A Review of the “Christian Standard Bible”

There it was, bigger than Dallas, an ad on Facebook offering a free copy of the Christian Standard Bible from Holman Publishing Company.  My wife would be the first to tell you, that I really don’t need another Bible; but I didn’t have a print version of the CSB, so I went ahead and sent the email to get the free copy.  I did have a digital version on my Kindle, but that is really not the first place that I reach for a Bible.  I wanted to get one in my hands — feel it, read it, and use it for various applications.  For the last 7 years I have relied on 6 translations of the Bible in my study:  English Standard Bible (one that I used for nearly all of my preaching and teaching), New American Standard Bible, New King James Version, New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the New Living Translation.  Knowing the Christian Standard Bible was not a new translation, but a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, I wanted to check it out and see if it was going to replace the HCSB in my comparative study stack.

There was one LITTLE caveat attached to receiving this free Bible, they wanted the recipient to write a review of their efforts.  Let me explain, that early on in my ministerial training, I decided that in the field of Biblical Studies; you either had to become a scholar, or you had to learn to trust the scholars.  It didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t scholar material, so I have spent time learning who the scholars were, and which ones to trust.  This review will not be a technical discussion about the merits of the original “texts” that were used, or of the accuracy of the translation process that was used.  What it will be is some observations, of a very practical nature, that I have made.

Let me begin with some first impressions of the edition that I received:

1. Well, when my free Bible arrived, I was a little surprised by the quality.  When you are offered a free Bible, you would expect an “inexpensive” edition (probably a paperback), but that was not the case this time.  Holman sent the Ultra Thin Reference Bible, with the “leather touch” cover.  It is not the top-of-the-line model, but it is a lot more than what I was expecting.

2.  This particular edition was not formatted like a Bible that I would buy for myself.  Because of my habits, age, and eyesight; I generally don’t purchase a Bible that is not single column, wide margin, and (hopefully) with a slightly larger print.  This particular Bible was not any of those things, and that presented me with some problems.

As I said earlier, the Holman Christian Standard Bible had been one of my “go to” translations, and I always enjoyed reading from it.  There were some things changed in this revision, that affected the way that I felt about the CSB (remember that these are just personal preferences and observations).

1. I really am glad that they have removed the “bullet points” from the text.  I never took the time to learn how they were to be used, and they were just a distraction to me, while I was reading.

2. In the New Testament, I like that they still put the Old Testament quotations in bold type.  I am sure that there are some that do not, and may even question the ones that are and are not enhanced.  But, I like that they do that.

3. It would have been my preference that in the Old Testament that they would have continued to use Yahweh; instead of doing what most all of the other translations do, by putting LORD.  I understand that not everyone understands the background to the word, Yahweh, or may not even be familiar with the term at all; but that would have been my preference.

4. Also, I would have preferred that they had left Messiah in some of the New Testament contexts, instead of using Christ.  Again, I understand why they didn’t; but, again, I am talking about my personal preference.

The only way that I could honestly review this work, was by actually using it — so that was what I did.  That is one of the reasons it has taken me about 6 months to offer this review.  In my usage of it:  I,  read James every morning for two weeks, preached a 7 lesson series from the book of Nehemiah, using it to teach a Bible class on Galatians, using it to lead a small group discussion of Philippians, and, working my way through Psalms (posting on Twitter twice a day).

So, what is my overall impression, as a preacher/teacher (not a scholar); I would give it about 7 out of 10 stars.  When I am looking for accuracy, I will still go to the NASB, NKJV, or the ESV.  If I am looking for a translation to help me understand and interpret the passage, I will still use the NIV, or the NLT.  In my opinion (for whatever that is worth), the CSB will fit somewhere between those two groups.

The ESV will continue to be the Bible that I preach from 75% of the time, and I will continue to study from all 6 (with the CSB replacing the HCSB).  Crossway has done just such a remarkable job providing the different editions that I need, that I can’t see replacing the ESV right now.  Could I see myself switching to the CSB in the future.  Yes, IF the economics of the situation was right, and they had the formats that work for me.  Overall though, I liked the translation — enough so, that I am going to buy several copies (of this particular edition) and give them as Christmas presents.

I want to close this review, by just posting a few familiar verses from the CSB.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.  (Matthew 6:33)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

For God loved the world in this way; He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  (Romans 1:16)

For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.  There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, since you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs.  (Galatians 3:27-29)

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

 

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“A Case of the WANTS”

Our society is challenged by “things”!  Culture has made most people develop a really bad case of the “wants”.  Everyone is chasing the American dream — I want to make it big, so I can have everything I want.  Lotteries, casinos, multi-level marketing, all kind of treasure hunts on television, and a multitude of other things — all feed the desire to have more.

