7 Reasons I Love the ESV Study Bible

ESV

So this week the ESV Study Bible is turning one. In honor of my favorite Study Bible, I wanted to provide you with seven reasons I love the ESV Study Bible.

  • It can be used for self-defense if I get trapped in a dark alley by a communist mob boss. The smart folks at Crossway realized that there will be times when a Bible needs to double as a weapon, and so they created a Study Bible that has some serious weight. Don’t come too close bad guys or, “WHAM” – Bible to the kidney.
  • It’s packed with helpful articles. Before each book of the Bible is a helpful section explaining the purpose of the book, outline of the book, recipients of the book, etc. There’s an article on the history of salvation in the OT, the Bible and world religions, the Septuagint, and loads of other clarifying articles.
  • It’s too large to fit into Bible cases. No praying hands, bald eagles, or pictures of Dale Jarret on this Bible. It just won’t fit. And I like it that way.
  • Smart guys at my disposal. The study notes were not written by folks of average intelligence like myself. If I had written the study notes most of them would have said, “I’m not exactly sure what this means but I think it has something to do with prayer.” Fortunately, the notes were written by world class biblical scholars Thomas Shreiner, Wayne Grudem, and Iain Duguid. It’s like I have them with me each morning as I read my Bible.
  • It comes in leather. I have the calfskin version of the Study Bible, and I’m pretty sure that’s the version that John Wayne, Chuck Norris, and Macho Man Randy Savage would use. And maybe King James.
  • Diagrams galore. There’s a well known saying: “A diagram is worth approximately 400 words”, which is another reason to love the Study Bible. It’s packed with diagrams. The book of John alone has diagrams for: Specific References to Jesus as God, Seven Signs Pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, Tangible Images of Belief in Christ, Physical Items Used By Jesus to Describe Spiritual Truths, and six others.
  • It promotes physical health. Carry this baby around for a week and see if you don’t notice a change in your biceps. How do you think I got to be so strong?

I absolutely love the Study Bible and am so grateful to the folks at Crossway for making it accessible. Go out and get one. I mean right now.

David’s First Order Of Business

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1 CH 16.7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers.

David’s first order of business after bringing the ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, was to get the worship team singing thanks.

This agrees with Psalm 100:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name! (v4)

Coming to God with thanks is a great principle.  Obviously there are times we come to God with cries for help, mercy, or wisdom on our lips.  But there are great benefits to coming to the Lord with gratitude before starting to ask him for things.

I’ve found that giving thanks first lifts my eyes off my circumstances and onto the One who controls my circumstances.  By thanking the Father for all he did for me in sacrificing his Son on the cross, it gives me confidence he’ll meet all my lesser needs.  When I preface my requests with praise to Jesus for his power, love, and wisdom, it strengthens my trust in him to care for me.  By recalling and thanking him for past mercies and faithfulness, it bolsters my faith for his future faithfulness.

Some morning soon try this, spend your whole “prayer” time thanking Jesus for things.

Start with spiritual blessings – salvation, forgiveness, justification, adoption, the gift of eternal life.  Then move on to material and temporal blessings – your family, health, eyes, ears, strength, food, home, car, etc.

Let thanksgiving be your first order of business.  It’s a happy exercise.

photo by dmachiavello

A Year Without Toilet Paper

toilet paper

Could you go for a year without using toilet paper?

Colin Beavan did.

The AP reports a story about Beavan and his family, who for the past year have sought to make zero impact on the environment around them.

They shut off the electricity to their apartment. They refused to use anything disposable, and they wouldn’t buy anything that was new. They traveled by bicycle, only bought fresh food from farmers, put away their television, and even gave up toilet paper. They didn’t want to leave a single fingerprint on the earth.

I admire Beavan and his family for their desire to preserve the Earth. But as I thought about Beavan and his year-long experiment, I couldn’t help but think of Genesis 1:28, where God says to Adam and Eve:

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Based on Genesis 1:28 it would seem that Colin Beavan’s desire to make zero impact on the earth is unbiblical. God has given humanity a mandate to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it. We don’t exist on an equal plane with the rest of creation. The earth exists so that we might subdue it, and make it useful to us, and receive benefit from it. To make no impact on the earth is to ignore the mandate given to us by God.

In his book Business for the Glory of God, Wayne Grudem comments:

God’s command to “subdue” the earth implies doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful for themselves [Adam and Eve] and others. This is what he wanted Adam and Eve to do, and that is one of the things he wants us to do as well.

We’re called to be stewards of the earth. Yes, it’s possible to sinfully destroy and harm the environment, instead of stewarding it. But it’s also possible to try and preserve the environment too much. God created the earth so that we might use it for our good.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to purchase some toilet paper.

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+photo by Andrei!

What Kind Of Clothes Does God Wear?

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You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment (PS 104.1-2)

The Psalmist poetically compares the creation with God’s clothing.  We can’t see God, but he shows us something of himself by his “clothing” – the creation.

Charles Spurgeon says “Garments both conceal and reveal a person, and [so does the creation] of God.”

