitter challenged me to use a monster of a bible. Seriously, when Amazon delivered it and my wife picked the box up, she gave me the “Pete? Seriously?”

It is the Interlinear Bible and if you aren’t familiar with it, this is what the Interlinear Bible’s verses look like:

Image result for interlinear bible

The problem is is that it is just not practical to carry around. Great for the office but horrible for the pew.

What I desired in a Bible translation was what the Interlinear provided in faithful accuracy but with contextualization.

I enjoyed the ESV for its keeping a touch of King James flowery language but I fell out of love with it because it just isn’t how I would arrange a sentence. I found additional words that did not seem necessary and just cluttered sentences.

Accuracy is huge, but there is also an aspect of Bible translation that the bible’s new testament was written in common Greek, why then should we translate it into flowery English? It should be for the common reader, hence an emphasis on common language and readability.

Then the Christian Standard Bible was published.

I kept using the ESV for about a year after the CSB was published. First I downloaded a sample from the website. Then I downloaded the app to my phone. Soon I ordered a cheap copy to compare what I was reading in my devotion time.

My main hang-ups against the CSB were word choices that went against my preference. Particularly in John 15, I prefer the word “abide” where the CSB uses “remain” and in James 1:3 the word I like is “steadfastness”.

This isn’t purely from a translation preference. “Abide” and “steadfastness”, these words possess sentimental value for me. I have been in a dozen discipleship groups going through a curriculum called “Abiding in Christ”, it wasn’t called “Remain in Christ”.

When we were praying through one of the most difficult seasons of ministry, our prayer was for “steadfastness”. We didn’t use the use word “endurance”.

Eventually, the straw that broke the camel’s back for a switch to the CSB is that I do not use the style and structure of most Bible translations. The CSB is the most accurate translation that uses the flow of speech and sentence structure that I use.

The CSB has been a joy to read. It has much more of an effortless flow to it. It is just smooth.

That is why I have switched to the CSB. I finally dove in head first and bought a CSB Pastor’s Bible to preach out of. But do you know what I am asking my church to do? Nothing. I enjoy knowing that other people are reading other translations, as long as they are reading.

Some Final thoughts on translations:

1) Readability and accuracy should not be at odds with one another.

Getting words, terms, meanings, context, is crucial in translation and reading. However, If the translation is accurate but you are using it inaccurately it is still a fail. If you’re teaching or being taught out of a great translation but not in balanced gospel-centered ministry, this is a dangerous error.

Tim Keller has used the NIV and Todd Wagner uses the NASB. Both are pastors I respect, do great ministry, and use different translations.

2) Don’t demonize bible translations….especially the people that hold them.

What I mean is, when some see a different translation other than their choice, they scowl or giggle. This may be because of denominational, tradition, or school stigmas.

Hey Independent Fundies: Why does the KJV use the word unicorn?

Hey Angry Traditionalists: Does the NLT contain the word, predestined? Elect? Foreknew? Chosen? Say that the Holy Spirit draws?

Hey “Cage Stagers”: Can someone get saved when hearing the gospel preached from an NIV?

Obviously, I am characterizing, different “camps” and poking at their criticisms with exaggeration, but I have heard the critique of other translations and I find it unhelpful and divisive.

When we hold to that “the Bible” is the inerrant Word of God, that does not include man’s imperfections and limitations to our contemporary language.  It is the principle that God gave us scripture, the breathed out Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit but penned by man and is sufficient for all things for salvation and godliness.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is faith in the Holy Spirit’s teaching and ministry of the word and that the Bible is not only perfect but sufficient.

3) The best translation is the translation that you will read

Do you have verses memorized in NKJV and want to keep that? Awesome. Are you a young lady with an NIV women’s study bible, keep it up. Did you take one of the hardback bibles from a hotel room, keep it and read it.

4) See the charts/graphs below that were helpful in explaining the balance that the CSB strikes.

First is helpful to see differences in translation philosophies and how they compare.

Typically further on left is higher in accuracy but can be more difficult to read. Vice versa, those further on the right are more readable but can lack in accuracy.

BibleTranslationContinuum-02-09.jpg

The chart below combines the literal and readable percentages to show that CSB uses a hybrid philosophy of translation to obtain an “optimal blend”.CSB.jpg

Both charts are from csbible.com

Lastly)

I may not carry hard copies of all these Bibles but because of my handly Ipad and software, I can switch back and forth between 3-5 translations or even have all up on screen at one time.

I will always use more than one translation during sermon prep and most preachers do this too. May there always be sharpening in the field of translation and handling God’s Word to strive for accuracy and Christlikeness.

Find “your” bible. Not just your preferred translation, but the feel and weight of it. Shop for font, columns, cover, notes, etc. and use it until it becomes an extension of your body.

Or if you have had your bible for so long that devotions have become dry, change translations if only to make the light switch come on.

Recommended Bibles:

Or if you’re looking for something smaller, there are wide varieties of “thinline” bibles that can easily fit in small backpacks, briefcases, purses, etc.

Grace 101

Our society has many uses for the word grace. But what is it?
We make mention of grace with sayings like “that dancer was so graceful”. Or, the King & Queen “graced” us with their presence. We say “grace” before dinner.

We use it commonly in religious, mystic, or general terms without considering what grace really is.

Grace is first “of God”. Grace existed before we did. There was a perfect graceful fellowship in our perfect Triune God before our creation.