Everything around us feeds the desire to have more.  Advertisers know how to entice us to want more.  How easy life would be if we had these “things”.  “Easy terms” make it accessible for everyone.  How many commercials do we hear, or watch, in a day.  We notice every “new” thing that our friends and neighbors purchase.  We participate in a “Parade of Homes”, or an “Open House”, (for houses that we know that we will never be able to afford) — and see a shower bigger than our bathroom, a bathroom bigger than our bedroom, and a master suite bigger than our house.  We have come to the point that “success” in life is determined by how much you have.

The problem that a society like that creates for the Christian, is reconciling what they (we) want, with the pursuit of a relationship with God.  We have to develop a theology of money, and how we allow it to fit into our lives.  There is nothing wrong with money, and nothing wrong with having a lot of money.  The difficulty with money comes as we decide on our theology concerning it, and does the cultural view toward money have more influence than the Biblical view.  Where do money and things fit in the pecking order of the priorities of our life.

One of our struggles, in developing this theology of money, is why do good things happen to bad people?  As I look around, and see the people with money and things (and maybe things that I would like to have), my mind wonders — “Why them, and not me”?  Of I’m not careful, I could come to the conclusion that it is because God doesn’t care about me; or doesn’t trust me, or doesn’t want me to be wealthy.

This is not a new problem, just about all of Psalm 73 deals with this struggle.  Just observe a few of the things that are said:

“But as for me, my feet almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  (Psalm 73:2-3, NIV)

This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth.  (Psalm 73:12, NIV)

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  (Psalm 73:13, NIV)


Not all wealthy people are sinners.  Not everybody else is envious of what the wealthy have.  But there is the danger of thinking that God does not love us, because we don’t have what others have.

Two things that I encourage us to remember:  (1) as missionaries often explain, compared to the rest of the world’s population — most Americans are wealthy; (2) we have to know what is important.  The psalmist says — …and earth has nothing I desire besides you.  (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Satan works on me constantly, seducing me with the things of the world.  My struggle, my prayer, and my goal is put God on the throne of my life, and not want ANYTHING that this world has to offer more than I want God!  May God bless me in that effort.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, June 9, 2016.  It has been revised, and posted here as a part of the “Psalms for Saturday,”  It is my prayer that it will bless your life.  Bill)

 

“Priorities”

For a number of years, at both Fowler Equipment and Arkansas Insulation, I began the day by making a “to do” list.  On this list I would enumerate the things that I needed to get done that day, and then try to list them by order of importance.  At the end of the day, I could see what I had accomplished.  Now, just like everybody else, there was a lot of days where life, phone calls, emergencies — interfered with my plans for that day; and things did not go just the way that I wanted.

Now, since I have retired from the work force, and have gone back to working for the church full-time, I have not be as diligent about prioritizing my tasks and my time.  To be perfectly honest, most everything that I do — Bible study, preaching, teaching, writing blogs and tweets, gathering material, reading, planning, visiting, meetings, are all important.  The problem is that without the discipline to prioritize, it becomes easy to procrastinate and then everything really becomes a challenge to get done.

The last few days, there are some passages of Scripture that have been weighing heavy on my heart.  They are:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  (Colossians 3:17, CSB)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  (Luke 9:23, NASB)

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME, because the days are evil.”   (Ephesians 5:15-16, NASB)

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in then name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20, CSB)

What those passages have been telling me is that I need to have some priorities about what is most important in my life, and to be sure that I use my time wisely in getting them done.  So the question becomes, what are the most important things in my life?  Let me suggest how I see them in my life:

1. My relationship with God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, and sustained by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — spending time in prayer and Bible study

2. My relationship with Malia — don’t take her for granted, devote myself to staying close to her

3. My relationship with my kids, and grandkids — let them know how important that they are to me, and how much I value them

4. Take the time to physically care for myself — eating properly and exercising regularly

5. My relationship with the Prairie Grove church of Christ — be sure that I do the things that need to be done to preach, teach, and whatever else needs to be done; in a manner that will help the cause of Christ to prosper and grow

6. Everything else will fall below these first five

That brings me to the dilemma that I have been wrestling with for the last 2 or 3 weeks.  At the Harding lectures this year, I visited with a friend of mine that publishes a lot of Biblical material.  I explained that I had a series of sermons on I Peter, that were already researched and outlined — that would just need to be converted into manuscripts — would he be interested in looking at them.  He said that he wanted to use material from me, but he needed me to update some material that I did for him 30 years ago, and a another, different, series of lessons than I Peter (and if I wanted to do I Peter, he would look at that).  Well, that was more than I had thought about, and I was honored that he asked, so I agreed to do it.