The universe both conceals and reveals God.  It conceals God – we can’t see him in his infinite glory as he really is.  It also reveals God – the majesty of the heavens and the beauty of the earth hints at how infinitely glorious, breathtaking and marvelous Jesus Christ must be.

“It makes us feel how altogether inconceivable the personal glory of the Lord must be; if light itself is but his garment and veil, what must be the blazing splendor of his own essential being!”  (Spurgeon).

“All of nature can only hint at God’s greatness, just as a person’s clothing can only give a suggestion of what the person is really like.”  (Michael E. Travers)

The trees where I live in Western Pennsylvania are in full fall splendor now.  The colors are almost neon at times, they burn and glow with incandescence.  I’m almost ravished by beauty of creation at times.  What will the sight of Jesus’ face do to me?  I can’t wait.

How does the creation point you to the glory of Christ?

photo by VancityAllie

Afraid? Dismayed?

warriors

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s….Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”  (2 CH 20.15, 17)

When we face a “great horde”, be it actual enemies, financial problems, rebellious children, marital problems, sickness, or our own gigantic sin that looms before us, we can be tempted in two ways.  We can be tempted to be afraid and tempted to be dismayed.  God told Jehoshaphat two times not to give in to these temptations.

Do not be afraid or dismayed.  Don’t fear and don’t be discouraged.

God tells us not to yield to fear or discouragement,  for the battle belongs to him.  He is waging war against the sin in our life and in the life of that rebellious teen.  He is fighting the fear and unbelief in our hearts.  He is fighting for our holiness and joy.  The battle is not ours but God’s.

We must guard against this double-edged temptation.  We must battle fear and discouragement.

“Do not be dismayed” has to do with the present. We can be dismayed at the state of our marriage or how our kids are doing.  We can be discouraged at our slow progress to conquer a sin.

“Do not be afraid” has to do with the future. We fear for our teen if she continues the direction she’s going.  We fear there won’t be enough money next month.  We fear that this pain won’t go away.  God tells us not to be fearful for the future, nor be discouraged about the present.

A sister I know had been battling depression and was experiencing powerful emotions of discouragement and fear.  One day on her way into a store, she passed  a Salvation Army Lady collecting money.  She’d just heard a message about casting our bread upon the waters, so she went back and gave a dollar, and the lady gave her a little envelope with a card inside.  She opened it and the card read:

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’

God specifically spoke to her about the very emotions she was struggling with and greatly encouraged her that day, and he wants to encourage you today.  Do not be dismayed at what you see, nor afraid of what may be – the battle is the Lord’s.

photo by Eugene of Norway

Did I Ever Tell You You’re My Hero?

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We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work (1 TH 5.12-13).

A couple weeks ago, I attended a “Pastors Appreciation Breakfast” at the local Christian School, Seeds of Faith Academy, a great school where some kids from our church go.  About 20 of us pastors were welcomed by a huge banner that read “You Are Our Heroes.”  After breakfast we attended “chapel” with the kids, then each pastor posed for a photo with children from his church, who gave him handmade cards like this one:

front card 1 scaled

I’m so grateful for Seeds of Faith, their teachers, these sweet kids and the hard work they put in on the cards.  I truly was honored.  But I did have to chuckle a couple times.  Check these out…

Inside card 1 scaled

My fellow pastor, Joe,  is the hero here.  They must have thought he was coming to the breakfast then, uh oh, here comes Mark, not Joe.  Quick, anybody got a pencil?  Scribble in between the lines “and Mark.”  Good.  He’ll never know the difference.

How about this one:

Inside card 2 scaled

This child goes to another church but must have gotten confused and joined me for the photo.    He or she must have posed for the picture, realized I was not their pastor, ripped the name off, then ran for the coatroom.

I like this one:

inside card 3 scaled

I wonder how he got Pastor Cameron.  There are no pastors I know in the area by that name.   Looks like his teacher wrote the name.  She must have asked who his pastor was.  Ummmmm, his name is, his name is, ummmmmmm – his eyes dart from side to side.  Then he looks over at his friend Cameron.  My pastor is ummmmm, Pastor….. Cameron.

How about this one:

inside card 4 scaled

He called me Pastor Brad.  Another kid from a different church.  Obviously the kid loves his pastor, but must not know what Pastor Brad looks like, since he posed for a photo with me.  If the guy at the top of the picture is Pastor Brad, no wonder the kid loves him.  It looks like Pastor Brad’s knocking himself silly with a hammer.  I would have liked that as a kid.

Check out this last card:

inside card 5 scaled

Could there be any greater honor for a pastor?  I’m so grateful he considers me a good pastor and friend, and especially that he thinks I’m funny!

Supply the Caption

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Okay, supply the caption! I’ll post my favorite one…

Bob said:

“The break back truck jack” just $19.99 Wait, there’s more! Order now and we’ll throw in the treated four by fours free. Order in the next 30 seconds and you’ll also get a free neck brace!

Luke said:

Extreme breakdancer Erik “Sparky” Jones pushes his “art” beyond the limits of safety, sanity, and intelligence.