We know grace because God grants it to us. It is an act of common grace to be created in his image. We are able to enjoy food, drink, nature, etc. simply because of his common grace. His special grace is that of the cross. Jesus died for sinners who would respond to salvation in faith by grace.

Grace is intended to be a recycled commodity in the pulse of the church. We receive grace from God. We give grace to each other. The people are knitted together in grace and share grace with the world.

Let’s look at an excerpt from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:
“The grace of God. The significant word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew “chanan” and of the Greek “charis”. According to Scripture, it is manifested not only by God, but also by men, and then denotes the favor which one man shows another… The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners.”

Grace is the “unmerited goodness” given to those undeserving or especially of those who have “forfeited”.

Paul proclaims that we are saved by grace through faith. Paul takes painstaking efforts to explain to churches the desperate need to have grace with one another.

Why?

Paul knows that we have an entitled and spoiled nature. This is not an American 21st-century problem. The churches of Galatia wanted to add rituals to the gospel, nullifying grace. The Corinthian church trampled on grace allowing heinous sins. The Thessalonian church was more captivated with end times than with grace.

Grace is tricky not because of itself but because of our treatment of it. It is our error to add to grace, to take away from it, or to altogether forget. We must constantly consume the grace of God and extend it to one another.

Grace is both a delicate matter and a combustible fuel for gospel mission. Grace is worth spending a lifetime of study on and yet never completely definable. Grace is most often not explained in a classroom as it is modeled in a hospital or on a couch. Grace is most often not spat on in a public forum but around a shared corner.

A person without grace is both always the offended and always the offending. A person with grace has a default to forgive when wronged and is cautious to not wrong others.

A church without grace is like a car without any fuel. It will eventually become so stagnant that it begins to rust and its moving parts will seize. A church with grace will be as attractive as water to the thirsty.

It is clear Paul had his heart-ache for people and churches who had a misconception of grace. Paul was deeply concerned about the health of those who hoarded grace and he was attacked by revilers who did not value grace.

The value of grace is determined by its cost, not by our experience. We cling to grace and give grace because we see the cost paid for by Jesus. We are humbled by Jesus picking up the tab. We share a gratefulness of the gospel and a graciousness with each other because of the cost.

The cost of grace is the blood of God. Jesus, full of grace and truth, died on the cross to remove our sins and make us white as snow. Grace is free to us but that does not mean that grace is not costly.

If we neglect the gracious gospel or do not have grace in gospel community it is to cheapen grace. It is to not remember the cost of grace.

Jesus considered the cost. It was worth it.

I pray that we would be overwhelmed with the worth of grace.

I wander?

What is your coffee? Is it a hot cup of black coffee? Or iced caramel macchiato Frappuccino with extra whipped cream?
I don’t hate on either one. But NOBODY likes a cup of coffee that has been sitting on the table for 4 hours.

God tells the Church in Laodicea:
Revelation 3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.

Let’s be clear: this is speaking to believers. This scripture is not wishing non-believers to be cold. This scripture is addressing the danger of a believer who has dead religion.

The lukewarm are those with “faith” in Jesus but resists change to actions, patterns, lifestyle, etc.

Lukewarm-ness just tends to drift into space and time of decay where there is nothing beneficial.

What has changed in your life due to your relationship with Christ?

The past two weeks, Mark Hamilton preached “The Prodigal Son” and last week I preached covering “The Lost Sheep”. Both of these sermons dealt with situations of wandering. One story had the subject of a wayward son and the other parable was about a sheep that was unintentionally wandering.

Are we wandering?

How to tell:

1) Where are we going?
The son in Luke 15 wanted to go live the lavish party lifestyle. The sheep probably just got distracted. Neither of them had any ambition or fear and both ended up lost.

You are heading in a direction of life whether you want to admit it or not. Are you going to like where you are in 5 months? In 5 years?

2) Who is with me?
The son in Luke 15 spent his inheritance partying with friends and prostitutes, living the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Who is in your life? Who knows you and who do you celebrate with?

3) Who is leading me?
What!? I lead myself! If you’re a Christian and thinking this, you need to repent. Christ leads us. Pastors lead us. Family and friends lead us. Leadership is an effect. Who has an effect on us? Who do we want to be like?

What to do when we find ourselves wandering?

1) Trust Jesus.
Jesus is our good savior that died for your sins past, present, and future. Jesus provides grace. We need to trust him and trust that he is better. He is better than whatever is causing your wandering. Jesus is not just the “right thing to do”. He is more enjoyable. His ways are more enjoyable.

2) Trust His people.
Hopefully, you have a pastor, leader, or mature Christian that you are personally close to, you need to have a sincere conversation. If you see the gospel in their life, they will want to help while being loving, honest, and patient. Good conversations in the Christian community are a means of grace. It can be awkward and also a blessing. We have been trained socially and individually to resist this type of conversation. Remember the parables, being alone or with the wrong people is never healthy.

3) Stop doing what you are doing.
That may seem simplistic or even legalistic. Let’s face it, when we are wandering we are not making good decisions. In a life of wandering, there is at best, things that are not necessary and at worst a lot of sin. This is not saying, “we clean ourselves up” this is to say “stop quenching the Spirit”.

For referenced sermons go to Grace Church Sermons

Below is a link to Prodigal God, a must read. And a link to a soon to be released book that is worth a look.

 

Hearing from Jesus

Joy Behar criticized Vice President Mike Pence’s faith a few weeks ago on an episode of the View. Behar said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you….that’s called mental illness.”

That brings up an interesting discussion.