Well, I am two months into the project, and I am not making the progress in the timely manner that it deserves.  There is one of two things happening — (1) I have more to do than I can get done, or (2) I am not disciplined enough to use the time that I have wisely.  It is probably more of the second reason, than the first.  For the last week, I have wrestled with what I am going to do, and this is the conclusion that I have reached.

I am going to take, at least, a three month sabbatical from writing these regular  devotionals on “Hoot’s Musings”.  My most productive time of the day is in the mornings, between 4:00 and 7:00, and I need to spend the majority of that time on these writing projects.  I would estimate, that a minimum, I spend 10-15 hours a week working on my morning devotionals, and I am not convinced that they will do as much good as the sermon series will.  Those sermons will be translated into a number of different languages, and be available by internet to most of the land mass in the world.  I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these devotionals (a year on Facebook, and 11 months here), but I just believe the potential for good is so much greater with these sermons.  This year I have written 255 posts on this blog; an average of 27 views per day, or 36 per post (total of 9,406 views for the 11 months).  Now, it is not my intention to entirely desert this blog.  I still intend to do “Psalms on Saturday”, and a book review every week or two.

It is my plan, that around the first of March (2018), I will re-evaluate  where my workload is and what I need to do.  You will never know how much I appreciate the time that so many of you have taken to read these posts.  I am blessed with people, and many friends, that have honored me by reading my attempts at writing.

Not only am I going to have to do this, but I am going to limit my time on other aspects of social media.  No longer will I set and scan through Facebook, or play endless games of solitaire, or read the latest stories on Razorback chat boards.  I do plan to stay on Twitter, posting and reposting tweets; and because I find so much useful material, and it takes so little time.

I do request your prayers for discipline, energy, and the ability to prioritize.  I want my efforts to be fruitful long after I am gone.  Love and appreciate all of you.  Bill

 

 

“The Prayer of Jesus”

As the year 2017 is drawing to a close, I am finishing up the daily devotional book that I have been using.  Each morning I have begun the day with a reading from One Year with Jesus, “365 daily devotions based on the chronological life of Christ.”  This book is published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc,, in Wheaton, Illinois.  The reading each day comes from The New Living Translation, followed by a Life Application note (adapted from Tyndale’s Life Application Bible), with an additional “information” note.  As with all daily devotions, some days are better than others; but over the whole year I have really enjoyed my mornings with this volume.

This morning, I want to share with you the devotional thoughts from today’s thoughts.  I believe that they were really good.  It began with the reading from John 17:22-26:

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
This is the “life application” that followed from that:
“Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one.  He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the the reality of God’s love.  Christian unity provides an environment for the gospel message to make its greatest impact; lack of unity among Christians frequently drives people away.  Are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church?  You can pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give your time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.
Then there is this “information” note:
“Jesus asked that the Father’s love would be in believers and that he himself (Jesus) would be in them.  This expresses the Father’s desire, and because it is his desire, he will make sure it is accomplished.”
I want to focus my thoughts on the “life application”, for just a for a few thoughts.  First, I think that every Christian ought to examine the sentence that I have underlined, and ask themselves if they are living that out in their local church.  If we cannot practice that in our local churches, how in the world can we expect for it to happen in “Christendom” at large.  Secondly, the American Restoration movement, or the Stone-Campbell movement (which ever one you prefer), began as a unity movement.  Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and a host of others had a desire to unite all those that were following Jesus into a “Back to the Bible” movement.  Sadly, not only could that not be accomplished, but their “disciples” could not even agree with each other.  The last 125 years of the history of those that trace back to that “movement,” is one that is marked bitterness, arguments, and divisiveness.  It is really a sad moment, when it dawns on you that such a beautiful dream degenerated to what it is now.  Finally, I still believe in a “Back to the Bible” mentality.  I no longer look at the religious world through “rose-colored” glasses believing that we can all be united in this approach.  As long as Satan has power in the world (I John 5:19, NASB), people will value their own thoughts as being more important than the thoughts of other people — even, as they are approaching the Scripture.
I am convinced that the Christian world will never be united, like Jesus prayed that it would be.  I am convinced that what I need to do is pray for the unity of ALL believers, study/teach/preach Scripture the very best that I can, consider others as more important than me, love the brotherhood, and practice the spirit of unity in the local church where I am.  If I can’t do it where I am, is there any reason to believe that it could happen all over the world?  Peace.