Is obeying commandments apart of the Christian life? Sure, there is a matter of holiness and obedience.
Is Christianity about faith in things you cannot see. Yes, absolutely. The Bible says that we live by faith not by sight.

So what is Christianity? How do we explain Christianity? Where do we start? Is it with the commandments or the spiritual aspect?

Neither.

Christianity is not a discipline or a philosophy.
We do not start with a step but we start with a person. This person did not bring a set of rules or a way of life. He brought a solution.

People are natural rebels, giving them more rules only provides more rules to break or shows them to be greater rebels.

People are natural hypocrites, giving them a worldview only provides one more worldview to put into our kaleidoscope of trending philosophies.

The answer is Jesus who fulfills the law for rebels and sends his Spirit to the hypocrites.

The Bible contains stories, songs, rules, prophecy, etc., but all point to Jesus Christ. Like Paul says to the Corinthians, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Did you notice the multiple mentions of “according to the Scriptures”? Jesus would also say that all the Law and Prophets spoke of me.

Jesus is what separates Christianity from other religions. The leaders of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc., will say that “I can show you the way.” Jesus says, “that I am the Way.” – John 14:6.

Christianity is the following of Jesus. So, how do you follow Jesus?

First, we do so by the word. By “word” I mean, we consume the Word of God. The Bible. It is his primary revelation to us.
In short, everything we need to know to walk with God is found in Scripture.

Prayer is the other primary means.

And now the hot topic. Do we alone talk to God or does God speak to us? This is what Joy Behar criticized Mike Pence for, hearing from God.

Are we crazy, or in Behar’s terms, “mentally ill” to hear from Jesus?

Full discretion, I have never heard an audible voice from God. I have never spoken in tongues.

However, I have had moments, brief encounters, with God where I was either encouraged or in awe because of communication between God and myself.

When I say encouraged, I do not mean that I needed a little pat on the back, I mean that as a Husband or Father at a point in life I did not know how to move forward and before I could even blink, God “told” me that everything was going to be alright.

When I say I was in “awe”, I mean that I felt God’s presence so mightily I was scared not only that his holiness would engulf me but that its might would bring the building down.

It can be just as simple as when I go to my devotional time, a truth is so stunning that I can’t continue reading for something has overwhelmed my mind and heart. God is revealing a truth about himself.

Other times, God uses other people to confirm something in my life. God is “telling” me to push forward.

The surest times I know God is “speaking” to me is when He is telling me to do something that I do not want to do. Just this past week I was told to do something that was uncomfortable. God’s word was preached to me, the opportunity was given to be faithful, and I wanted to say no.

The surefire way of testing if God is telling us something: Is it confirmed by His word? Is what someone is saying to you found in scripture? Does the “voice in your head” line up with the word of God?

Pastors have said, “Do you want to hear from God? Read your Bible out loud.”

It takes adoration of God and devotion to his word to be obedient. If we know what to do, but do not love Jesus, we will sin. If we believe we love Jesus but do not know his word, we can stumble into sin.

In our sermon from Sunday, Sam Poynor was preaching over the calling of Moses in Exodus.

At first, Moses was given a staff by God. God turned this staff into a serpent, Moses ran, and God called him back to show Moses how to turn it back into a staff and use it. Moses then after a tremendous journey of dealing with the Pharaoh of Egypt, the plagues, etc., Moses led God’s people out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea with that same staff.

The question for us, for growing Christians, are we going to see what God is giving us or run away from it?

I think it depends on how much you are “hearing from God.”

Sam’s message was around how we deal with difficulties in the Christian life. The world will give us stones and serpents, but God can change stones to bread or use them as weights to strengthen us until we can cast them off.

Sam showed us what Moses had seen as a serpent was a weapon of God. Moses began afraid of it, but then it was used to lead God’s people.

A charge of the sermon was to sharpen our gaze on Christ, do not be so shortsighted. In doing so we only produce self-inflicted stones.

Sam preached, “When we are being in the fast lane of following Christ the stones of suffering seem like small road bumps.”

Sam closed with a recent commitment to a mission that God was calling him to. The journey will be hard, there will be some difficulties and dangers, it will be out of the safety and comfort of his home where his wife and child are, but ultimately there will be joy and fruit.

It has been said that Christianity is too mystical for the academic and too grounded in truth for the mystic.

Our personalities tend to drive one way or the other. We are either control-freaks who like our worship to be nice and structured along with our theology or we are emotionally and experience-driven?

In Tim Keller’s book Prayer, he quotes John Murray, “It is necessary for us to recognize that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith…of living union and communion with the exalted and everpresent Redeemer…He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love…The life of true faith cannot be that of cold metallic assent. It must have the passion and warmth of love and communion because communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion.”

In closing, I hope to “hear” from God more and I hope to say yes as often.