“Doing What You Love, and Feeling Useful”

Friday, December 11, 2015 was my last official day to be an employee of Arkansas Insulation.  Oh, I went back a couple of times to work with the young lady that took my place — introducing her to the customers, sharing some of the things that I had learned about those customers, and giving her some tips on how to make the job easier.  It was my desire that she be successful at the job, and take good care of my customers.  But, I went off the payroll on that Friday.

Every once in a while, I will run into people (or they will contact me) and they will always ask “How do you like being retired?”  I had a pretty stock answer for that question — “I am old, bald, fat, and very happy!”  One of those four things is very important, two of them I can’t do a thing about, and the fourth one I am in the process of changing (and I am nearly through)

What I want you to know today is, that I did not retire from Arkansas Insulation to quit working!  But what I do now does not feel like work.  You see, I believe that the saying is true — Find something that you really enjoy doing, and you will never work another day in your life.  I am doing what I enjoy most in life — preaching for the Prairie Grove church of Christ!  I look forward to every day, the challenge of that day, with the prayer that I can do something good for the Lord that day.

This morning, I want to share two passages from Psalm 71, that have become a part of my daily prayers.

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
(Psalm 71:9, NIV)

As for me, I will always have hope;
        I will praise you more and more.
 
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
        of your saving acts all day long—
        though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
        I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
        and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
        do not forsake me, my God,
(Psalm 71:14-18, NIV)
Now, I know that the Lord will not forsake me.  My prayer is that I will not feel forsaken.  That I will feel useful, and  be able to share the story of God’s power, love, and salvation to another generation that is coming behind me.  I know that I have a lot less time in front of me, than I have behind me (and what is behind me passed quickly).  My prayer is that the Lord will help me to be fruitful, and useful, in that time.  Peace.
(This was first posted on Facebook on June 8, 2016.  It has been updated and revised, and posted here as a part of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  It is my prayer that you will be blessed by it.  Bill)

 

“Friday Reflections”, 11-24-17

Don’t know why it always works this way, but it sure seems that every week that has a holiday — gets extremely busy.  This past week has been no different!  Monday started it off, with something that I had been dreading for a couple of weeks.  I was scheduled for a “root canal” at 12:30 on Monday, at Behrents Endodontic Specialists in Fayetteville.  I was very fortunate, the tooth that needed the procedure, was not causing me any pain.  But, there is something about the sound of “root canal”, that makes it sound painful.  Well, Dr. Behrents did his job so well, that I actually dozed off a couple of times during the procedure.  I am grateful for his professionalism, and the fact that there was no pain!

You know, we often do that to ourselves.  The anxiety that we feel about something that is approaching, is often worse than the actually event itself.  Do you suppose that is why Paul said, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (Philippians 4:6, NIV).

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Tuesday night was special!  The Prairie Grove church of Christ opened its building to the local ministerial alliance, and hosted a “Community Thanksgiving Service.”  We have made a commitment to serve our community, and to have a greater impact for the Lord; and this was part of that effort.  I would not be surprised if this was not the first time that some of our visitors had been in a building used by the churches of Christ.  The singing was spectacular (in my opinion), and Steve DeLoach is just a fantastic songleader.  That will be something that I think that our visitors will remember for a long time.  I do want to express appreciation to all our members that were present, and that helped with the fellowship following the service.

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Gary Mendenhall was one of those that was present Tuesday night, and he looked like he felt great (and later said that he felt great).  During the later hours of the evening that changed, and he ended up in the ER of Washington Regional Medical Center.  A few hours later he was admitted, and Wednesday morning they did a “heart cath”, and discovered that Gary needed to have open heart surgery.  This  morning (Friday), Gary is having bypass surgery, and when I visited with him on Wednesday, he didn’t know how many bypasses.  Please remember Gary, Pauline, the family, the doctors, and the nurses in your prayers.  Gary is a very valuable member of our congregation, and the countless hours that he spends leading the World Bible School work in our congregation is a great kingdom work, and does great good for the cause of spreading the gospel.

Oh, by the way, Gary wanted me to share that he loves our church, the people that make up that church; BUT, he would like to limit the visitors after his surgery.  He said that he is going to need to rest, and recover; and he will see all of us later.