You can listen to Sam Poynor’s sermon here: Grace Church Sermon Page – Sam Poynor

 

Recommendations for this part of Christian life:

And I have not read this yet because it is recently published but I hear good things about this book and the writer is excellent:

Repentance & Tragedy

Sunday my pastor Kelsey Cates preached on Luke13:1-5.
An often overlooked passage about an evil ruler who committed horrible acts on people and another catastrophe that results in loss of life. This subject must have been insensitively brought up in a discussion. Jesus aimed at the heart of those in the crowd, for he said, “do you think that they are worse than the others?” “You too, you need to repent unless you perish.”Pastor Kelsey explained why we need repentance and the seriousness of sin. 1) repent & 2) perish were the keywords driving the main point of the sermon. Repent, meaning to think differently or to be changed. Perish referring to the ultimate death not only the end of one’s life but eternal destruction.
Kelsey gave us the key to repent, “Repentance only comes when you replace sin with something better. Jesus is that Better.”
Later in the sermon, Kelsey preached an exhortation to come to repentance in light of the gospel saying, “Jesus is the Better…… A Christian that repents every day has tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord….. His mind has been changed after experiencing the Better.”
We are not saved by any amount of good works. Righteousness and holiness are something that we cannot earn. Jesus died on the cross for our forgiveness and imputed his righteousness to us that we may be saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
To listen to the full sermon click here: Kelsey Cates – Sermon – Change Your Mind
Kelsey provided a contemporary example for Luke 13:1-5, the recent shooting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida.
This sermon was timely for me, as I have been wanting to express a thought about this tragedy. By waiting until after Sunday, Kelsey gave me a greater insight and a wonderful text to base it off of.
We should examine our lives to find sin and replace it with satisfaction in Jesus. Are we doing this when a crisis occurs? Did we do this with the hurricanes? Do we do this with terrorism?
What about this? Are we being judgemental with our comments about the Florida school shooting? Judgemental? What? That would mean that we are criticizing the victims or assume that we are better.
No. We do not say that we are better. But the logic that we use might say otherwise. Why did the shooting occur? What is the reason something like this will not happen to us?
To say that we do not deserve what happened is to imply that the victims did.
Even if we are not using the same tone or judgment, isn’t it still legalism? Things like that do not happen to me because of,…? Who I am, what I do, what I believe?
Take a look at the Florida school shooting from a different perspective.
Let’s agree that we absolutely sympathize with the victims and families.
What about the shooter? What about him? What does he deserve?
Maybe we do not reason our safety against the tragedy of the victims, but do we claim for ourselves to be the judge of the guilty?
The shooter deserves every punishment that is lawful according to the government and God. But don’t we deserve this also?
If you were asked, “what is keeping you from judgment and punishment for your sins?” our only acceptable answer is what Jesus did on the cross. And if our answer is not that Jesus’ blood covered our sins and that is the only reason we do not deserve immediate judgment, then that is legalism. It is self-righteousness, it is works based, merit-based righteousness.
What is the appropriate response to a tragedy such as this?
Look to the gospel. That Jesus the sinless one was crucified as a criminal. We can be relieved in tragedies by fixing our eyes on the greatest tragedy. In dire circumstances, this truth anchors down further that God can use the worst of things for redemption. Tragedy reminds us the hope that eventually all things will be made new.
What are we to do though? Love.
Are the victims and families of the victims our neighbors? Yes. Is the shooter our neighbor? Yes.
We should not feel secure because of what we do and we cannot revel in someone else’s condemnation.
In such a sensitive time it is never more crucial to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Love does not accuse. We should not leap on opportunities to transfer blame to organizations, political parties, or current procedures that we are seeking to attack.
As believers in Christ, we should be agents for justice and reform. But, of first importance is the gospel and our repentance, that we may be able to minister to the world.
To an atheist, the highest power they know can only be either evolution or Darwinism. The solution for disaster from evolution or Darwinism is the survival of the fittest. I am sure that is comforting at the funerals.
Or to an atheist, the highest powers are the civil government. So something by our government must be done to rectify this disaster or justice has failed.
As believers, we trust God for justice. We have the hope of a good and just yet merciful God who will right every wrong.
If our response to disasters as believers in Christ is the same response as the rest of the world, we need to repent.

Recommendations:

 

Doctrine of Repentance – Thomas Watson

Grace & Discipleship

After recently preaching Cost of Discipleship (linked if you haven’t heard it) from Luke 14: 25-27, I would like to add some more practical thoughts and resources on personal growth in the Christian life.

I hope we can all agree that our engaging Jesus with consistent Bible reading and prayer is essential. There are many other “spiritual disciplines” as I like to refer to them, such as meditation, fasting, journaling, singing, etc.

The main thing is this, training up in Christ does not happen by accident. We certainly do not perform anything for our salvation but we do have a part in our sanctification. Romans 12:2 says, “To be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Now, what does that look like?

As I have discovered that nobody else’s devotion is going to look exactly like mine, as it shouldn’t. Since this is the case it could be very helpful to personalize your devotion time.

I do commend at least a morning devotion time, simply because it has the effect on an upcoming day, not as the day is ending.

Sometimes the benefit of this devotion is simply encouragement for the day. Or sometimes it provides needed grace and mercy after I feel like I have failed or sinned somewhere. Other times I receive a bit of wisdom for a particular topic or decision. Others, it seems to be filled with prayers for other people. To be honest, sometimes I oversleep and miss my time or, maybe I have that time but it was not profound at all and I do not feel any different than when I woke up.

To personalize this time, you may like to have a consistent place and location. Or you may like to randomize your devotion time by walking outside, listening to different worship music, or going to a public place.

There is one more thing that I want to consider about growing in Christ, we need each other. We need others that are growing in Christ that may not be exactly like us. And occasionally though hopefully not very often…….we will need to fight for one another.

What I mean is this, take Paul and Peter, for instance. Paul was an educated scholar of the Old Testament, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Paul was probably wealthy, powerful, and an influential man who after conversion loved Christ and served the mission.

Then take Peter, a fisherman who probably couldn’t read all that well. If it had not been for Jesus calling him, Peter would have spent most of his life working very hard, living a blue-collar life, and smelling like fish. But Peter, after conversion loved Christ and served the mission.

Paul at one point rebuked Peter for showing favoritism to the powerful  Jewish social circles. Peter felt compelled to remind Paul to minister to the poor.

I believe both had a personal growing relationship with Christ. I believe both served Jesus well. But, I also believe both were served by their being in ministry near one another because they sharpened each other in complementary ways.

Because Paul wrote most of the letters in the New Testament, we have this impression that he was this loner missionary conquering Greece with nothing but the clothes on his back and the gospel. But, how many times does he include in those letters, a request to thank a long list of people with funny Greek names? Paul not only needed help, he loved his friends. He loved Timothy and Titus, and Luke, and all the other people that accompanied him. In the book of Acts as he is leaving he tells the church that is trying to keep him, “Why are you trying to make me cry?”, “I have to go.” (paraphrase)

So we should aim to grow personally and learn to feed ourselves scripture and to meditate and grow in our prayer life.

But Christianity is not a solo mission. Jesus designed us to be in community, namely the church which he is the cornerstone.

In the church, there are shepherds and brothers for each other’s edification, mentorship, and accountability.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul writes to Timothy, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

I would like to close with several recommendations and also would love to hear your comments or questions and recommendations:

Bibles:

I am not going to fight over Bible translations. If you’re a King James guy, great. You like the NIV, great. It’s a fight that nobody wins. The best Bible translation is the translation you will read. The guys doing translations are smarter than me and we have the freedom to choose. Stay away from some versions that are way too lax like the Message or the New World Translation which is a Jehovah’s Witness bible translation and you will be fine. To be clear though my preference due to biblical accuracy and readability are the ESV, CSB, NKJV, and others are acceptable like NIV and NLT.

Another Bible edition that is extremely helpful is a Study Bible. All the above-mentioned translations have their Study Bibles. Study Bibles have a commentator who includes helpful insights below the referenced scripture verses. These are useful in understanding difficult passages, creating a devotional environment, and providing context such as time, author, critical events, type of literature, etc.

Podcast & Audible or Christian Audio:

There are many great preachers that upload their sermons for free. If you do not want to listen to more preaching, an alternative is podcasts that can be helpful covering topics in a conversation or interview format. Audible and Christian Audio provide books to listen to rather than read. I recently started listening to “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson as my first audiobook.

The great thing about podcasts, sermons, audiobooks, is that you can multi-task. You can drive, work out, do your chores, etc. all while listening to something that is helping you grow in Christ.

I also advise, choosing to listen to more than one podcast. Balance it out to not have just one teaching style in your head. Also, it is beneficial to get the gospel applied from different age groups, different regions, different cultures, even different denominations. For example, I listen to Tony Merida out of North Carolina, Art Azurdia from Portland, Joe Thorn from a suburb of Chicago, Tim Keller from New York City, and Matt Chandler from DFW.

Podcast Recommendations:

The Briefing with Al Mohler (Christian analysis of world news updated every weekday morning)

Radical or Pray the Word by David Platt

Culture Matters by The Village Church

Good Books:

How do I know it is a good book? It makes me want to pick up the bible more.

Some people frown upon reading other human’s works rather than the God-authored bible. I understand what they are saying, but the execution of this idea is what I have a problem with. I have a hunch, that people that “only” read the bible probably don’t read as often as they think they do. And that people that read other books for personal growth can responsibly read these types of books, grow in discernment, be helped taught the meaning of scripture, and are probably reading the Bible more than those that claim to “only read the bible”. It is valuable and important to learn from godly Christians who have gone before us or are in it with us.

Book Recommendations for personal growth:

-Knowing God – J.I. Packer

-Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

-Abide – 6-week devotional in the Lifeway Growing Disciples Series

-Spiritual Disciplines – Don Whitney

 Briefing – Al Mohler

Audible audible, an amazon companyChristian Audiochristianaudio

Grace & Fascination

Wonder, awe, breathtaking, etc. These are words that have been used to capture an experience. Maybe this was with God, or in nature, or with a newborn child. It was definitely not describing a grocery trip to Wal-Mart.

You are probably thinking, “Yeah, that’s the point, they are extraordinary.”

Do we really only ever stop and pause at a few extraordinary moments in life?

With so much instant entertainment in our culture, we may have become desensitized to the miracles of life.

We should with hungry humility seek out the “everyday” miracles and attribute them to God. That’s what the word “fascination” brings besides the words mentioned earlier, is a sense of on-going, continuous, searching out.

We should be fascinated with grace. We should be fascinated with what God is doing in our lives.

This simultaneously brings about a higher sense of worship for God and gratification. God gets the exaltation, the credit for what is happening in our life. We find more satisfaction, more joy, thankfulness for what is going on in our life. This practice will also strengthen our faith, provide endurance for when we get rocked, it will bring to light that God is great and there is much more going on than the trial in front of us. Whether you need reminding that there is more than this crisis, something better than the mundane, or whether you need assurance that God will work out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Be fascinated with every miracle God has in motion. Be curious to find out what we are not seeing. Be hungry to find out what we can thank God for that we have been ignorant of in the past. We need to be in pursuit of fascination with the miracles around us.

As a believer in Jesus and in particular a pastor, I have a calling to invest in people’s lives. With every text message and every lunch, there are exchanges of grace. There are so many things that happen daily and weekly that make a lifetime of differences.