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Well, Thanksgiving is past!  What do you remember about it?  I know in the past, I would have remembered how miserable I felt after eating the meal.  That’s really sad! I don’t want anyone to take what I say next wrong, because I am just thinking out loud.  BUT, we have this great family feast, and most everyone eats too much; as a way of celebrating how thankful we are for what we have.  Surely, if we are celebrating how blessed we are, there is a better way to do it.  I’m not condemning what we do, but I sometimes wonder if things have gotten out of hand.  I know that the local pantry, Life Ministries, gives out lots of baskets to those that can’t get the things necessary to have a “Thanksgiving” meal.  In Rogers, yesterday, we drove by a Golden Corral, and the parking lot was as full as I have ever seen it.  In Prairie Grove, the local diner, Mel’s Diner, sold out; before they had been opened their advertised hours.  Those kinds of things make me think about those that don’t have, or don’t have family to share the time with.   I wonder, if we are being thankful for what we have — that it might not be more appropriate to share it with those that don’t, instead of indulging ourselves more.  Just a thought to roll around in your mind.

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Trey Morgan had this tweet, last yesterday afternoon:  “Black Friday — when people trample others for cheap goods, merely hours after being thankful for what they already have.”  There are so many things that I love about Christmas, but, at the same time, there are some things that are a real turn-off to me.  Let’s try to keep things in a balance this year.

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January 1, 2018 is just right around the corner, and it is about this time of the year that I pick out my new devotional study for the year.  This year I have been using One Year with Jesus (365 daily devotions based on the chronological life of Christ), and I have really enjoyed it.  Next year, I am going to use Warren W. Wiersbe’s Prayer, Praise, & Promises (A Daily Walk Through the Psalms), and I am really looking forward to it.  It is my intention to read the daily devotional each day, and then on Saturday (on this site) to reflect on what I read that week in our Psalms on Saturday.  I always find reading one of these daily devotional books to be a good discipline for my Spiritual life.  If you would look to join me on this journey, you can get the book thru Amazon, and I know, today, the Kindle edition is on sale for $2.99.  I would love to have you on this journey with me.

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Weight, March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight, November 24, 2017 — 221 pounds

 

“Witness”

In the fall of 1965 I read my very first “history” of the American Restoration movement, or the Stone-Campbell movement — which ever you would prefer.  The name of the book was The Fool of God, and it was written by Louis Cochran.  It was a fictional history of the life of Alexander Campbell.  It is my understanding, that Cochran, before his death in 1974, was a member of the Disciples of Christ (one of the three major divisions of those that followed in the historical footsteps of Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone).  So Cochran had some interest in being accurate in the history, the historical events in the life of Campbell, and then developed a very intriguing story inside those events.  In his lifetime, Cochran wrote two other historical fiction novels involving the Restoration Movement.  One was Racoon John Smith, a novel about the Kentucky preacher who was one of the most fascinating individuals/preacher in the history of our movement.  The other was Captives of the Word, a fictional history the Restoration Movement.  I think that the title of this last book captures the “spirit” of our background as well as anything that I have ever heard.
For the nearly 60 years that I have a vivid memory of books, movies, and television shows — these are the kinds of stories that always appealed to me.  Those stories that were rooted in history that I could read about, and learn the real story.  Movies like The Alamo, Pearl Harbor, Spartacus, King Arthur, Ivanhoe, Davy Crocket, Gunfight at the OK Corral, and some of the movies about the Caribbean pirates (obviously, not the fantasy of the latest series).  Television shows like Daniel Boone, Wyatt Earp, Rawhide, Robin Hood, and others of that nature. When it comes to books, I like authors like Louis L’Amour, John Grisham, and others; that set their stories in real places, with events and stories that either are real or are not outside the realm of possibility.  Science Fiction and Fantasy have never been things that have appealed to me, with the exception of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and some of the modern Marvel and DC movies.
As far as Biblical historical fiction is concerned, I have seen many more movies involving stories from the Bible, than I have read books of that nature.  Sadly, the movies that are produced in Hollywood are more interested in making money, than they are trying to at least be close to the Biblical story.  The latest movie of this genre that I watched, Risen; I must admit, was one that was that you could watch without continually asking “Why did they do that?” (think of Russell Crowe’s Noah).
Lynn Austin has written three different series of books  that involve Biblical events:  Chronicles of the Kings, The Restoration Chronicles, and The Herod Chronicles.  I keep promising myself, that one of these days, I am going to break down, buy these and read them. In fact, if any of you have read any of these, please comment on this and let me know what you thought.
Recently, as one of our monthly selections for our church book club, I read Witness by Debbie Webb and Mary Owen.  This is a 2006 book, published by Verbatim Press in Greenville, South Carolina.  It is a paperback volume with a retail price of $12.99, but is available through kingswitness.com for $5.95 (as of today, don’t know how long it will stay that way.  King’s Witness is the company that markets a great number of product lines that use these symbols:
This book is a short volume (142 pages) that tell a “fictitious” story about how these symbols originated.  It is my understanding that Bill Smith (teacher at the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching, and elder of the White’s Ferry Road church of Christ) was the
originator of these meaningful symbols.  What makes this story even more compelling, is how the author’s tell this story.  In the front of the book, in the section marked “Note to Reader”, this statement is made:  This book is neither a novel nor a biographical sketch, but a fictitious narrative intended as a testimony to the life and conversion of an actual person — Mary Magdalene — one of the itinerant followers of Jesus.
Is this book accurate in every aspect of what it says, not in my opinion; could it be, possibly.  It is not a book that you would want to build a theological foundation for your faith:  of course, no book is but the Bible.  But if you are looking for a short, easy to read, book; that is fascinating — this might be just the book for you.  It will offer some insights that you might not get anywhere else; and some things that will make you stop, scratch your head, and go hummm.  If you want to read it — there are a couple of copies in the church library, and all of the book club members have one (that I’m sure they would loan).  I believe that you will find a blessing in reading it.  Peace.