As a husband and best friend to my wife, a connection that is unexplainable. A relationship that is indivisible, there is nothing in my life that does not affect her nor her’s mine.

As a parent, every night when I come home, I can see and hear little miracles. My children have a story of their own now. They have their own interactions at school, with other kids. My little girl is in Pre-K and has a boy crushing on her. My son has his playground adventures and wants to start karate. Are these not moments to treasure?

As a co-worker, we spend 8-10+ hours a day, basically as a family away from home. For some of you, it may just be a couple of people. For me, it is 70 people. C.S. Lewis said, “I have never met a mere mortal.” Every day I go to work with 70 people who were made in the image of God.

History contains fascination. The present should hold our fascination. The future intrigues our fascination.

To be bored is to fail at worship. To not be fascinated with your life is to be guilty of being lazy with your eyes and mind. To not be fascinated is to fail to recognize what is going on around us.

How can you stir up your thankfulness? How can you slow down to realize your fascination with life around you?

What can you do to turn the moments that are difficult into experiences that can be more helpful? Is it treating your spouse differently? Is it changing a parenting approach, performing a job better or rescheduling something? Life is too precious to not be fascinated with our lives and seek out the grace that is present and become transformed by it.

Grace & The Weekend

Friday 4:59 PM. It is almost here, you woke up thinking about this moment, this freedom. In one minute, you have….. the weekend!

What could you do? Where are we going to eat? I am going to be able to stay up late, sleep in, enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon, and then do something great again Saturday night, and when I get up Sunday, all day football.

Oh this is going to be great.

Is this what we are thinking Friday at 4:59?

Some of us might be thinking, I just want to sleep! Or I am going to binge watch all weekend long.

The weekends have turned into 2 days for gratifying the flesh.

I am going to do what I want. Wake up when I want. Eat what I want.

Does it ever really satisfy though?

After the “party” nights, whether that is social partying or a Netflix and fast food – stay at home party, has this weekend satisfied?

If you’re a believer involved with a local church, did you do all this while sliding into a service at 11PM and then maybe go to lunch with some folk and then go nap, just to get up Monday and do it again?

How can we inject GRACE into the weekend? How can our weekends receive gospel transformation?

Here are a few small things that can inject grace into our weekend (while still allowing plenty of rest and that are free)

Warning: If you follow this, your weekend might not look like everyone else’s when you go back to work Monday. Your stories might not be the same. But hey, why don’t you be a rebel:

1. Begin Saturday morning with a devotional. Even after you sleep in. When you wake up Saturday, don’t just turn on T.V. and spend the next 14 hours ruled by your own mind and flesh. Here you are Saturday morning with an option: zone out or pick up your bible.

You want to have an awesome weekend? Pray and spend time in God’s word. 15 minutes. 5 minutes. Have a small time where you seek His presence and be in touch with His Spirit.

There is NOTHING better.

I know. I know. A bowl of cereal? Re-runs? Spending time with Jesus is better than that? Yeah it is. You think hiking, fishing, watching whatever, playing whatever, is greater than the God who invented all that? You got it twisted. Get your weekend started off right with time with the Lord.

Then go about your Saturday recreation however you might, but be open to change after this small time where you sought God.

2. Some time Saturday afternoon / evening: Pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your church. I’m not talking about monk-like hours of prayer while everyone else is at the movies or dinner. Go have fun, stay in and hang out, do whatever you want to, but, pray for some people that you know from church, especially if there are some people in hard times. Pray for your pastor who may still be working on his sermon. Pray for your church’s unity. Pray for those who you might meet tomorrow. Pray for how God might use tomorrow morning’s service.

3. Go to church early. Don’t sneak in 15 minutes late and leave during the last portion of worship. Why? To fellowship. You might need to hear something from someone. You might need to say something to someone. There is great edification in a cup of coffee before worship, there is great strength in friendly chit chat before the service, there is an invitation into someone’s lives if you are the one to be there to show a guest where the kids go, or where they can sit, or greet them in the parking lot. It is worth waking up 15 minutes earlier or going to sleep a little earlier.

4. Speak to someone you usually don’t. Even in small churches, groups and routines are formed. Even if you enjoy speaking to most of the people, even if you are sure everyone knows that you care for them, even if you are an introvert, there is a great exchange of encouragement and strength in widening our fellowship.

5. Be honest. If not everything is alright. Don’t say everything is alright. If you need help or just want to vent, your church is exactly where you should be able to find someone to help or listen, but if they ask if everything is ok and you say, “oh yeah, perfect”. It is really difficult to help or listen. This could be whether you just aren’t right with, the Lord, yourself, someone else, etc., or if there is a specific situation where someone has offended you or you have offended someone else.

This doesn’t read like a manual for throwing the best party or a dude-bro’s map to excellent weekend.

However, there is great joy in resting. There is great joy in the Sabbath. There is great joy in seeing small seeds of prayer and intentionality bearing fruit even over just 2 days’ time.

Get your rest, relaxation, recreation over the weekend, but if you aren’t fulfilled in your average weekend, add a few small ways to find grace in your weekend and see how much joy you have over being a zombie for two days.

2017 in Books

This is a fun post to look back at the year 2017 through a lens of the books read.

2017 was an odd year. Even in books. Piper is at the bottom, a western is in my top 5, and I read about half as much as I did in 2016 because I began having serious anxiety issues that greatly reduced my mental stamina.

Most of the books I read are to supplement my devotion life, walk, faith in Christ or to help in my leadership of the local church, but occasionally I read some fiction, and I am about 10% into Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln.