“Opened their Mind to Understand”

In December of 2003, I interviewed with Mike Linn for a job as a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation, and I really needed the job.  I needed to leave where I was, and they needed for me to leave.  Work was a real challenge, emotionally and financially.  Joe Kidd, Mike Linn’s brother-in-law, had recommended me for the job, and I will forever be indebted to him.  Joe and I had been friends for a long, long time; and, in fact, he was my “best man” when Malia and I got married.  I’m sure that I never would have gotten an interview if it had not been for Joe.

You see, being a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation involved calling on residential contractors (home builders), soliciting the work that we could do on the houses they were building.  The products and labor we had to offer involved insulation (obviously), gutters, soffit and fascia.  To be totally honest, I didn’t know anything about any of that!  I did not know soffit from fascia, how to design a gutter system for a house, or how you went about insulating a house.  I was surprised to find out that not every wall in the house was insulated, that there were different thicknesses of insulation, that those different thicknesses indicated different degrees of effectiveness, and I had no idea what R-value meant.  Not exactly what you would want selling your products!

Over the 12 years that I worked for the company, I probably sold as much insulation as any salesman in any of the 8 offices of the company.  Now, there were other salesman that sold more (a lot more) windows, gutters, soffit and fascia than I did — but I was an insulation salesman.  How did I learn about insulation?  Well, a local salesman by the name of Jim Foster got stuck with teaching and training me.  I road with Jim for 3 or 4 days, and he taught me how to do it —  just like he did it.  He had to explain to me that there was  a difference in the cold wall and the knee wall, what size stud took an R-19, and what depth the code required for the attic insulation.  There were times that I had to go back and ask questions, times that I had to go back and remeasure the house, times that I made mistakes and the installers took the wrong material, and so on!  There were houses, big houses, that it would take 4 or 5 hours to measure; and when I got back to the office I was not sure of what I had done, or if I had done it right.  There was one house in Prairie Grove that I worked on all morning; and then, went back to the office and said that I needed someone to go with me, because I was totally confused.  There are just some things that take time to learn; but, I was determined to learn it.

There is a story that is found at the end of Luke’s Gospel, that I find to be very intriguing.  It begins like this:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  (Luke 24:13-16, ESV)

I don’t know if these two were part of the 12, but they were followers of Jesus, and they were distressed by what had happened.  A part of their distress, was that they did not understand why this happened, it wasn’t what they thought would happen.  Listen to what they told Jesus:

they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. … (Luke 24:19-21, ESV)

This was not supposed to happen to the Messiah, and now He cannot redeem us from the occupation of Rome in our country.  Everything is all messed up now!  They went on to say:

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  (Luke 24:21-23, ESV)

Jesus must have been heart-broken, that they had not understood all the things that He had said to them.  He said:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.   (Luke 24:25-27, ESV).

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved to hear all of that!