Here are the books I read in 2017 ranked worst to first with a brief review of each:

17) Let the Nations Be Glad – John Piper

This book comes highly recommended by missionaries for the teaching on why missions matter. When I read John Piper it feels like he is making an argument instead of writing a letter. Don’t hate his work, just not a fan of his writing.

If you are considering international missions, have at it.

16) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

There are some great evidences of C.S. Lewis ‘genius and Christ references. I will probably read this with my kids but other than that I was underwhelmed.

It is a fun, easy to read book and I do not mean to sound critical of C.S. Lewis but just not my favorite author.

15) Valley of Vision – Puritan Poetry and Meditations

Most of these short meditations are great to supplement your prayer and devotion time. The theology is sound and the passion for gospel repentance and devotion is evident.

The language and demeanor are not for everybody.

My wife and I read these infrequently but have found them helpful in seasons.

14) Family Worship – Donald Whitney

Must read for every man. If you’re a husband, you should have already read it. If you’re a dad and haven’t read it, you are late to the game.

All kidding aside, it is a short book on a greatly forgotten / untaught subject.

This is a tiny book that could greatly impact your family.

13) Experiencing the Trinity – Joe Thorn

Joe Thorn wrote this during / after battling mental health (anxiety or depression) and I found this helpful during / after battling my own mental health issues.

This is a book consisting of small chapters dedicated to a devotional focus of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.

12) Preach: Theology Meets Practice – Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert

As I am learning how to preach I picked this up and found it to be very helpful with understanding what a sermon is and the how to’s. They even include transcripts of sermons that were edited by each other to show helpful critique.

Main thing to take away from this book – “make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.  Even if you’re a topical preacher, you can be biblical if your preaching the main topic in context of the verse.

Very simple but more preachers should follow this: “Make the main point of the text, the main point of the sermon”.

11) Awe – Paul Tripp

This is written by a guy who explains grace better than anyone and he sets out to explain a thought on worship here.

This is a good book to read to expand our worship and get us out of “valleys”.

10) Saturate – Jeff Vanderstelt

Very good book on the missional community aspect of the local church.

Written by a good story teller using examples of his successes and very honest about his failures. Even a few stories, where I was surprised about how honest he was. I dont know if I would have had the courage to share some of his mistakes, which make me like and trust him. Small groups aren’t always sunshine and every gathering or function doesn’t make dreams come true. But the commitment of a small group of believers gathering for true fellowship and ministry is a powerful thing.

If you are leading a church, leading a small group, in a small group, or even in a church you should read this book.

9) Conviction to Lead – Al Mohler

If you are in business or church leadership this is an excellent read.

Great leadership book / story of Mohler’s rise into leadership of Southern Seminary and its revitalization. Mohler uses great biblical teaching, historical references, and leadership insight.

8) Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance

I am not a hillbilly. I consider myself just “country”, but I understand what J.D. is saying. I saw some of the same things that he saw. He is my people. What he has done is a remarkable explanation of a white-subculture and a wonderful story.

I found my heart tugged for families but also found myself elbowing my wife explaining, “that happened to me too”.

Enlightening read.

7) True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer

This is the best book on “worldview” I have ever read.  Schaeffer began his spiritual retreat center L’abri to battle existentialism. I greatly benefited from this book and would have loved to read it earlier in my Christian walk as a young believer when my biggest question, was, “Ok, I believe, now what I am I supposed to do, what am I supposed to think?”

I picked this book when I “wanted to get back to basics” with Jesus. This helped.

6) Prayer – Tim Keller

I will make a sweeping statement here: if there is a book written on prayer in the past 50 years, chances are it is written by a pitiful theologian full of twisted man-centered theology.

Tim Keller wrote the exception. It’s a great work covering and comparing many views on prayer, the difficulties on prayer, and the Bible’s teaching on prayer. There is also a great segment on Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s teachings on prayer.

My wife and I read Prayer in 2017 and found it to be insightful, challenging, and even devotional.

Highly recommend this to every Christian, as we all have probably not been taught well on prayer.

5) Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry

I have watched the movie several times. It is a legendary movie in my family. I know this is cliché, but the book is even better.

From the first page, I could feel the heat and sand from south Texas and I journeyed with the Hat Creek Cattle Company travels north with all the challenges, fears, celebrations, and losses that occurred.

It is a Western. But it’s a story about relationships, pride, adventure, overcoming individuals pasts, love, growing up, and is written by a native Texan who I once dove hunted right next to his land.

The biggest claim people seem to like about this book from where I live is, “did you know the author lives an hour north of here.”, and I am like, “Did you know he won a Pulitzer Prize!?”

4) Newton on the Christian Life – Tony Reinke

John Newton wrote the famous hymn Amazing Grace. But did you know that he was also a great pastor who although had weaknesses, overcame them with his love of Jesus and simple love for people.

He made up for not being as eloquent or dynamic as Spurgeon or as theologically perceptive as Calvin with a passion to communicate and shepherd with his people via visits and handwritten letters.

Make no mistake though, Newton knew the gospel, was changed by the gospel and has a great life story covered very well Tony Reinke as part of a series “On the Christian Life” covering a wide range of pastors and theologians.

3) Prodigal God – Tim Keller

We need more books that focus on one passage or parable like Keller expounds Luke 15’s Prodigal Son.

Tim Keller writes and preaches with insight and wisdom that is somehow encouraging and comforting while also informing and convicting.

Listening and reading Keller is almost as if going to a grandpa when you’re in trouble and him explaining how everything is going to be alright, he’s there for you, but you know what you need to do.

I was always confused by the title until Tim Keller explains, “prodigal” doesn’t mean wayward but means more closely to “freely spending”, as in the son was freely spending on his way to blowing his inheritance and God was freely spending on his way to rescue us via the cross.

2) Good and Angry – David Powlison

I haven’t come across many books that deal with emotional or mental issues biblically. Most books fail at being power of positive thinking, or prosperity gospel, not helpful, or just all around foolish.

I researched books that dealt with anger and the gospel.

I was feeling I had to much bite and snap to me. When I was dealing with my wife, or kids, or at work, I felt like I always had a fuse burning and I didn’t know why.

Now, what later I learned this was the beginning of some more serious anxiety issues but at the time I just knew I didn’t like how I was acting.

This book taught me a lot how when we get upset at injustices, in a way we are feeling that way because of how we are created in the image of God, however, this book was great at showing and teaching me how to forgive quickly, process anger, not be ashamed of it, but see life more mercifully and gracefully.

1) Songs of Jesus – Tim Keller

This is a daily devotional by Tim and his wife Kathy Keller. It contains a passage from a psalm, a short comment or reflection on the psalm, and a written prayer.

This book has been beneficial in my worship and devotional times, for my understanding of the book of Psalms, and it has been really fun to hear my wife chat about it when I get home or a text about it during work and the ensuing discussion we have had all year long about this book and the scripture its discussing.

They have also recently released a similar devotional over the book of Proverbs.

If you made it to the bottom of this, you may have some questions, critiques, or suggestions. I am all ears. Let me know. Make a comment or email. But I bet you also have something else in mind:

Maybe your curious to why I read or you are a believer in Jesus and you are not a “reader” outside of the Bible and have pause about reading anything not Scripture, so let me add something:

  • I disagree with something that I read from every author I read, but I also learn a lot.
  • I also learn a great deal about Scripture, Jesus, and working out my faith from a lot of these authors.
  • But simply the exercise of reading trains me to consume and digest more of the Bible, so the question or concern of reading contemporary authors taking away time from reading the Bible actually gets flipped on its head, so my question to the critics of “readers”:

Are you limited in strength, stamina, ability, access, teachers if you’re not reading?

If you don’t read contemporary authors, I bet you don’t read the bible as much as you think.

If you don’t read contemporary authors, who is teaching you? Who is teaching the one(s) teaching them? Who disagrees with them?

There is freedom in reading, there is a world of joy in reading, there is a universe to be explored in reading.

Ecclesiastes 12:12…making many books there is no end….

What Judgmental People Say on Sunday Part 1

fans

“All those players for that team are criminals!”

“They wouldn’t play for my team!” “I would cut him!”

Now, let’s take the average case that the NFL looks into. Not Aaron Hernandez murder trial and also not Joseph Randle stealing underwear. Without looking at serious evidence, I would imagine that the average case the NFL investigates regarding player discipline would be in the range of DUI (driving under the influence), substance abuse or possession (narcotics or PEDs), or domestic violence.

1st thing that must be clarified is that I am not condoning any of these actions. The emotional, relational, and even financial stakes when it comes to abuse of substances or persons are devastating. I don’t need stats to back this up, I have seen it.

Back to the blog:

Using these examples, is the reaction justified?

Let’s do a hypothetical situation:

28 year old man, money in his pocket, and time on his hands. Buddies want to go out. Party lasts too long. Bad decisions get made. This guy tries to drive home but eventually wrecks his vehicle and proceeds to get arrested for DUI and because of testosterone and alcohol; he puts his hands on his officer adding resisting arrest or even assaulting an officer.

Now if this guy is on a NFL roster he would probably get a 4 – 8 game suspension on top of any legal penalties. But, the fan base would be calling radio stations claiming that he is a thug and needs to be released.

What if the 28 year old man works in Detroit for an automobile manufacturer or on a pipeline in Texas? He posts bail and pays his fine and court fees, goes to all the hearings, and if it is a first time offense probably results in no jail time.

Nobody is claiming he should lose his job and when he does return to work, the same fan who might have called into the local sports shows or blasted him on social media if he was an athlete, but is instead cutting up with him during lunch break.

I have gotten to work in various work environments with guys who have felony criminal history, vulgar prison tats, have battled or battling serious drug addiction, violent backgrounds, etc. Want to know the strange part about that? They were some of my most dependable, productive, cooperative coworkers. Sure, some times it didn’t work out, they got fired, quit, or had to move.

You know what else happened to me? A couple of years ago, my employment was terminated due to a layoff due to oil prices.

When you have to file for unemployment, it changes the way you speak about somebody’s livelihood.

We want to fire athletes for things that some of my favorite coworkers, and closest friends and family have dealt with?

What if that was your coworker, cousin, or best friend?

I understand the other side too. I have had to decide to terminate employment of dozens of workers, based on attendance, job performance, or other business reasons.

I understand there are consequences, and I understand that there are more severe consequences the higher the stakes. And the NFL deals with a lot of money…. I mean stakes.

Main point: I am not expecting us to treat a professional athlete like our best friend when they make a mistake, but I know you wouldn’t say the same things to your best friend that you would about the professional athlete.

The reason why? You have seen them as a person, you have seen them as a unique individual.

C.S. Lewis said,

“There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Think about that. Every person you have ever seen was made in the image of God. Whether he works for the NFL or for General Motors.