Later, after He had revealed Himself to these two, and they had gone back to tell the 11; Jesus appeared in their midst, and part of what he said to them was:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:44-47, ESV)

Our task is to learn the message of the Messiah, redemption, resurrection, repentance, and forgiveness of sins; and proclaim it to all the nations.  Like I said, I would like for Jesus to interpret all the passages for me, and open my mind to understand — but, the Father, has left us a written revelation to share.  May we have the energy and desire to learn this message, and share it with others; as I did to learn about insulation and sell it.  Obviously, we recognize which is the most important.  Peace.

 

(This week has turned into a very busy week — with medical appointments, deadlines, holidays, etc.  This post is one that was written about 9 months ago, that was not seen by very many people.  I am reposting it today, in hopes that it is a blessing to you.  Bill)

“He Loves Me”

There are verses in the Bible that when we read them, we ask (probably to ourselves), “Why in the world is he saying that?”  One such verse, in my opinion, is when Paul tells Titus to …teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands(Titus 2:3-4, NIV).  It puzzles us because we are nearly 2000 years removed from that time, and because we live in an age when the courtship and marriage traditions are completely different.

Often we read that verse, and we may think — that they shouldn’t have to be taught to love their husbands, that’s why they got married in the first place.  Of course, we then stop and think that their marriages were arranged by their parents, and that the couple that got married may have barely known each other.

I don’t know enough history to be able to tell you when the customs changed to the present system.  I’m pretty sure that there are still places in our world, where the marriages are still arranged by the parents.  If the truth were told, I think that there are arguments that can be made for the strength of either system.  BUT, we live in a society where people are guaranteed the right to pursue happiness, and we will never go back to arranged marriages.

One of the problems with the way that our society goes about choosing a mate — is that as a suitor, parent, grandparent, sibling, or just a caring individual; we have to endure the pain of broken hearts of rejected individuals.  Rejection is a terrible feeling.  Individuals become convinced that this is the one for them, but the one being pursued is not convinced of that.  Breaking up has become a phrase that we hate to here, especially from those around us that we care about.

Sometimes, I believe that in our relationship with God, we pursue Him as we would a “romantic” interest.  We have convinced ourselves that we have to do everything that we can do, to convince God to love us, or “earn” his love.  That the love of God is as fickle as that of in the relationship of a teenager.

Read very carefully what the psalmist has to say:  Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!  (Psalm 66:20, NIV)

It is entirely possible that we need to go back and “re-study” the love of God.  We would learn that He loved us before He created the world; that He loved us when He chose Abraham to be the father of the faithful; that He loved us when He made a great nation of Israel; that He loved us when He sent Jesus; that He loves us now; and, will continue to love us!

I believe that Scripture teaches that I can love myself and my wants, more than I love God.  That I can choose not to love God, and never have the relationship with Him that He desires.  That I can allow my desires to supersede His place in my life, and walk away from my relationship with Him.  I also believe that Scripture teaches that my relationship with God will never be broken, because He quit loving Me.  Peace.

 

(This was first posted on Facebook on June 7, 2016.  A few minor changes in the text have been made, and it is being re-posted here as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday”.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

“Friday Reflections, 11-17-17”

The “Reflections” entry from last Friday, ended with me telling about something new that I was going to try that afternoon.  If you remember I was going to smoke a roast on my wood pellet smoker, and not just any roast — a roast from a MOOSE!  I am very appreciative to Dave Johnson for giving me this piece of meat from the moose that he harvested in British Columbia.  It may have been the leanest piece of meat that I have ever seen, and Dave warned me about the danger of smoking a piece of meat that lean.  He shared that I needed to put a pan of water between the fire and the meat, so the steam would help keep the meat moist.  Well, on my little smoker, there is no room for a pan of water between the fire and the meat.  So, I had an aluminum pan that fit beside the roast on the grate, and put water in it.  After about an hour, I was supposed to loosely cover the meat with foil.  Well, after a couple of hours, I recognized what I had done — I had covered the roast, but not the water — so the steam could not get to the meat.  Well, I pulled the meat from the smoker; put it in a Pyrex dish, draped it in bacon and doused it with worcestershire sauce.  After having it in the oven for another couple of hours, I tried the finish product.  The meat had an exceptional flavor, but it had dried out some, and was a little tough.  But it got eaten, and I enjoyed every bite of it.  Again, my thanks to Dave Johnson.

That experience helped to remember that often, we can do our very best, even with good instructions, and things still not turn out right.  That made me think of my spiritual life that I can give my very best efforts, and even with the best instructions from the Bible — still things may not turn out right.  I am so appreciative of the love of the Father, the grace that He extends, the sacrificial life and death of Jesus that makes forgiveness possible, His resurrection from the dead that takes away the power of Satan and provides hope for the future, the Holy Spirit living in me (and interceding on my behalf), and the love of my brethren.  Knowing all of those things, encourages me every day to keep putting one foot in front of the other in my walk with the Lord.

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This past Monday I made one of those hospital visits that is really no fun at all.  Chris and Addison Scroggins had to take Sawyer to the ER, Sunday night, and they admitted him.  Going to a hospital to see anyone is bad enough, but when it is an infant it is worse.  When I walked into his room, the nurse was working to be sure that the IV would stay in AND that he would not pull it out (evidently, there had been a problem with both of those all morning).  There was enough tape on his arm and hand (protecting the needle) that it looked as if he had a cast.  Children have such touching facial expressions anyway, but when they are sick — you can just see the hurt in their sad eyes.  Chris and Addison were not quite as tired as Sawyer, but they were plenty tired.  I’m pleased that he is doing better, and they got to take him home Monday evening.

Sick infants are always difficult, because they can’t tell you what is wrong, where they hurt, or any of the other things that parents and doctors really need to know.  There are times that I feel like that in my relationship with God; or, there may be times that I know what is wrong, I just don’t know how to (or can’t) express it.  That is when I am grateful that the Holy Spirit dwells within me, and does make intercession for me.  What a blessing that really is.

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For about the last 15 years of her life, my grandmother laid in a bed in a nursing home, with rheumatoid arthritis so bad that she could not roll over by herself.  The staff from the nursing home came and turned her every 4 hours, to keep her from getting pneumonia.  Physically, and mentally, everything was fine — except for the crippling pain of the arthritis.  Visiting a nursing home is one of those challenging tasks anyway; and the memory of those fifteen years makes it even more difficult.

That is why I am so appreciative of Phyliss Brands.  About every two weeks, she will give me a call and ask me to go visit Jenaldi Bond at the nursing home with her.  So I pick Phyliss up, and we go and see Jenaldi — and Jenaldi is such a joy to be around.  She is nearly always smiling, and her spirits are so remarkable; even though she is nearly always in pain.  I’m afraid if it were me, I could not be that way.

The last couple of times, Phyliss and I have been visiting Ginny.  Ginny grew up in southern California, her and her husband lived in Fayetteville; and after he passed away, she reached the point where she needed to go to the nursing hom.  Her daughter is in Nebraska, her son in Texas; and she has no one in the family that is close.  Joyce Bond and Phyliss have been visiting her for a while; and, also taking her books to read, and puzzle books to work on.  It is a very remarkable ministry that those two ladies have at the home, and I want to commend them for what they do.

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Almost everyone knows that I like to read.  Most of my reading is religious in nature — devotional books, inspirational books, biographical books, doctrinal books, religious history books, commentaries, and books of theology.  But, I also like to read fiction; and  I am drawn to the legal suspense thrillers — crimes, police, crooks, detectives, lawyers, trials, juries, etc.  For example, I am a fan of John Grisham — I have all the books that he has written, including a book club first edition of A Time to Kill.  Most of his books have to do with lawyers, trials, juries, etc.  One of the things that I like about Grisham is that the violence is not too gruesome, the language is not too vile, and there is not the constant references to sex.  That is hard to find in any fiction, these day, much less a legal suspense fiction work.

As an Amazon Prime member, I often get these special offers for digital books to go on my Kindle.  For example, I recently purchased the “Murder and Mayhem” series of 20 volumes (4,135 pages) for . 99 cents; or, the series called “Pirate Tales”, 80+ books (15,506 pages) by authors like Stevenson, London, Scott, Poe, Verne, Doyle .. — for .99 cents.  These kinds of books will offer me hours of relaxation and enjoyment, where I am not reading to learn anything, but just to be entertained for a while.

Recently, I purchased a series of books called “The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series” by Dawn Lee McKenna.  The books are set in the Apalachicola and St. George Island area of Florida of the Florida Panhandle, about two hours east of the area where Malia and I vacation every year.  These 4 books are one continuous story (that total about 700 pages), they are well written, with lots of intrigue.  The offer for these 4 books was that I could have them for free, and I did not turn that down.  I just finished reading them, and they were very enjoyable.  The main character is Maggie Redmond, who is a deputy for the county, and a divorced mother of two — struggling to balance everything that goes on in her life.  If you are interested in a good story, that is well written, that has very little vile language, sexual innuendo or graphic descriptions — you might give these a try.  I really like the language she uses to describe the land, the coast, the weather, and the people.  McKenna is just an entertaining writer.

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Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  (James 1:27, NASB)